Happy March, everyone! Spring is just around the corner. To celebrate its eventual arrival, here’s one of my favorite pictures of Audrey. She loved Spring best too.
My movie watching last month was particularly dismal, with only 14 new to me films. However! I did make it to the theater to see the uproariously entertaining The Lego Batman movie. I laughed throughout the entire thing and found it a wonderful bit of escapism. I also celebrated my anniversary with Audrey and Roman Holiday on Valentine’s Day. It’ll be 10 years next year!
Without further ado, here are my favorite February films.
The Secret Garden (1949)
dir: Fred M. Wilcox
Margaret O’Brien is Mary, the insufferable brat who loses both of her parents to the cholera epidemic and is subsequently shipped off to England to live with her mysterious uncle (Herbert Marshall). This film reminded me of Jane Eyre, especially because the mansion is such a foreboding place to Mary. There’s also ominous shadows and the moors. She hears eerie cries echoing within it but is forbidden from the truth. Dean Stockwell, another gifted child actor of the era, also stars. He and Maggie are both 80 years old! The film also boasts a technicolor sequence that’s awash in vibrant colors with the discovery of the garden. Another perfect visual for Spring.
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
dir: Douglas Sirk
A rich romantic melodrama that unfolds in the most sumptuous technicolor imaginable. Jane Wyman plays a widow who falls for the “much” younger Rock Hudson, to the shock of her friends and others in her small town. This film contains some potent commentary about small minded people in small towns. Being the sucker that I am for these kinds of stories, which usually involve the lovers being separated, I was enthralled and want to discuss it in greater detail someday. Jane Wyman was especially skilled in this genre. I highly recommend Miracle in the Rain (1956). Also, the visuals in this music video reminded me strongly of the warm hues in this film.
A Guy Named Joe (1943)
Dir: Victor Fleming
I can’t think of a better film to have watched as my first Van Johnson movie of the year. This is the film that catapulted him to stardom. His costars Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne were partly responsible. After Van nearly died in a car accident, his future at MGM was uncertain. The studio was ready to replace him with Peter Lawford or John Hodiak, but Tracy and Dunne intervened on his behalf. They both refused to continue with the film if Van was replaced. He never forgot their generosity. Spencer Tracy even volunteered his own blood for Van’s transfusions. The film itself is lovely, a tribute to the art of aviation and aviators, two things very close to my heart. Steven Spielberg’s Always (1989), featuring Audrey Hepburn in her final film, is a lovely but overlooked remake.
Body and Soul (1925)
dir: Oscar Micheaux
Pioneers of African American Cinema, the DVD set released by Kino Lorber through crowdfunding, is thankfully available on Netflix. The film, directed by arguably the most influential black director of the period, Oscar Micheaux, is truly remarkable. Although Micheaux was often constricted by small budgets, his films were powerful and fascinate us today. He never shied away from racism, which was often unchallenged or encouraged in Hollywood. Body and Soul, starring the enormously charismatic Paul Robeson, examines the religious fervor of a community that allows itself to fall under the intoxicating spell of a false preacher and his overblown piety. Robeson plays dual roles; the wicked preacher Jenkins (not unlike Harry Powell in 1955’s The Night of the Hunter) and the mild mannered Sylvester. It’s truly a perfect showcase for both director and star.