I’m actually posting my recap early for the first time this year! I didn’t watch too many memorable films this month, but I continued with my regular 20+ viewings. I watched four Van Johnson movies, including one of his earliest films in which he was a chorus boy. By the time this post is published, I’ll be in my beloved California again with my beloved Hana (again) and my beloved Maya (first time!).
So, here are my favorite movies from April.
Easy to Wed (1946)
dir: Edward Buzzell, Buster Keaton
I’ve written about Van Johnson’s bobby-soxers before, but I need to repeat myself: I am one. Just seeing him onscreen sends me into fits of delight and hysteria. I fully understand why these girls were crying, screaming, and swooning in movie theaters. A remake of Libeled Lady (1936), this version pairs Van with Esther Williams, a haughty but misunderstood heiress who sues a newspaper for libel. Keenan Wynn, Van’s best friend offscreen, is the business manager at his wits end, and Lucille Ball is his firebrand of a fiancee. In order to prevent the libel suit, Warren (Wynn) comes up with a scheme to implicate Connie (Williams) as an homewrecker. The home she’s wrecking belongs to Bill and Gladys (Ball), Warren’s fiancee. Bill and Gladys do get married in an actual ceremony, so it’s only a matter of when the whole thing can be exposed, Connie humiliated, and the newspaper free from the libel suit. Everyone is really terrific in this, Keenan Wynn and Ben Blue should’ve co-starred in buddy films, technicolor was invented for Esther and Lucy, and Van is just the most charismatic burly blonde, ever.
Late Spring (1949)
dir: Yasujiro Ozo
A young woman refuses to marry, preferring to care for her father instead, which leads to invasive interrogations by others about her lack of marriage prospects. Frequent Ozu collaborator Setsuko Hara is the daughter in this story, an actress of unparalleled magnetism. The film is as arresting as it is because of her presence, as well as its simple, unvarnished, but profound story.
Paris is Burning (1990)
dir: Jennie Livingston
A documentary about the drag balls in New York City. By giving a voice to the marginalized LGBT community, this becomes a film about compassion in addition to glamour and unapologetic identity. Each person profiled had a unique history, sometimes heartbreaking, but all of them found a family after being rejected by their own.