it-happened-one-nightGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, per my post below, I have not been absent through the agency of the good folks of CPS.  Rayther, ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats are on a West Coast road trip this week and, as most of the games start well beyond my bedtime, I have been catching up on my Netflix queue.

Interestingly, I seem to have come across a 30’s/40’s nostalgia patch this week.  (One of my little indulgences is to load lots of DVD’s into the queue in one go and then to enjoy the surprise when they show up weeks or months later.  And don’t start in about streaming – the DVD library is much bigger, and unlike some people, I’m not a slave to instant gratification.)  So far, I’ve been through It Happened One Night, His Girl Friday and Holiday.  I believe the next couple to appear in the Port Swiller mailbox will be Talk of the Town and You Can’t Take It With You.  Without checking, I’m pretty sure Only Angels Have Wings is not far behind in the queue.

In those six films, you’ve got Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Kate Hepburn, Rita Heyworth, several doses of Cary Grant, a triple shot of Jean Arthur and some Ji-Ji-Jimmy Stewart, to say nothing of supporting casts too numerous and excellent to single out.

Outstanding films, full of witty dialogue, complicated emotions, action, drama and the like, and all done without any scenes involving nekkedness, CGI effects or gratuitous violence.   Hollywood drives culture but it also reflects it:  You simply couldn’t make movies like these nowadays.  (My children, by the bye, are simply astonished that I have no interest in superhero-based movies whatsoever.)

Interestingly (at least to me), several of these films started out as stage plays and keep that feel.  Indeed, I don’t actually recall whether I’ve seen the film version of “You Can’t Take It With You” before, but I do recall seeing a stage version of it years ago that I thought very silly but very funny.

“Holiday” was written specifically for Kate Hepburn, first on stage and then on screen.  Only she, I think, could pull off the character of Linda Seton in a way that makes her look sympathetic:  I saw a stage version of the play a few years ago in which the actress playing the roll made her look like a psychotic bully.

Well, I don’t really have a wrap-up paragraph for this post, but if you’ve been wondering what ol’ Robbo has been up to, this is it.

UPDATE: Oh, speaking of what passes for modern cinema, I see a kerfluffle is brewing over the “Mad Max” reboot.  It would seem that Max is only a secondary character in this one and the main story concerns some post-apocalypse über-feminist rising up from slavery and sticking it to the Man.   Frankly, I hope it bombs, largely because hijacking a brand seems to me cheating.  (You wouldn’t go see a movie like “My Dinner With Captain James T. Kirk” now, would you?) Plus, as a rule, I despise reboots.  Write your own damn story!

UPDATE DEUX:  Sat down to watch “You Can’t Take It With You” this evening only to discover that the disk was cracked.  Heigh, ho.  I took this as a sign and instead sat out on the porch watching the night draw in.  I win, I think.

Nonetheless, the comment to this post of the lovely and talented Diane reminded me of a funny Hitchcock story.  I’m no real aficionado of teh Hitch, although I greatly appreciate his work in a casual way, if that makes any sense.  Probably my favorite of his movies is North By Northwest because of a) Cary Grant, b) Eva Marie Saint and c) a terrific musickal theme.

Rear Window - James Stewart and Grace KellyAnyhoo, the memory dredged up by Diane’s comment was that of my first viewing of Rear Window, which was during my first year of college.  The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown had a dedicated cinema, but it also ran Friday night movies in the big science center amphitheater in which I spent two years languishing fruitlessly in pre-med before chucking it.  The advantage of the latter venue was that you could bring in food and drink, so my friends and I would scoop up a couple bottles of rot-gut and a stack of plastic cups and make an evening of it.

***SPOILER ALERT*** – If what I have to say about the movie is going to harsh your heretofore-preserved innocence, read no further!

I got the impression as I settled in that I was not the only one there who hadn’t seen “Rear Window” before.  During the early part of the story’s set up, there was a good deal of quiet chatter and laughter amongst the audience.  Gradually, however, as the plot built, such chatter started to ebb, eventually drying up completely.  By the time we were into the meat of the thing, the audience was riveted, eventually reaching a collective agony of uncertainty you could cut with a knife.

And then, I will never forget it:  At the climactic point when Raymond Burr, after seeing Grace flapping her finger behind her back, looks up directly into the camera, spots Ji-Ji-Jimmy spying on him, and swells perceptibly, the entire audience let out a completely spontaneous and utterly genuine gasp.  And when the camera cuts to Ji-Ji-Jimmy hastily trying to back himself into the shadows, we all felt exactly the same way.

Woosh!  There’s a good deal of teh hokey in this particular film, but as far as the actual suspense goes, that, my friends, is how you do it.

 

 

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