Turner Classic Movies is my favourite channel to haunt. I wasn't a classic movie fan my whole life. When we finally got a colour tv in the house, I couldn't figure out why anyone would willingly go back to seeing something in black and white. It wasn't until I went to college---a place where "edgy" films were available---that I started expanding my range of celluloid stories. Eventually, I fell in love with the old stuff.
This month, TCM is having a "guest programmer month" where different celebrities are picking a three or four films to share each evening. I think it's interesting that instead of picking Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind (although "The Donald" did), or other "great films," people are choosing things which are a bit more revealing about their personalities or interests. It's given me some fun to think about what I would choose---not that anyone has asked, mind you.
I love to laugh---so something full of humor would have to be on the list. I thought about a Marx Brothers film, as the early ones are so clever. Or maybe a 1930's screwball comedy in the vain of Bringing Up Baby or His Girl Friday. I think my final choice, however, is The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Preston Sturges not only had this wonderful sense of the absurd, but I like how this movie bends itself around the Hayes Production Code. He couldn't have a story about an unwed mother---let alone a gal who got that way by drinking. So, why not send her out for a night of dancing with troops about to be deployed in WWII? She bonks her head while jitterbugging (although she also drinks plenty of "lemonade" during the evening), gets married, but can't remember the guy's name the next day---and, of course, he's shipped out while she has to face the consequences. Hilarity ensues and the whole film is a wonderful ride for the observer.
A little romance can be good, too; but, I think that if I were to have to hone in on a film from this vein, I couldn't go with a standard tearjerker (e.g. Love Affair) or something epic or strung out (although I do like Random Harvest). It's more interesting to consider the kinds of things love makes people do. I'd have to choose something with a more noirish bent. Mildred Pierce and Laura come to mind...but my final answer is Gilda. Rita Hayworth is smokin' h4wt and the chemistry with Glenn Ford is tangible. We walk into the middle of their obsessive love-hate tango and can't let go of them anymore than they can be free of one another.
There have been any number of interesting films which explore the spaces between life and death. Will John Garfield spend forever on a Purgatorial voyage Between Two Worlds after he attempts to commit suicide? Lionel Barrymore has some hard choices to make after he captures Death in an apple tree and realizes that life On Borrowed Time is not what he thought it would be. A Matter of Life and Death is a wonderful David Niven film. His "escort" misses getting him from a crashing aircraft---and when the escort comes to collect Niven, Niven isn't interested in dying. He's fallen in love and has to go to the Highest Court to make his case why he should be allowed to live. There's great contrast between b/w and colour. All that being said, this time around, I'm choosing Death Takes a Holiday with Frederic March as my film from this vein. Like the Barrymore film, it makes a point about why death is a necessary part of life (and what happens in its absence), but this film serves as a greater reminder about treasuring the joys that we have while we're here.
And for my last pick? Lots of ideas. There are a couple of rich Technicolor films, including The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus that are so beautiful, I can't pull my eyes away from them when they're on. Either is a delight to share. I'm not much of a western or war fan, but Duel in the Sun (which is also a Technicolor marvel), The Searchers, or The Big Country wouldn't be bad. As for the war genre---here again I'm not an enthusiast---but The Mortal Storm or Sergeant York would be good to round out the set. I've thought about Hepburn and Tracy, William Powell and Myrna Lloyd, or Bogart and Bacall---all interesting actors to watch. The Uninvited is about the best ghost story out there. I'm thinking I need to pick something in the suspense genre. Hitchcock may win the overall category, and The Spiral Staircase is always good for some watching through fingers; but I'm going to select Night Must Fall as my final film for this festival. There's plenty of cat-and-mouse; however, it's all done through mind games. Robert Montgomery charms and repels us all at once---we never want to believe that he is a killer, just a naughty boy. It makes you think a bit on where you stand in your humanistic beliefs---are we inherently good?
So, there you have it. Perhaps I haven't picked something for everyone. I certainly enjoy being entertained while I watch, but I like to think about the ideas presented, too. I suppose I have some darker choices here. It's those shades of grey, though, that are most interesting to ponder. They reveal something about ourselves as we watch things unfold on the big screen. They're the pieces which stick with you long after the curtains have come down.
Come on over anytime. I'll pop some corn and pull out the DVDs. Maybe you'd be kind enough to bring along your picks to share, too.