Recently, the weather has started warming up, and the air is slowly, but surely, losing its bite. You can tell Daylight Savings Time has begun as people crawl out of their homes to make weekend escapes down to the Shore, the park, or the city for just a few hours.
Nonetheless, the house was once again coated in snow early last week. I curled up on the couch with some classics to stay warm, and positive. Little can drive you as mad as a never-ending winter.
1. The Men
I just finished Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me. As I was reading the book, I hopped on Netflix to take a gander at Brando’s first film, The Men.
It’s a touching, and still timely, story about a group of men who’ve lost the use of their legs during World War II. On the surface, Brando’s character Ken is a sullen fellow who’s angry about what happened to him. As the film continues, we see that he’s an insecure boy who’s struggling with his new reality. He’s scared by the love of his sweetheart Ellen for fear that she will reject him or that he’ll be sentencing her to a lifetime of taking care of him.
In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Brando often cites The Men as an example of how to act in a close up. Because Brando was seated in a wheelchair or laying in a hospital bed for most of the movie, he couldn’t rely on body language to get his character’s state of mind across. Instead, he had to rely on the subtlety of his facial expressions to convey all of the conflicting emotions that Ken was struggling with.
2. Bus Stop
I’ve seen most of Marilyn’s movies, but I’d never heard of Bus Stop. And I have to admit, it was kind of a weird movie. Monroe played Cherie, a saloon singer chanteuse, really well in this movie, from her slinky Southern drawl to her conflicted body language as she decides what to do with her persistant admirer.
Queue weirdness. Beau, played by Don Murray, is, well, really strange. He’s supposed to be a young man who’s only ever left his ranch once. For 95% of the movie, he hoots and hollers and yells to anyone within earshot. Once he sets his sights on Cherie, he becomes obsessively determined to marry her. He even lassos her to get her on the bus with him back home.
Of course, in true 1950’s fashion, there’s a happy ending with everyone getting just what they want.
3. Grand Hotel
The film from which the classic line “I want to be alone” comes.1 While Greta Garbo and John Barrymore are the two main stars of this movie, Joan Crawford is really the one who stands out the most. Her character, Flaemmchen, is a hotel stenographer with a kind heart and strong wit.
The film itself is framed beautifully with Doctor Otternschlag’s line about how “People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” However, at the end of the movie, we see one departed life replaced by the birth of another. Two guests leaving the hotel as two check in. Dr. Otternschlag is right–at the Grand Hotel, life goes on, and you are easily replaced by the next guest.
Rosalind Russell is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. She’s enviably witty in His Girl Friday and says just what she thinks. She’s ambitious, talented, and tough as she deals with the insanity known as journalism.
His Girl Friday is a quick moving film, and it must have been difficult to keep up such an intense pace for so long. Each line is delivered like it’s a punchline, and the characters can hardly keep up with each other. It’s a rollercoaster, and a funny one at that.
Note: Or, “I want to be let alone,” as Garbo corrected.
Photo from Grand Hotel from Wikimedia Commons.