Saturday, July 7, 2007

Boston of Classic Film

Boston is my town. I love it here and always have. Yet, the Boston in classic films is not the Boston I know and love. It's very different. My Boston is made of many different shades: moderately conservative juxtaposed with moderately liberal; heavily accented townies and young students and upstarts from other states; history and modernity. Boston to me is variety and acceptance of that variety. Yet the Boston in classic films is highly conservative, extemely judgemental and socially backwards. Any films from the '20s to the mid '60s portray this city that way. Something happened (Civil Rights movement? Women's movement? Sexual liberation?) that changed Boston in the mid to late '60s that makes it portrayed so differently. I've tried to find out what that change was but to no avail.

I first discovered this anti-Boston trend when I watched a documentary on Bette Davis. She was born and raised here and had a very conservative and strict mother. Perhaps that's why I like blonde Bette Davis so much. She was rebelling from her conservative upbringing and brought an energy and fire to her new home, Hollywood. She had mentioned numerous times about heavy restrictions laid upon her by Boston society. I thought little of it, but didn't forget.

Then I watched The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947) and I myself was shocked. Betty Grable stars as a typist in 19th century America and travels to Boston for a position. Her new boss, a Boston local, is shocked that the employement company provided him with a woman for the position. She proceeds to woo him with her looks and vivacity, so all ends up well with him. She also moves into a home filled with eccentrics, all of whom share a deep hatred of Boston. In fact, despising Boston society was a requirement for moving in! I was deeply disturbed by this.

Then came If a Man Answers (1962), one of the three films Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin made together. Sandra Dee plays Chantal, a young woman who has a very sexy French mother and a dour, old-fashioned Boston father. Her Boston-French heritage is her primary source of romantic conflict. Hearing the familiar Boston fog-horns in her mind turns her into a cold and unaffectionate person. It's only the French part of her that makes her snag her Bobby Darin. Watch the opening sequence of this film. It's a '60s-style carton in which a growing Chantal proceeds to lure boys and men in with her French charm only to (literally) turn them into ice with her Boston frigidity.

I don't like this at all but will have to come to terms with it. I'm intrigued enough to want to see more Boston-based films from eras past to get a better understanding of this cold, conservative Boston which is so foreign to me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Queen Norma Shearer: Boxed Set?

Why is it, that on this good, green earth there has yet to exist a boxed set of DVDs of Norma Shearer films? It seems shameful that there are legions of classic film fans out there that are not capable of owning their own small library of Norma Shearer DVDs. It is a damn shame. In fact, there are only 2 DVDs out there. The Women (1939), because of the ensemble cast and the familiarity with the broadway play, and Marie Antoinette (1938) as a tie-in to Sofia Coppola's version. That will keep broadway buffs and Norma-Shearer-as-Marie-Antoinette-fans happy (yes, there is a whole underground society of such people) but what about those folks, like me, who like her broad range of silents and talkies?

So Warner Home Video and TCM, listen up! We the people who love Norma Shearer films demand a DVD boxed set of her movies! Or at least a larger selection of DVDs in print! Here are some suggestions of what I think would make for excellent boxed sets.

Norma Shearer: The Silent Years

The Snob (1924)

Norma Shearer: Queen of MGM
The Women (1939)

Norma Shearer: Drama

Escape (1940)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sexiest Scenes in Film History

Many folks say that the famous beach shot of Burt Lancaster and a blonde Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (1953) is one of the sexiest scenes in film history. I had that in mind when I watched the movie for the first time last weekend. Maybe I was expecting more, but I was mildly disappointed when I did finally see it. It was far too short and quickly moved into a heated argument over jealousy and rumor. I was much more intrigued by the scene in which Deborah's character is looking for her husband and Burt's character says to her, in a very flirty manner, "Is there anything I can do for you?". Yes, I'm sure there was a lot of things he wanted to do for her.

This got me thinking. Classic films are not generally known for their sexiness. In fact, most people have a preconceived notion that because these films were heavily censored that they were stripped of any sexuality. But that just isn't the case. There are plenty of very sexy pre-code films and suggestive movies from the late '50s. Besides, filmmakers found numerous ways to work around the censors and subtley makes for more of an impact on the viewer.

Below is a list of what I believe are the top 10 sexiest scenes in classic films. I hope you've had the pleasure of seeing at least one of them.

1. Rear Window (1954) - Grace Kelly walks in on a sleeping Jimmy Stewart and wakes him up with a seductively soft kiss. Then plants numerous little kisses on him after showing him her overnight bag. WOW! (link is a short clip)

2. Double Harness (1933) - Ann Harding slips into something more comfortable while at playboy William Powell's apartment. So scandalous that it was discovered many years later that the 2-1/2 minute clip was taken out of many copies of the movie. (link is another related clip)

3. Red-Headed Woman (1932) - What scene of this film isn't sexy? I think they all were. Jean Harlow is red-hot as she seduces her wealthy boss played by Chester Morris. He's fed up with her seduction and confronts her at her apartment. She traps him in her bedroom by locking the door and hides the key in her cleavage. Yowzah! (link is another related clip)

4. A Free Soul (1931) - Norma Shearer is in a figure-clinging dress (and nothing else, if you know what I mean) when seducing gangster Clark Gable. She reclines on a sofa and beckons him to put his arms around her.

5. The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) - The sexual tension between Bette Davis and Richard Barthelmess is intense. The most famous scene is Bette line to Richard: "I'd kiss ye, but I just washed ma' hair". She teases him almost endlessly, until one day, the rich southern belle takes the poor boy up to her room, in her mansion, and then well, you know. (link is the trailer)

6. Spartacus (1960) - One of the opening scenes in which Kirk Douglas is slaving away under the hot sun, combines his muscles, a nice tan and a lot of sweat. It's just all very good.

7. North by Northwest (1959) - Hitchcock was a very very clever man. The final scene with Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant, on a train, in a bed... then cut to a shot of a train entering a tunnel. Talk about suggestive. (link is a featurette about censorship of the movie)

8. Woman of the Year (1942) - You are probably surprised that this is listed here. However, the scene where Katerine Hepburn's character meets Spencer Tracy's character for the first time is electric. The chemistry between them was unmistakeable. This was their first film together and it lead to their real-life romance of 27 years. (link is the trailer)

9. The Seven Year Itch (1955) - One of Marilyn Monroe's most iconic roles. Besides the famous flowing skirt scene, this film is rife with Monroe's special doses of blonde bombshell. Monroe is hot (because it's summer and for other reasons as well) and is trying desperately to find ways to cool down. In the meantime, she gets the married Tommy Ewell all hot and bothered. The air-conditioner scene is my personal favorite. (link is the trailer)

10. Cat People (1942) - Feline Simone Simon is seductively bad. There is something very alluring about the bathtub scene. She seems delicate yet dangerous. So subtle! (link is the trailer)

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