Archive for December, 2012

Classic Movie Suggestions for New Year’s Eve

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film)

The Lady Vanishes (1938 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a Classic Movie fan.   I drive my family a bit nuts due to our dvr list being full of old movies’ titles.  Turner Classic Movies is my favorite channel, and I am often watching one of the movies from that channel and not watching network tv.   Our family usually stays home on New Year’s Eve, munching on favorite snacks,  and watching movies.  With all of this in mind, I thought I’d make some Classic Movie suggestions for New Year’s Eve viewing, movies that I have seen and highly recommend.

If you like a good mystery, with a bit of comedy mixed in and espionage, than The Lady Vanishes is for you.  It was one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest hits in England, and he made this movie in 1938.  The movie stars Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, and Dame May Whitty, as the vanishing lady of the movie’s title.  Most of the action takes place aboard a train  as a group of British travelers are winding their way across continental Europe in order to get to a port city in France to then take a boat back to England.  Margaret Lockwood’s character is a young, rich socialite, who befriends Dame May Whitty’s character.  Upon awakening after a nap, Lockwood goes about the train to find Whitty, and she is not there, she has vanished!  No one on the train believes her that the elderly lady was on the train.  Michael Redgrave, playing a handsome music professor, agrees to help Lockwood search the train to find the missing elderly lady.  This movie was one of Hitchcock’s last British movies before he came to America and Hollywood.  In fact, this movie did so well at the British box office, that it helped Hitchcock prove to American movie studios that he knew how to make successful movies and he was able to make  a nice, profitable deal with MGM, who he made his first American movie with.

My next movie suggestion would be for an audience of teens and adults to experience the great character study that it contains. The movie is 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet.  The movie stars Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Martin Balsam, and John Fiedler( great character actor known for his light and high-pitched voice.  He was the voice of Piglet in many Winnie the Pooh movies and one of the regular patients of Bob Newhart’s Dr. Hartley on the Bob Newhart tv show.)

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda.

Publicity photograph of Henry Fonda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The plot is very straightforward and pulls no punches.  A teen has been on trial for murder.  The action of the movie takes place in the jury’s deliberation room.  All but one of the jurors thinks the teen committed the murder and it is up to that one juror, Henry Fonda, to carefully relook at all of the evidence with his fellow jurors, and to see if it is possible  that the teen is innocent.  The movie is riveting,  and we also get to know each juror and what makes him tick, why some of the jurors are eager to just get a verdict in and leave so they can get on with their weekend plans.  Jurors and their prejudices are also scrutinized by Fonda and one another.   The movie is tense, dramatic, well-acted, and makes one look inward; how would we act if we were on a jury, deciding upon a life and death situation?

For an exciting family adventure, one cannot go wrong with a Disney movie and one of my favorites is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  The famous novel was written by Jules Verne and Walt Disney decided to make a movie based upon this popular book.  The movie appeared to American audiences in 1954, and it starred Kirk Douglas(who sings in the movie, and not too badly!), James Mason, Paul Lukas, and Peter Lorre.

Lukas and Lorre are scientists who have been hired by the U.S. Government to try and find out what is causing the mysterious sinkings of commerical ships on the high seas.  Kirk Douglas plays a sailor, Ned, who agrees to go along on the investigation.  The trio soon discovers that a technologically  advanced submarine, the Nautilus,

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo (Photo credit: gnews pics)

Captain Nemo's Office

Captain Nemo’s Office (Photo credit: Peter E. Lee)

and a strange and engimatic Captain Nemo, played by James Mason, are responsible for the sinkings.  With Captain Nemo’s dire warnings about the environment, the movie doesn’t seem that dated, and what more can one ask for then an epic submarine vs. giant squid battle!

My last movie recommendation is the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  It is a favorite at our house, even our menfolk enjoy the humor in it, and the dance numbers and songs don’t make them cringe!  It was made by MGM in 1954, directed by Stanley Dolen, choreographed by Michael Kidd, and it starred Jane Powell as Milly and Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee.  Adam is the oldest of 7 brothers.  He decides on his next visit to town, when he buys supplies, that he’ll also get himself a wife.  He wants a helpmate who will cook and clean and sew, a woman who is pretty, but who can also work hard.  He finds that wife in Milly, a local girl who works in the town’s restaurant.  Milly agrees to marry Adam, but she is angered with him when they arrive at Adam’s cabin and find that his 6 brothers live there too.  The 6 are a mess-they’re rude, dirty, and after she gets over her initial shock,

Cover of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers...

Cover of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Milly takes on the task of turning these 6 new brothers-in-law into gentlemen.  She also impresses on them how to properly court a girl.  At a local barn raising, potluck and dance, the 6 brothers set their sights on 6 ladies from the town, who are unfortunately seeing 6 men from the town.  Adam, seeing his brothers moping around the cabin as winter sets in, tells them about a story written down by Plutarch, how some Roman Soldiers got wives from the Sabine Women.  The brothers take Adam’s advice  and hilarity ensues.  An interesting side note is that at the same time Seven Brides was in production, MGM was pouring more money and time into another musical, Brigadoon.  The studio fully expected Brigadoon to be a box office smash and to their surprise, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the smash hit, and Brigadoon didn’t fare as well at the box office.   The roles of the brides and brothers were mostly filled by dancers, but Julie Newmar-pre Cat Woman days, and Russ Tamblyn-before he played Riff in the movie West Side Story, are a bride and brother you might recognize.   For a fun, toe-tapping way to welcome in the New Year, don’t overlook this gem!

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas taking on a whole new meaning

Golfballs for the Scrap Rubber Drive during Wo...

Golfballs for the Scrap Rubber Drive during World War Two Polski: Bing Crosby (1942) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every November  I like to buy a cd of Christmas music.  Last year I bought Michael Buble‘s cd.  The soundtrack to the movie, Elf, was another past purchase.  One of my favorite buys, however, is  a cd of Christmas  standards sung by Bing Crosby and Perry Como.  I love  to pop it in the cd player while I am in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of Christmas cookies or washing the dishes.  The song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, as sung by Mr. Como, this year especially, never failed to bring a tear to my eye.  Our oldest son is in the Marines Corps, and this was his first Christmas away from us.  That is why this song resonated with me in such a strong way.  In a way that  hasn’t ever touched my emotions  before.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas was first recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943.  The song resonated deeply with American GIs, many who were stationed overseas fighting in World War II.   The song also resonated with their loved ones back home too.  The lyrics tell of a soldier, writing a letter to his family, stating how he’ll be home for the Christmas season, to please have snow, mistletoe, presents under the tree, but by the song’s end, it is obvious that the soldier will be unable to be home for Christmas, so he will have to content himself with fond memories of past Christmases in his dreams.

Last Christmas, our son in the Corps was able to be home for Christmas.  It seemed like a minor miracle how he got to come home.  He serves in Japan at a Marine Air Station, and in July of 2011, he put in a request for leave for the enitre month of December.   Fortunately his request went through and in early December he flew to St. Louis.  His first stop was taking a train to  Hiroshima’s airport, then he flew to Tokyo, then  to Los Angeles, then Chicago, and finally to St. Louis.   I discovered a fun online site called Flight Tracker, and was able to know when his plane was over the Pacific, over the North American continent, over the US, etc.  Christmas 2011 was wonderful for our son as he visited with us in Rolla, his good friends in the St. Louis area, and then on to Ohio to visit all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.   He was due to fly back to Japan at the end of December, but his pesky appendix had another plan, and due to emergency surgery, he was able to stay with us for another week.

His father and I, as well as his younger brothers and sisters all feel very relieved that his duty station has been  in Japan for most of his 4 years in the Marines.  We are quite aware that many serving in the military don’t get stationed in a country that is relatively up to date with technology, relatively out of harm’s way as far as world situations and hot spots go.  Christmas 2013, he’ll be at his new station, it will be stateside, and hopefully we’ll be able to spend some of the holiday with him.

As this Christmas season of 2012 is winding down, please remember those who are willingly serving our country with their time, their energy, their all.  Whether they are in a dangerous zone in the world or not, they deserve our thanks and our prayers, and not just at Christmas, but all year long.