Archive for May, 2017

5 Stars Blogathon: Celebrating National Classic Movie Day!

Rick, the wonderful host at Classic Film and TV Cafe, invited me to participate in this year’s Five Stars Blogathon. Classic movie fans who write blogs, were asked to contribute a piece in honor of National Classic Movie Day, which is today.   A difficult task, we bloggers were asked to  list  5 favorite classic film actors and/or actresses.  A difficult task as there are so many classic film stars to choose from.  I thought about my list for several weeks, and decided to foucs on actors/actresses who always gave good performances no matter the plot.  What follows are my fave 5, and the teacher in me put them  in alphabetical order!

Irene Dunne     

I appreciate Dunne’s talents, on the big screen.  She could sing-a lovely soprano voice-and she could play dramatic as well as comedic parts.  With her beautiful face, she could emote with the best of them, bringing  tears to one’s eyes in heart-tugging dramas like Backstreet, Love Affair, Penny Serenade, and I Remember Mama.  She brings the fun, and looked as if she enjoyed herself immensely,  in two delightful romance comedies, My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth. She was a riot as the ditzy wife in Life With Father.  Dunne was  nominated 5 times for Best Actress Oscars and never won, but  she did receive a Kennedy Centers Honor tribute in 1985.

Sleepless in Seattle, makes references to An Affair to Remember, but Love Affair is the original film that AATR remade. Dunne costars with Charles Boyer.

Drama, romance, tearjerker! Have kleenaxes ready when you watch this one!! Dunne costars with Cary Grant.

Dunne surrounded by the cast of I Remember Mama, based upon a book of the same name, a Norwegian immigrant family’s life in turn of the century San Francisco.

Joel McCrea:    

I remember when I was 12 or 13  my grandma mentioned to me that one of her favorite actors was Joel McCrea.  At that time, I didn’t know who he was.  Jumping to my college days, when I began to watch classic movies in earnest, I did find out who Joel McCrea was and I could see why he was one of my grandma’s favorites.  Tall, handsome, an All-American type, McCrea grew up in Southern CA and his career in films took off in the 1930s and 40s.  McCrea was often cast as the hero, in action films or romance comedies.  In the late 1940s and for the rest of his acting career, McCrea turned to Westerns, where he also excelled.  Some McCrea films to not miss: The Most Dangerous Game, Foreign Correspondent, Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The More the Merrier, The Virginian, Colorado Territory, Stars in my Crown, and Ride the High Country, which paired him with another Westerns hero, Randolph Scott, in their senior years.   

Foreign Correspondent, an excellent Alfred Hitchcock film, with McCrea, Lorraine Day, and George Sanders(Sher Khan in Disney’s Jungle Book, that’s how he’s known to my kids.)

Wacky and funny romance comedy from writer/director Preston Sturgis, Playing McCrea’s wife is Claudette Colbert.


Ray Milland:    

Born and raised in Wales, Ray Milland came to Hollywood in the late 1920s, and became a leading actor in the mid 1930s onward.  He was cast as the romantic leading man in many romance comedies, and he could also portray a villain very well on the big screen.  He won the Best Actor Oscar in 1945 for his harrowing portrayal of an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend.   Nearing his late 50s, he took a few turns as director, and had some infamous roles in his 60s and 70s.  Tall, dark, handsome, with that lilting accent-which he could hide quite well-he is one classic film actor I never tire watching.  Milland movies to tune in to: Three Smart Girls, Easy Living,  Beau Geste, Irene, The Doctor Takes a Wife, Skylark, Reap the Wild Wind, The Major and the Minor, The Uninvited, Ministry of Fear, The Lost Weekend, So Evil My Love, The Big Clock, Alias Nick Beal, It Happens Every Spring, A Woman of Distinction, Rhubarb, Close to my Heart, Dial M for Murder, Panic in the Year Zero!, The Man with X-Ray Eyes, Daughter of the Mind, Love Story, Frogs, Escape to Witch Mountain.

Wonderful romance comedy, The Major and The Minor, starring Milland and Ginger Rogers, written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, and Wilder also directed.

Milland in his Oscar winning role as alcoholic Don Birnum in The Lost Weekend.


Claude Rains:   

Known more for being a character actor and an excellent one at that, Rains began his acting career on the stages of England before crossing the pond to Broadway and then Hollywood.  With a distinctive voice, eyes that could stare down a towering bully, Rains portrayed some memorable characters on film: The Invisible Man, brooding drug addict Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood,  throne usurper Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood, an absent-minded music professor in Four Daughters,  nemesis Senator Paine to political neophyte James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,  literal angelic Mr. Jordan in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, brave  Sir John Talbot in The Wolfman, creepy Dr. Tower in Kings Row, the understanding and helpful psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith in Now, Voyager,  rascally Captain Renault in Casablanca,  long-suffering Job Skeffington in Mr. Skeffington, Caesar in a British film, Caesar and Cleopatra, wimpy Nazi Spy Alexander Sebastian in Notorious.  All of the above roles, Rains excelled in, whether he was playing a good person or an evil person or  sometimes a conflicted person.  He brought sincerity to all of his roles, making his characters come to life.

Rains’s first American movie role, as The Invisible Man, costarring with Gloria Stewart. Directed by James Whale.

Rains, center, fawning over himself as Prince John in Robin Hood, MGM’s technicolor extravaganza and the best film version,  imho, of the legendary hero robbing the rich to give to the poor.  Costars include Errol Flynn, Olivia DeHaviland, Basil Rathbone.

Rains as Captain Renault with Humphrey Bogart  in Casablanca. Considered by some to be the best film ever made.

Jane Wyman:   

An actress who hit her stride in the 1940s and 50s, and starred on CBS’s night time soaper Falcon Crest in the 1980s, Wyman was a lovely actress who could play in dramas and comedies equally well.  She won the Best Actress Oscar in 1949 for the film Johnny Belinda, for her portrayal of a deaf girl, who is raped, impregnated, and keeps the baby.  She was also nominated 3 more times for Best Actress, but didn’t win: 1947″s The Yearling,  1952’s The Blue Veil, a touching film about a nanny, and 1955’s Magnificent Obsession.  Some other films of Wyman’s not to miss: Brother Rat, Larceny, Inc., The Doughgirls, The Lost Weekend, The Yearling, Johnny Belinda, Stage Fright,Here Comes the Groom, The Blue Veil, So Big, Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Miracle in the Rain.

Larceny, Inc.– Hilarious comedy about  ex con Edward G. Robinson, trying to go legitimate with a business, and getting pulled back into crime, not wanting  his niece, Jane Wyman, to know.

Douglas Sirk, German film director, became known for his technicolor melodrama films made in the 1950s.  Magnificent Obsession was one such hit for him and his lead stars, Rock Hudson and Wyman.




There you have it! My Fab 5 of classic film stars.  Turner Classic Movies cable channel often shows many of the films I listed and if you don’t have that channel, you probably can find them via Amazon instant rent, or shop around for the dvds.