The More the Merrier (1943) starring Jean Arthur

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Do you realize that practically most of the trouble in the world comes from people lying to people? Just take Hitler, for instance.  -Dingle on morals

This funny and VERY well-written romantic/screwball comedy, directed by George Stevens (A Place in the Sun, Giant) is a MUST-SEE for any fan of classic film!  I saw it for the first time (on TCM) last week, then wondered why I’d never heard of it before. 

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Damn the torpedoes – full steam ahead!  –Dingle on seizing the moment

In WWII era Washington, DC, there is a housing shortage and “8 women for every man,” BUT Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur) ends up w/ TWO unwanted roomies.  First, there is retired industrialist, Benjamin Dingle (James Coburn- Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner), then mechanic-turned-soldier, Joe Carter (Joel McCrea).  Mr. Dingle sublets half of his room to the younger man, considering him “a high type, clean cut, nice young fellow.” When Dingle plays (unlikely) matchmaker, hilarity and romance ensue!  

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There are two kinds of people – those who don’t do what they want to do, so they write down in a diary about what they haven’t done, and those who are too busy to write about it because they’re out doing it! -Dingle on life

 

 

Now Voyager (1942) starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid & Claude Rains

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The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.  

-From the poem The Untold Want by Walt Whitman

Claude Rains Now Voyager

This box office smash (the BIGGEST of Bette Davis’ career) is loved by MANY, maligned by a few (including film critic Pauline Kael, who referred to it as “schlock”).  The premise is nothing new- an ugly duckling (w/ extra pounds, thick eyebrows, dowdy clothes, and VERY low self-esteem) turning into a beautiful (and more importantly, confident) swan.  

The heroine- neurotic Charlotte Vale (Davis)- is helped by her sister-in-law Lisa, a pioneering psychotherapist named Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains), and eventually- a friend who becomes more- Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid). The villain in this film is Charlotte’s mother, Mrs. Vale (Gladys Cooper), a widow of considerable wealth in Boston.  She is a domineering woman, displeased by everyone, though her harshest criticism is for her youngest child- Charlotte.   

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If the psychological elements, glamorous clothes, or music don’t draw you in- there is also a BIG love story element.  But learning to love (and accept) oneself is a key theme in this tale.  As Charlotte tells the depressed preteen Tina: “You can have a kind of beauty… one that comes from within, because you are kind to people.” 

36 Hours (1964) starring James Garner

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In this psychological war-drama an Army Major is captured by the Germans during World War II. They attempt to brainwash him into believing the war is over and that he is safe in an Allied hospital, so that he will divulge Allied invasion plans.  -IMDB summary

Naturally charming, funny, handsome, and real-life hero (2 Purple Hearts in the Korean War)- James Garner is the protagonist of this WWII spy film. It was written/directed by George Seaton; the original story (Beware of the Dog) comes from Roald Dahl. Some of you know Garner as Mel Gibson’s cranky sparring partner (Maverick); others saw him regularly on TV (The Rockford Files).  But perhaps his MOST famous role was as the elderly Noah, the devoted husband in The Notebook.

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This MUST-SEE film was shot in 1962 and released in 1964, BUT in black and white (which adds to its world-building).  Garner is joined by two strong actors- Rod Taylor as Dr. Gerber (a jaded psychiatrist) and Eva Marie Saint as Anna (a steely nurse/concentration camp survivor).

Are you really an army sergeant?  -Jeff asks, incredulously

Regular army – no.  I am too old, too fat!  Home guard.  We are patrolling the border so then the young, strong, and handsome men can go to Russia and freeze to death.  Wonderful system, huh?  -Ernst replies w/ a big laugh

There are Germans in this tale that are NOT all bad, such as portly/jovial/cunning soldier, Ernst (John Banner), who provides terrific comedic moments in the last act of this otherwise serious film. 

I highly recommend this film (so am not going to give away TOO much)!  If you liked The Manchurian Candidate, then this is up your alley.