Holiday Affair (1949) starring Robert Mitchum & Janet Leigh

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[1] The story as well is told with such maturity and wit for those days… Here we see REAL people as it were. Real people with real problems. Especially in Leigh’s character…

[2] The dialogue is among the best and the long string of coincidences make this film charming, not clichéd. 

[3] Surprisingly quirky film isn’t the least bit obvious or clichéd, and Janet’s sceen-relationship with Gordon Gebert, the likable youngster playing her son, is very well handled. 

[4] Wendell Corey is excellent as the fiancé; he turns this very practical character into a sympathetic one and there are times you’re not sure who you want to win — or lose — Leigh’s hand.

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This is one of my (new) holiday faves; I discovered it (thanks to TCM) about 5 yrs ago. A few days before Christmas, comparison shopper Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) buys a train for work, BUT but her 7 y.o. son Timmy (Gordon Gebert) finds it and assumes that it’s for him. When Connie goes back to the department store to return the train the next day, clerk Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) quickly figures out her real purpose. He doesn’t turn her in to management, which gets him fired. They end up spending most of the day together, which Connie doesn’t reveal to her suitor of 2 yrs, Carl (Wendell Corey), a divorce lawyer.  Romantic complications follow. Also, look out for Harry Morgan (best known for M.A.S.H.) who plays a bemused police lieutenant.

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In the kitchen scene, Mitchum gives Leigh a sudden, passionate kiss. Leigh said: “The expression that is on my face of being overwhelmed was for real.” Mitchum explained: “I wanted to make the kiss memorable, as though the characters were never going to see each other again. The perks of being an actor are at times not bad.” Leigh enjoyed working with both Mitchum and Corey; the set was a relaxed and happy one (where BOTH men were full of practical jokes).

 

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White Christmas (1954) starring Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye

My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left. -Phil comments (re: Bob’s bachelorhood)

When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply. -Bob says, confused

Having left the Army following WWII, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) team up to become a successful song-and-dance act. Phil (playing matchmaker) introduces Bob to the talented/beautiful sisters of an Army buddy, Betty (Rosemary Clooney- aunt of George) and Judy (Vera Ellen) Haynes, who are an up-and-comers in show business. When Betty and Judy travel to a Vermont to perform during the holidays, the men follow (Phil convinces Bob- he saved his life during a bombing raid). The men find their former commander, General Waverly, is the owner of Pine Tree Inn; w/ the lack of snow and guests, he’s losing hope. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as these performers try to help him out.

It’s cozier, isn’t it? Boy, girl, boy, girl? -Phil asks the Haynes sisters re: his seating plan

This is a holiday classic (now streaming on Netflix) that my family and I watched almost every year growing up. There is singing (Crosby and Clooney focus on this aspect more), dancing (Kaye and Ellen are more involved in this), fabulous clothes (esp. the gowns chosen for Clooney- IMO), comedy (wordplay, physical humor, Mary Wickes’ as the inn’s housekeeper, etc.) and romance. Irving Berlin composed the music, which is quite memorable. Things get complicated b/c Phil (and later- also Judy) plot to throw Bob and Betty (who are BOTH concerned re: their careers and “slow movers” in romance) together.

Imagine a girl in show business today wanting to settle down and raising a family. It’s so refreshing, isn’t it? -Phil asks Bob, while Betty and Judy look on

Pushing, pushing. -Bob mumbles into his glass of water

There is some cool trivia behind this film. According to Clooney, the “midnight snack” scene in which Bob Wallace expounds on his theory of what foods cause what dreams was almost entirely improvised. She said that the men’s “Sisters” performance was not originally in the script. Crosby and Kaye were clowning around on the set, and director (Michael Curtiz) thought it was so funny that he decided to film it. In the scene, Crosby’s laughs are genuine and unscripted, as he was unable to hold a straight face due to Kaye’s comedic dancing. The filmmakers had a better take (where Crosby didn’t laugh), BUT test audiences liked the laughing version better. I noticed this a FEW years ago- one of the background dancers is George Chakiris, who later won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Oscar for his role as Bernardo in West Side Story (1961). Bob Fosse was one of the choreographers (though he is uncredited).

Below is a video of one of the BEST dance numbers from the film.

Alias Grace (2017) starring Sarah Gadon & Anna Paquin

Hollywood may still be a (dysfunctional) man’s world, BUT this Canadian 6 episode miniseries (streaming on Netflix) puts women in the forefront; they’re also behind the camera. The screenwriters are Sarah Polley (who started out as an actress, BUT garnered critical acclaim w/ her writing and directing) and Margaret Atwood (who wrote the historical novel upon which this series is based). Polley, who is also an executive producer, first tried to acquire the rights when the book came out in 1996. If you liked The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), check out Alias Grace; they share many common themes. I looked up the veteran director (Mary Harron); she was at the helm of American Psycho, as well as eps of two of my favorite shows (Homicide; Oz). The star of the series, Sarah Gadon, is a 30 y.o. actress who I’ve seen in a few films (A Royal Night Out, Maps to the Stars, and Belle). She is one of those women who can easily pass as a teen girl, if the role demands. And yes, ALL the women mentioned so far are Canadians!

The story focuses on a retelling of the events leading up to the (real-life) murders of Thomas Kinnear (Paul Gross from Due South and Slings and Arrows) and Nancy Montgomery (Oscar winner Anna Paquin). An Irish immigrant maid in Victorian era Toronto, Grace Marks (Gadon), is questioned many years after her conviction at the Kingston Penitentiary by a young psychoanalyst, Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft). Grace (along with stable-hand James McDermott) was convicted of murder, but doubts surrounding her guilt remain. Dr. Jordan (who was created by Atwood for this series) was brought to town by a Spiritualist society, headed by Rev. Verrenger (famed director David Cronenberg). 

I started watching Alias Grace after an acquaintance posted about it on Facebook; she has written for TV herself. When some people watch period dramas, they’re looking for an escape (Downton Abbey is a popular example from PBS). However, Alias Grace is NOT all stiff upper lips, spotless clothing, and nice scenery; it has troubling (and sometimes bloody) scenes. This show is also providing  commentary on contemporary times; issues such as immigration, abortion, and harassment come up. 

[1] Sarah Gadon manages to simultaneously convey purity and malevolence with a single glance, and the dynamic between she and Dr. Jordan is laden with wonderful tension. 

[2] The main character, Grace, is a complex study in not only the human mind and its darker recesses, but also the power of the survival instinct in all of us. 

[3] Grace’s inner voice is strong and true. Also, she has no control over her life, but she is not broken. I often think that is the greatest sin of woman of her kind in the eyes of society.

[4] …the filmmakers here really paint a visceral picture of what life likely consisted of for women (and men) of that time period.

[5] The directing is precise and shows you what you need for the story. The horrific and painful parts of the story are such that it could not have been shown in such detail if it was adapted many years ago. What a perfect balance of beauty and horror.

–Excerpts from IMDB reviews