Apr 11, 2006

A Secret Midnight Millionaire

Somehow, despite the fact that my weekends feel like they're only about 14 hours long, I always squeeze in some classic films I've never seen before, courtesy Turner Classic Movies' phenomenal round-the-clock lineup. Some gems I encountered this weekend:

Midnight Lace (1960) Eternally-cute Doris Day stars in what isn't her first thriller (she played opposite James Stewart in Hitchcock's 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much), but could very well be her most memorable. Lace centers on the life of a young, elegent housewife Kit Preston (Day) and her crusty British husband (the crusty, British Rex Harrison) during their temporary stay in a London hotel. From the film's very outset, Mrs. Preston is stalked by a mysterious man who calls to her in the city's heavy fog, makes lewd phone calls to her apartment, and threatens to kill her while her husband is away. Though a bit lengthy, Midnight Lace is nonetheless a true thriller, as the suspense is made all the more taut with a startling revelation at the film's end. Oh, and John Gavin stars, looking sexy (and wooden) as ever.

The Secret Garden (1949) Margaret O'Brien, what do I think of thee? I really don't know whether I want to wallop the diminutive diva or shower her with praise for all the performances of her preadolescent years. Evoking similar ambivalence from me is The Secret Garden, neither a terrible film nor a classic: its plotline is decent enough, and it does employ some fabulous Wizard-of-Oz-esque Technicolor sequences, quite artsy and dramatic in the middle of a dreary black-and-white setting. A notable star besides Ms. O'Brien (who will eternally be Tootie Smith, Flour-Thrower to me) is Dean Stockwell, pint-sized even at age 14, as the bedridden boy limited by his doctors' well-meaning diagnoses. Catch it if it's on, but don't go out of your way for this one, unless you love Tootie Smith.

How to Marry A Millionaire (1953) Lauren Bacall plays a deliciously devious ringleader in this frothy comedy, the first ever to be shot using fabulous Cinemascope. Convinced that dollar signs are more the key to marriage than love is, she buys a first-rate luxury apartment in just the right New York neighborhood for meeting wealthy, eligible men, and shares her new digs with fellow unattached models Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. While it's arguable that Bacall - slim, pretty, with enough brains, tenacity, and acerbic wit to get what she wants - steals the show, Marilyn doesn't disappoint in her role as the near-sighted beauty who refuses to wear her glasses when men are around, resulting in many an upside-down book and tripped-over curb. Betty Grable's character is the only snag here, as it doesn't do anything to showcase the talent or beauty of the screen-weary blonde (although the dream sequence is hilarious). Still, this is definitely worth seeing at least once, if only for the comdey, the fashion, and the delightful and inspiring gold-digging these three screen goddesses embark upon. And don't miss William Powell and David Wayne as two of the hapless men they prey on!

Labels: ,