Thursday, December 10, 2009

Current Obsessions

It's the holiday season for the next couple months and so I have time to concentrate on some classic movie obsessions. I should probably get a part-time job instead, but I'll be Scarlett O'Hara and think of that tomorrow...

There was a time, and there still is every now and then, when I think I'll stop liking classic movies. Everyone goes through fads - I've been invariably obsessed with various bands, classic books, even knitting and they didn't last long. Somehow I don't think classic films will ever have 'their time up' with me. Or film in general. I guess it's a love that's here to stay.

Right now there's too many actors and actresses to be interested in. Here are some that I'm really intrigued by at the moment:

Linda Darnell: I hadn't heard of her until this year, after I was glad to hear that madman had released some Dana Andrews films, including 'Fallen Angel'. I read up on it a bit and found out that Dana didn't think the film was very well, and that Linda Darnell had given the standout performance [note: I still wait to watch this film]. I think by this point I had seen 'My Darling Clementine' and I liked Linda as Chihuahua. She had a lot of sass and I probably preferred her to the sweet and wholesome Clementine. Just recently I've picked up my interest in Linda and have seen 'Unfaithfully Yours' where she plays off Rex Harrison really well and 'A Letter to Three Wives' where she is initially somewhat cold, but then grows in depth and sympathy as you get to know her character. She very much stands out.

On the 'A Letter to Three Wives' dvd there was also the A&E biography of Linda called 'Fallen Angel'. She lived a somewhat tragic life and was thrown into films at too young an age. But boy was she talented and beautiful.

Bette Davis: Many people view Bette as one of the best actresses in the history of cinema, and I can't dispute that though I've only seen six or so of her films. It's suffice to say that she hasn't disappointed me yet. You can sense that she really understands acting. To me her performances don't try to overdo it, but rather they create a foundation and then build up on this. In one of her recent films I've seen, 'Dark Victory', it's hard to see the mechanisms at work, but somehow you come away with the understanding that this woman is incredibly afraid of death as anyone would be if they were faced with it. You don't have to search for excuses to say that Davis is a great actress, she conveys it without you having to think consciously. That's the feeling I get.

Norma Shearer: I was kind of sceptical of Norma. Initially I'd only seen her in 'The Women' and I personally thought she was not that special in it (but her performance deserves a re-watch now). After that I simply knew her as MGM producer Irving Thalberg's wife who got all the prestigious pictures at her home studio. Then I decided three-quarters into the year that I'd try to find out what Norma's best films were. The one I was most eager to see was 'The Barretts of Wimpole Street' and she blew me away with her subdued but confident performance. I'll admit that in some of Norma's performance she makes some exaggerated facial expressions, somewhat left-over from her silent film days maybe. But she has a lot of sass and sex-appeal in her early pre-codes. And she's charming with Robert Montgomery, they make a great screen couple.

Mia Farrow: This year I've also gotten an increased interest in Mia. Last year I first saw her in 'Rosemary's Baby' and I don't think I was expecting much, but she perfectly conveyed her character's feelings in that. For me she really stood out and my opinion of her changed a bit. This year I've been making it a goal to get my hands on her films with Woody Allen and so far, so good. She's barely recognisable in 'Broadway Danny Rose' with her kind of Brooklyn-accent and big sunglasses - that one's probably my favourite of her performances. She also sunk chameleon-like in her performances in 'The Purple Rose of Cairo', 'Radio Days' and 'Hannah and Her Sisters'. Back-tracking a bit I also saw her 1969 film with Dustin Hoffman 'John and Mary'. They had good chemistry, though the film itself sinks a little. It sort of had a cool, bohemian feel about it, but the plot itself seemed unlikely. Then came 'The Great Gatsby' and though Mia looked stunning and her reading of Daisy Buchanan was not bad, the film itself sort of fell flat. Nevertheless, I still hope to see more Mia films in the future.

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