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Classic Movies

I love to watch Western movies. Stagecoach (1939) is a classic Western from director John Ford. This film was a trendsetter and it actually became a model for all other Western movies to follow. The movie Stagecoach (1939) was actually Ford’s third film in the western genre – after Fox’s Three Bad Men (1926) (and The Iron Horse (1924)). I enjoyed the movie totally – it has action, drama, humor and a set of well-drawn characters. The movie has great stunts by Yakima Canutt. Moreover, there is some stunning photography of the Monument Valley – John Ford’s favorite location.

John Wayne is a great fit as Ringo the Kid. He gives subtle acting and sometimes, the glimmer in his eyes says it all. The nineteen thirties and forties were well known for the screwball comedies. Mr. Deeds Comes to Town (1936) is a classic screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra featuring Gary Cooper as a small-town poet who moves to the city after he inherits millions. The movie philosophically shows individual innocence, big city corruption and the power of a small town hero as a citizen in a democratic country. I felt inspired by the “share-the-wealth” philosophy.

Jean Arthur as the newspaper reporter is excellent. In fact it was this movie that brought her great name and fame. Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur worked for Capra in more films such as You Can’t Take it with you (1938) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and Meet John Doe (1941). I found this movie very classy compared to the silly remake Mr. Deeds (2002) starring Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder. Christopher Strong (1933), directed by Dorothy Arzner revolves around the famous actress Katherine Hepburn as Lady Cynthia Darrington. The script is by Zoe Adkins and it is based on a novel by Gilbert Frankau.

Katherine gets to showcase all her talents by loving, waiting, suffering and sacrificing. There is a sensual scene in the movie when Cynthia fondly talks about her lover’s gift, “I love my beautiful bracelet. And I’ve never cared a button for jewels before. Now I’m shackled. ” In the next instant, Sir Christopher asks her to give up flying, she agrees and turns off the light. I felt very sorry for Billie Burke who plays Sir Christopher’s wife. She is outstanding in the scene with Hepburn in which she indicates she knows about her husband’s infidelity. The character stays in the memory.

Arzner seems to be sensitive to female rivalries and friendships. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy made nine films together: “Woman of the Year” and “Keeper of the Flame” (1942), “Without Love” (1945), “The Sea of Grass” (1947), “State of the Union” (1948), “Adam’s Rib” (1949), “Pat and Mike” (1952), “Desk Set” (1957), and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967). It is hard to watch the moment in “Woman of the Year” when Sam Craig (played by Tracy), a down-to-earth sportswriter for the “New York Chronicle,” first sees Tess Harding (played by Hepburn), the paper’s international columnist fixing her stockings.

I had never thought Hepburn was sexy, but this scene focuses on her great legs. This combined with those great cheekbones and her clipped manner of speaking makes her look amazingly feminine and seductive. Jean Renoir’s “Grand Illusion” examines the conflict between class and national identity during World War I. The movie shows the deep cultural bonds between French and German aristocrats. There are some tender scenes between Fresnay and von Stroheim that seem somewhat funny in today’s context. But overall, the movie is quite moving.

Grand Illusion must have been very influential because one can see traces of this movie in “Casablanca” and “Paths of Glory”. Jezebel (1938) directed by William Wyler is wonderful period film set in the 1850 New Orleans ante-bellum society. This was the time when the United States was undergoing a lot of changes. Julie Morrison played by Bette Davis is a high energy character – spoiled, willful and coquettish. The movie is still relevant today as it has to do with universal emotions such as love, betrayal, selfishness and revenge and finally transformation.

Julie Morrison is so much like a woman of today- highly impulsive, impetuous, revengeful and finally willing to change. Bette Davis is truly amazing as Julie. The movie “Umberto D” by Vittoria De Sica (1951) reminds me of Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) because of the Italian connection. Open City (1945) depicted Italians in a positive manner- as dignified, moral people struggling in the face of Fascist domination. The movie Bicycle Thieves (1948) was another Italian success movie. Umberto D is a movie that shows poverty, loneliness and old age.

The movie revolves around the hardships faced by Carlo Battisti as he struggles with the possibility of giving up his home, his dog, his dignity, and eventually his life. While it is indeed a touching feeling, I felt somewhat depressed after seeing the movie. This movie, Gold Diggers of 1933, is a truly great classic. The music of Busby Berkeley is very enjoyable and a very surprising find is that Busby Berkeley himself plays a small role in the movie as the Call Boy! Like the movie “Mr. Deeds Comes to Town”, “Gold Diggers” is also based on the period of the Great Depression.

The main plot concerns three young women trying to survive during the Great Depression. Though this sounds depressing, the movie is a lot of fun with great music, song and dance. The song “The Forgotten Man”, superbly sung by Joan Blondell and Etta Moten, reminded me of the soldiers of the United States who are struggling and battling in Iraq. It also puts me in a philosophical mood. Though the classic movies belong to the period five or six decades ago, they have succeeded in standing the test of time. This is mainly because the problems of humanity still remain the same. They still carry a relevance to the issues of today.

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