Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Favorite Classic Movies

Gabrielle Here:

Last week I shared one of my all-time favorite movies, Meet Me in St. Louis, and said I had watched it after the election results as a way to escape from all the drama that ensued. It was fun to chat with some of you about your favorite old movies, so I thought I'd elaborate a little more and share some of my other favorites. I tried to limit it to ten, and then to fifteen...I think I'm up to seventeen, with a few cheats at the end (you'll see what I mean). I could have gone on and on. I actually feel bad that I didn't include others, but I had to stop somewhere! :)

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some of my favorite oldies and why I love them so much:

Little Women with June Allyson and Peter Lawford (1949). The classic story of Jo March and her coming of age. There were two older versions that I loved growing up (before the 1994 version with Winona Ryder). The earlier version stars Katharine Hepburn and is in black & white. I loved the one with June Allyson because it's in color...and because I secretly had a crush on Peter Lawford who played Laurie. I still can't watch any version without hoping that this time Jo will choose Laurie.

Please Don't Eat the Daisies with Doris Day and David Niven (1960). Doris Day plays a mother of four rambunctious boys living in a high rise apartment in New York City. She's married to a theater critic and desperately longs to leave Long Island and move to the country. What's not to love about this story? Four little boys (all with different hair color and one named Gabe), a rambling old mansion, and fun Doris Day songs. Doris Day is probably my favorite actress of all time. I loved her sunny disposition, her humor, her voice, and her optimism in all her films. If you haven't seen a Doris Day movie, there are dozens to choose from. I could have easily filled this list with all of her movies.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with Jane Powell and Howard Keel (1954). Seven handsome backwoodsmen. Enough said. :) This story follows Adam and Millie's unique love story. They marry after their first meeting, and she thinks she's escaping the drudgery of cooking and cleaning for dozens of men at the hotel where she works, only to discover that she has six scruffy brothers-in-law that she must now reform. The songs alone are wonderful, but the dancing is some of the best caught on film. The first CD I ever purchased was the soundtrack to this film. I had seven bridesmaids in my wedding and I intentionally was married in June because of the song June Bride from this movie. I absolutely love this film.

Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland and Tom Drake (1944). Last week I shared my adoration for this film. I love the community pride, the boy next door, the singing, the Victorian charm, and the fact that they are preparing for the World's Fair. The story takes place over the course of one year in the life of the Smith family in St. Louis, MO. Each child in the family has a different storyline, but Esther (played by Judy Garland) is the main character.

Singing in the Rain with Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly (1952). Okay, this is a classic, for sure. Gene Kelly is one of the best dancers in Hollywood history--and he's adorable and can sing, too. A triad of talent. Debbie Reynolds is so sweet and sassy in this movie. It's set in 1927 and shares the transition Hollywood made from silent films to talkies. I love the chemistry between Gene and Debbie. Though Gene has dozens and dozens of movie roles, his role in this movie (and the song, Singing in the Rain) is probably his most iconic.

Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda (1968). I don't tend to like films between the mid-1960's and 1980's, but this one is an exception. It's a hilarious look at two large families (one with 8 children and one with 10) who come together after the mom and dad fall in love. They buy a big old house and the dad tries to run it like a navy warship. Add in lots of subplots with the older children, a funny sidekick and several mishaps, and you have a winner.

Remember the Night with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray (1940). *Sigh* This is one of the sweetest, heart-wrenching love stories you may ever watch. Fred MacMurray plays a prosecuting attorney and he's trying to put Barbara Stanwyck behind bars after she steals a bracelet. Since it's so close to Christmas, the judge doesn't want her to go to jail during the holidays, so Fred agrees to take her home with him to his mother for the week. You learn her background and why she became a thief, and then you see her redemption as they fall in love. This one brings tears to my eyes every time. Wonderful Christmas movie.

Summer Stock with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly (1950). Here's another movie chock-full of amazing dancing and singing. Judy is trying to make ends meet on her family farm and her younger sister returns home with the cast of her current play. The director of the play, Gene Kelly, needs a place to hold the play, so he talks Judy into letting them use the barn. Lots of hilarity ensues and a romance develops between two unsuspecting characters.

The Thrill of it All with Doris Day and James Garner (1963). James Garner...sigh. This movie challenges the roles of a wife and mother in the 1960's when she's offered a surprise opportunity to be the face of Happy Soap. She's married to a doctor and has two little children, but she tries to manage being on a weekly (live) commercial and in magazine and billboard advertisements. The pool scene in this movie is a classic when the Happy Soap ends up in the pool and creates a backyard full of suds.

Bachelor Mother with Ginger Rogers and David Niven (1939). I wanted to include a Ginger Rogers movie, because I absolutely love her, so I chose Bachelor Mother, though she had some other amazing movies (she was best known as the dancing partner of Fred Astaire). No dancing in this movie, but it's a funny look at a wealthy department store owner and a sales clerk who works for him. When she finds a baby on the stoop of an orphanage, and the orphanage director assumes the baby is hers, they talk her boss into giving her a better-paying job and helping take care of her. Of course, he assumes the baby is hers, too, and she has to try to convince everyone that she's never seen the baby before, but soon she and David Niven fall in love with each other and the baby, and then they don't want to give him back.

Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale (1942). This one is sometimes considered a Christmas movie (Bing Crosby sang White Christmas for the first time in this movie), but it's so much more. The story follows Bing as he leave show business to try to run a farm. When he realizes it's too much work, he turns the farm into an inn and only opens on holidays. The show features twelve songs (one written for each holiday) by Irving Berlin. It also stars Fred Astaire, who sings and dances his way through yet another classic film.

The Shop Around the Corner with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart (1940). This romantic film was remade in 1998 and titled You've Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. The plot is very similar, though in The Shop Around the Corner, the two main characters are pen pals who happen to work at the same music shop. As co-workers, they are at each other's throats, as pen pals, they fall in love. One of the scenes that is familiar in both movies is the one where he goes to meet her in the restaurant and realizes it's her, but stands her up. The movie was remade as a musical with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in 1949 and titled In the Good Old Summertime. I love all three versions.

My Favorite Wife with Irene Dunne and Cary Grant (1940). Cary Grant. Need I say more? This is a romantic comedy about a man who believes his wife has died at sea. Several years later, after he's had her pronounced legally dead, he's on his way to his honeymoon with another woman when his first wife shows up! She had been in a shipwreck, but had survived on an island with a fellow passenger. Now, she's back, and willing to fight to keep her husband. This movie was also remade in 1963, starring Doris Day and James Garner (who were paired in The Thrill of it All).

The Andy Hardy Movies with Mickey Rooney and a cast of Hollywood ladies (1937-1946). Okay, I'm cheating for the last four selections, because they're actually several movies in each series. One of my favorite series is the Andy Hardy movies. Oh, where do I begin with this one? I adore Andy Hardy (played by Mickey Rooney). He was an all-American kid, in an all-American home, living in an idyllic town in California during the 30's and 40s. He always got into good-natured trouble, learned his lesson, and moved on. This series helped debut some of Hollywood's most popular leading ladies of the day. It followed Andy through high school and beyond. He even returns as a married man in the last couple films. Such an iconic character from this era. Sixteen movies in all.

The Ma & Pa Kettle Movies with Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride (1940's-1950's). I'm almost embarrassed to admit how much I love Ma & Pa Kettle movies! They are screwball comedies with hillbilly characters who have a passel of kids. In one movie, they move off their ramshackle farm when they win a modern, state-of-the-art home. It's hilarious to watch them adjust to life in the city and try to fit into their new neighborhood. Pa Kettle is especially goofy and tends to get into a lot of trouble when he's not even trying. Ten movies in all.

The Dr. Kildare Movies with Lionel Barrymore and Lew Ayres (1930's-1940's). Another group of films that piggyback off each other. This one was a little ahead of its time, since it's a medical drama. It reminds me a little of the television drama House. Lionel Barrymore plays an old curmudgeon of a doctor who is extremely intelligent, crabby, and somehow loveable. He and Lew Ayres are diagnosticians, and each movie focuses on a difficult illness or case to solve. You meet a whole slew of secondary characters, and fall in love with each one. Nine films with Lew Ayres.

The Tammy Movies with Debbie Reynolds in Tammy and the Bachelor (my favorite) and Sandra Dee in Tammy Tell Me True and Tammy and the Doctor. I love Tammy (short for Tambrey) Tyree. She's a sweet, polite, backwoods girl who charms her way into the hearts of several men. Like I said, my favorite is Tammy and the Bachelor, which also starred Leslie Nielsen. Tammy lives with her grandpa on a riverboat and one day her grandpa finds Pete (played by Leslie) after a plane accident. They nurse him back to health and Tammy falls in love with him, but he sees her as a child. When Tammy's grandpa is arrested for moonshining, he tells her to go to Pete's home. She walks there and discovers he lives in a big, old plantation home. Pete and his family mistakenly think Grandpa has died, so they take her in. She disrupts their lives in a good way, and Pete eventually sees her as the woman she is. Such a fun, heartwarming story.

This was such a hard list to make, because I couldn't decide which ones to include!! I have so many more favorites, but I had to stop somewhere. Next time I'll limit it to just my musical favorites, and then I'll do a Christmas one, too. I love sharing my passion for old films and I hope I've encouraged you to try some of these for yourself.

Your Turn: I'd love to know if you're familiar with any of these films, and which ones you've enjoyed. What are some of your favorites that I didn't include?

Gabrielle Meyer
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  1. Yay!!! Thank you! :) I haven't seen MANY of these and look forward to checking them out as the weather gets colder. Perfect!

    1. Yes!! So happy I could introduce these to you. I look forward to hearing if you like them. :)

  2. We could be best movie buddies! I own all of these and so many more. I love the baby in the cage with a lock in Please Don't Eat the Daisies! I also agree with you on the version of Little Women.
    Some of my favorite's are The Mating Game with Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall, and The Glenn Miller Story with James Stewart and June Allyson (too many Jimmy Stewart movies to choose from). Have you seen Young at Heart with Doris Day and Frank Sinatra? It's a bit more serious, but so good.

    1. Yes, I love all those movies--though I don't think I've seen Young at Heart or The Mating Game, though I love Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall. I'll have to check those out. I agree, there are too many to choose from. After writing this list, I thought about dozens more I could have shared. Thanks for stopping by and talking old movies with me. :)

  3. Loved the Tammy movies especially the one you mentioned. Ma and Pa Kettle. Pollyanna, any of the old Disney movies, Old Yeller, Big Red, Haley Mills as the twins. And most of the Elvis movies. My mom liked him so whenever a new one came out I was dragged to the movies. My dad had his turn too so I became a big fan of The Dirty Dozen, have watched it over and over. The Posiden Adventure, True Grit, The Cowboys, And especially Rio Bravo! What's not to love about Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and John Wayne?

    1. Yes! Pollyanna. I love Hayley Mills. Have you ever seen Summer Magic or In Search of the Castaways? Parent Trap was also a lot of fun. My sister and I wore out the old VHS tape of that movie when we were kids. Ricky Nelson? I could listen and look at him for hours. :) Those eyes! Yes, so many good movies to choose from.

  4. Some of my favorite old movies are: Gone with the Wind, Leave Her to Heaven, Room for One More, Ben Hur, Easy to Wed, Rebecca, Laura, I was Male War Bride, State Fair, I'd Climb the Highest Mountain, and Unconquered! I also loved the Francis movies and Ma and Pa Kettle, and all the old Disney Movies: Summer Magic was always and still is my favorite!

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