The Whimsical Magic of “The Purple Rose of Cairo”

So, this one may be a stretch in regards to my Halloween theme, but it is fantastical so I’m gonna go ahead and say it works. I first saw this movie back in my early teen years and initially, I wasn’t a big fan of it. I had already been introduced to Woody Allen by this point, but most of the films I had seen were his “early, funny ones.”

The Purple Rose of Cairo is something entirely different. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still very much a comedy, but it’s rooted in a real, emotional story. As I’ve gotten older, the film has grown on me more and more and I now consider it one of my favorite Woody Allen films.

If you’re unfamiliar, The Purple Rose of Cairo, made in 1985, follows Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a poor young woman in the depression. Her husband, Monk (Danny Aiello) is out of work. He has very little interest in finding any work or treating Cecilia with any sort of basic level of respect. The only joy in Cecilia’s life comes from her consistent trips to the movies. She has more interest in those fictional worlds than she does in her real one. One day, in the midst of watching a film she’s already watched multiple times, one of the characters notices and walks out of the screen. Thus, drama ensues!

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If only fictional characters could talk to us. Le sigh.

Here are just a few reasons you should add The Purple Rose of Cairo to your queue:

The Cast

Even though, of course, there’s been drama between the film’s leading lady and Woody Allen, I’d say this film is probably Mia Farrow’s best performance, certainly of the films she made with Allen. You automatically relate to Cecilia’s situation and understand why she loses herself in the movies. That’s partly due to great writing, but the credit should also be given to Farrow’s performance which is shiningly sincere and sweet.

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Kinda gives you Waitress/Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore Vibes, right?

The dual role of Gil Sheperd and Tom Baxter was a bit more difficult. Allen had originally cast Michael Keaton in the role. Keaton took a major pay cut to be in the film, but ten days into shooting, Keaton and Allen both agreed that something wasn’t working. Apparently, though Allen though Keaton was giving a strong performance, he felt that Keaton was just too modern for the audience suspend its disbelief.

The part was recast – Jeff Daniels took over. When I think of Daniels, my mind can’t NOT go to Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant HBO show The Newsroom. He will always be Will McAvoy to me. But, of course, at the time, Daniels had only two film credits to his name, Ragtime and a little film called Terms of Endearment. Watching the film, it’s difficult to imagine someone else in the role, especially Keaton. There’s a naivete that Daniels had that made Tom Baxter (the character in the movie she loves) completely lovable. He’s almost like a puppy, excited by everything and idealistic enough to think that if you love someone, every other problem can be fixed. Conversely, Daniels brought a completely different sensibility to Gil Sheperd (the actor who plays Tom Baxter). He’s pompous, confident, and he has a tough exterior. He looks out for himself over everyone else.

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It’d be really nice if Tom Baxter was real…

Danny Aiello is also notable as Cecilia’s awful husband. Now, it’s true, he’s a bit of a stereotype. However, he’s more there for comedic effect and as a contrast for the loveliness that is Tom Baxter. A brilliant character actor, Aiello is best known for his roles in The Godfather: Part II, Do the Right Thing, and Once Upon a Time in America. Even though he’s despicable, Aiello makes it so you can’t completely hate him.

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That look THOUGH…

Also, special mention: Gilmore Girls fans may not know much of Edward Herrmann’s roles outside of patriarch Richard Gilmore. He actually had an extensive film career and by the time this film was made, he had already had roles in The Great Gatsby, The Paper Chase and Reds. Of the film, Herrmann said, “…it was a great cast, all these very clever people, and we were having a hell of a good time acting ’30s (Herrmann, The AV Club Article).”

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I spy Richard Gilmore!

John Wood, the man next to Edward Herrmann above, is also very good. Recognize the name? He was also in WarGames, which I discussed a few weeks back.

Dianne Wiest is also hilarious. So many great character actors in this one!

The Script/Direction

Much can be said about Woody Allen as a person. There are people who I’m sure are probably annoyed that I would even discuss one of his films. But, I’m a firm believer in separating the artist from the person. And, as a writer, Woody Allen is one of the best!

This film is said to be one of his favorites of his own work. The fantastical nature never bothered me because I felt like the film was grounded in real emotions. And, as all of you know from reading my posts, I love the 1930’s. So, for me, it seems like a no brainer that I’d fall in love with it. After rewatching it this last time, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between this film and a film much later in Allen’s oeuvre, Midnight in Paris.

Both films are really about the difference between reality and fiction, between our idealistic notions and the hard cold facts. Whereas Midnight in Paris  was about how we idealize a time period, The Purple Rose of Cairo ponders the way we idealize the characters we see in movies. Every fangirl (and guy) out there understands this true dilemma. The characters we see in movie are just too amazing. How can real people live up to that?

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Literally my favorite line ever. Or at least…it’s pretty close!

Also, interesting to note that Allen had to fight to keep the film’s melancholy ending. “Orion executives asked Allen to change the painful conclusion, which punctured the escapist fantasy of the rest of the film, but Allen refused (Feaster, TCM Article).” I can’t imagine the film ending any other way.

The Cinematography

You may not know Gordon Willis by name, but you’ve certainly seen his work. In addition to the Godfather trilogy, he also shot All the President’s Men, Annie Hall, and The Paper Chase. In other words, he served as DP on more than a few classics. Oh, and did I mention he was nominated for some Oscars?

I love the color in this film, the dreariness makes you believe in the time period completely. Also, when Tom Baxter walks out of the screen…EPIC.

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AMAZINNNNG, amiright?

The Music

As with all Woody Allen movies, the music is incredible. The first scene of the film is Cecilia watching Astaire and Rogers. Literally warms your heart. No, really, it does!

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When we’re dancing cheek to cheek…

It’s fanciful, intriguing and makes you feel ALL THE FEELS…

To me, The Purple Rose of Cairo has a little bit of something for everyone. If you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll be taken on a magical adventure and find yourself both laughing AND crying along the way.

Woody Allen doesn’t attend any award ceremonies with the exception of the 2002 Oscars (he talked about NYC after 9/11). He’s written and directed almost fifty feature films. Some are fantastic and some are…not so fantastic. But, he keeps plugging away. Some hit the mark exactly and this film is certainly one of them.

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Anyone else wish movie theaters still looked like this?

Vintage trailer below:

Images and Gifs property of Orion Pictures

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An eerie masterpiece: Jack Clayton’s ‘The Innocents’

As I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself a horror movie aficionado. However, over the last few years, I’ve found that my real issue is with the definition of horror itself. When I hear the word, my mind automatically jumps to slasher films and gross out humor. But, those assumptions are unfair to the horror genre which encapsulates so many others. There are fantastic classic horror films and Jack Clayton’s 1961 film The Innocents is one of them.

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Creeped out yet?

I was first introduced to this film at a movie night for a production company I read scripts for. I had never heard of it before and was amazed at the artistry behind the film. It was so detailed and oh-so creepy. I was reminded of it when I recently attended a screening of the upcoming film A Monster Calls at the Cinefamily theater. After the film, J.A. Bayona (the director) talked about the debt he owed to Jack Clayton, how much he was inspired by Clayton’s stylistic choices in The Innocents.

If you’re not familiar, The Innocents takes place in Victorian England and follows Miss Gibbons (Deborah Kerr), a governess who takes a post taking care of two little children in the country. She’s told by the orphans’ uncle (Michael Redgrave) not to bother him with any problems. In her first days with the children, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), appear angelic. However, Miss Gibbons starts seeing people who, to everyone else, aren’t there and we start to wonder: is everyone else crazy or is Miss Gibbons? Of course, drama and creepiness ensues…

Here are just a few reasons The Innocents needs to be added to your Halloween movie marathon:

The Cast

Deborah Kerr is most associated with her roles in the movie-musical, The King and I as well as the classic war drama, From Here To Eternity. She had made by both those films by the time The Innocents came along and it was an entirely different role for her. Kerr said of her her role:

“I played it as if she were perfectly sane – whatever Jack wanted was fine; in my own mind, and following Henry James’ writing in the original story, she was completely sane, but, because in my case the woman was younger and physically attractive – Flora Robson had played her wonderfully on the stage – it was quite possible that she was deeply frustrated, and it added another dimension that the whole thing could have been nurtured in her own imagination.” – Kerr, TCM Article

Kerr carries the film with grace, purity and determination which is exactly why it’s so terrifying. We believe in her so completely.

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Just watch her eyes! The subtlety in her performance is EVERYTHING.

The children are incredible but honestly, my big thought is what parent would let their child make this film?? I mean really – this is dealing with some pretty mature themes, to say the least.

Martin Stephens was just twelve years old, but had already been in quite a few films, including another horror classic, The Village of the Damned. He had also already been in a film with Deborah Kerr a few years earlier, Count Your Blessings. His performance as Miles is chilling and quite disturbing. He gave up acting in 1966 and ended up becoming an architect, but in the cult film community, he’s still beloved!

Pamela Franklin was eleven (and she could easily have played Eleven in Stranger Things). Unlike Stephens, The Innocents marked Franklin’s feature film debut. She went on to star in other films, most notably The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and another Jack Clayton film, Our Mother’s House. Her glee is what’s most unsettling in The Innocents. While weird shit goes down, she’s jovial! Like Stephens, Franklin ended up retiring from acting in the early 1980’s to have a family.

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Angels? Eh…

Megs Jenkins, a fantastic character actress, is also wonderful as Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper who sort of, maybe believes Miss Gibbons.

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She wears this confused expression for much of the film…

Also a funny cameo: Michael Redgrave of The Lady Vanishes makes an appearance as the children’s cold uncle. Redgrave only has one scene but he makes an impression and let me just say, he’s a far cry from the charming romantic Gilbert.

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To be fair, he’s a few years older than he was in The Lady Vanishes…

The Script

The Innocents was based on an 1898 novella by Henry James called The Turn of the Screw. It’s been adapted several times over the years. It was adapted for the stage in 1950 by William Archibald and Truman Capote wrote the screenplay for The Innocents. Of the project, Capote said:

“When it was offered to me to do it as a film, I said yes instantly, without rereading it…Then I let several weeks go by before I reread it and then I got the shock of my life. Because Henry James had pulled a fantastic trick in this book: it doesn’t stand up anywhere. It has no plot! He’s just pretending this and this and that. It was like the little Dutch boy with his fingers trying to keep the water from flooding out – I kept building up more plot, more characters, more scenes. In the entire book there were only two scenes performable.” – Capote, TCM Article

I think it’s fascinating that a good portion of the plot was made up by Capote. To me, what makes the story so compelling is the ambiguity. By the end of the film, you’re still not sure what’s true and I love that! It’s really, at its heart, a psychological thriller. Story wise, it actually reminded me of films like The Lady Vanishes and So Long at the Fair. Both have our protagonists facing a situation that makes them question their reality and this one, being supernatural, is even more troublesome…

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This shot haunts me.

The Direction

At the time Jack Clayton made The Innocents, he had only just made his feature directorial debut, Room at the Top. So much of what makes this film a masterpiece is due to Clayton’s direction because the true stars of this film are the performances. The strength of Franklin and Stephens performances had to be the product of great direction.

Additionally, Clayton’s use of sound in this film is worth marveling at! The sounds, at times, seem more important than the visuals – a door slamming shut, the awful cries of a ghost, the children’s laughs…these are the things that kept my heart racing.

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That icy stare though…

The Cinematography

The visuals cannot be understated in this film. Freddie Francis served as the film’s DP. If you don’t know his name, you’ve certainly seen his work in films like The Elephant Man, Cape Fear and The Man in the Moon. Francis had already worked with Clayton on Room at the Top. Francis said of his work in the film:

“…I had quite a lot of freedom, and I was able to influence the style of The Innocents. We worked out all sorts of things before the picture started, including special filters. I still think it was the best photography I’ve ever done – as much as I like Sons and Lovers [1960] I think The Innocents was better, but you rarely get an Academy Award for a film that isn’t successful no matter how good your work on it.” – Francis, TCM Article

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These hallways are terrifying!

The Music

Georges Auric wrote the score of the film, including the original song “O Willow Waly” and it is a huge reason why the film works. Auric also wrote the scores for Roman Holiday, the French version of Beauty and the Beast and The Wages of Fear. It’s fantastically creepy!

It’s unsettling, thought-provoking, and filled with artistry!

This film was not very well received by critics when it was released in 1961. But, as with a lot of films, time has proved it a classic. When you look at the time this film was made and the themes it explored, it’s quite scandalous. Even now, the whole kissing scene between Kerr and Stephens is out there!

What I love about this film is that it keeps you on the edge of your seat and doesn’t give you all the answers. The Innocents is very much left up to the imagination. It engenders discussion and makes you feel something. In the end, what else is cinema’s purpose?

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Seems like she’s experiencing some genuine terror…

Vintage trailer below:

Feature photo and gifs property of Twentieth Century Fox.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why ‘Vertigo’ is Worthy of its Hyped-up Reputation

Continuing my Halloween theme, I decided to discuss one of my favorite thrillers of all time. I’m not one for hype. In fact, if something is hyped up that generally makes me not want to watch it. There’s a certain cache to being apart of a fandom that has few members. You feel like you know a secret no one else does.

When I originally saw Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, I believe I was in elementary school. I remember thinking it was okay, but I certainly didn’t consider it one of my favorites; never mind the greatest film ever made. A few years back, I saw the film at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, as part of the American Cinematheque’s schedule and was blown away. Maybe it’s because I was older or because I saw it on the big screen. Whatever the reason, I was amazed by the artistry of this film: it’s a true masterclass.

If you’re unfamiliar, Vertigo, made in 1958, follows John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart), a San Francisco detective who suffers from acrophobia. He is asked by an old friend to investigate his wife, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak). It begins as a ghost story. Madeleine shares a lot in common with her ancestor, Carlotta, who committed suicide. Scottie begins to think that Madeleine may be the reincarnation of Carlotta. Let’s just say, much drama and suspense ENSUE…

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One of the best title sequences in a movie…EVER

Here are just a few reasons why Vertigo is worth the hype:

The Cast

This is probably Jimmy Stewart’s best performance, which says a lot considering how many classic films he starred in and how many amazing performances he gave. Stewart had already filmed It’s A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and of course, Rear Window. In Vertigo, he’s his usual self – rugged, smart, and heartbreaking.

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Guys, he’s almost fifty here if you can believe it!

It’s difficult to imagine this film without Kim Novak. However, the Madeleine part originally went to Vera Miles, who later showed up in Hitchcock’s Psycho. She dropped out of the film because she got pregnant. I don’t want to ruin anything, but I will say that Novak plays two roles in this film. She’s mysterious, alluring, beautiful, and surprisingly vulnerable.

“Novak already had a reputation for being difficult, so perhaps it was not a surprise when she refused to show up for work on the Vertigo set in August, 1957. She was striking for more money from her home studio Columbia, who was paying her $1,250 a week even though they were receiving $250,000 for her loan-out for Vertigo and one more picture. The ploy worked and Novak got a raise (John M. Miller, TCM Article).”

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I wish I could get my hair into that perfect bun. #HAIRGOALS

Barbara Bel Geddes, who I’ve spoken about before when I discussed Caught, gets sort of the short end of the stick in this film. In truth, before seeing Caught, Vertigo was the only film I knew her from. Despite her sidekick role in this film, she makes an impression.

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Those glasses though. #SMARTGIRLSRULE

The Direction

I’ve discussed some lesser known Hitchcock films on the blog, including Young and Innocent and The Lady Vanishes. He was a genius, but you already know that. You’ve heard his name a million times in reference to Psycho probably. By this time, his direction style was pretty well solidified. He loved messing with the audience.

He was most interested in Scottie’s obsession in the film, so much so that most critics theorize that the entire plot of Vertigo is the macguffin (something that gets the plot in motion but is not relevant to the audience) of the film.

This movie works on so many levels and obviously, as with all Hitchcock films, he was the one pulling the strings. If someone asks for a Hitchcock recommendation, this is the one I send them to.

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Jimmy looks a little on edge in this picture. Wonder what Hitch is telling them…

The Script

Hitch loved getting the rights to novels and throwing away the story. He did the same in the case of Vertigo, gaining the rights to D’entre les Morts, or in English, The Living and the Dead, a French novel by Thomas Narcejac and Pierre Boileau. He changed the setting from Paris to San Francisco and added a new aspect of obsession to the story. Alex Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor penned the script which is all over the place in the best possible way. There are light, flirty, fun moments and dark, depressing, unbelievably thrilling ones.

I loved the idea that’s the main plot at the beginning of the film – that this woman may be the reincarnation of her ancestor. It’s creepy and thought provoking. It’s psychological and has us questioning not only Madeleine’s sanity, but our protagonist’s.

I don’t wish to ruin the film if you haven’t seen it, so I’ll just say that the story subverts expectations. It doesn’t go where you think it will and that only puts you more on the edge of your seat. It’s one of those films where no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’re tense.

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San Francisco is haunting in this film, for seriously. 

The Score

I cannot overemphasize the importance of Bernard Hermann’s incredible score. It functions as another character in the film and is hauntingly beautiful. Hermann was, of course, responsible for some of the greatest film scores ever written, including Taxi Driver, Psycho and Citizen Kane.

The Cinematography

Robert Burks served as DP on most of Hitch’s films including Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, and Dial M for Murder. At a base level, this film is just plain beautifully shot. The technicolor is absorbing and vivid. Hitchcock also broke ground on new camera techniques in this film, but it was always in support of the story. For instance, here’s how he dealt with showing Scottie’s fear of heights:

“It was 2nd unit cameraman Irmin Roberts who created the in-camera special effect that has since become known as a “contra-zoom shot”, a “trombone shot” or, most popularly, the “vertigo shot.” It is created when using a zoom lens to adjust the field of view while the camera is physically moving toward or away from a subject in the frame. This causes a distortion of the perspective – the background of a scene appears to change size while the main subject remains the same. Since this optical effect has no correlation to normal human perception, the result is mentally disorienting (John M. Miller, TCM Article).”

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Look at the way he used color. BRILLIANT.
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Probably my favorite scene in the film in terms of cinematography.

It’s suspenseful, creepy, and completely absorbing…

When the film was released in 1958, audiences didn’t really know what to think of it. It wasn’t particularly well received by the critics either. Over time and several re-rereleases, the film has become known as the greatest film ever made, or at least, on par with Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.

Vertigo is a perfect Halloween movie. This is one case where I believe the hype fits the film. It is expert in every aspect and is necessary viewing for any film fan. Vertigo has so much to absorb that it REQUIRES multiple viewings. If you’ve never seen the film, I recommend trying to catch it on the big screen. Experiencing it with an audience is essential.

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Kinda trippy, no?

Trailer below:

 

Gifs and photos property of Paramount Pictures.

 

 

Veronica Lake is my #WCW in ‘I Married A Witch’

Well, October is here and you all know what that means? Yes, that’s right. Halloween! I’ve never been super into the whole dressing up thing. I was Hermione up until 7th grade and then I just stopped. My parents didn’t want to buy me a new costume. So, I got very into Halloween movies. I should be clear; I’m not a huge horror movie fan. But, I love the fun Halloween classics – BeetleJuice, Halloweentown, Hocus Pocus, Poltergeist…that kind of stuff.

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Debbie Reynolds taught me: WITCHES ARE COOL.

If you’ve been following my movie musings, then you know that I’m also a huge screwball comedy fan. So, to kick off October, I thought I’d discuss one of my recent discoveries: Rene Clair’s I Married A Witch. I found it a few months ago when I raided my dad’s DVD collection and found a Criterion copy of the film. The cover intrigued me so I gave it a shot and let me tell you, it is a TREAT!

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Beautiful Artwork, AMIRIGHT?

Here’s a quick synopsis: I Married A Witch, made in 1942, follows Jennifer (Veronica Lake), a witch and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway), burned at the stake in the 1600’s and buried underneath a tree. Jennifer places a curse on the man who turned them in: all the generations to follow shall have unhappy marriages. Jennifer and Daniel are revived in the early 1940’s, just wisps of smoke before they find bodies to hop into. They decide to wreak more havoc by torturing Wallace Wooley (Fredric March) and making him fall in love with Jennifer. As always drama and LOTS OF COMEDY ensues!

Here are just a few reasons you should add I Married A Witch to your Halloween movie-binge!

The Cast

After I finished watching the movie, I called my dad and told him how much I loved the chemistry between March and Lake. My dad laughed, telling me, “Yeah, too bad they hated each other.” And indeed, they did hate each other…a LOT. According to Jeff Stafford of TCM, “…prior to meeting his co-star, Fredric March had reportedly said Lake was ‘a brainless little blonde sexpot, void of any acting ability,’ a comment that made its way back to her. In retaliation, Lake called March a ‘pompous poseur’ and their adversarial working relationship proceeded from there (Stafford, TCM Article).”The shoot was apparently very contentious and included Lake regularly pranking March and some very nasty shouting matches.

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In LOVE?

Lake was just coming off of her starring role in Sullivan’s Travels, another great screwball comedy. She has the very famous peek-a-boo haircut in this film and is charming beyond belief. Fredric March was a few years away from his most famous role in The Best Years of Our Lives. His befuddlement in this film is pure joy. He doesn’t know what’s going on half the time. Whatever their drama was IRL, it didn’t hurt the film. Their chemistry is palpable and IMHO, is what makes the film work.

In addition to its fabulous leads, the film also boasted great character actors such as Cecil Kellaway and Robert Benchley. Many of the supporting characters are Preston Sturges regulars and they add fun and whimsy to the film.

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Jennifer’s dad is seriously CRAY. #RealTalk

The Producer

Unofficially, Preston Sturges agreed to produce this film with Clair and you can definitely tell he had a hand in it. Like his greatest films, I Married A Witch is funny, farcical, and romantic. If you like this film, you should binge all the Sturges films – Christmas In July, The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Sullivan’s Travels…the list goes on. He’s wonderful.

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Shown: Screenwriter and director Preston Sturges, circa 1947

The Director

French director Rene Clair had only just made his first American film, The Flame of New Orleans, and it apparently hadn’t gone very well box-office wise. His agent sent a copy of a book called The Passionate Witch by Norman Matson and Thorne Smith. It was really because of Veronica Lake’s involvement that the film actually got made.

Clair’s name isn’t one that is remembered often enough. He was one of France’s first great comedy directors and his cache really became films that somehow mixed fantasy elements with humor and romance. AKA everything I LOVE. Some of his other great films to check out: Beauties of the Night, A Nous a Liberte and The Grand Maneuver.

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Rene in the 1920’s…NEED THAT CAMERA

The Script

This is my favorite era precisely because screwball comedies were in vogue. Though I know no one talks that fast IRL, I don’t care! It’s fun, witty, and FAST FAST FAST. Funnily though, this film had many cooks (writers) in the mix. Five writers are credited on IMDB for having some hand in the script. Rene Clair and Andre Rigaud apparently just helped in punching up the dialogue, which is ON POINT.

Even with all the cooks, the film turned out to be HILARIOUS.

Some of my favorite lines in this film:

“Ever hear of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire? That was our crowd.”

“Pistol, pistol, let there be/Murder in the first degree.”

Wallace Wooley: “I’m afraid you’ve got a hangover.” Daniel: “Don’t tell me what I’ve got! I invented the hangover. It was in 1892… B.C.”

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She looks sincerely in love, right?? #GoodActing

The Incredible Effects

One of my major problems with film today is that they over-indulge in special effects. I have no issue with trying to make a film’s fantastical elements come to life. But, many times, today, things look so perfect they actually look less real. While some might say these 1940’s effects are a bit hokey, I can’t help but be wowed by them.

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Just some wisps of smoke taking a broom ride…

The Cinematography

Going along with the effects is the beautiful black and white cinematography! Ted Tetzlaff was the cinematographer and with films like Notorious, My Man Godfrey and The Talk of The Town on his resume, I can’t say I’m surprised at the atmosphere and beauty. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on The Talk of The Town.

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Romance + Black and White = PERFECTION

Veronica Lake’s Dresses

Famous costume designer Edith Head was behind Lake’s gorgeous ensembles in this film and I want them ALL…👗

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That 40’s Style!

It’s a whimsical, charming, fun, fantastical comedy delight.

This movie is everything you want it to be. It’s funny, romantic, and beautiful. But most importantly, it’s FUN. At just 77 mins long, I Married A Witch takes you on a fast, crazy, ridiculous ride and lets you enjoy its fantastical premise. Veronica Lake didn’t have a great reputation in Hollywood, but as an actress, her appeal cannot be denied! And of course, the film inspired the very popular 60’s sitcom, Bewitched.

Drinking game idea: Drink every time Jennifer pouts. You’ll end up drinking A LOT.

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I wanna be a witch too!

Trailer below. And if you have Hulu, you can watch the full film RIGHT NOW. And if that’s the case, seriously, what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Go watch it NOW.

Halloweentown Gif is property of Disney.

I Married A Witch Gifs Property of Paramount Pictures.

 

 

#FatherDaughterGoals: ‘Contact’

Re-watching a movie from your childhood is weird. Every moment is wrapped up in nostalgia. This is definitely the case for me with Robert Zemeckis’s 1997 film Contact. In my youth, I, of course, liked the film, but didn’t quite understand it. Honestly, I had a weird fear of any movie that dealt with space, so I think that definitely affected my opinion on it.

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Scary stuff, amiright? 

This was, like most films, something I was introduced to by my father. My dad had shown me episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos prior to my first viewing of the film. I’ve seen the film so many times it’s difficult to remember what my initial responses were the first time I watched it. However, I do remember having a talk with my dad afterwards where he explained to me the science behind the film…wormholes and the theory of relativity. This film was such a special one to see as a child because it’s smart, thought-provoking and centered around a tough heroine (we still need to see more of those!).

For those not in the know, Contact follows Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), a scientist who, despite judgement from others in her field, decides to devote her life’s work to SETI, a real organization, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. She meets Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey), a religious author, a “man of the cloth, without the cloth.” When she discovers a signal not in the neighborhood, Ellie gets swept along the what-if scenario of contacting intelligent life, with all the politics, the ethical questions, and the danger that comes with it.

Here are just a few reasons you need to watch or re-watch Contact ASAP:

The Cast

The casting is everything in this film. I can’t imagine this story without Jodie Foster at its helm. I’ve spoken about Jodie once before when I discussed Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which she made when she was just a child. When she was considering taking the lead in Contact, Jodie was in a different position. For one thing, she was an Oscar winner for her role in The Silence of the Lambs, probably the scariest film I’ve ever seen!

Jodie had also had her directorial debut a few years before, so I think it’s safe to say she had her pick of roles. Initially, she didn’t sign on to the film due to script issues. But, with Zemeckis’s passion and an extensive re-write, Foster came aboard. Jodie said of her role, “The idea of someone searching for some kind of purity, searching for something she can’t find, was something that was very close to myself. I process everything through my head first. I cope through my head (Foster, TCM Article).” IMHO, she brought intelligence, levity and earnestness to Ellie.

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Got her game face on…#TimeToMeetAliens

Matthew McConaughey got his major break in 1993 when he played Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. He was just 28 in this film although he seems older. He’s not doing his standard “Alright, alright, alright…,” but he’s about one step away. He’s very charming and serves his purpose. You can see why Ellie is smitten.

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That smile though…

James Woods plays the villain of the story, if there is one. He’s smarmy and corporate and perfect in this part.

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James Woods yells A LOT.

John Hurt is terrifying as the Howard Hughes-esque billionaire S.R. Hadden. I used to hear him say this line in my nightmares.

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THOSE glasses might be the most terrifying part.

I have to say though, no one terrified me more than Jake Busey who played a terrorist named Joseph. My brother said he looks like Carrot Top. Regardless, every time I saw him in this film, my stomach dropped.

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TERRIFYING.

Oh, and Jena Malone is cute as Young Ellie. This was only her second film.

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This long shot is fantastic.

The Script

The film was, of course, based on the novel of the same name by Carl Sagan. Strangely though, it originated as a screen project with then-production executive Lynda Obst. When it looked as though there would be no film, Carl went and wrote the novel, only to have the studio then become interested in adapting it.

James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg penned the script, with help from Sagan and his wife. I’ve already discussed James V. Hart once before when I wrote about Tuck Everlasting, which he also wrote the script for. Ann Druyan, Sagan’s wife and collaborator said, “Carl’s and my dream was to write something that would be a fictional representation of what contact would be like. But it would also have the tension inherent between religion and science, which was an area of philosophical and intellectual interest that riveted both of us (Druyan, TCM Article).” Truly, this is what makes the film so fascinating. The relationship between Palmer and Ellie is really about the relationship between science and religion. It asked the question, ‘Can these two fiercely defensive sides find common ground?’

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Science and Religion are pretty good looking, no?

I also really loved the idealism of the film. There’s a line when Ellie is talking to Tom Skerrit’s character, Dr. Drumlin, another scientist. He tells her that the world isn’t fair. She responds, “Funny, I always thought the world is what we make it.”

The Score

This cannot be understated. Alan Silvestri, known for his scores for Back to The Future and Forest Gump, was the composer for Contact. To me, the score is inextricably linked to the film and its ideas. I just can’t separate them. It almost sounds like a lullaby.

The Direction

Robert Zemeckis had already established himself as a great sci-fi director when he made the Back to the Future films, but at this point, he was riding high from his Oscar winner from 1994, Forrest Gump. Another director was already attached to Contact, George Miller, but weeks before shooting, the studio decided to fire him. Zemeckis came on board with the understanding that he would be able to interject his own ideas into the script, including a new ending.

Zemeckis’s love for characters and humor are what make Contact really work. The relationships feel real and so, there’s weight to the events that take place. The only thing I would say is that I don’t agree with Zemeckis’s choice to use real reporters in the film. Larry King, Jay Leno, and even President Bill Clinton make appearances. While he was going for a sense of verisimilitude, those moments took me out of the film.

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Really important to grab that cracker jack compass right now…

The Cinematography

Don Burgess, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Forrest Gump, shot the film artistically and added a level of intensity. The scene where Ellie goes through the wormholes, you’ll literally be on the edge of your seat!

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So beautiful…

The Film IS #FatherDaughterGoals

This really gets to the crux of this film for me. The relationship Ellie has with her father is sweet, based on him teaching her about astronomy. It’s a perfect film to watch with your dad. When you see the scene where Ellie meets the alien and they’ve taken the form of her father, you WILL BE CRYING.

Contact, to me, is about (as corny as it sounds) not being afraid to reach for the stars. The message the film sends is that we should stick to our convictions and keep asking questions. This movie doesn’t insult the intelligence of its audience. It wasn’t aimed towards four year-olds as many films are today.  There was real love put into making this film and you can tell.

Carl Sagan unfortunately didn’t live long enough to see the film released, but no doubt, Contact is a tribute to him.

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#RealTalk

Trailer Below. The film is available to stream on Netflix. If you’re looking for something to fill the sci-fi shaped hole Stranger Things left, try Contact. You won’t be disappointed.

 

All images and gifs are property of Warner Bros.