“Sterling Holloway brings a new type of comedy to the screen as different as he himself is in the Hollywood galaxy.”
The lovely ladies at the classic film blog True Classics have dedicated the month of June to “Movie Memories”. This is their second year hosting the hugely successful event, and I am honored to be asked to participate. Please take the time to read all of the Movie Memories over at True Classics. You will not be disappointed.
Disclaimer: This post discusses Japanese racial stereotypes common in World War II propaganda films including examples of dialogue used.
So far March-in-March has been a wonderful success! I want to thank all of the contributors featured here on the site. We have a few more coming next week, including a post from yours truly, so stay tuned!
Those who are participating in the free-for-all event on your personal blogs today and tomorrow, please feel free to leave me a comment with a link to your post, or email me at sittinonabackyardfence (at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll get your post linked and added to the list below.
R.D. Finch from The Movie Projector on Death of a Salesman (1951)
Robby from Dear Old Hollywood- Fredric March: Attack Ads “Dirty Trick”
Ruth from Silver Screenings on Inherit the Wind (1960)
Cliff fromImmortal Ephemera on Researching The Adventures of Mark Twain
KC from Classic Movies on Nothing Sacred (1937)
Le from Critica Retro compares March and Mason Who was the Best Norman Maine?
Rich from Wide Screen World: Fredric March on Broadway
Angela from The Hollywood Revue on Middle of the Night (1959)
Toby from Toob World on March in the Producer’s Showcase presentation of Dodsworth
Ivan from Thrilling Days of Yesteryear on So Ends Our Night (1941) and Tomorrow, the World!
Rachel from The Girl with the White Parasol on Death Takes a Holiday
R.C. from The Shades of Black and White on Death Takes a Holiday
The very first Fredric March performance I saw was actually during the “William Holden phase” of my classic film self-education. The film was the 1954 corporate boardroom drama Executive Suite. March has a supporting role as Loren Shaw, the company’s fiscally conservative Controller. Shaw is difficult, obnoxious, and just downright infuritating. He’s simply unlikable. I hate to admit this, but I have a bad habit of disliking an actor if I hate the character portrayed. After watching Loren Shaw weasel his way to the top of the executive food chain, while attempting to discredit the beloved William Holden, I took it personally. “No one hurts my William Holden and gets away with it”, I thought. I’m ashamed to say it, but at that moment, Fredric March was added to the “I don’t like you” list. In all honesty, it is a testament to his acting prowess.
A few years later, TCM featured March during their annual Summer Under the Stars festival in August. I don’t know what possessed me to sit down and watch this actor I thought I loathed, but it doesn’t matter. What I do know is how I felt watching a master of his craft: simply awestruck. I watched every film TCM aired that day, with little reliance on my DVR. I immediately began searching for all of his films and slowly amassed a decent portion of his filmography. One thing I quickly realized about Fredric March is that he is largely forgotten today, despite his two Academy Awards, two Tony Awards for best actor, and a career that spanned half a century.
Although March is not remembered in mainstream pop culture like Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, or even Fred Astaire (remember when he and Stanley Donen choreographed that famous “vacuuming on the ceiling” number?), he is remembered by the classic film community. Not only is he remembered, but he is respected and adored. I discovered this through interactions with fellow classic film bloggers and my pals on Twitter. It was this shared admiration that inspired me to host an event honoring one of the greatest actors of the stage and screen.Throughout the rest of the month, The Fence is featuring essays on Fredric March and his films by bloggers I hold in the highest regard. The goal of March-in-March is to celebrate his life and career, encourage discussion, and inspire those who are not familiar with his work to give him a chance. March once said:
Stardom is just an uneasy seat on top of a tricky toboggan. Being a star is merely perching at the head of the downgrade. A competent featured player can last a lifetime. A star, a year or two. There’s all that agony of finding suitable stories, keeping in character, maintaining illusion. Then the undignified position of hanging on while your popularity is declining.
He might have not held much stock in stardom, but for me and all the wonderful people contributing to this event, Fredric March’s star still shines bright.
I will be back next week with thoughts on a couple of my favorite, lesser known March performances. In the meantime, I’ll be posting March-in-March related material, like trivia and photos, on Twitter. Follow me @biscuitkitten and join in on the discussion with the hashtag #MarchInMarch. If you’re interested in participating in the Free-for-All event, go here for information. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the new Kino International release of A Star is Born. Scheduled for tomorrow is an excellent analysis and review of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by my good friend Josh Mauthe.
I think everyone will agree the perfect dog has certain qualities that make him/her Man’s Best Friend: loyalty, strength, good temperament, intelligence, obedience. As a kid, I held Lassie up as the model for the perfect family dog. Trapped in the town’s abandoned coal mine? Never fear! Lassie will not only run for help, she will bring you a fresh set of clothing, a turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat, and a glass of milk. Need help with your homework? Lassie won’t eat it! She will solve all those pesky word problems and write an essay on French Imperialism. WOW!
“Mom and Dad, can we pleeeeeeease get a dog?”
That’s right. You ask for Lassie and you end up with Shithead. Sure, he’s cute and scruffy. He even has moments of grand heroism fraught with danger. But most of the time, Shithead does what he wants when he wants. This includes following commands when it is convenient, and still reaping the maximum reward. Shithead is far from perfect, but he’s real. He’s the dog we all know because there’s a little Shithead in all our lives.
On December 3, 1979 the brilliant wordsmith Kittenbiscuits was born. 11 days later, Carl Reiner released his masterpiece The Jerk in honor of the occasion. Starring Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, and co-written by Martin and Carl Gottlieb, The Jerk tells the story of Navin R. Johnson, son of a poor black sharecropper. Patiently waiting for the day when his skin will change color to match that of his family, Navin finally learns the real truth: he is not their natural born son. Although distraught over this revelation, Navin soon comes to terms with his racial identity. He sets out to find his own way in the world, his “special purpose”, to prove to himself and his family that he is a man.
Soon into his wandering trek, Navin encounters a scruffy mutt barking at his motel room door. Navin must have always wanted a Lassie dog too, because he attempts to translate the dog’s frantic barking. Arriving at the conclusion the motel is on fire, Navin runs out in his skivvies, banging on every single door and yelling. Of course there is no fire. This dog is no Lassie and is certainly no lifesaver. Navin’s dream of owning the perfect dog blinds him from the obvious truth. It takes an outside observer to see the dog for what he really is: a shithead. In that moment, a cultural icon was born.
For the first time, audiences see a realistic portrayal of the All-American pooch. Before The Jerk, dogs in film were represented by Hollywood’s canine elite: Skippy (Asta), Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Pete the Pup, even Benji. Sadly, Shithead’s bust is not in that Hall of Fame. A travesty. The furry actor who played this character, could have stuck to the heroic canine archetype, yet he knew audiences of the 1970s would respond to a fresh approach. This unnamed dog bravely made the choice to play against type. In my humble opinion, his gamble paid off. One of the things that makes Shithead so special, is that despite lacking the talents of the more famous dogs, he is still more intelligent than Navin.
Shithead is a free-spirit who knows what he wants and is not afraid to get it. You can imagine him saying ” Hey, man! I’m just here to have a good time.” He represents the era in which he lived. On the eve of the 1980s, he’s a dog poised to become a living legend. He defines the free, easy living of the 1970s, yet he is not afraid of embracing the excesses that lie ahead. Shithead is fully aware that nothing lasts forever. His motto is “Carpe Diem; Keep on Truckin’.”
Make no mistake, although he does what he wants, Shithead really tries to do what he thinks is in Navin’s best interest. For example, while he is taking a bubble bath, Navin’s girlfriend Marie decides to walk out, leaving a “Dear John” letter. Without Shithead drawing his attention to it, Navin would not have seen the note. Navin quickly hops out of the tub to chase after Marie, but he has no clothing. Shithead pipes up with a suggestive bark and we hear Navin say “good thinking!” His modesty saved by his faithful dog, Navin runs after the love of his life…but it’s too late.
From rags to riches, and quickly back to rags, Shithead is mostly there for Navin. Isn’t that what all dogs are? Mostly there? They love you as long as you feed them and there’s not something stinky to chew on. When the food is scarce and when you cut yourself shaving and nothing comes out but air, don’t expect them to stick around. If you’re drowning, remember there is always a steak, medium-rare, on higher ground. A real dog, just like Shithead, will be running toward it.
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This is my contribution for the Classic Movie Dogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe. Thanks to Rick for this wonderful event! Please check out all of the participating blogs. You can find a schedule here with links to all of the contributing sites.
The March-in-March blogathon will include 2 free-for-all days so that everyone can participate! Those days are scheduled for March 24-25th (Saturday and Sunday). On Saturday morning I will publish a post here and add your links as I receive them. All you have to do is give me a link to your article via email (sittinonabackyardfence (at) gmail (dot) com) or leave a comment on that post.
Bloggers signed on for the free-for-all event:
Angela at The Hollywood Revue
R.A. at Silver Screenings
Tony Dayoub at Cinema Viewfinder
Rich from Wide Screen World
Laura from Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings
R.D. Finch fromThe Movie Projector
Whistling Gypsy from Distant Voices and Flickering Shadows
Rachel from The Girl with the White Parasol
Robby fromDear Old Hollywood
Le from Critica Retro
Ivan from Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Toby from Toob World
KC from Classic Movies
Scheduled bloggers who will have their posts here at The Fence throughout the event (final posting schedule TBA):
Bobby Rivers- Bobby Rivers TV will discuss his favorite March performances and tells a story
Michael Nazarewcyz- ScibeHard on Film The Best Years of Our Lives
Karen- Shadows and Satin Merrily We Go to Hell
Josh Mauthe - Umney’s Alley Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Brandie-True Classics I Married a Witch
Jessica- Comet Over Hollywood One Foot in Heaven
The Lady Eve- The Lady Eve’s Reel Life Design For Living
Greg F.-Cinema Styles will discuss March’s acting style along with some favorite performances
Kim-(contributor here at Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence) The Eagle and the Hawk
Rick- Classic Film and TV Cafe Executive Suite
Cliff Aliperti- Immortal Ephemera The Adventures of Mark Twain
Carley- The Kitty Packard Pictorial A Star is Born
Please spread the word! I would love to have lots of submissions on the free-for-all day! If you’d like to contribute, just leave a comment below and I’ll add you to the list. And if you haven’t done so yet, please snag the banner for your blog! Stay tuned for more information, including a giveaway and how you can contribute via Tumblr!
I have a wonderful blog event scheduled for March 15-31st, featuring one of the true greats of the stage and screen: Fredric March. I am fortunate to have an outstanding group of bloggers signed on to contribute:
Bobby Rivers- Bobby Rivers TV
Michael Nazarewcyz- ScibeHard on Film
Karen- Shadows and Satin
Will McKinley- contributor at Cinema Sentries
Josh Mauthe - Umney’s Alley
Jessica- Comet Over Hollywood
The Lady Eve- The Lady Eve’s Reel Life
Greg F.-Cinema Styles
Kim-contributor here at Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence
Rick- Classic Film and TV Cafe
Cliff Aliperti- Immortal Ephemera
Carley- The Kitty Packard Pictorial
…and me, of course!
More information to come–including how you can participate in the celebration, a schedule of events, and a giveaway! In the meantime, snag the banner and spread the word!
This is my submission for the Welcome Back, Bob! Blogathon/tribute hosted by Carley (@MissCarley) from The Kitty Packard Pictorial and Will McKinley (@willmckinley). Thanks to both for inviting me to participate.
For the past several months I have been lost without the dapper, distinguished, most knowledgeable Robert Osborne, host of Turner Classic Movies. He is more than just a host– he is a teacher. And in my ongoing education in classic film, Robert Osborne is essential.
Believe it or not, living in Atlanta does have its advantages. For instance, I can pay $16 to drink all the Coca-Cola I want at the World of Coke, or party hard with T.I. in between prison sentences. I can stand behind Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel, and act like an idiot while he reports live from Piedmont Park. I can be an extra in Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry’s Tyler Perry movie or be a zombie in The Walking Dead. Most importantly (and seriously), I live in Turner country. Turner Classic Movie country, that is.
Although I wish there were more special events sponsored by TCM here in Atlanta, I can’t complain. I’ve had the opportunity to attend some wonderful screenings with all of them being introduced by either Robert Osborne or Ben Mankiewicz. One of the first I attended was Gone with the Wind at The Fox Theatre. Osborne introduced the film along with Molly Haskell and Michael Sragow. As much as I love GWTW, I was more excited to see Robert. The theatre was completely sold out (4,768 seats) and the audience was loud and disrespectful. I actually heard someone say “who is this guy? I want to see Scarlett!” when Robert walked out. Die hard southern GWTW fans are an odd bunch. Many came to see an “accurate depiction” of “the good ol’ days,” wearing bedazzled denim jackets with airbrushed renditions of Tara on the back (non-ironically, mind you. And no, I’m not kidding). While some old biddy sitting behind me talked about how southern whites were really nice to their slaves (as later “confirmed” by Ashley Wilkes), I sat on the edge of my seat, clinging to every word coming out of Robert’s mouth.
In 2010 I finally had the opportunity to attend the Robert Osborne Classic Film Festival in Athens, GA. Fantastic films, introductions and Q&As by Robert, and fellow classic film fans under one roof made for an excellent experience. I was determined to finally meet Robert at the festival’s brunch. Unfortunately morning sickness got the best of me, and eggs benedict and mimosas somehow didn’t sound all that appealing–with or without Robert. Although I missed the Silver Fox, my disappointment quickly turned to delight when he himself, in the flesh, shining like a beacon of movie knowledge, chose the seat in front of me for the festival’s screening of Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. I know Robert would disapprove, but at times I found myself watching him watching Keaton, instead of watching Keaton directly.
I won’t speak for the rest of TCM’s fans, but I know that I’m guilty of taking Robert Osborne for granted. During the last five months I have realized how important he is for the appreciation and preservation of classic film. He is irreplaceable and a true classic himself. On December 1st I will be sitting on the edge of my seat, listening to his every word–thankfully without the old biddy.
Welcome back, Mr. Osborne.
Note: You will NOT see the word “Bromance” mentioned in this post. I find it to be the most ridiculous term ever. I will also go on record to say that I strongly dislike “Chick-flick”, “Bromcom”, “Romcom”. You will see the words “man”, “manly” and “dude” maybe even “dudely.”
Ah, the buddy flick. Two guys (sometimes more) out to take on the world. It doesn’t matter when, where, and how their journey takes place, it’s about their friendship and how they deal with adversity and triumph. Women may come and go, and there may even be a fight between them over the same woman. Yet almost always, the friendship will prevail–even in death. Using the mechanism of the buddy film, Hollywood is able to appeal to men’s emotional side. In classic film, a vast majority of the buddy films appear to be dramas. In the gangster genre I immediately think of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien. These two were close friends in real life, and although they made all kinds of films (and frequently collaborated Frank McHugh, another close pal), I always think of their roles in Angels with Dirty Faces. Another pairing is that of William Powell and Clark Gable. Theirs was in Manhattan Melodrama, one of my favorites, and a similar story line to that of Angels with Dirty Faces: two young friends grow up together on the wrong side of the tracks. One makes it to the right side and lives an honorable and decent life, while the other continues in a life of crime. Despite their differences, they remain friends and can always pick up where they left off.
In the action/adventure genre there is only one teaming that comes to mind: Errol Flynn and Alan Hale. Although Hale was very much a supporting character to Flynn’s leading roles, it’s hard to think of one without the other. Flynn is charming and handsome, and Hale is the sidekick with all the funny quips. They get along so well because there is no competition over women. They each know their place and are friends until the very end. There are some classic comedies with best pals. First are the Road pictures starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. In the silent era, Buster Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle made quite the team. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers are all perfect examples. There are even buddies in musicals, with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra starring in three films (Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame) immediately coming to mind.
Of all the genres, the two that are the fullest of testosterone and strong male friendships, are war stories and westerns. From Battleground to Ride the High Country, these films always feature two friends dealing with the toughest of circumstances.
In the 1980′s and early 1990′s, theaters were inundated with action-packed, testosterone-fueled BFF adventures: 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, and their respective sequels (and threequels and fourquels). These films definitely appealed to a very male audience, but frequently cast the current luscious beefcake to help draw in the ladies. At the time many of these films were considered edgy. By today’s standards, the “raunchy” language of 1980s Eddie Murphy is a distant memory (after all, he is Donkey, Doctor Dolittle and runs Daddy Day Care…oh and he occasionally gives car rides to needy transvestite hookers). In recent years the buddy flick has become an exposition for the raunchiest language, random and pointless nudity (each film appears to compete for the most hideous nude scene or most graphic discussions about bodily functions), and general caveman-like behavior. Their masculinity is worn not on their sleeve, but on a t-shirt three sizes too small and positioned squarely on their chest. Underneath is a tagline that says “I love boobies and I’m absolutely and positively NOT GAY!.” Some of these newer films are quite funny, despite their overt attempts at pure manly manliness (I give Judd Apatow a lot of credit because his films have heart, sometimes too much. They also appear to be a little insecure about acknowledging love between two friends, re: constant gay jokes).
Going back to classics, I have to admit that I love a lot of the “manly” genres. Some of my favorite films feature two male friends. Sure there might be a love interest, but the friendship is always a main attraction. When thinking about the films for this blogathon, I turned to my husband. The two of us compared our list of quintessential male buddy films and we had a lot of duplicates. However, he had several listed that I did not consider. A few of them are highlighted below.
Cool Hand Luke
My husband is very adamant over Cool Hand Luke being the essential buddy flick. There are no women (unless you consider the big bosomed car wash lady), thus no traditional romance. The “romance” is between the two main characters Luke (Paul Newman) and Dragline (George Kennedy). It is Luke’s strength and determination (and Messiah-like presence) to find a way out that has Dragline and the whole chain gang admiring him. Dragline’s devotion to Luke is so strong and he risks his life just to be around him. Call it hero worship. They are a mismatched duo, but they have each other’s back right to the end. No women, no fortune, no prospects– just brought together by incredibly horrendous circumstances. How does Cool Hand Luke appeal to women? I don’t think I should have to answer that one.
I have to admit that George Stevens’s classic is one of my all time favorites. In my opinion it is one of the greatest action/adventure films ever made. The friendship between Cutter (Cary Grant), MacChesney (Victor McLaglen), and Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) is unwavering. That’s not to say they do not have their differences. Cutter is a bit of a handful with his pipe dreams about finding hidden treasures and golden palaces, and often agitates his comrades. MacChesney is the highest ranked officer of the trio and tries to maintain straight military protocol. Ballantine struggles over starting his life with the woman he loves, or continuing the adventures with his best friends. In addition to the strong friendship between the three, Cutter forms an unlikely bond with the regiment’s water boy, Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe). The two have a mutual admiration and both set out to find their fortunes. Although there is a female character, Ballantine’s fiancee Emmy (Joan Fontaine), she is negatively portrayed as needy and generally whiny. Not great for female viewers, but it helps reinforce the unbreakable bond between the best friends. Despite this, I still love the story and the main characters. Although it ends on a bittersweet note, Gunga Din is also quite a funny film at times.
I realize that Blazing Saddles does not fall under the traditional “classic film” label because it was made after the 1969 cut-off, but it would be flat out wrong to dismiss it strictly based on when it was made. Mel Brooks is a master and Blazing Saddles is his finest masterpiece. Sure it is off-color at times, but it all comes from a good place. Brooks took the typical western (and the musical) and turned it upside down. The Ballad of Rock Ridge is a parody of the main theme in the film High Noon, Madeline Kahn is in full Marlene Dietrich mode with her stage performances, and the hero is…black. Whoa! A western with a black hero? And his sidekick is white? Obviously this arrangement makes way for a endless amount of jokes, but also serves as a commentary on racism. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) and Jim (Gene Wilder) form a fast friendship. They are both social outcasts– Bart because he is black, and Jim because he’s a drunk, and fallen from his glory days as sharpshooter The Waco Kid. The pair team up to save the town of Rock Ridge against the evil forces of Hedley “That’s Hed-ley” Lamarr (Harvey Korman). Underneath the sometimes gross humor (the farting scene) and colorful language, is a story about two best friends…who ride into the sunset not on their horses, but in a limousine.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
For my husband, Cool Hand Luke is the ultimate buddy film. For me, I look no further than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From start to tragic finish, it is a beautiful film. Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) rob trains and banks. They are really good at it too. Although criminals, they are loved from the first moment. The two are partners through and through right until the bloody end. Butch and Sundance are truly living an outlaw’s life, but having loads of fun in the process. They are also fortunate enough to keep company with the beautiful Etta Place (Katharine Ross), who loves them both. She teaches them manners and Spanish, and goes along with their schemes for a time. She doesn’t overstay her welcome though. This is one of the few male geared films that has a positive female role.
Only Angels Have Wings
Although heavy on the adventure and romance, Only Angels Have Wings features a strong friendship between two men: Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) and Kid Dabb (Thomas Mitchell) and they absolutely adore one another. Each would walk through fire for the other, and both value honesty, even when the truth hurts. Geoff has his problems with commitment to women, although Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) is making quite the impression. When Geoff grounds Kid from flying, the decision is not an easy one. Geoff knows how much it bruises Kid’s ego, but it’s the right decision to keep everyone safe. That is what a true friend does– makes a hard decision to save a life, even if it damages the friendship.
There are several more films that need an honorable mention. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the ultimate buddy epic. Two best friends, Frodo and Sam literally going to the ends of the earth knowing they may never make it back. Not only do they have each other, but they have the support of many others from their original band of brothers. The Big Lebowski features two friends (three if you count poor Donny) that couldn’t be more different. The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is a burned out hippie who lives for bowling, Creedence, White Russians, and his rug (which really tied the room together). Walter (John Goodman) is a Vietnam vet with major anger issues, who often babysits his ex-wife’s dog (“It’s a f*cking show dog with f*cking papers”). This mismatched duo, with their sad little friend Donny, encounter the most bizarre of situations. Although The Dude is often disgusted with Walter’s behavior, he ultimately enjoys his company.
To close out this entry on a testosterone fueled note, here are BFF’s Roddy Piper and Keith David beating the shit out of each other.
Note: The video features fantastic shit-kickery and some bad language, so don’t watch at work, church, or around the kiddies.
“Either put on these glasses, or start eating that trash can.”
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