Old Hollywood Favorites
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Hermann's haunting score
Muir celtic for Sea
These days there appears to be a cult following for classic films. Mainly for films like Citizen Kane and other black and white films that can be interpreted many different ways. My philosophy remains that films are entertainment. Films can portray essences of real life but it still does have to entertain the audience. The three films listed below are there simply because they are good films. Their stories have more 'meat,' the actors portray their characters well, the score suits the mood, and they're just great films to watch over and over. The old adage, 'they don't make them like that anymore' couldn't be said any better.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) 1900 England: Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) moves to Gull Cottage by the sea with her daughter Anna (Natalie Wood) after the death of her husband. The only problem with Gull Cottage is that it's haunted by the previous owner Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison). Lucy and the Captain form a tentative friendship and end up writing a book about his adventures at sea. Soon their affection grows to love, but two problems stand in their way. Lucy knows she cannot spend the rest of her life in love with a ghost and another man, Miles Fairley (George Sanders) is falling in love with Lucy. This is one of my favorite films! I could watch it purely alone for Rex Harrison who is magnificent in everything he does and George Sanders. There is something about his voice that captures an audience the same way that Richard Burton did. It is also fun to see Natalie Wood just as she looked in Miracle on 34th Street. I also recommend it for the music score of Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann for many years worked with Alfred Hitchcock to provide scores that arguably gave his films greater depth and suspense. Listen to Vertigo and feel yourself spinning out of control just like Jimmy Stewart does. Herrmann's score for the The Ghost and Mrs. Muir reminds the listeners of the sea crashing onto the rocks and the bitter sweetness of love.
That Crafty Zorro
The Mark of Zorro (1940) 1700s Los Angeles: Don Diego de la Vega (Tyrone Power) returns home to Los Angeles from Spain after receiving a summons from his father Don Alejandro, the Alcalde. On his journey home Diego finds that the people hate the Alcalde and are starving. Once he reaches home and learns that his father was usurped from his office of Alcalde by Don Luis Quintero Diego decides to act the part of a fop. This provides his cover for Zorro (the fox in spanish) to rob the new Alcalde and his wife as well as other tax collectors. Diego then meets Lolita (Linda Darnell) the niece of the Alcalde and falls in love with her. While trying to get Don Luis to leave Los Angeles for Spain, his efforts are thwarted by Captain Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathborne) who also has an agenda for the future of Los Angeles. Diego also has to pretend to his father and Fray Felipe (Eugene Pallete) that he does care about atrocities of Don Luis and Captain Pasquale to the peasants. Power plays Diego so well balancing Zorro's bravado and masculinity with Diego's playacting as the idiot son. What makes Power's performance even better is the humor. John Taintor Foote did an excellent job writing the script. One of my favorite scenes is when the Alcalde, his wife, Lolita, and Captain Pasquale are waiting for Diego to arrive for dinner to discuss an engagement between Diego and Lolita, and Diego makes the excuse that his bath was tepid. To which Rathborne replies that Lolita's wedded life will be the same. This line by Rathborne cracks me up every time I watch it. Eugene Pallete is very good as the feisty Fray because you know he wants to do more than fight and every time he gets heated he'll look up to the sky, do the sign of the cross and say, "God, forgive me." Pallate also played Friar Tuck in The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. An equally feisty friar. Let me count the ways how well Rathborne plays a villain. His appearance speaks of class and intelligence, which is a perfect foe for Zorro. All of Rathborne's line are spoken with a touch of snobbery and delight. The best Zorro film!!
Travel back to the Green Isle with Duke
The Quiet Man (1952) 1900s Innisfree, Ireland: Sean Thornton (John Wayne) an American and ex-boxer comes back to Ireland and makes his way to the town of Innisfree. Immediately the townsfolk are intrigued by this stranger. Sean is rescued at the train station by Michaleen Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald), the town matchmaker who remembers the Thornton family and Sean from when he was a baby. While traveling into town Sean spots a woman with brilliant red hair. He is entranced but Michaleen tells him to ignore her. They go to see the Widow Tilane to buy the Whitermoore Cottage but run into trouble when the bully of the town Squire 'Red' Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) also wants to buy the cottage that borders his land. The widow decides to sell to Sean and Danaher swears his revenge. Sean then finds out that the redhead is actually Danaher's fiery tempered sister Mary-Kate (Maureen O'Hara). So many obstacles stand in the way of Sean and Mary-Kate's eventual union but with a little interference from Father Lonergan (Ward Bond), Reverand Cyril Playfair (Arthur Shields), and some other members of the town Sean and Mary-Kate find that their love is strong enough to withstand all other obstacles.
John Ford is one of my favorite directors. His films are brilliantly portrayed through the acting, score, and cinematography. Mainly Ford's films tell stories that touch people. How Green Was My Valley still brings tears to my eyes. The Quiet Man has a little more humor to it. You have to appreciate living in a small town where everyone knows your business and it seems like everyone is your family. Ford loved to work with the same actors, notably Ford had a great accord with Wayne as well as Maureen O'Hara. Ward Bond, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, and many other actors nearly always had a role in Ford's films. Every time I watch The Quiet Man I love the brilliant color of the cinematography. Especially the moment when Wayne watches O'Hara walk through the trees onto the green with her flock of sheep. All you can think is how beautifully green it is as well as her flaming red hair. All the actors look like they are having the time of their lives. I'm a big John Wayne fan and love westerns but this is my favorite John Wayne role. Movie lovers still refer to the fight scene between Wayne and McLaglen as one of the best ever shot. It would be worth your while to also look for the film that financed The Quiet Man, Rio Grande. It's a great film too!
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