OPINION: DF Shares 10 Favorite Movies & Why He Loves Them (Part 1 of 2)

It started as a Facebook game: over a period of ten days, share photos from ten favorite movies—without any explanation or comment. OK, I was in!… and as we got further interested, I got a lot of questions. What movies are these? And why on earth would this be a favorite?? I promised an explanation, so here we go…

DAY ONE: Portrait of Jennie

Maybe a decade ago, I watched this movie on TCM with low expectations. It sounded like a sudsy melodrama, made by producer David O. Selznick for his soon-to-be-wife, Jennifer Jones, who was hardly a favorite actress of mine. And it is all that… but it’s also moody, evocative, and gorgeous to look at (Joseph H. August’s black and white cinematography of Central Park snowscapes especially). Jones is a huge surprise—exceptionally good and subtle, particularly playing her child-self, which I hardly think could be done better. Plus a kick-ass supporting turn by Ethel Barrymore, no less!

DAY TWO: Actors and Sin

Hardly anybody knows this 1952 comedy by master writer Ben Hecht, and far more people should. It’s actually two mini-movies—both are charming, though the second one, Woman of Sin, is the winner. The funny premise involves a steamy novel written by a person named “Daisy Marcher,” who is not exactly what one would expect (that’s all you get—more would spoil it). Eddie Albert is marvelous as a slimy agent-type—but the real kicker is an indescribably weird and delicious performance by Hecht’s eight-year-old daughter, Jenny. (Google “Jenny Hecht” for a story so strange that it, too, should be a movie.)

DAY THREE: Champagne for Caesar

Another sleeper comedy is this 1950 satire on the advertising industry and television quiz shows, with a whip-smart screenplay by Fred Brady and Hans Jacoby that’s still laugh-out-loud funny today (maybe more than ever). Ronald Coleman is superb as a genius who tries to bring down the show, with Celeste Holm every bit as good as the spy meant to take him down. Fabulous comic support from Vincent Price and (yes, really) Art Linkletter. In one of the great bumper years for movies, Champagne for Caesar never got its due. It’s time to redress that.

DAY FOUR: Gidget Goes to Rome

Yes, I recognize that even by perverse standards, Gidget Goes to Rome requires an explanation. First, remember that these are favorite (rather than “best”) movies! But I won’t apologize for this charmer, which places its cute young cast (Cindy Carol, James Darren, the always peppy and fun Trudi Ames) in glorious Roma. Even Fellini couldn’t make it look more delicious, and GGTR introduced me to so many things, including Carpano Punt e Mes as an aperitif (I still have a bottle), and the magnificent couture of Sorelle Fontana (the fashion show sequence is to die for.)

DAY FIVE: Julie

Running away from a crazed husband while looking like a total fashion plate was a Doris Day specialty: nobody did it better. Who could forget her in Midnight Lace, with one of the great opening scenes ever? I toyed with ML as a choice. But—Doris was even better a few years earlier in Julie, which remains one of the great camp classics. Who could forget her trying to escape the clutches of dashing-but-deadly Louis Jordan, while packing her make-up case? How do you top that?: By landing a plane you don’t know how to fly, in a sequence totally ripped off for Airport 1975 with Karen Black.

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And that’s a wrap for the first five. Stay tuned for Part II, coming in a day or so….

2 replies »

  1. One thing to be said, David: Your list isn’t going to be like anyone else’s! Of these five, I watched Portrait of Jennie (thanks to TCM) in an inattentive fashion (not expecting much and therefore not getting much out of it), and promise to really watch it next time around. Julie and Champagne for Caesar both looked interesting in advance, got DVR’d, and then sat in the listing forever unwatched until I told myself “You’re never going to find time for this, are you?” and purged them. I’ll watch out for Gidget Goes To Rome for sure, especially after having recently experienced the pleasures of Gidget Goes Hawaiian (Deborah Walley herself isn’t much, but it has 3 of the Columbia-contract-boys of the period, James Darren, Joby Baker, and Michael Callan, and it even lets Callan show off his dance skills including an impromptu bit with Eddie Foy Jr.). And as predicted, I’ve literally never heard of Actors and Sin; now you have me chomping at the bit! — Jon

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