Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cool Off With The Classics Blog-a-thon

For the month of August, Marc at Go, See, Talk invited film bloggers to pick their Top 10 classic black & white films that will makes us stay indoors on a hot summer’s day.

I will begin with a mini-Hitchcock film festival. Whenever Turner Classic Movies has one especially on a weekend, I am not moving from my bed.

1) Notorious (1946)

This is the first film I remember watching on Turner Classic Movies and forever sealed my love for Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, and Ingrid Bergman. Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is pitch perfect particularly the crane shot into the close-up of the wine cellar key in Alicia’s hand. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman as T.R Devlin and Alicia Huberman have the perfect chemistry whether they are bantering about her mission to woo a Nazi sympathizer or stealing a few moments of being in love. Their kissing scene is one of the sexiest ones on black & white film and they are fully clothed and nibbling at each other.

2) Spellbound (1945)

Ingrid Bergman is seriously one of the luckiest actress ever because she works with the handsomest men in Hollywood. In this film, she plays opposite Gregory Peck as a psychiatrist who tries to help an amnesiac man. Having a psychology degree, I think this film does a good job at portraying how psychiatrists used Freud’s dream analysis at that time. My favorite sequence is the famous Salvador Dali-designed dream sequence.

3) Suspicion (1941)

This film is the first of four Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock collaborations. I love the dark undertones that Hitchcock brought out of Grant as Johnnie in this film. Never has a glass has looked so menacing to me than when Johnnie carried it on a tray. Whenever I watch this film, I am never quite sure of Johnnie’s intentions toward Lina (Joan Fontaine). Even the ending still makes me wonder.

4) Rebecca (1940)

I do not know why I enjoy watching Joan Fontaine play a tortured heroine, but she does it so well. The source of her torment is the specter of the beloved Rebecca, the first wife of Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Judith Anderson gives an amazing performance as Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca’s extremely loyal maid, who quickly reminds the second Mrs. de Winter that she cannot compare to Rebecca. I think I enjoy this film more for the acting than Hitchcock’s direction.

5) Strangers on a Train (1951)

Robert Walker’s performance as Bruno Anthony is mesmerizing as he shifts from charming to threatening. I can see how Farley Granger’s Guy Haines could be easily charmed by Bruno that he does not realize that he has agreed to commit a murder. Being a tennis fan, my favorite sequence is the tennis sequence when everyone else follows the ball except for Bruno whose focus is on Guy.

And now for my non-Hitchcock choices:

6) All This and Heaven Too (1940)

This is the only Bette Davis film that I have seen where she gives a subtle and contained performance. As a governess who falls in love with her employer, Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer), and his children, Davis uses her eyes beautifully to convey the emotions that Henriette cannot express. Boyer shines in the few stolen romantic moments that the Duc de Praslin and Henriette share.

7) Love in the Afternoon (1957)

I love the chemistry between Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn. I will be bold in saying that I like Hepburn better in this film than in Roman Holiday. My favorite scene is when Ariane gives a report of all of her lovers into Frank’s Dictaphone trying to prove that she is just as sophisticated as Frank.

8) Portrait of Jennie (1948)

Jennifer Jones gives a mesmerizing performance as Jennie. She “ages” from a young girl to a woman through vocal performance and body language. I can see why Eben (Joseph Cotten) is so taken with her. Although the film might be known for the few moments in color such as the completed portrait, it does have great black & white cinematography.

9) Holiday Affair (1949)

What’s more cooling than thoughts of Christmas? Or how about Robert Mitchum simply being adorable? I know that Mitchum and adorable do not go together for most people, but they do for me especially in this film. Mitchum plays Steve Mason who tries to win the affections of Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) and her son. There is just something about Mitchum in moments where his characters falls in love with a woman that gets to me.

10) The Story of Esther Costello (1957)

Frankly, I am including this film because I just saw it on Joan Crawford day on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. I started in the middle of it and I watched it till the end. But I was captivated by Crawford’s performance as a lonely woman who takes a blind girl under her wing. Also, I thought the scene where Esther gets her sight back was well done. I would like to see it again just to get the total film experience.

Since Marc stated that we had to stay in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, I could not include Love with a Proper Stranger (1963) although it is in black and white. But I wanted to mention it because I would want to watch it in my black & white film festival because Natalie Wood is so adorably neurotic in it as she tries to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. My favorite scene is when Angela invites Rocky (Steve McQueen) over to her new apartment and rants about her feelings toward him.

Sigh. If only I could win a chance to be a guest programmer on TCM, then I can truly make this black & white festival a reality.


  1. wow thats a lot of Hitchcock! i wonder, have you read the novel that Strangers was based on? i can't find a copy anywhere and im wondering if its worthwhile.

    i may have to check out love in the afternoon pretty soon, i love wilder and hepburn and if shes better than in roman holiday it must be good.

    i think ive seen rebecca but only remember the concept not the film itself. it cant have left much of an impression on me sadly. i definitely havent read the novel however.

  2. What can I say? I'm a huge Hitchcock fan. I haven't read the novel that Strangers on a Train is based on, but now I'm curious to find it.

    I also haven't read Rebecca either. With most Hitchcock films, I can pick a signature shot for it but with Rebecca I can't but I enjoy watching Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson's performance in it rather than Hitchcock's direction.

    I know that most Audrey Hepburn fans say that her best performance is in either Roman Holiday or Breakfast at Tiffany's. But I prefer her in Love in the Afternoon and Charade more than in those two films.

  3. This is great, Sherry, one of these days I have to get to a lot of the Hitchcock classics and you've given me lots of great recommendations. I just tweeted you about Gregory Peck... man, he truly is the most gorgeous actor ever, even today's handsomest actor can't hold a candle to that man (not even my boy Gerry Butler!!) I have to start watching his films (so far I've only seen Roman Holiday), starting with Spellbound!

  4. i love patricia highsmith's writing, if you come across it i'd love to know your thoughts.

    rebecca is still daphne du maurier's most famous novel as far as i can tell and not because of the movie. although hitchcock had a thing for picking interesting novels as his source material. i found out today that psycho was originally a novel and Hitchcock creditted the novel entirely for his movies success.

    i think i own charade (still yet to view it) but you picked love in the afternoon for your list so i have to go find it.

  5. I haven't seen Joan Fontaine in Rebecca, she was great in Letter from an Unknown Woman(1948),one of my favourites.

    Portrait of Jennie (1948), has a really unique atmosphere I remember, I agree about the cinematography.

    You can check 10 b/w films I recommend here:

  6. Great to see so many Hitchcock films. I'm a huge fan of the director also. Notorious is one of my favourite films by him, as is Strangers on a Train. But my favourite film by Hitch is one of his colour works - Rear Window.