Friday, March 27, 2009

My Favorite Film

What’s so good about Singin’ in the Rain? For starters, I’ve never been able to spot one dull minute in the entire film. Based on the crisis Hollywood faced back in the 1920s when "talkies" came on the scene, the clever story by Adolph Green and Betty Comden zips along from beginning to end -- with joyful musical numbers enhancing the plot instead of detracting from it. Here are the highlights:

"Make ‘Em Laugh" – O’Connor’s hilarious slapstick routine.

"Good Morning" – exuberant dancing and singing by star trio Reynolds, O’Connor, and Kelly.

"Moses Supposes" – Kelly and O’Connor in one of the most energetic tap numbers ever filmed.

"Broadway Ballet" – the memorable screen debut of Cyd Charisse’s gorgeous legs .

"Singin’ in the Rain" – that famous title number danced with pure abandon and delight by Kelly.

A few years ago, my cousin and I were reminiscing about how much we enjoyed Singin’ in the Rain when it first came out in 1952. "You really lost it during ‘Make ‘Em Laugh,’" she recalled. "I still do," I confessed. Every time I think about the wacky faces O’Connor makes in that number, I’m forced to laugh out loud.

I also still smile remembering Hagen’s portrayal of Lina Lamont, a big-time silent star whose annoying voice must be dubbed by newcomer Kathy Selden (Reynolds). Hagen earned a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her very funny work here. When Lina tells her fans, "If we kin bring a little joy into yer humdrum lives, then all our hard work ain’t been in vain fer nothin,’" little does she care if Kathy must give up her own career to protect another’s stardom. Incidentally, I love that quotation and have borrowed it for many occasions.

Although claiming she didn’t know how to tap dance before joining the Singin’ in the Rain cast, the perky Reynolds holds her own with pros Kelly and O’Connor. "Gene was a great teacher," she told me in an interview I treasure.

Co-directed with great pizzazz by Kelly and Stanley Donen, Singin’ in the Rain wins my vote as the most entertaining movie ever made.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Lovely Natasha Richardson

Before seeing the remake of Disney’s popular The Parent Trap, I worried that it wouldn’t be as much fun as the original. And I couldn’t imagine anyone except Maureen O’Hara playing the mom. Thankfully, the talented Natasha Richardson stepped into that role and won me over completely.

Natasha was a lovely lady and a wonderful actress. She could do drama or comedy equally well – and even won a Tony for her work in the Broadway musical Cabaret. My two favorite performances by Natasha are her roles in Nell and in Zelda, the TV biopic of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s troubled wife.

Fans are invited to share their comments about Natasha Richardson at

My sincere condolences to Natasha’s family and friends.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Irish Roots

To get in the mood for “wearin’ of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day, I’m reminiscing about a trio of great films concerning Ireland and the Irish. My three favorites are Veronica Guerin, Dancing at Lughnasa and This Is My Father.

Although Veronica Guerin has been criticized for casting non-Irish Cate Blanchett in the role of Dublin’s fearless journalist who brought down gangsters and drug lords, I was blown away by the film and by Blanchett’s searing performance.

I was also impressed by the superb acting in Dancing at Lughnasa, a moving film about five unmarried sisters who face some very hard times during the 1930s in Ireland. It’s inspiring to see the way these women gain strength and courage from each other. In one memorable scene, the sisters break into wild dancing to celebrate themselves and their heritage.

This Is My Father has special meaning for me because I interviewed Aidan Quinn, who starred in the movie. Filmed mostly in Ireland, the film features Aidan as a poor Irish farmer, circa 1939, who falls for a young lass outside his social class. During the interview, I mentioned to Aidan how much I admired his performance, partly because of my Irish roots. I told him about my grandmother stowing away on a boat when she was only 14 years old and coming to America because she wanted to get away from her brothers who mistreated her in Ireland. ” What did they do to her?” Aidan asked.

“She refused to tell us,” I replied.

Aidan shook his head and frowned. He really wanted to know the answer to his question! Besides being a splendid actor, he’s a very nice man.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, movie fans.

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