Monday, August 10, 2009

The Beginning

It occurred to me the other night that this poor blog ended before it even began. Not wanting to see the fruits of such imaginary labor go to waste, I decided to put the wheels of activity in motion again. I do suspect that the wheels are moving quite slowly, but at least the vehicle is out of the ditch.

I was spurred to action by finding a fun questionnaire here at movietone news. Do visit, I assure you that it is worth your while.

1. Your favourite Humphrey Bogart film in which he doesn't play a gangster or a private eye. (Oh, and not including Casablanca either.)
It has to be In a Lonely Place (1950). It's probably my favorite Bogart film period, gangster or not.

2. Your favourite appearance by a star in drag (boy-girl or girl-boy).
My first thought was William Powell in Love Crazy (1941), the best non-Thin Man Powell/Loy pairing. My second thought was Greta Garbo in Queen Christina (1933). While iconic, however, Garbo didn't actually look like a man. The edge goes to Powell.

3. Your favourite Laurel & Hardy film; short or feature, or one of each. (This will sort out the men from the boys - or perhaps the men from the girls.)
Babes in Toyland (1934) has sentimental value, though I admit I'm not a huge fan.

4. Your favourite appearance by one star in a role strongly associated with another star. (Eg: Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, Grace Kelly as Tracy Lord, Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates...)
I cannot think of answer for this that doesn't stretch the truth in some way. I'm sure it will come to me in the night.

5. The thirties or forties star or stars you most think you'd like, but have yet to really get to know.
Peter Lorre

6. Your favourite pre-Petrified Forest Bette Davis film.
I'm rather fond of Three on a Match (1932).

7. Your favourite post-Mildred Pierce Joan Crawford film.
You mean I can only pick one? Baby Jane is the obvious answer here, though I do need to acknowledge the ridiculous campfest that is Berserk (1967). "I'm running a circus, not a charm school!"

8. Your favourite film that ends with the main character's death.
There are many to choose from. I'll go with Limelight (1952) so that I don't feel guilty about my next answer.

9. Your favourite Chaplin talkie.
The Great Dictator (1940).

10. Your favourite British actor and actress.
Ronald Colman and Vivien Leigh.

11. Your favourite post-1960 appearance by a 1930's star.
Is George Sanders in The Jungle Book (1967) cheating?

12. Dietrich or Garbo? Garbo. Hands down.

13. Karloff or Lugosi? Lugosi. Not hands down.

14. Chaplin or Keaton? (I know some of you will want to say both for all of the above. Me too. But you can't.)
Unequivocally Chaplin.

15. Your favourite star associated predominantly with the 1950's.
Gloria Grahame.

16. Your favourite Melvyn Douglas movie. Ninotchka (1939).

17. The box-office failure you most think should have been a success.
To Be or Not to Be

18. Your favourite performance by an actor or actress playing drunk.
I'll stretch it a bit and say Powell in the first couple of Thin Man films.

19. Your favourite last scene of any thirties movie.
The first thing I thought of was City Lights (1931).

20. Your favourite American non-comedy silent movie.
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927).

21. Your favourite Jean Harlow performance.
Red Dust (1932) for sure.

22. Your favourite remake. (Quizmaster's definition: second or later version of a work written as a movie, not a later adaptation of the same novel or play.)
See Question 4.

23. Your favourite Orson Welles performance in a film he did not direct, not including The Third Man.
Tomorrow is Forever (1946) is pure melodrama, and I love every second of it.

24. Your favourite non-gangster or musical James Cagney film or performance.
I'll have to go with the only non-gangster non-musical Cagney that I've seen, The Strawberry Blonde (1941).

25. Your favourite Lubitsch movie.
To Be or Not to Be
(1942) is one of my favorite movies ever.

26. Who would win in a fight: Miriam Hopkins or Barbara Stanwyck? (Both in their prime; say in 1934 or so.)
Stanwyck, but I wouldn't want to put money on it.

27. Name the two stars you most regret never having co-starred with each other, and - if you want - choose your dream scenario for them. (Quizmaster's qualification: they have to be sufficiently contemporary to make it possible. So, yes to Cary Grant and Lon Chaney Jr as two conmen in a Howard Hawks screwball; no to Clara Bow and Kirsten Dunst as twin sisters on the run from prohibition agents in twenties Chicago, much though that may entice.)

Ronald Colman and Irene Dunne in a sophisticated champagne comedy circa-1940. It would have been made instead ofMy Life with Caroline (1941), a silly "comedy" with an annoying Anna Lee.

28. Your favourite Lionel Barrymore performance.
Can I use this opportunity to say that I hate You Can't Take it With You (1938)? Because I do. A lot. I'm going with On Borrowed Time (1939).

29. Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard or Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour? (See note on question 14.)
I must confess that I'm not a big fan of Hope. I'll take Goddard over Lamour, though.

30. You won't want to answer this, but: there's been a terrible fire raging in the film libraries of all the major studios. It's far too late to save everything. All you can do is save as much as you can. You've been assigned the thirties. All you'll have time to drag from the obliterating inferno is one 1930's film each from Paramount, MGM, RKO, Columbia, Universal and Warners. Do you stomp around in a film buff's huff saying 'it's too hard, I can't choose just one' and watch them all go up in smoke? Or do you roll your sleeves up and start saving movies?
But if the latter: which ones...?

This is just wrong. I've made certain concessions...

Paramount: Monkey Business (1931).
MGM: Ninotchka (1939).
RKO: Stage Door (1937).
Columbia: Twentieth Century (1934).
Universal: My Man Godfrey (1936).
Warners: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An Introduction

Welcome to Let's Be Common, a classic film blog. This blog takes it's title from the song of the same name. You can watch Lupino Lane and Lillian Roth perform this number in Ernst Lubitsch's The Love Parade (1929), an exercise that I can highly recommend.

This blog will focus primarily on classic Hollywood films ranging from the early sound era through roughly 1950. Your humble hostess admits to a shocking lack of knowledge about silent films, foreign films, films made after 1950, Westerns, and musicals that do not involve either Ernst Lubitsch or Busby Berkeley. Some of these chasms will hopefully one day be filled, others will almost certainly never be.

I will slowly expand this as time and energy permit.