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22 minutes ago, Charlie Baker said:

On CBS Sunday Morning, Ben talks to David Fincher about his new film about Ben's grandfather and Citizen Kane.

Mank

Does anyone happen to know if there's a flash forward in the film to Pauline Kael, and if so, who plays her?

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Looking at that cast list, I see two or three big names at the top, but otherwise it looks like I won't have the fun of seeing stars play stars. Still, Fincher can be a wizard with film craftsmanship, and I'm looking forward to this.

As to the Kael matter, I wouldn't expect any historical movie to take note of her in this connection. Her Citizen Kane Book has, it seems, been more reacted to (often with a huffy "how dare she?") than read, as it's so often described as devaluing Welles's contribution -- whereas in fact it's mostly an effusion of praise for Welles, remarking en route that Mankiewicz deserves more credit for the script than he has often received. That much seems fairly unexceptionable, as Welles was already famous (from his Mercury Theatre days) for absorbing the work of others into his own legend (making it seem as if he designed costumes and lighting, for instance, while the actual designers were urged not to rock the boat).

Unfortunately Kael's book is itself at fault in the same way, absorbing a mass of research by someone else with only token acknowledgment, where really he deserved all but co-author credit for contributing so much. (She didn't in fact do much if any research of her own, writing more or less impressionistically, and in a book like this that's another massive fault.) Though I think she's often attacked for the wrong reasons here, the book certainly isn't her finest hour.

Edited by Rinaldo

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13 hours ago, Rinaldo said:

Unfortunately Kael's book is itself at fault in the same way, absorbing a mass of research by someone else with only token acknowledgment, where really he deserved all but co-author credit for contributing so much.

I could draw my copy of the book down from the shelf, but then I'd have to get up. :) Who is the person she gives token acknowledgment to, who deserved much more?

Flaws and all (and I don't think you or Charlie would disagree with what I'm about to say), in the "cultural moment" that Kael's book came out, it pretty much changed the cinema world's perception that Welles was the singular auteur of the film. HM's name is on the film as co-scenarist, but I'd wager that most film buffs figured him to be a guy who wrote a first draft or an outline that Welles then transformed beyond recognition with his magic typewriter. It's doubtful that Mank would be made today, even despite his nephew's prominence, if Kael's book hadn't set the stage for it fifty years ago. That's why I thought Fincher might jigsaw the timeline a bit to 1971 to bring in Kael briefly as a progenitor.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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On 10/26/2020 at 11:14 AM, Milburn Stone said:

Who is the person she gives token acknowledgment to, who deserved much more?

Howard Suber, a film professor at UCLA. They met in the course of her visiting lectures there. I'll quote selectively from Brian Kellow's biography:

Quote

What was the point in having two books? she asked Suber. She suggested the the two of them each write an essay for Bantam's book and split the money.... When Suber asked Pauline how his agreement with her publishers would work, she replied that she didn't want to bother them at the moment, but she would contact them when the time was right.... Pauline sent Suber a check for a little over $375, telling him it was half of the advance she had been paid, and he turned over his research materials to her. Over the next several months he frequently queried her about formalizing their agreement with the publisher, and she invariably told him not to worry, and to trust her.... Super finished his essay and mailed it off to Pauline in New York. After that, her phone calls became more sporadic. Then they stopped altogether. 

One week in February 1971, Suber's copy of The New Yorker arrived in his mailbox as usual. In the section "onward and Upward with the Arts," he discovered part one of a two-;art essay on Citizen Kane by Pauline Kael.... Nowhere isShe made use of the Sara Mankiewicz, Dorothy Comingore, and Richard Wilson interviews. ... Nowhere in the piece was Suber's name mentioned. He had not received -- nor would he receive -- any additional money from Pauline, The New Yorker, or Bantam.

I was wrong about "token mention" of Suber's name in The Citizen Kane Book. His name is not mentioned at all, anywhere.

I think I do disagree about the effect of the essay. People read it and talked about it, and some (notably Peter Bogdanovich, who did mention Suber) wrote in refutation of it. But it's just one part of a general shift away from "the director is everything" (or more particularly "Orson Welles did everything") thinking, which was never universally held anyway. Many others have written about Welles in the decades since, notably Simon Callow's multivolume biography, and it all adds to the change in atmosphere. So I would never expect a movie set in the 1940s to take a leap into 1971 because of one essay.

Edited by Rinaldo
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I watched Night Must Fall (1937) tonight. Very good! Robert Montgomery was fantastic in this and the suspense was great- I especially liked the implication that Rosalind Russell was genuinely into his murderous ways. Of course the movie had to have her "see the light" at the last minute but the original play's ending was not like that.

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On 10/28/2020 at 3:23 AM, ruby24 said:

I watched Night Must Fall (1937) tonight. Very good! Robert Montgomery was fantastic in this and the suspense was great- I especially liked the implication that Rosalind Russell was genuinely into his murderous ways. Of course the movie had to have her "see the light" at the last minute but the original play's ending was not like that.

Night Must Fall also marked the entry of Dame May Whitty into Hollywood filmmaking, repeating the role in which she'd starred onstage in London and NYC. With the help and encouragement of her daughter, director Margaret Webster, at about the age of 70 she relocated to LA and began a decade's active work as dowagers and grandmothers (on one occasion memorably sharing a sequence with her husband, Ben Webster, in Lassie Come Home), unexpectedly finishing her days with financial security and a modest fame. She was always grateful for this, but at the same time she couldn't help remarking (in a letter to her daughter) how the modest country cottage of Night Must Fall had transformed for the screen into a spacious residence, with a garden in which flowers from every season bloomed simultaneously.

Edited by Rinaldo
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Greer Garson fans: today is the last day for The Valley of Decision on Watch TCM. I hadn’t seen it in years. Very satisfying melodrama. 

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I wanted to post about another curiosity that I watched the other day.  Death of  Scoundrel, starring George Sanders as the scoundrel and his recent ex, ZsaZsa, as a rich woman he cons.  Also starring Yvonne DeCarlo.  This was really strange but a delicious watch.  You can't beat George Sanders for snaky delivery.  The plot is somewhat convoluted.  His cons don't make much sense--just can't believe he'd get away with some of it.  Also he's a real sociopath, who reports his brother to the Nazis because brother stole George's girl. 

Try to catch this.  Unfortunately, I think they took it off Watch TCM already, but it will likely return.  

On 10/27/2020 at 4:51 PM, Rinaldo said:

Howard Suber, a film professor at UCLA. They met in the course of her visiting lectures there. I'll quote selectively from Brian Kellow's biography:

I was wrong about "token mention" of Suber's name in The Citizen Kane Book. His name is not mentioned at all, anywhere.

I think I do disagree about the effect of the essay. People read it and talked about it, and some (notably Peter Bogdanovich, who did mention Suber) wrote in refutation of it. But it's just one part of a general shift away from "the director is everything" (or more particularly "Orson Welles did everything") thinking, which was never universally held anyway. Many others have written about Welles in the decades since, notably Simon Callow's multivolume biography, and it all adds to the change in atmosphere. So I would never expect a movie set in the 1940s to take a leap into 1971 because of one essay.

Rinaldo, thanks for another of your informative posts.

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Death of a Scoundrel does turn up once in a great while.  For a GS fan, it's a must catch. As I remember, there are some really effective brief moments when his character comes close to losing his cool and control (a rarity for a Sanders character) and he pulls them off really well, almost appearing vulnerable. And of course it's fun to see him and ZZG working together.

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15 hours ago, Charlie Baker said:

Death of a Scoundrel does turn up once in a great while.  For a GS fan, it's a must catch. As I remember, there are some really effective brief moments when his character comes close to losing his cool and control (a rarity for a Sanders character) and he pulls them off really well, almost appearing vulnerable. And of course it's fun to see him and ZZG working together.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good ZZG was in that role.  I assumed she'd be awful, but she wasn't.

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3 hours ago, Charlie Baker said:

Ben has been busy for CBS Sunday Morning of late.  Here he is with Bob Newhart.

Ben and Bob

Thank you for sharing this.  I love Bob Newhart and it's a great interview.

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I'm a Christopher Lee fan, but had never seen 'The Wicker Man' (1973).  Maybe my subconscious realized that I wouldn't really care for it (although I found it interesting that Lee himself stated that this was his favorite of all of his films). I guess it's just not my kind of movie. The scenery was pretty, as was the village, and some of the folk music used was interesting, but I just couldn't get into it (although Lee was rocking the '70s hairdo, the yellow turtleneck and the plaid sportcoat!). I'm glad I finally got around to watching it, though, because I have friends who really liked it and had always urged me to see it. Maybe I'll let it 'sit' for a while and watch it again in a year or two (or more).  Sometimes movies that I didn't care for on the first watch get better with a later re-watch.  We'll see.  And I definitely didn't agree with those who say that it is the greatest British horror film ever made (although everyone has their own opinion).  

Those of you who have seen the movie, what do you think?

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Time for another curiosity. Yes, watch Tamahine, if you dare. It’s a cross between The Major and the Minor and Lolita, if Lolita were a Polynesian/English nymphet played by a hapless Nancy Kwan, then twenty-three years old or so.  Cringe-inducing hijinks ensue when Kwan as said Polynesian is sent to a British boys’ school to stay with her uncle and learn some civilized behaviors. Instead she creates chaos by naively prancing about in her underwear and wondering why all the boys haven’t had women yet. I only stuck with it for about ten minutes. Poor Nancy Kwan couldn’t catch a break, it seems, after her earliest successes. 

Edited by GussieK
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On 9/18/2020 at 6:09 AM, MissAlmond said:

I actually could believe Miss Sommerville wasn't shown previously if not for this scene.  It's not just Virginia's words. It's how the camera slowly pans to reveal Miss Sommerville's face.  IMO, it gives the impression the viewer should be shocked to see her.  It also just occurred to me there's still another explanation: Miss Sommerville's earlier scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. 

Hopefully TCM (not FXM) will re-air The Snake Pit again so others can join in the Hunt for Miss Sommerville.  Thanks for your help! 

I watched it again solely to look for Miss Sommerville.  I looked at each nurse's face in every scene (they helpfully wore uniforms and caps), and I just don't see her. 

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21 hours ago, GussieK said:

Time for another curiosity. Yes, watch Tamahine, if you dare. It’s a cross between The Major and the Minor and Lolita, if Lolita were a Polynesian/English nymphet played by a hapless Nancy Kwan, then twenty-three years old or so.  Cringe-inducing hijinks ensue when Kwan as said Polynesian is sent to a British boys’ school to stay with her uncle and learn some civilized behaviors. Instead she creates chaos by naively prancing about in her underwear and wondering why all the boys haven’t had women yet. I only stuck with it for about ten minutes. Poor Nancy Kwan couldn’t catch a break, it seems, after her earliest successes. 

But she was pretty in the 60s. Still looks good.

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One of the between-the-features short items that occasionally pops up on TCM is one about the great Hollywood composers of the past. It mentioned all the appropriate names (Korngold, Steiner, Rosza, North, Elmer Bernstein, etc.) and said excellent and accurate things about them. Some of the best remarks came from Bill Conti, who represents a later era but clearly understands what made a score like The Sea Hawk great. I missed the first few seconds, so I'll look to catch it again. I only wish it were an hour long, and officially scheduled, rather than just a few minutes.

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1 hour ago, Rinaldo said:

One of the between-the-features short items that occasionally pops up on TCM is one about the great Hollywood composers of the past. It mentioned all the appropriate names (Korngold, Steiner, Rosza, North, Elmer Bernstein, etc.) and said excellent and accurate things about them. Some of the best remarks came from Bill Conti, who represents a later era but clearly understands what made a score like The Sea Hawk great. I missed the first few seconds, so I'll look to catch it again. I only wish it were an hour long, and officially scheduled, rather than just a few minutes.

I wrote off Bill Conti from his Rocky score (which was the first time I encountered him) because his music for that film was so...obvious, for lack of a better word. But then I heard other things he did after that which made me realize he was good. And IMO some of the very best musical direction the Oscar telecast ever had, happened in the years he was in the pit. Which is consistent with his knowledge and appreciation of the greats of film scoring.

And really, it's doubtful Rocky would be so iconic if not for his music. So I guess sometimes obvious is good.

Edited by Milburn Stone
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1 hour ago, Rinaldo said:

 I only wish it were an hour long, and officially scheduled, rather than just a few minutes.

TCM should really do at least an hour documentary on the composers of classic films, and if I'm dreaming bigger, a series devoting individual episodes to the ones Rinaldo mentions, and others.  Hey. I can dream, can't I?

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21 hours ago, Milburn Stone said:

I wrote off Bill Conti from his Rocky score (which was the first time I encountered him) because his music for that film was so...obvious, for lack of a better word. But then I heard other things he did after that which made me realize he was good. And IMO some of the very best musical direction the Oscar telecast ever had, happened in the years he was in the pit. Which is consistent with his knowledge and appreciation of the greats of film scoring.

And really, it's doubtful Rocky would be so iconic if not for his music. So I guess sometimes obvious is good.

It's funny because I think what made the score memorable was how NOT obvious it was! The first movie is a gritty, low budget story of a small time boxer in lower class Philly but he has the music for a superhero! A lot of that is from director John Avildsen who wanted it to sound classical.

Conti's score for The Right Stuff is my favorite. Originally director Phillip Kaufman didn't want a big score and Conti was not his original choice. As Conti explains:

 

 

Edited by VCRTracking
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Thank you for sharing that Bill Conti interview, @VCRTracking. I really liked him.

Gonna have to listen to his music for The Right Stuff again. I'll tell you the score of his that really won me over. The one for the Disney live-action Adventures of Huck Finn (1993). It's just beautiful.

And of course he was a good tunesmith, with his theme for Dynasty, and the music for the Bond song "For Your Eyes Only."

Although I commented in my post on his musical direction of the Oscars being the best that broadcast has ever had, I had no idea until watching the interview that he'd done 19 of those telecasts!

Here's a chunk of his Huck Finn music.

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On 11/6/2020 at 10:44 PM, StatisticalOutlier said:

I watched it again solely to look for Miss Sommerville.  I looked at each nurse's face in every scene (they helpfully wore uniforms and caps), and I just don't see her. 

Thanks for checking again!  I don't know who that IMDB poster saw, but I've come to the conclusion Miss Somerville simply isn't in the background before her reveal.  Now whether that's because it was always meant to be that way or Miss Somerville's earlier scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, we may never know.  

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On 11/8/2020 at 3:12 PM, Milburn Stone said:

Thank you for sharing that Bill Conti interview, @VCRTracking. I really liked him.

Gonna have to listen to his music for The Right Stuff again. I'll tell you the score of his that really won me over. The one for the Disney live-action Adventures of Huck Finn (1993). It's just beautiful.

 

I found his comments on using music from The Planets really interesting, since the film did end up using quite a bit of the Holst work. 

It starts out with "Mars, Bringer of War" as Glenn lifts off and then transitions into "Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity" and "Neptune, the Mystic." Commenters on the YouTube clip say some of the other music is from Henry Mancini's score for The White Dawn. Can anyone confirm?

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On 11/16/2020 at 12:52 PM, Charlie Baker said:

The Academy museum is scheduled to open in April.

Debbie Reynolds' Costume Collection and the Academy Museum

I read the comments to that article.  I figured it's safe--it's the New York Times, and the article is about costumes.  😀

I thought y'all might find this one interesting:

Quote

Debbie Reynolds presented fashion shows of her costume collection as fundraisers. I modeled for her in one such fundraiser in Santa Barbara in the '70s. At 5 '3" and weighing 98 lbs. I was too large to wear several of the costumes. The girl who managed to squeeze into one of Vivian [sic] Leigh's costumes never made it on stage. She passed out in the dressing room. She could not breathe properly because the dress was so tight. Many of those stars must have been very tiny.

 

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On 11/19/2020 at 10:55 AM, Charlie Baker said:

The hundredth anniversary of her birth today.

Gene Tierney

Thank you for pointing this out, @Charlie Baker. She's a special favorite, though she didn't end up in as many wonderful movies as I might have hoped. But Laura is enough to make anyone immortal.

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43 minutes ago, Rinaldo said:

Thank you for pointing this out, @Charlie Baker. She's a special favorite, though she didn't end up in as many wonderful movies as I might have hoped. But Laura is enough to make anyone immortal.

Leave Her to Heaven is great. My guilty pleasure is The Mating Season. Which has the advantage of Thelma Ritter. 

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On 11/20/2020 at 9:28 PM, GussieK said:

Leave Her to Heaven is great. My guilty pleasure is The Mating Season. Which has the advantage of Thelma Ritter. 

Those would be the other two titles I almost mentioned (and I don't feel all that guilty about The Mating Season). I enjoy both a lot. But I think she could have shone in romantic comedy, or in true noir (which Laura isn't really), and she didn't get them. We can all think of our favorite stars or near-stars who might have done more, or had more variety, in their careers. C'est la vie.

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Back to splash in the shallow end after tonight's Downhill,  so I can mention what "Silent Sundays" host Jacqueline didn't; namely that Ivor Novello was the most beautiful man in silent film (my adored Rudy & Ramon notwithstanding), and with that effortlessly tortured persona was also the perfect Hitchcock leading man.  He would have been a better Max in Rebecca and might have got me actually interested in -- ugh -- Vertigo.

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A couple of days ago, I watched Doctor Strangelove. It's been a while since I watched it, and I learned one important fact since then. 

A little bit of background. My long path to getting a degree in political science started with Cold War era nuclear deterrence game theory. So I was fascinated by how it was portrayed in this movie. Especially in the scene when there is a game theory debate between President Muffley and the Russian ambassador on why you would have a doomsday device without telling the US. 

What is interesting is that Kubrick didn't know at the time, and neither did the US government, but, is that the Soviets actually had a doomsday device like the movie described. It was called the Dead Hand. And, like in the movie they never told the US.

And then there are the great performances by George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden and Slim Pickens ("Shoot a person could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.")

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I hope some of us caught On Approval on Monday afternoon. It's one of the most delightful British comedies I know -- rather like what I always hope Noël Coward plays will be like (but they so seldom are). It's from a comedy of the 1920s by Frederick Lonsdale. Its stage origins show pleasantly (there are essentially only four characters, plus very brief bits by others), but it also has fun with the film medium -- starting with an off-topic narrated prologue, breaking the fourth wall on occasion. Clive Brook adapted, produced, and directed, as well as playing a principal role alongside Roland Culver, Beatrice Lillie, and Googie Withers. All are delightfully in style, and genuinely funny, and at 80 minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome.

I believe it's available On Demand this week, for the curious.

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Rear Window is on Thanksgiving evening, so I know what I'll be doing! Rear Window is my favorite Hitchcock movie, it has it all. Some great camera and cinematography, it uses its premise of spending almost the whole movie in one room well,  it has thrills, it has Jimmy Stewart in his one of his post war dramatic roles but also with that sweet Stewart everyman charm, the hilarious snark between Stewart and Thelma Ritter, and, of course, Grace Kelly and her amazing wardrobe that I always spend the whole movie being jealous of. It is, to me the quintessential Grace Kelly movie. 

Then my dad and I will have our celebratory "which Hitchcock movie is best" discussion. He loves Strangers on a Train and will die on that hill, and while I love Strangers on a Train, my heart belongs to Rear Window. 

Edited by tennisgurl · Reason: How did I fail to mention the great Thelma Ritter playing Stella, the best character in the movie?!?
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3 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

it has Jimmy Stewart in his one of his post war dramatic roles but also with that sweet Stewart everyman charm

It's a really interesting casting choice, as in Vertigo, because the characters themselves are not that sweet.  You have a voyeuristic, somewhat arrogant, obsessive man who pushes his girlfriend away for his own personal reasons, and an irrational, obsessive man who hounds a woman into adopting someone else's persona for his own gratification.  But we accept them as the hero because it's Jimmy Stewart.  One might wonder how a different casting choice could have made those characters unbearable.

Edited by meowmommy
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3 hours ago, meowmommy said:

It's a really interesting casting choice, as in Vertigo, because the characters themselves are not that sweet.  You have a voyeuristic, somewhat arrogant, obsessive man who pushes his girlfriend away for his own personal reasons, and an irrational, obsessive man who hounds a woman into adopting someone else's persona for his own gratification.  But we accept them as the hero because it's Jimmy Stewart.  One might wonder how a different casting choice could have made those characters unbearable.

Vertigo was Hitchcock's most personal film. Having learned a bit more about Hitchcock over the years, I find he almost used Stewart as an actor stand-in for himself. Vertigo is well regarded today, but it was poorly received at the time. As a consequence, Hitchcock blamed Stewart even though Stewart was critically well received. That was one of Stewart's best roles and they had already worked on three other films including the first one Rope where Stewart was a bit stiffer and arguably his worse Hitchcock movie performance. Stewart wanted or was going to be in North by Northwest but Hitchcock ended their collab and went with Cary Grant.

I grew up with a lot of these Hitchcock movies but upon rewatching and knowing more about the director, I'm definitely a bit creeped out by some aspects. However, I can't deny how good the movies look and how well shot they are especially Rear Window.

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1 hour ago, Athena said:

Stewart wanted or was going to be in North by Northwest but Hitchcock ended their collab and went with Cary Grant.

Which makes an interesting criss-cross with Rope, for which the first-choice casting for Rupert was Cary Grant. But for whatever reason (stories vary) he didn't do it, and James Stewart was cast instead. Screenwriter Arthur Laurents has written that he was especially disappointed that they didn't get Grant, because the only way the gay subtext could be conveyed in that era was through the personal qualities that the three main actors conveyed, and Stewart was so unambiguously heterosexual that he killed that whole idea.

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On 11/25/2020 at 10:24 AM, tennisgurl said:

Rear Window is on Thanksgiving evening, so I know what I'll be doing! Rear Window is my favorite Hitchcock movie, it has it all. Some great camera and cinematography, it uses its premise of spending almost the whole movie in one room well,  it has thrills, it has Jimmy Stewart in his one of his post war dramatic roles but also with that sweet Stewart everyman charm, the hilarious snark between Stewart and Thelma Ritter, and, of course, Grace Kelly and her amazing wardrobe that I always spend the whole movie being jealous of. It is, to me the quintessential Grace Kelly movie. 

Then my dad and I will have our celebratory "which Hitchcock movie is best" discussion. He loves Strangers on a Train and will die on that hill, and while I love Strangers on a Train, my heart belongs to Rear Window. 

I too love Rear Window, but I also really like Shadow of a Doubt, which will be the last of the 12 films shown during this Hitchcock marathon.

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21 hours ago, Calvada said:

I too love Rear Window, but I also really like Shadow of a Doubt, which will be the last of the 12 films shown during this Hitchcock marathon.

Those are great, and I especially enjoyed the chance to see Strangers on a Train again, and this morning The Lady Vanishes. The former has one of the most memorable acting performances in any Hitchcock film, from Robert Walker, and the latter has a suite of fun performances from Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Dame May Whitty, Paul Lukas, and that silly pair of cricket-loving chaps who caught on so with the British public that they were spun off into three other (otherwise unrelated) movies.

Edited by Rinaldo
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Think Notorious, Strangers on a Train and Vertigo are my favorite Hitchcock films. He really was able to get something dark and sinister out of actors like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. 

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