With the current election season fully upon us, I’m feeling like we all need a laugh, but a simple escapist movie just won’t do. So I’m proposing one of these three comedy classics:
Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
This is the good Preston Sturges version, not the crappy remake with Dudley Moore. If you’ve never seen a Sturges film, he was able to walk the line between comedy and tragedy better than anyone else in classic Hollywood, and he seemed to consider the Production Code to be a series of suggestions, not something he needed to take seriously.
Unfaithfully Yours is a comedic film noir that centers around Rex Harrison’s character becoming convinced that his much younger wife, played by Linda Darnell, is being unfaithful to him. He imagines three different scenarios of how he will get revenge on her for this and, being Sturges, it all goes wrong in the funniest possible way, and even manages a heartfelt happy ending. You’ll be a little shocked at just how dark it gets, but that only makes the subsequent pratfalls funnier.
To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
Another film that was so good that they decided to make a crappy remake in the 1980s, though at least Mel Brooks’ attempt included a scene where he and Anne Bancroft sing “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish.
If you’ve never seen an Ernst Lubitsch film, you’ll see why his name is still an adjective to this day, usually to explain why someone’s effort fell short of being quite as good as the man who had “the Lubitsch touch.” He manages to make the Nazi invasion of Poland into a classic comedy that also has almost unbearable moments of tension, as when Carole Lombard realizes that she’s trapped in Gestapo headquarters with no way to escape. You won’t think that you’ll find “So they call me ‘Concentration Camp Ehrhardt’?” to be funnier every time it’s repeated, but you will.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
By request! At first, it may look like this doesn’t fit with the other two since it’s an original film, but it’s really a loving parody of the first three Frankenstein films made by Universal Pictures in the 1930s: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Even the trailer is done in the period style (though you may recognize the voice of the narrator). It’s funny in and of itself, but it’s even funnier if you’ve seen the three Universal films, because you can see how Gene Wilder brings bits of Basil Rathbone and Colin Clive into his performance as Dr. Frederick Fronkensteen … er, Frankenstein.
The original trailer for each film is linked in the title, so feel free to watch before deciding. Vote early, vote often!
For the next installment of the Weekend Movie Club, I am going east, to India. If you missed our first installment check it out, here. I grew up watching Hindi movies and more importantly listening to Hindi movie numbers. I must have heard and watched many more songs than the movies themselves. Growing up I used to turn up my nose at most of the offerings that came out of the movie industry which is now popularly known as Bollywood. There was a dichotomy between commercial cinema and art cinema and there very few popular Hindi movies that didn’t insult your intelligence or so it seemed to me. For twenty odd years, the new Hindi movies that I must have watched could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Now that I am at a distance from both my childhood and Bollywood, I think I may have judged those movies harshly. Hollywood can be pretty formulaic too. They have different formulas, that’s all. Since last year I have been rediscovering Indian cinema, particularly Hindi movies, mainly through their music. Through my YouTube meanderings, I have stumbled across many gems. The list of movies that I want to see keeps growing by the day. Either I have become more forgiving or the movies have gotten better. For example, there are many more movies with female protagonists which don’t have a love story as their focus, than the Hindi cinema of yore or even present day Hollywood. Here is a list of three movies with strong female leads. You can click on the links below to see the trailers with English subtitles.
Queen: Rani (Queen), a sheltered young woman from Delhi gets dumped the day before her wedding. Her solo European honeymoon turns into a voyage of internal and external discovery.
Neerja: A biopic about Neerja Bhanot, flight attendant on the hijacked Pan Am flight 73, whose bravery saved many lives.
Jai Gangaajal: A district police superintendent takes on a corrupt and lawless politician who rules the district within an iron hand in the north Indian hinterland.
So vote early and often. You can also leave suggestions in the comments below.