Earlier this year I mentioned that I play the saxophone in a community band and had a great time at our spring concert playing the tune “But Not for Me,” which was composed by George Gershwin. Yesterday during our fall concert, we played two more pieces by Gershwin so I thought why not do what I did then and discover what, if any ties they had to classic movies.
I hope you won’t mind though if I share a little story with you first. As I was getting ready for the concert, I was feeling way more nervous than usual (I could barely eat my lunch!) and was not feeling at all confident in my playing abilities.
But a funny thing happened as soon as we walked onto the stage, sat down, and started playing our first piece. All my nervousness seemed to vanish in an instant, and I realized that I love to perform on stage in front of an audience!
Now that might not sound like a big deal, especially to those of you who have any kind of stage experience, but as a once extremely shy introvert who has struggled my whole life with social awkwardness, unhealthy perfectionism, and a fear of doing pretty much anything in front of large groups, I never would have expected to find myself in that situation, especially since I don’t exactly possess a ton of musical talent. I’m not quite sure why I never felt that way at previous concerts, but it was quite an exhilarating revelation and now I can’t wait for our next one!
As for the two Gershwin pieces we played, the first was actually a medley of the songs “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Bidin’ My Time” and the other one was “Strike Up the Band.” They weren’t quite as fun to play as “But Not for Me” but it is always satisfying to play tunes that I am familiar with, so I really enjoyed performing them.
“Someone to Watch Over Me” was originally composed for the 1926 musical Oh Kay! and was introduced by English actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence. Lawrence, who was at one time close friends with English playwright Noel Coward, was known mostly for her career on stage in London and New York.
The song has been recorded by quite a few artists over the years including Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Rosemary Clooney, Barbra Streisand, and my personal favorite, Frank Sinatra. Sinatra also sings the song in the movie Young at Heart (1954), which co-stars another one of my favorite singers Doris Day.
“Bidin’ My Time” was featured in the 1943 version of Girl Crazy starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, the same movie that “But Not for Me” appeared in. I guess our director really likes music from that movie.
I love the scene in which Judy Garland sings the song with a quartet of singing, dancing cowboys. If you happen to check it out, which you can (and should!) here on YouTube, make sure to stick around till the end for a fun appearance in the number by Mickey Rooney.
The song was also recorded as a single by Teddi King, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and opera singer Willard White among others. My favorite version is Sarah Vaughan’s with her rich vocals bringing something extra special to the song.
As for the song “Strike Up the Band,” I was expecting to find out that it appeared in the 1940 movie of the same name, which like Girl Crazy starred Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. But I discovered instead that it was written for a 1927 Broadway musical and other than the title had no relation to the film.
Do you have a favorite version of any of these great George Gershwin standards? Have you ever performed them on stage? If so, I’d love to hear your story!
Are there any movies you like to watch when you’re feeling happy, sad, bored, etc.? For me, it’s rarely my emotions that determine the movie I watch, although sometimes the time of year or even the weather can play a part. I mean, who doesn’t love to watch a good mystery when it’s storming outside?! Well, I do anyway!
But when Frances stopped by my Facebook page and suggested I create a list of the best oldies to watch when you need cheering up, I thought it was a great idea. Even though I don’t usually pick a movie for that reason, I figured it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a few titles handy just in case I’m ever in need of some good cheer myself.
So after going through the list of all the classic movies that I have seen so far, I came up with the following movies that I think would put a smile on just about anyone’s face. (To learn more about each movie, click on the title which will bring you to its summary page on IMBd.com)
Laughter is the Best Medicine – Classic Comedies
It Happened One Night (1934) One of the first classic movies I ever watched, the hitchhiking scene with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert showed me early on that old movies can be just as laugh out loud funny as current movies. I never would have believed that before I discovered my love for classic film.
The Thin Man (1934) and the entire “Thin Man” series. This movie is just so much fun. I love the mix of comedy and mystery, and the wonderful chemistry between its two stars William Powell and Myrna Loy make them one of classic film’s greatest on-screen couples.
The Awful Truth (1937), The Philadelphia Story (1940) and His Girl Friday (1940) – There are very few actors that can cheer me up more than Cary Grant, and you can’t go wrong with any of these three hilarious comedies where he is paired with three different leading ladies who are very funny in their own right; Irene Dunne, Katharine Hepburn, and Rosalind Russell, respectively.
The Lady Eve (1941) – Okay, I’m stealing this description from my post about my favorite movies set on ocean liners, but this is why I love The Lady Eve and think you will too, especially if you could use something to brighten your day: “It has everything that I love most about classic films; witty dialogue, great performances by an impressive cast, superb direction by Preston Sturges, fabulous sets, and gorgeous fashions by designer Edith Head.
Music, Dancing, and . . . Feathers?
Footlight Parade (1933) – I probably could have chosen just about any movie featuring Busby Berkeley musical numbers, but I picked this one because it contains what I consider to be one of his most spectacular numbers, “By a Waterfall”. It’s also great to see another side to James Cagney as he shows off his often underrated song and dance skills.
Top Hat (1935) This is my personal favorite of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairings The movie contains the delightful dance number “Cheek to Cheek” where Ginger Rogers wears a beautiful dress covered in ostrich feathers. You can read more about that famous scene in this look Behind the Camera on tcm.com.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – I haven’t found much dissension among classic movie fans in thinking that this is one of the best musicals of all time. I seriously could watch Gene Kelly dance all day, and the “Good Morning” and “Moses Supposes” dance numbers with Kelly dancing along side Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor make this movie an absolute joy to watch.
Family Oriented Movies
Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) A nice, wholesome family comedy with one of the most endearing pairings from the classic movie era, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. This is just one of several in the “Andy Hardy” series of movies, but I picked this particular movie for the appearance of a young Lana Turner.
Curly Top (1935) – I know she doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I think Shirley Temple was adorable and very talented especially when it came to her tap dancing ability. As with many of her movies, she once again plays an orphan, but her rendition of the popular song “Animal Crackers in My Soup” and the uplifting turn her life takes when she is adopted by a loving bachelor make this one of my favorites of her movies.
Holiday Cheer – Classic Holiday Movies
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) – While much of this movie is not necessarily “cheery”, it is a very charming romantic comedy with an ending that made me smile. The movie starred Jimmy Stewart and the actress he once loved in real life, Margaret Sullavan, and they display great chemistry throughout the movie.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Natalie Wood’s delightful acting (she has such great facial expressions!), a sweet and charming performance by Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, and nostalgic scenes shot in New York City on the actual day of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, make this the perfect movie to watch if the holiday season has got you feeling a bit down.
Do you have a favorite go-to movie(s) when you need cheering up? Let me know in the comments section below!
My inspiration for choosing which state to cover next in this series was Joan Bennett, who starred in a few movies I’ve watched recently including, Secret Beyond the Door (1947) earlier this week. She was born in the state of New Jersey so that is the state I’m covering today.
A few of the actors and actresses from the state of New Jersey are:
Born: July 11, 1892 in Elizabeth, NJ
Died: December 17, 1962 (age 70)
Known for the Movies: Lost Horizon, The Hurricane, Make Way for Tomorrow, Stagecoach, Only Angels Have Wings, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone With the Wind, The Dark Mirror, It’s a Wonderful Life, High Noon
My Favorite Thomas Mitchell Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life
Interesting Facts About Thomas Mitchell:
- A very versatile performer, Thomas Mitchell worked on Broadway in various capacities for almost 20 years before starting his very successful film career. He then worked extensively on television in the 1950′s and early 1960′s.
- When he won the Tony Award for his performance in the musical Hazel Flagg in 1953, he became the first actor to win the “triple crown” of acting awards. He had previously won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the movie Stagecoach (1939) and an Emmy for his performance as Father Devlin in The Good of His Soul on “The Ford Television Theatre” in 1953. Thomas Mitchell is the second actor I’ve featured in this series to have won the triple crown. Melvyn Douglas from my post about the state of Georgia also accomplished the feat in 1967.
- In what is often considered the greatest year of movies, 1939, he starred in three of the films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Gone With the Wind. Continue reading »
I’m spending this summer day inside due to the unseasonably cool and cloudy weather we’re having here, so I thought this would be a good time to follow up my top 10 favorite actresses list with the list of my favorite actors.
As promised, Jimmy Stewart is firmly planted in the top spot. And as with my actresses list, after number one these are not necessarily in an exact order because I love them all so much, but it’s pretty close.
My top 10 favorite classic movie actors are:
- Jimmy Stewart
- Cary Grant
- James Cagney
- Gene Kelly
- Joseph Cotten
- William Powell
- Robert Taylor
- Claude Rains
- Tyrone Power
- Clark Gable
Honorable mention: Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy. I didn’t do an honorable mention for actresses, but I just had to for actors. Leaving Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy off my list almost felt like a crime, but I simply ran out of spots.
Who is your favorite classic movie actor? Your top 10?
This post is my contribution to the Barbara Stanwyck blogathon hosted by Aubyn at The Girl With the White Parasol.
Ask a classic movie fan, “What was your favorite year or the best year for movies?” and I’m guessing that more often than not you’d hear “1939” as the answer. At least that seems to be the case based on numerous discussions I’ve heard over the years. While there were definitely some great movies made that year, there is a year that stands out to me even more, 1941.
I’m not sure if I can definitively call it my favorite, but I’ve watched more movies from that year than any other in the classic era, and a few of my all time favorites were made that year including Sullivan’s Travels and The Lady Eve, the latter starring the actress being honored in this blogathon, Barbara Stanwyck.
Add to those the acclaimed classics Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, and another Barbara Stanwyck great, Meet John Doe, and I’d say it was one heck of a year for movies. And now I have a new favorite to add to that list, Ball of Fire, a movie that like Meet John Doe, starred Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Continue reading »
Has your favorite classic movie actor or actress changed over time or has the same person been occupying your top spot for as long as you can remember? For a long time now, I’ve considered Bette Davis my favorite actress, but there have been a few times recently when I’ve questioned whether or not Barbara Stanwyck really occupies my top spot instead.
One of those times was when I was looking over Barbara’s impressive filmography trying to decide which movie I would write about for the upcoming Barbara Stanwyck blogathon being hosted by Aubyn at The Girl With the White Parasol.
Even though the event isn’t until next month, there are already tons of great bloggers who have signed up to write about Barbara Stanwyck and her movies. I will be covering the comedy Ball of Fire (1941), which also stars Gary Cooper. Make sure to mark your calendars for July 16-22 and check out all the great posts. I love so many of her movies that it should make for a fun read!
Getting back to the matter of who’s my favorite actress, obviously it doesn’t really matter. They are both great actresses and have their own unique qualities, but the question did give me the idea to put together a top 10 list of my favorite classic movie actresses, oddly enough something I’ve never really taken the time to do before in all my years of being a classic movie fan.
As you can see, I decided to keep Bette number one, but Barbara is definitely a close second. The other actresses are not necessarily in the exact order, but I did try to rank them as best I could.
My top 10 favorite classic movie actresses are:
- Bette Davis
- Barbara Stanwyck
- Ingrid Bergman
- Myrna Loy
- Loretta Young
- Gene Tierney
- Claire Trevor
- Irene Dunne
- Norma Shearer
- Katharine Hepburn
I’ll follow up with a list of my favorite actors some time soon, but spoiler alert: don’t expect anyone other than Jimmy Stewart to be in the top spot!
I’m always interested in seeing how diverse the tastes and opinions of classic movie fans are, so please don’t hesitate to share your favorite actress in the comments section below! Or if you feel like taking the time, go ahead and list your entire top 10!