This was a great year in vintage film for me–not only did my That’s Entertainment project start in earnest at the beginning of 2013, but The Vintage Cameo itself started in May–and both of these endeavors have led to me discovering some great classic movies throughout the year. So I thought I’d go through and pull together a list of some of my favorite older movies I saw for the first time in 2013. As expected, they’re mostly musicals, but I chose one for each month to cultivate some sense of order, as well as to restrict me from just talking about all the new Gene Kelly movies I saw.
So, without further ado, my best “firsts” of 2013:
Bye Bye Birdie: I had so much fun with this one. The simple, fabulous opening with Ann-Margret dancing and singing against a colorful backdrop sets the campy tone of the movie perfectly. It’s full of classic songs, simple staging, and a great cast.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane: Delicious, pulpy tale of jealousy and revenge. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford playing against each other rival any action movie’s fistfight climax.
Road to… Pictures: A bit of a cheat, as I watched these over a range of a few months, but March was the highest concentration of them, as well as my first theatrical experience (Road to Morocco at the Egyptian). The first picture I saw, Road to Bali, is still my favorite, but I became a big fan of the series overall, as well as becoming a bigger fan of the trio of actors that I came to know from these films. An interesting look at vintage exoticism, as well as consistently and devastatingly funny.
It Happened in Brooklyn: Lovely, lovely musical drama that left me absolutely gutted, thanks in part to a great set of characters lovingly and patiently developed. It’s certainly not the type of musical where bits of plot are thrown in between songs–the songs here are an essential part of the film, but not the only thing it has going on.
It’s Always Fair Weather: Nice, dramatic musical about three wartime friends who meet back up after 10 years. The story gets a little muddled in the middle–the two friends who aren’t Gene Kelly take a backseat to his wooing of Cyd Charisse for a long while–but finishes in a satisfyingly explosive way. Stand out numbers for me were “Baby You Knock Me Out” (Cyd at a boxing club) and “I Like Myself” (Gene on skates).
Viva Las Vegas: Insanely fun, “go-go” musical with great songs, great chemistry, and a great vibe. Very happy-go-lucky–not a ton of “dramatic tension” or “plot,” but it still totally works.
The Young Girls of Rochefort: Another breezy musical, starring real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac. It’s swinging ’60s cotton candy fluff, in sharp contrast to the musical melancholy of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (which is also great).
The Long, Long Trailer: Delightful comedy starring Lucy and Desi as newlyweds who buy a trailer instead of a home. Lucy was an incredible physical comedian, and as one might expect, the trailer offers lots of troubles to the young couple. I particularly loved Lucy trying to make dinner in the moving trailer, while her attempt at being a “perfect” wife literally collapses around her.
Looking For Mr. Goodbar: Dark drama that descends into an intoxicating brand of madness. A great look at seedy 1970s New York City, and a great performance by Diane Keaton.
The Women: Lovely drama putting an incredible assortment of ladies together in one place–I could watch endless movies with Norma and Joan facing off. The costuming is impeccable, topped off by a slightly-out-of-place-but-I-won’t-complain Technicolor fashion show in the middle of the black-and-white movie.
Easy Living: Fun, cheeky comedy about a career girl whose life is changed when a fur coat falls on her from the sky. Great, snappy Preston Sturges picture with lots of fun set dressings and costuming, as she’s treated to the height of 1937 luxury.