Friday, December 23, 2016

Film Flick: Holiday

We're continuing a holiday tradition on Never Fully Dressed by sharing some classic holiday films. Some might be institutions in your home this time of year; others might be delightful new friends, but they're all sure to impart some the season's spirit and sense of fun. Consider it my way of wishing you and yours nothing but the Happiest New Year.  

Holiday is indeed a holiday film, though not a Christmas movie. Rather, much of the story revolves
around New Year's and that 1930s standard symbol for glamour- a New Year Eve party.

When Cary Grant's character, Johnny Case, takes his first holiday, he meets and falls in love with Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). In a whirl-wind - and off-screen- romance, he proposes. Now all that's left to do is meet the girl's family. Easier said than done. The family runs in a different circle than Johnny- in fact, they're Old Money and not too keen to be impressed by Johnny's "commoner" background. The family does include some allies- A drunken brother is played with a surprising blend of sensitivity and comedy by Lew Aryes, and there's also Julia's sister, Linda, played Katherine Hepburn (one guess as to who is the real leading lady here). In fact, Linda is something of a kindred spirit to Johnny, and soon finds herself in love with both Johnny and what he represents to her- living life in one's own way.
For a screwball comedy, Holiday contains some surprisingly sophisticated relationships, including a very loving one between sisters who don't really understand each other, and the father's with each child. All of these relationships will be put to the test- especially Johnny and Julia's- when it becomes clear that the father and bride-to-be want Johnny to take a position in the family business, but all the man himself wants is to take a few years, now that he has saved enough, to explore the world and find himself!

This remake was directed by George Cukor, and the famed "women's director" might account for the nuanced performances and complex relationships. The story had been seen several of iterations before this though. The original film was made in 1930, with the same actor, Edward Everett Horton, playing the father. Before that, it was a play in 1928 with Katherine Hepburn understudying for the part she would portray 10 years later in this film.  She had also screen-tested with a scene from that same play in order to land her first film part, which shows she had many connections to the story! Interestingly though, Hepburn was not the only choice for the role- both Joan Bennett and Ginger Rogers were considered. Ultimately, the studio fell back on a pairing that they hoped would work, despite previous films being commercial failures.

This would be the third pairing of Katherine Hepburn with Cary Grant, and though their other films often get more praise, Holiday is worth watching. Grant plays things mostly straight here, but Hepburn is also more restrained, not such a caricature of the flighty, intellectual socialite she often portrayed in earlier films. There is a delicacy and sensitivity to her Linda that makes the comedy, when it comes, all the more sweet. Their usual chemistry shines through, especially in the their first meeting when she jokes about looking like a toy giraffe or when playing at being acrobats at a party. Perhaps another reason for the more restrained performance was the fact that the character Linda Seton was based on a real life person- Gertrude Sanford Legendre, a former d├ębutante who left high society to become a big-game hunter and later a spy for the OSS during WWI.

Still, don't mistake this nuance in acting as a sign the film is maudlin or a serious venture. It is a fun and funny film with a lot of zingers like, "When I find myself in a position like this, I ask myself what would General Motors do?- And then I do the opposite!" With its message of taking off time from viable work to "find yourself", it should be of little surprise that the film was not a financial success, but you may find you have more luck with it today. This would be a fun film to ring in the New Year with- or to watch through out the year, anytime you need a little Holiday.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Dog-Eared Page: Nuckcracker and Mouse King

The real reason why Marie didn't want to leave the Christmas table was that she had just caught sight of something she hadn't noticed before. Fritz's hussars had been parading near the tree. When they marched away, an excellent little man came into view. He stood there quietly, as though patiently waiting his turn.

One might have found fault with his build: his torso was too long and stout for his short, skinny legs, and his head was much too big for the rest of him. But, to make up for these disadvantages, the distinction of his dress showed him to be a man of taste and breeding. He was wearing a well-cut lavender hussar's jacket with lots of white frogging and buttons, breeches of the same stuff, and the daintiest little boots that had ever graced the feet of a student or even an officer. They were molded as neatly to his dainty little legs as if they had been painted on. Oddly enough, though, in view of these fine clothes, he had, hanging from his shoulders, a skimpy, ungainly cloak that looked almost as if it were made of wood, and he was wearing what appeared to be a miner's cap. But Marie remembered that Godfather Drosselmeier often wore a wretched-looking morning coat and a hideous cap, neither of which prevented him from being a dear, sweet godfather. And it also occurred to Marie that even if Godfather Drosselmeier were to dress as prettily as this little man, he wouldn't be as handsome. With Marie it was love at first sight, and the longer she gazed at the sweet little man, the more delighted she was with his good-natured face.
- Nutcracker and Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman

Monday, December 12, 2016

Film Flick: It Happened on 5th Avenue

We're continuing a holiday tradition on Never Fully Dressed by sharing some classic holiday films. Some might be institutions in your home this time of year; others might be delightful new friends, but they're all sure to impart some the season's spirit and sense of fun. Consider it my way of wishing you and yours nothing but the very merriest.  

Its not on the top of any Christmas film lists- but if you are looking for something heart-warming if a little schmaltzy- look no further than finding out what it was that happened when they say It Happened on 5th Avenue.

As the soldiers return from war, New York is facing a housing crisis! This causes several people to be out of housing- right before Christmas! One such is an ex-G.I. Jim (Don DeFore). He makes the papers after calling the landlord evicting him an octopus, but gets better luck when he meets a Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore). This enterprising hobo has been living in an unoccupied mansion on 5th Avenue and opens his doors to Jim. They later meet a young woman, Trudy (Gale Storm), when she enters into the house. They take her for a thief, but she is not what she seems- in fact, she's the daughter of the mansion-owner! Trudy and Jim both invite more people into the mansion till its quite a full house!  Jim invites his war time buddies and their young families, while Trudy- well, she invites her mother (Ann Harding) and father (Charles Ruggles) to be at the house under assumed identities so they can meet Jim. Trudy has her eyes on marrying him, but Dad does not approve- not that he can say as much when he's pretending to be a hobo too. All the mistaken identities, trespassing, and hijinks leads to many ridiculous situations that come to a head on Christmas Eve. Will happy endings prevail or will everyone end up in the clink? 

Despite being released in 1947, this film has more of a feeling of a 1930's screwball comedy, a la Frank Capra. In fact, the story was originally optioned by Frank Capra's Liberty Films in 1945, and intended to be the company's first production. Later that year, producer-director Roy Del Ruth acquired the story. It became the first production of the studio Allied Artists. Still, Frank Capra was among various celebrities who endorsed the film (Frank Capra had decided to pass up this story to pursue Its a Wonderful Life). This actually did not work for the film as positively as may have been hoped. Some critics looked down on the many stars and said instead that film was mildly entertaining but not worth all the praise. Those critics may have been wrong though, as the movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

It didn't win..... and not such a big surprise after all. Still, get a cozy blanket and a cup of hot cocoa, and It Happened One on 5th Avenue can make for a pleasant evening under the glow of Christmas lights. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

In December, Why Don't You...

Make pancakes for breakfast

Watch the Nutcracker

Attend a baby shower

Cheer on  a lighted Christmas Parade

Make a snowman

Go on a tour of homes to see scrumptious decorations

Bake some St. Lucia Buns

Set out a toy train beneath the Christmas Tree

Give to others (here are 10 ways and here are 10 more!)

Go old school and break out the board games for a family gathering!
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