Wednesday 1 August 2012

My First Movie Blogathon

Although, I am only twenty and my childhood should have been filled with stories of the Muppets, Sesame Street and Toy Story, classic films seemed to have followed me from my first movie until now. Mostly Disney concoctions, my first film experiences are full of bright technicolour, brilliant musical numbers and enchanting lead characters of 1960’s cinema. They had an appeal and sweetness as well as exciting storylines that seemed to interest me more than the modern film. But, at the age of seven I didn’t understand why these films were different or even that they were created decades before. The year didn’t seem to matter, but somehow I knew they were special.

My First Comedy

The movie given the honour of being my first film comedy is the little known movie ‘Blackbeard’s Ghost’ (1968) with the hilarious English actor Peter Ustinov in the title role as the ghost of the once powerful and feared Blackbeard caught in limbo between this world and the next. I think it was his mannerisms, his smile and his cute eye movements that made him so appealing to me as a child. Blackbeard’s connection to the living world is through Steve Walker (Dean Jones) who is the only one to see Blackbeard and is always attempting to prevent him from causing trouble. My two favourite scenes are, first when he sees Blackbeard and they are having a conversation in the street. Steve is still unaware that other people cannot see Blackbeard and he begins chatting, fighting and hitting, to other people, is the air. He looks mad. Another is at the athletics meet when Blackbeard, determined that Steve’s team should win, sabotages the others and generally causes trouble.

In the midst of this is Jo Anne Baker (played by Suzanne Pleshette), who is a professor at the school Steve works at and later becomes his love interest. I found her beautiful and always wanted to look like her. I am smiling just thinking about memories of watching the movie early Friday night with my family, pizza and popcorn.

My First Musical  
I happened upon my first musical in a different way to ‘Blackbeard’s Ghost’ through my grandmother. I think it was my birthday or Christmas and Grandma, who normally gave me money, brought over a video with vibrant colours and two actors I had never seen before. The movie turned out to be ‘Mary Poppins’ (1964).

When Mary holds your hand, you feel soo grand...

I think most people know of the story of the mysterious nanny whose unconventional methods change the life of the two children, Jane and Michael. I love so many things about this film – the ‘Sister Suffragette’ song (even though I had no idea what a suffragette was), Mary’s bottom-less bag, Bert’s wonderful penguin dance, the Admiral and his odd habits, the tea party on the ceiling – the list goes on. I always wanted to be Jane whose life was turned from drab and boring to exciting in one fun-filled spoonful of sugar.
However, there was always parts of the movie that scared me and put a dapper on the song and dance spectacle; this was mainly the scene when Mr Banks takes his children into his bank and Mr Dawe’s ogles Michael for his money. But, soon enough the wind changes and Mr Bank’s sees the error of his ways and the family is happily reunited. The ending, although sweet, always made me sad. I don’t know whether it was because the movie was so long or just because it was fully entertaining but entering the real world after spending hours engulfed in the fantasy of ‘Mary Poppins’ was always difficult.

My First Precode
Although, it’s not really under the category of ‘my first film’ it is an experience that was new and thrilling and drew me down a different path of Hollywood history. Before, Precodes became my passion I was in love with a handful of classic stars – Marilyn, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn and most of all Bette Davis. When I discovered that Bette did some early films, I made it my mission to track them down. But, at first I wasn’t successful and instead I stumbled upon a Mae West staple, ‘She Done Him Wrong’ (1932).

At first I watched it for Cary Grant who I loved in ‘Talk of the Town’ and “Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer’ but the actor that so dominated in his later movies was in turn dominated by the bleached and buxom, Mae West. After years of watching subdued comedies under the Production Code I was startled by the frankness, wit and strange beauty of this film. I marvelled at her strut, her power over men and her odd musical numbers that were nothing like the fantasy filled songs of ‘Mary Poppins’. And overall I laughed the entire way through and was delighted when, at the end, Cary saved her from jail and married her. Strangely, this movie is now a favourite with my family and made me passionate about promoting the wonderful Precode era.

I really enjoyed reliving my film firsts and am craving the moment when I can sit down on a quiet Sunday and watch them all over again.   

Blink and you will miss it….


  1. Hi Emma, thanks for sharing your memories with us! I think Marry Poppins was the first musical I saw as well. I haven't seen Blackbeard’s Ghost but I like a lot of the live action Disney movies from that era, especially The AbsentMinded Professor.

  2. Back to the real world is always difficult
    I like your blog because you know look good film always with modern eyes.

    Excuse my English

  3. Thanks for your lovely comment and for following me. Its interesting to look at classic films - especially Precodes - because we dont know the history behind them. But I think that's half the find, first watching the film and then reading about the making of it:)

  4. Emma, I'm sorry I missed your post on Wednesday, but it was certainly worth the wait. I have seen "Blackbeard's Ghost" mentioned twice, and I'm sorry I never had the chance to watch the film. I have, of course, seen "Mary Poppins", probably as many times as an adult as a kid. I'm a big fan of precode films but I've never seen "She Done Him Wrong"; your joyous celebration of this teaming of Grant and West has me determined to change this the first change I have to watch the film.

    1. Its an amazing, though mainstream, Precode film I cannot reccommend it enough.

  5. Great entry! I used to watch MARY POPPINS all the time when I was a kid! My sister and I used to watch it 3-4 times a day. Thanks for participating!

  6. Great post! I think She Done Him Wrong is an excellent way to start out in pre-codes, though it might have a little backlash because not all pre-codes can match Mae West movies!