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
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 PrecodeAlthough, 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….