Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hollywood's Handsomest Leading Man: Top 5 Favorite films

If I had to pick a favorite actor from Hollywood's Golden age it would be Cary Grant.

He's tall, dark, suave, debonair, and devastatingly handsome. What woman doesn't love the cleft in his chin? His Cary Grant persona comes through in all his films. Grant was a multi-talented actor, but in my opinion he excelled at comedy.

Grant's career in film spanned over 34 years and 76 films, so trying to narrow it down to the top 5 favorites will be a challenge, but here goes:

5.) Bringing Up Baby (1938) starring: Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn

Grant plays a mild-mannered, slightly nerdy zoologist, Dr. David Huxley, who is trying to get a million dollar grant to help fund the museum that he works at. While trying to obtain the grant, he is pursued by Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) an erratic and sometimes irksome heiress with a pet leopard named Baby! Chaos and hilarity ensue.

This black and white screwball comedy from 1938 was directed by Howard Hawks. Hawks also directed Grant in other well-known films such as: I Was A Male War Bride (1949), Only Angels Have Wings (1939), and His Girl Friday (1940).

Even though Bringing Up Baby did not do well at the box office when it was initially released, it's garnered more attention and credit over the years. In 2006, Premiere Magazine ranks this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies of All Time." Grant's performance as Dr. David Huxley was also ranked 68 on the list of "The 100 Greatest Performances of All Time."

Bringing Up Baby is not the first pairing of Grant and Hepburn. They  would also be teamed up in Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Holiday (1938), and last, but not least The Philadelphia Story (1940).

Fun Film Trivia:  Actor Christopher Reeves based his performance as Clark Kent in the "Superman" franchise on Cary Grant's character Dr. David Huxley.
Katharine Hepburn was generally 'fearless' of the leopard that played Baby and even enjoyed petting it. Grant, on the other hand, was not so much and often a double was used in the scenes where his character and the leopard had to make contact.

4.) Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starring: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Jack Carson, and Peter Lorre.

Grant plays dramatic critic Mortimer Brewster who finds out on his wedding day to Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane) that his adored maiden aunts (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) kill lonely old men as a kindness and that insanity runs in his family.

Frank Capra directed this dark, madcap comedy. Capra is probably best known for directing It's A Wonderful Life (1946).

In this film, Grant shows off his talent for physical comedy. Whether he's tripping over chairs or finding bodies in window seats, he does it was class and humor. Some of Grant's facial expressions in this film are unforgettable....thankfully they are forever captured on film for audiences to still enjoy.

If dark comedies appeal to you, I would put Arsenic and Old Lace at the top of your list to watch.

Fun Film Trivia: Cary Grant donated his entire salary for this film ($100,000) to the U.S. War Relief Fund.
When Mortimer is sitting in the graveyard, one of the tombstones has the name Archie Leach on it. Archie Leach was Cary Grant's real name.

3.) Walk Don't Run (1966) starring: Cary Grant, Samantha Eggar, and Jim Hutton

Walk Don't Run is a re-working of a film done by George Stevens called The More the Merrier (1943) starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Colburn.

In Walk Don't Run two men (Cary Grant and Jim Hutton) share an apartment with a single woman (Samantha Eggar) during a housing shortage in Japan during the 1964 Summer Olympics.

Walk Don't Run was Grant's last film. He retired after this film at age 61. In part, I think he retired because he was getting too old to play the romantic lead and I think that perhaps he didn't want to see himself get 'old' on screen.  His only daughter Jennifer Grant (with 4th wife Dyan Cannon) was born February 26, 1966 when Grant was 62 and I think that he also wanted to focus on being a father.

Fun Film Trivia: In a few scenes in this film, Grant is seen whistling theme music from two of his previous movies Charade (1963) and An Affair To Remember (1957).
Walk Don't Run is the only film where Grant doesn't get the girl, but plays the role of match-maker between Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar.

2.) Father Goose (1964) starring: Cary Grant and Leslie Caron

Father Goose is set during WWII. Grant plays Walter Eckland, a man who reluctantly takes a post on an island, scouting for enemy ships and reporting back. He gets more than he bargained for when a French teacher, Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and her students, all female invade the island because they are on the run from the Japanese. 
This movie derives it's title from Grant's character's code name: Mother Goose.
Due to enemy complications, Catherine and her students are unable to be evacuated safely and romance slowly develops between the feisty Miss Freneau  and the stubborn Eckland. 
Father Goose was shot on location in Jamaica. It has a very tropical feel. It's one of these films I like to watch in the middle of the winter.
This film became the 7th highest grossing film of 1964 grossing $12,500,000 at the domestic box office.

Fun Film Trivia: Grant was offered the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady (1964), but turned it down to do this role in Father Goose. He wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Catherine, but she was already committed to My Fair Lady. 
In later years, Grant claimed that his role in the film was most like his personality. Grant also kept in touch with most of the girls (the students) as they grew up and had families of their own. 

1.) An Affair To Remember (1957) starring: Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr

 Nickie Ferrante (Grant) and Terry McKay (Kerr) meet on an ocean voyage. He's engaged to an heiress and she's in a long term relationship. Both try to initially fight the attraction because they are involved with other people. But they end up falling in love and agreeing to meet 6 months later on top of the Empire State Building. 

An Affair To Remember is my favorite film of Grant's.  I feel like Grant is at the pinnacle of his career when he made this movie. He just looks so handsome and suave in this role. Grant has great chemistry with really believe that they are star-crossed lovers. I first watched this film when I was a teenager and still after countless viewings of this movie I still love it and I still cry at the end. 

An Affair to Remember is a re-make of a film called Love Affair (1939) both films were directed by Leo McCarey. 
If you love a good love story (no pun intended) you should watch An Affair To Remember.

Fun Film Trivia: Grant and Kerr improvised many of their scenes and lines throughout filming and many of those scenes/lines made it into the final cut of the movie that came from the actors improvisation.
References in Nora Ephron's Sleepless in Seattle (1993), revitalized interest in this movie again and led to an additional 2 million in VHS sales of the 1957 classic.  

I hope that you enjoyed my list of top 5 favorite Cary Grant films.
Did your favorite Grant film make the cut?  Any films I omitted that you would add?
Would love to hear your comments.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman...Both challenges and charms readers.

I confess when I selected this book to review I was slightly basing my opinion on the impressive and intriguing cover. Little did I know that I'd be taken on an adventure back to 1217.

Chivalrous (Book 2 in the Valiant Hearts series) by Dina L. Sleiman tells the story of Lady Gwendolyn Barnes who prefers riding horses and fighting like a knight than the more lady-like tasks of the day such as embroidery.

Now sixteen her controlling father sees her more as a marriage pawn to be sold off to the highest this case he has selected a knavish knight for his daughter.

Gwen is opposed to marriage and family partly because of not wanting her parents marriage and because she sees how her father treats her mother and she wants none of it. Until she meets Sir Allen of Ellsworth.

Allen and Gwen must fight for their futures as they struggle to find love, destiny, and their true identities.

I liked Lady Gwendolyn Barnes the moment she appeared on the pages of this story. I admired her for wanting to learn how to fight and ride a horse when this was not typically the custom for ladies during this time period. One of the qualities I liked about Gwen was she was always willing to stand up to injustice.

Sir Allen was everything a knight should be.  He was kind, humble, and most importantly he considered his relationship with God to be of the highest importance. I love how the author has him frequently praying asking God's guidance and searching the scriptures for answers to his questions. He was everything a hero ought to be and more. He also took being a knight and the rules/code of a knight very seriously. I really liked Allen's constant effort to remain honorable.

Ms.Sleiman is a wonderful story-teller. Her descriptions make you feel like you are right there in the action/ scene. When Gwendolyn formally meets Sir Allen I loved the author's description:

"He lifted her hand and kissed it, sending pleasant shivers to dance across her skin, up her arm, and down her spine. Again he stared deeply into her eyes. Though she must steal her heart against any romantic silliness, something told her that she could happily lose herself in the swirling hazel pool of his gaze." (Sleiman, 91)

I know we live in the 21st century, but personally I would love if men still kissed ladies hands and put the title 'lady' before our first names.

I went through a gambit of so many emotions though reading this book. I laughed a lot, cried some, and cheered incessantly.

Ms. Sleiman's books will be on my 'favorites' shelf and I will definitely be adding her books to my 'must read' pile. Looking forward to reading more books by her.

By the end of this book, I wanted to take on the world and go on an adventure. Read Chivalrous by Dina L. wont' be sorry you did. You'll only wonder why you didn't read it sooner.

~~  Chivalrous was provided to me by Bethany House in return for my honest opinion. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, for which I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone ~~