The besties review
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My Man Godfrey
My first William Powell film and only my second Carole Lombard, and I have to say this was a complete delight. It’s zany and dry, while also managing to be classically romantic. Powell and Lombard have great chemistry, but they shine even better individually. Godrey’s mysterious backstory, Irene’s pathetic displays of overacting, and the Bullock family’s non-stop antics make for a full 90 minutes of comedy. I don’t normally enjoy movies of this era (the 30s) as much as I did this. I’ll definitely be revisiting this film and maybe more Gregory La Cava flicks in the near future.
His Girl Friday
Wow, another gem! Though I have had this movie on my watchlist for a while, I had somehow avoided knowing any details about the characters or plot. Imagine my surprise when I realized it’s a movie about a female journalist trying desperately to write an article about a convicted criminal on the night before his execution! This is one that definitely grew on me, even as I was watching it. Cary Grant is doing his Cary Grant thing (which I love, don’t get me wrong), but oh my goodness Rosalind Russell! I have never seen Russell before, so this was really a treat. Her character is supremely funny and elegant, upstaging the dashing Grant in almost every scene they’re in together.
Additionally, I love the fact that the plot was not all about the romance. The death-row-escaped-convict-corrupt-politician stuff was great, and while I think Russell is still the star of this film, all the side bits only added to her character’s journey. The only real downside are the handful of dated racial jokes/references. Though it made me uncomfortable for sure, luckily it never rose past the level of tasteless banter (unlike Holiday Inn, *ahem*), so I don’t think it makes the movie unwatchable.
The Philadelphia Story
I love Jimmy Stewart. Now onto the review…
This one is unique because it actually has two sets of couples, which means four (count ‘em, FOUR!) movie stars you get to hang out with. Stewart and Hepburn are the standouts for me, since it kind of felt like Grant was in cruise control here, but Ruth Hussey was also quite charming. That said I don’t think I really loved this as much as I wanted to. The first act was a little slow and the story as a whole just felt a little weak to me. I still liked it a lot, especially all the identity switching and the romantic bits between Hepburn and Stewart after the party, but this mostly just felt like a bunch of super attractive, funny, famous people hanging out together… and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Ball of Fire
Awesome, amazing, astounding (synonyms)— oh, how I loved this film! Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck are my favorite match-up thus far. The way Cooper’s heady professionalism clashes with Stanwyck’s sensual, care-free attitude makes for a relationship that is both hilarious and heartfelt, but what really hooked me was the set-up.
Ball of Fire has the most complex, unique, and poetic plot of any classic rom-rom I’ve watched so far. To summarize for those who might not be familiar with this terrific film— Professor Bertram Potts (Cooper) is a handsome but sheltered grammarian who seeks to venture outside his comfort zone in order to write a comprehensive encyclopedia entry for “slang.” As his project begins, he enlists the help of one Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck), a crafty nightclub performer who uses Potts to hide from the police after her mob boss boyfriend is arrested. In case you couldn’t tell by their obviously contrasting names, Bertram and Sugarpuss couldn’t be more different! And yet, they are perfect for each other. Oh, and also along for the ride are seven adorable old professors who work on the encyclopedia alongside Potts. In an effort to utilize some slang in this review, I must declare that this film is nothing short of a hoot and a holler!
Ball of Fire ranks up there with the best romantic comedies of all time, and it’s one of my favorite film discoveries in a long while. If you have never seen Ball of Fire, I recommend you watch it right now. I was surprised to have enjoyed it so much, especially since it is not talked about nearly as much as His Girl Friday and The Philadelphia Story.
P.S. I love the fact that a bunch of these romantic comedies also feature the mafia? Cool.
Some Like it Hot
Not much I can say that hasn’t already be said about Marilyn Monroe “and her bosom companions,” and I’m feeling musical, so here’s a little ditty for ya:
Jazz music, buttermilk,
Jack Lemmon’s cackle
Cary Grant cosplay
And lots of boat travel
Vassar girls, Daphne twirls
These are a few of my new favorite things!
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!