A couple of weeks ago I received an Amazon alert, bringing to my attention the fact that the 1992 film Enchanted April was about to be available on DVD for the first time. I placed my order with barely a second thought. It’s one of my favorite movies, so was worth plunking down the money for it. I know I’ll watch it again and again, to immerse myself in a magical April in Italy.
In this day of downloadable movies and Netflix, I thought about other movies I’d acquired or wanted to acquire because they were among “Jackie’s Classic Movies.” The films I knew I’d want to see time and again, and usually they are pretty old films. Here’s my list – though I know as soon as someone else mentions their favorite films, I’ll probably jump in with, “Me too!” Surprisingly, quite a few of them are classic war films, and there’s usually one or two scenes that have pulled me in and made the whole movie memorable. The list is in no particular order (and I didn’t mean it to be this long, it just grew as I was writing):
Enchanted April: Truly, truly enchanting film about four women who escape 1920’s post WW1 London, for a month in an Italian castle. Magical, as I said.
The Dam Busters: With Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave – the heart stopping story of the RAF squadron tasked with bringing down Germany’s Ruhr dam in WW2. Final scenes when “boffin” (an old name for the government’s inventors) Sir Barnes-Wallis (Redgrave) is informed of the success of the operation, and the loss of life it entailed sum up a futility of war. There’s a remake on the way – heaven help us.
The Magnificent Seven:. The theme music pulled me in when I was a kid, along with Yul Brynner leading the Seven into town. Classic western
The Secret of Roan Inish: The legend of the Sielka, so beautifully told. Amazing scene when the sielka sheds her seal-skin to reveal a woman was beautifully filmed.
Whistle Down The Wind: Hayley Mills and Alan Bates. Children believe runaway murderer is Jesus. Great scene when Mills sees Bates in the distance being frisked by the police, and as he holds up his hands, the silhouette is that of Christ on the cross. Took your breath away. From a novel by Mary Hayley Bell – Mills’ mother.
The Guns of Navarone: Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn lead the story of a mish-mash team – including two women – who are tasked with taking out a huge enemy gun emplacement in German-occupied Norway. Final scene of a flotilla of navy ships “whooping” their success – which comes at a cost – always makes me tear up.
The Carry On Movies: Very British, bawdy, irreverent, comical, slapstick, all rounded off with a fast wit. Once seen, never forgotten, even though they are a bit dated now.
Gosford Park: Classic murder-mystery – gorgeous sets and equally gorgeous costumes, with a cast to die for.
Gallipoli: Peter Weir’s haunting story of the battle of Gallipoli which cost the lives of countless Australian, New Zealander (ANZAC) and British soldiers in the Great War. Told through the lives of two Australian “runners” (boys and men who were fast runners were used to run messages back and forth in both wars – my dad, age 12, was a “runner” in London during the Blitz in WW2). I couldn’t move from my seat in the movie theater when the film came to an end, then I looked around and virtually everyone was still seated, and weeping, even though the credits had run and there was just a blank screen.
National Velvet: Every horse-loving girl’s dream – young Elizabeth Taylor and her horse Pie storm the Grand National. The aftermath of watching the movie (that droning plea for an equine friend) eventually led my mother to say, “No, for the last time, you can’t have a horse. Do you think money grows on trees? And who’s going to feed the thing?”
Ice Cold In Alex: WW2 drama with British Army unit (John Mills in charge) making its way across the desert. A German spy, masquerading as South African ally (Anthony Quayle) leads them out of trouble. They talk about the ice cold beer they’ll enjoy once they reach Alexandria. In the final scene and having reached Alex, they are sitting at the bar with their ice cold beers in those tall fluted European lager glasses. John Mills runs his finger down the outside of the glass, and they all linger just looking at that beer ... and in come the squad searching for a German spy. I think of that scene on very hot days when I am a long way from a cold beer.
Brief Encounter (With Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson): 1946 story of a love that can never be.
Babette’s Feast : Set in 19th century Denmark. Babette, the cook to two God-fearing women serves up inventive dishes. She is left a legacy which she decides to spend on preparing a feast for the women and their guests. Turns out she isn’t the unassuming cook, but a celebrated French chef de cuisine. From a book by Isak Dinesen.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s: I so wanted to be Audrey Hepburn after watching this movie. In fact, after I watched The Nun’s Story (in which she starred with Peter Finch) when I was about nine years old, my mother told me to, “Get that sheet off your head before I take it off for you!” Years later, on my first visit to Manhattan (I was about 21), I went straight to Tiffany’s first thing in the morning, wearing a little black dress, and stood there with my coffee and donut as they put the diamonds back in the window for the day’s business. My breakfast at Tiffany’s.
There are many other films that I have loved (those Bogart and Bacall movies) or I couldn’t stop thinking about, but could never watch again (Breaking The Waves comes to mind – I was raw inside for days after watching that film), but this post is too long already.
Then of course there are those classics in the making, from Our Jim Born!
OK, so what are the all-time favorite movies that you would pay money to have on DVD or whatever format you prefer, so that you could watch them again ... and again.