One of Spike Lee’s first features, She’s Gotta Have It sounded up my alley due to its female protagonist and sex-positive outlook. Tracy Camilla Johns stars as Nola Darling, an independent young woman who openly dates multiple men at the same time, feeling more comfortable if she isn’t tethered to one man. The film documents her relationships with three disparate beaus: Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks) is an attentive but possessive regular guy, Mars (Spike Lee) is an immature goof, and Greer (John Canada Terrell) is an intelligent but narcissistic model.
The Lady Vanishes has been on my to-see list for a while, as I’ve always heard it’s one of his best. The film begins in a small, fictional European country where visitors are currently stranded at a mountain inn during a snowstorm. When the weather clears, American socialite Iris (Margaret Henderson) hits her head on the way to the train, but a cheerful British nanny named Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) takes care of her as their journey begins. After taking a nap, Iris wakes up to find Miss Froy gone, and none of the other passengers seem to have any memory of her existence- some assume the young woman is hallucinating due to her bump on the head.
The HFA has devoted a series to Alfred Hitchcock from July through September, showing almost everything in his rather large ouevre, and I finally got myself down there to catch some screenings. Rebecca was a priority, mainly because I knew it was the only one of his films to win best picture, and I’d heard it was really good. The story follows a young woman (Joan Fontaine) who meets and quickly marries a wealthy, middle-aged aristocrat (Laurence Olivier) while on holiday in the south of France. When the couple returns to his British estate, the shy and nervous new bride finds herself constantly met with derision from the head housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Judith Anderson), as well as unwanted reminders of her husband’s elegant first wife, Rebecca, who drowned a year prior.
A few months ago I read the memoir of early Hollywood screenwriter Frances Marion, and became a little obsessed with her and her various juicy and enlightening anecdotes about the industry. Of the many films she worked on, Min and Bill stuck out in my mind for her loving stories about Marie Dressler, a successful stage performer who fell on hard times as she aged but was pulled back into stardom with roles in 1930s comedies thanks to Marion’s help. Min and Bill represents Dressler’s Hollywood peak, garnering her an Oscar for Best Actress, and I was happy to find a copy of it at my local video store.
The Somerville Theatre has been doing a series of silent films on the big screen with original musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, and I think that is just a super swell idea. I’d heard Jeff’s fantastic keyboarding at the Sci-Fi Marathon a few years ago, and have since wanted to see more silents with live music. When The General popped up on their schedule, I knew that was my priority. Set in the early days of the Civil War, the film stars Buster Keaton as Southern train engineer Johnnie Gray.