Orphan Annie thought going to the movies was beyond her wildest dreams.
During the Great Depression, the time in which Annie
takes place, movies offered escapism.
I can count on one finger how many times I’ve attended the movie theatre this year due to the economy. But, I have not missed a movie education.
In fact, I have gained an extended education in writing.
TCM—Turner Classic Movies—features crime author Lee Child as its December guest programmer. He will talk with host Robert Osborne about the movies that inspired his writing.
While I have not read Child’s books, I thought it was a great idea to interview an author about the movies he believed told the best stories.
What inspires writers is great storytelling. When a movie is constructed with a well-written script, delivered by strong acting and cameras, I am inspired.
Ladies of Leisure
Courtesy of http://furglamor.com
Ladies of Leisure, one of Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck’s earliest movies, made my remote control stop on TCM. For what reason did I stop? Was it Barbara Stanwyck’s character rowing in a fancy dress away from a boat party? She did not care to tie off the row boat when she got off.
She stars as a party woman who lives off men’s money in the 1920′s. Aside from my strong interest in the decade, I was enraptured by the writing and lines. In the scene when she she stays the night at Ralph Graves‘ studio because they’ve worked late, the rain runs down the window as she takes off her shirt. You see the blur of her back.
You feel the romance and edge Capra wanted audiences to see. Keep in mind, this was pre-Hollywood code days.
Later, the turn of the door knob captivates your attention. It is slow and intense. Ralph Graves comes in and Barbara’s character pretends to sleep. He puts another blanket over her.
The emotion in her face the next morning when she realizes just how much in love she is with Ralph Graves cannot be repeated by another actress. It is intense and yet real. In such an early picture, fancy words weren’t thrown in. Love often comes without the right words.
People dig inside themselves for what they should say.
Marie Prevost’s performance as Stanwyck’s roommate stole the show. She made me laugh in every scene. Jo Swerling translated the original Broadway script from a complete melodrama to a movie with some humor.
I admit I stopped watching near the end because the melodrama between Ralph Grave’s mother, in the movie, and Barbara Stanwyck drove me crazy. Once Marie was out of the movie, I lost interest. There was too much crying for no reason.
Maybe writing from two boys’ point-of-view for 6-and-a-half years has caused me to turn my head away from tears and despair. But, it has taught me appreciate a good fight scene.
Stand Up and Fight
Robert Taylor starred as a formerly wealthy man who comes into a Maryland town that looks like the Wild West. Stage coach is trying to compete with the railroad. The stage coach manager in town hides the fact men kidnap runaway slaves to take them back below Maryland. Robert Taylor stands up to the manager, played by Wallace Beery.
The fight scene in the snow between Taylor and Beery stands out. You could see an active fight. It was not like some modern films in which the bloody fight is done within the ten seconds. No, this was a brawl.
The formula was simple. Two tough men fought in pouring snow until they were worn out. All the other men who had chased after Taylor were dead. Horses were shot or had run off.
Two men, weary of fists, must travel twenty miles back to the town in the snow during the night. The film does not rush the walk. Why? They have been shooting, fighting, and then Taylor and Beery must fight for their lives against the weather.
Beery collapses first. You think, “Get up.” Taylor gets him up.
A few minutes later, when Taylor collapses, he can’t get up. He won’t get up. Beery collapses. The snow begins to cover their bodies.
Do they survive?
Watch the movie.
It’s what makes a simple walk inspirational.
By Rebecca T. Dickinson
- The TCM Top Twelve for December (journeysinclassicfilm.com)
- Double Indemnity (1944) #29 (watchingafi100.wordpress.com)