I get my love of movies from my parents. When I was a sprat, I’d try all kinds of strategies to stay up later and watch movies with my parents. They liked musicals and westerns, dramas and comedies, love stories and tales of swashbuckling pirates. It often surprises me how much we talked about the stories, and about the books that inspired them. Years later, what I remember most is the movies that were just about feeling good. Some were diversions created to boost morale during the Second World War; others were pure entertainment created in the era of the Hollywood studio machine. As a family, we loved the classics best.
1. Harvey – About a six foot tall white invisible phouka called Harvey, and his gently alcoholic and pleasant human companion, Elwood P Dowd, or is that vice versa? I loved this tale at the time, and it continues to be one of my favorite movies of all time.
2. Mary Poppins – I loved the books, the stage play is terrific, and the Disney movie is a lot of fun too. The wind changes, and blows in a new nanny for the children of this family. Mary Poppins is part fairy, part witch, and all about improbable circumstances. Whimsical and serious by turns, it features Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, and Dick Van Dyke in a range of roles.
3. Auntie Mame – Who wouldn’t want an Aunt like Mame? Eccentric, bohemian, extravagant and devoted to her nephew. I always wanted an aunt who was just like her. I found her inspiring. Another wonderful musical.
4. Singing in the Rain– One of many great Gene Kelly dance movies.One of my first leading men, I fell for his charm, his smile, and the way he was comfortable in his body, a wonderful choreographer and dancer. Another favorite with him as leading man was For Me and My Gal.
5. The Unsinkable Molly Brown – A wonderful tale of an indomitable woman who was rescued from a river as a child, grew into a tomboy determined to marry a rich man, and who was brassy, bold and determined to live the good life. Through various trials and tribulations, adulation and rejection, she found her way into people’s hearts as a hero who saved people from a sinking ship, the Titanic. The critics didn’t always love this movie, but we did. It’s outrageous, over the top, and delightful.
6. Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – A signature Marilyn movie, with an excellent cast, great musical numbers, and the delightfully dippy main character who, if she’s going to fall in love, says she might as well marry a rich man. Amazing sets. This is the classic era of Hollywood at its best.
7. Bringing up Baby – My vote for the most hilarious movie, with Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. He’s an about-to-be-married absent-minded professor, and she’s a ditzy socialite who decides she wants him instead. Along the way Baby, the pet leopard, gets confused with a circus leopard.
Hilarity ensues as mistaken identities, human and animal, rile the local authorities. I watched it again recently, and it stood the test of time.