My mother was a movie buff who loved telling me the plots of her favorite films as though they were a children’s story. She instilled a love of movies in me, and I adored watching the great movies she recommended to me. I’m going to share some of them with you!
Now, Voyager (1942): Bette Davis, transformed from ugly and plain to gorgeous and alluring by engaging in psychotherapy! Definitely ahead of its time.
Dark Victory (1939): Bette Davis again, this time with an inoperable brain tumor, going blind. Ronald Reagan was in this movie.
Kings Row (1942): Not only was Ronald Reagan one of the stars of this movie, but there was a female character named Randy, and that inspired Mom to give that name to her daughter (changed to Randi). So I have numerous reasons to dislike Ronald Reagan, and this is only one of them. In this movie, he loses his legs in a terrible accident and exclaims, “Randy, Randy, where’s the rest of me?” Not quite as famous as “Win one for the Gipper,” but a great line anyway.
Imitation of Life (1959): Two women, one black and one white, and their daughters through the years. The daughter of the black woman pretends to be white as she grows up and spurns her mother in a heart-wrenching way. Perfect movie if you need a good cry.
An Affair to Remember (1957): Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as star-crossed lovers who have a series of misunderstandings that really mess up their lives, but of course, there is a happy ending.
This is just a small sampling of my mother’s recommendations. She also made up a phrase to signify that something dire was about to happen in a movie. Whenever the camera would focus on the wheel of a stagecoach in a Western, that meant the wheel was about to fall off and disaster was imminent. So based on that, she would always say, “Uh oh, wagon wheel!” whenever any obvious plot twist was telegraphed by the director’s tight close-up on ANYTHING. I still say it to this day.
She taught me to love all the big musicals: My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, West Side Story, and my all-time favorite, The Wizard of Oz. Mom liked movies with beautiful people in them, plus a lot of drama and then ultimately a happy ending. She didn’t like gritty realistic movies about unpleasant miserable lives. She hated Midnight Cowboy – she felt she knew enough about the seamy side of life from her childhood, so why would she pay good money to revisit those people in those neighborhoods?
Most importantly, she taught me that the key to a good movie was a great story. No matter who the actors were, the story had to grab you. It couldn’t be too predictable, or too improbable. It was good to have a bad guy so you could root for the good guy. Well-intentioned, kind people overcoming adversity was one of her favorite themes.
The best movies for me are the ones that, when you are surfing around the cable TV dial, COMPEL YOU to stop and watch, no matter where in the movie you land. They are that mesmerizing! Some examples are The Green Mile, A League of Their Own, Cast Away, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, That Thing You Do, Big…are you noticing a theme here? Yep, any Tom Hanks movie is pretty much a guaranteed winner in my book. Denzel Washington is another favorite of mine. You can never go wrong with any Christopher Guest movie, especially Best in Show.
E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind stop me in my tracks whenever they are on TV, as does almost any Coen Brothers movie, with the exception of No Country for Old Men, which I hated. But Fargo, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and Oh Brother Where Art Thou are just perfect. Anything with John Goodman in it makes me smile. Flight had Denzel AND John Goodman – what a great movie that was.
I can get into silly movies if they have a certain underlying sweetness to them. Believe it or not, I became a huge Adam Sandler fan because of The Water Boy, which was very poignant and touching, reminding me of the Jerry Lewis movies of my youth, which always made me cry (I know, who cries at a comedy? But Jerry was a master at manipulating my emotions). I also loved Adam’s Fifty First Dates. I recently watched The Campaign and The Five Year Engagement, both very silly and pretty raunchy, but really good. Recently, some other CTWorkingMoms and I were roaring with laughter while remembering scenes from So I Married an Axe Murderer, which is a completely goofy movie but hilarious. OMG, don’t forget Bridesmaids! And Mother! I could keep going for hours and hours. I apologize to all the movies I have left out. I still love you.
So thanks, Mom, for passing on the love of the cinema, and for telling me all those Hollywood plotlines that I never forgot. I am lucky to continue to share this love of movies with my children and my husband (who can identify movies without seeing them or hearing dialogue, just by hearing their soundtracks!).
Please join in and share some of your favorite movies!