Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Raquel Stecher of the blog Out of the Past is asking her fellow classic movie buffs to participate in her #ClassicMovieTag. She has ten prompts to which one can respond at any time and can be on any platform the person chooses, whether it is a blog post, a Twitter thread, a Facebook post, or so on. When one posts his or her responses, he or she wants to make sure to use the #ClassicMovieTag and to mention Raquel in the post. You can read Raquel's post on the #ClassicMovieTag here.

Obviously I have decided to participate in Raquel's #ClassicMovieTag on this blog. Below are the prompts and my responses.

1. What's one classic movie that you recommend to people over and over and over again? 

This probably won't be any surprise to anyone, but I would say, "Seven Samurai." I have repeatedly said that it is my favourite movie of all time and I consider it the greatest film ever made. Its much imitated plot certainly appeals to me. Basically, seven rōnin are hired by a farming village to battle marauders who have been plaguing the village. While Seven Samurai is a long movie (it clocks in at 3 hours 27 minutes), it does not seem like it because of its tightly plotted script. It benefits from great performances by such actors as Takashi Shimura, Toshrio Mifune, and Kokuten Kōdō, as well as the excellent black-and-white cinematography of Asakazu Nakai. Bringing it all together is the direction of Akira Kurosawa. To me there are only few perfect movies and Seven Samurai is one of them.

2. What was the last classic film you saw and what were your thoughts about it? 

The last classic film I saw was Key Largo (1948), which is a film I have seen several times before. While I think Key Largo drags a bit during some of the wordier parts of the film and Lauren Bacall isn't given a whole lot to do, it is still a movie that I thoroughly enjoy. It is enlivened by some strong performances by Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, and Claire Trevor. It also features some incredible cinematography by the legendary Karl Freund. It has a truly great climax, lifted from Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not. Director Howard Hawks was unable to shoot the book's climax for the movie adaptation of To Have and Have Not, so it was used as the climax of John Huston's adaptation of Maxwell Anderson's play Key Largo.

3. Name a classic movie genre you love and one you dislike. 

Okay, I don't know that it is a genre so much as it is a cinematic style, but I love film noir. Film noir actually encompasses a variety of plots, but my favourite has always been that of essentially good individuals who must face the darkness in our world. Many of my favourite film noirs share this plot in common, including Murder, My Sweet (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Mystery Street (1950). That having been said, I do like film noirs with other sorts of plots. In fact, my all-time favourite noir is Out of the Past (1947). As to what it is I like about film noir, it is a number of things. I like the fact that there is a good deal of moral ambiguity in film noir. While in many films from the Forties and Fifties it is clear who the good guys and the bad guys are, this is not always clear in film noir. I have also always loved the cinematography of film noir, which often involves unusual composition, low-key lighting, and plenty of shadows. It is a style ideally suited to black and white. Because characters in film noir often tended to be complex, it allowed many actors to spread their wings in ways that they might not be able to in other sorts of films.

As to a genre I dislike, I really can't say that are any. I will watch any film if it is good. That having been said, while I love the romantic comedies of the Thirties, Forties, Fifties, and Sixties, I don't care for too many romantic comedies made after 1980. To me too many of them seem the same, as if they are all made from a cookie cutter. Take a well-known leading lady, add a bland male character as the love interest, throw in some complications, and then have them get together at the end. That to me is the typical romcom made after 1980. It is a far cry from Cary Grant and Irene Dunne or Doris Day and Rock Hudson! Yes, I am a romantic comedy snob.

Sam Jaffe
4. Name a classic movie star with whom you share a birthday or a hometown. 

Okay, I share my birthday with Mad Men star Jon Hamm, but he isn't a classic movie star. I also share my  birthday with the great character Sam Jaffe. He is one of my favourite character actors and I was so happy to learn that I share my birthday with him. He played a wide variety of roles in his long career and in a variety of genres of film. He was criminal mastermind Doc Riedenschneider in The Asphalt Jungle (1950). He was Professor Jacob Barnhardt in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). He was Simonides in Ben-Hur (1959). Sam Jaffe could play anything from sympathetic roles to downright villainous ones, and he did all of them well. While no famous actors are from my hometown, I can brag that I live about an hour away from the hometowns of Mary Astor (Quincy, Illinois), Walt Disney (Marceline), Cliff Edwards (Hannibal, which is also the hometown of Samuel Clemens and the Unsinkable Molly Brown), and Steve McQueen (Slater). Also, Joan Crawford briefly attended Stephens College in Columbia, so I can say that I have walked in her footsteps! Of course, I also have to mention that Lucille Ball is my 10th cousin one time removed...

5. Give a shout out to a friend or family member who shares your love of classic movies. 

My late best friend Brian was a classic film buff, as was my beloved Vanessa. In fact, most of my current friends are classic film fans. That having been said, I will give a shout out to my friend Paula. She runs the blog Paula's Cinema Club. She also happens to be the co-founder of TCMParty. She and her husband Tim run the theatre Cinema Detroit in Detroit, Michigan, the best arthouse cinema in that city. Paula and I have a good deal in common. Our tastes in movies are fairly similar. I tend to confide in Paula a lot. She is one of the very few people who actually has my phone number. Paula has always been supportive of me, even in my darkest days.

Rita Moreno
6. Name a classic movie star who makes your heart skip a beat or whom you admire greatly.

Well, given Stand and Deliver (1988) was released over thirty years ago, I think my dearest Vanessa Marquez qualifies as a classic movie star. Aside from Vanessa, however, I would have to say Rita Moreno. Unlike many boys who developed crushes on Natalie Wood when they first saw West Side Story, I developed a crush on Rita Moreno. As a boy I was just impressed by how very pretty she is, but as I grew older I would admire her talent as well. She is a remarkable actress who has played a wide variety of roles, from Anita in West Side Story (1961), for which she won the the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, to exotic dancer Dolores Gonzáles in Marlowe (1969). It is a mark of her talent that she is one of only three people to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, and a Peabody! I also have to point out that Miss Moreno was a pioneering Latina on screen. She refused to play any stereotypical roles, regardless of how it impacted her career. To me Rita Moreno is just about perfect: intelligent, talented, funny, and sexy.

7. Describe one memorable experience watching a classic movie.

Believe it or not, as part of a school trip in third grade we were taken to the local cinema where we were shown To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). I hope my fellow classic film buffs will forgive me for saying that most of us boys were hoping we would get to see Silent Running (1972)! I also have to say that I hope they will forgive me for saying I didn't really appreciate To Kill a Mockingbird at the time. I was only nine years old, so that a lot of the of the movie was lost on me. Of course, here I have to point out that given To Kill a Mockingbird was only ten years old when I saw it, it wasn't yet a classic at the time by my reckoning. I generally don't think of a movie as a classic until it has been around for thirty years (this isn't a hard and fast rule for me, but I think ten years may be too soon to call a film a classic, even To Kill a Mockingbird). That having been said, it is one of my strongest memories of seeing a movie in a theatre. It was not only the first time I saw To Kill a Mockingbird, but the first time I saw a "grown-up" movie in a theatre as well. And for those who are worried that I didn't really appreciate To Kill a Mockingbird when I was only nine years old, it would become one of my all time favourite movies when I saw it again in my twenties and it has remained so ever since.

8. Describe the craziest thing you've done because of your passion for classic movies. 

I would have to say that the craziest thing I have ever done because of my passion for classic movies was to introduce A Hard Day's Night (1964) with Ben Mankiewicz as part of TCM's Fan Favourites series.  Now I am not at all shy and I have no problem addressing crowds, but I have never liked photographs of myself, let alone video of myself. It is why there are so few pictures of me online! I actually had to be talked into it. That having been said, I really enjoyed the experience. Ben is very easy to talk to and I always enjoy talking about A Hard Day's Night or anything related to The Beatles. I also enjoyed live tweeting trivia about A Hard Day's Night as part of  TCMParty when they showed A Hard Day's Night and getting people's reaction to me being on TCM. That having been said, I did not look at the screen the whole time I was on. TCM sent me a DVD of my intro and outro with Ben after it had aired. I have never watched that either. As I said, I really don't like photographs and videos of myself!

9. What's something classic movie related that you love to collect? 

I have collected pinback buttons since I was a teenager. Most of my pinback buttons are dedicated to various rock groups, but several years ago I began collecting pinback buttons related to classic movies and classic television as well. In fact, the prize in my collection has both a rock 'n' roll connection and a classic movie connection. When I was in my twenties I picked up a Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band button released as part of the promotion for the animated classic Yellow Submarine (1968). I only paid about a $1.50 for it. I have no idea what it must be worth now!

10. What's your favourite way to share your passion for classic movies?

I would have to say writing. Come June 4 of this year, I will have been writing in this blog for fifteen years. And while A Shroud of Thoughts is dedicated to pop culture in all its forms, I do write a lot about classic movies on this blog. In fact, it would be through this blog that I would meet my first online classic film friends, including the aforementioned Raquel of Out of the Past and KC of A Classic Film Blog. Prior to this blog I had written articles on B Westerns for the newsletter The Old Cowboy Picture Show. I would later write articles on classic film for the online magazine Silhouette While I don't know that I would consider it writing, I also enjoy tweeting about classic film on Twitter. In fact, I am one of the original members of TCMParty and I still remember my very first TCMParty, live tweeting to the "Thin Man" movies! I am on multiple social media services, and I post about classic film on most of them.

1 comment:

Raquel Stecher said...

Thanks so much for participating! It was great to see your responses. I have to admit Seven Samurai is on my to be watched list but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I'll have to fix that ASAP. Also congrats on 15 years of blogging!