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staff picks fall

You Must Remember This

I love movies, especially older movies. Whether it’s during a Saturday date night, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, feeling blue and looking to be cheered up or being restless and looking for that comfy time, a good movie is always welcome. It doesn’t matter how many times I have seen it, I am ready to step into the world of film — with or without popcorn!

Here are some of my favorites:

Casablanca – The ultimate movie — it has everything: romance, adventure, and comic moments. No matter how many times you have seen it, there is always the intrigue of the letters of transit, whether Isla will throw over Victor for Rick, and will Captain Renault determine the wind blows towards or away from the Third Reich. The cinematography is terrific and so are many of the bit actors that give the movie its robust shine. But most of all, what makes the movie sublime is the great writing that has given us iconic quotes like:

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine…”
“I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here!”
“Round up the usual suspects.”
“We’ll always have Paris.”
“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
… and, of course
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

My Man Godfrey – One of the best screwball comedies of all time, My Man Godfrey stars William Powell as the disillusioned rich man mistaken for a tramp by ditzy party girl, Irene (Carole Lombard), during a society scavenger hunt. She takes him home, and he becomes the butler for the dysfunctional family. Irene falls for him, and all sorts of mayhem ensues. My favorite scene — when Godfrey catches Irene faking illness to get his attention. A fun romp of a film with plenty of gem performances!

The African Queen– Set at the beginning of World War I, the missionary spinster and the hard drinking riverboat captain find a cause and love while traveling down the difficult Ulanga River. Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn) is forced to flee from the German troops by hitching a ride on the supply boat captained by the rough Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart). After a fight that causes Rose to dump all of Charlie’s gin overboard, she convinces him to follow the river to the lake and use the African Queen to blow up the German warship patrolling the waters. Facing troubles like rapids and a German fort, Rose and Charlie grow to love and admire each other, despite of — and maybe because of — each other’s totally opposite personalities. Hepburn shines as the prim and proper missionary who slowly softens towards Charlie. Bogart brings realistic heart to his Oscar-winning performance.

Roman Holiday – This movie makes you feel lucky to be ordinary. Audrey Hepburn is Princess Ann, whose life is fully regimented. Drugged by her doctor after having an hysterical episode, she runs away and is taken in by American reporter, Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck). At first Joe doesn’t know who she is, but in short order, not only does he realize it, but also how to exploit her predicament into a lucrative expose. Princess Ann unknowingly exposes herself as she tries to enjoy her day of freedom — getting a haircut, enjoying an ice cream in the midday sun, seeing the sights with Joe as her guide. As the two spend time together they fall for each other. Inevitably reality intrudes, and the princess goes back to her royal life and Joe decides he cannot file his story. Hepburn give just the right balance of formality, naivete and delight while Peck is perfect as the jaded reporter charmed right out of his weary outlook.

Notorious – In Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of suspense, Ingrid Berman is Alicia Huberman, an American daughter of a man convicted of treason. She is recruited to infiltrate a German chemical cartel composed of some of her father’s old associates. Her handler, T.R. Devlin (Cary Grant), at first sees her as the drunken playgirl that she has become to hide her pain. Alicia changes under Devlin’s influence, and they fall in love. But the assignment calls for Alicia to seduce, then marry, Alex Sebastian, an old lover who is part of the cartel. Jealousy and mistrust taint Alicia and Devlin’s relationship. When Sebastian realizes he has been duped, Alicia is in danger. Hitchcock’s brilliant cinematography is fully on display with subtle visual clues and amazing camera angles that distorts the viewer’s perception and ratchets up the tension. Both Bergman and Grant skate the fine line between love and hate, desire and duty.

To Kill a Mockingbird – The quintessential story of moral courage in the face of racial prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird is an unforgettable trip into a world that is bygone, yet still with us today. Told from the viewpoint of six year-old Scout and her brother, ten year-old Jem, the world of the 1930’s southern life in Maycomb, Alabama is filled with the small ordinary things of childhood — make believe games, school fights, and the neighborhood bogeyman appropriately nicknamed Boo. But things turn dark when their attorney father Atticus (Gregory Peck) agrees to represent a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. Scout sees her father being disrespected by some in the white community, while being revered by the blacks. My favorite scene is when Atticus, after being defeated, leaves the courtroom, the blacks in the balcony stand to show respect as he passes. The black reverend nudges Scout (who has been watching the trial in the balcony section) and says:

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father’s passin’.”

Bringing a beloved novel to film is not easy, and adding to its luster and enjoyment is a total movie lover’s delight.

Helen Freeman

Helen Freeman is the Technical Services librarian.