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Recently Watched Romantic Comedies


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The Big Sick (2017) - Autobiographical rom-com from Amazon Studios and director Michael Showalter. Kumail Nanjiani stars as Kumail, a Pakistani-American stand-up comedian struggling for success in Chicago. He meets and falls for Emily (Zoe Kazan), who he meets at one of his stand-up gigs, but there's a problem: his traditionalist parents want him to submit to an arranged marriage to a Muslim Pakistani girl. His efforts to keep his relationship with a white American girl a secret from his parents eventually leads to discord with Emily, who is unaware of Kumail's dilemma. When Emily suddenly falls deathly ill and into a coma, Kumail must also deal with her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano). These trying times force Kumail to reevaluate his life and make bold decisions about his future. Also featuring Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler, Vella Lovell, and David Alan Grier.

I know Nanjiani from some TV series that he's been in, as well as seeing his stand-up a few times on talk shows. While I've always liked him, I didn't expect to see him in such a well-balanced, authentic, romantic film. He co-wrote it with the real-life Emily (Emily V. Gordon), and their story is fresh, funny, and compelling. Holly Hunter has garnered a lot of praise for her role as Emily's brash mother, and she's good, if a bit showy. Romano is excellently low-key, and I was impressed by Shroff as Kumail's matchmaker mother. This was executive produced by Judd Apatow, and it has that same disregard for cinematic flourishes that all of his movies do. Most modern rom-coms are so formulaic that it's become a running joke how predictable they are. While this movie doesn't re-invent the wheel, it's a very well done look at an unconventional couple. Recommended.  (8/10)

Source: Lionsgate Blu-Ray.

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The Student Prince in Old Heidelburg (1927) - this silent film by the great Ernst Lubitsch - he is great, no doubt about it - is a gloriously giddy celebration of being away from home - the young prince (Ramon Navarro) is sent off to university, finding new male companions within that setting (Navarro is constantly surrounded by men, men, men, who seem besides themselves in celebrating the unrestricted joys of going to university) and falling into a forbidden love (a pretty barmaid, who is played by a very young Norma Shearer) that seems to know no boundaries - there is a love scene that's set in a field of wild flowers that seem as intoxicated at the lovers are).

f3e643c9cd5fe5ad6cbc034e3b71f57d.jpg

Navarro and Shearer work well together - and their love for each other is both real and infectious.

Navarro, who had trouble in being "masculine" on screen, is very convincing here - but you do strongly sense that he and Shearer liked each other off-screen.

See Navarro in "The Flying Fleet", another silent film, in which he is entirely too "soft" to play the male lead.

Toward the end of the film, which would much rather celebrate the wonder and the mystery of being in love, the film grapples with a plot - the prince is called back home, his father is dying - and he must assume a ruler's duties and marry a princess whom his father has chosen.

It's a sour ending for a film that has been telling us that there is nothing quite as lovely as a romantic setting (all those overly expressive young men for whom life is a constant high) and the rapture of forbidden love (Shearer is very attractive - and available).

The film has a very strong homosexual subtext - but I would hestitate to push that reading onto the film.   

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life! - 

ramon-novarro-the-student-prince-of-old-

Ramon Navarro at his most movie-star glamorous - 

the-student-prince-in-old-heidelberg-yea

 

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On January 26, 2018 at 11:53 AM, rayban said:

The Student Prince in Old Heidelburg (1927) - this silent film by the great Ernst Lubitsch - he is great, no doubt about it - is a gloriously giddy celebration of being away from home - the young prince (Ramon Navarro) is sent off to university, finding new male companions within that setting (Navarro is constantly surrounded by men, men, men, who seem besides themselves in celebrating the unrestricted joys of going to university) and falling into a forbidden love (a pretty barmaid, who is played by a very young Norma Shearer) that seems to know no boundaries - there is a love scene that's set in a field of wild flowers that seem as intoxicated at the lovers are).

f3e643c9cd5fe5ad6cbc034e3b71f57d.jpg

Navarro and Shearer work well together - and their love for each other is both real and infectious.

Navarro, who had trouble in being "masculine" on screen, is very convincing here - but you do strongly sense that he and Shearer liked each other off-screen.

See Navarro in "The Flying Fleet", another silent film, in which he is entirely too "soft" to play the male lead.

Toward the end of the film, which would much rather celebrate the wonder and the mystery of being in love, the film grapples with a plot - the prince is called back home, his father is dying - and he must assume a ruler's duties and marry a princess whom his father has chosen.

It's a sour ending for a film that has been telling us that there is nothing quite as lovely as a romantic setting (all those overly expressive young men for whom life is a constant high) and the rapture of forbidden love (Shearer is very attractive - and available).

The film has a very strong homosexual subtext - but I would hestitate to push that reading onto the film.   

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life! - 

ramon-novarro-the-student-prince-of-old-

Ramon Navarro at his most movie-star glamorous - 

the-student-prince-in-old-heidelberg-yea

 

I adore this film. Ramon Navarro and Norma Shearer in one of their best performances. The chemistry of the two makes it seem that much more real. In a way it reminds me of a gender switched version of Roman Holiday- the idea of a royal going out of the closed atmosphere of the palace and into the world, falling in love with a non-royal, and of course that ending which is both touching and heartbreaking

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I don't know if Pillow Talk (1959) is the prototype romantic comedy, but we see it's story-line in today's movies. The single, successful career woman great at her job but unlucky in love.  In Pillow Talk, Doris Day plays an interior decorator living in a squeaky-clean New York. Her only problem is a telephone party line she shares with a playboy songwriter, played with droll brilliance by Rock Hudson, who composes Broadway tunes. Day can't help but listening to his insincere sweet talk with women, revolted but fascinated at the same time.  And Hudson knows how to push her buttons, in effect telling her to find a man and stop living vicariously through his amorous adventures. 

They meet by chance at a glamorous nightclub called the COPA del RIO, where Hudson knows her identity, but she doesn't know he's the jerk that's monopolizing her phone.  Hudson pretends he's Rex Stetson, an aw-shucks Texan.  (I loved the way Hudson keeps referring to Doris’s character as Ma'am, stretching the word out for effect). From there the film becomes a mad romp, sprinkled with delightful sexual banter. (The writing team won an Oscar for original screenplay). Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter provide great supporting work, Randall as Hudson's neurotic best friend (a role he excelled at), and Ritter as Doris's boozing maid. Alan Jenkins, the fine character actor from Hollywood’s golden era, plays an elevator operator.

We know how it ends. Spoiler Alert: Happily, ever after. The production design is a beaut: Rock's bachelor pad is a young man's dream, and Doris's wardrobe could serve as a Vogue fashion spread.

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It's bruise-your-ribcage funny.

What could be more ludicrous than Rock Hudson 'warning' Doris Day against her new and very masculine Texas heart-throb possibly having a 'hidden effeminate side'. Slyly asking her, if he likes 'swapping recipes' or if he's 'devoted to his mother'.

And then this conversation in turn, forcing prim'n'proper goody-two-shoes Doris Day to insist that the strappin' Texan whisk her off to his wooded cabin because they're "both over 21, after all".

HOOT! HOOT! HOOT! :lol::lol::lol:

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Come Live with Me (1941) An MGM comedy starring Hedy Lamarr & Jimmy Stewart. Hedy is a wealthy Viennese refugee living in New York. Her worst fear is realized when she’s threatened with deportation, unless she can get married within 7 days.  She has a willing, wealthy suitor, but he has a wife, and Hedy, being a kind soul, does not want to be a homewrecker. Enter Jimmy Stewart, playing a broke, down on his luck writer.  Jimmy and Hedy find themselves sharing a lunch counter, courtesy of a serendipitous rainstorm. Before you know it, they’re married. Both get something from this living apart, transactional affair: Jimmy receives a weekly stipend, and Hedy gets to stay in America.  Of course, we know what Jimmy’s character really wants.

There’s little chemistry between the two leads. Hedy is very glamourous, but her performance is rather one-note. The script, however, doesn’t give her much to do. Since it’s Hedy Lamarr, her screen presence makes up for it. The supporting cast adds the necessary flavor. Ian Hunter as Hedy’s lover. Verree Teasdale (one of the great character actresses) as his savvy wife, and Adeline De Walt Reynolds as Jimmy’s no-nonsense grandmother.  Barton MacLane shows up as a sympathetic immigration official.   Overall, it’s a pleasant excursion, with echoes of The Awful Truth (1937), minus the biting wit and manic energy. Although the Nazi occupation of Austria isn’t mentioned, it’s obvious the reason why Hedy’s character can’t go back.

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18 minutes ago, rayban said:

I can't seem to appreciate Hedy Lamarr.

 

 I think Hedy Lamarr might be akin to olives-- to like her is to have a rarefied taste.

 As a kid I watched Boom Town for five or six years every year and each year I think I liked her less.

True, it wasn't a sympathetic part but the same time I could never understand what she was saying.

But I have to agree, that her beauty was very conducive to black and white Cinema.

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2 hours ago, rayban said:

I can't seem to appreciate Hedy Lamarr.

 

While Lamarr is one of the most beautiful actress of any era,  her screen persona is rather 'flat';  I.e. she doesn't create a lot of spark.     I like her best in photos.   Hey, she was in some fine films and gave some good performances but there were other actress that were slightly less beautiful but they had an IT factor that she just doesn't have.

 

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17 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

While Lamarr is one of the most beautiful actress of any era,  her screen persona is rather 'flat';  I.e. she doesn't create a lot of spark.     I like her best in photos.   Hey, she was in some fine films and gave some good performances but there were other actress that were slightly less beautiful but they had an IT factor that she just doesn't have.

 

I know what you’re saying. It’s only recently that I’ve come to gain an appreciation for Hedy Lamarr.  She shares with Greta Garbo a certain mysteriousness, allowing viewers to ascribe to them whatever they wish. 

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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969). A sex farce about the sexual revolution sweeping America during the late 1960s.  The counter culture comes full circle in affluent Angelinos Bob (Robert Culp), Carol (Natalie Wood), Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon). Bob and Carol view themselves as in tune with the times, with occasional but not unlikeable smugness. The film begins with them visiting a retreat for spiritual and mental awakening.  And they come away changed, especially Carol. So much so that Bob decides to have an affair and confess it to Carol. Carol thinks it’s so wonderful she has one herself. I loved Natalie Wood’s explaining to her angry husband, who walks in on her: “I wanted to do it. Because, I wanted to do it.  I…. wanted to do it”, while Bob’s head is about to explode.  He eventually calms down. Bob and Carol need to stay true to their ideals, and anger over an affair is an outdated 1950s response. Moreover, there's a difference between sex and love.

Their best friends, Ted and Alice, are solid philistines.  But it’s only a matter of time before Ted and Alice realize they’re missing out. The performances are pitch perfect.  Natalie Wood continues the hilarious neurosis of her Sex and the Single Girl (1964) character. Dyan Cannon’s moral abhorrence becomes a comedy sketch when she’s talking to her shrink, and in another sequence denying Ted sex as he begs like a teenager whose life depends on it.  Inevitably, the couples swap partners, and it’s filmed with remarkable poignancy.

The film remains fresh, and modern. Paul Mazursky directed and co-wrote it with Larry Tucker. They have affection for the characters, without mocking them, even the square Ted and Alice.

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Cactus Flower (1969) Another comedy from 1969, a year TCM has been highlighting.  Some brush must be cleared away first, that is, getting past the improbability that Goldie Hawn’s hippie chick, Toni, would fall for Walter Matthau’s middle-age, commitment-phobic dentist, Julian.  So distraught is Toni that she turns on the oven, in a botched suicide, because Julian refuses to leave his wife. She’s saved by her neighbor, Igor (Rick Lenz), who manages to sneak in a few passionate kisses as he’s resuscitating her.

Ingrid Bergman plays Stephanie, Julian’s loyal, prim assistant. She keeps a cactus plant on her desk, and its blooming mirrors that of Stephanie, hence the title.  Stephanie organizes Julian’s schedule, and it becomes gradually clear she’s in love with him.

The chemistry between Hawn and Matthau is buoyant and nimble to the point you’re not thinking about their relationship in traditional, or even physical terms. Cactus Flower skillfully uses the generational and cultural divide to create motifs straight out of classic Hollywood screwball comedy: impersonations, serendipitous meetings, and mistaken identity.  Matthau delivers zingers in that unique, trademark deadpan.  Hawn’s Toni is trusting, cagey, and ironically, rather conservative in her sexual philosophy.

We pretty much know how the romantic pairings will line up.  But that’s beside the point.

Stellar comedic support is provided by Jack Weston, who plays Harvey Greenfield: lounge lizard, underemployed actor, who chases young women and never pays his bills.  Ingrid Bergman's Stephanie decides to join the swinger movement as well, transitioning from Druid-like moralist to party girl.  At the Slipped Disk nightclub, she cuts a mean number, calling her dance “The Dentist”, and it’s a riot.  Joining the action is Vito Scotti, playing a hypochondriac patient. 

One exchange between Toni and Harvey that I loved went like this:

Toni: Mr. Greenfield, what kind of work do you do?

Harvey: I don't work, honey, I'm an actor.

Toni: An actor? Isn't that a very insecure profession?

Harvey: Only financially.

Sure, it’s too on the nose, but hilarious nonetheless.  The Neil Diamond-penned song “I’m a Believer”, made famous by The Monkees, is used so much it becomes the film’s anthem. An Academy Award win went to Goldie Hawn for Best Supporting Actress.

 

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I like Cactus Flower a lot;  all three stars are in good form regardless of the miscasting of the women, (Bergman being 54 and Hawn being 24).    As noted above,  these age differences (Matthau being 4 years younger than Bergman,  26 years older than Hawn), didn't impact the film.   The film contains the basics of a romantic comedy and does these well.

There are often films that 'on paper' should work but don't.   This is one that shouldn't work but does.    Much of that has to do with the direction by Gene Saks.   Directing a pro like Bergman and a complete newbie like Hawn doesn't sound that easy.

 

 

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Man of the Moment (1935) A feel-good romantic comedy about a plain secretary (Laura La Plante), who has given up on love, and life, until happenstance prevails, and she finds herself in the company of a handsome aristocrat, played by the dashing Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who is saddled with a haughty and controlling fiancé (Margaret Lockwood, one of the great British leading ladies of the 30s and 40s). Funny moments include a bachelor party  gone awry, crashed by La Plante dressed as a man. The movie travels from England to Monte Carlo, and you can tell from the moment Fairbanks and La Plante meet how it’s going to turn out. La Plante’s appealing performance suggests that, had she been younger, and with some luck, a longer career as a screwball comedy heroine may have awaited her.

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Her Cardboard Lover (1942) This rom-com, directed by George Cukor, has an interesting plot: Norma Shearer hires a lovestruck Robert Taylor (sporting a Bela Lugosi Dracula haircut with a point down the middle) to protect her from herself.  Norma plays a Palm Beach vacationer hopelessly in love with a womanizer, played by, who else, George Sanders.  Shearer hates that she can’t control her desires for Sanders.  Since Taylor owes her a gambling debt, he can pay it off by being Norma’s secretary.  His job doesn’t involve typing. He’s there to keep her away from Sanders, a job he performs too well, practically keeping her hostage in her own room. The chemistry between Shearer and Taylor is okay.  But not as charged as her scenes with Sanders. You get the sense the two of them could have a happy open marriage.  Shearer excels at playing liberated women (A Free Soul), (Private Lives).  Norma wouldn’t lose sleep over a philandering husband, as she would have her own trove of lovers. Of course, this is not Pre-Code Hollywood.

I give Taylor credit for playing against type.  Some of the comedic tropes for keeping Norma and George separated are funny, and some come across as creepy. Still, there’s much to like about Her Cardboard Lover: gorgeous sets, Harry Stradling’s rich B&W photography, the elegant atmosphere, and of course Norma Shearer.  

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On 8/30/2020 at 10:57 AM, cinemaspeak59 said:

Her Cardboard Lover (1942) This rom-com, directed by George Cukor, has an interesting plot: Norma Shearer hires a lovestruck Robert Taylor (sporting a Bela Lugosi Dracula haircut with a point down the middle) to protect her from herself.  Norma plays a Palm Beach vacationer hopelessly in love with a womanizer, played by, who else, George Sanders.  Shearer hates that she can’t control her desires for Sanders.  Since Taylor owes her a gambling debt, he can pay it off by being Norma’s secretary.  His job doesn’t involve typing. He’s there to keep her away from Sanders, a job he performs too well, practically keeping her hostage in her own room. The chemistry between Shearer and Taylor is okay.  But not as charged as her scenes with Sanders. You get the sense the two of them could have a happy open marriage.  Shearer excels at playing liberated women (A Free Soul), (Private Lives).  Norma wouldn’t lose sleep over a philandering husband, as she would have her own trove of lovers. Of course, this is not Pre-Code Hollywood.

I give Taylor credit for playing against type.  Some of the comedic tropes for keeping Norma and George separated are funny, and some come across as creepy. Still, there’s much to like about Her Cardboard Lover: gorgeous sets, Harry Stradling’s rich B&W photography, the elegant atmosphere, and of course Norma Shearer.  

Interesting comments. I think Shearer & Taylor worked better opposite each other in the war-time melodrama ESCAPE (1940).

This morning I watched MIRACLE OF THE WHITE STALLIONS (1963) on YouTube. It was kind of shocking to see how much Robert Taylor had aged from his heyday as a handsome leading man in the 1940s. But he still gave a decent performance. His leading lady at that point was Lilli Palmer, who looked beautiful as ever.

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18 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Interesting comments. I think Shearer & Taylor worked better opposite each other in the war-time melodrama ESCAPE (1940).

This morning I watched MIRACLE OF THE WHITE STALLIONS (1963) on YouTube. It was kind of shocking to see how much Robert Taylor had aged from his heyday as a handsome leading man in the 1940s. But he still gave a decent performance. His leading lady at that point was Lilli Palmer, who looked beautiful as ever.

I think it had do with the script. So smitten was he with Norma’s character that he acted like a nervous, clumsy schoolboy, even though he played a songwriter, implying he’s had experience with women. The smooth determination coupled with compassion was missing. Had a few clunky scenes been taken out, Her Cardboard Lover would have had more of the Cukor touch. This was a remake of the 1932 comedy The Passionate Plumber, with Irene Purcell, Buster Keaton. and Jimmy Durante, which I liked, and was impressed by Irene Purcell’s comedic chops. I haven’t seen Escape (1940).  I guess genetics have much to do with why some actors age gracefully. For example, Cary Grant was still playing handsome leading men in the 1960s. I’ll have to check out Miracle of the White Stallions.

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36 minutes ago, cinemaspeak59 said:

I think it had do with the script. So smitten was he with Norma’s character that he acted like a nervous, clumsy schoolboy, even though he played a songwriter, implying he’s had experience with women. The smooth determination coupled with compassion was missing. Had a few clunky scenes been taken out, Her Cardboard Lover would have had more of the Cukor touch. This was a remake of the 1932 comedy The Passionate Plumber, with Irene Purcell, Buster Keaton. and Jimmy Durante, which I liked, and was impressed by Irene Purcell’s comedic chops. I haven’t seen Escape (1940).  I guess genetics have much to do with why some actors age gracefully. For example, Cary Grant was still playing handsome leading men in the 1960s. I’ll have to check out Miracle of the White Stallions.

ESCAPE (1940) airs once or twice a year on TCM. It's worth seeing.

http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/2892/Escape/

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I watched "Bridal Suite" last night with Robert Young and a French actress named "Annabelle".  It's not a very good movie, but I love it.  Robert Young plays a rich playboy, (as always lol), who forgets to go to his wedding again.  His father cuts him off until he gets his act together.  His mother, who always babies him, decides to take him to a psychiatrist in Switzerland to have him diagnosed with amnesia so his bride will take him back.  While in Switzerland, he falls in love with the young woman running the inn, (played by Annabelle).  

It can get really stupid at times, but it's such a fun, fluffy movie.  I love the chemistry between the two leads.  Plus Robert Young sings a little bit in it.  It's so fun to watch him in a comedy.  From what I've read about him, he loved doing comedy.  And Annabelle is just as sweet as can be in it and she looks like she had a fun time filming it as well.  🙂

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16 minutes ago, Lizbeth4 said:

I watched "Bridal Suite" last night with Robert Young and a French actress named "Annabelle".  It's not a very good movie, but I love it.  Robert Young plays a rich playboy, (as always lol), who forgets to go to his wedding again.  His father cuts him off until he gets his act together.  His mother, who always babies him, decides to take him to a psychiatrist in Switzerland to have him diagnosed with amnesia so his bride will take him back.  While in Switzerland, he falls in love with the young woman running the inn, (played by Annabelle).  

It can get really stupid at times, but it's such a fun, fluffy movie.  I love the chemistry between the two leads.  Plus Robert Young sings a little bit in it.  It's so fun to watch him in a comedy.  From what I've read about him, he loved doing comedy.  And Annabelle is just as sweet as can be in it and she looks like she had a fun time filming it as well.  🙂

I've seen Bridal Suite and I liked it;    Yea,  a silly,  fluffy movie,  but at 70 minutes it moves along well and keep my interest.   MGM cast Robert Young in many of these lower-budget under 80 minute of so films,  and I like most of them.    He is charming and works well with the actresses MGM paired him with.  

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