Happy 90th birthday Doris Day! Here’s a great subversive comedy of hers that falls under the category of Finding Your Voice or The Power of One. It’s called It Happened to Jane, and it’s about a single mom/entrepreneur who goes all out to fight a nasty corporation and rallies her entire town around her to boycott the company. Her chutzpah inspires an insecure Jack Lemmon to follow her lead and find his own courage to stand up for himself. Oh sure, she looks wholesome and sweet as pie, but don’t. mess. with. Jane. Or Doris Day, animal rights advocate.
Tag Archives: cinema therapy
No, she was not just a pin-curled moppet with a dimple, a sweet little voice, a penchant for tap dancing, and an excessively cute demeanor. When it came to Hollywood, little Shirley kicked somem serious butt. She was, for some years, the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. She saved the Fox studio from bankruptcy during the Depression, keeping thousands employed, even though she was so young that she had to sign her first contracts with an X because she hadn’t learned how to write yet. She broke the color barrier as the first white woman to touch a black man onscreen, tapping away as she held the hand of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. And she went on to be a UN ambassador when she grew up, supporting Czechoslovakian president-to-be Vaclav Havel during the Velvet Revolution.
All that’s important to keep in mind during the most precious moments in her films when cynicism threatens to creep into your consciousness. Ignore any overly coy story lines and focus on the inner Shirley. Watch her light up the screen, playing off her fellow actors, and give her all whether she tears up, giggles mischievously, or sticks out her lower lip in indignation. And remember, just because someone’s got a headful of blonde curls and dimpled chubby cheeks doesn’t mean she isn’t a force to be reckoned with.
Stars: Shirley Temple, Robert Young, Alice Faye
Director: William A. Seiter
Writers: William M. Conselman, Samuel G. Engel, Nat Perrin, Arthur Sheekman
Back in the Depression, Shirley Temple was rekindling feelings of hope in the hearts of people in movie theaters everywhere. With her 56 pin curls, adorable dimples, and perfect pout, she tapped her way into people’s hearts and convinced them that recovery was just around the corner and, meanwhile, why not celebrate what you’ve got? Cue the big band and fumble for your handkerchief, because doggone it, you’re gonna get a little misty even as you smile at her antics.
Like most of the movies in the Shirley Temple oeuvre, this one finds her orphaned, which of course allows those lost souls who become enchanted by her to adopt the precocious urchin—although not before several plot twists threaten her happiness and cause a big teary scene in which she declares she will be brave, by golly, she will.
In Stowaway, a stranger on the street, wealthy playboy Tom Randall (Robert Young), happens across Barbara “Ching-Ching” Stewart (our Shirley) in Shanghai, where she’s been stranded far away from her missionary guardians and robbed in her sleep. Having a purse of coins nicked is the worst that happens to Ching-Ching, because revolution, human trafficking, and exploitation of the innocent just don’t exist in this corner of reality. Shirley is magically whisked away into Tom’s shipboard world, where she gets a chance to sing, dance, do vaudevillian routines, and spout appropriate Chinese proverbs to remind everyone to be philosophical about the fickleness of fate. And of course, she also gets to look swell in an array of silk Chinese-inspired lounging outfits.
Ching-Ching rights all wrongs and brings out the responsible side of a ne’er-do-well and the adventurous side of a woman hitched to a cold-hearted fiancé. The rich learn that money isn’t everything and begin to spread the wealth. The greedy lose that which they most want to possess. The poor are rescued from poverty. Yes, the spirited, talented, relentlessly optimistic Shirley not only heals troubled souls, she single-handedly creates a system of economic parity within free-market capitalism. Quick, somebody elect that girl president!
When you need an infusion of positivity to fuel your ability to keep your sunny side up, indulge in a rainy day matinee of Stowaway and remember to S-M-I-L-E.
The Power of One Movie
Cinematherapy for When You’re Feeling Cynical
Stars: Ben Kingsley
Director: Richard Attenborough
Writer: John Briley
Thanks to this movie, Gandhi was “the man” back in ’82. As Martin Sheen said, “Everyone in Hollywood wanted to be just like Gandhi—thin, tan, and moral.”
This epic movie presents Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) as a moral beacon in the darkness of colonialism, the simple voice of reason and integrity that falls on the deaf ears of a bunch of white guys in fussy uniforms whose civilized exterior belies their potential for cruelty due to a bloated sense of entitlement. While riding a train one day, Gandhi is thrown from the naivete of privilege into the dingy reality of prejudice and realizes he’s got to use his newly earned law degree to help his fellow Indians. Ovr the coruse of several decades, he manages to unite Hindus and Muslims against the tyranny of the British, whose façade of politeness is quickly shattered when their subjects stop bowing to them. One look at the British officers whacking he heads and shoulders of hundreds of quietly protesting Indian men in order to bully them into submission and it’s clear that maintaining oppression requires a high level of denial or the admission that shiny boots and clipped mustaches aside, you’re just another thug. Gandhi’s protests may have required more years and more bloodshed on his side’s part than he had hoped, and his coalition may have fallen apart quickly after his death, but his message of human dignity triumphing over the lust for power is enough to keep us hopeful even when it’s clear that yet another regime didn’t get the memo and the same old battles for human rights have to be fought all over again in some other corner of the world.
If you’re feeling cynical, insignificant, and in need of some can-do spirit, check out Gandhi and see if it doesn’t get you off the couch and raring to make a difference in the world.
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”—Ben Kingsley as Gandhi
Are you in need of a Happily-Ever-After movie to fill your mind with bliss and erase all traces of rational thought, so that you can stop thinking and just ENJOY? Here’s a prescription for a perfect Happily-Ever-After movie that will serve as chocolate mousse for the soul and smooth every ruffled feather and frayed nerve.
Stars: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Cecil Parker, Phyllis Calvert
Director: Stanley Donen
Writer: Norman Krasna, based on his play Kind Sir
You know you’ve stepped into a different era when a flustered Ingrid Bergman is advised by her sister (Phyllis Calvert) to put on a girdle so she’ll feel better. In fact, this whole movie has a surreal quality that makes one wonder if there was ever a golden era in which girdles boosted serotonin levels or if, perhaps, the screenwriter of this delicious 50s morsel spent a little time in an alternate reality.
The male love interest, Phillip Adams (Cary Grant), is not just suave, sophisticated, and charming: He has a glamorous, high-paying job, is single and straight, and can drink Scotch and sodas morning, noon, and night and never show the slightest hint of inebriation or under-eye puffiness. The female love interest, Anna Kalman (Berman), is an actress living in London, who never seems to have a role yet can afford designer dress-and-coat ensembles to don on casual evenings out. Plus, she has a sympathetic sister and brother-in-law (Cecil Parker) living conveniently close by and no loser boyfriend hitting her up for his half of the rent money. Like Phillip, Anna has the extraordinary capacity to drink Scotch and soda morning, noon, and night yet still walk straight and look fabulous without any sign of bloat. Even more implausibly, she can carry off a hat consisting of a huge black feather that wraps around her entire head—without looking like an alien.
Of course, there are all sorts of cute little twists to keep the couple apart, and an outrageously daring act on Anna’s part that shows she’s plucky as well as beautiful, and it all ties up in one neat little package requiring no restrictive foundation undergarments. Too delightful!
Watch this when you’re harried to the max and tell yourself that a half bottle of wine and a handful of Ferrero Rochers won’t go straight to your thighs and belly, ‘cause at this point you’ll believe anything.