How Classic Films Influence my Life

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Theresa over at CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch is hosting the highly anticipated Free For All Blogathon where the participants have the occasion to write about…anything! Anything related to films of course. I’ve always wanted to write a piece on what it is to be a classic film addict. How it has an impact on my everyday life. And this blogging event seemed to be the perfect occasion! This should be a fun post, so I hope you’ll be entertained and be able to relate to some of the content!

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It seems to me, that being a classic film fan, is a full-time job. A lot of how I organise my life depends on it. For example, the birthdays are crucial. I always hope I won’t be working on November 12 or on August 29, because I don’t want my Grace Kelly day or Ingrid Bergman day to be spoiled! Some people think it’s weird to celebrate a movie star birthday (especially those who are dead), but shouldn’t we honour the ones we love? And those birthday celebrations are always a lot of fun and a good excuse to watch a ton of films! But not just that! No, I start the tradition to cook Katharine Hepburn’s brownies on May 12 (except when I was traveling like it was the case last May and will also be the case next May). Or, I have to eat ice cream in honour of Ingrid Bergman on her birthday. You know, all sort of things like that. Ooooh and now there’s Bill Holden centenary coming up soon! Exciting!

Loving classic films is also a synonym of “meeting new people”. For example, before I joined those classic movie groups on Facebook I use to tell myself that I’ll only have people I know in real life as Facebook friends, but once I’ve accepted one that I didn’t know, well then it just started a chain reaction and got pretty much out of hands! No regrets of course (except a few weirdos)! I even had the chance to meet some of them in real life and it has always been a pleasant experience. Anyway, it’s always nice to meet people, even if it’s just on the internet, with whom you share common interests. I have real-life friends of course, but they aren’t as passionate about classic films as I am. Luckily, I made some of them watch classics and the positive reactions were generally more present than the negative ones. So, that’s a relief and a sign that I can, after all, enjoy classics with pretty much anybody from my close entourage, as long as this person is curious enough!

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James Stewart and Henry Fonda, best friends

To love classic films is also to be inspired by its movie stars! As I’ve once stated in this article, the elegance of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly inspires me for the way I dress (with the material I have, which is not Edith Head or Givenchy gowns, unfortunately). Bette Davis inspires confidence. So, when I need it, I sort of pretend I’m Bette Davis and superior to everybody. Some Arthur Kennedy’s characters inspire patience. I also have the tendency to be very by-the-book, which is not necessarily a good thing, but, in another way, I’m very independent. Katharine Hepburn’s quote “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun” inspires me to let it go a little and it tells myself that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of rebellion once in a while! And if we mention the animal stars, well, I always told myself that, if I had a cat one day, I’ll call him Baby and if I had a dog, I’ll call him George, just like in Bringing Up Baby! Ok, I’ll stick to a cat, because I don’t think I could afford and train a leopard!

These are just a few examples, of course, but I could probably go on if I’ll dig a bit more in my mind.

To love classic films, but like very OLD classics, it’s also to have a favourite 19th-century movie. Yes, yes! Mine is The Waterer Watered by the Lumière Brothers. Well, my sense of humour is obviously quite attracted by what’s considered to be the first comedy of cinema history! And at the time, people didn’t need to take hours to introduce a gag! I remember a teacher showing it to us in class and I burst into laughs as if it was the funniest thing ever. Ok, it’s not, but I think it’s precisely the spontaneity of this very short comedy that makes me laugh. Anyway, it’s probably the kind of thing that would make me laugh if I’ll witness it in real life.

As a classic film lover, I also ruin myself, buying way too many DVDs and I don’t know where to put them anymore. But no regrets as it’s nice to have a big movie collection! I always ruin myself with plane tickets because movies make me travel! In San Francisco, I saw The Maltese Falcon + Hitchcock movie locations: Family Plot, The Birds, but, must of all, Vertigo! In Vienna I saw The Third Man movie locations, in Los Angeles I saw Blade Runner, Pretty Woman, Sunset Boulevard, and maybe more movie locations, plus Paramount studios! In Seville, I saw The Plaza de España and the Alfonso XIII hotel where scenes from Lawrence of Arabia where shot. And, next may, I’m going to England and, as I love British cinema, I hope I’ll see many British movie locations and places where movie stars lived! So, watching classic films is just an extraordinary tool to enrich your culture!

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Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville
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Plaza de España

Being a classic films lover also makes me a weird and somehow misunderstood person. *dramatic music*  I mean, apart from celebrating dead peoples’ birthday. Indeed, if I say to someone I don’t have time for some thing,  this can be a synonym of “I have a blogathon to finish”. Hey! I take these seriously you know, and blogging has only brought me goods, so I don’t see why I should neglect it. I pratically only go to the movies to see classic film. So, moral of the story, I haven’t seen any of the Oscar nominated movies…oupsy! But knowing myself, I will probably see some of them, but after the Oscar ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t snub modern movies! I just don’t have the tendency to watch them when they have just been released. Except if it’s a movie I was waiting for a long time, such as Toy Story 4 which release date is ALWAYS postponed. Grrr! I work in a movie theatre and I can go see movies for free, but they don’t show American movie. So, obviously, the modern movies I saw in theatre are generally French-Canadian, or French from France movies.

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To continue with the weird stuff, I once tried to do this Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Years technique to sperate the egg white from the yolk. You know, with a strainer. Conclusion: it doesn’t work. But it’s funny to pretend you’re Katharine Hepburn for a minute. And talking about cooking, I recently did some popovers just because Amy March in Little Women loves them so much. Yeah, just for that. It was good.

And to list a few brief last things:

As a classic film addict I

  • Have way too many film soundtrack on my iPod
  • Get annoyed by people who say “I don’t like black and white movies” Blablabla…
  • Wonder if I’ll see all the films I want to see in a lifetime…
  • Am in love with many already dead movie stars. That’s the tragedy of classic film addicts.

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And I probably forgot something, but to love classic films is an endless passion!

And if you want to read how I discover classic films, just click here!

A big thanks to Theresa for hosting this fun blogathon!

You can read the other entries here.

See you!

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Ageism and Classic Films

I’m angry… And I have to empty my bag.

You know, to love classic films is a thing, but to love classic films as a Millennial is another. It’s a situation that has both its bright and dark sides, the brightest one being that you feel unique with your distinct passion that only a few people of your generation share with you. Because yes, most Millennials don’t watch classic films or only the obvious one, or the not-so-old ones. I mean, who hasn’t seen The Wizard of Oz (the obvious) or Forrest Gump (the not so old one)?

But I want to focus on the dark side. Actually, if Millennials don’t have the tendency to watch classic films, I believe it’s because they are “unconsciously” discouraged by the older generations to do so. I say “unconsciously” because if those people are like “ah Millennials should watch more classics.” They actually don’t do much about it. Maybe it is easier to say than to do…

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Take my example. If I started watching classic films, it’s not because of my parents or anyone older than me. Anyway, my parents don’t watch a lot of classics and I know more about them than they do. It’s a fact. No, I pretty much discovered them by my own and this articleexplains more precisely how I discovered them. Basically, just buying a book with beautiful movie star photos helped a lot. And, of course, when you are a Millennial watching classic films, you want to spread the love among people of your age because they are so wonderful (the films), right? My best friend has now seen a few classic films that she truly enjoyed thanks to who? To ME, a Millennial. My mother saw a lot of classic films that she’d loved because I wanted her to watch them with me.

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I have to admit my parents made me discover a few classics such a Thelma & Louise, The Birds, Cinema Paradiso, and more. But there aren’t 30s classics either.

Now, I just probably sound like I’m overpraising myself, but it’s just a way to show you that Millennials know about classics, perhaps more than some older generations. And I’m talking about me because I’m my best judge, but I know I’m not the only one. When I go see classics at the movies I see a lot of young people.

And just look at the classic film blogging community. Many Millennials here:

Critica Retrô

The Old Hollywood Garden

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood

Wolffian Classics Movies Digest

The Flapper Dame

Love Letters to Old Hollywood

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Back to Golden Days

Maddy Loves her Classic Films

Cinema Cities

And many more! These are just a few examples.

Go read their blogs. These are Mellinnial’s passion for classics is contagious.

Moral of the story, don’t draw conclusions too fast. Don’t put us all it the same bag. Some Millennials do watch and love classic films. More than you might think!

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But why?Why writing such an article right now when it’s like 11 pm. I just came across a post in a Facebook movie group where someone was asking which classics we should show to Millennials. At first, I had a very normal reaction and thought it was a common classic film group question. Then, I thought ‘hey are you assuming there are only non-Millennials in the group?” After all, Facebook is a Generation Y thing…

Me in my head: “Eh, I’m sure you haven’t seen Give Us the Moon!” Ok, major weird obsession with this film.

And there was this person assuming that they (we) should just stick to Marry Poppins as if we were hopless cases. Ugh. We’re not.

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And it seems that, recently, I’ve encountered a lot of similar situations, so I guess my patience has limits!

While I was writing this text, I came across this article that pretty much sums up my thought on the situation but in a more orderly way. I particularly agree when the author says “ Shaming young people for not doing something is the sure fire way to make them not do it.” Go read it:

Millennials Do Care About Classic Movies, But Need More Exposure to Them

Furthermore, Julia from Cinema Crossroads has some wise advice to give us in her article “How to encourage Millenials to watch classic movies“.

You might think that “ageism” is a too strong word for this situation, but as that particular situation is due to prejudices like racism, or sexism, it is exactly the right word.

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I’ve been watching classic since I was 15 and I’m not ready to stop! And hey, let’s make this clear once and for all, no generation is better than another!

I think that the only persons who can blame Millennials for not watching classics are… Millennials themselves!

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In Honour of Joan Fontaine on her Heavenly Centenary

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Do you remember the first time you ever heard about the more than extraordinary Joan Fontaine? I do as if it was yesterday. I was looking at this book called Les Stars de cinema that I had bought for my own curiosity (I was 15 and yet not really familiar with classic movie stars, but I thought the pictures were beautiful) and came across this picture of Joan Fontaine. I thought she was simply gorgeous, and even if I didn’t immediately watch one of her films, I stayed forever fascinated by this photo.

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The book mentioned the film Rebecca and since I had always been curious to see more Hitchcock’s film, it obviously was quite high on my to-see list. However, the first Joan Fontaine’s film I saw was Suspicion (also directed by Hitchcock) for which she won the Best Actress Oscar in 1941 (she is the only actress who won an Oscar for a Hitchcock’s film). And then, I watched Rebecca. Two films were enough for her to become one of my favourite actresses. I was charmed by her softness, which is present in her smooth voice, her kind gaze and her her skillful ways. When I watched Suspicion for the first time, I was with my mother who also agreed that her performance was brilliant. She made an observation that I think defines perfectly Joan’s talent: she is able to change emotions very easily.

When I discovered Joan, one thing I found quite nice about her is the fact that she was still alive. That was something rare enough as most of the great classic movie stars are now dead. But, unfortunately, as I was thinking for the x time on how it would be nice (and impossible) to meet her, I read a fatal Facebook post announcing her death. That made me very sad and I didn’t sleep a lot that night. Poor Joan, she can’t be gone forever! December 15, 2013 was metaphorically a very cold day.

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Photo taken in the late 70s: proof that she aged very gracefully!

Another of Joan’s talents is the fact that she was always able to give the right essence to her characters, her performances. For this reason, I cannot think of a role where she was miscast. She often plays gentle and innocent dames, but movies like Ivy and Born to Be Bad are a proof that she could also play fascinating villain without, however, losing her charm and by staying faithful to herself.

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If Joan is often associated with one of Daphné Du Maurier’s most famous characters, many will agree that she was also the perfect Jane Eyre. Indeed, I can hardly imagine someone else than her for the role. The only problem might be that Jane is described as someone plain, but Joan certainly wasn’t!

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Poor Jane, alone in the fog

If we continue to discuss her movie roles and how talented she was in their execution, one thing that always fascinated me is how she was able to play teenage girls and be convincing. Indeed, in The Constance Nymph, Joan was 26 when she played the role of the young Tessa and 30 when she played the role of Lisa in Letter from an Unknown Woman. Here, her acting is convincing both as a teenager and an elegant lady. It’s perhaps the innocence that she embodied that made it easy for her to play these roles.

When we hear Joan’s voice narrating the film at the beginning of Rebecca, we are enchanted by this sweet melody. She had a voice that inspired calm and serenity and one of these movie star voices that I could recognize everywhere. I love the way she talks, with an incredible fluidity. I could listen to her all day, even if she was reading the back of a cereal box. The tenderness in her gaze is also something absolutely seducing about Joan. One of the best examples would be this scene in September Affair when she and Joseph Cotten listen to September Song sang by Walter Huston on the radio. The way she looks at Joseph, with nothing but love in her eyes, creates one of the most beautiful scenes of the film.

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In another tribute I wrote to her, I explained that what I liked the most about Joan, and this time, Joan the woman and not Joan the actress, was her sense of humour. Indeed, this one can easily be seized in her interviews. Even if she didn’t give many of those, her ease was admirable. One can only smile when listening to her laugh and stories. By embodying my favourite quality ever (sense of humour), Joan only gains my sympathy and make me regret I could never be one of her friends. But, she remains a friend at heart and a precious spiritual companion for all those who love her.

There is also this video of an amazing meeting between Joan and another of my idols: Doris Day. The circumstances were indeed perfect for them to meet: Both love/loved animals and live/lived in Carmel.

Joan the woman can also be admired for a multitude of other reasons. Indeed, apart from being a gifted actress, she also was a talented cook, a licensed pilot, an expert rider, a licensed interior decorator and certainly a clever woman: at the age of 3, she scored no less than 160 on an IQ test! (IMDB)

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With her first husband, actor Brian Aherne

In 2015, I read Joan’s autobiography No Bed Of Roses where she tells her fascinating story. However, I think I should read it again as, at the time, I was still not used to reading long books in English and probably missed a few things. the nicest thing about this book is that it has Joan’s autograph inside of it! She didn’t autograph it for me, but just to think that she held this book is quite satisfying. One thing that particularly marked me about her life story is when she tells how she met Evita Peron (who thought they looked alike). Can anyone find a picture of them together??

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To this day, I have seen a total of 21 Joan’s films. This is quite good I think, but not even half of her filmography! So, of course, there are much more I have to discover. So far, the ones I’ve seen are Rebecca, Suspicion, Gunga Din, The Women, This Above All, The Constant Nymph, Jane Eyre, The Affairs of Susan, Letter from an Unknown Woman, The Emperor Waltz, You Gotta Stay Happy, Kiss The Blood Off My Hands, September Affair, Something to Live For, The Bigamist, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, Island in the Sun, Until They Sail, Ivy, Born to Be Bad and Darling, How Could You! For various reasons, I’ll recommend them all, but I’ll also be curious to know which one you think I should watch next!

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That awesome haircut! Joan was like the David Lynch of the actresses!

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It is not surprising that a rose was named after Joan Fontaine because this is really what she was, a true rose who embellishes our screens and seduces us forever. Today, this great lady would have had the honourable age of 100. Unfortunately, she didn’t have her sister’s Olivia de Havilland magic potion and already left us for a different world, but her memory is with us forever.

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Happy heavenly birthday dear Joan!

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This post was part of the Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon, hosted by me (!) and Crystal at In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Make sure to read the other wonderful entries:

The Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon

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I’ll leave you with this video tribute to Joan that I edited in…2014! Time flies!

See you!