Stumbling coda aside, one of my favourite classic Hollywood fantasies. An adaptation of a novel by Josephine Leslie, it's the best screen representation of the romance genre I know. As a metanarrative about the place of fiction in a widow's life, it captures, above all, the experience of being a romance novel lover. When all actual men disappoint her, Gene Tierney does what so many women do: she abandons actual men for fictional ones. Between the covers, in Gull Cottage…
Key Witness 1947
Light-hearted Columbia B noir, with all the flashback structure and plot twists characteristic of its period. It stars John Beal as a sympathetic tragic figure whose hopes always seem to be on the cusp of being dashed. He anchors the movie well enough for a diverting 67 minutes. There's a fine role for Charles Trowbridge as a father figure for Beal. And, as a Deanna Durbin devotee, it's neat to see Smart Girl alumna Barbara Read all grown up as Beal's wife. Pleasant if forgettable—dig those talking clocks!
What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City 1901
A woman's skirt shoots up when she walks under the gushing air of a sidewalk grate, fifty-four years before Marilyn's iconic performance in The Seven Year Itch. Only today have I learned the historical significance of this film's title. Why does it happen on Twenty-Third Street? The answer can be found by pairing this film with the 1903 actuality At the Foot of the Flatiron, in which pedestrians clutch their hats and skirts on a windy day on the corner…
I Love Melvin 1953
One of the 50 best films in the history of cinema. Starstruck gal Debbie Reynolds wants to be on the cover of Look magazine — paging Dr. Laura Mulvey? — and apprentice photographer Donald O'Connor promises he'll help. Perfectly trifling, then, but what's remarkable here isn't the what but the how. Its wide-eyed stars direct off Singin' in the Rain (which O'Connor knowingly references with a lamppost leap), the dance numbers here rank among the most creative ever made for…