Today is the amazing Jimmy Stewart’s birthday. Since TCM so thoughtfully decided to play a marathon of Stewart’s movies (and I have the day off!) I decided to watch one of his movies I have never seen before. The fact that the movie also stars Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon is an added bonus!

I have actually never even heard of this film: Bell, Book, and Candle. The central plot revolves around two witches, warlock, and an unsuspecting book publisher (Stewart).

The scene opens on Christmas Eve as Gillian (Novak) laments her loneliness. She is an art dealer and also, a witch. She is clearly interested in her upstairs neighbor Shep Henderson (Stewart) but he is already engaged. When Gillian meets Shep’s fiancee, she recognizes her as an old school chum who she disliked in the past.

Gillian wonders if she could make him love her without any tricks. But when Shep tells her he is getting married the next day, she decides to cast a spell on Shep to make him quickly fall in love with her. Shep is spellbound!

As most romantic comedies play out, Gillian and Shep fall in love for real. But Gillian is torn between her love and having to hide her powers from him if they are married. But she decides to take the risk and marry Shep. And she takes a bigger risk in telling him that she is a witch. He is angry at first and tries to get rid of Gillian’s love spell. But since a condition of the undoing spell is to confront Gillian, Shep and she are able to talk and realize they are still in love despite what they have been through.

Lemmon stars as Gillian’s warlock brother Nicky and Elsa Lancaster stars as their Aunt Queenie who is also a witch (she is much like the character of Endora from the TV series Bewitched).

Lemmon’s character is great, but I wish he had been given more material. He is known for his comedies, but his character is a bit limited in this film. Lancaster is great her portrayal of the busybody aunt. Novak’s performance is also good; she is clearly torn by wanting to give up her powers and live normally and also wanting to make Shep love her.

Bell was made the same year as Novak and Stewart’s widely popular film Vertigo directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Though this film never gained the notoriety or acclaim as Vertigo, Bell is a cute funny film worth watching.

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Dial M for Murder is one of my favorite Hitchcock’s movies. With a great cast consisting Grace Kelley, Ray Milland, and Robert Cummings. John Williams also stars as the chief inspector who

The opening credit music lulls you into a false sense of security. But it does not take long for a dark thread to become visible.

The scene is quite chilling as Tony tells his friend, Lesgate, one evening about how he found out about the affair and how he thought about killing her.  When Margot and Mark seemed to break it off, Tony gives the marriage another chance. But when the couple make out their wills and leave their possessions to each other, he changes his mind. He then reveals his plan to Lesgate and subsequently talks him into murdering Margot. The fact that he is blackmailing Lesgate makes the task easy.

There is no music during the scene in which Lesgate and Tony discuss their plans, but the music kicks in the moment Lesgate picks up the money Tony offered him and in essence commits to his part in the murderous plot.

Hitch inserts a little comedy into the following scene. Tony, Margot, and Mark are sitting around drinking before the men are to go out to a stag party. They are discussing if the “perfect murder” is possible. Soon after, Tony asks Margot for her key and sets his plan into motion.

But the night of the planned murder, things do not go as Tony had intended. Margot kills her attacker (Lesgate) instead. Tony at first scrambles, but then quickly sees a way to still get what he wants. He sets up Margot, making her look like she had a motive to kill Lesgate.

Tony evolves with his plan, but has a big slip-up in the end. The Chief Inspector is just as clever as Tony. He catches Tony red-handed and proves Margot’s innocence all in the same moment.

Hitch does a great job in playing out the key scenes. Each has the right amount of feeling, whether the scene needed suspense, chill, or uneasy laughter, such as the end of the Tony/Lesgate scene. Tony is almost comical in the way he calmly goes about the room wiping off Lesgate’s fingerprints while Lesgate looks on bewildered.

The way the camera zooms in on key props such as the house keys and even the telephone dialer is classic Hitch.

Milland gives a great performance as the diabolical husband. This Hitch thriller is a classic that can be enjoyed today even in comparison to many of today’s great mysteries.

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Grace and Bing in The Country Girl

Still admired today for her beauty and dignity, Grace Kelly was born on this day, November 12, in 1929 in Philadelphia.

Grace wanted to act from a young age. She studied drama at New York’s America Academy of Dramatic Art. Before moving to Hollywood to pursue a film career, she worked as a stage actress and also a model.

After appearing in High Noon with Gary Cooper, she appeared in Mogambo alongside Clark Gable and Ava Gardner and earned Best Supporting Actress nomination. (This is one film that is now on my “must watch when able” list!)

Her work in High Noon garnered her the attention of director Alfred Hitchcock. He sought after her to be one of his leading ladies. Working with famed costume designer Edith Head, Hitchcock made Grace into his ideal blonde bombshell leading actress.

Grace worked with Hitchcock on three films, first Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart, then Dial M for Murder with Ray Milland, and then To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant. These three are some my favorite Hitch films and definitely deserve a viewing if you have never seen them.

Grace went a completely different avenue in The Country Girl. Starring with William Holden and Bing Crosby, she plays the wife of an alcoholic actor (Crosby) who starts to fall in love with the director (Holden) who is working with him. This movie is surprisingly good and viewers see both Grace and Bing Crosby in a very unusual type of movie for them. They both give great performances and after I did watch this film it became one of my favorites.

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Grace and William Holden attending the Oscars

Grace won the Best Actress Oscar in 1954 for The Country Girl beating out Judy Garland who was nominated for her comeback role in A Star is Born. Crosby was nominated for Best Actor but lost to Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront.

Later the two reunited in High Society which also starred Frank Sinatra. This film is the musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story.

In 1956, Grace married Prince Rainier Grimaldi III of Monaco and effectively became “Princess Grace” of Monaco. She left her acting career behind for her family. She and her husband had 3 children, Carolina, Albert, and Stephanie. She passed away in 1982 after her car ran off the road in cliffs of Monaco.

Grace Kelly will always be remember for her timeless roles, beauty and fashion sense. Many books have been written about her lavish wedding and wedding gown.

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Grace on her wedding day

TornCurtainOk, I am finally getting  around to talking a little more about Torn Curtain. While most definitely not one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, this movie still has a lot to offer.

The movie, a classic tale of suspicion and intrigue, is set during the Cold War, with the title referring to the Iron Curtain. It opens with Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) and his fiancee/assistant Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews) en route by cruise ship to a science conference  in Copenhagen.

Things seem to be going well until Armstrong starts acting suspciously. Sherman finds out he is going to East Berlin suddenly and decides to follow him there. He confronts her on the plane and tells her to go home and forget that she saw him. Sherman is not easily persuaded and insists on staying with him. He agrees with the condition that she stay out of the way and return to Copenhagen as soon as possible.

Things become even more suspicious when Armstrong is welcomed warmly at the East Berlin airport by German government officials. Sherman is convinced that her fiancee has defected to the East Germans.

But it soon becomes clear that Armstrong is only pretending to be loyal to the East in order to gain the confidence of chief scientist Gustav Lindt (Ludwing Donath). Lindt is key in the development of the Soviet’s missile program.

The story takes a tense turn when Armstrong is followed to the home of a fellow contact by a German security officer. Armstrong has to kill the officer and dispose of his body without coming under additional suspician by the police.

This scene is one of Hitchcock’s best; it is said that he wanted to show how difficult it really is to kill another person.

Armstrong is able to gain the trust of Lindt and is given the secret he was after.

But he and Sherman must then make an escape by a false bus that is also trying to get others to safety. They then make it to another contact within a traveling troupe that hides them in trunks on a ship bound for Sweden.

As in many of Hitchcock films, the director makes a cameo; he can be seen as a man holding a small child in the lobby of the hotel.

Hitchcock mixes the right amount of suspense, epionage and romance into this plot. Hopefully this is just the first of many Hitch films I will be able to discuss.

This was a very different turn for Andrews after just portraying Mary Poppins and the singing governess Maria. But I think she a great job in this unusual role.

As usual, Newman is fantastic and I would have liked to see him in an additional Hitch film. Although, Hitchcock himself seemed to prefer his old standbyes such as Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.

I guess I cannot blame him in those cases.

If you like a classic wartime thriller, this movie should definitely should be on your list. Torn-Curtain2

Two more great actors of the golden age were born on this first day of October.

Today’s birthdays include the beautiful and talented Julie Andrews (she’s 74 today!) and the handsome George Peppard.

Most people may remember Julie Andrews from the classic musical Sound of Music. This does happen to be one of the only musicals my father will watch; yes, it’s because there are Nazis in it.

Andrews has had a diverse career on the stage, screen and television. Born in London on 1935, Andrews’ family quickly discovered her talent for singing. She begun her stage career at the age of 19. She later went on to star in the stage production of My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle.

She was approached by Walt Disney himself in 1964 to see if she wanted to role in his new live action/animation musical, Mary Poppins. She accepted and went on to win her first Oscar for the role. This role launched her into fame and straight into the role of Maria in Sound of Music. Music was an even bigger hit than Mary Poppins and earned Andrews yet another Oscar nomination (although the movie did win an Oscar for Best Picture).

Today Andrew is still active in Hollywood, starring in a few other well know film series such as The Princess Diaries and Shrek.

George Peppard is best know for his role in the well-loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Peppard studied acting at Carnegie Tech and the Actor’s Studio.

After Breakfast at Tiffany’s did so well at the box office, Peppard was able to land more credible roles. He starred as Jimmy Stewart’s son in the acclaimed How the West Was Won in 1962 and Operation Crossbow in 1965 with Sophia Loren.

He film success dwindled near the end of his career. But he found fame again in television playing the leader of the A-Team from 1983-87.

After years of heavy smoking, Peppard succombed to lung cancer in 1994.

He will always be remembered for his role as Paul Varjak, frustrated writer and friend to Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly as well as for his other romantic roles.

I would like to pick a movie from each and talk  a little about them. But for today, here are some video clips to preview which movies I will be talking about.

First: a great short scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I, of course have seen Mary Poppins and Sound of Music several times each. But this movie, directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock, in which Andrews starrs with the Paul Newman is also very good. It’s a classic Hitchcock film with suspense and just enough romance (Andrews and Newman look great together!)

Sorry this trailer isn’t the greatest. The movie is great, just trust me 😉

Well hello to all you out there in blogging world!

I am glad you made it over to SilverScreenStories, or the Reel Deal for short. Here I hope to share with you my knowledge and love of film. I love all kinds of films, but I do believe the classics are and always will be the best.

There are a lot of films out there to wade through. This blog will feature the very best of Old Hollywood, from Hitchcock to Hepburn.

I owe my love of classic films to a good friend of mine who pushed many a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney film into my hands. My dad and I also have sat down and watched classic war movies together. Today, our schedules are crazy so we watch them when we can and usually discuss them over email.

In fact, who doesn’t have a crazy schedule these days? But what better way to unwind than with a great film?!

So ladies and gents, grab the couch and butter popcorn and get ready to laugh, cry, sing, and fall in love with Hollywood’s Golden Age.