Friday, September 14, 2007
More Movies with Catholic Appeal
A while back I had a blog re: movies with religious themes or appeal that I particularly enjoyed. I realized shortly after I posted that I missed a few favorites, and figure now is a good time to add more. The movies often aren't about religion per se, but they have themes and characters that would appeal to most Catholics.
On The Waterfront: Yes, it's about corrupt union bosses - but who could forget the wonderful performance of Karl Malden as the for-sure-not-
from-a-lavender-seminary priest? Manly, tough as nails, and still 100% genuine priest. I love it. This is the movie where Marlo Brando says the immortal lines: "I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been SOMEBODY ..." [Said after he finds his rat brother stuck him with bum fights that didn't do his boxing career any good.]
Gigot: Jackie Gleason tour de force. Hard to find, but keep an eye peeled. Turner classic movies or the like is your best bet. Gleason plays an impoverished French mute janitor whom the town makes the butt of every joke. Out of the kindness of his heart he takes in a hooker and her small daughter. It's agonizingly wonderful when Gleason tries to get the concept of God across to the little girl. The whole movie can make you howl with laughter one moment, and have a lump in your throat the next. Gleason wrote the script and the score too. Gene Kelly directed it. Even though there's a hooker in it, kids from about 10 and up can watch. The adults will "get it" re: what the woman is, but the kids won't. No, nothing "graphic" happens with the hooker.
Little Boy Lost: Bing Crosby played a newspaper reporter who'd gotten separated from his French wife and baby son in WWII. Wife died, and son was shipped around to various orphanages. Bing thinks he may have found him - but is deceived by the reverend mother of the orphanage. Or is he? Also hard to find - keep an eye peeled on AMC or Turner Classic. Snaps for the woman who played Reverend Mother. She really ripped Bing a new one.
The Seven Little Foys: Stars Bob Hope, and Cagney makes an appearance as George Cohen. Take one not-terribly-gung-ho-semi-lapsed Irish vaudevillian, cross with one VERY Catholic Italian dancer and her ultra conservative sister, produce 7 kids - who eventually go on the road with dad after mom dies. Add a lot of song and dance and appealing characters and a cameo by the real Eddie Foy, Jr. and you've got yourself a family classic.
Pollyanna: Okay, she's the orphaned daughter of a minister, but why quibble? Great family movie - lead played by Hailey Mills. How can you not like her "glad" passages that she reminds her aunt's until-then hard-nosed minister about?
Sound of Music: Incredibly, I missed it first time around, and it's one of my favorite movies ever. The book it was based on, "The Trapp Family Singers" was the first book written for adults that I ever read as a child. I was nine, and from then on I have been a Maria von Trapp junkie. I usually re-read this book every year or two. Keep an eye peeled for Maria von Trapp's other books which include: "Maria", "A Family on Wheels," "Yesterday, Today and Forever," and "Around the year with the Trapp family." I also gather there were two German movies made about the Trapp family, which I haven't seen, but would love to: "Die Trapp-Familie" and "Die Trapp-Familie in Amerika." Maria actually has a small cameo in "The Sound of Music" - If you look closely during "Doe, A Deer" there is a part where the kids are downtown near a fountain. Not the fountain in the gardens, but the other one where the kids are by the town square - if you look VERY carefully, THROUGH the archway, Maria, dressed in "native" garb crosses. You might have to use slow-mo - but she's there in kerchief et al.
Miracle of the Bells: Frank Sinatra plays a supporting role as a priest in this film which starred Fred MacMurray, and an actress called Valli. It's about a young actress who died after playing St. Joan of Arc. Her body is returned to the small Pennsylvania town she grew up in. The studio wasn't going to release the movie, but is prevailed upon. Hokey, but in a good way. Obscure, but you can find it. Beats Frankie playing an assassin in "Suddenly."
Life with Father: Episcopalian flavor, but how not to like this self-made man finally bowing to the wishes of his wife and getting baptized as an adult? William Powell and Irene Dunne star. Look out for a young Elizabeth Taylor. The movie is fun - but the book is even better. Be sure and try to find a copy of the book that also includes Clarence Day's "Life with Mother" and "God and My Father." The movie plays a somewhat loose with the book, but the books are based on real life vignettes of the vibrant Day family. Father was a stockbroker back in the 1880s - the era of the self-made man. Once read, never forgotten. Clarence Day, Jr. had very stylish elegant prose with a light touch.
Cheaper by the Dozen: Get the original. Not "Catholic" either - but how could a family with 12 children not appeal? The book is better. But see the movie, and keep an eye peeled for the sequel Belles on Their Toes. Papa didn't belong to any religion, but he said that if he DID join one, it would be the Catholics, because at least he'd get credit for his 12 "Eskimoes."
Yours, Mine and Ours: Get the original, don't bother with the remake. A Navy widow with 8 kids meets a widower with 10 kids. Based on the true story of a two blended Catholic families, the Beardsleys and the Norths. Keep an eye peeled for the book "Who gets the Drumstick?" Movie stars Hank Fonda and Lucille Ball. Cameo by toddler Tracey Nelson.
Almost Angels: A Disney made movie about the Vienna Boy's Choir. What's not to like, other than the fact it's near impossible to find? See if you can find a store that rents off-beat movies. Plot is about a new chorister and an "old boy" who loses his treble voice. Endearing. You can, uh, like find, uh, parts of this movie, if you discreetly google the "obvious" sites. Don't broadcast it though, else it will be "gone."