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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."


Anonymous said...

The old 'Cheaper by the Dozen' was my inspiration..must check out the others..we're a bit like the Von Trapps except my family can all sing & i can't!

EC Gefroh said...

Good choices!! Of the movies you picked there are only three I have not seen...Little Boy Lost, On the Waterfront and Almost Angels. Gigot is very sad.

gemoftheocean said...

I think your family would enjoy the movies I mentioned, Jackie....there are some other "family fun" movies I can think of without any specific religious angle -- for instance:

Father Goose with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron (and 7 stranded kids) in the south pacific while Cary got roped into being a coast watcher.


Meet Me in St. Louis - Judt Farland and Margaret O'Brien

Re: Gigot - yes it can be very sad in parts - especially when the towns people are playing cruel tricks on Gigot making him the butt of their jokes, but it all comes out right in the end when they thought he got killed in an accident and they are admitting what creeps they all were -- and then Gigot shows up at his own funeral! [You'll remember he LOVED to attend people's funerals - even people he didn't know!] And On The Waterfront is a classic in anyone's book - Elia Kazan directed it.

gemoftheocean said...

Duh -- Judy GARLAND (see what happens when I try and eat lunch and type with one hand at the same time?)

Phil said...

I've seen grown men weep at that bit in 'Sound of Music', when the organ thunders in at the beginning of the wedding scene.

swissmiss said...

OK, once again this is not my topic. I hadn't seen any of the last ones you mentioned, but did manage to scrape up The Mission as my recommendation. This time, the only one I have seen is The Sound of Music. Funny how people seem to remember the family being Swiss when they were Austrian (although I think they escaped to through the alps to Switzerland.)

gemoftheocean said...

Funny you should mention about that escape to Switzerland issue. When I visited Austria on my "Grand tour" after college we went on the "Sound of Music tour" [don't know if they still have that, but we sure as heck enjoyed seeing venues used in the filming. We were told that that mountain scene at the end has the family going into .... Germany. :-D

Apparently, locals on both sides of the border around there get a good laugh.

gemoftheocean said...

Philip, I love that part too. We got to go inside the church they used to film that in. If you look really closely when the camera pans up - you can catch the bones of some bishop or other in a reliquery above the tabernacle.

I also like the nuns singing in the chapel towards the beginning of the film.

Phil said...

" can catch the bones of some bishop or other...".

So, you've met my bishop, then!


Paulinus said...

Going My Way? The Quiet man? It's A Wonderful Life?

Paulinus said...

D'oh! Should've read the first post

gemoftheocean said...

No problemo Paulinus, those posts are pretty buried!

Michael Clifton said...

I would also draw your attention to a marvellous French Film called
Monsieur Vincent, which we all saw as Seminarians because we discussed one scene in particular where a Seminarian is dining with an ex priest who suddenly picks up a piece of bread and a whole bottle of wine (this in a restaurant) and pronounces the words of consecration over it.
The Seminarian is faced with the dilemma. Was this a valid consecration. He decides he has to consume the entire bottle.
Discuss..Was this a valid consecration and did the Seminarian do the right thing ?

Anonymous said...

Where is Keys of the Kingdom?

This an "The Cardinal" were the two books of my youth that had my idea of the ideal priest.

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Two of the best films that weren't mentioned so far are "The Diary of a Country Priest" (in French with subtitles) and "The Power and the Glory." Both are about priests and the power of grace. Wonderful.

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks for the additions:

Fr. Michael, I'd say "valid but not licit!"

And he'd have had to consecrate both elements at the same time. Later on tonight I'll make up another post with all the nice suggestions you and others have sent in.


gemoftheocean said...

And thank you, Fr. Bailey!

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