LIFE LESSON: Trust
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: This classic fairytale is a must see and will help them understand many of life’s assumptions, including the entire concept of True Loves kiss.
Also that witches are bad, vanity is bad, and that placing trust in others is never bad ( that huntsman surprised us all). Being kind, sweet, caring and nice to dwarves (and others) leads you to happy places. If you whistle while you work, life’s not so trying. It can also translate directly to housework— If your kids hate doing dishes or laundry, make them watch this and remind them to be grateful they don’t live with 7 men…who work in mines.)
Something else of note is that Snow White was sung by the 18 year old Adriana Caselotti- an opera singer hand picked by Walt Disney himself. Her voice is very sweet and very high!!! Be ready for the kids to complain– don’t worry they’ll adapt. Besides this film won an Honorary Oscar in 1938 ( along with 7 mini Oscars) and marked the beginning of Animation getting the respect it deserves.
LIFE LESSON: There’s No Place Like Home
Wizard of Oz: The power of merging color film with black and white is pretty remarkable when it comes to how Hollywood has progressed over the years and could provide an excellent history lesson for your child, especially when you explain computers weren’t invented yet–they will be amazed.
But a big part of this film is that there is “no place like home” and that no matter where you are you always have the power to go there. Sure, while your kiddies may venture off to find courage, brains or their heart- home is always right where they left it- with you. A good reminder, always, and one you can teach your child whether they’re off to a sleepover, summer camp, or college.
LIFE LESSON: Be Resourceful. There’s always a way.
101 Dalmatians: This flick offers a perfect explanation for why dogs bark- at you, at other dogs, at cars. They are obviously crafting a rescue!
This one will give your child the understanding about where fur coats come from, why women are sometimes called “crazy woman drivers”, and true appreciation for animals. Resourcefulness is highlighted in this film when the puppies cover themselves with black soot— again, just another way you can help your child think outside the box. Yet these are simply the obvious lessons- watched multiple times your kids should be able to spot why bad guys have stupid sidekicks, the importance of looking up from your book to see the person you’re supposed to marry, the benefits and risks of a freelance music career and the benefits of a big family.
LIFE LESSON: Anything is Possible
The Sound of Music: Once upon a time, a long time ago they used to play Sound of Music every year at Easter, or so my mom tells me. Why? Well apart from the skyrocketing family friendly t.v. ratings gained on yet another holiday where having the t.v. on is the best idea ever, it was because its a movie about rebirth. About starting over. Since all of us live our lives starting over all the time, this alone is a valuable lesson to share. Yes, you can start over, Yes, things aren’t always as bad as you think. Yes, even a nun, previously wooed by Jesus, can find love. It’s a movie about possibilities. Kids need to know this stuff.
It’s also another opportunity to share the story of Nazi occupied Germany in a not horribly scary way. Also explaining what a baroness is , or a nun becomes much easier after this film. Seeing Julie Andrews in all her glory here is a must, especially as some children should know the do, re, mi song and will feel included singing along.
Turner Classic Movies is once again highlighting a Star each day of August, with a lineup of films. The Stars and Day highlighted are below! Enjoy!
1. Gene Tierney
2. Olivia de Havilland
3. Adolphe Menjou
5. Fred Astaire
6. Michael Caine
7. Katharine Hepburn
8. Raymond Massey
9. Robert Walker
10. Joan Crawford
11. Rex Ingram
12. Robert Mitchum
14. Groucho Marx
15. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr
16. Patricia Neal
17. Lee J. Cobb
18. Vivien Leigh
19. John Wayne
20. Mae Clarke
21. Alan Arkin
22. Marlene Dietrich
23. Debbie Reynolds
24. Warren Oates
25. Virginia Bruce
26. Greta Garbo
27. Monty Woolley
28. Ingrid Bergman
29. George C. Scott
30. Gary Cooper
31. Shelley Winters
And just to make sure we keep the expectation bar high.. here’s their lineup from 2012– http://www.tcm.com/summer/index.html
LIFE LESSON: Fortuosity
The Happiest Millionaire: This is one of my favorites, with Fred MacMurray and newbie actress Leslie Ann Warren.
Yes, this is a musical, which means the kids will remember the songs and lessons, whether they want to or not! Key lesson in this film? Fortuosity: that life is always giving you exactly what you need when you need it. And that while family expectations are important, if you got a dream you need to follow it. Humorous antics like alligators in the conservatory, and a father who fights off the boyfriends with boxing matches add a bit of extra fun.
Week One of the Daily Doses of Darkness for those of us in Noir school highlighted the 1941 movie of ‘The Letter’ with Bette Davis. The first five minutes of this movie are intense.
However…in the past I had also seen the 1929 version starring Jeanne Eagels. I re-watched it to see if there was anything noirish about it and wasn’t disappointed. Jeanne’s performance is powerful, the French director Jean De Limur also had scenes that wouldn’t disappoint noir fans. Jeanne Eagels descending the stairs to meet with her murdered lover’s Chinese mistress is pure noir cinematography. I must say this version is my favorite version of W. Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Letter’. I love the fact that Herbert Marshall plays Geoffrey the ex-lover neighbor that is dispatched of after confessing he has moved on and taken a Chinese mistress (pretty strong stuff in Pre-Code Classic Hollywood).
Chinese actress Lady Tsen Mei plays the mistress that is in possession of the damning Letter.
Herbert Marshall plays the cad neighbor to perfection in 1929 as he plays the opposite character the clueless husband in the Bette Davis version.
Jeanne Eagels was nominated for Best Actress Oscar in 1929. She was the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar posthumously. She lost to Mary Pickford in Coquette. Bette Davis was nominated Best Actress for her performance in 1941 but lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion.
LIFE LESSON: Faith Required
A Little Princess: A absolutely required introduction to Shirley Temple as a child actress can fuel the talk about what the Great Depression was ( which I hear some schools don’t even teach now!), and how America got through it( with shirley temple and musicals). A lovely testament to the Human Spirit, A Little Princess offers the same kind of faith during bad times that is always rewarded. Faith is an excellent lesson to teach and practice.
Week One of the Summer of Darkness I twittered the comment that I couldn’t wait to watch this movie because it featured the actor Jean Gabin (loved him in Moontide with Ida Lupino). I was doubly blessed when I found the DVD in the Criterion Collection. I was able to watch the movie plus the interview with Director Jean Renoir about the making of the movie.
La Bete Humaine was made in 1938. Gabin’s character is in love with two women, Simone Simon and Lison the Locomotive he engineers between Le Havre and Paris. Renoir states he chose Simone for the ‘vamp’ as he put it because she had an innocent face. Renoir and Gabin ever the realists never shared with train passengers that sometimes the engineer at the throttle driving their train was Jean Gabin himself. This movie is pre- Double Indemnity (1944), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) but follows the same type scenario. I’m hoping some of those Noir buffs got a chance to watch it.
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LIFE LESSON: Just a Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down.
Mary Poppins: An Icon in nanny abilities Mary Poppins succeeds in teaching parents how to listen to their children without compromising her practically perfect standards. What’s more is that children can learn that cleaning can be fun, spending time with their parents is important, and helping to support the local bird woman offers lessons in charity and goodwill.
If you didn’t notice that a spoonful of sugar is used metaphorically through the whole film- now is the time! Having wet feet calls for medicine ( with sugar), cleaning up a bedroom ( with a song to move the job along), and visit their father at the stuffy old bank ( with a stop at Uncle Albert’s) all get better with a little well placed joy.
What I love most about this film is how it can really open up the dialogue about the olden days when they didn’t have green screens and photoshop and computers to make movies. Kids these days may just take for granted that this film could have easily been shot on a green screen to combine the live-action and animation… but no…it was shot on yellow screen with chemicals and negatives and since computers to do this caliber of work didn’t arrive till almost 30 years later it’s a great way to share a bit of history and make them feel smart too!