Lights, Camera…Action!!

24th February 2022 I love a good film, don’t you? There are genres that I avoid if I can, but mostly I’m happy to watch all kinds. There are some movies that I’ve watched over and over again, some even hundreds of times. Others I’ve seen once and that was enough, even though I might have enjoyed it. I think possibly – although there are many – my favourite all time movie is a film called ‘Always’, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter and John Goodman. An excellent love story with a twist. I have it on DVD (yes, I still watch DVDs – I have hundreds of them!) and it is my go-to feelgood weepie film. Coming a close second to that is ‘Steel Magnolias’, starring Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Olivia Dukakis, Julia Roberts and Daryl Hannah. No matter how many times I’ve seen this film, every time I watch it, it makes me cry. The ultimate and possibly the original chick-flick. Unless you know otherwise.

I’m mad on musicals – my mum loved them and I was brought up on them. After seeing ‘The Sound of Music’ when it came out in 1965, my 7-year-old-self spent hours running up and down my Auntie’s lawn acting out the story, playing all the roles myself and singing at the top of my voice. Anyone walking their dog on Biggar Bank must have thought I was nuts! I had become a Julie Andrews fan the previous year after seeing ‘Mary Poppins’; I so envied her amazing voice which spanned at least two octaves. Sadly, I was never that talented, though I did continue to sing in school and ladies’ choirs and even a rock band at one point (during my twenties, in the far dim and distant past). So when ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ came out in 1967 I was in my element!

But I loved all the great Hollywood Musicals: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’, ‘South Pacific’, ‘Oklahoma’, ‘Carousel’,’ White Christmas’, ‘High Society’ – are we seeing a pattern here? ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was a particular favourite and I also became a Judy Garland fan; ‘Meet Me in St Louis’, ‘Easter Parade’, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera – in the words of Yul Brynner, in the ‘The King and I’. Incidentally that is the only film in which I ever liked him!

When my Mum was entering the final stages of Alzheimer’s, the only way to keep her occupied was by putting on a DVD of one of her favourite musicals. Other television was no good for her, her memory span was so short she couldn’t remember the plot long enough to understand what was going on. She could not remember who I was, but she remembered all the songs from her past and would song along with them very happily, especially anything with Doris Day in it! I can still see her singing ‘The Deadwood Stage’ and cracking her imaginary whip alongside ‘Calamity Jane’! I both curse and bless ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’! Mum lost all measure of time and would often be awake all night. The only way I could get her to settle down would be to put this film, (it was the only one that would automatically repeat,) onto the TV in her room. Fortunately, she couldn’t remember she’d just seen it, and would happily watch it over and over again. The downside is, that the video baby monitor I used so that I could check on her all night had to be placed right by the TV to get the best camera angle to make sure she was still in bed – so I could hear the soundtrack all night long too. I swear I can tell you the script for all of the roles, word for word, if I try. So, although I still love it, I confess I haven’t watched it since Mum died four years ago.

I think the one genre I completely avoid is Horror. I don’t understand the pleasure gained from being scared to death! I think this stems from about 1974 when I went, aged 16 with one of my BFFs, Sue and our two boyfriends to see ‘The Exorcist’. There had been so much hype; stories about cinemas being picketed by priests, and offering counselling, and people reporting all sorts of weird things like heart attacks, fainting, and vomiting, but nevertheless, people flocked to see it. I confess I understand the vomiting part – I very nearly did myself at the part where Regan’s head turns a full 360˚ as she projectile vomits what looks like thick pea soup! Perhaps I should have said ‘spoiler alert there? At that point I couldn’t watch any more and my then boyfriend escorted me out of the cinema. Later on, Sue and the rest of our friends all took the mickey out of my cowardice! I probably didn’t sleep properly for the next six months, being terrified every night when, sharing a room with my sister, she tossed and turned and moaned all night long. One particular night, she sat bolt upright in bed, looked around the room with her eyes wide open then fell back to sleep, not remembering a thing about it the next day. I was certain that my little sister was possessed! Later, on holiday with Sue, we shared a room and when in the middle of the night the wardrobe door suddenly opened all by itself, I found out, when we both screamed and clung to each other in terror, that Sue had been scared of the film too, but had brazened it out!

I’ve never watched a horror film since, except for in the 90s, when my second husband brought home ‘From Dusk till Dawn’. I was in the throes of a big George Clooney crush at the time, and, having no idea what the film was about, settled down to watch, only then discovering it was a gory vampire flick!

Apart from Horror though, I’m very eclectic in my movie tastes. One of the best films I’ve ever seen was Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Fanny and Alexander’; I became fond of Bergman because my late beloved was a big fan, and I bought him, one Christmas, a boxed set of Bergman films. Some of them are pretty dark, admittedly, but they always have a wonderful story, and are beautifully acted. These sparked in interest in several international directors, including Federico Fellini, Luis Buñuel, Pedro Almodóvar and Claude Chabrol. All masters of their art, and rightly so.

I’ve recently developed a taste for those ridiculously over-the-top action films; Tom Cruise’s ‘Mission: Impossible’ series, ‘RED’ and ‘RED2’, starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich, and the ‘Deadpool’ movies starring Ryan Reynolds. They’re very violent and gory, but I somehow manage to suspend the disbelief because the stunts and effects are so amazing – and they also have a little humour, like they have a gentle poke at themselves so as not to be taken seriously.

Going back to the good old days, I’m a huge fan of good old Archie Leach from Bristol! To the uninitiated, otherwise known as Cary Grant. I’d happily watch a film about paint drying if it starred Cary Grant. He was so handsome, suave and debonair, but a master of the ‘screwball’ comedy; films like ‘Bringing Up Baby’ and ‘The Philadelphia Story’ with Katherine Hepburn, ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ with Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, ‘His Girl Friday’ with Rosalind Russell, ‘The Awful Truth’ and ‘My Favourite Wife’ with Irene Dunn. I could go on and on – he was so prolific in his output, making around 58 films throughout his career, ending with Hitchcock’s ‘Charade’ with Audrey Hepburn.

So many brilliant actors that I like and have tried to see everything they’ve made. One of the most favourites in that class would be Robin Williams. The man was a genius both in his acting and his stand-up comedy. Just watch him being interviewed by Parky or Johnny Carson – he had such a wit and was a master of improvisation.  Such a shame that he was a victim of the Black Dog. Taken from us way, way too soon.

The 1980s was a fantastic decade for movie production – blockbusters like ‘Top Gun’, ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘E T’, and franchises like ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Back to the Future’, ‘Lethal Weapon’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cop’. All brilliant movies that still stand up well today, I’ve seen them all so many, many times.

A favourite comedy film is ‘Blazing Saddles’, the epic western spoof by Mel Brooks. Every time I see it, I find something I’ve missed previously through laughing so much. I’m not sure you could make that movie today, what with all the political incorrectness it contains, but I love it!

In fact, I love them all; the Rom-coms, the Dramas, the psychological Thrillers, the Comedies, the Chick-flicks, the Action movies, the Biopics. I could happily spend the rest of my life watching and rewatching my brilliant films. Maybe I’ve sparked some memories for you today. How about you? What are your all-time favourites? Do tell, in the boxes below, I’d love to hear from you!

Till next week,

LH

By lizziehughesauthor

Hello! I'm Liz, a writer from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, although I'm originally from t'other side o't hill as they say around here. I'm from Barrow in Furness, which was in Lancashire when I was born - still, whether it's Lancashire or Cumbria, it still makes me a Northern Lass. That means I'm honest, straightforward and feisty. My current book is (very) loosely based on my family history, though the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty!) I'm hoping to publish in April 2022, or possibly earlier. Watch this space!

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