Top 10 Favorite Movie Characters

Grabbing a note from Self-Styled Siren, today the Java will explore her 10 favorite movie characters (a list that is really just the favs which immediately come to mind because there are too many greats to have only 10). Contains spoilers.

10. Vinzzini (Wallace Shawn) in The Princess Bride (1987) - This guy is the worst supervisor you've ever had times 10. He's crazy and arrogant, which makes him funny. When he abruptly stops laughing and falls over dead, you know that someone has just unplugged this micro-manager from his Frankensteinian electricity source.

9. Lt. Kingsley (Peter Lawford) in On An Island With You (1948) - Petey-boy looks so puppy dog cute when he crushes for Miss Reynolds (Esther Williams).

8. Paul Spericki (Jeremy Pevin) in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) - He's a 30-something who is emotionally stuck in high school. I find this funny.

7. Sir Percival Blakeney (Leslie Howard) in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) - Did ever a man love his wife so intensely? I'm sure many have, but this aspect of the character is what endears Percy to me. Also he's active in a fight for justice, which helps.

6. Lisa Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida) in Come September (1961) - Yes, one could argue that Lisa is one step up from a Jayne Mansfield/1960s male fantasy character. But the script and Gina Lollobrigida actually make her a human being, a no nonsense business woman who makes very important geopolitical and gender observations with a comic flair. And they wrap all of that in the sophisticated, attractive package that is Gina Lollobrigida.

5. Charles "Hopsy" Pike (Henry Fonda) in The Lady Eve (1941) - His reactions to Jean's incessant seductive maneuvers are pure comic gold.

4. Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) in An American in Paris (1951) - Levant generally just plays himself in films, so Adam could be any of Levant's wise-cracking characters. Gotta love this guy.

From Paris intro: "It's not a pretty face, I grant you. But underneath this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character."

3. Gilbert Blythe (Jonathan Crombie) in Kevin Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables Trilogy - He's the ultimate boy-next-door: ever-patient as Anne continually rejects him (you begin to wonder if the guy loves emotional angst), slightly mischievous, interested, interesting, selfless, witty, and cute to boot. "I've loved you as long as I can remember," Gil tells Anne.

2. Gideon (Russ Tamblyn) in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - Gideon is the only brother of the 7 who has a distinct personality written in the script (other than Adam, of course). The scene where he tries to punch some sense into his stubborn older brother is endearing.

"Adam, you're my eldest brother. I've always looked up to you, tried to ape you. But today I'm ashamed for you."

1. Hortense (Eileen Heckart) in The Bad Seed (1956)- Hortense steals this film with only 2 scenes. Both times she's inebriated and self-pitying, yet she has pockets of lucidity and insight which further the plot surrounding the mysterious death of her young son. "You can't sleep at night. You can't sleep in the daylight," moans the bereft Hortense.

What are your top 10?

Esther Williams & Animals As Accessories

When MGM Studios would pair its leading ladies with animals onscreen, usually the creature would be either a part of the plot or a character (e.g. Elizabeth Taylor and Lassie, Mryna Loy and Asta each had intimate relationships onscreen).

However, for the musicals featuring Esther Williams, swimming champion and resident studio "mermaid," animals were usually accessories.

Let's take a look at Esther Williams' career.

  • Neptune's Daughter (1949) - Esther Williams absently pats a random dalmatian on a horse ranch as Ricardo Montalbรกn looks on.

  • Dangerous When Wet (1953) - In this film, Esther Williams has a plot-stopping cartoon dream where she swims with Tom the cat & Jerry the mouse, eye candy for kids.

  • Jupiter's Darling (1955) - A leopard accompanies Esther Williams on her morning walk as she wears zebra skin. The leopard is one of the conquered treasures that Hannibal (Howard Keel) shows off, merely a status symbol.

  • Publicity Stills - There are any number of publicity shots like this with Esther Williams and some aquatic creature.

What Esther Williams/animal-as-accessories movie scenes would you add?

Java's Photo Choice: Van Johnson

Just found a photo of Van Johnson in all of his freckled glory

Java's Blog Choice: Self-Styled Siren

Do check out Self-Styled Siren's Classic Movies blog. It's witty, thorough, and enthusiastic about its subject matter. Plus, she has a great array of photos of the stars.

Thoughts on The Pirate (1948) starring Judy Garland & Gene Kelly

Let's take a brief look at another Gene Kelly film. The Pirate (1948) pairs Kelly with Judy Garland. It's a retelling of the Broadway play of the same name by S.N. Behrmann.

Cole Porter, the brilliant composer for the film, wanted nothing to do with the finished product. Apparently this film was a flop in its day.

It's now a much-loved classic.

Strolling player Sarafin (Kelly) pretends to be the pirate Macoco knowing Manuela (Garland) has a crush on the pirate.

My favorite part is the section where Manuela pretends not to know that Sarafin has lied about his identity.

Manuela is furious. Sarafin enters. She's starts her act. It's funny.

She parodies her own admiration for the real pirate with wild gestures of drama and professions of deep adoration ("Don't you know that the record of your deeds is written on my heart?"). Then suddenly she goes quiets and mysteriously goes into another room.

Sarafin follows her into the other room, puzzled. Manuela, the wronged woman, begins pelting him with whatever she can lay her hands on (Garland has a fabulous throwing arm.)

I love how the two sides of this diptych of professions of undying love and the acts of violence are separated by actual doors. It's brilliant and funny.

Of course, this is an MGM musical and the two sparring stars must end up together.

This is my favorite of Judy Garland's costumes in this film. It's so light and feminine.

I love that Manuela's domineering Aunt Inez ( the fabulous Gladys Cooper) wears a top hat under a veil. It under girds her authority in the house. It's telling that this towering, loquacious woman marginalizes her speechless, hatless husband throughout the film. The hat helps in her dominance, apparently.

Thoughts on Gene Kelly: Invitation To The Dance (1956)

When people hear the name Gene Kelly, many think of the guy in the wool suit hanging from a lamppost, dancing with an umbrella and singing the title song in Singin' in the Rain (1952).

Or they think of An American In Paris (1951) with that showstopping ballet near the end where he and lithe Leslie Caron make famous French paintings come to life as they dance.

Here's another Kelly musical to store up in your memory banks: Invitation To The Dance (1956).

This is an all-dance movie with no dialogue and no one singing from the Gershwin portfolio.

It was filmed in 1952 but released in 1956 because MGM didn't think it would sell well. Once it was finally released it was a dud at the box office. You would think they would have released it immediately after it was completed in order to allow the previous Gene Kelly mega hits to cushion it should it fail.

By 1956 the movie musical was waning. Invitation was released to probably the most unsympathetic audience it could have: one that wasn't in the heyday of musicals, and one that wasn't yet in a musical retrospective mood.

Nevertheless, it has since become a favorite for Gene Kelly movie completists to watch.

The movie is a collection of three separate dance numbers: (1) "Circus," involving the love triangle of a clown, a ballerina and an aerialist. (2) "Ring Around The Rosy," which follows a bracelet as it makes its way into the hands of various people (3) "Sinbad, The Sailor," an animated/live action sequence involving daggers and sailors and a princess.

When my parents first bought this movie for my sister and me so long ago (because we begged and pleaded for every MGM musical ever made when the family went shopping) I was stunned and disappointed that there was no dialogue.

But soon the movie grew on me, especially "Ring Around The Rosy."

Because the sequence follows the bracelet as it goes from Husband to Wife to her Artist Friend to his Ballerina/Model, to her Flashy Boyfriend, etc., we get to see different lifestyles and atmospheres and the dance changes accordingly. If you don't care for one dance, it is shortly replaced with another of a different tone, all while telling this elaborate story of greed and duplicity.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Tommy "the most virile and beautiful Pontipee brother ever, except for Gideon, of course" Rall as the Boyfriend who flips, twirls, etc. as he waits for the Ballerina to come out of the stage door. We see him later holding the bracelet-bedecked wrist of a very slinky woman (played by Belita) with a Veronica Lake 'do at a night club.

She's knocked out the competition. How small is that waist? Can she breathe? Tommy 's elbow is on the table in the background.

I love Gene Kelly, but Tommy Rall made this movie great in my childhood, because he always has that not-so-innocent, boyish gleam in his eye that makes you wonder what he's going to do next.

Or perhaps he was just cute. Who knows?

Tommy looking wistful. What a good-looking guy. I'm totally shallow, just so you know.

When I was a kid, Gene Kelly sometimes seemed overly introspective and adult. I wanted leaps and flips and boundless enthusiasm unmarred by overly maudlin sentiments. Tommy delivered.

Tommy could show you a character in excruciating emotional pain without the darkness that often accompanies other dancers. But that's for another post.

If you have a spare afternoon, take a look at Invitation To The Dance (1956).
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