One of my favorite reads for 2012 is July’s The Girl is Trouble, a follow-up to the historical YA The Girl is Murder, from Roaring Brook Press. The author Kathryn Miller Haines has several books set during the 1920s, including the Rosie Winter series, and for a guest post, I decided to let her discuss her favorite historical movies.
And now, Kathryn Miller Haines!
When I was a kid, my mom bombarded my sister and me with films from the 1930s and ‘40s (with an occasional one from the ‘50s and ‘60s). I think, in her mind, it was a way of keeping us from the sex and violence of more contemporary movies, although truth be told there was just as much sex and violence, it just tended to start onscreen and quickly move off. Too poor for cable, I was initially reluctant to enjoy these Friday night black and white Blockbuster picks (couldn’t we at least get a movie in…gasp…color?), but I eventually fell in love with them. There’s something about the clothes, the dialogue, the music, the everything that made these films so much more of a fantasy than things being released in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I yearned to talk like the women who populated these films, to move with their slinky grace and assurance, to express emotion with a raised eyebrow, a flick of a cigarette, and a single tear that fell without making my face red and my nose run.
Yeah, they had style. They had grace.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Stage Door (1937). Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers. A group of girls inhabit a boarding house for actresses in New York and go through the trials and tribulations of becoming stars. Katharine Hepburn as the rich girl playing poor lured me in, but it’s Ginger Rogers with her fast patter and fantastic dance steps that makes me keep coming back to this movie. The dialogue zings, but as funny of a movie as it is, it’s got an emotional one-two punch at its center. This is the movie that inspired my Rosie Winter mystery series set among (you guessed it) actresses living in a New York boarding house.
Philadelphia Story (1940). It’s my namesake, Katharine Hepburn again, this time paired with Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. More razor sharp dialogue (both Stage Door and Philadelphia Story were originally plays and it shows) as Hepburn’s Tracy Lord gets ready to remarry despite unresolved feelings for her ex, Cary Grant. While the three top billed stars are amazing, it’s the supporting cast I love in this film, especially Virginia Weidler as precocious Dinah Lord and acerbic Ruth Hussey as a love-lorn, wise-cracking photographer.
His Girl Friday (1940). The plot is similar to Philadelphia Story, but this time its Rosalind Russell’s fast-talking reporter that Cary Grant is trying to keep from remarrying, while she gets roped into the biggest story of her career. Another play turned film, what’s intriguing isn’t just the marvelous, quotable dialogue but the fact that Russell’s part (in the play, The Front Page) was originally written for a man and the romance angle wasn’t added until this film.
All About Eve (1950). This time it’s Bette Davis in the lead in a film about an up and coming actress (Anne Baxter) who’s trying to usurp the career of one of theater’s grande dames. Witty, gut-wrenching, agonizingly frustrating, this is the movie that made me finally understand why Bette Davis was a star. Bonus points: it was Marilyn Monroe’s first film.
Visit KathrynMillerHaines.com for all the latest on her books, including The Girl is Trouble and The Girl is Murder. You can also read my review of Girl is Murder! Thanks to the Teen Book Scene and Kathryn Miller Haines for this great guest post!
Come back for my review of The Girl is Trouble July 6!