When the subject initially came up to talk about Hollywood as one of our Girlfriends Book Club themes for the fall, the very first thing that came to mind for me were these two classic films: "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, and "Roman Holiday" (1953), starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn and Eddie Albert. I watched them both first in black & white as a teen and -- these many, many years later! -- I still love them best that way.
I'll always adore the inspired banter in "The Philadelphia Story," particularly the back-and-forth zings of Katharine (Tracy Lord) and Cary (C.K. Dexter Haven), still-feuding ex-spouses who are reunited by a little journalistic blackmail on the eve of Tracy's wedding to another man. There's this moment, fairly early in the film, when they're out by the pool arguing and Jimmy Stewart's character (innocent journalist Macaulay "Mike" Connor) is getting a bit uncomfortable with Tracy and Dexter's rising tempers. He tries to slink away from them, but they notice, of course, and refuse to let him leave. They like having the audience. Long before I was ever a writer, I'd laugh whenever I'd hear this exchange. It was just so well paced and comical:
Dexter: How about you, Mr. Connor? You drink, don't you? Alcohol, I mean.
Mike: A little.
Dexter: A little? And you're a writer? Tsk, tsk, tsk. I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know, at one time I think I secretly wanted to be a writer. [He looks up at him and grins.]
Tracy: Dexter, would you mind doing something for me?
Dexter: Anything, what?
Tracy: Get the heck out of here.
Dexter: I couldn't do that. That wouldn't be fair to you. You need me too much.
Tracy: Would you tell me what you're hanging around for? [Mike tries to sneak away.] No, please don't go, Mr. Connor.
Dexter: No, please don't go, Mr. Connor. As a writer, this ought to be right up your street.
Tracy: Don't miss a word.
Then, of course, there's "Roman Holiday," with an escaped princess (Audrey Hepburn playing Princess Ann), who's feeling the effects of sleep medication but is on the loose in Rome late one night, and an American journalist (Gregory Peck as Joe Bradley), who just stumbled onto what could be the biggest story of his career. This is one of many laugh-aloud scenes:
Ann: Do you know my favorite poem?
Joe: You already recited that for me.
Ann: "Arethusa rose from her couch of snows in the Acroceraunian mountains" - Keats.
Joe: Now, you just keep your mind off the poetry and on the pajamas, and everything'll be all right, see.
Ann: It's Keats.
Joe: Now, I'll be - it's Shelley - I'll be back in about ten minutes.
[Joe walks to his door and hides his wine bottle on the top of the mantelpiece.]
Ann: You have my permission to withdraw.
Joe: Thank you very much...
There aren't a lot of films that make me feel as giddy with happiness as these two classic love stories -- I have posters of both in my writing office for inspiration -- but I also really enjoy "When Harry Met Sally," "While I Was Sleeping" and "The Mark of Zorro"... What about you? What are your favorite (modern or classic) Hollywood films? In which of them do you feel the dialogue just sparkles?
Marilyn Brant is a chocolate lover, music junkie and old-movie addict who lives in the Chicago area with her husband and son. She's also the award-winning women's fiction author of According to Jane (October 2009), Friday Mornings at Nine (October 2010) and the upcoming novel A Summer in Europe (Fall 2011). Visit her at: www.marilynbrant.com.