I knew something connected to Doris Day long before I had even heard of her. When I was about six years old, my mother used to sing Que sera sera to me, and that song became such a favourite of mine that I ended up writing down the lyrics (misspelt, I admit: Kay sera sera is what I recall having written) and belting them out, night and day.
It was only many years later that I finally watched Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, and got to see Doris Day sing that song onscreen, in a tense, nail-biting climax that both highlighted Doris Day’s singing ability as well as her acting prowess. By the time I watched this film, I had already seen Doris in other, more light-hearted roles, the sort of films (mostly musicals or screwball comedies, including the delightful ones which she did with good friend Rock Hudson) where she lit up the screen with the sheer joy of her presence. I had heard Wham! sing“… You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day…” I had listened to plenty of songs Doris Day had sung, and I had fallen in love with the vivacity and good humour Doris seemed to radiate.
A couple of months back, I was invited to an interesting series of sessions focusing on building creativity. This was part of a venture by an organization where I once worked, and the creativity-building exercises take unconventional routes to help employees think out of the box: by watching films and analyzing them, for instance. One of the sessions I attended was presented by a team which used the theme of ‘multiple narratives’ to examine four films. The classic Kurosawa film Rashomon was (of course) on the list; so was the excellent South Korean film, Memories of Murder. The other two films—which I hadn’t seen, though I’d heard of them—were Talwar and Anatomy of a Murder.
The description and brief discussion of Anatomy of a Murder that followed got me interested, and I made a mental note to get the DVD. Then, a week or so back, friend and ex-fellow blogger Harvey recommended the film to me, too, so I decided it was high time I watched it. And what a film it turned out to be.
Friend, blog reader and sometime fellow blogger Harvey nudged me gently last week with a bit of information I hadn’t remembered. August 13th, 2014 was the 115th birth anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock. Was I planning to post something Hitchcock-related to mark the occasion?
And how could I not? Hitchcock – in my opinion, one of the best directors cinema has ever seen, regardless of time and place – is a firm favourite of mine. I’ve reviewed several of his films; in fact, one of the first films I reviewed on this blog (The 39 Steps) dates from Hitchcock’s early British period. I’ve reviewed a hilariously black comedy (The Trouble with Harry); I’ve reviewed classics like Rebecca, and relatively little-known ones (among those not Hitchcock aficionados, I hasten to add) like Strangers on a Train or Lifeboat.
Time (and occasion) therefore, I concluded, to review one of my favourite of Hitchcock’s colour films, in the classic suspense mould. Rear Window, about a photographer stuck in his tiny apartment with a broken leg…
While I was watching this film, I was reminded constantly of something Kurt Vonnegut had written when talking of the basics of creative writing. Basic rule #2 was: Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. The next rule was: Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
In a very literal way, almost every scene of The Flight of the Phoenix resonates with that need for a glass of water. Chapped lips, cracked skin, a desperation for water—and the need to accomplish a task that certainly means the difference between life and death.
No prizes for guessing whom this prize post is dedicated to.
(For those who’re not in the know: I hosted a Classic Bollywood Quiz last year on this blog, and the prizes for that—one for each participant—was a post dedicated to that participant. My friend and fellow blogger Harvey got the Quick Worker Award for the quiz—he had to perforce submit his answers within a couple of days of the quiz being posted, and still managed to get 7 out of 10 right. Impressive).
So: the all-important question. Why am I dedicating this post (about a sweet man whose best friend is an invisible giant rabbit) to Harvey? No, not because I think my pal is nuts. But because Harvey was the one who recommended Harvey to me, and because I found this such an unusual film. And with such an endearing moral to it. Thank you, Harvey. That warmed my soul.
What is it that tempts film-makers to say “Ah! Let’s do a remake of this one!”? A conviction that a script that’s worked once will work again? Also perhaps a somewhat egoistic belief that they will be able to make a better adaptation than whoever made the original film? This story, a classic Ernst Lubitsch romantic comedy, certainly had a lot going for it: sweetness, dewy-eyed romance, and a heart-warming wholesomeness set against a backdrop of wartime Budapest. No wonder, a mere 9 years after it was made, The Shop Around the Corner was remade as In The Good Old Summertime.