Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chick flicks for guys, Part 1

Valentine's Day is coming up in a few weeks, so I'd like to start making a few suggestions for DVDs for guys to rent and watch with their lady friends. Now, there's a stereotype of the sort of movie that women like -- and that most men will find emetic. I'm not about to suggest watching Fried Green Tomatoes with your significant other; instead, these will be movies that, despite having plots that would fit in on the Lifetime channel, can be enjoyed even by a man's man. (And, all of them will be available on DVD so that you actually can get a hold of a copy to watch with her.)

First up is Leave Her to Heaven. This is an interesting movie in that, although it's a film noir, it's also a Technicolor film noir. And the Technicolor is absolutely gorgeous and used to excellent effect. We first see this in the framing story, as star Cornel Wilde is returning to his home, the stunning "Back of the Moon". (For the record, this was actually filmed at Bass Lake, near Yosemite National Park. Cornel Wilde and Gene Tierney Wilde's introduction then dissolves to the story of how he met Gene Tierney, who was reading one of his novels while they were both on the same train to New Mexico. The scenery is beautiful, but even more so is Tierney. Wilde and Tierney meet, fall in love, and eventually marry, much to the chagrin of Tierney's half-sister (Jeanne Crain). She knows something bad is about to happen! Also in the know is Tierney's spurned lover, a prosecuting attorney played by Vincent Price.

Unfortunately for Wilde, however, he discovers that his new wife is insanely jealous. The new couple travel to Warm Springs in Georgia to pick up Wilde's brother (played by ubiquitous child star Darryl Hickman), and bring him to Back of the Moon. It's here that we really see Tierney's jealousy kick in, as we get to see her be responsible for poor Darryl Hickman's death, the death of her unborn child, and her own death, which she, having discovered that Wilde loves Crain more than her, tries to pin on the two of them. It is here that Vincent Price shines, as he gets to engage in a withering cross-examination of Wilde.

Of course, this being a noir, we know the truth, and what's going to happen to Wilde, but the way in which the truth is revealed to the characters in the movie is still surprising.

Gene Tierney was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, but had the misfortune of being up against Joan Crawford, who did an equally good job as Mildred Pierce, and being backed by Warner Brothers, beat out Tierney for the Oscar. (My personal opinion is that Crawford was not undeserving, but I prefer Tierney's performance.)

What's in it for the ladies? Although it's a noir, it's not the hard-boiled noir of Robert Mitchum, but rather closer to what would have been known as the "weepies" in the 1930s.

And for the guys? Why, Gene Tierney, of course. She's hot, hot, HOT! The fact that it's a great story doesn't hurt, either.

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