Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Funerals on Film

Broadcast TV decided to spend a bunch of time today covering some memorial service. I couldn't help but think of some of Hollywood's more interesting funerals. Not the funerals of actual dead actors -- although Pola Negri's actions at Rudolph Valentino's funeral come to mind.

Left-aligned photo Perhaps one of the most humorous funerals in a Hollywood movie is in Douglas Sirk's melodramatic version of Imitation of Life, when Susan Kohner, playing a woman who was as black as Michael Jackson, returns for her mother's funeral. Of course, the movie was meant to be a serious drama.

A more interesting topic might be those movies which open with a funeral, and then go into flashback mode to show the viewer important points in the deceased person's life. I recommended Spencer Tracy's early movie The Power and the Glory a year ago, but it still hasn't been released to DVD.

A movie I recommended which has made its way to DVD is Chariots of Fire, which opens at the funeral of 1924 Olympic gold medallist Harold Abrahams, and then goes on to recount the story of the Paris Olympics, and how Abrahams won his gold medal.

One I don't think I've recommended before is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. The movie begins with James Stewart, now a US Senator with aspirations of becoming Vice-President, returning home for the funeral of his good friend John Wayne. Cue the dissolve to decades ago, when Wayne was still alive, and helped make Stewart the man he became....

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