Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #178: Ugly Duckling to Beautiful Swan makeovers

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is makeovers from ugly ducklings to beautiful swans, which is a bit of a difficult theme for me. But I came up with three movies eventually:

Ninotchka (1939). Greta Garbo plays a repressed, by-the-books Soviet functionary sent to Paris to find out why three colleagues are failing to sell some jewelry that would bring in valuable hard currency. They're fascinated by all that the west has to offer, but she isn't -- until she gets finds herself falling for Melvyn Douglas, which brings out a big change in her character. Except that staying in the west would be treasonous and dangerous to her family. Garbo laughs, and shows she was quite adept at comedy.

Now, Voyager (1942). Bette Davis plays a spinster youngest daughter who suffers a nervous breakdown under her mother's wheedling. She gets out of Claude Rains' sanatorium a changed women, taking a cruise to South America where she meets Paul Henried who is unfortunately trapped in a loveless marriage. This is one of those movies that screams chick flick and won't shut the hell up; frankly, the best reason to watch it is for Davis' nervous breakdown. (Much like Rebel Without a Cause, which you watch for James Dean's "You're tearing me apart!" line and then change channels.)

Born Yesterday (1950). Judy Holliday plays the trophy wife of a shady businessman (Broderick Crawford) trying to curry favor with Washington politicians. The only thing is, she's not quite a trophy since she doesn't have the social graces and intellect. So hubby hires a writer (William Holden) to teach her those qualities. He does his job too well, as the wife comes to realize just how shady her husband's business dealings are. Judy Holliday won the Best Actress Oscar in a very strong year for actress' performances.


Katie Hogan said...

I've always meant to watch Born Yesterday, still not seen it. And Now, Voyager, famous for the transition of Bette Davis, still want to see this, even though I'm not really a chick flick person.

joel65913 said...

Some interesting approaches to the theme.

While recognizing that its a good film I've never loved Ninotchka as much as it seems I should. I found it pleasant and Garbo game but that was about it.

I never thought of Born Yesterday as an Ugly Duckling story more of a diamond in the rough deal but Judy Holliday is irresistible as she was in all her too few movie appearances.

We match! I'd agree that Bette's breakdown is a highlight but for me that's just the beginning of a wonderfully rich ride with some terrific dialog. Aside from the famous quotes one I love is when Elliott Livingston can't recall meeting Charlotte and says he's "covered with shame!" True most people don't speak that way but it's a marvelous line.

I went with three that are both outward and inward transformations

Now, Voyager (1942)-Old maid Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is a member of an extremely wealthy Boston family whose spirit has been crushed by her gorgon of a mother (a truly hateful Gladys Cooper) until during a visit to their home by kindly psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) Charlotte suffers a nervous breakdown and he whisks her away to his retreat for rich nutcases “Cascade”. While there she begins to rebuild her long suppressed confidence and emerges a beautiful swan on a cruise to South America. On the trip she meets the dashing but lonely Jerry Durrance (Paul Henreid) who is trapped in a bad marriage and falls for him. But there’s plenty of bumpy road ahead for this pair and those in their sphere all executed in top flight fashion in amazing clothes set to a swooningly romantic soundtrack. A gigantic hit in its day this was the most profitable picture of Davis’s career. The ne plus ultra of Ugly Duckling movies!

Miss Congeniality (2000)-To put it mildly FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is rough around the edges, she eats with her hands, chews with her mouth open and her idea of fashion is what’s clean that day, but having just blown a big case she finds she can’t refuse when she is recruited to go undercover as a contestant in the Miss United States beauty pageant when a threat is received. Despite many people’s doubt including pageant show runner Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen) and the coach hired to smooth her feathers Victor Melling (Michael Caine) as well as her own obstinacy Gracie is pulled, pummeled and plucked into a beauty. While working the case she even learns to lighten up and appreciate a different outlook. Breezy comedy is a perfect fit for Sandra Bullock.

Pygmalion (1938)-First filming of the George Bernard Shaw play where a snobbish linguist bets a crony that he can transform a common flower peddler into a great lady by teaching her proper speech. Not as grandiloquent as My Fair Lady but both Leslie Howard as Professor Henry Higgins and Wendy Hiller as Eliza Doolittle create memorable characters. Wendy is actually more successful with her Eliza than Audrey Hepburn would later be since despite her innate dignity she makes a believable guttersnipe in the initial segment of the movie.

Birgit said...

Ninotchka is a great choice and the musical remake Silk Stockings which I love better than the original. Garbo played a drunk quite well. We match with Now, Voyager and even though I am not one for chick flicks either, I love this film and wished some man would light 2 cigarettes and give one to me...disgusting but true. I love Born Yesterday and I thought it more of an awakening but I agree it is a beauty makeover. She changes from a classless dumb ass to an intelligent classy lady. We need to make this work over on many women today especially on these reality shows.