Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #179: Small Towns

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 small towns, and being a fan of old movies, I went back to a time long before John Mellencamp for my three choices:

The Stranger's Return (1933). Miriam Hopkins plays a woman from the big city who, having just gotten a divorce, decides she's going to take some time out from life to visit her grandfather (Lionel Barrymore) who still runs a farm in the Midwest. There she finds two of her aunts who have been living on the farm and expecting to inherit it, and they're trying to get the farm before Grandpa dies. Hopkins also meets a neighbor (Franchot Tone) trapped in a marriage to a woman who isn't urbane like him, although he feels the commitment of "'til death do us part".

Way Back Home (1931). Phillips Lord reprises his radio role of Seth Parker, a farmer and country sage in small-town Maine. The two main plots involve his foster son (Frankie Darro) and the biological father who wants him back, and a young man (Frank Albertson) who loves a woman (a young Bette Davis) even though her father doesn't approve of the relationship. There's a lot of stereotypically small-town stuff like a barn dance and a taffy pull.

Theodora Goes Wild (1936). Irene Dunne plays a small-town woman who has written a grown-up novel under an assumed name, since it's the sort of material that would scandalize the town and her spinster acts. She has to go to New York for contract stuff, and there the illustrator for the book's cover art (Melvyn Douglas) meets her, falls in love with her, and follows her back to her small town. All sorts of complications ensue.

1 comment:

joel65913 said...

LOVE the originality of your choices if not necessarily the films.

The Stranger's Return is one I just watched recently. Whatever her faults behind the scenes as an incredibly difficult and ungenerous scene partner Miriam Hopkins was a vivid screen presence and the film benefits from her being in it.

The ONLY thing I took away from Way Back Home was the sight of a young and hopelessly miscast Bette Davis in the film. Otherwise it was a corny mess.

I think I went in with too high expectations on Theodora Goes Wild. People had told me it was a wild ride and while I thought it was a fun film I've seen other screwballs I've enjoyed much more.

I reach back as well but not quite as far as you.

Doc Hollywood (1991)-Ben Stone (Michael J. Fox) is a hotshot young doctor as well as pompous jackass who has been offered a big opportunity with a plastic surgeon in L.A. Driving across country in his sports car he tries to avoid highway traffic but causes a minor accident on a back road in the small town of Grady. Sentenced to community service assisting the town’s long time cantankerous physician Dr. Hogue (Barnard Hughes) he struggles with the slower pace of the village. At first snappish and anxious to get out of there ASAP he gradually falls for both the colorful townspeople including the mayor (David Ogden Stiers) his randy but sweet daughter Nancy Lee (a scene stealing Bridget Fonda) and pretty ambulance driver Lou (Julie Warner) whose affections he has to compete for with the cocksure insurance man Hank (Woody Harrelson). Good natured comedy is a great showcase for Fox’s boyish charm.

All That Heaven Allows (1955)-Douglas Sirk’s masterpiece of color and skewering of class structure looks at the May/December romance of wealthy widow Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), lonely but hidebound by small town mores to a country club life full of wolfish men, disapproving children and stifling conventions, and her younger gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) a successful nurseryman with a rustic, down to earth attitude who doesn’t give a damn what others think. They are happy for a brief period but Cary, saddled with two of the most odious children (both of college age) in filmdom is pressured by them to break off the affair at which point having ruined her life they promptly forget about her. There’s plenty more drama ahead for the pair though. This heavily influenced Todd Haynes’s Far from Heaven.

Our Town (1940)-The everyday life of small town Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire from the turn of the last century until about the time the film was made is recalled by the residents young and old. Idyllic version of life in the early 20th century where no one locks their doors and all is mostly harmonious focuses on young lovers George Gibbs (William Holden) and Emily Webb (Martha Scott) through their trials and triumphs. Thornton Wilder’s play on which this is based won the Pulitzer Prize.