Film Friday: Mister Ed

Mister Ed 1Who remembers a silly TV series from the 1960s called Mister Ed? I thought a talking horse was hilarious when I was a kid and can still sing the theme song:

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course; and no one can talk to a horse, of course; that is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mister Ed!”

Go right to the source and ask the horse; he’ll give you the answer that you’ll endorse; he’s always on a steady course, talk to Mister Ed.”

Mister Ed 2While my tastes — and television — have matured, Mister Ed and his 60s sitcom live on in Youtube. That’s where I discovered an episode entitled My Horse, the Mailman, which features Mister Ed trying to emulate the heroic deeds of his ancestors, namely, delivering the mail.

“Hi Wllbur, got any mail for the Pony Express?”

Mister Ed 3We see Mister Ed pick up a letter, steal a mailbag and wear a mailman’s hat and whistle, all while talking to the long-suffering Wilbur in his deep, deep voice.

Whenever people pine for the lost golden age of television, ask them why and send them the link below.

Film Friday: Do you give My Horse, the Mailman your stamp of approval?


Film Friday: The Lake House

Lake House 6For all its logical inconsistencies — and they are legion — The Lake House is an enjoyable romantic movie with an otherworldly flavor, and not just because the plot centers on time travel. The movie itself feels like it’s from another era, infused with old-fashioned charm that helps one overlook a storyline rife with paradoxes.

As in The Love Letter, the film’s main characters, played by Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, are grounded in their respective eras, but their letters find a portal through time. In The Love Letter it was a desk; The Lake House features a humble, rusty mailbox.

Lake House 3One of my favorite aspects of the movie was watching the red flag flip magically up and down as Reeves and Bullock exchanged mail across a two-year gap. As time travel goes, two years is a blip, a nothing, but it’s a chasm when waiting to meet a potential soulmate.

The time-challenged lovers of The Lake House live sequentially in the same glass-walled home that gives the film its name, and each owns in turn the same scruffy dog. They walk the same streets and eat in the same cafes, but always separated by that river of time.

Lake House 4What would you want someone to tell you in a letter from two years hence?  A set of winning lottery numbers? Warnings to pass on to others? A glimpse of what lies around your own corner? Or would you be content as they are to explore the thoughts, dreams and aspirations of another person, ignoring the larger implications?

The Lake House is definitely a love story firmly focused on two people’s intertwined journeys, but even with my soulmate at the other end of the mailbox, winning numbers would help renovate a lot of lake houses.

Film Friday: Do you give The Lake House your stamp of approval?

Lake House 5

Film Friday: Writing Better Social Letters

Social Letter 1Ever stumped about what to say in a letter? Well, wonder no more! Just watch the 10-minute educational film, Writing Better Social Letters. Even though it was made in 1950, the short tried to avoid a common gender stereotype by making the girl the clueless correspondent and her brother the writing whiz.

“Are you through already?”

“Sure Sis, I just finished the letter to Aunt Helen and Uncle Ross.”

“I don’t know how you do it, Wally. You make it seem so easy…How do you write such good social letters?”

“Well, Nora, it’s a talent…”

Social Letter 2Once you get past the surreal world of Wally and Nora, it’s interesting to see how the basic tenets of letter writing used to be systematically outlined and enumerated like those of any other skill. Kids of today, many of whom have never corresponded by mail, might actually find some of the advice useful — once they finish rolling on the floor with laughter.

Film Friday: Watch Writing Better Social Letters online.

Social Letter 3

Film Friday: Beaches

BeachesGive me a moment to wipe my eyes before we start the review… Somehow I missed Beaches when it hit the theaters and only watched it for the first time today.

The penultimate chick flick, Beaches is the story of how two girls from different walks of life, growing up on different coasts, forge a lifelong friendship through letters.

Barbara Hershey (Hillary Whitney) and the wonderful Bette Midler (C.C. Bloom) play the adult friends, while Mayim Bialik — a hoot on The Big Bang Theory — bears an uncanny resemblance to Midler as the young C.C.

Beaches #3Hillary and C.C. meet on the beach in Atlantic City in the 1950s and return to their separate lives after just one afternoon together. But the girls write letter after letter through the years. In fact, this film was made in 1988, one of the last years that people still kept in touch through mail, before the advent of email, cell phones and social media.

Beaches #2“Dear C.C., We’re spending the summer at our beach house. It’s very peaceful here. I get to ride horses and think a lot. I miss you.”

[To Hillary] “Ride? All I ride is the subway. Leona won’t pay for me to go to Julliard so I have to keep taking dancing and singing from Mrs. Jean Caton, the Freaky Fred Broadway star…I got to sing at my father’s dry cleaning convention…”

Beaches #4They grow up, C.C. trying to jumpstart her singing career in New York while Hillary studies law at Stanford. C.C. addresses letters to her as “Dear WASP Queen,” while Hillary writes of joining protest rallies and being called a “radical” by her father.

Their lives intertwine for a brief spate sharing a rundown apartment in New York before spinning off into different directions once again.

Beaches #5They fall in love with the wrong men, fight, stop writing to one another, and then reconnect. Midler sings, the beach scenes are beautiful, and…well…watch with tissues handy.

Whatever new friends we make in life, our oldest friends fill a special niche. “Listen, I know everything there is to know about you and my memory is long, my memory is very long,” C.C. says to Hillary. And should she ever forget, the letters are there to remind her.

Beaches #6

Film Friday: Do you give Beaches your stamp of approval?

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Film Friday: Bright Star

Bright Star #1The rock stars of their generation, the romantic poets of Regency England like Byron, Shelley and Keats turned heads and set women’s hearts aflutter. And if correspondence had a Top 40 chart, Keats would have easily topped it with the passionate letters he sent to Fanny Brawne from 1818-1820.

Bright Star illuminates their ill-fated courtship in a light-infused film, filled with lush scenes of flower fields and blowing curtains, china cups and young love. Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish as Keats and Brawne convey their desire for one another in sidelong glances and the touch of their hands, dancing through the delicate steps of courtship two centuries ago.

Bright Star #2 Fanny Brawne saved the letters John Keats sent her, and gave them to her children as a legacy. Their lyrical passion is woven through Bright Star like threads of silver, but the movie wisely shows just glimpses of the actual exchange of correspondence because putting pen to paper is not as dynamic to watch as the results are to hear.

Bright Star #3“July 3, 1819
[Keats to Brawne]…write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been. For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”

On screen, Fanny collects butterflies with her brother and sister, filling her bedroom with the flutter of wings.

Bright Star #4The film’s title is derived from a sonnet Keats wrote to Fanny, “Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—” and he signed at least one of his letters to her “Your’s ever, fair Star…”

My daughter watched Bright Star with me and exclaimed, “It’s so sad, whether it happened three days ago or three centuries.”

Knowing the end mitigated much of the sadness for me. Instead, I was enthralled by the film’s beauty, of scenes that led me into still and lovely places, where I could hear birdsong and poetry.

Film Friday: Do you give Bright Star your stamp of approval?

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Bright Star

Film Friday: Dear Ruth

Dear-ruth-1947Dear Ruth is frothy fun from 1947 (though it’s set three years earlier during World War II), starring William Holden at his charming best, Joan Caufield as Ruth and Mona Freeman as her younger sister Miriam.

A dashing young lieutenant (Holden) arrives at the home of Ruth and Miriam, eager to meet Ruth. Her parents are baffled about who he is, but finally realize that Ruth has been corresponding with the young airman while he flew missions overseas in Europe. From the way the lieutenant talks, a romance has blossomed through their letters.

Except it hasn’t, at least not for Ruth.

Dear Ruth 2After Lieutenant Seacroft leaves and Ruth comes home from work, the family discovers that 16-year-old Miriam was the lieutenant’s actual penpal, sending him a picture of her older sister and signing her name to some 60 letters. Even though she’s engaged to a dependable man, Ruth decides to maintain the charade because the lieutenant only has a two-day leave. Naturally, mayhem ensues.

Dear ruth 4Dear Ruth is a hoot, from earnest Miriam with causes like the drafting of women to Ruth’s indignant fiance, played by Billy De Wolfe. One-liners abound, and the action zips past from one zany situation to the next.

I remember watching this movie years ago on TV when movies from the 40s and 50s were commonplace on the local channels. I searched through library catalogs and streaming services to try to find it. No luck, and it was never released on DVD. But I discovered that someone uploaded the entire film to YouTube a couple of months ago. I don’t know how long it will stay there, but if you want to see Dear Ruth, here it is! (Note that the YouTube link below does not show up with all versions of the Safari browser.)

Film Friday: Do you give Dear Ruth your stamp of approval?

Film Friday: Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah 3When Hallmark Hall of Fame gets it right, their movies can be magic. Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of their gems. The wonderful Glenn Close plays Sarah, opposite Christopher Walken as Jacob Witting, a widowed farmer still mourning his wife. They meet through letters when Jacob places an advertisement for a helpmate, someone who can “make a difference.”

Although the letters Sarah of Maine exchanges with Jacob and his children in Kansas are read only during the first few minutes of the film, their warmth and honesty set the tone for the entire story.

“I am strong and I work hard and I’m willing to travel, but I am not mild-mannered,” writes Sarah in her answer to the advertisement.

Sarah 2Six-year-old Caleb is enchanted by the idea of a new mother and asks his father to write for him: “He asked me to send you the footprint of his dog, Nick…He wanted me to tell you that he holds his breath, that he has been holding his breath for a long time.” Sarah sends Caleb a footprint from her cat Seal, so named “because she’s gray like the seals that swim off shore in Maine.”

Sarah 1Sarah tells about her life there in a letter to the the older child, Anna: “My favorite colors are the colors of the sea — blue and gray and green, depending on the weather. My brother William is a fisherman and he tells me that when he’s in the middle of a fogbound sea, the water is a color for which there is no name…Sometimes he sees whales.”

Eventually, Sarah leaves her coastal home for a potential new life in the green fields of Kansas. “I will come by train. I will wear a yellow bonnet…P.S. I am plain and tall.”

Wonderful cast, wonderful movie, and so nice to see Walken play someone vulnerable and tongue-tied without a trace of menace in him.

Film Friday: Do you give Sarah, Plain and Tall your stamp of approval?

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Film Friday: Picture Bride

Picture BridePicture Bride is a lyrical movie about a Hawaii seldom seen on film — the endless fields of sugar cane plantations that covered vast tracts of land in the 19th and early 20th century.

Riyo (Youki Kudoh), a young Japanese woman, doesn’t know what she will do now that her father has died and left her an orphan. She learns that her aunt has found her a husband through a matchmaker.

Riyo is to become a picture bride, marrying a sugar cane worker in far-off Hawaii. From 1907 to 1924, more than 20,000 Japanese, Okinawan and Korean women went to Hawaii to marry men of their own nationality. They knew each other only through their letters and photos.

Riyo’s orderly, traditional Japan is filmed in black and white. I love this image of her clutching the letter that will lead to a new life, excited about the prospect of marriage, yet frightened about leaving all she knows behind. She is comforted by the picture of her husband-to-be, Matsuji (Akira Takayama), a handsome, serious young face.

Letter in picture bride

The film segues to color in Hawaii, where Riyo experiences her first shock of how strange this new world will be. She steps off the boat with several other picture brides, but doesn’t see the man from her photograph. Instead, a much older Matsuji meets her at the dock, confessing that he sent a picture of his younger self.

This isn’t the life Riyo expected, marrying a middle-aged husband and working long hours in the hot, endless cane fields. But in meeting these challenges, Riyo becomes a strong young woman, who is very different from the sheltered girl she was in Japan.

For a visually stunning film, a poignant and believable character study, and a story where letters have the power to change lives, Picture Bride is a must-see film.

Film Friday: Do you give Picture Bride your stamp of approval?

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Film Friday: Pride and Prejudice

P&P-Darcy writing to Elizabeth closeupWas there ever a storyline more filled with letters than Pride and Prejudice? The delectable 1995 mini-series, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, introduces many of the story’s most significant plot points with letters, moving the tale forward from one missive to the next.

P & P- Caroline Bingley's LetterCaroline Bingley’s letter to Jane provides the eldest Bennet daughter with the chance to spend more time with the household of the eligible, single “£5,000 a year!” Mr. Bingley. Her matchmaking mama literally snatches the page from Jane’s hands to peruse it herself. Mrs. Bennet titters happily over the salutation “My dear friend,” and parses every line of the short note for its possibilities. “You must go and make what you can of it,” she pronounces.

P&P- MrA letter from Mr. Collins — cousin and heir to the Bennet family’s estate — is a pompous masterpiece. Mr. Bennet reads it aloud at the breakfast table, clearly relishing the writer’s ridiculous style. When Lizzy asks her father, “Can he be a sensible man, sir?” Her father replies, “Oh, I think not, my dear. Indeed, I have great hopes of finding him quite the reverse.”

Of course, Pride and Prejudice‘s most enduring love story is that of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet. Their dance between love and loathing remains one of fiction’s treasured romances a full two centuries after Jane Austen‘s book first appeared in London bookstores. Naturally, a letter from Darcy to Elizabeth plays a pivotal role when he details Mr. Wickham’s past and tries to justify separating Bingley from Jane.

PP-Darcy-writing-to-elizabeth P&P- Darcy hands elizabeth a letter

I loved how that letter is neatly sealed with wax, but surrounded by broken quill tips, mute evidence of Darcy’s effort to explain himself to the woman he loves.

P&P-LettersMore letters exchange hands and news, sometimes read on screen and sometimes only discussed. But one is in no doubt that for the inhabitants of Regency England in general, and for the Bennet family in particular, theirs was a world of letters.

Film Friday: Do you give Pride and Prejudice your stamp of approval?

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Film Friday: Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in connecticutChristmas in Connecticut, a 1945 comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck, is one of my favorite holiday films. And since the action is precipitated by a letter, it’s the perfect choice for the last Film Friday before Christmas.

Made in 1945 during World War II, the movie opens with two sailors stranded on a raft after their ship is torpedoed. One sailor, played by Dennis Morgan, dreams of all the delicious meals he’d like to be eating.

Chistmas in Connecticut 2After he’s rescued, his nurse writes a letter to a publisher, explaining that the sailor has no family. She requests that the magazine’s famous cooking columnist, Elizabeth Lane, invite him to spend Christmas on her farm with her and her husband and child.

There’s only one problem with this plan: Elizabeth, played by Stanwyk, has neither farm nor husband nor baby, and she won’t have a job either if her publisher finds out that she and the editor have made up her entire lifestyle. Elizabeth doesn’t even know how to cook!

Chistmas in Connecticut 3The ensuing romp includes baby mix-ups, sleigh rides, walking a cow and flipping pancakes to the ceiling. It’s frothy, old-fashioned Hollywood fun. And where else will you hear the line, “He’s sending me a sailor for Christmas”?

Film Friday: Do you give Christmas in Connecticut your stamp of approval?

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