Friday, August 10, 2012

Books that most English Majors should have read by now

Recently I was asked to compose a book list for a dear friend of mine who confessed to me that she probably hadn't read most of the books that English majors are "supposed" to have read by now. Not believing her at first, as she is a wonderful poet, we went down the list.

She was right. She is a crappy English major.

So I compiled a list of books that are both staples on the English literature track, and books that I think are sometimes overlooked because they're overshadowed by the "required" books. Don't get me wrong, I love Austen and the Bronte's just as much as the next book worm...but sometimes I need a little more darkness sprinkled with some good ole' mystery. So here is, taken straight from the Word document, my recommendations for all of you English majors who haven't quite got around to the whole book thing yet:

  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
    Plot: A mousy, insecure, and submissive woman falls in love with the enigmatic Max de Winter and marries him. She also marries his dark past, psycho creepy head housekeeper (seriously the bitch is CRAZY), and the massive house that seems to be haunted by his dead wife Rebecca. We find that through various events the new wife undergoes a complete change and that sometimes ghosts are real.

  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    Plot: Basically the lesson here is don't allow your pride to get in the way, and don't judge someone based on gossip. Also, Romantic-era women were just as bitchy as some women today. The result is a wonderfully written, and poignant novel that once you read it you will understand why everyone with half a brain loves it. On a side note: I would totally bang Mr. Darcy.

  • Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
    Plot: You have two sisters, Elinor and Marianne: Elinor is the epitome of prudence and self-control while Marianne embodies emotion and enthusiasm. The story follows the two sisters, along with their younger sister Margaret after they are left in reduced circumstances when their father dies and his estate is passed onto their half-brother, John (because women are silly and don't deserve land). The novel follows the young ladies to their new home, a meager cottage on a distant relative's property, where they experience love, romance, heartbreak, and more bitchy Romantic-era women.

  • Persuasion – Jane Austen
    Plot: This is probably my favorite of Austen's, it was her last novel and its quite different from all of her other previous works. Anne Elliot is a lovely 19 year old, accepts a proposal of marriage from a naval officer Frederick Wentworth. He's handsome, smart, and has an ambitious spirit but he's dirt ass poor. Her snobby father and equally snobby, meddling sister along with her mentor Lady Russell force her to break the engagement because he's no good for her. Eight years later now 27 and still unmarried (GASP!! She's practically on the doorstep of Old-Maidom!!), Anne re-encounters her former love when he returns from the Napoleonic wars. Wentworth is now a captain and wealthy from maritime victories; However, he has not forgiven Anne for rejecting him. While publicly declaring that he is ready to marry any suitable young woman who catches his fancy, he privately resolves that he is ready to become attached to any appealing young woman except for Anne. The emotions play back and forth like a game of tennis and the banter is witty and sharp; it only takes a few pages to see why it's my favorite.

  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
    Plot: As you can guess...the novel is about two cities: London and Paris; its set just before and during the French Revolution. Dickens was known as a champion of the poor; this novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry as they are demoralized by the aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It is a book where you have to pay attention because there are a lot of important characters and Dickens makes the most subtle of gestures the most important ones to note.

  • The Scarlett Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy
    Plot: First of all do not ask me to pronounce her name because I don't know how. Secondly this is an awesome follow-up to A Tale of Two Cities because this book is told from the point of view of a French Aristocrat during that same time period. This book set the standard for the masked superhero, its set during the Reign of Terror and follows the lives of Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife, a beautiful French actress, Marguerite St. Just. It's a novel where not all is what it seems, where you're given a new viewpoint into the Revolution.

  • Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
    Plot: Pop culture has ruined any chance of most people reading this novel because they assume the already know the story....and they are halfway right. You may know the story but in order to UNDERSTAND it and WHY it was written you have to read the novel. It's not very long, probably takes a day if you're a fast reader but its packed with wonderful themes that people to this day are still arguing over. I'm telling you, you don't REALLY know the story until you've read this book.

  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
    Plot: I love the Bronte's, I really do. They were women ahead of their time and their novels give an in-depth look into what it was like to be a woman in the Victorian Era; it sucked for the most part. The story follows the emotions and experiences of, you guessed it, Jane Eyre, her growth to adulthood, and her love for Mr. Rochester, the Byronic (A Byronic hero is a variant of the Romantic hero as a type of character, named after the English Romantic poet Lord Byron. He's kind of like a tragic hero but he's not always doomed to die, Google it because it's actually really interesting) master of Thornfield Hall. The novel is very Gothic in nature, meaning its kind of like what happens after “happily ever after,” it's very dark and often moody. Despite it's darkness the novel is excellent and a pretty easy read...especially when compared to the next novel.

  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
    Plot: Okay, not going to lie...this one was kind of tough to get into. It's one of those novels that if you stay with it, you will be rewarded...but it is a little confusing. Basically it follows the life of Heathcliff, (not the cartoon cat) an orphan who was found on the streets of Liverpool and taken to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw where he was reluctantly cared for by the rest of the family. There he met Catherine and they became close...then things get a little sticky. I'm not going to go into detail but trust me, stick with this book and you will be rewarded young grasshopper.

  • Lady Chatterly's Lover – D.H. Lawrence
    Plot: This book was not allowed to be published in the UK until 1960. It was written in 1927-28. I didn't even know what this book was about but when I heard that I had to read it. The book is notorious for its story of the physical relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then “unprintable words.” While the novel is filled with steamy love scenes, its far from a trashy romance novel; it actually has a plot, characters that the reader becomes very empathetic for, and beautiful poetic language that flows so beautifully through the mind. It's one of the most forward thinking novels of the time (it follows in the footsteps of Madame Bovary, which isn't on here but you should read it nonetheless. I can't do everything for you. Also, after Bovary you should definitely read The Awakening by Kate Chopin), and Lady Chatterley realizes that a woman can't just be satisfied by intellect alone....

  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
    Plot: The novel presents a horrifying future American society where books are outlawed and firemen burn any house that contains them. Enter a young fireman by the name of Guy Montag. On his way home one night he meets his new neighbor: a 17-year-old girl named Clarisse McClellan, whose free-thinking ideals and liberating spirit force him to question his life, his ideals, and his definition of happiness. That's all I'm going to give you, if I give you any more it will ruin it and trust me, this is not one you want to ruin. Just a side note, 451 degrees is the temperature in which paper burns...

  • And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
    Plot: READ THIS BOOK. I don't want to tell you anything because I want you to be as on the edge of your seat as I was when I first read it. I've read it three times and I'm STILL shocked each and every time. If you read no other book on this list READ THIS ONE.

  • Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
    Plot: It's one of Christie's most celebrated novels starring one of her most recognizable characters: Hercule Poirot. That's all your getting. Trust me, you'll thank me when you read it.

  • A Murder Is Announced – Agatha Christie
    Plot: A Miss Marple mystery. Yes, that's all I'm saying.

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There – Lewis Carroll
    Plot: Lewis Carroll changed the way children's literature was written, read, and perceived; before, kids had the Grimms Fairy Tales which were used to scare them into being good. Carroll created a world where kids could be kids and nonsense was a way of life. Both Alice stories are wonderfully written so that people of all ages can enjoy them, and even though some of the references are outdated both books are a real joy to read.

  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
    Plot: Okay the only reason I'm even putting this on here is because Hugo is excellent at using human characters to personify good and evil. The book is long. Really, really...really long; there are at least ten chapters of really boring and tedious information before you get to the actual story, and you come up on numerous chapters like this throughout the very long story. However...despite all of this, and if you have the stamina it is a really good story and one of the best tellings of redemption I can think of. And no, listening to the musical soundtrack does not count. You may want to save this one for last...

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo
    Plot: Disney sugar coated this book...I mean it was to be expected but they left a lot out. This book is a lot easier to read than Les Mis, it's also shorter. This one is a tear jerker, and there are elements from the book that are in the movie but the book has a much sadder outcome. I think this one is by far one of Hugo's greatest because of the emotions that it evokes from the reader; emotions that you really weren't expecting. Okay, I cried. Go ahead and laugh, but I guarantee that you will be using kleenexes by the end of this novel too.

  • Frenchman's Creek – Daphne du Maurier
    Plot: Yes, Ms. Du Maurier makes another appearance on this list. Why? Because she's amazing. This is probably a close favorite of mine next to Rebecca. It's historical novel by Daphne du Maurier. Set in Cornwall during the reign of Charles II, it tells the story of a love affair between an impulsive English lady and a French pirate. Dona, Lady St. Columb, makes a sudden visit with her children to Navron, her husband's remote estate in Cornwall, in a fit of disgust with her shallow life in London court society. There she finds that the property, unoccupied for several years, is being used as a base by a notorious French pirate who has been terrorizing the Cornish coast. Dona finds that the pirate, Jean-Benoit Aubéry, is not a desperate character at all, but rather a more educated and cultured man than her own doltish husband, and they fall in love. The story is very difficult to categorize because it has EVERYTHING: swashbuckling pirates, lavish romance, witty banter, historical settings, and a woman who is possibly one of my favorite literary heroines.

  • My Cousin Rachel – Daphne du Maurier
    Plot: This novel is a little like Rebecca, it is a mystery-romance, largely set on a large estate in Cornwall. By now you'll have noticed that most of du Maurier's novels take place in or around that area because that was her home and she often wrote about how much she adored it. The basis of the novel is the tension set up in its young protagonist when Philip falls in love with his cousin, while uncovering, and trying to deny, evidence that she is pretending to care for him while she has only her own interests at heart. The tension is palpable, you can practically cut it with a knife and it is just spectacular how right up until the very end the reader is wondering who really is the villain...

  • Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier
    Plot: We come to the final book, after this you're on your own. Jamaica Inn tells the story of 23-year-old Mary Yellan, who was brought up on a farm but had to go and live with her Aunt Patience after her mother died. Patience's husband, Joss Merlyn, a great big bully who is almost seven feet tall, is the keeper of Jamaica Inn. On arriving at the gloomy and threatening inn, Mary finds her aunt in a ghost-like state under the thumb of the vicious Joss, and soon realizes that something unusual is afoot at the inn, which has no guests and is never open to the public (This novel was the basis of Alfred Hitchcock's first successful talkie film, and he used several of du Maurier's works later on). The story is loaded with suspense and plot twists that will keep you guessing until the last turn of the page.

Now, go ahead and get reading. You have a lot of catching up to do. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Geese are minions of the Devil

I'm normally an animal lover, I support the ASPCA and abhor animal cruelty of any kind. I haven't met an animal that stirs within me a deep hatred and causes me to want to brandish a firearm so as I may violently slaughter them....

 Until I discovered the evil nature of the Canada Goose.

 Oh sure, they look harmless and graceful; but I am certain that this is a facade they use in order to lure us into a false sense of security. They are mean, they hiss and they will call upon their demonic brethren to destroy the human race.
What caused such a deep rooted hatred and loathing for these evil animals? Allow me to transport you to a time when my innocence was nearly pecked to death, destroyed by feathered minions of hell.
 Imagine a lovely summer day in a small State Park located in the tiny town of Crisfield, Maryland; it was a fireman's picnic by the channel there was food, laughter, and children playing. One child in particular was in awe of nature's beauty and her creatures that inhabited it. I was this child, and my love for nature and animals was nearly destroyed that day. Being the caring seven year old that I was, I wanted to share my food with the animals that brought me so much pleasure; all I had to offer them was a bag of potato chips, I was willing to share them all and only have a few for myself. Little did I know that this graciousness would be rewarded with horror. I had been cautious at first, tossing the chips to one of the geese...then one became two, two became three...soon there was a flock of geese surrounding me. I would notice all too late. The geese were gently taking the potato chips from my hand, honking quietly..."How nice!" I thought, "They're saying thank you!" Now I recognize it as plotting to destroy me. Soon I realized that I was running out of potato chips, I rose to go get more...I was surrounded...and the geese were still hungry.

Suddenly I felt a tug at my shorts, then a painful pinch of my arm...finally a lone goose let out a cry to tell the others to attack. I was engulfed in a sea of feathers and pecking beaks, I felt the painful bite of their horrid mouths and the smell of their rancid bodies was more than I could handle. My mind began to race: There was so much that I hadn't done! I had such big plans for third grade, I had my first trapper keeper! I HAD A TRAPPER KEEPER WITH A UNICORN ON IT THAT I WOULD NEVER GET TO USE. IT HAD MATCHING FOLDERS. What of the bedazzled jean jacket that I had just gotten for my birthday? I would never get to wear it! WHAT OF MY JELLIES?! They would bury me in those, there was no way my sister would get them.

 Just as I had given up hope...a light appeared and the hand of God reached into the feathery, honking hell and set me free. Actually it was my Mother but when a seven year old is in such a precarious and dangerous situation anything freeing her from it is nothing short of divine. From that day on, I vowed to prove that geese are out to destroy the human race.

My point is proven by all of the information that is being discovered about geese and their evilness. Lets start first with an annoyance that we've all had to deal with: Goose shit. An adult goose may eat as much as four lbs of grass and other forage daily. That leads to about two lbs of goose poop a day. TWO POUNDS OF GOOSE SHIT PER GOOSE. Depending on the area, that poop may be dispersed in ponds or lakes or it may end up on land. It can get in our drinking water, our pet's drinking water, and it somehow attracts our dogs to roll, eat, and frolic in it. It's been proven that it carries all sorts of nasty bacteria, e-coli and salmonella being the most prominent.

What happens if they find out where the main sources of our drinking water are? All they'd have to do is get twenty or thirty of their satanic soldiers to back up and take a dump in the water for a massive bacterial outbreak!

 If any of you have watched the news in the past few years, you'll have bound have seen a story or two about planes being brought down by "birds." The only bird smaller than a goose that can take out a plane with its flock are seagulls, which happen to be another species of bird I abhor but that's for another time. Geese are the primary culprits in bringing down the JetBlue plane on Wednesday. The article states: "The bird strike is the second to ground a New York flight in less than a week, after a Delta plane was forced to turn back to JFK Airport last Thursday." IT PLAINLY STATES THAT GEESE ARE TRYING TO KILL US. If you want someone else who feels this way about geese, just ask Sully Sullenberger.

 Ready yourself my friends, for we are at war. It won't be long before they try to kidnap our children, influence our media, and try to kill us all so that their evil race can flourish and destroy everything that humans have created in this world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March: The end of my Journey through my Valley

This may be coming early in the month, we still have a week of March left but I've always been one to be a little earlier than most...its a fear of turning out like my wonderful, but always about five minutes late, Aunt.

I'm sure that I'm going to get a disgruntled phone call about that later.

Its no secret that this month is terribly difficult for me, the looming cloud of unhappy memories and the fact that most people painstakingly avoid the subject of my mother in order to preserve my heart are both catalysts in re-opening old wounds. In the past they have been wounds that I've tried to hide, wounds that I may as well have scrubbed with a dirty sponge because my actions were causing them to fester and spread. As the years went on, I found that it was becomming easier to deal with and I didn't have to really hide anymore. I didn't have to feel shame, that these feelings were real and not methods to get attention; I was on a journey through that deep valley called Grief.

Now, I don't want to be a plagiarist; the metaphor I just used is credited to a wonderful writer (and fabulous actress too I may add) who I just recently discovered, Alexandra Silber. I've never met her, I don't know what her favourite color is, where she likes to shop, or what she does on her days when she is not involved with the theatre. I only know that she adores Murder, She Wrote (which is a clue that she's awesome in my book) and she is a fantastically talented woman...who also has suffered the loss of a parent. She wrote a wonderful, heartbreaking and heartfelt post about her father and about her own journey through the seemingly endless valley of grief.

Loosing your parent is not only earth shattering, its also a very lonely thing to have happen to someone. I was thirteen, and then I was victimized by a predator; so needless to say the years following my mother's death are not ones I wish to recount. I remember feeling very, very lonely; feeling like I was the only person in my world, that there was really nobody else who understood. I've confessed this before and have been chastized for it: "How could you think you're alone when you have all these people who care about you?!" It was as if they were saying "You're the one who makes yourself lonely." Not seeing that I was absolutely terrified of trusting anyone who was a male or talking about my feelings to a woman that may just say "Oh you're just trying to get attention." I don't want anyone to think that I am embittered, I'm not. I am simply providing some sort of explanation for why I felt the way I did because those of you reading this who haven't lost a parent really don't know what it's like. And no, loosing you're dog is not the same...yes, I've heard that too. I used to condemn those who hurt me, I used to not want anything to do with anyone because I was just...hurt. I was so immensely lost and sad, I had (still do to an extent) a very hard time trusting anyone about anything because of what else happened. I hope this doesn't sound like a "woe is me" sort of thing because those people really get on my nerves.

I'm going to pull a Kate Chopin and blatantly plagiarize another writer for the use of their incredibly wonderful metaphor, with the hopes that Miss Silber will not send the copyright monster down on my head. Just know that I was not the one who first came up with this metaphor. By the way, Kate Chopin did plagiarize...just read Madame Bovary and you'll see a remarkable resemblance to The Awakening. But I digress.

Grief is a deep, often dark valley that people are thrust into at least once in their lives; it's full of abyssal ravines, painful falls and winding roads that seemingly have no end. When you loose a parent, someone who was your whole world, who you depended on to always be there and give you advice...its like being thrust into this valley that you must now, on your own, find your way out of. Its something that is so foreign to a child: to find their way by themselves when they haven't had the proper teaching of how to do so. The child, after somewhat accepting that their parent is gone, begins the long journey through their Valley. They start at the bottom of one of those abyssal ravines, with nothing to help them but their own wounded mind and their will. Soon, the mind begins to heal; not completely but it becomes manageable. Like a gash on the arm or leg, it begins to close up and become mobile. The child can't get around like they used to yet, but in time they're able to at least make it out of the ravine.

Soon they begin to stand up and begin their long journey down the winding road out of their Valley, mind you there will be many pitfalls but now the child is on the road; in the Valley, one must see each step as a tiny victory. On their way down this road there are several milestones, like mile-markers or rest stops on Turnpikes and Parkways.

Along the way, the child has a fall. This fall could be anything: an anniversary, a birthday, a song or movie that reminds you of your sorrow, or even a smell. This fall is not as dark and abyssal as the ravine that they started out in, but it is a reminder that in the Valley, it is always important to remember that you must allow yourself to grieve. You must feel that pain because if you don't, if you try to cover it up and suppress it; it will eventually bubble over like a volcano that has lain dormant for hundreds of years. It will feel as though your loss happened yesterday, and you will experience that deep, painful sobbing that you experienced the day you lost them.

You must be allowed to grieve. That is what the rest-stops on the road are for: they are for the child to be allowed to remember, to determine what is a good memory and what is a bad, to be allowed to feel the pain and to realize that this pain is going to lessen. If they are denied that, their wounds will be left unattended and fester.

After a series of pitfalls, a few moments of getting lost and confused the child finally makes it: the end of the road and the exit out of their Valley. However, this is not a permanent exit; the Valley of Grief is one that the child will re-visit many times over their lives, and each time the way out will become easier and easier to find. Soon the Valley will become a sort of Mecca if you will; a place where one goes to recount what they've learned and how far they have come since their first visit here. They will be allowed to grieve, to cry and to long for their parent. This is not a setback, and there is no need to be concerned. The important thing to understand is that the pain will never completely disappear, and to be honest I don't think it would be good if it did. That would mean completely forgetting about those we lost, and I would rather die than to forget my mother.

Reader I have made this journey to my Valley several times since the death of my mother, and I do speak the truth when I say that it does become more of a place of recollection as the years go on. Do I still weep like I did eleven years ago? Of course I do. Is the pain sometimes so sharp that I can't breathe or think? Yes. Do I still get choked up about certain things and have to cry? Yes. But this is something that will always be, and I've accepted it. I've accepted, but not been consumed by it. A wave that crashes on the sand must eventually return to sea, taking with it the sediments and shells, but leaving behind new ones. The wave of grief crashes over you and takes away something, when my mother died she took with her something that I will never get back, but in the retracting waves I find that I've also gained something. What it is, I can't really explain; those who have lost a parent (I think) know what I mean.

It has taken years to reach this point, and to be honest, I still have much further to go. I'm content where I am right now, yes there are days where I wake up and I'm suddenly hit with this pang of loss and I can't think of anything but my mother and how much I miss her, but I accept them; I see them as a minor pitfall that I must find my way out of, that the Valley is calling me back for some reason and I must heed that call.

I urge you to read Alexandra's post, because she said it much better than I did; it seems strange to say this about a person that I have never met but I feel that she knows what I'm talking about. If she even reads this, if I'm priviledged enough to have her read this I want to say thank you for your gift and sharing it with me.

Dear reader, if you are in the midst of travelling through your Valley of Grief, whatever it may be, know that you are a beautiful being; know that you are not alone, that there is someone out there who cares for you; that you can and will make it, you just have to fight. You have to get your hands dirty, and maybe a little scraped up but you can make it out. Patience, Will, and Faith are the keys dear reader; those are the keys to the doors that will take you out of your Valley.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My love affair with Old Movies

Its no secret that I am a huge fan of classic film. If you're a regular reader (which I'm sure there are maybe three of you), you'll remember my love letters to "Pre-Code" Hollywood and to the incomparable Barbara Stanwyck.

But this begs the question: Lauren, why on earth is someone your age obsessed with these crappy old movies?

First of all, if any of you ever have the word "crappy" and "old movies" in the same sentence I will cut you.
Secondly, this is a question that is not simply a "just because they're awesome" sort of answer. Don't worry, I won't make this a long drawn out least I'll try.

As with many of those who love old movies, my first one was The Wizard of Oz. I remember lusting after Dorthy's red slippers, and being more scared of those damn monkeys than the Wicked Witch. Following that was (and still is) one of my all time favourite horse movies: National Velvet. From there, my love of old movies sort of faded out for a while. If it wasn't Disney, then I most likely didn't watch it...sometimes that's still the case but I digress.
After my mom died I was seeking anything to help me escape, that need for escaping became more prevalent after I was molested. I yearned for some sort of way to get away...but without leaving my house. Books helped enormously but sometimes I needed more. I needed to see something; even my minds eye allowing myself to become so immersed within the pages of a novel that I could see, smell and feel what the character was feeling wasn't enough sometimes. I needed to be able to see the character's faces without closing my eyes. To see their plight and accompany them on this journey that they've chosen or are obligated to go on.

It started with Audrey, and ends with Stanwyck.

I first saw Breakfast at Tiffany's when I was about sixteen years old; I'll admit the only thing I found really awesome about it at the time was the fabulous wardrobe...I've been a fan of Hubert de Givenchy ever since. Around a year or so later...I pull out Tiffany's again and watch it with renewed appreciation. I see it through a very different set of eyes: I see a girl much like myself...someone I can identify with (minus being a call girl); I see Holly's pain, her longing to be loved but so terrified of it that she's convinced herself that she doesn't need it. A desire for wealth that is nearly insatiable because she grew up with nothing, and was most likely forced to marry a man much older than her so she could survive. Survive. Wasn't that what I felt like I was doing? I had what Oprah calls an "Aha" moment, a moment when you realize that this could be what you've been looking for: a means of escape. I set out on a quest to own every single Audrey Hepburn movie in existence.

Well maybe not EVERY single one...some of them are hella expensive because they're rare and hard to get so the people that have them feel justified in charging $49.99 for a DVD that probably cost about $15 to make. But I digress.

My renewed affection for Audrey expanded from Tiffany's to Tara. Yes boys and girls I"m talking of Gone with the Wind, now I know she'd kill me if I didn't credit my friend Lydia for introducing me to this wonderful movie; though I must admit...when I saw that it was in three VHS tapes I was a little bit unnerved to say the least. I hardly recognized the run time once the movie started, and it truly is a spectacular film.
From Tara we proceed to Princess Grace, that same week I was with Lydia she also made me...I mean suggested that we watch...Rear Window. To this day I firmly believe that next to Alan Arkin jumping out at Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, the scene where Lisa goes into the murderers apartment is by far one of the scariest scenes ever. That movie introduced me to the beauty and elegance that is Grace Kelly and opened so many more doors on my journey through the many vaults of classic cinema. I began to discover many other wonderful figures of classic film: Gregory Peck, Greer Garson, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Peter O'Toole, Deborah Kerr, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Paul Newman, Norma Shearer, John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rita Hayworth.
Perhaps the film that really opened my eyes, and engraved the love and appreciation of classic film into my being was Rita Hayworth's best known film Gilda.

The movie itself is a little complicated for some, but not for me. I was sucked in from the moment Glenn Ford spoke his opening line to the very last scene. The tension and eroticism in this film is spectacular, they truly don't make them like they used to anymore. I mean if you just watch, every single movement that Rita Hayworth makes oozes with sexuality and everything that is essential to a femme fatale; Glenn Ford is brilliant as the masochistic and tormented Johnny Ferral...I just love everything about this movie. It is everything that a Noir should be. Don't worry, I'll be defining Film Noir in a later post...I know, y'all are just so excited.

From Rita, came other notable femme fatales: Bette Davis, Gene Tierney, Ava Gardner, and, my film icon, Barbara Stanwyck.

I discovered Hitchcock, Capra, Wyler, Ford, and Wilder; I fell even deeper into obsession with Judy and Barbra after seeing them in their most beloved films. I developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge about the films and their stars, and the time periods in which they were made.
I went so far as to see which actors had offspring that were still alive and if their offspring had offspring who happened to be male so I could marry them and be a part of Hollywood royalty and my offspring would have amazing genetics. To answer your question, no I'm not seeking help on this matter. We all have our dreams.

This thirst for knowledge made me the top partner at "Scene It?" parties and trivial pursuit. I also faced some criticism and eye rolling from those who didn't understand why I loved these films so much. I don't care, I know why I love them and now I'm sharing that with you.

I won't go into another shpeel on Missy as I've already posted an entire column on her, but I will reveal why she is one of the reasons my love for classic film will stay with me for...well forever.

Many of you know my first Stany movie was The Lady Eve, those of you who haven't seen it or have only heard me talk about it must see it if we are to remain friends. It's an absolutely charming, funny and romantic movie; I can't think of any reason why anyone who likes going to movies wouldn't enjoy this film. It's a wonderful feel-good film, the kind you put in after a bad day and need a laugh or a warm fuzzy feeling. Barbara Stanwyck's performance in her work was never anything less than perfection. I don't think I can say that about any other actress from the past or today, not even the one's I respect. She gave everything she had to every character she played, and every movie I've seen her in I've always been enthralled by her performance even if the movie itself completely sucked. Barbara Stanwyck brings life to a character and vitality to any movie she was ever in.

In a nutshell, I suppose the short answer to why I love old movies so much is because they transport me to a time where things were just a little more elegant: the men were a tad more chivalrous, the women were classy (even if we didn't have many rights, we still looked damn good), and the movies were all about storytelling and less about special effects. The film focused on the story, its characters and the environment in which it was set; the results were very human stories with very human emotions. There were no flying blue things, or mechanical robots that shoot lazers and transformed into a turbo jet; it was just good, honest film making where the director worked with what he had and the actors had good worth ethic.

These films take me away for a while, they, much like the theatre, allow me to escape my world and everything in it; for two, three even four hours I can go on a journey and forget for a little while. I think we all could use a vacation from our lives once and a while, and its much easier to do than you think: All that's required is a DVD, maybe some popcorn, comfy clothes, and your imagination.

My request of you dear reader is if you've never seen a film like the one's I've mentioned, is to just give it a chance. I can almost guarantee that there is at least one that you will treasure and love for years to come. If you can't think of any or are unsure as to what you may like, well I'm more than willing to offer suggestions.