Giving Thanks

When did “Thank You” become so hard to say? I’m constantly amazed by the surprised looks and unexpected smiles I get from strangers every time I utter those words. It often seems as if I’m speaking another language. A language that is both hopeful and confusing to anyone who doesn’t hear that simple phrase very often. Shop girls and delivery boys are often taken completely off guard when I thank them for their work. The mailman seems utterly shocked when I utter a quick, “Thanks!” for his service. Even people that I’m friendly with occasionally act surprised when I thank them for recommending a movie or lending me a DVD. I was raised to say “Thank you” for whatever good fortune I received and I’m grateful to my parents for bringing me up that way. I’m also thankful that I’m able to put my misfortunes aside and enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life like getting my mail delivered in a rainstorm or getting a good cup of coffee served by a weary waitress whose face lights up after I thank her. I’m also thankful for the movies I’ve grown up with and the people that made them. Movies aren’t just mild entertainment in my home. They’re art, story and sound. They’re wonderous things that have gently helped shape who I am and how I see the world. On this Thanksgiving holiday I can’t resist giving thanks to a few of the moviemakers that I’m especially grateful for lately.

I’m thankful for Joseph Cotten’s soft rumbling voice that never fails to make my heart skip a beat or chill me to the bone. There are a lot of great actors with wonderful voices but Joseph Cotten could have charmed the skirt off the devil herself. In a horrible turn of events Cotten lost his voice when he was stricken with throat cancer late in life. But I’m glad I got the opportunity to listen to his golden pipes in all the films he appeared in and I’m grateful that the cancer that took his voice, and eventually his life, didn’t arrive any sooner.

I’m thankful for Gene Tierney’s overbite. She’s one of the most beautiful women that has ever stood in front of a camera but her slight overbite gives her a mark of distinction that’s utterly charming and unforgettable. She’s uncommonly gorgeous but there’s something unconventional about her beauty that I find totally enchanting. Part of her allure is that crooked grin and I’m grateful for every close-up that frames it.

I’m thankful for Fritz Lang’s abundant imagination. I watched his silent masterpiece Metropolis (1927) again when the recently restored version of the film played on TCM. I thought I couldn’t gain any more respect for one of my favorite directors but I was wrong. While watching Metropolis I was taken aback by the power of the film and the flickering images that have inspired countless imitators and admirers. It’s an amazing piece of work but it’s not Fritz Lang’s only achievement. I’m grateful that Fritz Lang refused Joseph Goebbels’ offer to become the head of the German Cinema Institute under Adolph Hitler (a position later accepted by Leni Riefenstahl). And I’m especially grateful that Lang eventually came to Hollywood where he continued to make wonderful movies like Scarlet Street (1945) and Rancho Notorious (1952).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4t-G7tfWElo]

I’m thankful for Eli Wallach’s longevity. At age 95 Eli Wallach just received his first Academy Award for his lifetime achievements and my only reaction was, “Why did it take so long?” Anyone that has seen Eli Wallach’s brilliant performances in movies like Baby Doll (1956), The Line-up (1958) The Misfits (1961) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) knows that Wallach was one of the best actors working in the late ‘50s and ‘60s but Hollywood didn’t seem to take much notice. Some of his peers held him in high regard but it’s taken the Academy and many critics decades to realize just how talented Eli Wallach is. Few actors of his generation could of held their own with guys like Karl Malden, Clint Eastwood and Clark Gable but Wallach doesn’t just “hold his own” in the films he appeared in. He’s a bona fide scene-stealer and a brilliant actor that can demand attention effortlessly.

I’m thankful for Deborah Kerr’s brave choices. While watching the actress in Eye of the Devil (1966) recently I couldn’t help but notice how she was able to tackle her rather complicated role with such effortless grace. Kerr was a wonderful actress but she’s never been given enough credit for the difficult, unglamorous and often thankless roles she was willing to accept in films like Tea and Sympathy (1956), Bonjour tristesse (1958), The Innocents (1961), The Chalk Garden (1964) and The Night of the Iguana (1964). Deborah Kerr accepted these unconventional parts at the height of her career and appeared in a horror film (The Innocents) when it was utterly unthinkable that an actress of her caliber would do so because she liked the role and wanted the challenge. I admire Deborah Kerr’s independence and I’m thankful that the actress was willing to buck convention and take risks.

I’m thankful for Richard Harris’ restless spirit. I happen to think that the British actor was one of the United Kingdom’s greatest exports even though he may not be as widely recognized for his talent as his contemporaries like Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole. He wasn’t nominated for as many Oscars as those two fine actors and a lot of the career choices he made were questionable at best, but I’m grateful for his lack of focus. Harris didn’t appear in as many movies as some of his fellow British thespians because he was busy recording hit songs like “Macarthur Park” and writing critically acclaimed poems published in I, In The Membership Of My Days. Over the years it became fashionable to make light of Harris’ musical and literary accomplishments but I’ve enjoyed revisiting his recorded albums and reading his poetry. Richard Harris had an abundance of talent and I’m thankful that he was willing to share so may facets of his beguiling personality with us. I’m also thankful that Criterion released Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964) on DVD this year, which features Harris in one of best roles.

And last but not least, I’m thankful for unlikely heroes that inspire us all to do more and be better. Like Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in The Passage of Marseilles (1943), which I wrote about last week. They were willing to take on the German army when it wasn’t in their best interest and they paid a heavy price for their effort. I’m also thankful for those seven grungy and incredibly handsome cowboys in The Magnificent Seven (1960) that do battle with a bunch of banditos in order to save some helpless villagers. The villagers couldn’t offer those brave men anything more than their thanks in return, but sometimes a simple thank you is all you need.

Happy Thanksgiving!

12 Responses Giving Thanks
Posted By NCeddie : November 25, 2010 6:09 pm

An utterly charming post. And, THANK YOU, Kimberly! I am thankful for the thousands of cast and crew who have added their skills to make each and every movie get up off the ground, meet an audience and give someone a bit of joy or provoke a thought out there in the dark. A bit player may have made a facial expression that accented a plot. A seamstress may have shaped a sleeve that caught the light just right and emphasized an actor’s motion at the right time. A studio carpenter may have built a facade on a soundstage that precisely helped create the illusion of reality. A lighting technician may have turned a spot at just the right angle to soften a dramatic shadow perfectly. And a contract performer could always be relied upon to maintain quality support of a film along with the leads. A big THANK YOU to all who knew their job, no matter how small, and did it for the thrill of self-satisfaction! Their combined efforts in any film always touch me with a sense of wonder.

Posted By NCeddie : November 25, 2010 6:09 pm

An utterly charming post. And, THANK YOU, Kimberly! I am thankful for the thousands of cast and crew who have added their skills to make each and every movie get up off the ground, meet an audience and give someone a bit of joy or provoke a thought out there in the dark. A bit player may have made a facial expression that accented a plot. A seamstress may have shaped a sleeve that caught the light just right and emphasized an actor’s motion at the right time. A studio carpenter may have built a facade on a soundstage that precisely helped create the illusion of reality. A lighting technician may have turned a spot at just the right angle to soften a dramatic shadow perfectly. And a contract performer could always be relied upon to maintain quality support of a film along with the leads. A big THANK YOU to all who knew their job, no matter how small, and did it for the thrill of self-satisfaction! Their combined efforts in any film always touch me with a sense of wonder.

Posted By Anonymous : November 25, 2010 10:10 pm

Thank you for the very nice post. I am thankful that Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart teamed up to make It’s a Wonderful Life, my favorite movie of all time. No movie brings me greater joy. I am also thankful that John Ford put the desire to make movies into John Wayne.

Posted By Anonymous : November 25, 2010 10:10 pm

Thank you for the very nice post. I am thankful that Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart teamed up to make It’s a Wonderful Life, my favorite movie of all time. No movie brings me greater joy. I am also thankful that John Ford put the desire to make movies into John Wayne.

Posted By suzidoll : November 25, 2010 11:46 pm

I am grateful for my Movie Morlock peers who are a joy to read–like Kimberly–and I am proud to be in their company. This was the perfect post for Thanksgiving. Viva la cinema.

Posted By suzidoll : November 25, 2010 11:46 pm

I am grateful for my Movie Morlock peers who are a joy to read–like Kimberly–and I am proud to be in their company. This was the perfect post for Thanksgiving. Viva la cinema.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 26, 2010 2:09 pm

Thanks for the kind comments everyone and I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays!

And Suzi, I’m thankful for all the Morlocks too and grateful to be part of this terrific & creative team. Viva la cinema!

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : November 26, 2010 2:09 pm

Thanks for the kind comments everyone and I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays!

And Suzi, I’m thankful for all the Morlocks too and grateful to be part of this terrific & creative team. Viva la cinema!

Posted By Al Lowe : November 26, 2010 3:27 pm

Here are a couple of memorable movies that give a unique perspective on Thanksgiving or holiday related themes:

1. IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER. Sometimes it is all about luck and timing.
Dolores Gray began her film career when the movie musical started its rapid decline in popularity. She had sung in the Bette Davis tearjerker MR. SKEFFINGTON and later began her short MGM career in the mid-fifties.
However, she did have the good fortune to work with producer Arthur Freed and directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly in FAIR WEATHER. They gave her a stop-the show number.
It was called “Thanks a Lot But No Thanks.” She is the hostess of a rather typical 50s TV show and is a combination between Dinah Shore and Godzilla. She sings that she is “just a little lassie waiting for my faithful lad” and turns down Fort Knox, a uranium mine and an autographed photo of John Wayne offered by various suitors. “No gift, however classy, means this lassie can be had!”
So beware of gifts offered with bad intentions. Say, “thanks a lot but no thanks.”

2. SMOKE. This movie released by director Wayne Wang in 1995 should be better known and a cherished classic. It involves several stories about quirky individuals that are loosely connected by plot.
The last story in the film starts with fiction author William Hurt making one of his regular visits to a cigar shop and telling the owner that he was commissioned by the New York Times to write a Christmas story, that he is running out of time and has no ideas. “Buy me lunch, my friend, and I’ll tell you the best Christmas story you ever heard. And I guarantee that every word is true,” Kietel tells him.
They meet for lunch and Kietel keeps his promise.
I’ll let people discover the pleasure of this scene themselves. It finishes with closing credits and songs – “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – performed by the Jerry Garcia Band and – “Innocent When You Dream” – performed by Tom Waits.
(One sad, shocking note: A bit player, a kibitizer in the cigar store, tells Kietel at the start of this episode, “There is going to be another war. Those slobs in the Pentagon will be out of a job unless they find a new enemy.”…Remember this was 1995.)

Happy Holidays!

Posted By Al Lowe : November 26, 2010 3:27 pm

Here are a couple of memorable movies that give a unique perspective on Thanksgiving or holiday related themes:

1. IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER. Sometimes it is all about luck and timing.
Dolores Gray began her film career when the movie musical started its rapid decline in popularity. She had sung in the Bette Davis tearjerker MR. SKEFFINGTON and later began her short MGM career in the mid-fifties.
However, she did have the good fortune to work with producer Arthur Freed and directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly in FAIR WEATHER. They gave her a stop-the show number.
It was called “Thanks a Lot But No Thanks.” She is the hostess of a rather typical 50s TV show and is a combination between Dinah Shore and Godzilla. She sings that she is “just a little lassie waiting for my faithful lad” and turns down Fort Knox, a uranium mine and an autographed photo of John Wayne offered by various suitors. “No gift, however classy, means this lassie can be had!”
So beware of gifts offered with bad intentions. Say, “thanks a lot but no thanks.”

2. SMOKE. This movie released by director Wayne Wang in 1995 should be better known and a cherished classic. It involves several stories about quirky individuals that are loosely connected by plot.
The last story in the film starts with fiction author William Hurt making one of his regular visits to a cigar shop and telling the owner that he was commissioned by the New York Times to write a Christmas story, that he is running out of time and has no ideas. “Buy me lunch, my friend, and I’ll tell you the best Christmas story you ever heard. And I guarantee that every word is true,” Kietel tells him.
They meet for lunch and Kietel keeps his promise.
I’ll let people discover the pleasure of this scene themselves. It finishes with closing credits and songs – “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” – performed by the Jerry Garcia Band and – “Innocent When You Dream” – performed by Tom Waits.
(One sad, shocking note: A bit player, a kibitizer in the cigar store, tells Kietel at the start of this episode, “There is going to be another war. Those slobs in the Pentagon will be out of a job unless they find a new enemy.”…Remember this was 1995.)

Happy Holidays!

Posted By Medusa : November 30, 2010 2:46 pm

Thanks for this great post, Kimberly! I’m a big “thanker” in real life, too, and yes, so often it doesn’t get said because nobody expects it anymore because most people evidently don’t say it.

Hope you had a great holiday!

Posted By Medusa : November 30, 2010 2:46 pm

Thanks for this great post, Kimberly! I’m a big “thanker” in real life, too, and yes, so often it doesn’t get said because nobody expects it anymore because most people evidently don’t say it.

Hope you had a great holiday!

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