Some great films from the 1930s, a Natalie Wood comedy with terrific costumes by Edith Head, and a James Stewart-Kim Novak pairing that isn’t Vertigo are among this month’s selections:
Starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant
Directed by George Cukor
Costumes by Robert Kalloch
1938’s Holiday represented the third of four pairings featuring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, after 1935’s Sylvia Scarlett and 1938’s Bringing Up Baby (released just four months prior to this film) and before 1940’s The Philadelphia Story. But Holiday shows the stars at their madcap best, with Hepburn as a free-spirited heiress who inadvertently falls in love with her sister’s fiancé, the “common man” Johnny Case, who wants nothing to do with the family’s wealth. Hepburn knew her role well, having understudied for the part on Broadway before Hollywood beckoned; bonus features with this 4K digital restoration from Criterion include the previous, 1930 version of Holiday, archived interviews with director George Cukor, and a costume gallery of Robert Kalloch’s designs.
The Great McGinty (1940) and
The Good Fairy (1935)
Kino Lorber Studio Classics
The Great McGinty directed by Preston Sturges
The Good Fairy directed by William Wyler
Fans of Preston Sturges should want these films in their libraries, as would anyone who appreciates the director’s take on class systems in the 1930s. Starring Brian Donlevy, The Great McGinty explores this idea through the story of a bartender who, via flashback, recounts his rise and fall in the city’s political machine. Five years earlier, Sturges showcased a similar theme as the writer for The Good Fairy, directed by William Wyler, with Margaret Sullavan as a young woman who must negotiate life and its various challenges in Budapest after leaving the orphanage where she was raised.
Both films are offered in new 4K masters, each including audio commentaries by film historians. Ultimately, if you’re a fan of The Lady Eve or The Palm Beach Story, these tales of 1930s Depression-era life, tinged with more than a touch of glamour, should be welcome additions to your collection.
Warner Bros. Archive Collection
Starring Natalie Wood and Ian Bannen
Directed by Arthur Hiller
Costumes by Edith Head
We’ll note up front that we’re not fans of the poster art for this 1966 Natalie Wood film, with the actress holding bags of money in strategic positions, but we’re giving it a pass both for the time period and because both the story and costumes for this comedy are delightful. Wood plays a bored housewife who decides to fight back against her busy, inattentive banker husband by committing a series of robberies, initially stealing jewelry and then planning a theft of her husband’s bank. Penelope confesses all to her psychiatrist, played by Dick Shawn, who naturally falls in love with her, but the true fun in this film is not only Woods’s performance, but also the costumes designed for her by Edith Head. Penelope is produced in the same vein as What a Way to Go!, the 1964 film starring Shirley MacLaine (also with costumes by Head), as it’s a similar story of a woman confronting the challenges of her life, with plenty of fantasy and fabulous fashion thrown in for good measure. It’s pure, escapist fun, and a must-have for Wood fans.
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak
Directed by Richard Quine
Costumes by Jean Louis
If you mixed Vertigo with Bewitched, you might get the deft blend of comedy, romance and witchcraft found in Bell, Book and Candle. Kim Novak plays a modern-day witch in a downtown, decidedly bohemian section of New York City, where dislikes her neighbor due to a long-ago schoolgirl slight, and she decides to exact her revenge by casting a spell to get the woman’s fiancé, played by Stewart, to fall in love with her. But the joke’s on her, as she falls in love with him for real. Ernie Kovacs, Jack Lemmon and Hermione Gingold are featured in terrific supporting roles, while Novak’s costumes, by the great Jean Louis, offer plenty of star power on their own. Bell, Book and Candle is definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of romantic comedies, fashion in film, cats named Pyewacket (allegedly Novak’s actual cat at the time of filming), or all of the above.