Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A few good movies will help to pass the time - every time

I’m sure Betty and Ray Jurkowski would agree there is no more pleasant way of spending a couple of idle hours than watching a good movie.

Ray is the honcho of Laketran, and Betty has a more encyclopedic knowledge of movies than anyone I have ever met, with the possible exception of Phil Skerry, a retired professor at Lakeland Community College who taught film courses there.

The lady of the house and I have talked for hours with Betty and Ray about favorite films, and, if pressed, they might even agree that some movies are worth watching multiple times. I am a true believer that a good flick is worth watching over and over.

I would guess the film I have watched the most times is “Twelve O’Clock High.” I am a sucker for a good World War II movie. I once told Bette Davis over dinner (regular readers know of that adventure) that her erstwhile husband, Gary Merrill, was outstanding in that movie as Keith Davenport, playing second fiddle to Gregory Peck’s Frank Savage. There were so many fine actors in that film!

I have watched “Love With a Perfect Stranger” and “A Letter to Three Wives” so many times that I wore out the tapes and had to replace them.

I still eagerly watch the surprise ending of “Three Wives” and the unforgettable dialog between Paul Douglas and Linda Darnell.

A couple of other WWII films I hold as among the best of that genre are “From Here to Eternity” and “The Caine Mutiny.”

If I don’t have time for the whole film, there are two riveting scenes from “Caine” I isolate and watch again and again.

One is the courtroom drama in which Captain Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) is testifying while clicking his steel ball bearings, and the party scene at the end in which a drunken Jose Ferrer shows up and tosses a glass of champagne into the face of Fred MacMurray.

Others I never tire of watching are “Being There,” “Pretty Woman” and “Bad Day at Black Rock.”

The scene in which Earnest Borgnine dumps catsup into the chili bowl of a one-armed man, Spencer Tracy, then goads him into a fight is priceless. Tracy dispatches him with a chop to the throat that sends him sprawling, ending the confrontation.

I never tire of watching “Absolute Power” because I am a big fan of most everything Clint Eastwood does. I can recite his well-known dialog from a Dirty Harry movie (“I know what you’re thinking, did he fire six shots or only five...”) almost as well as he does.

When I need a lift from a good musical, I watch “My Fair Lady,” “Guys and Dolls” (what a pairing Sinatra and Brando were!), “The Music Man” or an all-time favorite, “Bells Are Ringing.”

Speaking of which, Hollywood almost ruined it for me. I saw it twice on Broadway, starring Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplain (son of Charlie), and he was great. But he wasn’t considered “box office” enough, so he was replaced in the cast by Dean Martin.

Dino was one of the great entertainers of all-time, but that part wasn’t right for him.

How can I forget “Casablanca” or “The Maltese Falcon?” They are always on hand, as is “Good Night and Good Luck,” the semi-documentary about Edward R. Murrow.

Speaking of remembering film dialog, I know a lot of it from the W.C. Fields classic “The Bank Dick,” but I’m convinced my former publisher, Joe Cocozzo, know all of it. His memory for movie dialog knows no bounds.

There’s only one scene from “DuBarry Was a Lady” I watch over and over. It’s the one in which the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, in French period attire, plays “Well, Git It!” with furious solos by drummer Buddy Rich, trumpeters Ziggy Elman and Chuck Peterson, and others by Henie Beau, Milt Raskin and Don Lodice. Priceless!

The rest of the film is a boring Red Skelton escapade with a paper-thin plot.

I can always watch “Movie Movie,” “Disclosure” (‘Did it ever occur to you Meredith, that I may have been leading you on?’), “Executive Suite” and “Amazon Women on the Moon.” That classic tape is also getting worn out.

Will I ever stop watching? Not with “Born Yesterday,” “Five Graves to Cairo” or any other treasured favorite at my fingertips.

The best part is, the lady of the house watches many of them with me. Just the other night we saw “The Seven Year Itch.”

Moreover, she doesn’t disturb me when I watch movies alone — as long as I keep the volume turned down so that I don’t disturb her with her own high priorities.

All I need is a bowl of popcorn, a Diet Pepsi and I’m in seventh heaven — for two hours. And then, who knows? I might even modulate into eighth heaven.


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