March 30, 2013


Last month, I got a chance to meet Ben Mankeiwitcz, the Turner Classic Movies host and curator, who is actually from the DC area, and was here promoting this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, running from April 25-28 in Hollywood. If you haven’t heard, they have a festival, and Cinema Siren can attest to the fact that they feature both great movies and great guest stars.

This year, they’ll include Polly Bergen, Ann Blyth, Mel Brooks, Jane Fonda, Mitzi Gaynor, Tippi Hedren, Max Von Sydow, Eva Marie Saint and Mickey Rooney, just to name some of my favorites.

When I talked to Mankeiwitcz, he said those who attend are some of the most knowledgeable movie fans in the world, but surprisingly diverse in age. He said one fan who expertly quoted stats of actors and actresses of the 1950s was 13 years old.

Though Cinema Siren, alas, will be in England, not in Hollywood, (filming interviews at an indie English studio where Trance was filmed), I can highly recommend this convention.

If you’ve never gone to a con before, and you are passionate about classic movies, this might be the perfect one to check out. It got me thinking.

The early part of this year has been rife with bad to mediocre new releases at the multiplex, and there’s little to recommend for viewing during this holiday weekend or over spring break, when families are looking for a great movie to enjoy together.

When all else fails, when you need a sure win, you can always look to the classics.  So Cinema Siren has compiled the top ten best movies that feel like spring. Mostly I went for lots of color, joy and fun, and above all, lots of blooming flowers and greenery.

You might have seen these in all their technicolor beauty, but they are worthy of repeat viewing … maybe if we watch them enough, the flowers will grow faster!

10. Girl Happy (1965) Everyone needs a little Elvis to bring on spring … He plays a nightclub singer, as usual, and juggles Shelley Fabares and Mary Ann Mobley during spring break in Fort Lauderdale. Just as silly as the rest of his movies, and of course you can always choose Blue Hawaii, featuring Angela Lansbury as his southern mama, and is filmed on location, but Girl Happy shows the crazy Spring Break vibe that has been in evidence for decades.


9. Brigadoon (1954) Although this movie was mostly filmed on a soundstage, there is a lushness to it, and the motif of spring awakening is a consistent thread. Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse make amazing dance partners. The score is lovely, and the story is a very charming spring feverish love story.


8. State Fair (1945) With the only original music written for a film by Rogers and Hammerstein, this stars Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews and Dick Haymes. Off everyone goes to the fair, all falling in love, tasting spiked minced meat, riding carnival rides and promoting prized pigs. Dick Haymes shows off his gorgeous baritone, and there are flowers and fun all around.


7. Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) Debbie Reynolds as Tammy, falls for hot old money Leslie Nielsen, who is trying to grow a new tomato hybrid to keep his family plantation afloat. This movie is cute as can be. Love and the famous Oscar nominated song Tammy are floating through the spring air.


6. Leave Her to Heaven (1945) I felt like I had to include something bright and beautiful on the outside, with a darker core. No movie fits that bill better than Leave Her to Heaven, starring Gene Tierney as the stunningly beautiful femme fatale who destroys all around her through her jealousy. Jean Crain, Cornel Wilde and Vincent Price co-star. The movie has gorgeous technicolor scenery, and Tierney is striking in her luxurious costumes. Want spring warmth in color, but stone cold winter in emotion? This great classic (one of Martin Scorsese’s favorites) is perfect.


5. Rear Window (1954) Seems like this particular Hitchcock classic, and my favorite, would remind fans most of spring, because in it everyone has all their windows open, and sounds of music and chatter fill the air. Winter keeps us all inside and what a lovely reminder this movie is of how much we can enjoy the fresh air and the world around us as it warms. Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly with that spectacular embrace will warm you as well…


4. On the Town (1949) Co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, a movie with Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller and Vera Ellen would have to be a pleasure to watch, and it surely is. It feels a little like spring break, with Gene Kelly chasing around Miss Turnstiles all day. It shows the best of New York in perfect weather. A great celebration of friendship and urban adventure which is elevated further by spectacular singing and dancing.

Poster - On the Town_02

3. Easter Parade (1948) Judy Garland and Fred Astaire star in this great movie with some really famous Irving Berlin songs. Gene Kelly was originally cast but broke his ankle, so Astaire came briefly out of retirement. As it’s set at Easter, of course it is perfect viewing this time of year, and the costumes and dance routines are legendary, as is Judy Garland, whose voice is so friendly and warm, it alone could bring on spring!


2. Royal Wedding (1951) Fred Astaire and Jane Powell play a brother and sister visiting London during the big event, and meet their matches, all the while dancing and singing for their supper. The famous dance on the ceiling is in this movie. Why does it celebrate spring? I just spent a February week in London. No question that in Royal Wedding, it is spring at the very least, and there is a joyous celebratory feeling throughout.


1. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) There’s so much spring in this movie, it has a song named after it. Howard Keel plays a big burly and hot redheaded mountain man who goes into town and comes back with a wife (Jane Powell). She’s happy just long enough to discover he has six brothers she’s expected to live with — time to play matchmaker! Lots of dancing and singing, and gorgeous technicolor makes this movie delicious from beginning to end.


Hopefully, time we spend with these great movies bursting with color and intensity of joy or passion, will serve to build positive expectation and welcome springtime. We’ve been inside long enough.  Time to let some favorite classics remind us warmth and new birth is coming.

More on Turner Classic Movies and the TCM Classic Film Festival.