Monday, April 15, 2019

24 Hours of Movies: Blondes!

by Patrick Bromley
I hear watching movies about them is more fun.

It's been my tradition for the last few years to program these hypothetical 24-hour movie marathons every week during the month of March. However, this March -- much like the last six months before it -- got away from me, and it never came to pass. The one marathon that almost made it to publication was this one centered around famous movie blondes. These are not "favorite" blondes, mind you. After all, I'm already married to my favorite blonde. No movie star can touch her. These are the ones I thought would make for a fun and/or interesting marathon. I also didn't deliberately set out to exclude iconic movie blondes like Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, or Mamie Van Doren, but the more I began programming without any of their movies in the lineup, the more I thought it might be interesting to not go with the most obvious picks. Don't get me wrong: this list is still full of thudding obviousness. You have come to expect no less.

10 am - Vivacious Lady (1938, dir. George Stevens)
Sure, she's more famous for her musicals with Fred Astaire, but Ginger Rogers was a terrific comedy actress when given the right opportunity. This charming romantic comedy is the right opportunity. She plays a showgirl who falls in love and secretly marries Jimmy Stewart, but he's unable to tell his disapproving family the truth of their relationship. Erika and I watched this for the first time off TCM a few months back and it remains one of my favorite discoveries of the year so far. I like starting these marathons off by feeling good.

Noon - The Real Blonde (1997, dir. Tom DiCillo)
Told you there were obvious picks. Like a lot of new filmmakers in the '90s, Tom DiCillo made the leap from a celebrated indie (Living in Oblivion) to working for a major -- in this case Paramount -- with mixed results. There's a lot to like in this ensemble comedy focused on the entertainment business, plus the cast is pretty great: Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Berkley, Steve Buscemi, Denis Leary, Kathleen Turner, Bridgette Wilson, Daryl Hannah, Maxwell Caulfield...the list goes on. It's never especially funny even when it does hit the target, but it has that '90s sensibility for which, I will confess, I'm very nostalgic.

2 pm - Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott)
I will take advantage of almost any excuse to watch one of the best movies ever made. Plus, there's a good chance I can lure Jan and JB to join me for this one, seeing as it's Jan's favorite movie of all time and she's basically the world's foremost expert.

4 pm - Bird on a Wire (1990, dir. John Badham)
I'll admit that I'm programming this one mostly for Erika. It's a movie that will always be special to me because it's the first one I ever saw by myself, but it's even more special because E and I bonded over it so early. She loves it to an almost startling degree. It's a perfectly fun star vehicle -- the kind of movie that has a little something for everyone: action, a little comedy, a little romance. While 2019 makes it harder to enjoy Mel Gibson on screen, Goldie Hawn more than makes up for it with a performance that's very fun and very funny.

6 pm - Vertigo (1958, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
It would be hard to program an all-blondes marathon and not include Vertigo, because Hitchcock was famous for his blondes and this is a movie specifically about that obsession. I feel like the movie is at a disadvantage ever since it dethroned Citizen Kane for the title of "greatest movie ever made," because now people can only watch it in relation to that title; if it doesn't live up to it, well, then it's "not that great." Wrong! It's a masterpiece, with Hitchcock positively laying himself bare within the framework of a psychological thriller. There's no way I'm leaving this out of the lineup.

8:15 pm - Femme Fatale (2002, dir. Brian De Palma)
One of the very best "blonde" movies of the 2000s, not just because Brian De Palma rules but also because the movie exists as a deconstruction/response to the tradition of the cinematic blonde in much the way David Lynch's Lost Highway or Hitchcock's Vertigo does (it wasn't really intentional, but this and Vertigo would make an insanely good double feature). Rebecca Romijn is icy and effective as the titular femme fatale, a woman who tries to get away with double crossing her partners after pulling a spectacular heist. I know there are people who hate this movie (Entertainment Weekly named it one of the worst movies of 2002), but for me it's De Palma's last masterpiece -- a movie about both the acts of making and watching movies on opposite sides of the screen.

10:30 pm - Night of the Demons (1988, dir. Kevin S. Tenney)
As we move into the overnight section of our marathon, it only makes sense that Linnea Quigley make an appearance. I know she has her share of iconic appearances on screen (Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare SistersSilent Night, Deadly Night), but this might be my favorite of all her roles. She's just so playful, and the stuff with the lipstick is totally iconic...and totally disturbing.

12 am - They're Playing With Fire (1984, dir. Howard Avedis)
No, it's not totally a horror movie, but They're Playing With Fire won't play better anywhere in the lineup than in the midnight slot. This is a movie that shifts gears -- and genres -- multiple times before the credits roll, starting out as a teen sex comedy and ending as something very, very different. Words alone don't do justice to Sybil Danning, who is less an actress than she is a Valkyrie goddess sent from another planet to act in a bunch of cheap exploitation movies. She commands the screen in a way most actors only wish they could, and while her character in They're Playing With Fire doesn't have the same strength as many of her other roles, the film still puts her appeal to very good use.

2 am - Amuck (1972, dir. Silvio Amadio)
Another title I'm programming partly for me and partly for Erika, who recently discovered and subsequently fell in love with Barbara Bouchet. She plays an American who takes a job as a secretary overseas in order to investigate the disappearance of her lover. I've only seen it once and don't remember it all that well beyond liking it, but 2 am is the Italian horror slot and this giallo should fit that bill very nicely.

3:45 am - So Sweet...So Perverse (1969, dir. Umberto Lenzi)
More goodness from Italy, this time by way of Umberto Lenzi and Carroll Baker, an actor who made way more gialli than I realized prior to watching the trailer compilation All the Colors of Giallo. She's in, like, a third of them it seems. This will be new to me, so I'm excited to watch it under these very unusual conditions.

5:30 am - Sullivan's Travels (1941, dir. Preston Sturges)
Veronica Lake is another Hollywood blonde that really shouldn't be left off the list, so let's come back to reality with Preston Sturges' fable about a Hollywood director (Joel McCrea) who learns the value of art (more specifically comedy) by losing everything. Lake is at her most appealing in a supporting role (one of her first) as an actress who's along for the ride with McCrea. That she manages to stand out among all of the iconic Hollywood blondes of this era (era) is a testament to Veronica Lake's screen presence here and elsewhere.

7 am - Point Break (1991, dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
Patrick Swayze goes blonde to play a surfing bank robber in one of the best action movies ever made. We've lived through the period in which Point Break was embraced as an "ironic" good movie and now people just accept it as totally kick ass, which is as it should be. I can easily get through 24 hours of movies if you tell me that Point Break is waiting for me near the finish line.

9 am - Risky Business (1983, dir. Paul Brickman)
I usually try to end these marathon's with something commercial. I don't really know why that is. This counts as our something commercial, even though it's a lot smarter and more transgressive than a lot of the commercial movies of its day. I know Risky Business is famous for making Tom Cruise a movie star overnight, but we don't talk enough about how Rebecca DeMornay achieves the very same feat in what is more of a supporting role. She's so confident and sexy in this movie that Hollywood was never able to see her as anything else, which is both a testament to her performance and a condemnation of the movie industry's typecasting of women. It's late, though, and we're tired, so let's try to keep our mind off gender politics for now and just enjoy Risky Business, one of the sharpest and best teen comedies of the '80s. And then let's take a nap. My favorite blonde and I could use some sleep.


  1. That's an interesting theme. And a reminder that i need to grab They're Playing With Fire

  2. Really happy Sullivan's Travels made your list, such a great film!