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Desert Island Classics – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

Desert-Island-Classics

Whilst I eagerly await your blogathon entries (7 DAYS LEFT PEOPLE!!) (please feel free to join in, click HERE for details), I wanted to shine some light on my long running Desert Island Films series, and more importantly the people who joined in and made it so much fun to do. I am therefore randomly visiting the archives and re-posting a few of the lists with some added kind words. I present to you; Desert Island Classics…… You may have read all of the lists so far, but I hope you won’t mind seeing a few of them again, and who knows, you may even find some new blogs to read.

Two people that have no interest in horror yet somehow found my blog are Marilyn & Garry Armstrong. It makes me so happy to see them both still visiting my blog and so today I want to share their lists with you again. Marilyn runs the site Serendipity where you can find her fantastic photography and a million and one other diverse posts all brilliant and unique. You can find Marilyn’s desert island films by clicking HERE but for now I’m going to show you Garry’s list. Whilst he doesn’t blog as such (he has been known to make a few posts now and again!) Garry was persuaded/pressured/forced into sharing his thoughts with me. Without trying to embarrass him too much, in his wife’s own words; Garry been on TV for 40 years. He’s a walking film encyclopedia and the lucky dog actually got to sit and talk to Cagney, Hepburn and The Duke, Black Edwards, William Holden …. kind of everyone. 

So please sit back, check out Garry’s film choices (he picked more than 8, the man plays by his own rules!!) and read his stories. Then see Marilyns choices and of course sign up and follow her blog. You won’t regret it.

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Desert Island Films is about choosing 8 films you would take if you were going to be stranded on a desert island and explaining your choices. They don’t necessarily have to be your favourites, just 8 films, no more or no less! You are also permitted to take one book and one novelty item which must be inanimate and of no use in escaping the island or allowing communication from outside.

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Garry Armstrong – Desert Island Films

This is a post I would have liked to ponder over a bit longer, but The Wife is very sweetly asking me to jot down my list of favorites right now. She’s out-of-order! You’re all out-of-order!

That said, here we go:

The Searchers

I love westerns. This may be the best ever made and it’s Duke Wayne’s finest performance. My director idol, John Ford, said of his masterpiece, “It’ll do”.

Casablanca

Everyone’s go-to movie easily could be number one. I remember chatting with Julius Epstein, one of the co-screenwriters, who told me how crazy it was on the set with revised scripts rushed in every day as they set up shots.

Epstein said Bogie was never fazed and usually nailed his lines on the first take. Director Michael Curtiz, on the other hand, was very “upset”, according to Epstein.

The Best Years of our Lives

Wonderful film but, admittedly, a sentimental choice here. The very FIRST film I ever saw at a movie theatre.

It was 1946. My Dad had just returned from the war. He was dressed in his uniform. He seemed ten feet tall and very heroic. The theme of the movie, GI’s trying to cope with post-war life, is timeless. Little did I know that it would be an issue in my family.

The Magnificent Seven

Another great western. I saw it numerous times when it opened in 1960. I know all the lines.

The cast of then relatively unknown actors was terrific. Steve McQueen was my movie hero — next to Duke Wayne. I even tried to dress like McQueen. Didn’t quite work out. Years later, I had a sit down chat with James Coburn who related how wild things were during the shooting of “Seven”. He told me how McQueen used to drive the nominal star, Yul Brynner, crazy with upstaging bits of business. Charles Bronson was described as “one very quiet and strange dude”. Coburn admitted everyone was sneaking in “bits” trying to outdo each other.

The Great Escape

Think “The Magnificent Seven” as a World War two prison escape war movie instead of a western. James Coburn said he marvelled at how director John Sturges kept control of the “boys”, including several of the “Magnificent Seven” cast members.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t single out Elmer Bernstein’s distinctive musical score in both films. Those scores or “themes” would achieve their own celebrity over the years.

All About Eve

I’ve always loved this one!! The cast, acting, dialogue, and script are superb. It’s about the theatre world. But anyone who’s had a professional life in the public eye can relate to the characters and the plot. Bette Davis was at the top of her game (role was originally slated for Claudette Colbert who had to pass).

The wonderful supporting cast included Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Gregory Ratoff, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, a young Marilyn Monroe and the estimable George Sanders in his career-defining role. I shared Bloody Mary’s with Gary Merrill when he was in Boston (that’s another story) and had me laughing about life on the set of “All About Eve”. He and Ms. Davis fell in love while making “Eve”. However, the theatrics within the theatrics were something to behold, Merrill recalled. Everyone was trying to upstage everyone else but nobody upstaged Bette Davis. Gary Merrill grinned as he refilled my drink. And, George Sanders, Merrill said, was George Sanders on and off camera.

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Oh, how I adore this movie and WHY didn’t they make it in color?? Had the great fortune to meet James “Call me Jimmy” Cagney in the early 70′s on Martha’s Vineyard. I was awestruck. He was very kind. Seems he had caught my work as a TV news reporter and just wanted to say he liked what he saw. Over coffee, we talked about the joys of doing what we loved and the frustration of dealing with “suits” or executives. I mostly just listened. He talked about the making of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and how, clearly, that was his personal favorite “job” in his long career. He was glad to do the music biopic and show off his dancing chops which he’d always had but were rarely used in previous films. He credited his unusual dance movements to mannerisms of his old street pals in New York’s “hell’s Kitchen” where he grew up.

My favorite scene in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is near the end where Cagney/Cohan, dances down the stairs at the White House.

My wife Marilyn and I usually replay this scene three, four, five times whenever we watch the film.

Shane

Another classic western. Alan Ladd’s shining hour and another gem in director George Steven’s illustrious career. The photography and editing are wonderful. Victor Young’s music is evocative. Perhaps my favorite sequence is the burial of “Reb”. The dialogue is muted and the plaintive harmonica music, ”Dixie” and then “Taps” is contrasted with Reb’s dog softly wailing over the grave and two youngsters nearby — oblivious to the tragedy — playing with a horse. The continuous scene then pans down to a long shot of the nearby town ending with an ominous dirge. Powerful, poetic stuff!!

The final scene of Shane — slightly slumped in saddle — riding away to the mountains with the young boy calling after him is the stuff of movie legend.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Another John Ford-John Wayne classic. This is Ford near the end of his career. It’s his homage to the ending of the west as he’s depicted it for most of his professional life, dating back to silent films. Shot in black and white on a small budget, Ford is more concerned about characters than action.

Duke Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, teamed for the first time, are the perfect choices, albeit a little long in the teeth, to play the contrasting leads. Wayne is the rough tough cowman. Stewart is the sensitive lawyer who wants to see justice meted out by the court rather than Wayne’s six-shooter. Lee Marvin’s “Liberty Valance” borders on parody but that’s okay.

Great supporting cast including Edmond O’Brien, Vera Miles, Andy Devine, Lee van Cleef, Strother Martin and Woody Strode (why did they have to call him “Boy” in one scene). The “print the legend” theme is so ironic and haunting. Ford is trying to break his habit of printing the legend but the public doesn’t want the facts.

The haunting theme at the end of “Liberty Valance” is the same mournful theme Ford used 25 years earlier in “Young Mr. Lincoln“.

The Quiet Man

Ford and Wayne again — this time in Ireland. Ford’s tribute to his birth place. Wonderful photography!! The green hills and pastures of Ireland never looked lovelier. Just watch out for the sheep dung. The music is memorable. “Wild Colonial Boy” pub sequence is pure John Ford. The Wayne-McLagen epic fight is in Hollywood’s hall of Fame.

Marilyn and I visited Cong and the remnants of “The Quiet Man’s” cabin during our honeymoon in Ireland in 1990. That’s when we found out that — guess who — has Irish roots.

Will Penny

Another western and a relatively unheralded film. It’s Charlton Heston‘s realistic take on the life of an aging cow puncher. Had the genuine pleasure to “hang out” with “Chuck” on several occasions and he was a very nice, down to earth guy (just ask Marilyn). This was the pre-NRA Heston. Anyway, during one of our sit-downs, he talked about making “Will Penny” as a personal project.

He had done several traditional westerns and wanted to do one that was authentic and free of Hollywood glamour and happy endings. “Will Penny” is perhaps Heston’s best acting work. It is understated with Heston showing a range of emotion not usually apparent in his more typical epic screen characters.

S.O.B.

Terrific Blake Edwards film that angered Hollywood insiders — with good reason. Again, if you’ve had a professional career in the public eye, you will absolutely love this movie. You know these people. You’ve worked with and for these people. William Holden’s talk to his depression-ridden pal was all too real and could easily have been Holden’s own eulogy.

Most of the ensemble star cast, plus Edwards, stopped in Boston to promote the movie. The behind the scenes arm-twisting coming out of Hollywood was trying to kill the film. On that memorable Saturday morning, I was with only one or two other reporters (who also left after 5 minutes or so to chase more meaningful stories), listening to William Holden (a few sheets to the wind), Robert Preston, Craig (Peter Gunn) Stevens, Loretta Swit, Blake Edwards and others chat about making “S.O.B.”. It sounded more like a “Bitch session” than a movie promotion. In fact, it sounded very familiar to me.

There are so many other films on my list. “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Atticus, I believe, was rated the most popular movie hero in a recent poll. Then and now, “Mockingbird” resonates on so many levels. The movie does Harper Lee’s wonderful book full justice. That, alone, is a miracle.

There are so many favorite films and stars I could mention with personal “war stories” or anecdotes. And there are musicals, romance. And comedies. ”So many movies, so little time” takes on new meaning. All great movies. Just not the only great movies.

Luxury Item and a Book

Luxury? I want a fully functioning bathroom! Lots of hot water, flush toilets, a life time collection of clean towels, papers, etc. and a hotline to a plumber.

I cannot pick one book. Impossible. How about a library card? Or a Kindle and an unlimited charge account at Amazon? Because no way will one book cut it!!

I need to sign off because I’m burning daylight. Maybe another time if there is interest. There’s still the John Wayne story to tell, Pilgrims. There are plenty more movies to talk about and many more tales to tell … Happy trails!

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Thanks again to Marilyn & Garry for taking the time to join the prestigious Head In A Vice castaway” list. If you would like to submit your choices and add your name to this list, please drop me an email to – tysoncarter@hotmail.co.uk

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24 Comments

  1. Any list with Blake Edwards’ scathing classic S.O.B. on it is aces in my book! Wonderful catalog to take to a desert island 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Thank you both again for doing this, all those weeks ago. Proud to be able to re-share it 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  3. Thank you for having us. These have stood up to time surprisingly well. I hadn’t read this piece since it was first published, so it was like reading it for the first time! Thanks again!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • I know, I love reading them all back as some were nearly 2 years ago. I figured you wouldnt mind me posting Garry’s and linking to yours, couldnt fit them all in mammoth post otherwise 🙂

      Like

      Reply
  4. Reblogged this on Serendipity and commented:
    An oldie, but a goodie. Garry wrote it, Head In A Vice published and republished it — and now, I’m reblogging it. What goes around comes around, and around.

    Like

    Reply
  5. Wonderfully written, sincere post. Nicely done. I used to watch Shane all the time a few decades ago. Have to find it again.

    Like

    Reply
    • Garry Armstrong

       /  August 9, 2014

      “Shane” is still wonderful. I have difficulty watching new westerns. The actors look like children playing cowboys and indians. Shane, I believe, would have taken Johnny Depp behind the barn for a little “tuneup”.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      • Ha, yes. Westerns are rarely good anymore. Unforgiven was the last I think I really enjoyed.

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        Reply
        • Garry Armstrong

           /  August 11, 2014

          I’m with you on UNFORGIVEN. There have been some decent westerns on HBO and other cable stations starring Tom Selleck, Robert Duvall, and Ed Harris who are throwback guys who look genuine in the saddle. Not many but I’m grateful.

          Like

        • And of course Deadwood but that was a series.speaking of add all, I actually liked Open Range with Kevin Costner.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome list. All About Eve. What a favorite of mine. Perfect.

    Like

    Reply
    • Garry Armstrong

       /  August 9, 2014

      “All About Eve” is a reminder of movies when scripts really mattered. It’s no wonder that we remember the lines.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. Tom

     /  August 11, 2014

    Wait. . .wait, is it 7 days left to enter into your blogathon, or 3? The calendar on the side-bar says three, while you have 7 in the post. Either way, I’ve gotta get on the ball quick! Shit!

    Great posts though guys! What a bunch of solid picks.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  1. Desert Island Classics - Marilyn & Garry Armstrong | Tinseltown Times

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