About This Season of MovieDiva: Sirens and Smart Alecks

January 8, 2024 by Sandy Lerebours

 MovieDiva Film Series curator Laura Boyes describes the inspiration behind the new season of the series, titled Sirens and Smart Alecks. 


What gets you into a movie theater? For me, it’s the promise of a film telling a woman’s story, whether she is humorous, romantic, manipulative, or powerful. And the big screen accentuates all these qualities. Although I love discovering a new favorite (like last season’sGloria” and this season’s “Cookie”) there is a lot to be said for experiencing an old favorite on the big screen. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few Turner Classic Movies Film Festivals. At the last one, I went to see “Casablanca” on the gigantic screen of the Chinese Theater. No matter how many times you’ve seen it (and I’ve seen it a lot of times), when you see Ingrid Bergman’s face 40 feet high, shimmering in that luscious classic Hollywood lighting, her eyes glistening with tears, it brings up an emotion that has no comparison. I hope you have a similar experience at least once this MovieDiva season.

 

 

The Women

We begin with “The Women,” a very funny look at a variety of Park Avenue grand dames, one of whom is about to lose her husband, and therefore her status, to a flashy shopgirl. These women do not necessarily demand you emulate them or admire their strangely constricted worldview. The big screen highlight of this classic comedy is a fashion show by MGM head designer Adrian—in Technicolor! I would watch this fashion show on the big screen once a week if I could.

 

Roman Holiday

Next up is the classic romantic comedy “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.  Hepburn is radiant as always, but she has an advantage here in being romanced by someone approximately her own age. She made a lot of amazing movies, but more often than not she has to fall in love with someone old enough to be her father, if not her grandfather. Ugh!  “Sabrina,” “Love in the Afternoon,” “Charade.” Somebody get me a younger leading man!

 

Leave Her to Heaven

For Valentine’s Day, I’ve chosen an anti-romance, about a destructive, obsessive love in “Leave Her to Heaven.” Gene Tierney, never more gorgeous than in this Technicolor film noir, brings destruction to the object of her desire and includes one of the most terrifying swimming scenes in movie history.

 

 

Gentleman Prefer Blondes

“Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” based on the book and Broadway play by Anita Loos has a different problem than the Audrey movies. The men are complete zeros. Is this an intentional casting issue? It makes the showgirls, played by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, monumentally potent. They dominate every scene they are in and crush the men in their lives like Conan the Barbarian.

 

Dark Victory

Bette Davis is a powerhouse performer, and she was never better than in “Dark Victory,” a heart-tugging drama in which a Long Island debutante must come to terms with the fragility of her life. Would any current film star choose a similar role? I tend to think not.

 

 

Libeled Lady

“Libeled Lady” is a screwball comedy, often requested by the MovieDiva audience, that brings together four ace comic performers, Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy, William Powell, and the amazing Myrna Loy, whose subtle acting raises the mirth bar for the entire cast.

 

 

Cookie and Bowfinger

The last two films of the series are more modern entries, “Cookie,” a film by the criminally underrated director Susan Seidelman, with sparkling comic turns by Peter Falk and Diane Wiest, and a killer ensemble cast in the Steve Martin comedy “Bowfinger.”  I wanted to show Martin’s “LA Story,” but it’s unavailable! It’s often shocking (and I’ve been doing this for nearly 25 years) what you can show and not show. I can’t share “Bringing Up Baby” with you! And, do you remember when we had to cancel “Amelie?” I’ll keep trying to bring you the best of the best with the MovieDiva Film Series.

 


Laura Boyes was Film Curator at the North Carolina Museum of Art for 20 years and co-hosted Movies on the Radio with Frank Stasio and Marsha Gordon. She sees no reason to program anything but her favorite movies these days with the intention of spreading joy.