Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Sappy Movies

OK, it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, which I guess means it’s the season to be sappy. Oh, I know it’s not the sort of moviegoing thing that most people—especially of the male persuasion—are apt to admit to liking. Indeed, it’s common to decry the existence of such movies with great disdain, cynicism and even claims of outright nausea. I can be as guilty—if guilty is the right word—of this as anyone. I’d as soon stick a fork in my mother’s back as willfully sit through Dear John, and all the star-power on earth couldn’t get me to watch Valentine’s Day a second time. I take great comfort in Oscar Wilde’s assessment of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop—“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing”—and I actually like Dickens.

But let’s be honest. Most of us have our weaknesses in this area. Oftener than not, if you scratch a cynic, you find a sentimentalist—often a wounded one, but a sentimentalist all the same. When we think of filmmaker Billy Wilder, we think of the cynical Wilder—the Wilder of Double Indemnity (1944) or Ace in the Hole (1951) or One, Two, Three (1961). But is that the whole picture? How do you account for the gentle whimsy of The Emperor Waltz (1948) or the romantic comedy of Sabrina (1954) and Love in the Afternoon (1957)? For that matter, what of his take on Sherlock Holmes as a wounded romantic in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)? (Yes, I know there’s a literary precedent, but it’s significant that Wilder focused on it.) These are part of the man, too, and though there’s a degree of satirical comedy in all of them, they’re not ultimately cynical works. (And strictly between us, I’ll take any of these movies over Ace in the Hole, which I find thoroughly repellent and pointlessly depressing.)

With all this mind, I’m going to take the occasion to openly admit that I absolutely love most Deanna Durbin movies—and before you laugh, remember that the great Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray was a great admirer of her movies. Of course, I realize there are probably just as many of you asking, “Who is Deanna Durbin?” Well, at one time she was the biggest movie star in the world—and the highest paid (she got $400,000 per movie in 1941)—but that was some time ago. For that matter, La Durbin married one of her directors and retired to France in 1948.

I discovered her on the late show one Sunday when they showed Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939). I probably started watching it because my mother told me I wouldn’t like it—the last time she’d told me that was my introduction to W.C. Fields, so I did not find her a reliable source in such matters. More likely than not, the reason I kept watching it was it was a Universal Picture and it had Bob Cummings in it. Universal, after all, was the home of horror and that was a plus, and I’d been crazy about Cummings’ TV show when I was younger. I was about 12 when this happened and that was enough. Plus, I really liked the movie, which was Durbin’s last film as a child star (she was 18). And so she was added to the list of people whose movies I scoured the TV Guide listings for.

The Canadian Durbin had first appeared in an MGM short film called Every Sunday (1936) where she was paired with Judy Garland. Garland sang pop music and Durbin sang classical. Legend has it that when the film was run, Louis B. Mayer said, “Drop the fat one.” No one dared to ask him which was the “fat one,” but somebody decided he meant Durbin, so they signed Garland and let Durbin go. In reality, he meant the opposite, but by the time the mistake was discovered Universal had already signed Durbin. Apocryphal? Possibly. But it reflects badly on Mayer and that’s good enough for me. Whether I believe the follow-up story that someone had Durbin’s picture printed on a roll of toilet paper and sneaked it into Mayer’s private bathroom is another matter, but I’d like to believe it.

Whatever the case, it was a break for Universal—about the only one they had and probably the only reason the studio survived the next few years. Signing Durbin marked the only time that the new head of production, Charles R. Rogers, made a good decision. Rogers had been installed when the Standard Capital organization took over the studio from the Laemmle family and briefly rechristened it “New Universal.” He then proceeded to cancel the studio’s bread-and-butter horror movies, hamstring their star director James Whale and generally run things into the ground. But he did sign Durbin and he did sign refugee German director Henry Koster to develop her first picture, Three Smart Girls (1936). It was a huge hit, as was Koster’s follow-up 100 Men and a Girl (1937).

I’m not going to make the case that as child stars go, Durbin was remarkably fresh and not in the least saccharine—though that’s true enough. Her first pictures were well made, but it would be impossible to make a case that they were anything other than glossy, rather silly entertainments. Koster brought a light touch to the first two, but cinematically the most noteworthy thing about them was his often arbitrary—and somewhat amusing—use of Universal’s famous Broadway crane to follow the action. This crane—designed by director Paul Fejos for his 1929 film Broadway—was indeed a remarkable contraption that made possible many still amazing moving shots. But whether it really added anything to have it swoop down on Durbin singing is debatable.

Her pictures were, yes, kind of sappy affairs, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my personal favorite, First Love (1939)—which marked her first adult role—wasn’t pretty darn sappy. Yes, it successfully navigated Durbin from child star to movie star in a way no other picture ever managed (most child stars of the era didn’t survive the attempt as Shirley Temple proved all too well). But it’s still a sappy affair. In fact, it’s my pick for the sappiest movie I love. There. I’ve said it. It’s sappy and I love it.

First Love is, in fact, a fairy tale. It’s really nothing more than Cinderella remonkeyed into a modern setting and no attempt is made to downplay the fact. Durbin plays Connie Harding, the orphaned niece of filthy rich Jim Clinton (Eugene Pallette), who, upon finishing boarding school, is taken to live with the less than warmly inviting Clintons in Manhattan. In keeping with its basics, she’s treated pretty shabbily by the family, who are a screwball comedy rethinking of the one in Cinderella—with only one wicked step-sister (Helen Parrish) in the form of a cousin, a ditsy aunt/step-mother (Leatrice Joy), a sarcastic and terminally lazy male cousin (Lewis Howard), and the seemingly cold, distracted and sharp-tongued uncle.

It’s hardly original in another sense, because it’s essentially a reworking of Gregory LaCava’s My Man Godfrey (1936) right down to casting Eugene Pallette as the father. But it works. Throw in some sympathetic servants and former opera star Kathleen Howard (frequent W.C. Fields nemesis) as Durbin’s voice teacher/fairy godmother Miss Wiggins and newcomer Robert Stack in the Prince Charming capacity, and you have First Love.

What keeps the film from becoming too gooey—and God knows it tries to get there—is the frequently witty script, the no-nonsense playing of Pallette and Howard, the chemistry of the cast and Durbin’s screen presence. The film has the good sense to have Durbin’s character earn both the sympathy of the cast (at least the nice characters) and the viewer. At the onset, she’s a bit too gloomy and too sorry for herself (the latter gets her a talking to by Kathleen Howard). But after a few minutes of this she decides to try to make friends with the servants, tackling the butler (Charles Coleman) on the topic of music and proving her mettle by singing “Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy)” in a spirited rendition where her innate sense of self-possession comes through. Suddenly, the servants respond to her and so does the viewer.

Of course, it’s not going to be easy sailing—after all, this is a Cinderella story. This means that Connie has to fall for the hottest guy in town, Ted Drake/Prince Charming. Naturally, wicked cousin Barbara wants him, too. (Everybody, in fact, seems to want him, which is a little hard to fathom, since the young Robert Stack is all wavy hair and pearly whites and comes across as rather vapid.) All of this is working toward—you guessed it—a ball where Drake will become smitten with her. Here, the film fully embraces its full sappiness with a shot of the two of them waltzing and the others dancers fading from view till it’s just the two of them on the dance floor. I think it’s the fact that the film never pretends not to be absurdly romantic here that makes it somehow appealing. I know it helps that the moment is brief and that we’re soon in the realm of Connie having to make her midnight Cinderella getaway—complete with lost slipper (not glass)—when her deliberately delayed (thanks in part to her not-so-cold-after-all uncle) family arrives.

The last scene where—as promised—Miss Wiggins fixes things and causes the course of true love to run smooth is unabashed in its romanticism, allowing a tearful Durbin to let loose with “One Fine Day” (in a nice English translation) from Madame Butterfly. But the film has the wit to toss in some knowing humor and even an inside joke with opera star Howard mouthing the words Durbin sings. Still, let’s be honest, it’s assault on the tear ducts (with that song it can’t be anything else) and as such it can fairly be called sappy. And I don’t care and it works on me every time.

OK, so there you have it—my Valentine’s Day confession that I am not immune to sap. At least I’m not immune to it when it’s done in a certain way. Am I the only one willing to confess to this?

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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47 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: Sappy Movies

  1. Fran

    I don’t think any of your regular readers would be surprised at the sentimentalist side of you. While the cynical side gives great copy and causes me to laugh, your love of such movies as Moulin Rouge gives you away every time.

    If I have seen First Love at some point in my past, I can’t recall it. What surprises me is that such a movie is missing from my stack of compiled old movies that I have enjoyed (for the most part) watching and re-watching.

  2. Ken Hanke

    If I have seen First Love at some point in my past, I can’t recall it

    There’s always the chance that it may have been run without being, strictly speaking, watched.

    What surprises me is that such a movie is missing from my stack of compiled old movies that I have enjoyed (for the most part) watching and re-watching.

    The film is available in one of Universal’s “Franchise Collections,” this one called the “Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack.” That might be enough to keep a lot of people at bay. It’s packaged with Three Smart Girls, Something in the Wind, Can’t Help Singing, It Started with Eve and Lady on a Train. Personally, I’d have dumped Something in the Wind and Can’t Help Singing for 100 Men and a Girl and Three Smart Girls Grow up (both of which were on an earlier laserdisc collection). I’m not sure when I last saw First Love on TV. TCM may have run it, but I don’t know.

  3. Jonathan Barnard

    This is incredibly embarrassing, because I’m confessing not only to tears, but also to tears for a less-than-stellar film: My eyes well up every time I see a certain scene in the remake of Parent Trap. (The one with Dennis Quaid.) It’s a favorite film of many pre-teen girls, and my daughters fell into that category a couple of years ago. The scene that gets me is when the nanny realizes that one girl isn’t actually her charge but rather the girl’s long-lost twin. As the nanny’s eyes fill with tears, so do mine. I think my Pavlovian response stems from being a father of two girls myself—or that’s my excuse anyway.

    Let me expand this “soft spot for sap” confession to “chick flicks that I’m inclined to like.” I’ve discovered that I invariably enjoy almost any film based on a Jane Austen novel—whether loosely or not: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Bride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones Diary… I loved them all. I can even hum the tune to “No Life Without Wife” from Bride and Prejudice…

    Some tough guy.

  4. Ken Hanke

    This is incredibly embarrassing, because I’m confessing not only to tears, but also to tears for a less-than-stellar film: My eyes well up every time I see a certain scene in the remake of Parent Trap.

    I can’t make fun of you for a lot of reasons here — chief among them, I’ve never seen this. I did bump into the original on TCM the other day. I remembered liking it when it was new and I was seven or so. Let us say, it has aged even less well than I have.

    Actually, I wouldn’t make fun of you anyway. I was beginning to think no one else was going to be brave enough to come out of the sap closet.

  5. davidf

    In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share a little project I started working on a while ago. It started when I started brainstorming with a friend of mine to come up with a list of our favorite love stories in film. We both get bored with the typical romantic formulas, so we primarily picked films that we felt broke the typical mold. Somehow this evolved into pairing the chosen films up into date night double features. I’m curious what people here will think of some of our pairings:

    Harold and Maude & The Brothers Bloom

    Before Sunrise & Before Sunset

    Eternal Sunrise of the Spotless Mind & Lost in Translation

    Edward Scissorhands & Let the Right One In

    Amelie & Paris Je’ Taime

    You, Me and Everyone We Know & Punch Drunk Love

    Big Fish & Stardust

    Moulin Rouge & Across the Universe

    (500) Days of Summer & Annie Hall

    Garden State & Away We Go

    Some of these are more my friends idea than mine (for instance, I haven’t seen (500) Days of Summer yet), so I can explain the reasoning behind most, but not all of the parings. If anyone else wants to play the game, I’d love to add some double features to the list.

  6. Jonathan Barnard

    David,
    There’s something so “tasteful” about all the films on your list–or at least the ones I’ve seen. To increase the schlock factor somewhat, I propose a double feature of “Wild at Heart” and “Cry Baby.”

  7. Steven

    [b]Before Sunrise & Before Sunset[/b]

    I’ve been wanting to see these films for the longest time. I suppose I should get around to doing so.

  8. davidf

    I like these suggestions.

    I’ve been wondering what to pair up with SECRETARY.

  9. John

    TCM/Movies Unlimited will release an exclusive new Deanna Durbin set, Deanna Durbin: The Music And Romance Collection, on 4/27/10. Titles will include Mad About Music, That Certain Age, Three Smart Girls Grow Up, Because of Him, and For the Love of Mary. You can buy them individually or as a set.

  10. Jonathan Barnard

    David,

    You may think it’s too obvious a choice, but what about “Sex, Lies and Video” with “Secretary”?

  11. Rufus

    What keeps the film from becoming too gooey—and God knows it tries to get there—is the frequently witty script, the no-nonsense playing of Pallette and Howard, the chemistry of the cast and Durbin’s screen presence.

    It also includes possibly the greatest “20 second, non sequitur, male domestic staff member musical number” of all time.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I’m curious what people here will think of some of our pairings

    I like most of them. You can guess that I’ll pass on the Linklater double feature — and wild horses aren’t getting me to sit through Lost in Translation.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Or better yet, THE BEAST and THE SWEET MOVIE

    I haven’t seen The Beast, but Sweet Movie is one of the few movies that actually offends me.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I’ve been wondering what to pair up with SECRETARY

    Maybe The Rules of Attraction?

  15. Ken Hanke

    TCM/Movies Unlimited will release an exclusive new Deanna Durbin set, Deanna Durbin: The Music And Romance Collection, on 4/27/10. Titles will include Mad About Music, That Certain Age, Three Smart Girls Grow Up, Because of Him, and For the Love of Mary. You can buy them individually or as a set.

    I’d have dropped For the Love of Mary and gone with His Butler’s Sister, but they didn’t ask me.

  16. Ken Hanke

    It also includes possibly the greatest “20 second, non sequitur, male domestic staff member musical number” of all time

    Charles Coleman’s “Boop boop diddum daddum waddum choo?”

  17. Steve

    Totally guilty, and about a movie not nearly as quirky-cool as yours. I love a Lifetime Movie called “The Christmas List”. Didn’t really realize how wincingly awful it was until I watched it with a friend this year. I have to watch it every year at Christmas, and asked a friend to record it this year on his DVR, since they were only showing it once more during the season. I was embarrassed when we sat down to watch it. He was nice about it though, and sat through the whole thing with me. He’s a good friend.

  18. brianpaige

    Ah, what is this? Ken may dislike Lost in Translation as much as I do?

    I actually haven’t seen much Durbin stuff though, no real reason. Maybe the Eve one with Laughton and that’s about it. It’s mostly that I have such little interest in Universal non horror outings of that period. Oddly enough, the Durbin/Garland decision was a case where both MGM and Universal made a ton of money, it’s just MGM made more in the long run. Universal needed the short term boost, so it all worked out.

  19. Uncle Charley

    “I’ve been wondering what to pair up with SECRETARY.”

    I’m gonna’ have to go with Last Tango in Paris. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of that.

  20. Ken Hanke

    It’s mostly that I have such little interest in Universal non horror outings of that period.

    The question is if you don’t watch it, how do you know? Truth is, you’re not wrong. Most of it’s not very good — and that includes some of the Durbin stuff.

    Oddly enough, the Durbin/Garland decision was a case where both MGM and Universal made a ton of money, it’s just MGM made more in the long run. Universal needed the short term boost, so it all worked out

    For everybody except Garland when all is said and done.

  21. Ken Hanke

    I’m gonna’ have to go with Last Tango in Paris.

    Does this movie really shock anybody? It mostly tends to make me fall asleep.

  22. davidf

    THE RULES OF ATTRACTION and SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE don’t work for me so much because they’re missing one key requirement: at the heart of the other films in the list, there is a sweet love story. LAST TANGO IN PARIS is closer to working, but I think I’d have to agree with Ken on that one. It’s never really impressed me. These suggestions however, have jogged my memory, and now I’m thinking SECRETARY might be a good match with TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN. That always struck me as a sweet love story, at its heart.

    By the way, Ken,I didn’t mean to inject this off-topic discussion into the list so much as I was hoping the topics would merge and you could give me some good ideas for some less-recent films to fill out my double feature list. Every once in a while you write an article that mentions a whole slew of films that I’ve never seen and I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. If you had to choose two films to make a sappy romance double feature, what would the be?

  23. Jonathan Barnard

    “Last Tango in Paris” and “The Rules of Attraction” were the two films (apart from “Sex, Lies and Videotape”) that I had considered when David asked for a pairing with “Secretary.” Yes, they all have elements of sexual perversion, but since these were supposed to be Valentine’s Day pairings, I thought those two lacked sufficient romance. (Though I admit that in “Rules” the anonymous letters provide a romantic element.)

  24. Ken Hanke

    THE RULES OF ATTRACTION and SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE don’t work for me so much because they’re missing one key requirement: at the heart of the other films in the list, there is a sweet love story.

    Oh, I’d not argue that.

    By the way, Ken,I didn’t mean to inject this off-topic discussion into the list so much as I was hoping the topics would merge and you could give me some good ideas for some less-recent films to fill out my double feature list.

    I’ll have to give that some thought, though it may not be today, since there are still a couple of looming things looming that have to be tended to.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I thought those two lacked sufficient romance. (Though I admit that in “Rules” the anonymous letters provide a romantic element.)

    True, but it’s pretty much of a piece with the bitter tone of the film and the idea of grafting qualities onto people that they neither have, nor probably want.

  26. I can only recall actually crying in two films, neither of which I saw in the cinema – GODS & MONSTERS (starts when they find him in the pool) and BATMAN RETURNS (the death of the Penguin).

  27. Ken Hanke

    I can only recall actually crying in two films, neither of which I saw in the cinema – GODS & MONSTERS (starts when they find him in the pool) and BATMAN RETURNS (the death of the Penguin).

    And neither of which are sappy. Chances are, by the way, that as you get older you’ll find yourself more and more an easy mark for sap. (No, this is not a wisdom of your elders thing. Has nothing to do with wisdom.)

  28. Chances are, by the way, that as you get older you’ll find yourself more and more an easy mark for sap.
    This is one of the things I’ve been told I have to look forward to, along with sliding rightward politically and developing a taste for Neil Diamond music.

  29. Ken Hanke

    This is one of the things I’ve been told I have to look forward to, along with sliding rightward politically and developing a taste for Neil Diamond music.

    Well, in my experience, the latter two things have yet to happen — and I think that’s unlikely to change.

  30. Jessamyn

    I realize I’m sort of disqualified to comment because I’m, you know, a girl, but how about:

    84 Charing Cross Road & Truly, Madly, Deeply?

  31. Ken Hanke

    84 Charing Cross Road & Truly, Madly, Deeply?

    I’m not sure I’d call either one sappy.

  32. Jessamyn

    True. I didn’t make it clear that I was responding to davidf’s initial call for pairings of “favorite love stories” that “broke the typical mold.” I was just throwing my two cents’ worth in on his first list – the one with Annie Hall, Let the Right One In, and other non-sappy fare.

    Although surely the bit at the end of T,M,D as he tearfully sees her off is just a bit sappy (and I love it)!

  33. davidf

    “I realize I’m sort of disqualified to comment because I’m, you know, a girl, but how about:

    84 Charing Cross Road & Truly, Madly, Deeply?”

    I can’t comment on your suggestions because I haven’t seen either of them, but that’s great, because I love seeing movies I haven’t seen before.

    And I don’t know why being a girl would disqualify you to comment. Why would you think that? The friend I mentioned with whom I began making the list of favorite love stories is female, and I don’t think the selections are particularly masculine, are they? It’s not even a requirement that the movies not be sappy, but just that we like them and that they’re not cliche.

    I realize that this message board seems to be overrun by dudes half the time, but I hate to think that that may tend to discourage women from participating in the conversations. When I hear someone’s opinion on a movie, I’m not the least bit interested in they’re gender identity or chromosome content. Please, suggest more!

  34. Ken Hanke

    I can’t comment on your suggestions because I haven’t seen either of them, but that’s great, because I love seeing movies I haven’t seen before

    They’re both very nice films. I’m much more familiar with 84 Charing Cross Road, which I’ve seen several times over the years. It’s romantic in an unusual way. I would call neither one sappy.

    And I don’t know why being a girl would disqualify you to comment. Why would you think that?

    I’m assuming she’s referring back to the opening of column — “OK, it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, which I guess means it’s the season to be sappy. Oh, I know it’s not the sort of moviegoing thing that most people—especially of the male persuasion—are apt to admit to liking.” I didn’t mean it to rule out women (and the first poster was female), merely to note that the common perception is that guys don’t like “sappy” stuff. Maybe I should say we aren’t supposed to like it, but I’m not sure who decided that. (It probably doesn’t help matters that term “woman’s director” is old Hollywood code for gay, e.g., George Cukor and Mitchell Leisen.)

    In any case, I’d be more than happy to see more input from Jessamyn.

  35. Jessamyn

    Thanks, guys. ;^) I was indeed meaning, rather tongue-in-cheek, that I was disqualified to identify acceptable sap by reason of my gender. Of course, I’m as horrified by most Lifetime movies as any right-thinking person should be; there’s a vast distinction between a great story that happens to be sappy, and sap for sap’s sake.

    And indeed, the Romantic poets were all male, weren’t they? The 19th-century gentleman didn’t seem to be too worried about being accused of sap. In the 1920s it became hip to be hard-boiled, and somehow, we seemed to be stuck there, barring the Sensitive Male of the ’70s, a la Alan Alda.

  36. davidf

    “I was indeed meaning, rather tongue-in-cheek, that I was disqualified to identify acceptable sap by reason of my gender.”

    Funny how it’s often hard to see a tongue in a cheek on a message board. There’s probably a good emoticon for that. Granted, I probably didn’t catch it because I’ve spent my whole life not identifying with all of the current social expectations of maleness, and I’m probably a little over-sensitive to the irony that someone may misconstrue my words as reinforcing those expectations. I do wish there were a better gender balance on here, and I don’t know quite why the demographics are as they are. The irony there is that I probably interact with more males on this message board than I do in my everyday life.

    And speaking of being sensitive, I realized there was one double feature that I omitted from my first list. If you really want an evening of tear jerkers: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and COLD MOUNTAIN. It’s the “At the Mountains of Sadness” double feature.

  37. Ken Hanke

    sap for sap’s sake

    That needs to be translated into Latin — a la MGM’s hysterically inaccurate “ars gratia artis.”

    You know, the whole question of sap — or broaden it a bit and call it soap (even if the term has come to be meaningless) — is interesting. It would be entirely possible to write off most of Frank Borzage’s filmography that way and no one seems much inclined to do that. Murnau’s Sunrise — possibly the greatest film ever made and almost certainly the best silent movie — could qualify and it’s melodramatic in the bargain. It’s also art of the highest order.

    And what of such works as Show Boat (in any incarnation) or Imitation of Life (1934 version and presumably the novel)? Lotta soap there to be sure, but they’re also among the few works of their era to actually tackle the topic of racism.

  38. Ken Hanke

    I do wish there were a better gender balance on here, and I don’t know quite why the demographics are as they are.

    It’s an interesting question to which I don’t have an answer, but it’s also largely true across the comments section on the Xpress site in general. I know we have more women readers than are represented here. Who do we have besides Lisi Russell, Fran, Stephanie and now Jessamyn? (I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or more.)

    If you really want an evening of tear jerkers: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and COLD MOUNTAIN. It’s the “At the Mountains of Sadness” double feature

    An interesting pairing. I’d need to see Cold Mountain again to know how I feel about its inclusion. Though you’d lose that wonderful “At the Mountains of Sadness” tag, I’d actually be kind of inclined to pair Brokeback with Women in Love.

  39. davidf

    COLD MOUNTAIN has its fair share of sap, and when I distance myself from it, I start to doubt it. I’ve rewatched it several times, and every time I think “I remember loving this, but is it really that good?” and then it gets me without fail.

    I haven’t seen WOMEN IN LOVE, so there’s another one for my must-see list.

  40. Ken Hanke

    COLD MOUNTAIN has its fair share of sap, and when I distance myself from it, I start to doubt it. I’ve rewatched it several times, and every time I think “I remember loving this, but is it really that good?” and then it gets me without fail

    I’ve thought this over and I am not at all sure I have seen the film since its original release.

    I haven’t seen WOMEN IN LOVE, so there’s another one for my must-see list.

    It works as a different perspective companion piece of Brokeback, exploring some of the same homosexual aspects, but between two far more articulate men (the title is deceptive). It might be argued that their increased ability to express themselves actually works against them. Unfortunately, this is one of those “DVDs most in need of remastering,” since all we have is a pretty bare bones, non-anamorphic, typical MGM hash job.

  41. Ken Hanke

    Mister Hanke, there appears to be a very fine 16mm print of your beloved Deanna Durbin in “First Love” over at eBay, (maybe if we all go in on it together, I’d love to see it myself0

    350 smackers, huh? I only paid $150 for a used original — not exactly mint and missing the Universal logo — back about 1973. I think I’ll stick with my DVD (which looks pretty darn good even projected to 15 feet high). Come to think of it, I’ll bet that print I bought is in my basement.

  42. Fran

    While I commented earlier on my lack of seeing Deanna Durbin films, I never talked about what draws my tears in a film. I noticed in one response, Ken, in replying to what someone says draws their tears, you said that those two choices weren’t sap. I wonder if one can objectify sap.

    Anyway, while I suspect some love story will draw my tears, I can’t think of any right off hand. The most immediate memory of a scene that brings tears, every single time, is the scene from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, where the elves show up at Helms Deep, when the few hundreds at Helms Deep were in utter despair of their lives in the face of the advancing thousands of orks. The weird thing is that this scene does not exist in the books. Usually such a shift from the story would distract me, but this scene wrenches tears from me, even when I am watching casually and in a fairly even mood.

  43. Ken Hanke

    I wonder if one can objectify sap.

    To some degree, I think you can — or at least you can subjectively do so, if that makes any sense. It’s only sappy, I think, if you’re truly ashamed of yourself for responding with the desired emotion. This does not, however, mean that sap is necessarily the lowest form of audience manipulation. For me, that’s reserved for movies that do nothing to earn such a response, but are clearly running down a checklist of known tearjerker devices.

    I wouldn’t call your Two Towers moment sap, because it’s not the intent of the film to just wring tears from the viewer. A different example would be this week’s release The Crazies, which, whatever else it may be, is not sappy. Yet there is one moment in the film where a subordinate character (who, unfortunately for the film overall, is better drawn and acted than the leads) realizes he has the virus. His response to this realization — and what he asks — is absolutely heartbreaking — for one brief moment in a really splattery horror picture.

  44. When it comes to valentines day, my favorite sappy love movie would be Sleepless in Seattle. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryans performances were just great!

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