Dear Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright,

Well, if you two don’t make the creepiest uncle-niece pair ever conceived in your portrayal of Uncle Charlie and Charlie (Charlotte) in Shadow of a Doubt. Obviously, since this is one of Hitchcock’s undisputed masterpieces, there’s much more to your on-screen relationship than is initially apparent. As far as I can tell, the two Charlies, whose interactions are central to the plot of the film, interact on three different levels. On each of these levels, Charlie’s feelings towards her uncle are representative of the audience’s perspective.

  • [Spoiler alert] Like her mother, Charlie idolizes her uncle and desperately wants to be like him. Her ideals are shattered when she discovers that his cheery, loving nature is a sham. Even after Charlie confirms her suspicions, she hopes against hope (like the audience) that the Merry Widow Murderer really was that guy on the east coast. Charlie wants to save her uncle up till the very end.
  • Charlie thinks of her uncle as an extension of herself. She says it herself when she tells him that they are, in a way, twins, because she was named after him. Uncle Charlie is likable, and since he’s a member of the “all-American family,” as represented by the Newtons, he could be anyone’s uncle or brother or twin.
  • The Charlies are attracted in a romantic way, as in an emotionally abusive marriage, which was symbolically sealed with an emerald ring. What at first seemed to be an extravagant present turns out to be a curse when the ring confirms Charlie’s suspicions regarding her uncle. The two Charlies function in a symbiotic relationship born of love that ultimately continues with each warily watching the other with doubt.

Your chemistry together perfectly conveyed the depth and development of your relationship on these and other levels. Teresa, your character grows up before the viewers’ eyes, with an undeniable understanding of their hearts. Joe, you imbue Uncle Charlie with an irresistible allure, made all the more seductive by your shadowy undertones. Your relationship is essential to capturing Hitch’s genius in this film.

Good night, Mun

Advertisements

Dear Audrey Hepburn,

The A.V. Club lists your character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I must disagree. According to a 2007 article by Nathan Rabin, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) is a character type that “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Rabin coined the term to refer to characters like those played by Natalie Portman in Garden State and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer. In Tiffany’s, Paul Varjak clearly fits the role of the young artist type who desperately needs an MPDG, but Holly Golightly is so much more than a stock character designed to fulfill a man’s needs. Your depiction of Holly employs the whimsical, spontaneous nature of  an MPDG to mask a deeper hunger to escape drab realities by finding emotional and financial stability. Holly’s very evident flaws make her more profound and understandable than the idealistic and carefree MPDGs in Elizabethtown and Bringing Up Baby, which both center on male protagonists and their desires to loosen up. Tiffany’s instead focuses on the dream girl herself, who needs the exact opposite of an MPDG – a perceptive and sensible young man – to rescue her by keeping her grounded. The infusion of the standard super-girly, quixotic MPDG with such depth is perhaps what makes Holly Golightly the most enduring and endearing of your characters. You imbue her with undeniable charm while making both her perfection and her weaknesses glamorous and unattainable; every guy wants to fix and protect her, and every girl can relate to and strive to be her.

Good night, Mun

Dear Arthur Freed,

A million thanks to you and MGM for all of my favorite musicals. I’d especially like to high five you for Singin’ in the Rain which, despite it’s initial luke-warm reception,  reaches its 60th anniversary today as, unquestionably, one of the best musicals ever made. I don’t feel the need to elaborate on why Singin’ in the Rain is so enduring – I expect everyone else to do so this week, anyway. Instead, this post is about nostalgia, prompted by this fantastic article in The Atlantic today.  As is apparent from last year’s Oscar nominated slate – The Artist, Hugo, My Week with Marilyn — nostalgia is back in full force. Without a doubt, you hit on one subject that will never grow trite for audiences or, more importantly, for filmmakers: movie magic. I personally can attest to the magnetic draw of the classics; as a member of the film industry, I can only hope to live up to their legacy.

On that note, here are five upcoming films that are stirring up buzz about the good old days.  All five promise to be much more focused on an individual (they’re all biopics), significantly less cheery, and probably much less memorable than Singin’ in the Rain. Nonetheless, they’ll draw attention to certain projects and legends from the past.

  • Hitchcock, (formerly Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho), with Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock
  • Grace of Monaco, with Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly
  • The Girl, with Toby Jones as Hitchcock
  • Saving Mr. Banks, with Tom Hanks as Walt Disney
  • Liz & Dick (a TV movie), with Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor

May Hollywood’s self-congratulatory reminiscence continue to follow your example.

Good night, Mun