Critic’s Choice (Official Trailer)
When it comes to watching old movies, I’m obsessive and not the least bit confined. Many (most??) have a particular era or genre they’re most passionate about – the 40s, silents, musicals, the 50s, the 60s, westerns, etc. I’d imagine that specializing would make things a lot less complicated. There’d be fewer movies to DVR, fewer movies to add to actor/actress collections, and fewer favorite actors and actresses to name when asked for your favorites. You can see how that goes for me on the Hollywood Yesterday About page!
I will, however, be the first to admit that some 60s movies are a breed all their own. As I’ve often said about much earlier films, you have to accept them for what they are… films made very, very long ago. I believe the problem a lot of people have with films from the 60s is that our brain sees they are in color, so we automatically think of them as “modern,” somehow, at least when compared to classics such as Top Hat, Christmas in Connecticut, and Casablanca.
It pays to remind yourself, when watching a colorful oldie that it’s still an oldie. I have to remind myself of this from time to time. I actually had to pause Two for the Road (1967) twice (once for each of the “Two,” I guess!) and give myself a wake up call. This particular era is fascinating to me because it’s so beautifully unique. Movie makers were trying new things… being more daring and bold, while clinging to many traditional plots and scenes.
Fascinating… yet, at times… well… in need of a pause or two.
One film from the 60s that never needs a pause is Critic’s Choice (1963) starring Lucille Ball and Bob Hope. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an insanely huge fan of each of these household names or if it’s the fun pace of the movie, itself, but I can’t get enough of it. The humor is as hilarious today as it was then.
Bob Hope plays popular New York theater critic Parker Ballantine. He has a reputation for greatly impacting a star or play’s longevity or success with his reviews. The level of glee he gets from shredding what he considers to be a flop is priceless. As always, he is wonderful in each and every scene.
Speaking of wonderful, Lucille Ball plays Angie Ballantine, Parker’s wife. All’s fine and well until she decides that she wants to write a play. Things get especially tense when her play is made into a play. Parker doesn’t have a very high opinion of it which means, if he reviews it, it could be the end of his marriage. However, if he doesn’t, it could be the end of his self respect in a career he values very highly.
This is one of those movies you can turn on and watch again and again – Bob Hope and Lucille Ball are, without a single doubt, two of the greatest entertainers of ALL TIME. Each line… each expression… each move – they’re each pure magic, so when you combine the two… look out!
The always regal-looking Jessie Royce Landis (Angie’s mother, Charlie) and adorable Ricky Kelman (Parker’s son/Angie’s stepson, John) are major scene stealers in this movie – which is no small feat when the stars are Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. I remember Ricky from an episode of Gunsmoke but I’m really surprised he didn’t have more movies in his filmography. Not only was he a great little actor, he had a special something that made him stand out. When he was in a scene, you wanted to watch his reactions to what was playing out around him.
If you’ve never seen Critic’s Choice, I hope you’ll watch it asap and see exactly what I’m talking about with Ricky.
As for Jessie Royce Landis, the greatest compliment I can give her is that her beauty and screen presence stood next to that of Lucille Ball’s and didn’t diminish one bit. Each time I see the movie, I’m left wanting more scenes with her in them. When I watched the movie for, probably the third time, it occurred to me why this actress resonates so much with me – she has equal parts of two of my all time favorites – Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball.
Can’t beat that combo!
The movie serves as a perfect reminder (as though we even need it) of just how talented and special Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were. They broke the mold with these two, didn’t they?! As an Old Hollywood fanatic, I am just so thankful we have movies and television shows with these two legends side by side. They were very talented actors – a fact that they sometimes gets lost in the shadows cast by their glittery super stardom. They almost shined too bright for their own good. The same thing can be said of other wonderful entertainers who went on to become household names – often without households recognizing why they became household names in the first place. Elvis, Rita Hayworth, Bob Hope, Joan Crawford, Betty Davis, Marilyn Monroe… there is so much more to these individuals than the tiny little compartments people tend to place them in.
Old movies are an exceptional place to let them break loose and show you what they have.
One final word about Lucille Ball (not only is she one of my top three favorite actresses, she’s one of my absolute favorite people, so bear with me!) – we remember her, rightly, for being so deliciously funny. The woman was hysterical – there’s no other way to put it. Her timing, expressions… the things she did with her voice. Pure genius.
However, as I always point out when talking about her (which, admittedly, I do a great deal of) is this: She was absolutely, uncommonly, ridiculously beautiful. The gorgeous eyes, flawless skin, perfect figure (she had a dancer’s body… as enviable as that is), and beautiful “I-Dare-You-Not-To-Notice-Me!” red hair – they all went together to make one stunning human being.
I re-watched another of her movies recently, “Miss Grant Takes Richmond” (review should be up next week), and was blown away by just how lovely she was.
Most beautiful clown in the world.