...Rainbow Sprinkles "The Sweet Ones"
Someone asked me recently if “Splendor in the Grass” (1961) is on my “25 Favorite Films” list – to which I replied “no.” I then promptly recited to him my “flicks that made the cut” – and my highly thoughtful, and mysteriously enchanting, selection process (or so according to him). The fact that this man was a film buff like me delighted me – and his loving of this touching, bittersweet 1961 classic downright elated me.
But, as we sat under the umbrella of our sweet picnic-table on a perfect summer night, I began to ruminate on what other great movies didn’t make the cut – still films that I adore immensely. Films like “Barefoot in the Park” (1967) and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), then “Sex and the Single Girl” (1964) and “Cactus Flower” (1969).
I also ruminated on what these movies have in common – turns out they have a lot. For starters, these movies are all colorful 1960s fun. As a teenage girl, I used to fantasize about someday hosting Holly Golightly apartment parties just like in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – this movie makes New York City partying look so chic!
These movies also showcase very skilled, superstar actors hamming it up in their craft. Actors like Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, and even a big-eyed flower-power young’un called Goldie Hawn. But back to "Bob." Who doesn’t think Robert Redford isn’t the cutest when he’s sniffling on a couch, under a big broken skylight in winter, with snowflakes jingling down in “Barefoot in the Park” (1967). Brrrrrr. And who doesn’t love Ingrid Bergman inventing “the dentist” dance-move in “Cactus Flower” (1969). I literally double-over laughing when watching.
Above all, these movies hearken back to a time and place (in both our world and in movie-making) that's quite foreign to us all today – a world of undeniable sweetness. These films are character-driven pieces that tug at your heart-strings, causing certain muscles to flex that maybe haven’t been flexed in years. This is partially why I love old movies and advocate for them. These movies truly “delight” us, and are the dictionary definition of “charming” – and not in a self-aware, audience-facing way, either. Instead, they're well-made gems that didn’t look at their audience and tell them how to feel – they didn’t hand you an artificial built-in “laugh-track” or oniony “cry-o-meter.” They didn’t need it. Rather, they “created” a world of their own, and only asked you to “cozy on up” in the theater (as home VCRs and TV movie channels were non-existent back then).
For instance, the opening scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), with Audrey Hepburn in her stylish black dress, pearl necklace, and black sunglasses, walking alone on a Manhattan street at dawn, will forever make me cry. And wow – I can’t even speak about the opening credits' song by composer Henry Mancini. Heavenly! These movies knew how to touch you, and in a gentle way. They created an all-encompassing mood, an atmosphere. Thus, I find myself crying not only for the breathtakingly sweet image of this new Audrey Hepburn character – but also for the beautiful dawn of 1960s Manhattan. That sleepy 5th Ave is so quietly precious. Quel dulce! (That’s half French and half Spanish, which I think beautiful multilingual Audrey Hepburn would’ve appreciated.)
These sweet films didn’t have big budgeted shots of sweeping natural vistas – like in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) or “Cleopatra” (1963). Instead, they inhabited the other side of the 1960s cinema coin. They weren’t epics – they were quaint romances, screwball comedies, and touching coming-of-age stories that always knew how to go beyond their laughs (no matter how masterfully funny) to inhabit true poignancy.
In "Barefoot in the Park" (1967), I love the scene of Jane Fonda popping piping-hot appetizers in her mouth at Charles Boyer’s bohemian New York City attic apartment – and then dancing the “shama shama,” with her napkin wildly flailing, at a Staten Island party. Priceless! But I love even more how this movie “brings it on in” at the end – she and Robert Redford overcome their “disposition differences” and realize that love is about partnership. It’s about understanding, resilience. This deeper message is conveyed.
I call the above movies, and those like them, “the sweet ones” – they exist in a special, daydreamy place where our world was sweeter, our movies were sweeter, and where I love to travel to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. (I typically cuddle up with hot chamomile tea, and a soft crocheted blanket. Ahhh.) Though they might not have reached my “25 Favorite Films” list, these movies deserve a beloved category of their own. They are old-school, cavity-inducing gems. I cup them in my hands and kiss their lovely cheeks – before dousing them with whipped cream and a bright red cherry.
This post is dedicated to two of my all-time favorite actors and on-screen duos, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. I appreciate all that you have contributed to our world, both on and off-screen!!!