This is not a list of my favorite movies; neither is it a list of "the greatest movies ever made" (although I would put some of these movies belong in both categories). Instead, it is a list of movies that I've watched many times. The reasons that I've watched them many times vary. I will undoubtedly leave some out, not remembering until they show up again on AMC or Turner Classics, and I watch them again, maybe for the 100th time. Some of them, of course, would be on almost everybody's list; some (including the reasons for watching them) will be unique to me.
Just so you know, I normally don't watch movies more than once, just as I normally don't reread books. This is a list of exceptions to that rule. Here is my list of movies I've rewatched again and again:
Gone with the Wind -- I guess GWTW would show up on the lists of most people over age 50. I didn't see the movie nor read the book until I was an adult. It was part of my parent's generation, and my interest in movies that would appeal to them was minimal. I actually have a memory of my mother saying "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" (although I don't remember the context) and my dad named one of a litter of our boxer puppies Rhett Butler. I first saw the movie on an army base in the late 1960's and have watched it many times on tv. I love the costumes, the scenery, and the background story of the war, as well as Rhett, Scarlett, Ashley and Melanie's story. I'm always moved when I hear "Tara's Theme" at the beginning of the movie. The truth is, I do give a damn and would include GWTW in my own "greatest movies" list.
It's a Wonderful Life - For many years after my first husband and I divorced, my children would be with him and his family on Christmas Eve and spend Christmas Day with me and mine. Christmas Eve was my time for final gift wrapping. I would spend that time wrapping and watching It's a Wonderful Life. Somtimes I would watch it more than once on Christmas Eve and several times during the season. To me, it will always be the Christmas movie.
The Wizard of Oz - This is the childhood movie that will always stay with me. I've always identified with Dorothy's journey and the characters she met on the way. Even now, when it appears on tv once or twice a year, I'll watch at least a part of it. I used to think that the scenery and the citizens of Oz were the most enchanting part; now, it's Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" that never fails to move me.
All About Eve - This movie has so many memorable lines: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!" "You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point." "Everybody has a heart -- except some people." Eve Harrington's character provides a lesson in how not to be an authentic woman. Margo Channing's character provides a lesson in how to be one.
Steel Magnolias - I loved this movie because of the cast, the setting, and the many wonderful lines -- so many that I find myself repeating them 21 years after the movie came out. I enjoy, celebrate, and decorate for holidays and the change of seasons, and watching Steel Magnolias can always put me in the mood for Christmas, Halloween, or Easter. Some favorite lines: "A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste." "An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure." "Well, you know what they say: if you don't have anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me!"
Calamity Jane - I wonder if this would appear on anybody else's list. I have watched this movie so many times; the first was at the Palace Theater when I was about ten years old. I have always loved Doris Day and I found this movie enchanting. There was something that touched me in her portrayal of Calamity Jane that introduced me to the concept of strength and vulnerability in a woman. The scene where the song "A Woman's Touch" was sung and the dirty, falling-down cabin was transformed into a lovely and cared-for home was magical to me. Even today, I believe in that premise, that just a little work and attention can transform our surroundings.
There are two additional movies that I could (and have) recited almost every line of a specific character. My appreciation of these movies comes from participating in local theater.
Life with Father - I had the opportunity to play Vinnie Day (the mother) in a little theater production. It was a special time because there were several mothers and children who were among those in the cast. My son played the part of Clarence Day, Jr. My two youngest daughters attended many of the rehearsals. I remember hearing a familiar little voice from the audience when my character fainted: "My mommy died!" Of course, that was a show/rehearsal stopper! In the years since that production, I have watched the movie many times, to revisit the wonderful time I had with the rest of the cast and the production members.
Crimes of the Heart - I played Lenny McGrath, the oldest sister, who is celebrating her birthday. As the tags explained, "Meg just left one. Lenny never had one. Babe just shot one. The McGrath sisters sure have a way with men!" Participating in this play was such fun and I still think about how much I learned. I hadn't appeared in a production since our senior play in high school, where my part was a small one. What impressed me most was the hard work and dedication that it took to present the play by so many people. I was in a position to actually see what it took to direct, build scenes, make costumes, keep props in order, and all of the other tasks that are so vital to the production's success. Again, I revisit the movie time and again to remind me of the wonderful experience. Some of my favorite lines: "I'm not liberal; I was just lonely." "Why, you're just as perfectly sane as anyone walking the streets of Hazelhurst, Mississippi." "We just have to figure out a way to get through the really bad days."
I might mention that I will be attending our Little Theater's production of The Miss Firecracker Contest this weekend. Beth Henley won the Pulitzer Prize for Crimes of the Heart and I look forward to being in the audience for another of her plays on Sunday afternoon.
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Recently Read Fiction Favorites
- A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
- A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
- Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
- Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
- Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
- Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
- Confessions of a Former Rock Queen by Kirk Bjornsgaard
- Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
- Faithful Place by Tana French
- Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
- Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
- Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
- Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
- Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
- Innocent by Scott Turow
- My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
- Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
- Private Life by Jane Smiley
- Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
- Roses by Leila Meacham
- Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
- So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
- South of Broad by Pat Conroy
- That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
- The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
- The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
- The Given Day by Dennis Lehane
- The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg
- The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
- The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
- The Sky Took Him by Donis Casey
- The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
- The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
- The Wind Comes Sweeping by Marcia Preston
- Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
- Wolf Hall by Hillary Mandel
- World Without End by Ken Follett
- Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
Favorite Nonfiction and Memoir
- All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl
- Getting Over Getting Older by Lettie Cottin Pogrebin
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
- Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages by Katherine Ball Ross
- Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy O. Frost
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
- The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin
- The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
- The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan