One of my all-time favorites, this was Billy Wilder’s best movie, much better than Some Like it Hot. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat. A wonderful plot for an off-beat romantic comedy, starring Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills, with the incomparable Clive Revill and a host of wonderful Italian character actors lending support. It was filmed on the Italian island of Ischia and released in 1972. As the movie opens, executive Wendell Armbruster Jr. is boarding an Al Italia flight for Italy to claim the body of his father and return it to Baltimore for a huge funeral, to be attended by everybody who is anybody in 1972, including Henry Kissinger and Billy Graham. To tell you more would be criminal. By all means see it.
Pride and Prejudice
The 1940 film starred Green Garson as Elizabeth Bennett and Laurence Olivier as Darcy. Squeezing the story into two hours required some compromises, which limit the impact of this one and the 2005 film starring Kiera Knightly. Still, if you have only two hours, the 1940 black-and-white film is the better movie. Most Jane Austen aficionados (like me) prefer the 1995 miniseries starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. A special delight is David Bamber’s portrayal of Mr. Collins. But my favorite production of an Austen novel is the 2008 miniseries
Sense and Sensibility
which is outstanding. Hattie Morahan (sense) gives what may be the truest depiction of an Austen heroine that I’ve ever seen, and Charity Wakefield is almost as good as Marianne, her sister (sensibility). A bonus, for Downton Abbey fans, is the opportunity to see Dan Stevens before he was Matthew Crawley. This is a first-class production, with good writing (Andrew Davies), excellent acting, and beautiful scenery. Best of all, it ties everything up in three one-hour episodes.
Woman Times Seven
Speaking of Downton Abbey, which adds Shirley MacLain to the cast in Season 3, those who want to see Shirley as she was in 1967 might sample this series of seven short stories, all starring Ms MacLain. Only two of the seven are worth your time – the first, co-starring Peter Sellers, and one other, featuring MacLain as a Parisian grande dame who is infuriated to find that the dress she plans to wear to the Paris Opera has been copied by a rival. The entire movie was filmed in Paris. A much better look at la MacLain in her youth is The Apartment, filmed in 1960.
Death at a Funeral
By no means a memorable movie, Romantics Anonymous is a harmless way to spend an hour and a half. It is a French romantic comedy about two socially inept people, one of whom, the lady, works at a failing chocolate factory run by a man even more socially awkward than the lady. Death at a Funeral is a British farce starring Matthew Macfadyen. It has some hilarious moments, but not enough of them to warrant my recommendation.
Bottom line: See Avanti! and the 2008 miniseries Sense and Sensibility.