A Tale of the Big Screen and Little Mistakes

There are Mary Poppins people and there are Maltese Falcon people and while they pay respect to the opinion of the other, they do not budge an inch. It's like loyalty to an athletic team or to a Beta who wore No. 4 on the Cal crew. We have long since forgotten where our devotions started. We just know that crewman and that team were and are the best. You betcha.

There were people who agreed with me that your favorite movie is chosen because of the circumstances when you saw it. Was it the person whose hand was in the popcorn sack with yours? Was it on an airplane trip that was a prelude to a tour of the chateau country? Was the theater breathlessly cool in the midst of a hot spell and did it smell like toasted marshmallows? If those were the circumstances, your mind was made up in the first three minutes. Great movie.

The mail brought to my notice two really bad mistakes I made in that column about your favorite movie. I continue to be amazed that I can be absolutely convinced of my infallibility on various minutiae and then find that I was 180 degrees wrong.

Ronda Furgatch, who lives in Marina del Rey, wrote, "Roland Young was Topper, not Charley Ruggles."

Of course. Then was it Charley Ruggles who played the touchy-feely uncle in the original "Philadelphia Story?" The third in that pantheon of superb character actors was Charles Butterworth. For years, I had an 8x10 glossy of Butterworth sitting on the floor with one hand holding a champagne glass and one hand smoothing the brow of a black-and-white calf that had its head in Butterworth's lap. The calf had the same look of detached bliss as did Butterworth and it was wearing a Yale freshman dink. The picture was signed and said, "Remember the time we put the calf in the chapel tower?"

That picture has disappeared from my life along with a picture of Mayor Fletcher Bowron in Balinese headdress. It is sad to think that those pictures are gone and remaining are dozens of pictures of do-good groups all gazing foursquare into the camera. That settles it. They're going out today.

Furgatch writes, "You're right about choosing. Time, place, attitude, memory all play a part in choosing an all-time favorite."

"I kind of hold fast to 'Lost Horizon,' though, but 'Gunga Din,' 'My Man Godfrey,' 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Chariots of Fire.' Who can really choose?

"I think the movies of an earlier vintage had a moral message. I'm certain I learned perseverance from Ronald Coleman."

Good for Ronda. She hedged her bet like a wise moviegoer.

My other killer mistake was brought to my shamed-face attention by Mary Bess Grimes, who wrote, "I must have seen 'Lives of a Bengal Lancer' 14 or 15 times at the Uptown or Arlington. This makes me feel justified in gently correcting your impression that Franchot Tone recited Shakespeare in the dungeon of Mohammad Khan (a.k.a. Douglas Dumbrille) after Gary Cooper had had bamboo slivers driven under his fingernails.

"It was a stanza from a poem by William Earnest Henley, a Victorian-Edwardian poet perhaps better known for 'Invictus.' The poem's title is 'Pro Rege Nostro,' and the stanza runs:

"Ever the faith endures, England, my England: Take

and break us; we are yours.

"England, my own.

"Life is good, and joy runs high.

"Between English earth and sky;

"Death is death; but we shall die

"To the song on your bugles blown,


"To the stars on your bugles blown."

Says Mary: "They don't make 'em like they used to."

How about Mary Bess Grimes and how about old Bill Henley?

I always think it has to be Richard II or dear old Shakespeare when it's about the tight little isle.

D. C. Webster commends "African Queen" to me. You betcha your Abba Zaba, D. C.

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