Dispatches | October 11, 2006

Last year on the day before Christmas, I was scanning the shelves at Ninth Street Video, “our favorite movie hole” as my husband affectionately calls it when Janet Marsh, a friend and the owner, beamed her laser-light pen on Sullivan’s Travels.

“Rent this,” she said. “It is one of my favorites.”

Sitting beside my husband on our reclining loveseat with a cup of hot chocolate the next morning, I watched the mad-cap story of a movie director (Joel McCrea) who casts off the comforts of wealth and influence for the hard-knock life of a tramp. Along the way, he meets a failed young actress, The Girl (Veronica Lake with peek-a-boo bangs in her first leading role). Through a series of plot twists, one involving amnesia, he ends up incarcerated in a prison work camp. The dialogue is great — quippy, meaningful, realistic, wry.

Since last December, old movies, particularly those made in the 1940s, have become a source of joy to me. Between the rushed chores of home life, teaching and working for TMR, I squeeze in a movie a night on Turner Classics. Cary Grant, my new favorite actor, is hardly a discovery or a lost classic. With over 70 movies to his credit, including charmers such as People Will Talk, The Bishop’s Wife, and The Philadelphia Story among them, it is even hard to call him a guilty pleasure. But when the beauty of that deep chin cleft and knowing twinkle in his eyes lures you away from your writing, your husband, your life, I can’t help feeling a little bad.

Admittedly, I am little behind the curve, but the beauty of books and movies is that feeling of first love, of new discovery. My love affair with 40s movies is deep and personal. It is what I hope for the readers of The Missouri Review each time they receive their latest issue.