Cinema Toast

My Wild Kingdom

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As a little kid, I remember looking forward to Sunday nights. That was the one night each week when my family ate dinner in front of the TV and watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

For lots of families these days, that is not unusual, but in the early 1970’s, eating in the living room was rare.

Making those nights even more special, Mom would let my brother and me (and my sister, once she came along) have a small Tupperware tumbler of Dr. Pepper, and Dad would share his Doritos with us. Again, this is now commonplace, but back then, not so much.

Unlike many of today’s shows on Animal Planet, these were films about families—of animals. Hosted by Marlin Perkins, the narration helped the audience see the world through the wild eyes of the tigers, monkeys, or hyenas we watched. We laughed as they played together, we worried when the cubs wandered too far from their momma, and we cringed as the bunnies lost the race against the wolves.

I loved seeing the different places around the world—habitats for beautiful creatures I would never otherwise see. I enjoyed the fact that these animals had a place in my home and a voice I could hear. They fueled my imagination.

Even today, I can hear my cats mutter with frustration when I don’t feed them quickly enough. They often glare at me when I vacuum, and talk behind my back after I’ve straightened the throw pillows. I’m quite certain they move things around in my house while I’m gone and then laugh when I can’t find said items. I also suspect that my older cat, Poe, tries on my shoes when I’m at work.

My boys think it’s all in my mind, but I know better. I grew up watching these shows!

That’s the reason I’m thrilled that Disney’s African Cats comes to theatres this week! The previews and posters make me smile every time I see them. I’ll be in line this weekend, with popcorn in hand, and my cats will be sitting at home, very jealous!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!

Cinema Toast

The Next… Cary Grant?

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I know; it’s ridiculous! There is no such thing as the next Cary Grant, no matter what anyone might say. This is my primary argument for treasuring and preserving classic movies.

Cary Grant was one of my favorite movie stars, and I’m not alone in this opinion. The man was arguably the most charming and charismatic screen personality of all time. He’s the man every woman wants, the man every man wants to be like, and the star that every celebrity aspires to achieve. I’m not kidding.

If you have never watched him in action, go right now to your Netflix queue or the video store or whatever means you have to access classic movies and rent a copy of His Girl Friday, To Catch a Thief, Charade, Arsenic and Old Lace, North by Northwest, or Operation Petticoat. I could list dozens more—the man made over seventy feature films, but this is a good sampling.

He is almost always suave and well dressed, yet flawed somehow by his past or current situation. He can play rich or poor, intelligent or street savvy, victim or hero, and he plays the parts whole-heartedly. He starred with incredible ensemble casts, and allowed his fellow actors to steal scenes at will, without ever losing his footing.

His talents included acrobatics, horseback riding, slapstick and deadpan humor. His characters were cocky and confident, sometimes frustrated and fragile, often mean, occasionally scared, and usually in love. He was always human. He played a soldier, a journalist, a professor, a businessman, a thief, an angel, a husband, a con man, a sailor, a father, a scientist, a spy, an heir, and even a male war bride. In 1933, he played the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland.

If you’re not sure if you really like old movies, watch one of his, and you’ll change your mind.

He could make any role, any plot, and just about any movie look good. I heard once that he didn’t even like the film Arsenic and Old Lace, but you would never know it from his performance. That movie is one of my Halloween traditions.

He was one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite leading men. He could be dubious and debonair in the same breath. He could be physical and subtle within the same scene.

When I write, I try to cast my stories in my mind. It helps me to hear the character’s voice and see their expressions. Then all I have to do is write what I see in my mind’s eye. Cary Grant is one of my go-to heroes when I know I need a character that will capture my readers’ hearts. However, by the time the story is nearing completion, my leading man is usually a little scruffier and more attainable. He usually sounds and looks a bit more like Karl Urban or Aaron Eckhart.

When I hear people call Tom Hanks the next Spencer Tracy or Brad Pitt the next Robert Redford, I think maybe it does a disservice to both actors. Though the comment is most certainly intended as a compliment, it often diminishes their individual talents and strengths. BUT…when I hear a celebrity reporter say that the hottest new actor in Hollywood is the next Cary Grant, well, that’s when I know they’ve lost their mind!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!