Tag Archives: Katharine Hepburn

Will You Be Next to Take On the Movie Love Questionnaire?

In this week’s installment of the Movie Love Questionnaire, we discover that enthusiasm for cinema runs in my family and that my sister has a much better memory than I do.

Learn more about RogerEbert.com’s Movie Love Questionnaire here.

Enjoy Fawn Kemble’s clever responses to the survey below.

Movie Love Questionnaire:

Fawn Kemble is the fourth of five children (Lavender is her only sister) raised by parents who were artists and teachers. An unabashed nerd, she lives in LA as a high school English teacher. Fawn reads a lot, drinks too much coffee, binge-watches Netflix & Hulu, and travels as much as she can. 

Where did you grow up, and what was it like?

Born in Verdugo Hills, I was a Southern Californian kid (minus a couple yrs. in Texas). We moved around a lot, finally settling in the Antelope Valley, where I never fully felt comfortable. My childhood was magical, spent immersed in books and outdoors in worlds of imagination with my sister and little brother.

Was anyone else in your family into movies? If so, what effect did they have on your moviegoing tastes?

We didn’t have a TV for much of my childhood, but I knew my parents appreciated movies. As image3we got older they introduced us to classics from Hitchcock and Doris Day, to Peter Sellers and Cary Grant. My grandmother made sure we got an education in musicals, Fred and Ginger were her favorites, as well as “Singing In The Rain” and “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.” Disney was also a staple, with “Mary Poppins” and “The Happiest Millionaire” high on the list. Our oldest brother introduced us to “Star Wars” at a young age, and there was no turning back. I still love these old classics and defy anyone who disses black & white movies or musicals!

What’s the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you?

We used to go see free movies at the library when I was little. I have a horrible memory so this is nowhere near the first movie I saw, but I recall seeing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at a young age and being completely freaked out by the Child Catcher part. Shudder.

What’s the first movie that made you think, “Hey, some people made this. It didn’t just exist. There’s a human personality behind it?

I think being obsessed with “Singing in the Rain” helped with that since it dealt with the making of movies. The microphone scene where Lena Lamont kept swinging her head back and forth stays in my mind to this day, as I watch my high school students struggle with sound on their student films or live performances.

What’s the first movie you ever walked out of?

I have the great joy and satisfaction of having walked out of the movies right behind my sister, Lavender, both times she left. The first when we were frightened by Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty” and the second when we were disgusted and not at all entertained by “The Sweetest Thing.” I haven’t walked out of any others.

What’s the funniest film you’ve ever seen?

There’s no way I can pick just one! “Bringing up Baby,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” or “This Is Spinal Tap” top a long list.

What’s the saddest film you’ve ever seen?

“Up” gets me every time. “Life Is Beautiful” tugged every heart string. And “Moulin Rouge” made me weep.

What’s the scariest film you’ve ever seen?

I avoid scary movies and truly think I’ve blocked the ones that most scared me from my mind. The scary movie I liked being frightened by because it was so eerily beautiful was “Pan’s Labyrinth”

What’s the most romantic film you’ve ever seen?

“Roman Holiday”

What’s the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment?

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “My So-Called Life” made me realize how much insightful social commentary could be hidden in television and how much it could affect me.

What book do you think about or revisit the most?

Like my sister, I reread Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” every couple of years. I also reread Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” Nick Hornby’s “About A Boy,” and Neil Gaiman’s “Death” comics frequently.

What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why?

I keep coming back to Damien Rice and The Smiths. My sister says I like suicidal music. What can I say, the depth of sadness and beauty there just speaks to me.

Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why?

“Schindler’s List,” for obvious reasons. And “Big Fish” which I saw with me mum in the theatre shortly after my dad died, and it I thought it was beautiful and true, but I will never see it again.

What movie have you seen more times than any other?

Movies I actually WATCH? I’ll quote my sister here. “It’s gotta be “Star Wars” or the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.” Movies I put on in the background while I’m grading? The forever long Colin Firth “Pride and Prejudice,” or “You’ve Got Mail.” I’ve also watched the first two “Anne of Green Gables” tons of times.

What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it?

Lavender tells it wrong, it wasn’t a Pauly Shore movie we were supposed to be seeing, it was “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” but instead we snuck into “Blink” because we thought Aidan Quinn was hot. And it was such a bad movie with horribly awkward scenes. We never did that again.

What’s the most visually beautiful film you’ve ever seen?

There are too many. I cried, literally tears running down my face, when the screen panned up to reveal the brontosaurus Rex scene in “Jurassic Park.” I had never seen anything like it. “Hugo, “Midnight in Paris,” and “Moonrise Kingdom” spoke to my soul. And my latest visual obsession is Ben Stiller’s version of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.”

Who are your favorite leading men, past and present?

Cary Grant, Harrison Ford (the earlier days), Nathan Fillion, Bill Murray, Jack Lemmon, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Rickman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Robert Downey Jr.

Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present?

Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Maggie Smith, Amy Adams, Emma Stone, Marion Cotillard, Emma Watson, Emma Thompson, Jennifer Lawrence

Who’s your favorite modern filmmaker?

I like all things Joss Whedon, Christopher Guest, Baz Luhrman, Wes Anderson, Alfred Hitchcock, Sophia Coppola, and have a soft spot for Spielberg and Lucas.

Who’s your least favorite modern filmmaker?

Michael Bay.

What film do you love that most people seem to hate?

I love “The Spice Girls Movie” for real.

What film do you hate that most people love?

I too hate “Titanic” and any movie version of a Nicholas Sparks book. Blech.

Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget — not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.

Once, years ago, my mum, sister, and I walked into a theatre to see an unheard Australian film we knew nothing about, “Strictly Ballroom.” Within the first few minutes, we could hear nervously whispered conversations from others in the audience, mostly older art theatre patrons, who were confused about what exactly this movie was. Was it supposed to be funny? The three of us were dying laughing and it quickly became a family favorite film, long before Baz was heard of in the US.

What aspect of modern theatrical moviegoing do you like least?

The rude behavior of fellow moviegoers.

What aspect of moviegoing during your childhood do you miss the most?

Seeing the same movie over and over and over again at the dollar theater, just for the air conditioning, inside jokes with friends, and freedom from adults. One summer, we must’ve seen “Mannequin 2” five times. So much fun.

Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad?

I don’t think I can date someone who isn’t a Star Wars and LOTR fan.

What movies have you dreamed about?

I don’t often remember my dreams.

What concession stand item can you not live without?

I don’t often get stuff at the movies, but when I do it’s Diet Coke and Sour Patch Kids or Jr. Mints. 

If you’d like to take a crack at the questionnaire, I’ve included the list of questions to cut and paste below. Respond in the comments section here or on the Facebook link, or email your responses to lavendervroman@gmail.com. If I find your answers interesting and insightful, I might post them on the blog.

Movie Love Questionnaire:

Where did you grow up, and what was it like?

Was anyone else in your family into movies? If so, what effect did they have on your moviegoing tastes?

What’s the first movie you remember seeing, and what impression did it make on you?

What’s the first movie that made you think, “Hey, some people made this. It didn’t just exist. There’s a human personality behind it.”

What’s the first movie you ever walked out of?

What’s the funniest film you’ve ever seen?

What’s the saddest film you’ve ever seen?

What’s the scariest film you’ve ever seen?

What’s the most romantic film you’ve ever seen?

What’s the first television show you ever saw that made you think television could be more than entertainment?

What book do you think about or revisit the most?

What album or recording artist have you listened to the most, and why?

Is there a movie that you think is great, or powerful, or perfect, but that you never especially want to see again, and why?

What movie have you seen more times than any other?

What was your first R-rated movie, and did you like it?

What’s the most visually beautiful film you’ve ever seen?

Who are your favorite leading men, past and present?

Who are your favorite leading ladies, past and present?

Who’s your favorite modern filmmaker?

Who’s your least favorite modern filmmaker?

What film do you love that most people seem to hate?

What film do you hate that most people love?

Tell me about a moviegoing experience you will never forget — not just because of the movie, but because of the circumstances in which you saw it.

What aspect of modern theatrical moviegoing do you like least?

What aspect of moviegoing during your childhood do you miss the most?

Have you ever damaged a friendship, or thought twice about a relationship, because you disagreed about whether a movie was good or bad?

What movies have you dreamed about?

What concession stand item can you not live without?

Photo: Fawn Kemble

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Up All Night With Turner Classic Movies

Being a movie critic is the best job in the world. You get paid to watch films and, even better, to discuss them endlessly in a running dialogue with readers. I would never complain about the best job in the world, but it does have a down side. Keeping up with the latest releases, in theaters and on DVD, is an enormous, time-sucking task, so I rarely had the opportunity to go back and revisit old favorites.

As a kid, I was a voracious consumer of classic film. My tastes were cultivated by parents who weren’t afraid of movies shot in black and white or made before the ’80s. My grandmother would call us to her room to watch musicals like “My Fair Lady,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and that charming duo, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The result was that my little brother became obsessed with tuxedos, my parents were forced to listen to our renditions of show tunes on a loop during car trips and my siblings and I developed an enduring love for the classics.

That love never disappeared but it diminished during the 13 years I spent as film critic for a local newspaper. Sitting down and revisiting a gem made more than 30 years ago was a luxury of time I could rarely afford. Sometimes I’d fantasize that my boss would insist I take a year-long sabbatical to do nothing but watch Turner Classic Movies. That never happened while I was at the paper, but the fantasy did come true in an unexpected way.

At the end of December, I had a baby, a daughter who, as most infants do, required constant care through the wee hours of the night. As a new parent, I was subjected to a level of sleep deprivation so intense it made my head spin. Since my husband was working to keep that little mouth fed, I was on night shift and, let me tell you, those were some long nights. As any insomniac knows, there is no loneliness as profound as the loneliness of being awake after 2 a.m. As delightful as my new baby was, as I sat with her in my arms in the darkened living room, it was all too easy to cave in to the enveloping blackness, a despair that the morning would never come. I felt like I was the only person left in the world.

When I remembered Turner Classic Movies, the cable channel that shows vintage flicks all day and all night, a light broke through the gloom. My husband was bemused to see our DVR fill up with 1930s screwball comedies, war pictures and Westerns, Technicolor musicals, black and white melodramas, cheesy sci-fi oddities and legendary foreign films from the 1960s and ’70s — whatever struck my fancy when I stood at 4 a.m., blinking bleary-eyed at the television screen.

Hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz became my best friends. The chiming sound of the late-night TCM promo was a cheerful beacon, cutting through my mental fog. I felt like a human being again. And I learned a lot.

I realized that I had never really paused to appreciate Sidney Poitier and his graceful mastery of acting. After a marathon of “The Defiant Ones,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Lilies of the Field” and “The Slender Thread” — in which he spends most of the film on the phone with Anne Bancroft, trying to talk her out of suicide — I was left dazzled by his dignity and playfulness.

I rewatched 1947’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a childhood favorite that is an entirely different animal from Ben Stiller’s recent, surprisingly wonderful remake, and laughed aloud at Danny Kaye’s physical comedy antics. A scene in which Mitty struggles awkwardly to move a chair while holding a teacup should be among the most celebrated moments in comedy, but I fear few people have even seen the film.

Diving into the deep end once again with that swimsuit-clad goddess — Esther Williams — a favorite of my grandmother, I marveled at how much bang these classics gave audiences for their buck. It wasn’t enough to simply tell moviegoers a good story, these films also delivered numbers conducted by famous orchestra leaders, solos by jazz or opera singers, tap dancing interludes or an elegant ballroom dance, a choreographed water ballet or a fashion show. The clothes were stunning. The settings were exotic. These were the days when people got dressed up to go to the movies and the studios were careful to give audiences what they wanted. Hollywood really knew how to put on a show.

What else did I learn during my late nights with TCM?

Everyone wore the most fabulous negligees to bed and the men wore ridiculous smoking jackets over their shirts and pants. Myrna Loy, Joan Crawford and every other leading lady worth her salt could not drift off to sleep unless she was swathed in a feminine cloud of silk, tulle, ribbons and lace.

I remembered why I love Doris Day movies, all that pert, wholesome perkiness mixed, like a dry martini, with ribald sexual innuendo. In contrast, as an adult, I found the beloved screwball comedy “His Girl Friday,” starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, to be much darker and more problematic than I recalled, a scathing but weirdly blithe indictment of media carelessness.

I discovered the rakish charms of Melvyn Douglas, a suavely mustachioed screwball comedy king who starred opposite Greta Garbo in 1939’s “Ninotchka.” I was struck again by the blistering chemistry of the radiant Katharine Hepburn and her on and off screen love, the rumpled but sexy Spencer Tracy. I never knew that Jimmy Stewart actually sang and tap-danced — albeit it briefly — in the 1936 Cole Porter musical “Born to Dance.” He wasn’t half bad.

I watched Rosalind Russell vamp it up in “Auntie Mame” for the first time ever. How is it possible that I existed without seeing this sublime comedy?

Other firsts for me included “The Red Shoes,” the phantasmagorical masterpiece that influenced Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” with its mouth-watering production design, “The Bicycle Thief,” which crushed me with just about the saddest ending ever.

What I learned most of all is that the films of Hollywood’s heritage are indeed glorious. They are called “classic” for a reason. That isn’t to say they’re perfect. One of the things that astonished me was the rampant sexism and racism of Golden Age films, in which women are routinely punished for desiring a career over a husband and minorities are resigned to play dim-witted servants.

Despite their flaws, these movies have endured for decades, passed from one generation to the next like treasured artifacts. Scholars have attributed their magnificence to the great studio system that spawned them, to superior methods of writing, acting, filming and composing. Whatever the reason for their success, I think what makes an old movie truly great is not that it was shot in beautiful black and white or stars a timeless legend. It’s that the movie nudges us into feeling something deeply.

One particular lonely night spent with TCM stands out to me among the dozens and dozens of lonely nights. I was watching “Singin’ in the Rain,” lulling my baby to sleep to the watery sounds of the title song.

“What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again,” sang Gene Kelly, swinging himself around the lamppost in a scene that has been viewed millions of times by millions of people.

Once again, Gene Kelly splashed in a puddle. Once again, he sang. My heavy heart lifted.

Turner-Classic-Movies