We thought it might be fun to list some of our favorite films with Colors in the Title.
We’re starting with Black Narcissus and White Heat. What do you know about these classics?
Let’s start with 1949’s White Heat, in which a very nimble mama’s boy/jailbird (James Cagney) jumps off prison cafeteria tables and clambers up gas tankers to explosively die, declaring that he is on top of the world, Ma. (By the way, let’s not overlook Virginia Mayo’s performance in the movie as a fetching but treacherous femme fatale.)
In the movie, considered one of the best gangster outings from classic Hollywood, Cagney portrays Cody Jarrett, a psychotic killer whose attachment to his larcenous mother (Margaret Wycherly) results in murder, mayhem, a complicated chases by the law enforcement and a rambunctious prison break.
And, oh, boy, that explosive climax.
Its theatrical release was met with kudos from the critics, with one calling the movie the acme of the gangster prison film. Ok, let’s see how much you know about White Heat. (As usual, answers tomorrow.)
1) Question: Although Cagney made many crime thrillers White Heat was by far his personal favorite picture. a) True; or b) False.
2) Question: Early on in the picture it’s clear that Cagney’s character has a debilitating physical malady. What is it? a) Diabetes; b) Severe scrotum rash; c) Severe migraines; or d) Atrial fibrillation.
3) Question: Plot point: medical authorities in the movie recommended that Cody be transferred to a high security asylum because a) He was always jumping off prison cafeteria tables; b) He had a sexual tie to his mother; c) He refused to marry his girlfriend; or d) He was afflicted with a homicidal psychosis.
4) Question: Which of the following studio moguls, one profited from several of his Thirties movies, referred to Cagney as “that little bastard?” a) Jack Warner: b) Daryl Zanuck; c) Carl Laemmle; or d) Samuel Goldwyn.
5) Question: The famous mess hall scene with some 600 extras — during which Cody has a breakdown — was adamantly opposite by studio brass because of the expense. a) True; b) False?
Now, on to what is perhaps the antithesis to the Cagney film, 1947’s Black Narcissus.
The movie, directed Michael Powell and starring Deborah Kerr, is a psychological drama. There not a shooting in sight.
As critic David Thomson wrote, it is that rare thing, an erotic English film about the fantasies of nuns.
An order of Anglican nuns is invited by the ruler of a princely state to set up and operate a school and hospital in a building that had housed the ruler’s harem. Kicker is that the building is perched high on a cliff the Himalaya mountains. (See opening photo above.)
Thing don’t work out as lustful thoughts and actions intrude. One nun goes off her rocker completely, and plunges to her death. Ok, on to our Black Narcissus Quiz:
1) Question: Deborah Kerr and director Michael Powell clashed often on the set of Black Narcissus because a) She felt she was being grossly underpaid; b) It was an old fashioned billing dispute; c) Kerr was Powell’s former lover; and d) Powell felt Kerr was too young for the role.
2) Question: She is pictured below and plays a sexually feisty character named Kanchi in Black Narcissus. She is a) Jean Peters; b) Ava Gardner; c) Jean Simmons; or d) Diana Dors?
3) Question: Black Narcissus is revered for the authenticity of its exotic look at it’s locale. That’s because much of the film was actually shot in the Himalayas. a) True; or b) False.
4) Question: The guy pictured below is actually an Indian actor plays a young general in Black Narcissus. Who is he? a) Saeed Jaffrey; b) Anil Kapoor; c) Sabu; or d) Deepika Padu.
5) Question: When Black Narcissus opened in the U.S. on in August of 1947, it was heralded by Catholic National Legion of Decency because of its religious content. a) True; or b) False.