Oops! Wrong Favorite Movie

In the comments of my last post, the 1964 comedy Father Goose came up in the conversation.  Directed by Ralph Nelson and starring Cary Grant and Leslie Caron, I responded that it was a favorite of mine.  That got me to thinking about my favorite Cary Grant movie and my favorite Leslie Caron movie.  This wouldn’t be my favorite Grant movie but it would be my favorite Caron (yes, even over An American in Paris which I like but I’m not crazy about it).  My favorite Cary Grant movie would be Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House followed closely by Gunga Din.  With both of these actors, I feel I’m expected to have different favorite movies for them than I do (for Grant, I feel like I am expected to list North by Northwest or Notorious as my favorite but, sorry, they aren’t, though I love them both, and for Caron, I feel like it is expected to be the aforementioned An American in Paris, but, sorry again).  We often pigeonhole ourselves into what we should like best from any given director or actor and when we don’t we feel like we’re liking the wrong movie.


One of the biggest standouts for me is Francis Ford Coppola.  My favorite of his, which I’ve written up here just in the last few months, is Tucker: The Man and His Dream.  I feel like it should be one of the Godfather movies or Apocalypse Now but, honestly, those don’t even come in second.  That position goes to One from the Heart, his vastly underrated, to my mind, epic romance from 1982.  And The Conversation is a movie I have a ton of respect for but it ranks so far down my list of favorite Coppola movies I sometimes forget the damn thing was directed by him.

Then there’s Martin Scorsese.  This one I’ve talked about (on Facebook, at least) many times before so to certain people who know me, it should come as no surprise.   I think Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and goodfellas are Scorsese’s top three movies but my favorite, by far, is King of Comedy, which is, to me, a small wonder of a movie, observing a loner in a manner so disturbing it makes me cringe every time I see it.  When I see Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) in his apartment in Taxi Driver while I hear his crazy diary entries on the soundtrack, I think, wow, this guy’s nuts.  When I see Rupert Pupkin (De Niro again) recording himself in his basement like he’s on a talk show or showing up at Jerry Langford’s (Jerry Lewis) house like he’s a guest, I feel uneasy and embarrassed.  I feel awkward and anxious.  Who knows, maybe I actually think this is Scorsese’s best movie but I’m not ready to admit it to myself.  Whatever the case, it’s definitely my favorite.

With actors, it’s even worse.  I feel like a worthy cinephile’s favorite Bette Davis movie should be All About Eve because, hell, it’s got everything that makes Davis Davis, right?  But I’m afraid I’m a much bigger fan of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane than that movie probably deserves.  I love Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and the ghastly gothic horror of Bette Davis’ appearance in that movie draws me into the movie in a way I can’t describe.


Joan Crawford?  Mildred Pierce would be the expected title.  Or maybe Humoresque?  Daisy Kenyon?  But it definitely shouldn’t be Strange Cargo, should it?  And yet it is.  And I didn’t even mention Straight Jacket, which ranks near the top for me as well.

Marlon Brando?  Should be On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, or The Godfather.  It should not be, under any circumstances Reflections in a Golden Eye.  Absolutely not.  Um… moving on.

How about Kirk Douglas and Fredric March?  Why did I lump the two together?  Because they’re both in Seven Days in May, one of my favorite movies ever and, therefore, my favorite Douglas and March movies, instead of, say, The Bad and the Beautiful or The Best Years of Our Lives, respectively.   Why not Burt Lancaster, too?  Because Atlantic City is my favorite Lancaster, that’s why.

Other actors and directors I’m not really sure what should be the favorite.  I know Planet of the Apes is my favorite Charlton Heston movie by a long shot, followed by The Omega Man, and Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments are way down the line, somewhere after The Naked Jungle.  Touch of Evil is the greatest movie Heston ever made but not as much a favorite as those other two, even if it’s clearly better.

But I worry that such a listing will be misinterpreted.  I can see it now, people describing this as “guilty pleasures.”  It is NOT guilty pleasures!  (sorry for the emphasis there but I wanted to make sure it was understood).  I find all of my favorite movies to range from very good to excellent, they’re just not the expected favorites.  It’s also not an all-inclusive list, as many an actor and director I’m not listing here are not listed precisely because my favorite movie of their’s is exactly what you’d expect.   For instance, Jimmy Stewart favorites are It’s a Wonderful Life and Vertigo.  Vivien Leigh is Gone with the Wind.  Rosalind Russell is His Girl Friday.  Gene Kelly is Singin’ in the Rain.  Jean Arthur is Only Angels have Wings.  Norma Shearer is The Women.  Christopher Lee is Horror of Dracula.  Peter Cushing is Curse of Frankenstein and Brides of Dracula.  Maggie Smith is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  Clark Gable is Gone with the Wind and It Happened One Night.  Claudette Colbert, too.  And on it goes.


It’s just that sometimes, the movies we like best from an actor or director aren’t their most celebrated movies.  With Dustin Hoffman, for me, it’s Marathon Man.  But when I say that, even though I think it’s a terrific thriller, I feel like I’m in trouble because I didn’t say The Graduate or Midnight Cowboy or Kramer vs. Kramer or Tootsie.   And it’s not just a personal favorite, I think it’s some of Hoffman’s best work as an actor.  But it’s not what I’m expected to say so it feels wrong even though it shouldn’t.  The idea of an actor or director’s greatest success automatically becoming the movie we should all put at the top of our lists feels like herding to me.  And that’s fine, I agree with the herd a lot of the time but it doesn’t mean we should feel bad when we veer off the path.  Standing our ground on personal choices should always be a favorite activity, no apologies necessary.

42 Responses Oops! Wrong Favorite Movie
Posted By Marty : March 12, 2014 3:58 pm

I really think People Will Talk is a very fine Cary Grant picture in which he plays Dr. Pretorious and falls in love with Jean Crane.
Dustin Hoffman? I have never liked that actor’s work.
Clark Gable is great in Command Decision and To Please A Lady.
For Kirk, I enjoy Champion, The Juggler and Two Weeks In Another Town, as well as just about everything else he has played in.
For Burt, I enjoy Jim Thorpe-All American, The Rose Tattoo and The Swimmer.

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 3:59 pm

I love Burt in The Rose Tattoo, he’s so damn loud and hammed up. Just great.

Posted By James : March 12, 2014 4:00 pm

My favorite James Cagney movies is a (relatively speaking) obscure one, The Strawberry Blonde, directed by Raoul Walsh. I don’t think it’s at all forgotten, but I don’t think it’s often evoked as his best compared to, well, you name it (White Heat, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Angels with Dirty Faces, etc.) I love it the most, though.

That may also make The Strawberry Blonde my favorite Rita Hayworth movie, but for Olivia DeHavilland, I’d choose Letter From an Unknown Woman.

Posted By James : March 12, 2014 4:02 pm

Arrggghh, just remembered Joan Fontaine (her sister) starred in Letter From an Unknown Woman. Never mind!

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 4:03 pm

My favorite Olivia DeHavilland is also my favorite Errol Flynn, The Adventures of Robin Hood, followed closely by Captain Blood, again for both.

Posted By heidi : March 12, 2014 4:35 pm

My favorite John Wayne movie is The Quiet Man.
Rosalind Russell is The Women.
Clark Gable in Command Decision.
Robert Mitchum is The Enemy Below. and i suppose Curt Jurgens as well.
My favorite Leslie Caron movie is GiGi.
I am afraid my favorite Olivia de Haviland movie is The Adventures of Robin Hood. I like her in everything I have seen her in, but it is my favorite.
Errol Flynn I like The Dawn Patrol, But Captain Blood and Robin Hood, and Sea Hawk, and…and…well, maybe I don’t have a Favorite. I love them all.
Cary Grant is tough. It might have to be Charade or To Catch a Thief. I did get to see him on the big screen in The Philadelphia Story, but that one is far down on my list.
Rita Hayworth would have to be either Down to Earth or Cover Girl.
Maybe obvious ones, but I like what I like!

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 4:36 pm

Heidi, we’re pretty closely matched on our favorites (see my earlier comment about Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland). Another Clark Gable I like that wouldn’t be as big as the two big ones I mentioned is Run Silent, Run Deep.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : March 12, 2014 4:55 pm

we all have our own reasons for why a particular film resonates with us over another,that’s why Arsenic and Old Lace has always been my favorite Cary Grant film…to this day it conjures up the first time i saw it on a rainy October evening when i was 11 or 12 years old,even though i have it on DVD,i’ll get up in the middle of the night to watch on broadcast television just to relive the vibe i get from it :)

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 4:56 pm

I have so many movies on DVD that I never watch but if they show up on tv, I’ll watch them. Strange how that works.

Posted By John S : March 12, 2014 4:59 pm

I can’t get past the fact that you have a favorite Leslie Caron movie.

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 5:00 pm

Ha! Well, you know, I mentioned Father Goose so I felt I had to include her but, you’re right in your implication. I never really think about “a favorite Leslie Caron” movie in any real sense. I even joked on twitter yesterday that Leslie Caron played a role in my post today and I’m sure that made everyone happy.

Posted By Jenni : March 12, 2014 5:07 pm

For me, it’s Cary Grant in Penny Serenade that’s my favorite. That scene where he is pleading with the judge to let he and Irene Dunne adopt the baby girl is very moving and got him an Oscar nomination.

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 5:08 pm

And he’s great in it but I sure wish they’d nominated him for so many other works, too, like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Gunga Din, Notorious, North by Northwest, and Charade, to name just a few.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : March 12, 2014 5:34 pm

Favorite Scorsese: Mean Streets
Favorite John Wayne Movie: Donovan´s Reef and El Dorado, which
is also my favorite Robert Mitchum movie.
James Cagney: The Roaring Twentys and Angels with Dirty Faces
over White Heat.
Cary Grant: His Girl Friday, Gunga Din and Charade.

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 5:35 pm

I think Charade is a great one, a kind of comedic thriller post-script to his performance in North by Northwest. Even though it wasn’t his last movie, I like to think of it as such.

Posted By LD : March 12, 2014 6:20 pm

Favorite Crawford-POSSESSED (1947) instead of Mildred Pierce



Tracy-INHERIT THE WIND instead of……..

John Ford-although I love his westerns I have to go with THE QUIET MAN.

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 7:43 pm

Yes, I too am I huge fan of Peter O’Toole in The Lion in Winter. I would have absolutely given him Best Actor for that one.

Posted By AL : March 12, 2014 8:23 pm

Incredibly, Bette Davis said “I consider my role in THE CATERED AFFAR to be my best work” I swear; I saw her say that live on a talk-show not long before she died…(BTW: when I was 15 years old [brace yourself] I was the vice president of “the only OFFICIAL Debbie Reynolds Fan Club”.[I'm not kidding]. Debbie invited me to spend the day after Christmas with her at MGM, where she was filming THE CATERED AFFAIR…needless-to-say, this was a monumental experience for a kid. Unforgettable…) AL

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 8:24 pm

AL – I’m a big fan of A CATERED AFFAIR so that’s interesting to hear that Davis thought that. She’s excellent. And how amazing that you got to go to the set! WOW! I mean, just, wow!

Posted By Emgee : March 12, 2014 9:29 pm

Burt Lancaster: Vera Cruz and Criss Cross, but i’d watch himn anything.

Same goes for Ms Davis, with the notable exception of “Baby Jane”; camp heaven for many, but include me out.
The Letter, The Little Foxes , yes please

Kirk Douglas: Ace in the Hole, Paths of Glory , Seven Days in May
Dustin Hoffman: Lenny, Straight Time ,Straw Dogs

and the list goes on….

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 9:30 pm

Same goes for Ms Davis, with the notable exception of “Baby Jane”; camp heaven for many, but include me out.


Posted By Brian : March 12, 2014 9:31 pm

Yes, there’s a big difference between best movie and favorite movie. I’ve seen Cary Grant in Father Goose so many times and it never lets me down. The only Grant movie I’ve seen as many times is Gunga Din. He’s also very funny in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.

As for Dustin Hoffman? It’s Little Big Man. Everything else is a distant second. Strange considering how many good films he’s made…but that’s the beauty of movies!

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 9:32 pm

Glad there’s another Father Goose fan on board. It’s not brought up much in cinephile circles, let’s just say. But it’s always entertaining!

Posted By missrhea : March 12, 2014 9:43 pm

Hm…FATHER GOOSE and CHARADE tie for my LEAST favorite Cary Grant film but I’m not sure what my favorite is. Maybe it’s HOLIDAY with Katharine Hepburn but it’s definitely not BRINGING UP BABY which lots of folks pick for their favorite screwball comedy. I love both of them in PHILADELPHIA STORY, too.

As far as Leslie Caron, I usually think of GIGI rather than AN AMERICAN IN PARIS even though I like both.

My favorite Woody Allen is one in which we only hear his voice – RADIO DAYS.

Posted By gregferrara : March 12, 2014 9:56 pm

My favorite Woody is Broadway Danny Rose. I think it’s his best, too. But I also love Radio Days and, actually, pretty much everything from 1977 to 1997, with a few exceptions.

Posted By AL : March 12, 2014 10:17 pm

GREGG: yes, it was an amazing day. Met most of the A-list stars in the commissary (that list would blow-your-mind–it still blows mine!), toured the backlot. That morning I got to watch Richard Brooks shoot 2 scenes: Deb in drugstore with Joan Camden, then in bridal shop dressing room with Bette Davis. When I remarked how thrilled I was to be on the actual MGM lot, Deb’s mother said “Oh yeah? Well take a good look, Al, ’cause it’s all over but the funeral.” Deb told me she had a hassle getting permission for me to be on the set because Davis objected. She was the only star that Deb didn’t introduce me to. I’ll never forget the glaring look I got from Davis when we locked eyeballs!

Posted By AL : March 12, 2014 10:22 pm

I’m partial to NORTH X NORTHWEST. Cary Grant said that RITA had “the most beautiful mouth I’ve ever seen”…

Posted By AL : March 12, 2014 10:26 pm

BTW: I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I feel I must admit to you that I was also the vice-president of the Marlon Brando fan club AND was a member of the Piper Laurie fan club…OK, that’s it; I feel silly…

Posted By Qalice : March 12, 2014 10:31 pm

Favorite John Ford/John Wayne: The Quiet Man
Rosalind Russell: Auntie Mame
Robert Mitchum: Night of the Hunter
Errol Flynn: Captain Blood
Alfred Hitchcock/Cary Grant: Notorious
Rita Hayworth: Separate Tables
Martin Scorcese: After Hours
James Cagney: City For Conquest
Peter O’Toole: The Ruling Class
Meryl Streep: A Cry in the Dark

Posted By Doug : March 13, 2014 12:00 am

This post has blown up nicely.
Kate Hepburn: “Bringing Up Baby”
Myrna Loy and William Powell: “Double Wedding”
Ginger Rogers: “Monkey Business”
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant: “My Favorite Wife”
Lucille Ball: “Having Wonderful Time”
Maureen O’Hara: “The Quiet Man” (Let’s not forget Wayne’s co-star!)

Posted By Bob Lindstrom : March 13, 2014 7:15 am

Feel no shame, Greg. I love Brando in Dr. Moreau. Figure THAT out….

Posted By Muriel : March 13, 2014 9:15 am

I don’t get Cary Grant in Gunga Din : it’s one of those movies where he mugs the camera too often. I like Grant in None But The Lonely Heart. (Ironically, he really wanted to do it, but it was a youthful Rchard Attenborough kind of role, not for a 40 yr old Grant. Grant was touching and quite good, it was the ensemble cast that made it really work.)

I also agree with another poster about Cagney in “Strawberry Blonde”. Again, it’s a great ensemble that makes it so good: Hayworth, deHavilland, Jack Carson & Cagney.

Posted By cpoorbaugh : March 13, 2014 1:05 pm

Everytime I think about Father Goose, I hear Cary saying through a radio filter, “Mother Goose, this is the Filthy Beast” with his stacatto accent. But my fav Cary pix would be a toss up between “Mr. Lucky” and “I was a Male War Bride”. I’ll have to look up the original authors of the stories, but have no idea why those two stand out for me. Laraine Day is cute and Ann Sheridan was never such a flame for me, but the writing and story is what make movies memorable for me.
Duke Wayne – Rio Bravo, Searchers, Dark Command, Iwo Jima are all good, but my Pick is “RED RIVER”. I think all the extra people make Wayne look that much better. Harry Carey sr. and jr., Hal Terriferro, Noah Berry Jr., John Ireland and that Monty kid.
Cagney – from all the wealth of his work, “White Heat” does it for me. Slightly better than “Angels with Dirty Faces” that comes in second.
Jimmie Stewart (Have to get him in here because he is a product of Indiana, pa where my Mom went to college and was only 60 miles or so from us)- All great….”Harvey”,”Little shop around the Corner”, “Mr. Smith lal Wahington”, but my favs are a toss up between “Winchester 73″ and “The Man from Laramie” and “Naked Spur”—mmmmm, all chase movies. I like roadrunner toons, too.

My favorite Genre is Film Noir which I was into well before that Muller kid showed up.
Favorites are “Phantom Lady”, “Hammet”, “The Dark Corner” and all the Universal Gothic spook movies.
Oh Yes, I have to Smash in here a Billy Wilder film I have been enamored with for a long time…..”Five Graves to Cairo”. If you don’t like Five Graves…you’re off your Ritalin.
Marilyn – Gotta be “Niagara” pretty early Monroe, and pretty good Noir…Seven Year Itch is swell, and she looks REAL GOOD, but it’s second best for me.
Gary Cooper—”The Plainsman” with Jean Arthur,,, double whammy
Loretta Young and Joseph Cotton – “The Farmer’s Daughter”
last but not least – in the noir vain….Nina Foch, George McReady, Dame May Whitty in “My Name is Julia Ross”.
OK Doctor Freud, analyze THAT….. :P

Posted By Erika : March 13, 2014 3:37 pm

I haven’t been reading your blog for long, but now I better understand why I’m enjoying getting caught up. We seem to have a similar take. The difference between best and favorite can be tiny or enormous – they certainly don’t have to be the same. One of the reasons I often avoid discussions on film is that so many can’t/won’t accept the appeal of “lesser” films. I think they forget that movies should, primarily, be fun and engaging. A given movie may be an amazing technical and artistic achievement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it reaches our hearts in the way some “lesser” film might. I love film as a way to challenge, educate and broaden minds, but nothing beats a movie that just makes me fall in love with it.

Posted By tdraicer : March 13, 2014 5:41 pm

The actors I really like, I like so much I tend to have a half dozen “favorites,” so inevitably some are from the “expected” category, and some from the “you are kidding, right?” category.

Becket and Lion in Winter make an awesome double feature.

Posted By Doug : March 13, 2014 11:26 pm

Although we all appreciate Stars in their “Star vehicles”, there is something to be said for early performances, before they knew all of the ‘tricks’ of playing to the camera. Even the best performers eventually fall into patterns.
In “20,000 Years in Sing Sing” Bette Davis isn’t quite Bette Davis yet, but is amazing to watch.
In my comment above I mentioned Lucille Ball in “Having Wonderful
Time”. She might be fourth or fifth billed, and it’s really a Ginger Rogers film…but Lucy is natural and ‘real’ and brings a lot to a nothing part. If you love Lucy I encourage you to check it out. Fast forward through the Red Skelton routines-he may crack himself up, but I never have found him too funny.

Posted By Shannon : March 14, 2014 5:37 pm

A great post! I have the same problem. Sometimes, my favorite films are the famous ones. Like Gilda, for Rita Hayworth. But most of the time I tend to go with the underdog too. Often it’s because they really are good, simply underrated, films. Sometimes, though, I admit they’re not the greatest, but there’s some little spark in them that makes me love them more than others. It’s all very subjective. My favorite Bogart film is The Maltese Falcon, not Casablanca! My favorite Cagney film? There are far too many to choose just one! But I do love little known “Ladykiller” and the often glossed-over Roaring Twenties. Also, in reply to what James said, I love The Strawberry Blonde, too!
Anyway, you’ve brought up a good point. Thanks for sharing!
And P.S.- my favorite Cary Grant films are not any of his most famous ones. Though I love Notorious and all his other Hitchcock films, I love his talent as a comedic star. So my favorites are The Awful Truth, My Favorite Wife, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Bringing Up Baby.

Posted By robbushblog : March 19, 2014 5:57 pm

My favorite Cary Grant movie is and always will be Arsenic and Old Lace. I make a point to watch it every October.

My favorite Fredric March movie is not The Best Years of Our Lives. It’s close, but my favorite is Executive Suite, which would also be my favorite William Holden movie if it weren’t for Joe Gillis. It very well might be my favorite movie from Walter Pidgeon, Paul Douglas, June Allyson, Shelley Winters, Nina Foch and Louis Calhern as well. Barbara Stanwyck and Dean Jagger are claimed by Double Indemnity and King Creole respectively.

Posted By swac44 : March 21, 2014 12:44 am

Now I know I’m not alone when I tell people my favourite Spielberg films are Sugarland Express, Empire of the Sun and Munich (with 1941 taking the guilty pleasure position).

Posted By AL : March 21, 2014 8:13 pm

Re STRAWBERRY BLONDE: After ANN SHERIDAN’s elaborate costumes were completed, she walked off the set (don’t know why), RITA HAYWORTH took over the role–and SHERIDAN’s wardrobe fit RITA perfectly–no alterations were necessary…AL

Posted By la peregrina : March 22, 2014 8:09 pm

My favorite Cary Grant movie is also “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” It would my favorite Melvyn Douglas movie, too, if he hadn’t made “Hud.”

Other favorites:
John Ford:”The Rising of the Moon”
Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne: “Rio Grande”
Rosalind Russell: “Picnic”
Robert Mitchum: “The Sundowners”
Frank Capra and Barbara Stanwyck: “The Bitter Tea of General Yen”
Kathrine Hepburn: “Stage Door”
Myrna Loy and William Powell: “The Thin Man” (Of course)
Ginger Rogers: “Roxie Hart”
Lucille Ball: “Five Came Back” and “The Big Street”
Kirk Douglas: “Ace in the Hole”
Burt Lancaster: “Sweet Smell of Success” (Only because I think we are see the real Burt Lancaster in this movie and it is mesmerizing.)
James Cagney: “The Public Enemy” (Mesmerizing but in a different way than Lancaster in SSoS.)

Posted By Marilyn : June 29, 2014 7:32 pm

Black & white movie….(Cary Grant maybe?)…..but he’s in a car, blindfolded and thinks he hears a cocktail party, but it’s really a gaggle of geese, which sounds just like a bunch of people talking, which was very clever. Anyone know the name of this movie?

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