LOOKING FORWARD: The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956); Also: Bell, Book & Candle (1959)

12 May
The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956)

I know, I know. But I’ve seen all the other ones! Even Full of Life!

I have, like most right-thinking people, a fondness for the comedies of Judy Holliday, yet somehow I’ve not seen The Solid Gold Cadillac. But now, I shall, as it’s on TCM Thursday, May 16 at 2:15 p.m.

(It should be noted that Born Yesterday is on a few hours earlier at 5:30 a.m., which I’d write about, too, were I not swamped.)

See you here sometime soon after that.

Bell, Book & Candle (1959)

Bell, Book & Candle, the other Jimmy-Stewart-is-mystically-enthralled-and-manipulated-by-Kim-Novak movie, was once a community theatre staple, and the film version is occasionally trotted out as a Christmas movie on technicality, but my love for it (without over-emphasizing a languid, backless and capri-panted Kim Novak) is based in its beatniks.

Oh, movie beatniks, how love you. How I long to attend your nonexistent nightlong barefoot bongo wine party. I cannot explain, but it’s not love if it can be explained. The over-herbed Jack Lemmon fingertip-drumming while French cabaret guy Philippe Clay does…whatever it is he does…is worth the film’s entire budget.

Philippe Clay


The Zodiac is the “kind of a dive” (along with the 30s/40s cinematic idea of the nightclub floor show) that never existed in this form outside the movies, and that I nonetheless pine for quietly in reality. I’m one of the lucky ones: there are plenty of adults we all know who have swallowed a false nostalgia or mistaken the pretty pictures for “historical documents” a la the aliens in Galaxy Quest – but when offered the oddball performance of Clay, the gleeful eccentricities of Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold and, bless him, Ernie Kovacs, the glass on the snowy sidewalk that lets you know what’s happening underground…well, I, if I may momentarily adopt the Liz Lemon vernacular, want to go to there.

Someone clearly decided (rightly) that Kim Novak had a particular chemistry with her main co-star, meaning of course that particular shade of blue-green light that’s used heavily here (the summoning flame, the Pywacket spell before it goes all purple, most of the lights in the Zodiac) and more pointedly in Vertigo the previous year. It’s such an era-specific color, too…

Novak in Vertigo (1958)

Daisy Buchanan, Schmaisy Buchanan.

…which makes for a nice segue into another subgenre affinity I have, perhaps related to my faux-beatnik love: New York ca. 1955-65. It would be easy to call it the Bachelor Pad era (Sunday in New York, Any Wednesday, Boys Night Out, The Apartment), but it’s also the era of The Desk Set, Bells Are Ringing and this lovely little piece. It’s as much about design elements – that shade of blue-green, the look of the apartments and offices, the still-high pants but thinner ties- anything else. I have a reaction to this era that a more susceptible person might take to be proof of reincarnation or spiritual transference (unbeliever though I be in the Carlotta Valdes racket). One might go at least so far as to use a word like “grok,” anyway, if the Liz Lemon thing didn’t work out.

And, like the Zodiac, if that city existed, it’s gone now. But the sets sure are pretty.


A postscript about Stewart: most people love him for his charmingly backward romantic speechifying in one American classic or another. For me, it’s for moments like his response to his own failed attempt to hail a taxi in a living room, which ranks above even Gene Wilder’s silent reaction to sheep-love in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*.

*that asterisk doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s part of the title.

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