By Maureen Lee Lenker
With the passing of Labor Day and as we move further into September, we find ourselves on the brink of fall – a time for colder temperatures, sweaters, scarves, hot cocoa and autumn leaves. The fall is also one of the best times of year for movies and new releases – the start of awards season kicks off a flurry of films that means the multiplex is full of great choices.
But if you’d rather stay in, there are plenty of classic choices that will give you the cozy autumnal feelings. These five classics are the perfect pairing for a snuggly blanket on a cool, autumn day with their fall settings and circumstances enhancing the seasonal mood.
5) The Trouble with Harry (1955)
One of Hitchcock’s least well-known films, The Trouble with Harry is more of a perfect visual ode to New England autumn leaves than it is a memorable suspense thriller. If you’re looking for jaw dropping fall scenery, you really cannot beat this film shot on location in Craftsbury, Vermont. It’s considered one of Hitchcock’s true comedies (though his films are often marked by some mood-lightening humor). A very young Shirley MacLaine leads the cast as Jennifer Rogers, a young woman who believes she may have accidentally killed her estranged husband Harry. The rest of the small New England town also believe they may each be responsible for Harry’s death. They work to hide his body from the Deputy Sheriff in a series of humor-filled attempts to bury the body. Though shot on location, ironically the trees were already missing most of their leaves when the crew arrived in Vermont in late September – they resorted to gluing leaves to the trees to create the desired effect.
4) Love Story (1970)
Though some might think it’s weepy love story makes Love Story more of a Valentine’s Day selection, it’s actually the perfect autumn romance. Over the course of the fall semester at Harvard and sister school Radcliffe College, preppy and rich Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) and working class, studious Jenny (Ali MacGraw) overcome their mutual dislike and fall in love. The story is a tearjerker, focused on their short-lived romance as Jenny succumbs to cancer. But it’s one of the most beloved romances of all time from its memorable score to its iconic line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It was one of the last (and only) films to shoot on location at Harvard, and its various scenes of on-campus life in the throes of autumn will drudge up a host of back-to-school memories.
3) I Married a Witch (1942)
Autumn also means it is time for Halloween and that means this list wouldn’t be complete without some witchy entries. I Married a Witch draws on real-life histories of witchcraft and Hollywood’s signature version of supernatural hijinks. Veronica Lake plays the titular witch, Jennifer, who after being burned at the stake during the Salem Witch trials returns to human form to torment the 1940s descendant of the Puritan who convicted her. Wallace Wooley (Fredric March) tests all of Jennifer’s supernatural abilities as she struggles to make him fall in love with her without resorting to magic. March and Lake did not get along while filming, leading her to often play pranks on him. As a result, he redubbed the movie, “I Married a Bitch.”
2) Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Though Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart made an iconic, unforgettable pairing in Vertigo, they get to have a heck of a lot more fun in Bell, Book and Candle. In this romantic comedy based on a play, Kim Novak stars as a witch, Gillian, who puts a spell on Jimmy Stewart’s Shep Henderson to get back at an old college enemy who also happens to be his fiancée. Trouble ensues when Gillian begins to actually fall in love with Shep herself and must choose between romance and her witchy powers. Jack Lemmon has a hilarious supporting role as Gillian’s warlock brother Nicky, who plays the bongo drums in a Greenwich Village nightclub. It would mark Stewart’s final romantic lead, as he turned 50 while filming and felt he had aged out of such roles. The mortal-witch romance heavily inspired beloved sitcom Bewitched.
1) All that Heaven Allows (1955)
It’s hard to imagine a more lush and gorgeous Technicolor envisioning of fall than the one in Douglas Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows. Set in a New England town in fall, the film follows Cary (Jane Wyman), an upper class widow who scandalizes her friends and family when she falls for her younger landscape designer Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson). Transitioning from fall to winter, the movie is full of stunning images of fall foliage and it’s hard to resist Rock Hudson in the red plaid coat he wears throughout the film. The film is so evocative of the season and uses its autumnal tones so effectively that it inspired imagery in countless other films, including two Todd Haynes projects Far From Heaven and Carol. The scandal of the Autumn-Spring romance between Cary and Ron (despite the actors not being all that far apart in age) adds a double layer to the seasonal mood of the film.
Pull out a blanket and snuggle up with a warm drink and one of these cozy fall favorites.