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FIRST-PERSON: Favorite films of famous folks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Whenever I’m introduced to someone and he or she discovers that I review films, the conversation quickly shifts to the subject of movies. No matter their profession — banking, education, medicine, whatever — they want to talk movies!

As soon as the opportunity arises, I ask if they have a favorite film. And you know what? They always do. A fan’s description of his or her favorite movie tells me a lot about that person. It’s the critic’s version of the Rorschach test.

Recently, I asked a few celebrities, clergymen and one particular politician to name their favorite motion picture.

Radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger loves “The African Queen.” For her, it is, “The most romantic story ever told on the screen.” The story has Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as a boozy vagabond and a prim missionary spinster traveling downriver in a dangerous effort to sabotage a Nazi warship. Through toil and trouble, the mismatched pair find romance.

Good call, Dr. Laura. This isn’t just an amusing action/adventure. It’s really about that indefinable mystique that overtakes the war between men and women. The war (he lisps, “You psalm-singing, skinny old maid,” and she dumps all his gin overboard) is soon diminished by that intangible something that brings opposites together – for life.

Evangelist Billy Graham’s favorite film is the 1956 version of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments.” Following its release, the famed director presented Dr. Graham with the production’s replica of the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. “The spiritual impact of this movie has moved millions of people and the brilliant direction and staging of this epic motion picture have allowed it to endure for decades,” Dr. Graham says.

(Thanks to David Bruce for obtaining Dr. Graham’s favorite. And thanks to Dr. Graham. Although in ill health, he continues to help others any way he can.)

Suspecting that George W. Bush may have enough on his mind, I decided not to attempt to contact him. I simply looked it up on his web page biography. It listed “Field of Dreams” as his choice.

While strolling through his Iowa cornfield, Kevin Costner hears a whispery “If you build it, he will come.” Soon after, he finds himself sacrificing his farm to build a baseball diamond in the center of his land. Everyone thinks he’s nuts, but Costner plays host to the ghosts of an infamous team blackballed from the sport 60 years before. Replete with positive, uplifting scenes, this parable is about second chances and fulfilling not only your dreams, but those of others. It’s an allegory about redemption and faith.

So, Phil, what’s your favorite film? I thought you’d never ask.

I have a favorite in nearly every genre. John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” is right at the top of the list, along with “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “Key Largo,” “Patton,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” “The Great Race,” “West Side Story,” “Tender Mercies,” “Babette’s Feast,” “Dead Man Walking” and “The Magnificent Seven,” just to name a few.

David Lean’s faithful rendering of the Dickens’ classic “Great Expectations” also would be included on my list. Although special effects are great, and performances are essential, for me a well-written story that entertains, enlightens and enriches is an absolute for making my favorites list. And no one could tell such a story better than Charles Dickens (well, maybe that other English fellow).

But, with all due respect to masterpieces such as “Citizen Kane” and “Casablanca,” Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” has to be my first pick. Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey is given a chance to see how life would have turned out for friends and loved ones if he had never been born. Capra’s delightful fable reinforces the belief that our compassion and responsibility do make a difference in the lives of those with whom we come in contact.

Well, there you have it. You’ve heard from a famous radio personality, one of the world’s most respected evangelists, the president of the United States and, ahem, a brilliant film reviewer. So, what’s your favorite film?
For an extensive free list of Phil’s Favs from different genres, e-mail him at [email protected].

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright