No less important, however, is the joy of discovering a new movie - not something current that just opened at your local cineplex but an older title that's been around for some time, without your even knowing about it.
Falling cozily into the latter camp is a little (and little-known) 1956 gem from Columbia Pictures, "Wicked As They Come," directed by British filmmaker Ken Hughes, whose diverse résumé includes Peter Finch's "The Trial of Oscar Wilde" (1960), The Sherman Bros. musical, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1968) and the Alan Price remake, "Alfie, Darling" (1972).
"Wicked As They Come" aired on Turner Classic Movies during its annual Summer Under the Stars outing in August as part of a day devoted to its star, Arlene Dahl. I caught it quite by accident. My viewing was totally unplanned. For the life of me, I can't remember how or why I started to watch it - the film was an unknown entity to me - but I'm glad I did.
It's a keeper.
Filmed by Mike Frankovich's production company largely in London with a British crew and a cast of Anglos and Americans, "Wicked As They Come" casts Dahl as Kathy Allen, née Allenborg, a restless Boston woman from a deprived background with an indifference to all men.
Kathy sets out to rebuild her life, starting with her eye on Miss Stylewear, a local newspaper-sponsored beauty contest that's conveniently fixed in her favor.
She shrewdly exploits the affection that the newspaper's editor feels for her and, once the contest is over and won, she abandons him and, with her cash winnings, moves to London, where she flits from man to man, each progressively older, wealthier and more prominent, scamming them all.
Kathy's advance is witnessed by another American expat, advertising man Tim O'Bannion (Phil Carey), who is both fascinated and repelled by her transparency. O'Bannion at once wants to expose Kathy, punish her, rehabilitate her and ... ensnare her.
His fascination inevitably turns into obsession.
Sound remotely familiar? Well, the basic core of "Wicked As They Come" is nearly a dead ringer for Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie" from 1964.
"Wicked As They Come" isn't nearly as accomplished as "Marnie," and, true, there are major differences. Still, there are so many small narrative similarities here that it's difficult to believe that Hitch wasn't a fan of Hughes' modest little film from eight years earlier. ( It should be noted, however, that Jay Presson Allen's script for "Marnie" was based on a novel of the same title by Winston Green, while "Wicked As They Come" was adapted from another book, "Portrait in Smoke," by Bill S. Ballinger.)
Dahl and Carey could be playing prototypes for the characters ultimately essayed by Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery in "Marnie." Like Connery in "Marnie," Carey's character keeps popping up in the heroine's life, and there's a sequence in which Carey shows up at the office where Dahl is working that could be a template for the same scene in "Marnie." "Wicked As They Come" even comes with a Hitchcock specialty - the final-curtain psychological explanation, a theory for Kathy's troubled behavior.
Not surprisingly, like Marnie, Kathy's damage was caused by a sexual trauma from earlier in her life.
It's gratifying to see the terrific Carey at last in a rare leading role, and Dahl, an actress who was made for Technicolor, is even more beautiful in black-&-white.
The cinematograher Basil Emmott (a name new to me) achieves a soft, smokey image here that is gorgeous, and hugely flattering to Dahl, absolutely first-rate.
A little symmetry here: While "Marnie" is one of those aforementioned favored films that I'd gladly watch over and over and over and over again, and have, its modest doppelganger, "Wicked As They Come," is a decidedly new favorite. Someday, these two will make a terrific double-bill.