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Smiths album cover. (Credit: Rough Trade)

Music

The favourite films of Smiths-era Morrissey

@josephtaysom

Morrissey has made it rather hard to separate the art from the artist over the last couple of decades. The singer’s comments about the uber-nationalistic For Britain movement are the kind of shenanigans that would have repulsed Morrissey’s first incarnation, the one that provided a refuge for the weak and lonely, capturing the hearts of outsiders everywhere.

It’s nice to reminisce upon a time when Morrissey wasn’t a figure that made it almost impossible to like outside of music, and that’s why we are taking a look at his list of favourite films from back in the halcyon days of The Smiths. Morrissey became a cultural connoisseur in the ’80s, his image gave his opinion a validity that separated him from the rat pack as an intellectual in a rock star guise, and his favourite films are brutally on brand.

When The Smiths first arrived on the British indie scene, they not only had a band capable of turning a whole nation into poem-reading, letter-writing, Smiths-listening fan group, but a lead singer who was as charismatic as he was antagonistic — a winning combination. It meant, on TV or in magazines, Morrissey was more than happy to offer his opinion on bands and singers, usually providing a hefty soundbite capable of starting feuds and finishing careers.

Nobody is immune from Morrissey’s wrath; while some of his insults are entertaining, others are just downright cruel. However, here we are taking a look at him being kind, which makes a refreshing change and offers an insight into the cinematography that helped him escape in the same way that his music has helped so many others.

For NME’s ‘Portrait Of An Artist’ column in the ’80s, Morrissey delved into his VHS collection, and unsurprisingly, the collection was full of vintage gems that exist away from the world of popular blockbusters of the day. The Hollywood heroics of the decade would have likely repulsed Morrissey to his very core. Instead, it was in the unusual, the romantic and the downright obscure that Moz sought refuge.

The first classic on his list is The Man Who Came To Dinner, the 1941 comedy that starred Bette Davis, Anne Sheridan and Monty Wooley. The film is a bona fide classic and it’s hard to picture Morrissey rifling through a bag of popcorn while chuckling at it, or anything, in fact. But the landmark laugh-a-long made his list nonetheless.

An essential film in the life of Morrissey is A Taste Of Honey. The film is based on the debut play by Shelagh Delaney in 1958 and hit screens in 1961. Delaney has been a constant source of inspiration for Morrissey throughout his career, with him once proclaiming, “I’ve never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 per cent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney.” 

The former Smiths frontman has littered lines from A Taste Of Honey throughout his work, such as the title for ‘I Don’t Owe You Anything’. The line, “And I’ll probably never see you again” in ‘Hand In Glove’ was influenced by Delaney, as was, “The dream’s gone/but the baby’s real enough”, which appeared in ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’.

The impact of that film and book on Morrissey shows the importance of art influencing art. When Delaney penned that play as a 19-year-old in Salford, she was thrilled when it became a reality on stage. It was a watershed moment in Morrissey’s life when he first saw the film and it undoubtedly impacted his world view. The domino effect of how A Taste Of Honey infected Morrissey, who has then gone on to change music thanks to his wry lyricism, shows just how powerful art is and how they all intertwine on a subconscious level.

Check out his full list of favourite films, below.

Morrissey’s favourite films:

  • The Man Who Came To Dinner (1941)
  • A Taste Of Honey (1961)
  • Christmas In Connecticut (1945)
  • The Killing Of Sister George (1969)
  • A Kind Of Loving (1962)
  • Hobson’s Choice (1953)
  • Mr Skeffington (1944)
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  • The Member Of The Wedding (1953)
  • The World, The Flesh and The Devil (1959)

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