When The Classic Movie Muse included me in the “Flaming Hot…5 Reasons Why” tag, hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Thoughts All Sorts, I was elated. Not only is this the very first time I’ve ever been tagged in anything (I definitely feel like an official blogger now!), but the timing is perfect. My last few posts have been rather serious, so it’s time for some light, frothy fun. And truthfully, I’m such a hopeless romantic, Valentine’s Day puts me in a dreamy mood for weeks on end – leaving me primed and ready to gush about the topic at hand: my favorite movie men.
The rules (which you who are tagged can cut and paste)…
- You must add the name of the blog that tagged you AND those of the Thoughts All Sorts and Realweegiemidget Reviews with links to ALL these sites.. and use the natty cat themed picture promoting this post. (*See below.*)
- List 5 of your all-time swoon-worthy characters from TV or Film ie crushes/objects of your affection. And also do mention the actor or actress who plays them, as you might like James Bond as played by Timothy Dalton and no one else.. etc etc
- Link to 5 other bloggers.
- Add lovely pictures, gifs or videos of those you selected.
- If you don’t have a blog (or don’t have time to write a post) join in with your choices on Twitter with this #5TheFlamingHot5ReasonsWhy Tag and tag @realweegiemidge and @Thoughtsallsort and the person who tagged you in your tweet.
- Oh…and post these rules.
Sounds easy, right? Well…
Floating on a wave of hearts and flowers as I considered my own list and browsed through others, I soon found myself faced with a problem so perplexing, it stopped me in my tracks: where exactly do I go from here?
Should I follow the guidelines set forth by Gill and Cat, and choose my top five favorite characters? Or should I follow in the footsteps of my blogging big sister Ari, and shine a spotlight on Hollywood hotties of a bygone era? OR, should I take a cue from my friend Eva-Joy, The Caffeinated Fangirl, and expand my scope to include more modern contenders – as she did in a recent post featuring a mix of classic and contemporary leading men (especially since most of the guys who really light my fire peaked in the ‘90s)? In fact, Eva herself suggested I write about this very subject after I left a particularly enthusiastic comment on said post that probably equaled one whole page of text all by itself. (I got carried away.)
The stars have been aligning for quite some time it seems. Everything has led up to this moment – yet you see my dilemma. So many gorgeous possibilities. What’s a lovestruck girl to do?
My solution?…We’ll get to that later. For now, I’ll just say I’m playing by the original rules at the moment: highlighting my five favorite fictional fellas, who coincidentally – but not surprisingly – all happen to come from the world of classic film. (So, if hot guys aren’t really your thing, maybe you’ll at least discover some fun movies that are new to you – all of which have merit beyond their men.)
First, some notes…
• Yes, this is a Valentine’s Day-ish tag, and we are now squarely into March. Well, I was still talking about It’s a Wonderful Life in February, so you know I’m not bound by the calendar. (I generally run late as a rule, anyway. It’s just how I roll.) Plus, Gill and Cat declared this a tag “for Valentine’s Day and beyond.” So, with this post, we are officially taking it into “beyond.” Appreciating hotness is always in season.
• I realize physical appearance should be a factor in my choices. I understand the assignment. But even though the guys on my list are undeniably handsome, I gotta tell ya – I prefer sweet to spicy. Be prepared to sigh and swoon more than pant and fan (though you may get swept up in some good, old-fashioned romance along the way).
• I rewatched each of the movies in which my five guys are featured, so the full glory of their hotness would be fresh in my mind. (It was the most enjoyable research I’ve ever done.) *Click on each film’s title to see its IMDb page.*
• My choices are ranked from #5 – #1, (because there is indeed a special someone who holds the deepest place in my heart).
• Each character’s section will include: a short set-up about their movie, my five reasons (“why do I love thee? let me count the ways…”) – and of course, images, gifs, and videos made for admiring. I wonder if, after you get to know my picks, you’ll love them, too?
Now, it’s time to dive in and discuss some delectable men. Are you ready? Here we go!…
Let’s kick things off with my very first classic movie crush:
5. Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra – Anchors Aweigh, 1945)
In this Best Picture Oscar nominee, pals Clarence and Joe (Gene Kelly), sailors on leave in Hollywood, become unwittingly entangled in the misadventure of a precocious little boy named Donald (Dean Stockwell). Both fall hard for Donald’s aunt, hopeful singer Susie (Kathryn Grayson), until bashful Clarence finds he’s much more comfortable talking to a waitress from his hometown of Brooklyn (Pamela Britton).
Gene Kelly does all kinds of amazing things amazingly well, including dancing with Jerry the cartoon mouse (of Tom & Jerry fame), but Frank’s Clarence always steals the show for me – and takes my heart along with it. Somewhat sadly, I find I’m slowly outgrowing Clarence’s wide-eyed naïveté – but my girlish heart still thrills at the sight of him, because I love…
• What’s on the outside!: Young Frank Sinatra is the prettiest man in all of classic movies. That SMILE, those CHEEKBONES, the way his olive complexion compliments his BEAUTIFUL blue eyes…As my blogging buddy Lee often exclaimed in her own delightful entry to this series, “I mean, for goodness sake, just look at the man!”
• What’s on the inside!: Clarence’s heart is even sweeter than his pretty, pretty face. He’s such a sensitive, tender soul.
• His talent!: That VOICE. And a less-acclaimed but equally-impressive skill – his DANCING. When compared side-by-side with Gene, it’s clear Frank’s movements aren’t as precise – but there’s more ease in them, as if he’s walking on air. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but his easy, floaty style seems like a natural extension of Clarence’s gentle personality.
*Time out for one more gif, because he’s just SO pretty!*…
• So many little moments!: “You saved my life and you OWE me something.”, the disappointed way he reminds Joe he told him something “in the strictest of confidence”, his invested “conversation” with a sailor hat, when he’s so ecstatic after chatting with “Brooklyn”, he can’t help but click his heels – and the list goes on and on.
• Frank’s acting!: When I first discovered Clarence years ago, before fully grasping the concept of separating actors from their characters, I was convinced that Frank himself was as tender and gentle as Clarence. But as I learned more about him, I realized that even young, pretty Frank Sinatra was a confident, scrappy “cock of the walk” – not wide-eyed and naïve like his movie counterpart. Frank always knew he was hot stuff; Clarence didn’t. (I think I like Clarence better.)
Though the man of my juvenile dreams may not have been all I’d imagined, I can now appreciate him for what he indisputably was: a truly gifted actor who delivered one heck of a performance. Seriously. Frank’s characterization of Clarence is so complete and real, they both deserve more attention.
Watch this and tell me – are you in love with him now, too???
4. Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin – Bells Are Ringing, 1960)
Adapted from the hit Broadway musical of the same name, Bells Are Ringing stars Judy Holliday (reprising her Tony Award-winning role) as Ella Peterson – a kooky but caring answering service operator who goes above and beyond to help her customers, adopting a variety of zany voices, disguises, and fake names to skirt around the cardinal rule of not getting personally involved. She in love with “Plaza-0-double-4-double-3”, also known as Jeffery Moss (Dean Martin) – an anxious writer hiding behind a lazy, cynical playboy persona, scared to go solo after splitting from his partner. He knows Ella as a little old lady he calls “Mom” and as the mysterious stranger, Melisande Scott. Will he ever learn the truth?
You may already know I love me some Dean Martin – so much so, it was difficult to choose just one of his characters for this list. But, as far as romantic appeal and goes, I think I’ve landed on the ultimate. Although Jeffrey would have to lose the cigs and booze for me to really take him seriously, I must admit, he still makes me weak in the knees, because I love…
• His expressive face!: This guy is sharp, playful, and he doesn’t miss a trick. As with any character brought to life by Dean Martin, Jeffrey reacts to absolutely everyone and everything around him – and each subtle, in-the-moment reaction sparkles in his eyes and dances across his animated face. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every Dean Martin movie should be watched at least twice – once to appreciate the film as a whole, then again to focus solely on Dean – and Bells Are Ringing is no exception. There is a wealth of treasure to be found simply in training your eyes on him. He’s a show all his own that enriches the movie ten fold.
• His musicality!: If I could insert myself into one scene from classic cinema, I would take Judy Holliday’s place for the song “Better Than a Dream”. I want to wear Ella’s petal pink dress and sing counterpoint with Dean (and sit on that fabulous blue couch!). I want to see Jeff/Dean’s shoulders do that perfectly in-rhythm jumpy thing when he’s fake-typing that sends tingles down my spine. There’s nothing hotter than a singer who can handle whatever music’s thrown at him, and through Jeffrey, Dean showcases the scope of his talent effortlessly.
• So, SO many little moments!: When his voice cracks a couple times in one scene for no apparent reason (I hate the thought of him possibly fighting a sore throat, but it’s the cutest sound I’ve ever heard!), when he says “Ah, it was nothing” oh so softly and his Italian-ness slips out, when he straightens his tie before their “vaudeville” routine, his hilariously-delivered “Good evening, Dennis” (an LOL moment for me that never gets old!), when he smiles at Ella with so much warmth and affection after his little line about “Whistler’s Mother” he looks as though he may burst with love – and on, and on, and on…
• How he chooses Mel!: When he and Ella (as Melisandre Scott, whom Jeff calls “Mel”) walk into a surprise party thrown in his honor, they’re confronted head on with his fast and loose past. Now back on top, the toast of the high society professional set and fancy former flings, one wonders if Jeffrey will forget about Ella amidst all the glitz, glamor, and adoration. Despite his best efforts, the chaotic crowd eventually separates them (giving Judy the chance to perform a flashy showstopper with lots of extras). But when they’re in each other’s eyeline once again, he catches her attention and sends a handwritten note by way of a waiter. It reads: “I’ve been admiring you from across the room, Miss Scott. Will you marry me? – Jeff” Ahhh…Just thinking about it makes me sigh!
Surrounded by willing temptation, Jeffrey can have any woman he wants, for as much or as little time as he wants – but he chooses to commit to “Mel”/Ella. It’s a win for quirky girls everywhere.
• This line – “I had a long trip all the way from Brooklyn Heights to work on it.”…Well, really, this entire scene!: When trying to make a quick getaway early in their relationship, Ella (as “Mel”) offhandedly lies that she lives in Brooklyn Heights. So when she later disappears, Jeffrey goes all the way to Brooklyn Heights to find her. (I love a man who listens, remembers, and will put in the miles!) When he finally tracks her down, she assumes he’ll be angry, but he’s big enough to see past the inconvenience to the heart of the matter and responds with understanding. (Dean has a comforting way about him regardless, but he practically radiates gentleness here – and it’s a wonder to behold. I sigh so much in the span of a few short minutes, I’m surprised I don’t get dizzy and actually swoon!)
*For even more reasons why I love Dean Martin, be sure to check out my Dean deep dive.*
Watch this and tell me – are you in love with him now, too???
3. Dr. Larry Quinada (James Mason – Caught, 1949)
This stunner of a forgotten gem is James Mason’s American film debut – a melo-noir (if that’s not a thing, I’m coining it) starring Barbara Bel Geddes as Leonora (originally Maude – but she changed it) Ames, an ambitious young woman who longs for wealth. She soon finds herself caught between dangerous Long Island millionaire Smith Olhrig (Robert Ryan) – a character study in full-blown narcissism, and Dr. Larry Quinada (James Mason) – a principled pediatrician in a poor neighborhood on the East Side. When a personal matter complicates her life even further, who will she choose?
PS – It’s slightly less straightforward than it sounds. But even if you can see the end coming from a mile away, it’s still a very enjoyable journey – thanks to the lush direction (all hail Max Ophuls, king of elaborate tracking shots!) and captivating performances.
Dr. Larry is virtually perfect – good and good-looking – but his high ideals occasionally give way to righteous indignation. (Blame his impassioned mini-speeches on the script, not James Mason – who totally sells it.) Just like Jeffrey would have to clean up his act before I’d fall into his arms completely, Quinada (as he’s often called) would need to chill out. Still, I can stand a little preachiness, because I love…
• His accent!: I’ll listen to him talk about anything, really. (Go ahead and preach to me, baby!) Once, guilty over hurting Leonora’s feelings in a flare over principle, he huffs, “She’s a stupid gehl!” (girl). Later, after they’ve reconciled, he privately jokes with her about a patient’s awful “cehls” (curls)…It loses something in transition to text, but I swear, it’s darling!
• His vulnerability!: Larry’s another one to watch closely, so you can catch all the tiny touches of unsure, endearing charm that give him such depth. I can’t tell for certain what’s scripted and what’s James Mason just being himself, but it all works like magic to make Larry a full, fascinating, and downright adorkable character. Every shy fumble of his words or his hands, every self-deprecating statement reveals that he’s not naturally bold, he’s just brave enough to say and do what’s right. (That’s hot.) The softer he speaks, the more vulnerable he is. And when he whispers, you’re hearing his heart.
• His perceptiveness!: Larry is whip-smart and intensely observant. Nothing gets past him. His discerning eyes see all, know all, and can peer into your very soul (the hallmark of a James Mason performance). But Larry looks only with love and compassion – and when he pinpoints a need, he’ll do anything he can to help.
The best example of this marks the beginning of my favorite portion of the film. When Larry notices Leonora has only a flimsy jacket that’s nothing more than a plastic poncho rather than something that will actually keep her warm, he buys her a coat. He buys her a coat. “It’s not mink, but it will keep you warm. That’s the main thing.” He tries to talk it down a little, but you can tell just by looking at him that he’s so pleased to give it to her and desperately hopes she likes it. (My heart flutters.)
• His LAUGH!: That same night, on their first date, they go to an unbelievably packed dance hall. (Shockingly crowded, in today’s time of social distancing.) After an adorably awkward time trying to decide if they should get out on the floor, they finally “dahnce” (as Larry says). It’s charming to watch Lee and Larry try to move (and Barbara and James try to say their lines) as they’re being bumped, pushed, and jostled by the throng of people crammed in around them. Finally, James/Larry can take it no longer. He lets out a laugh that lights up his whole face, and says “Oops”. He says “Oops”. (My heart swells.)
How he’s there for Lee when she needs him most!: After Leonora suffers a trauma, Larry rushes to her side. And even though she’s too whacked out to really hear him, he holds her close and promises, “I’m with you. You’re going to be safe. Nothing’s going to happen to you.” (My heart explodes, and I die.)
Watch this and tell me – are you in love with him now, too???
2. Gil Young (James Stewart – Ziegfeld Girl, 1941)
It’s no secret that I much prefer James Stewart’s post-war work to his pre-war, with one notable exception: Ziegfeld Girl – a splashy MGM melo-musical (if that’s not a thing either, I’m coining it, too!) about three young women who are thrown headfirst into the lavish world of the Ziegfeld Follies. (Actually, it’s more like a soap opera with music, which is disguised as diegetic, Follies-related performance numbers.) Sandra, Sheila, and Susan (Hedy Lamarr, Lana Turner, and Judy Garland, respectively) start at the same point, but follow very different paths: one leads to stardom, one to a happy marriage, and one to tragedy. Each girl has family in her corner – but Shiela’s pretty much fiancé, working-class truck driver Gil (James Stewart), doesn’t like how quickly her head is turned by the prospects of fame and fortune.
I’m honestly surprised that Gil ranks so high on my list. He has that characteristic “old curmudgeon in a young man’s body” quality that James Stewart basically patented, which I don’t find attractive at all. In fact, Gil is so gruff, he inspires one woman to dryly observe, “If that guy’s a gent, I’ll never get a seat on the subway.” An attitude that brusk usually shuts down my interest altogether. Even his looks don’t do much for me on their own (though he does have penetrating blue eyes). But there’s an important factor at work in his favor, one I appreciate more and more as I get older, that propels him almost to the very top of my list: chemistry. This is the most chemistry-filled performance I’ve ever seen in my life!
Ziegfeld Girl is by no means a perfect movie. It’s actually a speeding train that crashes spectacularly after becoming marred in syrupy, poorly-edited goo (which, in its final burst of glory, includes choppy cuts, Judy Garland in an out-of-nowhere blonde wig, and recycled footage from another film). This wreck of an ending is such a bizarre mess, it usually makes me forget how much fun the ride is until the next time I happen to rewatch. However, it is irresistible in spite of its flaws – and Gil & Sheila, together as a unit, are a major reason why. I’ll gladly overlook Gil’s grumpiness, because I love…
• His nickname for Sheila!: He calls her Red. I love that. When a guy gives his girl a nickname, it implies personalized attention and a shared history (which Gil & Sheila certainly have, often fondly reminiscing about a memorable date to Coney Island, where they shared their first kiss). But it’s not just what he calls her, it’s how he does it. When Gil says “Red”, it’s charged with electricity. Simply speaking her name sets off sparks within him. *sigh*…He loves her so much.
• His snappy sarcasm!: One of Ziegfeld Girl’s greatest features is its zingy dialogue, and the exchanges between Gil & Sheila are among its zingiest. Their constant banter is like an unspoken compliment between them: a mutual acknowledgment of, and respect for, each other’s intelligence. Gil’s lightning-fast timing and wry way with words are exciting (I’d like to take a crack at matching wits with him!), but he falls short when it comes to stating his feelings quip-free. Still, if you listen closely, you’ll hear deep sentiment hidden within his pithy one-liners, like: “A diamond don’t have to be in no Tiffany settin’ before I can see it.” Translation?: “I knew your true value before you became a bedazzled showgirl, and I love you so much.”
• His kissin’!: Jimmy was already developing the “kiss her all over” technique he used to such combustable effect in It’s a Wonderful Life. But here, he adds a sort of dramatic swoop: sweeping Lana up in his arms as they melt into each other – full on, all in, holding nothing back. Their body language alone indicates the strength of the force that binds them together, which no disagreement, pain, or distance can sever. They gravitate toward each other like magnets – and no matter how angry or hurt Gil gets (and he does get very badly hurt, poor guy), he can’t stay away long, because the pull is too strong and he loves her so much.
• His reaction to her voice!: The lovers do separate at one point. Time moves on as they drift apart, only to literally pass each other at a party. She’s walking down some stairs (that’s her speciality) and spots him right away; he’s deep in conversation with his new associates (gangsters) and isn’t aware of her presence at all. Stunned, she nearly lets him get out the door before finally calling his name. The instant she speaks, he stops – his world stops – and all he can do is turn around, face her, resist the pull as much as he can, and say, “Hello, Red.” And I squeal like a teenager because he. loves. her. so. much!
• How he feeds her soup!: Later, Sheila is…sick? weak? dying? (who can say?), so guess who comes to see her as soon as he’s called – but not before sending an extravagant bouquet of roses first, anonymously, of course (though he accidentally gives himself away by wrapping them in butcher paper). He tries to keep things light (with Jimmy Stewart putting on that “assumed cheerful manner” he does so well), and when he’s told she won’t eat, he takes her bowl of soup and spoon-feeds it to her. He feeds her soup – and it’s the most intimate moment in all of existence. His casual act disintegrates under the heat, and as soon as he gives it up and settles in, their force reignites with a simple “Hello, Red.” (I squeal again.)
As he sits with her, he grows soft and quiet and so gosh darn sweet while they fantasize about raising ducks and grandkids (“little, yellow, fuzzy ones”). When she experiences physical distress, he straight-up panics for a split second, then firmly announces he’s taking over when she refuses to rest. And it’s precious, because what he means is, “I’m worried about you, but I don’t know what to say or do, and I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.”
Watch this and tell me – are you in love with him now, too???
And without further ado…
1. Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty – Heaven Can Wait, 1978)
After a heavenly mix-up, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Joe Pendleton is left looking for a suitable substitute body so he can live his long-held dream of playing in the Super Bowl. Aided in his search by middle-management angel Mr. Jordan (played by my man, James Mason – who, once again, sees all, knows all, and can peer into your very soul), he comes upon formerly-eccentric, recently-murdered millionaire Leo Farnsworth, and agrees to step into his decidedly not big-game ready shoes temporarily in order to help British schoolteacher Betty Logan (Julie Christie), with whom he feels a connection – much to the bewilderment of Farnsworth’s killers: his unfaithful wife (Dyan Cannon) and executive secretary (Charles Grodin), in this remake / update / spiritual successor to 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan.
I have no disclaimers here. There’s nothing or no one I would change in any way. This is my all-time favorite romantic comedy (it’s a fanciful, clever, heartwarming shot in the arm I could watch on repeat) – and I’d take Joe just as he is, if he’d have me. I could learn to follow football, and drink liver & whey shakes, and listen to his repetitive, gosh awful tenor saxophone playing, because I love…
Him!!!: Combine what’s best about the other men on my list (minus the musical talent, unfortunately), and you have Joe. He’s gentle, warm, compassionate, and he can generate sparks with the girl he loves. But there are even finer qualities at play that are unique to him. He’s exceptionally, unfailingly kind and considerate – always saying hello, always saying thank you, always accepting people, never excluding. (His best friend is his trainer, played Jack Warden, who is years his senior. Theirs is the sweetest buddy-ship there ever was.) And he’s so genuine – free of hang-ups or reservations. It’s like he’s fully himself all the time – a rare and remarkable feat. Put simply, he’s the epitome of a good guy. In all the ways that matter most, Joe Pendleton is the whole package.
His outlook!: Although he is wholeheartedly committed to a goal he knows he may never reach (making it to the Super Bowl), he’s also content in the moment – enjoying where he is and what he has. He experiences frustrations, but never totally betrays the kindness at his core in the process. He rebounds from setbacks (including this near-death debacle that upends life as he knows it) – adjusting, adapting, and moving forward, while still seeing the best others and staying optimistic about the future. You get the sense that nothing could keep this guy down for long.
How funny he is!: Most of the movie’s charm lies in its whimsical humor (which is right up my alley). Because Joe rolls with the punches so easily, he’s both the ideal straight man to all the craziness in his orbit and an innocent catalyst of it. He’s the center of the shenanigans, and he always keeps me laughing.
All the eye contact!: Eyes are very important in this film (they are the windows to the soul, after all), and Joe & Betty share some key swoon-worthy moments that involve intent gazing: studying (her), staring (him), and my personal favorite: watching each other from separate corners during a busy garden party. Smitten, but not yet an item, they’re engaged in their own conversations – until she catches his eye and he can’t look away. She feels the attention, zones in on him, and they connect. Taken aback, they begin a nervous dance of trying not to be too obvious – staying halfway involved in what they were doing, while still exchanging glances. Increasingly drawn to one another, they eventually break away from the group to enjoy some privacy.
When a heightened connection like that occurs in real life, it’s nothing short of magical. And to watch such magic recreated so beautifully here leaves me breathless.
How he says the world’s best movie line!: “It’s alright. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” When Joe reassures Betty with these words, it’s suddenly clear why he’s so open to people and to life. He’s not afraid. I think that’s what I want most in a partner: someone who’s unafraid – who will hold me in their arms (or take me by the hand), say something like this, and mean it as deeply as Joe does. When he earnestly whispers this line to Betty as she’s leaving the party, it’s not an empty platitude meant to appease, it’s a vow of devotion from the depths of his soul – a promise that he’ll be by her side in some way no matter what, doing everything in his power to make his words come true for her.
It’s a moment that calms something inside me. When he says it the first time, I breathe easier. Then, when it comes around again – in the best callback of all time! – my breath catches. (If you know, you know…And if you don’t know, treat yourself to this movie ASAP!)
Watch this, and tell me – are you in love with him now, too???
Another essential element of this film is the glorious music that backs up the romance. Talk about sighing and swooning! Just hearing it stirs that wave of hearts and flowers within me and sends me floating. Take a listen…
Finally, I pass the torch to five more blogging friends. So…”tag – you’re it!” to my fellow movie(-related) bloggers:
• Eva-Joy, of The Caffeinated Fangirl
• Emily, of The Flapper Dame
• Sally, of 18 Cinema Lane
• Eric, of Diary of a Movie Maniac
• Eli, of Entertainment Junkie
• …and anyone else who’d like to join!
I’d love to know: Who are your Top 5? Let’s keep the gushing going!
Well, that’s it for this tag – but the fun’s just beginning! The solution I mentioned earlier?…Coming Soon: a bonus post – celebrating my top five favorite flaming hot classic and modern leading men! Stay tuned!
*Update*: I really delivered on that promise, if I do say so myself. Check out the bonus post here. Enjoy!
Now I want to hear from you: Did you fall for any of my picks and/or add some of these films to your watchlist? Which one (of these men or movies) do you like most? Who’s a favorite of yours I left out? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
*Also*…There’s a commonality between the lovely ladies whose pictures I used. Know what it is? Take a guess in the comments!
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