These are my comments or notes for many of the films which appear on TCM (and other channels) for which I have yet to write more complete reviews or full synopses. I have archived my previous TCM Picks entries too.
Absence of Malice (1981) – Screenwriter Kurt Luedtke received his first Oscar nomination, before he won for 1985′s Best Picture winner; Paul Newman & Melinda Dillon received acting nominations, Sally Field also stars.
Address Unknown (1944) – nominated for Best B&W Art Direction-Interior Decoration and Best Music Score, this World War II drama chronicles the degradation of Martin Schulz (played by Paul Lukas), an American-German art dealer who returns to live in Germany just before the rise of the National Socialist Party. Preying (in part) on his ego, a local baron-Nazi Party member (Carl Esmond) gradually influences Schulz to abandon his principles and his Jewish friend-American partner Max Eisenstein (Morris Carnovsky), with whom Schulz had been corresponding by letter. Peter van Eyck plays Schulz’s son Heinrich, who remains in the States working for Max while Mady Christians plays Max’s daughter Elsa, Heinrich’s fiancée-actress who finds work in Germany and bravely resists a Nazi’s (Charles Halton) censorship, with tragic results. When Schulz finally realizes what he’s lost, it’s too late. The movie’s title doesn’t come into play until the end, which features a twist. Directed by Academy Award winning Art Director William Cameron Menzies (Tempest (1928)), and based on the story by Kressmann Taylor with a screenplay by Herbert Dalmas, the film is a timely and effective reminder of the power of charismatic leaders and the vigilance needed to resist their rhetoric. Emory Parnell and Frank Faylen both appear as letter carriers.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) – a slightly different version of the Arabian Nights story than the previously shown film. Lotte Reiniger animated this silent film by using silhouetted paper cutouts and stop motion photography to illustrate her storytelling in a most remarkable way. Worth a look if you’ve never seen it!
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) – producer David O. Selznick’s version of Mark Twain’s classic story, filmed in Technicolor, was directed by Norman Taurog (Skippy (1931)) and features Tommy Kelly in the title role. Jackie Moran plays Huckleberry Finn, Ann Gillis plays Becky Thatcher, May Robson plays Aunt Polly, Walter Brennan plays Muff Potter, and Victor Jory plays Injun Joe. Donald Meek and Margaret Hamilton are among those who also appear. Lyle Wheeler’s Art Direction was nominated for an Academy Award.
All That Heaven Allows (1955) – only including it here because it was added to the National Film Registry in 1999, for some unknown reason. It’s a horribly dated May-December romance (Douglas Sirk soap opera) between a 40 something widow (Jane Wyman) and a 30 year old independent (Rock Hudson). The highlights are the supporting cast which includes Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, and Virginia Grey. Otherwise, skip it!
Along Came Jones (1945) – perhaps I didn’t get the joke. This is supposed to be a comedy Western (a spoof of the genre); it comes off as badly as Howard Hughes’s drama The Outlaw (1943), which is unintentionally and, hence, awful. This one isn’t funny at all, and instead comes off like a terrible drama. What a waste of Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, and William Demarest! Dan Duryea also appears.
Angel On My Shoulder (1946) – maybe not the greatest film, but definitely entertaining and definitely worth watching, IMO. Paul Muni didn’t make another film for 5 years after this one, not sure why. Claude Rains plays the Devil in it and Anne Baxter plays Muni’s character’s girlfriend.
Angels In The Outfield (1951) – this original version of the divine assisted baseball team is an enjoyable comedy, worth seeing if you haven’t. The lead cast includes Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh (miscast, too young!), Keenan Wynn, Lewis Stone, and Spring Byington. The supporting players include Hall of Fame ballplayers Ty Cobb & Joe Dimaggio, as well as Bing Crosby (as himself) and Barbara Billingsley!
Animal Crackers (1930) – the Marx Brothers find themselves involved in a stolen painting farce. Groucho plays a famous hunter invited to be a houseguest by Margaret Dumont; Chico’s his assistant, Harpo’s a professor (!), and Zeppo appears as well. Otherwise, there is almost no plot or purpose other than to feature Groucho’s monologues (including #53 on AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes list “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”), Chico’s piano playing, and Harpo’s harp talents as he chases a blonde around the premises, or the brothers’ other antics. Lilian Roth plays Dumont’s daughter.
As You Like It (1936) – nearly unwatchable film version of Shakespeare’s comedy about a young woman (Elisabeth Bergner) who disguises herself as a man to win the attention of the one she loves (Laurence Olivier). See Olivier wrestle!
Awakenings (1990) – this powerful, tear-jerking drama based on a true story features Robin Williams as a doctor (Oliver Sacks in real life) that helped several post-encephalitis patients, like one portrayed by Robert De Niro (Best Actor Oscar nomination), “awaken” from their despondency with experimental drug treatment. Director Penny Marshall’s film was nominated for Best Picture by the Academy; Steven Zaillian’s screenplay also received a nomination. Julie Kavner as a nurse, Ruth Nelson as De Niro’s mother, John Heard as another doctor, Penelope Ann Miller, Ann Meara, and Max von Sydow (very briefly) are among those who provide valuable support.
The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer (1947) – Sydney Sheldon (TV’s I Dream of Jeannie‘s creator) won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar on his only nomination for this love triangle comedy between a high schooler (Shirley Temple), her older sister (a judge played by Myrna Loy), and Cary Grant.
The Bad News Bears (1976) – hilarious sports comedy featuring Walter Matthau as a washed up pool cleaner (that drinks!) who gets hired to coach a bunch of misfit Little Leaguers whose parents think playing baseball will teach their kids some of life’s lessons. It does, but not in the way in which they’d anticipated it. After assessing his losing team’s players, Matthau recruits a whiz kid pitcher (Tatum O’Neal), who just happens to be the daughter of one of his ex-girlfriends, and the tough motorcycle riding hoodlum (Jackie Earle Haley) that haunts the ballfield, upsetting all the adults including Joyce Van Patten and Vic Morrow, who coaches his son on the number one team.
Bananas (1971) – written (with Mickey Rose), directed by and starring Woody Allen, this silly irreverent comedy also features Louise Lasser, Wild World of Sports announcer Howard Cosell as himself, and Sylvester Stallone (as an uncredited hood). Allen plays Fielding Mellish, who gets involved with a feminist political activist Nancy (Lasser) who later dumps him, and then finds himself in a fictitious South American country named San Marcos where he becomes a rebel that helps to overthrow its dictator; he even becomes its President and returns to the United States a leader who’s reunited with Nancy.
The Bank Dick (1940) – a W.C. Fields classic! Fields plays a self unemployed family man whose family: wife – Cora Witherspoon, Mother in Law – Jessie Ralph, daughter – Una Merkel , barely tolerate his presence. He literally falls into a job at a bank as a security guard where he quickly gets his prospective son-in-law (Grady Sutton) to embezzle some money to buy a seemingly worthless investment. Enter the bank examiner (Franklin Pangborn) who must be distracted before the money can be returned. Directed by Edward Cline.
Barefoot in the Park (1967) – this dated Neil Simon romantic comedy (the first film directed by Gene Saks) is still kind of fun, and notable for earning character actress Mildred Natwick her only recognition from the Academy (a Supporting Oscar nomination). Robert Redford and Jane Fonda play newlyweds (he’s a too busy lawyer; she’s extremely enthusiastic, passionate, and a little bit nutty); they live in an apartment (in New York City) that’s only accessible by walking up five flights of stairs. Charles Boyer and Herb Edelman also appear.
Bataan (1943) – solid World War II (not PC) action film, named for the real battle, with memorable ending featuring Robert Taylor. George Murphy, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Nolan, Lee Bowman, Robert Walker, Desi Arnaz, and Barry Nelson, among others, also appear.
Batman (1989) – The first, “serious” feature film about the famously dark comic book hero, the tortured millionaire who fights crime with special gadgets he’s invented, including a wicked automobile, keeping his identity a secret by wearing a bat costume with cape. Michael Keaton plays the title role and takes on The Joker (Jack Nicholson, in his over-the-top campiest?) in this above average fantasy thriller by director Tim Burton. Kim Basinger appears as the caped crusader’s love interest. Won an Academy Award for Art Direction-Set Decoration.
Batman Returns (1992) – Michael Keaton returned for one more Bruce Wayne/Batman (1989) turn; this sequel, also directed by Tim Burton, earned Academy Award nominations for its visual effects and makeup. Danny DeVito plays the Penguin, who exploits villain Max Schreck’s (Christopher Walken) secretary come Catwoman (Michele Pfeiffer) to foil the caped crusader and Commissioner Gordon (Pat Hingle).
Battle Of Britain (1969) – excellent story about England’s aerial fight against the relentless attacks and bombing raids made by Germany during World War II. The feats of bravery and other ways that they hung on against enormous odds to hold their own versus a much superior (in numbers, at least) force are incredible. It features virtually all of the best British actors including: Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Michael Redgrave, Trevor Howard, Ralph Richardson, Robert Shaw, Edward Fox, Harry Andrews, Ian McShane, Nigel Patrick, Kenneth More, Susannah York, plus Canadian Christopher Plummer and more.
Beat The Devil (1954) – a cult classic, very unusual with eccentric characters galore including Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre. Directed by John Huston.
Bell, Book and Candle (1959) – the inspiration for TV’s Bewitched series? A publisher, played by James Stewart, is attracted to a witch (Kim Novak), whose brother (Jack Lemmon) and aunt (Elsa Lanchester) can also conjure up spells, as can “rival” a witch (Hermione Gingold). Like Stewart’s character, Ernie Kovacs plays a writer who is also a mere mortal but, unlike him, he believes in them (e.g. witches and warlocks).
Benji (1974) – Cute family movie about the titled dog, whose theme song was nominated for an Oscar.
Beauty and the Beast (1946) aka La Belle et la bête (1946) – Director Jean Cocteau’s beautifully realized B&W version of the classic story (he co-wrote with Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont) stars Josette Day and Jean Marais in the title roles. This terrific fantasy drama is a foreign language film with subtitles.
Beyond the Rocks (1922) – I was so impressed by the lavishness of this film’s sets and locales which included the coast where Rudolph Valentino first meets (by rescuing) Gloria Swanson, the Swiss Alps where he rescues her again, then Versailles followed by the African desert. Overall, a very good silent that I’d easily recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it. Plus, except for a few spots, the print was very clear.
The Big Chill (1983) – a great soundtrack and a highly recognizable cast (Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams) are highlights of this high school reunion-type comedy drama; scenes featuring Kevin Costner, whose character’s funeral was the basis for these friends getting together, were cut from the final film. Close earned her second Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination; the film and its screenplay, co-written by director Lawrence Kasdan, were also Oscar nominated.
The Big House (1930) – pre-code prison drama with Wallace Beery, Robert Montgomery, & Chester Morris as the cons, Lewis Stone as the warden. Leila Hyams plays Montgomery’s sister. Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Beery; it won for Writing & Sound.
Big Jake (1971) – is an entertaining John Wayne Western featuring his last pairing with Maureen O’Hara – they play an estranged couple whose grandson is kidnapped – that’s also a family affair: Wayne’s son Michael produced it, his son Patrick plays his oldest son onscreen and is third billed, and son Ethan plays the namesake grandson that’s kidnapped by Richard Boone’s gang of “no goods”. This last film directed by George Sherman was written by Harry Julian and Rita M. Fink. Wayne plays the mean & ornery title role of Jacob McCandles, Patrick is James, Robert Mitchum’s son Christopher plays son Michael, singer Bobby Vinton appears briefly as son Jeff, who’s shot in the raid during which Little Jake is taken. Bruce Cabot appears as Big Jake’s Indian friend and tracker Sam Sharpnose. Glenn Corbett and Harry Carey Jr. are the most recognizable characters in Boone’s gang, John Doucette plays the law, and Jim Davis also appears briefly as the head of a lynching party. There’s a brief interlude during the opening credits to set the time, just after the turn of the century as the rest of the country settles into an affluent sort of civilization while the West continues to rage in conflict, with the Texas Rangers attempting to keep law and order. ‘Modern’ inventions such as sighted long range rifles, gas-powered pistols, automobiles and a motorcycle are featured. While the outcome is never in doubt – Jake & sons will rescue the grandson from the “bad guys” – the family interplay and “good” triumphing over “evil” make for old-fashioned fun.
Billy Two Hats (1974) – is a Western buddy film that features Gregory Peck, as an aged Scot, and Desi Arnaz Jr. in the title role as a half breed. The two are bank robbers, pursued by a Sheriff (Jack Warden) that doesn’t understand their friendship, particularly because he’s a loner and a racist. It was produced by Norman Jewison, filmed in Israel, directed by Ted Kotcheff and written by Alan Sharp. David Huddleston plays a saloon owner/speculator that’s bought a remote ranch with water hoping that the railroad will build a path past his door. Sian Barbara Allen plays the mail order bride of a man (John Pearce) whose wagon the outlaws hire to help them escape after Peck is injured by an improbable shot from Huddleston’s buffalo gun. Her character’s real purpose becomes evident in the film’s final third. Midway through the drama, Peck’s character reads a passage from his Bible to the half Indian (Arnaz Jr.) that explains why he’d returned to save his partner from the law, which turns out to be a parable about the sheriff that pursues them until the movie’s fateful end.
Birdman Of Alcatraz (1962) – great, if sympathetic, movie about Robert Stroud, a real life convict that became an expert on birds while imprisoned (actually in Leavenworth). Stroud is played by Burt Lancaster, nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and is supported by Telly Savalas, Thelma Ritter (who were both nominated for Oscars), Karl Malden as the warden and Edmond O’Brien, in this John Frankenheimer directed film. #76 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
The Birth Of A Nation (1915) – Legendary director D.W. Griffith’s controversial epic, based on Thomas Dixon Jr.’s novel The Clansman, dramatizes the Civil War, President Lincoln’s assassination, and the subsequent formation of the Ku Klux Klan. Features a plethora of silent screen stars including Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Mary Alden, Ralph Lewis, George Siegmann, Walter Long, Robert Harron, Wallace Reid, future directors Joseph Henabery & Elmer Clifton, Josephine Crowell, Spottiswoode Aitken, and Donald Crisp as General Ulysses S. Grant. It was added to the National Film Registry in 1992.
The Bishop’s Wife (1947) – another great Samuel Goldwyn produced film with Cary Grant playing an angel who helps a church bishop (David Niven) and his wife, played by Loretta Young. Initially, Grant was signed to play the bishop, Niven the angel. And, Billy Wilder was asked to improve the script. The film and its director, Henry Koster, were Oscar nominated; it won for Sound Recording.
Black Narcissus (1947) – Deborah Kerr plays a nun sent to a remote hilltop in the Himalayas to establish a convent on the site of an “ancient” brothel. She is assisted by a local Prince (Sabu), who craves an education, and a handsome English government official (David Ferrer) while she struggles against the jealousy of a local beauty (Jean Simmons!) and a straying nun (Kathleen Byron). Breathtaking cinematography and color despite the dull, plodding story; won Oscars for its Color Art Direction-Set Decoration and Cinematography. Flora Robson, Jenny Laird, and Judith Furse also appear.
The Black Stallion (1979) – a truly beautiful film, in every way … its story, the acting, the cinematography, everything! Kelly Reno gives a touching performance as the boy in this horse epic, with Mickey Rooney (fittingly), Teri Garr, and the scenery providing strong support. Added to the National Film Registry in 2002.
Blow-Up (1966) – seldom shown, this film about the casual life of a photographer (David Hemmings) and a mystery woman (Vanessa Redgrave) is considered a classic, but I found it somewhat disappointing when I first saw it last summer. Dated to the 60′s, I guess, and doesn’t hold up as well as others, like Alfie (1966). Oscar nomination for director Michelangelo Antonioni as well as its Writing.
The Blue Angel (1930) – Emil Jannings plays a boring professor who becomes enchanted with a nightclub singer, played by Marlene Dietrich. Directed by Josef von Sternberg, Dietrich sings her trademark song “Falling in Love Again”.
Bon Voyage (1944) – An interesting little Alfred Hitchcock short (less than 30 minutes), produced to help the war effort, about an espionage event involving a downed RAF flier (John Blythe) and the French Resistance during World War II. Watch it and be taken in … then be prepared to be surprised. An early (?) experiment by the director in presenting the same situation from two different viewpoints to intrigue his audience.
Born Free (1966) – a great movie to see with preteen children who love animals, with an unforgettable score. It’s about a game warden and his wife in Africa who befriend a lion cub which grows to big to keep as a pet. So, they then have to teach it to be able to survive on its own. The titled song and John Barry’s score won Oscars (his first of four!).
The Boss (1956) – features a serious performance from its co-producer John Payne as Matt Brady in the title role. Brady returns from World War I as a confident Lieutenant that won’t be told what to do or not to do by anyone, including his brother Tim (Roy Roberts) who’s built a power position in the underbelly of St. Louis. William Bishop plays Bob Herrick, Brady’s boyhood pal and sergeant during the war destine to become an important cog in Brady’s organization. When the two Bradys have a falling out, a drunken Matt misses a date with his childhood sweetheart Elsie (Doe Avedon) and hardheadedly marries an ugly guttersnipe named Lorry (Gloria McGehee). After another argument with his brother, Tim collapses and dies of a heart attack and Matt assumes the role in the family dynasty. As “The Boss”, Matt muscles in on a local cement contractor whose righteous brother Stanley Millard (Rhys Williams) vows revenge, but the position gives Matt an office from which to become even more powerful and influential, all the way to the statehouse and very nearly the presidency. However, with the collapse of the stock market, Matt is forced to “get in bed” with mob boss Johnny Mazia (Robin Morse), whose murderous sidekick Stitch (William Phipps) will inevitably lead to his downfall. The movie was directed by four-time Best Special Effects Academy Award nominee Byron Haskin, and was written by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo through a front named Ben Perry. Joe Flynn plays the one honest person promoted – to congressman – from within Matt’s organization. Percy Helton (as a hotel clerk) and Charles Horvath (as a bartender) are among those who also appear, uncredited.
A Boy and his Dog (1946) – a promising short that won Gordon Hollingshead an Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-reel. Features Harry Davenport & Russell Simpson (among others) and was directed by LeRoy Prinz.
The Boys From Brazil (1978) – Another one of those fascinating concepts (like Brainstorm (1983)) that could have been better executed. Gregory Peck plays Dr. Josef Mengele who, through Steve Guttenberg’s character, is tracked down by Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Laurence Olivier, who received his last Best Actor Oscar nomination), who discovers the Doctor’s sinister plot to bring back Hitler! The film’s Editing and Score were also nominated. James Mason and Denholm Elliot also appear.
Brainstorm (1983) – only a fair movie, but the concept is absolutely fascinating. Christopher Walken, married to Natalie Wood (in her last film), is working on a brain recording device with Louise Fletcher. The device allows someone to “see” what another has thought (or dreamed) and recorded. Walken gets obsessed with his invention, to the point of neglecting his wife, especially after Fletcher records her thoughts while she’s dying from a heart attack. Directed by three time Best Special Effects Oscar nominee Douglas Trumbull, with a story by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost (1990)); Cliff Robertson also appears.
Breaker Morant (1980) – a terrific, involving historical war drama featuring a tense court martial, wonderfully and credibly acted by Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson, and Bryan Brown (among others) detailing events during the Boer War when three Australian officers were ordered to shoot their prisoners and then put on trial for these crimes as scapegoats by their superiors. Woodward (in the title role) and Brown play two of the accused Lieutenants, Thompson their defense attorney. Director Bruce Beresford received the first of his Academy Award nominations for collaborating on the Oscar nominated screenplay, with Jonathan Hardy and David Stevens, which was based on the Kenneth Ross play of the same name.
A Bridge Too Far (1977) – Directed by Richard Attenborough (Gandhi (1982)), this LONG World War II movie, written by two time Oscar winning screenplay writer William Goldman, tells the story of a massive Allied airdrop behind enemy lines, and features an all star cast including: Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan O’Neal, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell, even John Ratzenberger, among others.
Cactus Flower (1969) – Dizzy Goldie Hawn earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar opposite Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman in this silly 1960′s sex comedy. Single, swinging dentist Matthau pretends he’s married to avoid complications. When he decides to propose to Hawn, he has his assistant Bergman pretend to be the wife he’s leaving to satisfy his girlfriend.
The Cameraman (1928) – Buster Keaton in the title role as a man who wants to impress a lady (Sally Richards) that works for a news organization, so he attempts to become a newsreel photographer. Classic scenes include the comedian racing down staircases in his apartment building (e.g. to answer the phone), filming a street gang war, and competing (for the lady) against a boorish man (Harold Goodwin) who works in her office. This film was added to the National Film Registry in 2005.
Cape Fear (1962) – I haven’t seen the updated version of this one yet, but I did really enjoy this version which stars Gregory Peck & Robert Mitchum (though it is hard to watch at times). Also with Polly Bergen, Martin Balsam, even Telly Savalas. #61 on AFI’s 100 Most Heart-Pounding Movies list. Mitchum’s Max Cady was voted #28 villain by AFI.
The Captive City (1952) – shot in a film-noir style by Lee Garmes (Shanghai Express (1932)), this crime drama – written by Alvin M. Josephy Jr. (and Karl Kamb) and directed by Robert Wise – tells the story of organized crime’s impact in small town America, inspired by the real-life investigations of Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s (he appears at the end of the film) committee. John Forsythe plays Jim Austin, the newspaper editor of Kennington that begins to investigate and eventually uncovers the influence of the mafia in his small town’s bookmaking operation after the suspicious death of a private investigator (Hal K. Dawson) that comes to him for help. The gambling is so widespread that virtually everyone that he and his wife (Joan Camden) know are tainted by it; everyone tries to get Jim to stop asking questions, including his business partner – part owner of the town’s newspaper – Don Carey (Harold J. Kennedy). Marjorie Crossland plays the wife of Murray Sirak (Victor Sutherland), the local businessman that Jim finds is the most deeply involved with the out-of-town syndicate, run by Miami racketeer Fabretti. Ray Teal plays the practical police chief and a young, fresh faced Martin Milner plays Jim’s ambitious would-be protégé. Ian Wolfe appears as Reverend Nash.
Cat Ballou (1965) – Lee Marvin won his Best Actor Oscar (on his only nomination!) in this Western comedy, playing two roles; Jane Fonda plays the title role – a school teacher turned outlaw. The film’s Writing, Music, and Editing were also nominated.
Cat People (1942) – this above average horror flick stars Simone Simon as a beautiful foreigner with a mysterious past that marries a New Yorker, played by Kent Smith. But there’s something strange about her, she’s afraid of consummating their marriage for fear of reviving an ancient curse that will turn her into a leopard! Tom Conway plays a psychiatrist Smith’s character hopes can cure her of her fear. Directed by Jacques Tourneur, this film was added to the National Film Registry in 1993. Remade in 1982 with an interesting “twist” and starring Nastassja Kinski, John Heard, Malcolm McDowell, and Annette O’Toole.
Charade (1963) – an entertaining romp pairing Audrey Hepburn with Cary Grant in a comedy, mystery that includes some other named actors in humorous roles: Walter Matthau, James Coburn, & George Kennedy. Directed by Stanley Donen.
The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1936) – Directed by Michael Curtiz, this film features a Michael Jacoby (who co-wrote the screenplay) original story that was based on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem. It stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, David Niven, Patric Knowles, Henry Stephenson, Nigel Bruce, Donald Crisp, C. Henry Gordon (as the leading villain), and Spring Byington in a movie whose plot I don’t remember enough to distinguish it from The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), other than its classic titled scene. It won an Oscar for Assistant Director Jack Sullivan and was nominated for its Musical Score and Sound Recording.
Charley Varrick (1973) – An entertaining film by director Don Siegel featuring Walter Matthau getting the best of the mob after his slimy partner in crime (Andy Robinson) skips. Joe Don Baker is the hit man who tracks him down; Norman Fell plays a police detective also on their trail. Sheree North plays a woman in the mix.
Children of a Lesser God (1986) – deaf actress Marlee Matlin became the youngest winner of the Best Actress Academy Award in her film debut playing the headstrong deaf pupil (and eventual lover) of William Hurt’s speech and lipreading teacher in this drama which was nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay Oscars. Hurt (for Best Actor) and Supporting Actress Piper Laurie (The Hustler (1961)) also received nominations.
The Children’s Hour (1961) – though not quite as good as These Three (1936), this remake does restore the Lillian Hellman’s original plot-line and features great acting by Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner, Miriam Hopkins, and Fay Bainter. Directed by William Wyler.
The China Syndrome (1979) – timing is everything, this film and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident contributed to our current energy crisis; Jack Lemmon & Jane Fonda were Oscar nominated, producer Michael Douglas also stars.
A Christmas Carol (1938) – a short and sweet telling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. This one features Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit. Also appearing are Kathleen Lockhart, Leo G. Carroll, Ann Rutherford, and June Lockhart makes her screen debut.
Christmas In Connecticut (1945) – I was reminded of Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964) with Rock Hudson when I first saw this favorite of many for the first time on TCM. Barbara Stanwyck plays a fake Martha Stewart-like woman who’s “forced” to portray the character of her creation when her unknowing publisher (Sydney Greenstreet, in a most untypical role) bullies her into hosting a soldier (Dennis Morgan) for Christmas as a circulation boosting gimmick. S. Z. Sakall steals every scene he’s in as her “Uncle” Felix.
A Christmas Story (1983) – this holiday classic stars Peter Billingsley as a boy who wants a BB gun for Christmas and his somewhat wacky family, which includes Darren McGavin as his father and Melinda Dillon as his mother. Added to the National Film Registry in 2012.
Cinema Paradiso (1990) – Won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. Though the story is rather simple, it’s visually beautiful and fun for cinema fans who enjoy trying to identify film clips, which are edited into this feature. Thankfully, the original, and not the overlong (& not recommended) director’s cut, is being aired.
City Lights (1931) – this Charlie Chaplin silent is a masterpiece, and its ending is a real tearjerker! Befriended by a drunk millionaire (Harry Myers), the tramp (Chaplin) tries to help a blind girl (Virginia Cherrill), who has mistaken him as a wealthy man, get an operation so that she can see. When the millionaire is sober, he doesn’t know the tramp and has his butler (Allan Garcia) throw him out. Also #38 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list & #10 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Love Stories list. #33 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
The Clock (1945) – an above average film about a G.I. (Robert Walker) who’s got a two day leave in New York and falls in love with a young woman (Judy Garland). James Gleason plays a milkman who enables their romance by driving them around. Gleason’s real wife Lucile plays his wife in the film. Keenan Wynn also appears. Directed by Vincente Minnelli.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) – one of those “Only in America” true stories about an ignorant girl from the sticks who makes it big as a country & western singer. A biography of Loretta Lynn featuring Sissy Spacek’s (only, to date) Oscar winning Best Actress performance, in which she sings all the songs herself! Tommy Lee Jones plays ‘Doo’, her #1 fan & supporter husband, who strays when her limelight and newfound independence overshadows his contributions to her success. Beverly D’Angelo plays fellow singer, and Lynn friend, Patsy Cline. Six other Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Screenplay. #70 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
The Conversation (1974) – Nominated for 3 Oscars, two for Francis Ford Coppola (Best Picture & Screenplay) and one for Sound. Added to the National Film Registry in 1995. Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul, a surveillance expert who thinks he hears something like a murder while he’s working for corporate man Martin Stett, played by Harrison Ford. Cindy Williams and Teri Garr also appear in this thriller which is somewhat overrated, in my opinion.
Cops (1922) – highly rated, added to the National Film Registry in 1997. The title is the plot; Buster Keaton accidentally gets himself in trouble and must escape the entire San Francisco police force … on foot!
The Court Jester (1956) – beautiful, color production – a four star comedy that was added to the National Film Registry in 2004. It’s #98 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list. Starring Danny Kaye in the title role (who must remember that “The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle. The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.”), it also features Glynis Johns as his assistant/love interest, Basil Rathbone as his foe, and Angela Lansbury as a Princess who falls for him, among others.
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) – another gem from actor/writer/director Woody Allen; this comedy drama earned him two Academy Award nominations (Director & Screenplay). Martin Landau picked up his second Supporting Actor nomination; Angelica Huston, Mia Farrow, Claire Bloom, Alan Alda, Joanna Gleason, Sam Waterson, and Jerry Orbach are among those who also appear.
Dark Passage (1947) – one of the four great Bogie & Bacall pairings. This film noir has Bogart as a man falsely accused of murdering his wife, he escapes and searches for the real killer with help from Bacall and trouble from Agnes Moorehead.
A Day At The Races (1937) – Chico and Harpo Marx “enlist” Groucho, a horse doctor, to help a young woman (Maureen O’Sullivan) save a sanitarium from bankruptcy by winning a stakes race at the track. #59 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
Day of Wrath (1943) – A gem by director (and writer) Carl Theodor Dreyer. An engaging film about an aging minister who marries a young wife only to have his son return from divinity college. Can you guess what happens? Kind of a Salem witchcraft and Scarlett Letter tale wrapped into one.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) – though not a good movie, it’s fun to try and identify the film noir clips used by director Carl Reiner in this comedy starring Steve Martin and the always sexy Rachel Ward.
Deception (1946) – if A Stolen Life (1946) doesn’t serve as the end point of Bette Davis’s 10+ year run of unsurpassed greatness of films, then this ill-named drama certainly does. Not that Ms. Davis isn’t terrific in it, especially as she matches talents with the equally able Claude Rains, but the “deception” itself is as all but non-existent as the rest of the plot in this one – a love triangle which also includes Paul Heinreid. We can all be thankful that the “great Bette” was able to give us more examples of her immense talent some years later in films like the Academy Award winning Best Picture All About Eve (1950), and her characterizations in (e.g.) The Catered Affair (1956) and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
The Destructors (1974) – originally titled The Marseille Contract is a crime drama set in France that was directed by Academy Award winning editor Robert Parrish (Body and Soul (1947)). Written and produced by Judd Bernard, it features Anthony Quinn as Steve Ventura, a U.S. drug enforcement agent who’s so frustrated by his inability to nab kingpin Jacques Brizard (James Mason) – a high society, respected philanthropist – that he hires a hit-man named John Deray (Michael Caine), who just happens to be an old acquaintance of Quinn’s. As John Davos, the charming Deray uses Brizard’s comely daughter (Maureen Kerwin) to get into Brizard’s good graces, but the suspicious morphine dealer directs his strongmen, led by Calmet (Marcel Brozzuffi), to setup and then knock off his daughter’s would-be suitor. Of course, Deray is too clever for them and Police Inspector Briac (Maurice Ronet) who, having arranged the hit-man for Ventura, plays fairly fast and loose with the law. The showdown comes when Brizard arranges to have 400 kilos of base morphine (which is used to make heroin) smuggled into Marseilles from Turkey on the night of his big charity gala. Alexandra Stewart appears briefly at the beginning as the adulterous (with Ventura) wife of one of Ventura’s men that’s murdered by Brizard’s; Catherine Rouvel plays Brizard’s mistress.
Detour (1945) – A cheaply made film noir that’s good enough to have been added to the National Film Registry in 1992.
The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) aka All That Money Can Buy (1941) – earned Walter Huston, in the title role aka Mr. Scratch, his second and last Best Actor Academy Award nomination; Edward Arnold played Daniel Webster and Bernard Herrmann won his only Oscar for Best Music (Score). It was directed by William Dieterle and based on Stephen Vincent Benet’s Faustian story and screenplay (on which Dan Totheroh collaborated). Jabez Stone is an 1840’s farmer that’s having such bad luck that, with a child on the way with wife Mary (Anne Shirley), agrees to sell his soul to Scratch for seven years good luck and prosperity. Stone pays off his mortgage to Miser Stevens (John Qualen), then quickly replaces him with iron-clad deeds of his own for his neighbors to become the richest landowner around. Webster is a statesman who’s so proud of his native New Hampshire, and the Country, that he’s named his horses “Constitution” and “Bill of Rights”. Upon the birth of the Stones’ child, Scratch sends his alluring assistant Belle (Simone Simon) to be their nursemaid; Jabez’s mother (Jane Darwell) objects, but does no more than support her soon-to-be estranged daughter-in-law. Eventually Jabez’s time runs out and Webster, because of his father-like love for Mary and the fact that he’s her son Daniel’s godfather, agrees to defend him against a jury of American history’s “rotters” like Benedict Arnold; Justice John Hathorne (H.B. Warner) presides, as he did at the Salem witch trials. Webster’s speech is stirring and the verdict will only surprise those who’ve forgotten how Hollywood’s classic movies end. Gene Lockhart appears as Squire Slossum.
Diner (1982) – an above average coming of age film with a cast of “soon to be” stars including Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, Paul Reiser, Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Timothy Daly, and Michael Tucker. Directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man (1988)).
The Doughgirls (1944) – directed by James V. Kern from the Joseph A. Fields play, adapted by Kern and Sam Hellman with additional material from Wilkie Mahoney, this wartime comedy features a terrific cast in yet another story about how the crowded living conditions in our nation’s capital during World War II made strange bedfellows and played havoc with relationships. It all starts when Jack Carson and Jane Wyman get married and try to begin their honeymoon in a Washington, D.C. hotel whose lobby is overrun with people needing a room. Despite their reservation, they discover that their room’s bathtub is already occupied by Ann Sheridan’s character, who happens to be ditzy Wyman’s old chorus line pal. Naturally she’s allowed to stay as is their other gal-pal Alexis Smith, who’s married to a lieutenant (actress Smith’s soon to be husband Craig Stevens). Things really heat up when Sheridan’s husband’s (John Ridgely) ex-wife (Irene Manning) shows up, and a gun-toting female Russian army sergeant (Eve Arden) and Carson’s lecherous boss (Charles Ruggles) join the mix, further delaying-frustrating Wyman-Carson’s consummation. Alan Mowbray appears as a radio correspondent. Donald MacBride, a judge and Regis Toomey, an FBI man also appear.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) – great early (silent) film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story. John Barrymore stars in this title role of this one.
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1932) – probably worth seeing for Fredric March’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance of Robert Louis Stevenson’s titled character, if not Miriam Hopkins sexy pre-code performance as the object of his obsession. Rose Hobart plays March’s fiancee.
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1941) – though nominated for 3 Oscars (B&W Cinematography, Editing, and Score), most agree that this was one of Spencer Tracy’s lesser films – a waste of a good cast which included Ingrid Bergman as the street woman the Hyde character menaces, Lana Turner as Dr. Jekyll’s comely fiancée, Donald Crisp as Turner’s disapproving father, Ian Hunter as Jekyll’s closest friend, Barton MacLane, and C. Aubrey Smith, among others.
Duck Soup (1933) – this Marx Brothers classic (the last one with Zeppo), perhaps their best, has Groucho playing Rufus T. Firefly, the new president of Freedonia, so appointed by the richest woman (played by Margaret Dumont, of course) in the small country. He declares war on a large neighboring country, that of Louis Calhern and spy Raquel Torres (looking an awful lot like Dolores del Rio). Many of the gags and/or lines are classics which have survived and become part of our culture. Directed by Leo McCarey, the film was added to the National Film Registry in 1990. Also #5 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
Duel In The Sun (1946) – to see the ending of this film is to see something truly odd & unusual. Gregory Peck and AA Best Actress nominated Jennifer Jones headline an all-star cast including Joseph Cotten, Lionel Barrymore, Herbert Marshall, Lillian Gish (also nominated), Walter Huston, Charles Bickford, Harry Carey, Otto Kruger, even Butterfly McQueen. Directed by King Vidor; produced by David O. Selznick.
The Elephant Man (1980) – dark, atmospheric biographical drama of John Merrick, a real person who was born with an unusual deformity; John Hurt earned his Best Actor Oscar nomination in this title role. Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Frederick Treves (his book was the basis for the film), who attempts to rescue him from his fate as a sideshow freak. Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud, and Wendy Hiller are among those who also appear in this David Lynch drama that was also nominated for Best Director and Screenplay (Lynch’s first two nominations), Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costume Design, Editing, Score, and Best Picture.
Emma (1932) – a delightful film starring Marie Dressler in her second AA nominated Best Actress performance (she had won the year before for Min and Bill (1930). The cast includes Richard Cromwell, Jean Hersholt, and Myrna Loy.
F for Fake (1976) aka Vérités et mensonges (1974) – a most unusual documentary from writer-director-lead actor Orson Welles, who claims to tell ‘nothing but the truth’ for the film’s first hour and, along the way, exposes three hoaxes: the exploits of painter and forgery artist Elmyr de Hory of Ibiza, writer Clifford Irving’s phony ‘authorized’ biography of Howard Hughes (this story has just been made into a movie starring Richard Gere, The Hoax (2006), to be released later this year), and sashaying Oja Kodar’s alleged relationship with an aging Picasso and her grandfather, an art forger legend himself. Uniquely shot and edited, in a style which may induce a headache. Joseph Cotten (among others) appears briefly.
Fail Safe (1964) – one has to wonder if this Sidney Lumet directed film would be better known and revered today if it hadn’t followed the widely popular spoof on this same subject, the “accidental” advent of World War III, by Stanley Kubrick, which had been released earlier that same year; the success of War Games (1983) might have given some indication. Henry Fonda, who plays the POTUS, leads a cast which includes Walter Matthau, Larry Hagman, and Dom DeLuise (among others). Walter Bernstein (The Front (1976)) wrote the screenplay which was based on the Eugene Burdick-Harvey Wheeler novel.
Fanny and Alexander (1982) – this VERY long fantasy drama from enigmatic director Ingmar Bergman won Oscars for Best Foreign Language film, Cinematography, Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Costume Design (Bergman’s direction and screenplay received nominations). Told (somewhat) from the perspective Alexander (Fanny is his younger sister), and set in Bergman’s native Sweden in 1907, the story begins with a wealthy widow, her three sons, their wives, and her grandchildren (two of which are the title characters); it then provides character introductions until one of them dies; a bleak life befalls the youngsters whose mother remarries a stern fundamentalist Bishop. Only a loony like Mia Farrow would show a film like this to her children or dare call it a family film as she did while guest programming for TCM in June, 2006 (it’s rated R for a reason); at least the channel has the good sense to show it after Midnight ET.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) – pretty goofy comedy horror film starring its director (Roman Polanski) as the klutzy assistant of a bumbling professor (Jack MacGowran), who’s trying to rid Transylvania of its vampires, which include Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) and his feminine son (Iain Quarrier). Several scenes of titillation, a staple of such films, with “actresses” Jessie Robins and Sharon Tate, before she was to become Polanski’s ill-fated wife. Alfie Bass as the unfaithful, then cursed innkeeper and Terry Downes, as the hunchbacked servant, also appear.
Fear Strikes Out (1957) – A terrific drama starring Anthony Perkins as Major League baseball player Jimmy Piersall, about his mental struggles. Also with Karl Malden.
Festival of Shorts #13 (1998) – some delightful Holiday shorts including Jackie Cooper’s The Christmas Party (1931) with Norma Shearer helping him gain the use of an MGM set for a large party with his friends, hosted & served by several of the studio’s stars including Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, and Jimmy Durante as Santa Claus!
Feudin’, Fussin’ and A-Fightin’ (1948) – is a B-movie comedy with a couple of musical numbers thrown in to showcase the singing and dancing talents of its star Donald O’Connor, who plays a fast-footed traveling salesman named Wilbur McMurtry that’s literally arrested in Rim Rock, a small Western town, which hopes to finally win a foot race – and a considerably bounty – with their rival Big Bend, a nearby small town. Marjorie Main plays Rim Rock’s mayor Maribel Mathews and Percy Kilbride plays her sometimes reluctant beau Billy Caswell. At first Wilbur is dragged screaming and kicking by Rim Rock’s sheriff (Joe Besser) into the fray until he falls for the mayor’s comely niece Libby (Penny Edwards), even though he’s threatened not to compete by her boyfriend, and Big Bend’s race entrant Emory Tuttle (Fred Kohler Jr.). The film features lots of slapstick gags and a “tortoise and hare” fashioned race. It was directed by George Sherman and written by D.D. Beauchamp.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988) – Kevin Kline won a Best Supporting Oscar on his only nomination (to date) in this very funny film co-written by Monty Python’s John Cleese, who also appears in the film.
A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) – aka Per un pugno di dollari, the first of several great spaghetti Westerns that director Sergio Leone made with Clint Eastwood. In this one, loner Clint injects himself into a feud between two families, much like the titled samurai in Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961). His final confrontation scene with rifleman Rojo is unforgettable.
The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T. (1953) – received an Academy Award nomination for its Score; proves Hayao Miyazaki wasn’t the first to author of wildly creative stories (making one wonder if he was taking hallucinogenic drugs), Dr. Seuss was the first! Bizarre, boring too.
Flight Command (1940) – a pre-World War II melodrama starring Robert Taylor as an ensign dubbed “Pensacola”, the Navy’s flight school location, by the seasoned “Hell Cat” pilots who land on aircraft carriers. Walter Pidgeon plays the squadron’s commander who’s too busy for his wife (Ruth Hussey) such that one of his lieutenants (Shepperd Strudwick) keeps her company. But this lieutenant dies after his invention to enable pilots to land in the fog fails and his plane crashes. When Pensacola fills the vacancy left next to the commander’s wife, suddenly the other pilots (Paul Kelly, Red Skelton, Dick Purcell, etc.) have a problem with the arrangement. But Pensacola’s ability to fix the fog device (with help from Nat Pendleton’s character) and his later associated heroics redeem him in the end. The film, which features primitive yet Academy Award nominated Special Effects, was directed and co-produced by Frank Borzage (with J. Walter Ruben), and written by Harvey S. Haislip and Wells Root. The lovely Marsha Hunt appears as a Southern Belle who entertains some of the pilots; Lee Tung Foo and John Hamilton are among those who appear uncredited.
Follow The Fleet (1936) – one of the more average Fred (Astaire) & Ginger (Rogers) films directed by Mark Sandrich. This one has Randolph Scott, as one of Fred’s fellow Navy sailors, romancing both Rogers’s sister (Harriet Hilliard) and a wealthy woman without strings (Astrid Allwyn). Meanwhile, Fred & Ginger, who used to be part of the same dance team, can’t decide whether they want to be together or not. Betty Grable, Russell Hicks, Brooks Benedict, and Lucille Ball also appear.
For a Few Dollars More (1965) aka Per qualche dollaro in più, the second of the spaghetti Western trilogy that screenwriter-director Sergio Leone did in Italy with Clint Eastwood as his lead character, aka “the man with no name”. This one also features Lee Van Cleef as a fellow bounty hunter that forms an uneasy partnership with Eastwood’s, neither really trusting the other (Van Cleef’s has a secret revenge motivation) as the two pursue El Indio (Gian Maria Volonté), the leader of a ruthless gang that includes Klaus Kinski. Lots of stylistic violence enhanced by Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack.
Force of Evil (1948) – Screenwriter Abraham Polonsky’s (Body and Soul (1947)) directorial debut features John Garfield as an ambitious lawyer and Thomas Gomez as his older brother in a story about the numbers racket and the mob. Added to the National Film Registry in 1994.
The Formula (1980) – John Avildsen (Rocky (1976)) directed this roundabout crime thriller that was written and produced by Steve Shagan (Save the Tiger (1973)), and features Academy Award nominated Cinematography from James Crabe (his only Oscar nomination). Marlon Brando is second billed, and obviously did it for the money. His payday must have been pretty large given his prior film (Apocalypse Now (1979)) and the fact that he could chose not to appear in another film for nearly ten years. Head-liner George C. Scott plays an LAPD detective who eventually learns of a conspiracy (which seems rather obvious from the beginning) – by Brando’s “big oil” company to suppress a World War II Nazi invented synthetic oil catalyst (discovered by John Gielgud’s character) in order to maximize profits – while investigating the murder of a former LAPD colleague and his wife (Beatrice Straight). He travels to Berlin where he meets Marthe Keller, who plays a German femme fatale-type role.
Fort Apache (1948) – another super John Ford/John Wayne western (the first of his trilogy of U.S. Cavalry pictures these two made, along with She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) & Rio Grande (1950)). This one also features Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, and Ward Bond among others.
Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse (1921) – added to the National Film Registry in 1995.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) – Oscar’s 1990 Best Picture winner earned Jessica Tandy another role (and an Oscar nomination) alongside a bunch of other gals in this Fannie Flagg (also Oscar nominated) written comedy drama.
The Fugitive (1947) – this film by director John Ford stars Henry Fonda as a priest, an outlawed profession in Mexico, trying to survive and avoid capture while attempting to serve the Christians in the country. Dolores Del Rio plays a woman who helps him; Pedro Armendariz plays the law that pursues him. J. Carrol Naish plays a transient that helps, then betrays him; Leo Carrillo plays the chief of police; Robert Armstrong plays another policeman; Ward Bond plays an escaped con he comes across & John Qualen plays a doctor who helps him. Mel Ferrer appears, uncredited, as another priest.
Funny Face (1957) – Fred Astaire plays a much older photographer than Audrey Hepburn’s character, but that doesn’t keep a romance between them from blossoming when Astaire’s character “discovers” Hepburn’s, making her a famous model the world over. Directed by Stanley Donen, this average musical features several George & Ira Gershwin tunes as well as one of Kay Thompson’s three on-screen roles. It received four secondary Academy Award nominations, for: Art Direction-Set Decoration, Cinematography (Ray June’s last of three, unrewarded), one of Edith Head’s many & Hubert de Givenchy’s only for Costume Design, and Leonard Gershe’s only for his Story and Screenplay, Written Directly for the Screen.
Funny Girl (1968) – before Babs became a polarizing political figure to rival Jane Fonda, she made her film debut in this William Wyler directed Musical and shared the Best Actress Oscar that year (with Katharine Hepburn – The Lion in Winter (1968)) for her portrayal of comedienne Fanny Brice in this Oscar nominated Best Picture. The film received six other AA noms including for its titled Original Song, Score, and Supporting Actress Kay Medford. It also stars Omar Sharif, Anne Francis, and Walter Pidgeon as Florenz Ziegfeld.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) – Zero Mostel sings promising “something for everyone, a comedy tonight” during the opening credits of this mildly amusing (mostly silly) screen adaptation of the musical play which won Ken Thorne the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment on his only Oscar nomination. Besides Mostel, the cast includes Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton (his last film), Michael Crawford, Michael Hordern, and Patricia Jessel (among others). Richard Lester directed, Larry Gelbart and producer Melvin Frank were two of the contributing writers.
The General (1927) – the classic Civil War silent comedy starring Buster Keaton; added to the National Film Registry in 1989.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) – Directed by Howard Hawks, and featuring Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” performance, this slightly above average musical romantic comedy also stars Jane Russell, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, and Tommy Noonan (among others).
Gilda (1946) – Rita Hayworth’s signature (hair flip &) role! She’s the wife of a shady casino owner, Ballin Mundson (George Macready), who’s reunited with ex-lover Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) when Farrell becomes Mundson’s right hand man. Character actor Joseph Calleia and Steven Geray (among others) also appear. Directed by Charles Vidor. Hayworth’s “Put the Blame on Mame” is #84 on AFI’s 100 Top Movie Songs of All Time. Added to the National Film Registry in 2013.
The Gold Rush (1925) – Produced, directed, written by and starring Charles Chaplin, this classic silent is one of the comedian’s best. His little tramp character ventures to Alaska during the titled event, falls in love (with Georgia Hale) as usual, tangles with some rough characters (like Mack Swain and Tom Murray), and even makes a meal of a shoe to keep from starving to death in the freezing cold. When it was re-released in 1942, it received two Academy Award nominations: one for Sound and one for its Score (Max Terr’s only Oscar nomination). Added to the National Film Registry in 1992.
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) – Robin Williams earned his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination playing a non-standard issue Army radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in this Barry Levinson-directed comedy war drama which also features Forest Whitaker, Bruno Kirby, and Robert Wuhl (among others). #100 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
Grand Illusion (1937) – a classic World War I P.O.W. film by director Jean Renoir. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and stars, among others, Jean Gabin & Erich von Stroheim (also known for his writing and directing films such as Greed (1924)). The scenes of the French prisoners trying to escape their German captors have been copied such that they’ve become staples in films like The Great Escape (1963).
The Great Dictator (1940) – Charlie Chaplin spoofs Adolf Hitler! Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor (Chaplin), & Writing (also Chaplin), and Supporting Actor (Jack Oakie). Added to the National Film Registry in 1997. #37 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) – Director George Stevens’s LONG epic featuring an all-star cast was nominated for five minor Oscars. The cast includes Max von Sydow, Dorothy McGuire, Claude Rains and about two dozen others.
The Great Train Robbery (1979) – Jurassic Park’s Michael Crichton not only wrote the book, but faithfully adapted and directed this film with Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and always sexy Lesley-Anne Down.
Greed (1924) – one of the best silent film “epics” ever made; added to the National Film Registry in 1991.
Green Light (1937) – Though Maltin’s guide gives this film only 2 ½ stars, I found myself watching it on TCM some time ago and was rather entertained. Errol Flynn plays a doctor! Other than that, I don’t remember a lot about this drama besides its great cast which includes Margaret Lindsay, Cedric Hardwicke, Anita Louise, Walter Abel, Henry O’Neill, and Spring Byington, even Granville Bates. Directed by Frank Borzage ((Seventh Heaven (1927) & Bad Girl (1931)).
Groundhog Day (1993) – a one trick pony like Memento (2000), highly overrated because (unlike most modern films) it introduced something new, utilizing a unique plot device. In this Harold Ramis comedy, Bill Murray’s weatherman character is trapped into living the same (titled) day over and over again. One also has to suffer Andie MacDowell and Chris Elliot.
The Guns of Navarone (1961) – a very good World War II action film starring Gregory Peck as the Captain of an elite group of specialists hired to snuff out two big German guns that control a Greek sea channel the Allies want to be able to traverse with their ships. Only problem is, the guns are built into an impregnable rock bunker 400 feet above sea level! David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, James Darren, Irene Papas, and Richard Harris (among others) are also in the cast. The film won an Oscar for Best Special Effects and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (J. Lee Thompson), Writing, Editing, Sound, and Score.
Harold and Maude (1971) – a most unusual black comedy romance drama with Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon in the title roles: he’s a 20 year old, who hasn’t really left his adolescence behind, that stages fake suicides for his mother and others, she’s an oddball pushing 80; the two have a unique May-December ‘love’ to say the least. Directed by Hal Ashby and written by Colin Higgins, it was added to the National Film Registry in 1997.
Harper (1966) – It’s been too long ago that I watched this crime mystery drama featuring Paul Newman as the titled detective to provide much of its plot. I do remember being entertained by his sarcastic and even comical remarks throughout as he encounters one eccentric character after another, each of whom is played by a recognizable actor or actress like: Lauren Bacall, his client who seeks her missing husband, Julie Harris as a singer, Arthur Hill as a lawyer, Janet Leigh as Newman’s estranged wife, model Pamela Tiffin, Robert Wagner as a pilot, Shelley Winters as a drunken “well past her prime” actress, Harold Gould, and Strother Martin as a religious cult leader. It was directed by Jack Smight with a screenplay by future double Oscar winner William Goldman, based on Ross Macdonald’s novel The Moving Target; Macdonald’s protagonist Lew Archer’s last name was changed to Harper per Newman’s success in, and affinity for, “H” titled movies ala The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963), and subsequently & finally Hombre (1967).
Harry in Your Pocket (1973) – directed and co-produced by TV’s Mission Impossible (Emmy Award winning) producer Bruce Geller is this entertaining comedy crime drama featuring James Coburn in the title role, as a legendary pickpocket who’s persuaded to share his craft with Michael Sarrazin’s character and his girlfriend (Trish Van Devere). Walter Pidgeon plays one of Coburn’s original bagmen. The plot will seem familiar to anyone who’s seen Paul Newman’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance in The Color of Money (1986).
The Haunting (1963) – This horror classic earned the director (producer) Robert Wise a Golden Globe nomination. It stars Julie Harris, Clair Bloom, Richard Johnson, and Russ Tamblyn, among others.
Hell in the Pacific (1968) – Better than average World War II drama, directed by John Boorman, featuring just two actors! Lee Marvin plays an American pilot who finds his way to a seemingly deserted island after being shot down over the Pacific Ocean. He then learns that a Japanese officer (Toshirô Mifune) is already marooned there. Initially, the two are bent on killing one another, and each has his turn with the upper hand over the other (and control of their few combined survival resources). However, the realization that they must work together if they ever hope to escape the island eventually leads them to pool their assets and build a raft. The two make their way to yet another deserted island where a battle between their compatriots had been waged. The place reminds each of their respective country (e.g. who their enemy is), and the film ends rather abruptly.
Henry V (1944) – Laurence Olivier won a special Oscar for his writing, his direction, and his playing the title role in his production of Shakespeare’s story. He had received two nominations, Best Actor & Best Picture; the film’s Art Direction & Score were also nominated. Too dull for my tastes.
The High and the Mighty (1954) – precedes Airport (1970) as perhaps the first of the “airplane in trouble” dramas. Robert Stack, who would spoof his role in this one years later in Airplane! (1980), plays a pilot that’s lost his nerve such that his co-pilot (John Wayne), a thought to be washed-up pilot himself, must land the aircraft. Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, and Jan Sterling are among the others also in the cast. Dimitri Tiomkin’s Score won an Oscar; Sterling and Trevor received Supporting Actress nominations and the film’s director (William Wellman), Editing, and Original (title) Song were also nominated.
The Hill (1965) – British soldiers who commit crimes such as desertion are send, appropriately, to a desert stockade in North Africa. Harry Andrews plays their sadistic keeper, who frequently makes them run up a steep hill as punishment; Ian Bannen plays a more sympathetic guard, Michael Redgrave the prison’s medical officer. Some new prisoners, including Sean Connery and Ossie Davis, arrive that must deal with these circumstances, each in their own way. Directed by Sidney Lumet, based on Ray Rigby’s play and screenplay.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953) – someone else told me about this one and I’m glad they did. A great Ida Lupino directed film with a terrific performance by Edmond O’Brien. Added to the National Film Registry in 1998.
Holiday Inn (1942) – remade later as White Christmas (1954) (sort of;-) which I prefer, this original prompted the creation of the hotel chain! It stars Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Walter Abel, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, and Louise Beavers. Irving Berlin won his only Oscar for the Best Original Song “White Christmas” (#5 on AFI’s Top 100 Movie Songs of All Time); his Original Story was also nominated.
Hook (1991) – Director Steven Spielberg’s worst film (?) received Oscar nominations in 5 minor categories.
Hoosiers (1986) – Gene Hackman gives a terrific performance in this compelling sports drama (one of the best!) based on the remarkable, yet true story about a small town’s basketball team. Dennis Hopper picked up his only acting Academy Award nomination (Supporting) and its Score was also Oscar nominated. Barbara Hershey also appears as the coach’s (Hackman) love interest. #13 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
Hope and Glory (1987) – Producer, Director, Screenplay writer John Boorman (Deliverance (1972)) received the last of his three Academy Award nominations for this semi-autobiographical drama about a boy growing up in London during World War II and the Germans’ bombings; the film was also nominated for its Art Direction-Set Decoration & Cinematography.
Horse Feathers (1932) – very funny Marx Brothers film in which Groucho, as the newly appointed president of a college, tries to improve the school’s reputation by trying to build a winning football team. Naturally, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo (playing Groucho’s son) assist while Thelma Todd & David Landau work at cross purposes; Nat Pendleton appears as a football recruit that’s also a hindrance for the brothers. #65 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
The Horse Soldiers (1959) – Director John Ford’s only Civil War drama was written for the screen by John Lee Mahin and Martin Rackin, who adapted Harold Sinclair’s novel. Starring John Wayne and William Holden, it’s based on a true story about a Union Colonel (Wayne) that leads a raid on the Confederate’s supply lines from Tennessee to Baton Rouge; Holden plays a pacifist doctor/Major among the Colonel’s company of men. Constance Towers plays a Southern lady, plantation owner the battalion runs into along the way that is forced to travel with them to maintain the secrecy of their mission. While initially offended by the Colonel’s actions, predictably she comes to admire, even love him in the end. Tennis champion Althea Gibson plays her slave maid. The film, which has a fair amount of action but very little tension, features dozens of familiar (mostly Ford Company) faces in supporting roles including Judson Pratt as Sgt. Maj. Kirby, Hoot Gibson, Ken Curtis as a scout, Willis Bouchey as a Colonel and would-be politician, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden, Denver Pyle and Strother Martin, Basil Ruysdael, Carleton Young and Russell Simpson.
The Fall of the House Of Usher (1960) – added to the National Film Registry, this Roger Corman directed horror film, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s story, stars Vincent Price, Mark Damon, Myrna Fahey, and Harry Ellerbe. Skip it unless you’re a fan of the genre.
House Of Wax (1953) – Warner Bros. first 3-D film is an above average horror film starring Vincent Price as a museum curator who’s discovered a special way to make incredibly realistic wax figures for his newest museum after arson destroyed his first creations. Don’t miss Charles Bronson, in one of his early films before he’d changed his name.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) – Perhaps the first Marilyn Monroe film I ever saw, this romantic comedy drama received an Academy Award nomination for its Color Costume Design and also stars Betty Grable (top billed) and Lauren Bacall as three models who must choose love or money.
I Married A Witch (1942) – O.K., this is not really a great film. But how can you pass up a film starring Fredric March & Veronica Lake (Susan Hayward‘s in it too, as are Robert Benchley and Cecil Kellaway). And, apparently director Danny DeVito’s planned a remake (co-produced by Tom Cruise), for 2006 or later. Lake plays the titled several hundred years old witch (who doesn’t look a day over 32); March is the current descendant of the man who burned her and her father (Kellaway) at the stake. Bent on ruining politician March’s pending wedding to Hayward, Lake inadvertently changes his (and her) life forever with a love potion gaffe. Most memorable scene occurs in a burning, downtown hotel. Features an Oscar nominated Score.
Ice Station Zebra (1968) – when I was a child, I was scared out of my wits by a scene in this film – a crack opens in the glacier to expose a seemingly bottomless crevice into which several men fall (and the subsequent lifesaving rescue attempt) – such that I’ve never wanted to watch it again. Based on an Alistair MacLean novel, and directed by John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)), it’s a Cold War thriller that stars Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, former American footballer Jim Brown, and Lloyd Nolan (among others). Cinematographer Daniel Fapp (West Side Story (1961)) earned an Academy Award nomination; the Special Effects by Hal Millar and J. McMillan Johnson (Portrait of Jennie (1948)) were also Oscar nominated.
Imitation Of Life (1959) – though vastly inferior to the 1934 version with Claudette Colbert & Louise Beavers, this film is still probably worth your time. This one stars Lana Turner and Juanita Moore’s Oscar nominated performance. Susan Kohner, who plays Moore’s daughter, was also nominated; syrupy Sandra Dee plays Turner’s. John Gavin, Robert Alda, and Troy Donahue also appear in this Douglas Sirk directed soap opera.
Immortal Battalion (1944) – aka The Way Ahead (1944), this very good wartime drama was also used as propaganda during World War II; it’s story will be familiar to anyone who’s seen their share of this genre including Saving Private Ryan (1998). Several ordinary citizens are molded into a battalion of top fighting men by their experiences, and their officers. David Niven, William Hartnell, Stanley Holloway, and more star in this Carol Reed directed film.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) – a more introspective, philosophical film than most sci-fi movies with Grant Williams in the title role. Added to the National Film Registry in 2009.
Indiscreet (1958) – underrated film starring marriage phobic Cary Grant and the woman who loves him, played by Ingrid Bergman. I think this is the best (and that’s saying something!) pairing of Grant (who is at his suave best) and Bergman, who aged well and is very funny in this Stanley Donen film.
The Informer (1935) – Excellent drama about a man who informs on a wanted (by the law) friend for money. Victor McLaglen, in the title role, won an Oscar (Best Actor) as did director John Ford, screenplay writer Dudley Nichols, and Max Steiner (Score). The film (Best Picture) and its Editing were also nominated. Preston Foster, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, Una O’Connor, J.M. Kerrigan, Joe Sawyer, and Donald Meek, among others, also appear.
In Harm’s Way (1965) – long, average war drama with a familiar plot directed by Otto Preminger with an all-star cast that includes John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Paula Prentiss, Brandon De Wilde, Dana Andrews, Stanley Holloway, Burgess Meredith, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Slim Pickens, George Kennedy, Larry Hagman, and Henry Fonda (among others). Nominated for a B&W Cinematography Academy Award.
In the Line of Fire (1993) – John Malkovich gives a chilling (Academy Award nominated Supporting Actor) performance as a psycho killer that a Secret Service agent (Clint Eastwood), haunted by an earlier failure to protect the President of the United States, must pursue. Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, and Gary Cole also play agents in this Wolfgang Peterson directed thriller written by Jeff McGuire, whose screenplay was Oscar nominated along with Anne Coate’s Editing.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – this is a sci-fi film which holds up today, who can forget the ending with Kevin McCarthy! Directed by Don Siegel, it was added to the National Film Registry in 1994.
The Invisible Man (1933) – only a great voice like that of Claude Rains could have made this one the classic that it is. It also has Gloria Stuart (you know, the old woman in 1997′s Best Picture Titanic). Also with Una O’Connor, and directed by James Whale. Added to the National Film Registry in 2008.
The Ipcress File (1965) – pretty good spy movie with Michael Caine in a star making role as secret agent Harry Palmer, from the Len Deighton novels. Begins rather slowly, but moves quickly once the bodies start piling up. Also with Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, and Gordon Jackson.
The Iron Giant (1999) – an award winning animated story from director-screenwriter Brad Bird (The Incredibles (2004)) about an alien giant who is befriended by an imaginative pre-teen boy who lives alone with his mother; of course, the government is suspicious and afraid of its intentions such that they want to destroy it (sound familiar?).
Ivan the Terrible (Part 1) (1945) – a four star film from Russia.
I Walked With A Zombie (1943) – I’ve been a little confused as to why this Jacques Tourneur directed film is considered a horror classic. Frances Dee stars as a nurse assigned to help a comatose patient (Christine Gordon), the wife of Tom Conway’s character who’s mysteriously drawn to a purveyor of voodoo. James Ellison plays Conway’s half brother; Edith Barrett plays his mother; James Bell plays the clueless doctor. It’s not a bad film or anything, I just didn’t think it was anything special.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972) – A pretty good film from director Sydney Pollack starring Robert Redford in the title role as an ex-soldier who becomes a mountainman in the Colorado wilderness to escape civilization. Will Geer also appears.
Johnny Cool (1963) – is a stylish mob crime action drama that features Henry Silva in the title role, and Elizabeth Montgomery a year before she would star as Samantha Stephens, the lead role in the popular television series Bewitched. Unfortunately, this film was directed by William Asher, Ms. Montgomery’s second husband who’d also win an Emmy directing her in the TV series. While Asher’s cinematographer Sam Leavitt (The Defiant Ones (1958)) lovingly captures his wife’s beauty, entirely too much screen-time is devoted to her character – a ditzy society babe looking for thrills named Darien Guiness, appropriately nicknamed ‘Dare’ – in lieu of ‘Silva’ and his gangster rivals. Additionally, Joseph Landon’s screenplay, from the John McPartland novel, is loaded with such silly dialogue it’s a wonder that the actors can say and receive it with straight faces. The movie opens in Italy during World War II; teenage Salvatore Giordano saves his mother from one Nazi before she’s killed by another, and he in turn is saved by the resistance, which he joins. Years later, he has become a sort of Robin Hood, loved by the people but pursued by the Italian army until a Sicilian crime syndicate kingpin named Johnny Colini (Marc Lawrence) bribes an officer to fake Giordano’s death. Colini then persuades Giordano to assume his role, adopt his former moniker “Johnny Cool”, and travel to the United States to take over an illegal drug operation that was stolen from him by New York-based syndicate boss ‘Vince’ Santangelo (Telly Savalas). Cool’s tough action impresses Dare, who latches onto him immediately. When she is raped by Santangelo’s gang, he becomes protective of her as he begins to execute Colini’s aggressive 3-day plan, which involves killing a number of crime leaders – played by Jim Backus, Brad Dexter, John McGiver, and Mort Sahl – across the country. Quite a number of other familiar faces appear in character roles including Richard Anderson as a correspondent, Joey Bishop as a used car salesman, Sammy Davis Jr. (who sings the title song) as a dice roller, Frank Albertson, Elisha Cook Jr., Douglass Dumbrille, and Joseph Calleia.
The Karate Kid (1984) – Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi earned his only Oscar nomination (Supporting) as the patient, reluctant martial arts teacher of a young teenage boy named Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio, in the title role) who’s struggling with his identity, and a bunch of bullies (including Chad McQueen), in this coming of age drama. Elisabeth Shue plays Daniel’s would-be girlfriend; Randee Heller plays his mom. #98 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.
Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – a different kind of World War II movie, a comedy featuring an all star cast, starting with Clint Eastwood, then Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod, Stuart Margolin, and Henry Dean Stanton (among others).
The Kennel Murder Case (1933) – Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca (1942)), adapted by Robert Presnell (Meet John Doe (1941)), with a screenplay co-written by Robert Lee (Little Caesar (1931)), this Philo Vance mystery stars three time Best Actor nominee William Powell as the famous sleuth. The cast also includes Mary Astor (The Great Lie (1941)), Eugene Pallette, and Ralph Morgan, among others. The model of the house used at the end is a little too elaborate to be believed but, other than that, this mystery and its resolution is very satisfying.
The Kid (1921) – one of Chaplin’s very best films features Jackie Coogan in the title role. The tramp (Chaplin) finds an abandoned baby, cares for it and raises it. Now a youngster (Coogan), the boy helps the tramp survive in poverty in the creative ways of his “parent”. One day, however, the kid is taken from his “adoptive” father to be returned to the now successful woman (Edna Purviance) who abandoned him. Some classic comic scenes with tear-jerking moments. Added to the National Film Registry in 2011.
The Kid Brother (1927) – a four star silent with Lloyd playing the youngest, a “goof ball” born of April 1st, in a respected family of lawmen. When the Lloyd character’s father, the Sheriff, is suspected of stealing the town’s treasury, which was to be used for the new dam, it’s up to the young fool to save the day.
Kid Galahad (1937) – Directed by Michael Curtiz, with a screenplay by Seton Miller (The Criminal Code (1931)) that was based on a story by Francis Wallace, this above average boxing drama stars Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart, and features Wayne Morris in the title role. Jane Bryan, Harry Carey and William Haade also appear. Give it a chance, you may be surprised!
The Killer is Loose (1956) – features Wendell Corey in an unusual role for him, that of a mild-mannered bank clerk turned bank robber that becomes the psychopathic titled character out of a desire for eye-for-an-eye revenge against police detective Sam Wagner’s (Joseph Cotten) wife Lila (Rhonda Fleming). After attempting to stop a robbery at the bank, Leon ‘Foggy’ Poole (Corey) is suspected to be the inside-man by Detective Wagner, whose suspicions are confirmed when he, his partner Chris Gillespie (Michael Pate) and a police sergeant (played by Alan Hale Jr.) tap Poole’s phone. But when the officers trap the clerk in his apartment, Poole’s wife is killed in an exchange of fire. After his conviction, Poole vows to “get even” with Wagner. However, after serving three years as a model prisoner, Poole earns work on an honor farm from which he escapes and goes on a murderous rampage on his way to the Wagners. John Larch, who plays Poole’s ex-sergeant that dubbed him ‘Foggy’, is one of the three victims; Virginia Christine appears as Detective Gillespie’s wife. Lila, who’s pregnant, is an emotional woman that hasn’t really ever accepted the dangers inherent in her husband’s profession; hence, she needlessly endangers them both in the climactic final scene. Directed by Budd Boetticher (Bullfighter and the Lady (1951)), it was written by Harold Medford from a story by brothers John and Ward Hawkins.
The Killers (1946) – excellent crime drama, film-noir, featuring Burt Lancaster’s screen debut. Directed by Robert Siodmak, who received his only Academy recognition with an Oscar nomination for Best Director, it’s an Ernest Hemingway story that was adapted by Anthony Veiller (Stage Door (1937)), whose work was also nominated. Edmond O’Brien plays an insurance investigator who unravels the mystery which led to the Swede (Lancaster) being hit (a contract killing). Ava Gardner plays a tantalizing role; the cast also includes Albert Dekker, Sam Levene, and Donald MacBride (among others). Editor Arthur Hilton earned his only Academy Award nomination; Miklós Rózsa’s dramatic Score was also nominated. Added to the National Film Registry in 2008.
King Of Kings (1961) – the story of Jesus Christ, with Jeffrey Hunter in the title role, as told by director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause (1955)) and screenwriter Philip Yordan (Broken Lance (1954)). Robert Ryan plays John the Baptist, Hurd Hatfield is Pontius Pilate, Harry Guardino plays Barabbas, Rip Torn is Judas, and Royal Dano plays Peter. Orson Welles is the uncredited narrator. Leonard Maltin gives this one three and a half stars; the film runs nearly 3 hours.
Kiss Me Deadly (1955) – Directed by Robert Aldrich, this movie adapted from the Mickey Spillane novel features Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer, who picks up a trench-coat clothed, hysterical woman (Cloris Leachman, in her film debut) on a lonely highway at night only to find out that she’s an escaped mental patient. After he’s almost killed when some unknown assailants do succeed in murdering her, Hammer is questioned by the police. He then decides to unravel the mystery himself, which leads to the discovery of a dangerous (e.g. Pandora’s) box, and one of the most bizarre movie endings you’ll ever see. Also with Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, and Maxine Cooper. Added to the National Film Registry in 1999.
Knock on Any Door (1949) – the liberal diatribe that Humphrey Bogart’s lawyer character spouts at the end of this drama – about society being the cause of a hoodlum’s (John Derek) problems – is unearned and undeserved for the story told (in flashback) and directed by Nicholas Ray. Bogie’s character has some guilt about a past association which leads him to defend Derek’s character (whose philosophy is “Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse”) for murdering a police officer against a one dimensional prosecuting attorney (George Macready), whose ugly scar on his face causes him to go after the “pretty boy”. But one can’t discount the choices that the accused made just because he had some setbacks, including a wife that killed herself.
La Dolce Vita (1960) – this highly regarded film by director Federico Fellini stars Marcello Mastroianni as a society column newspaper writer who has many adventures into the lifestyles of the rich and famous; his photographer is named Paparazzo, which is the source of the word “paparazzi”. One particular evening includes his pursuit of a famous blonde actress, played by Anita Ekberg. The film won an Oscar for Best B&W Costume Design, and was nominated for three others including for Fellini’s direction and his (co-written) screenplay. Anouk Aimee (A Man and a Woman (1966)), among others, also appears.
The Lady From Shanghai (1947) – Peter Bogdanovich deems this film an Essential, and it is noteworthy because it features one of the worst accents you’ll hear attempted by a great actor (Orson Welles in this film). IMO though, one famous “hall of mirrors” scene & a beautiful blonde (!) Rita Hayworth does not a great movie make. Also with Everett Sloane.
Lassie Come Home (1943) – a family classic featuring the famous titled collie who returns home, against all odds, after an incredible journey to her family which includes Donald Crisp, Elsa Lanchester and child actor Roddy McDowall. Dame May Whitty, Elizabeth Taylor (in only her second film), Edmund Gwenn, and Nigel Bruce (to whom, with Taylor, Lassie had been sold by the impoverished family) also appear. Nominated for a Best Color Cinematography Oscar, it was added to the National Film Registry in 1993. Hugo Butler (Edison, the Man (1940)) adapted Eric Knight’s novel of the same name.
The Last Voyage (1960) – Co-produced (with his wife?), directed, and written by Andrew Stone (Julie (1956)), this average drama details the sinking of a cruise ship 12 years before The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and the rash of disaster films released in the early 70′s. It earned a Best Effects, Special Effects Oscar in part because it used a real (retired) ship as the backdrop to the story. Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone play the married couple with a child that are the center of the story around which the sinking revolves. Of course, the decisions its Captain (George Sanders) makes throughout are integral as well. Edmond O’Brien plays the ship’s engineer, who questions the “retiring” Captain’s every decision; Woody Strode plays a strong crewman who helps the couple.
La Terra Trema (1947) – liberal claptrap about Sicilian fishermen who can’t get ahead because of “the man” (e.g. the men who own the boats). When one family works together to succeed against the odds, a sudden lack of judgment (& an act of God!) is contrived by its writer/director to reinforce his agenda about the downtrodden poor and their “oppressors”.
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) – excellent Lon Chaney silent, the original “man behind the mask” (e.g. his motivations, feelings) drama with an unforgettable ending – a tragedy. Bernard Siegel, Loretta Young, and Nils Asther also play significant roles. Directed by Herbert Brenon (Sorrell and Son (1927)).
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) – a remarkable accomplishment from writer/directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger about the titled British gentleman idealist come military officer aka Clive Candy (Roger Livesey) through many years, wars & exploits, his friendship with a German named Theo (Anton Walbrook) and relationships with three women (each played by Deborah Kerr).
Little Cigars (1973) – is a uniquely unusual caper comedy featuring Angel Tompkins as Cleo in a Snow White type role with midgets Billy Curtis as Slick Bender, Jerry Maren as Cadillac, Frank Delfino as Monty, Felix Silla as Frankie, and Emory Souza as Hugo. Moll Cleo escapes from her mob boss boyfriend (Joe De Santis) and meets the pickpocket midgets while hiding out in a small town. She hooks up with Slick and has big ideas for the small fellas, which leads to a crime spree across the upper Midwest. Jon Cedar and Philip Kenneally play the gangster’s thugs that pursue Cleo, Barbara Rhoades appears as a stripper and Michael Pataki as a garage mechanic/crime victim; look for Frank Bonner, who appears uncredited as hotel bellman. It was directed by Chris Christenberry, and written by Louis Garfinkle (The Deer Hunter (1978)) and Frank Ray Perilli.
Lonely Are the Brave (1962) – Directed by David Miller, with a story by Edward Abbey that was adapted by Dalton Trumbo (The Brave One (1957)), this above average Western drama stars Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, and Walter Matthau; the cast also includes Carroll O’Connor, William Schallert, George Kennedy, Karl Swenson, and an uncredited Bill Bixby (among others). Douglas plays a cowboy fugitive who’s being chased by a sheriff, played by Matthau. The cowpuncher’s way of life is dying and he (on his horse) is pursued by ‘modern’ technology (jeeps and helicopters) across the rough landscape. Rowlands plays the wife of Douglas’s friend (Michael Kane) who’s still in prison.
The Long Voyage Home (1940) – Directed by John Ford, this drama gives one a sense of the kind of men who work(ed?) on ships at sea, edited together from four Eugene O’Neill plays, earning Dudley Nichols a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination. The film was nominated for Best Picture; its Special Effects, Editing, Score, and Gregg Toland’s Cinematography also received nominations. The recognizable cast includes: John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter, Barry Fitzgerald, John Qualen, Ward Bond, Arthur Shields, and J.M. Kerrigan.
The Lost World (1925) – not as impressive as it must have been at one time, this silent prompted a slew of copycats and/or remakes. It’s about an expedition into the jungles of South America to prove that dinosaurs still walk the Earth. It stars Bessie Love, Wallace Beery, and Lewis Stone, among others, and features a cameo by its author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was added to the National Film Registry in 1998. TCM shows the fully restored 93 minute version.
Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) – this true story of singer Ruth Etting & her relationship with the gangster who made her a star gives you an opportunity to see two special (and different) performances by Doris Day & James Cagney. Cagney’s performance was Oscar nominated, and the film received a total of six nominations, winning one for Motion Picture Story Writing.
Love Story (1970) – “love means never having to say you’re sorry”; this Academy Award nominated Best Picture’s Score won the Oscar. Its director (Arthur Hiller), Writing (Erich Segal), lead actors (Ali McGraw & Ryan O’Neal) and John Marley (Supporting Actor) also received nominations.
Mad Love (1935) – Peter Lorre is a masterful surgeon who’s so obsessed with a married stage actress (Frances Drake), he has a full size wax statue made of her. When her concert pianist husband (Colin Clive) ruins his hands in an accident, Lorre’s character surgically replaces them with the hands of a knife throwing murderer (Edward Brophy) that’s just been executed. Ted Healy plays a reporter who learns of it; Keye Luke plays the doctor’s assistant. The last of eight films directed by Oscar winning cinematographer Karl Freund (The Good Earth (1937)).
A Man Called Horse (1970) – before Dances with Wolves (1990), Richard Harris starred in the title role as an English nobleman caught while hunting in the American West by a tribe of Sioux Indians led by Yellow Hand (Manu Tupou). Initially humiliated, treated as an animal and given to an old squaw (Dame Judith Anderson) who has no one, John (Harris) learns the ways of the tribe from a Frenchman named Batise (Jean Gascon) who had been similarly ‘adopted’ five years earlier. Determined to escape but enticed by Yellow Hand’s virgin sister Running Deer (Corinna Tsopei), John kills and scalps two rival Shoshone scouts and, in order to marry Running Deer, undergoes a painful transition ritual to become a full fledged warrior. The film, directed by Elliot Silverstein and written by Jack DeWitt from a Dorothy M. Johnson story, focuses on the Indian’s culture and tribal ways and obviously influenced the Academy Award winning Best Picture that followed twenty years later. Dub Taylor, James Gammon, and Manuel Padilla Jr. are among a cast that’s mostly comprised of Native American actors including Iron Eyes Cody.
Man Of A Thousand Faces (1957) – Cagney plays Lon Chaney, interesting insight into Irving Thalberg (Robert Evans) and his relationship with Chaney (whether it’s a true biographical piece or not;- ) Early scenes of Cagney becoming the “title” are the best, I think. Also in the cast are Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer, Marjorie Rambeau, Jim Backus, and Jack Albertson.
Man of the West (1958) – pretty good Anthony Mann Western starring Gary Cooper as a reformed outlaw who must seek assistance from his old gang, now run by Lee J. Cobb. Julie London, Arthur O’Connell, Jack Lord, and Royal Dano also appear, as does Emory Parnell, uncredited.
Man’s Favorite Sport? (1964) – Directed by Howard Hawks, Rock Hudson plays a fake – a sporting goods salesman & author who uses the information he hears from others to great success, making his clients & readers think he’s a great fisherman. Paula Prentiss plays his love interest, the one who gets the chance to call his bluff when she’s responsible for entering him in a angling tournament. Average, dated screwball comedy.
Marlowe (1969) – James Garner steps into the role of novelist Raymond Chandler’s most famous character, private investigator Philip Marlowe, in this Stirling Silliphant adaptation of “The Little Sister”, directed by Emmy Award winner Paul Bogart. The cast is filled with recognizable faces including Carroll O’Connor, Rita Moreno, William Daniels, Jackie Coogan, Kenneth Tobey and even Bruce Lee. Unfortunately the story is confusing, loose-ends abound, and its colorful hippy-dated Los Angeles setting is antithetic to the gritty traditionally B&W noir setting that Humphrey Bogart et al embodied. Because Garner is so eminently watchable, a characteristic that led to his Emmy dominating “Rockford Files” TV series just five years later, the movie isn’t terrible even though – at this distance – it’s hard to believe that it played on the big screen; it comes off as a TV pilot. Gayle Hunnicutt plays the mysterious woman (a sitcom actress!) that’s embroiled in a murder mystery that involves ice picks, O’Connor the police lieutenant detective that Marlowe both helps and infuriates, Moreno plays a beguiling burlesque dancer, Sharon Farrell plays the title role of Chandler’s novel, Daniels plays Hunnicutt’s TV show’s producer, H.M. Wynant plays a gangster that’s involved with Hunnicutt, Coogan plays an unfortunate fool, Tobey is O’Connor’s assistant, and Lee, in his American film debut, plays Wynant’s hilarious hit man who predictably (yet improbably) meets his end.
Marooned (1969) – I didn’t realize that this sci-fi drama wasn’t just another TV Movie of the Week! It was directed by John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)) and earned an Academy Award for its Special Effects; its Cinematography and Sound were also Oscar nominated. It’s about some astronauts (Richard Crenna, James Franciscus, and Gene Hackman) that get stranded in a space station in orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere; their return craft fails. The cast also includes Gregory Peck as the head of the space agency, David Janssen, Lee Grant as Crenna’s wife, and Mariette Hartley as Hackman’s wife (among others). The possibility of just leaving them up there to die while their oxygen runs out is discussed, which horrified & gave me nightmares in my impressionable youth, before a decision is made to attempt a rescue using an experimental spacecraft.
Mary of Scotland (1936) – This historical drama features Katharine Hepburn in the title role with Florence Eldridge playing her rival, Queen Elizabeth I. It was directed by John Ford; the Maxwell Anderson (All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)) play was given a screenplay treatment by Dudley Nichols (The Informer (1935)). Fredric March plays the dashing Earl of Bothwell opposite Douglas Walton’s Lord Darnley. John Carradine plays Mary’s trusty aide Rizzio while Robert Barrat plays Lord Morton. Ian Keith, Moroni Olsen, Alan Mowbray, and Donald Crisp (among others) also play supporting roles.
Mask (1985) – No mystery that this film won an Oscar for Best Makeup since Eric Stoltz is unrecognizable as Cher’s deformed son who’s befriended by a blind Laura Dern. Also with Sam Elliot, Estelle Getty, Richard Dysart, and Harry Carey Jr.; directed by former TCM Essentials host Peter Bogdanovich.
Master of the World (1961) – is a Jules Verne tale not dissimilar from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), but with Vincent Price as Captain Robur in lieu of James Mason as Captain Nemo, Charles Bronson in the role of his foil much like Kirk Douglas was, and Henry Hull instead of Paul Lukas. It’s not Peter Lorre (who played a sidekick to Lukas), but Vito Scotti that provides the comic relief as Robur’s disheveled chef. Robur is a genius that’s invented a zeppelin/helicopter dubbed the Albatross (vs. a super submarine name Nautilus) 35 years before the Wright brothers succeeded on the beaches at Kitty Hawk, NC, which overmatches the United States and every other great nation’s military prowess. Robur aims to use his invention to force all countries to disarm for world peace, but must be stopped by his captives, who are awed by the technology and support the goal but not his methods. In addition to Bronson, a representative of the U.S. government named John Strock and Hull, a well known industrialist-arms manufacturer (ironically) named Prudent, the two other captives are Prudent’s daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster) and her fiancé Philip Evans (David Frankham), who ultimately can’t compete with Stock for Dorothy’s affections. Wally Campo plays Robur’s loyal assistant Mr. Turner. Adapted from two different Verne novels by Richard Matheson, it was directed by William Witney.
The Men (1950) – this drama about soldiers who were wounded and paralyzed during World War II, their struggles, recovery, and/or integration (or not) back into society served as the screen debut for Marlon Brando. Everett Sloane plays the hospital’s doctor and Teresa Wright plays the young woman Brando’s character was to marry before going off to war. Both hope to inspire the despondent paraplegic soldier to stop feeling sorry for himself and try to accept his disability, learn to use his wheelchair, etc.; Jack Webb plays a fellow patient. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, the film earned writer Carl Foreman (Champion (1949)) his second Academy Award nomination.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) – plodding Warner Bros. adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale about a love quadrangle (Dick Powell, Ross Alexander, Olivia de Havilland, & Jean Muir) that’s complicated by a careless fairy (Mickey Rooney); a subplot involves a ham acting troupe (which includes James Cagney) that plays for the Duke (Ian Hunter). The film won Oscars for Cinematography & Editing, and received nominations for Best Picture & Assistant Director. Many other recognizable stars appear including Joe E. Brown, Victor Jory, Hobart Cavanaugh, Grant Mitchell, Frank McHugh, Arthur Treacher, and Anita Louise.
Midway (1976) – average war film with silly subplot involving Charlton Heston and his “son” Edward Albert; otherwise it features an all-star cast which includes (a bunch of future TV stars, and): Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner, Christopher George, Kevin Dobson, Pat Morita, Dabney Colman, Tom Selleck, and even Erik Estrada, uncredited.
Mighty Joe Young (1949) – earned Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack an Oscar for Best Special Effects; remade in 1998 with Bill Paxton and future Oscar winner Charlize Theron.
The Misfits (1961) – Clark Gable’s and Marilyn Monroe’s last film; Gable’s exhausting effort on-screen, wrestling with horses, and off (putting up with Monroe’s “antics”) probably contributed to Gable’s fatal heart attack. John Huston directs this story written by Monroe’s most recently divorced husband (Arthur Miller). A modern Western, about this dying way of life, also features a post-”auto accident” Montgomery Clift, a terrifically cynical (as always) Thelma Ritter, and Eli Wallach. The stark B&W cinematography by Russell Metty helps to illustrate the characters, the macho yet defeated men that have lost (and no longer know) their place in the world: Gable because his passion for horse breaking has been reduced to rounding up wild horses to sell for pet food processing, beat-up rodeo star Montgomery because of his deteriorating abilities and frustration over a lost ranch, and Wallach, the pilot that chases the horses out of the hills and onto the range for roundup, is a despondent widower. Monroe, shot in soft focus, provides her own startling contrast: her perkiness, zest for life after a quickie Reno divorce (from Kevin McCarthy), and beauty helps to stir the men from their fog toward a messy climax, when her character finally realizes what they’re doing, and she sees herself symbolically represented by the trapped stallion (held down by men).
Moby Dick (1956) – produced and directed by John Huston, who also wrote the screenplay with Ray Bradbury from the Herman Melville novel, (unless you’re a fan of such screen adaptations of classic tales) there really isn’t a lot to recommend in this seafaring adventure drama beyond Gregory Peck’s performance as Captain Ahab, the seaman tortured by his obsession of the great white (and titled) whale that took his leg such that he’s willing to sacrifice his life, as well as his ship and his crew, in order to kill the beast. Richard Basehart plays Ishmael, Leo Genn is Starbuck, Harry Andrews plays Stubb, Bernard Miles is the Manxman, and Orson Welles (among others) also appears.
Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin goes against the grain by making a silent film, with sound effects, many years after the advent of “talkies”. This movie is an allegory about how man has become too dependent and/or obsessed with machines and technology, in general, as the tramp struggles to survive in “modern times”. Paulette Goddard plays the girl in this one. The skating scene in the department store is unforgettable. Also #33 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
Monkey Business (1931) – not quite as funny as most of their movies, but still a pretty good Marx Brothers film featuring a few classic scenes. The four brothers are traveling to America as stowaways on a cruise ship, during which they become involved with competing “gangsters”. Groucho falls for one of their molls, played by Thelma Todd.
Monkey Business (1952) – Howard Hawks directed this comedy starring Cary Grant as a scientist searching for a fountain of youth formula. Unfortunately, the product he doesn’t realize he’s invented and administered makes him act like a child in lieu of changing his physical appearance etc.. Ginger Rogers plays his wife; Marilyn Monroe his boss’s (Charles Coburn) non-typing secretary; Hugh Marlowe a friend of the family. Oh yeah, and there’s a chimpanzee too! A little too silly, and too late, to be classified as a screwball comedy. No relation to the 1931 Marx Brothers comedy of the same name.
Monsieur Verdoux (1947) – a most unusual film directed, written, and starring Charles Chaplin who received a Best Writing, Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for his work. In it, he plays a Bluebeard, a man who murders women for their money. Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winner Martha Raye plays the one that got away. Orson Welles is credited for giving Chaplin the idea. A black comedy of the first degree and decidedly better than Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry (1955) eight years later.
Moonstruck (1987) – although I don’t personally care much for this film, it won Cher & Olympia Dukakis Oscars (its Writing also won) and was directed by the exceptional Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night (1967)). Also featuring Nicholas Cage. ” Snap out of it!” is #96 on AFI’s 100 Top Movie Quotes of All Time list.
The Mouse That Roared (1959) – silly (dated to the point of absurdity) political farce directed by Jack Arnold (With These Hands (1950)) and featuring Peter Sellers in three roles (not unlike the later Stanley Kubrick black comedy Dr. Strangelove (1964)); screenplay by Roger MacDougall (The Man in the White Suit (1951)) and Stanley Mann (The Collector (1965)), based on the novel by Leonard Wibberley. The World’s smallest country, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick located in the French Alps, bankrupt because a California winery has cheaply duplicated their only export (and means of support), declares war on the United States in order to earn war reparations (ala Germany, Japan, etc.). Unable to surrender during a nuclear air raid drill, they capture the inventor of the H-bomb’s successor (the Q bomb) and his daughter (Jean Seberg), holding it and them hostage. During the time of Cold War paranoia, it must have been funnier than it is today.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) – a terrific comedy with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, poorly remake in the 80′s as The Money Pit, about a businessman who dreams about having a house in the country. It includes an unforgettable sequence with Ms. Loy and the local painters. Support provided by Melvyn Douglas. #72 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
Murder, My Sweet (1944) – From director Edward Dmytryk & John Paxton (Crossfire (1947)), who wrote the screenplay for this Raymond Chandler novel named “Farewell, My Lovely”, this above average murder mystery follows detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) as he’s hired by two clients for different, yet intertwined purposes. It also stars Claire Trevor (Key Largo (1948)), the lovely Anne Shirley (Stella Dallas (1937)), Otto Kruger, and that “big lug” Mike Mazurki, among others. Worth a look.
My Favorite Year (1982) – a very fun film to watch, featuring Peter O’Toole’s seventh of eight Best Actor nominated performances (without a win as yet, though he was bestowed an Honorary one)! Mark Linn-Baker plays a writer who has to find, convince, and assist a famous “Errol Flynn”-type movie star in a TV variety/comedy show appearance. Also with Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, and Bill Macy. Directed by Richard Benjamin.
The Naked City (1948) – half documentary (narrated by producer Mark Hellinger), half crime thriller starring Barry Fitzgerald and Don Taylor, and other recognizable faces in small roles, as New York detectives trying to solve the “bathtub” murder case. The story was Oscar nominated, it won for B&W Cinematography and Editing. Directed by Jules Dassin. Added to the National Film Registry in 2007.
The Narrow Margin (1952) – A relatively short film, yet highly regarded. A gangster’s former moll (Marie Windsor) asks for protection, which the police provide, during her train journey to police headquarters, where she’ll be expected to give testimony against her former lover. The cop (Charles McGraw) assigned to escort her is not so friendly, and is perhaps even a little resentful at first, but must do his job against the odds. Directed by Richard Fleischer (Design for Death (1947)), it was nominated for a Best Writing, Motion Picture Story Oscar.
Nashville (1975) – Producer/director Robert Altman earned two Academy Award nominations, Supporting Actor Keith Carradine’s song “I’m Easy” won the Oscar. Ronee Blakley & Lily Tomlin earned their only Academy recognition (to date) with Supporting Actress nominations. This musical drama also stars Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Shelley Duvall, Henry Gibson, and many other recognizable actors in early roles.
The Navigator (1924) – Buster Keaton and his would-be fiance are on an ocean liner, alone, which is adrift at sea. Various gags which eventually lead to the two having to escape from cannibals!
The Navy Comes Through (1942) – nominated for a Best Special Effects Oscar, this World War II service academy flag-waver features Pat O’Brien, George Murphy, Jane Wyatt, Jackie Cooper, Carl Esmond, Max Baer, Desi Arnaz, Ray Collins, and Frank Jenks (among others). The film opens with Murphy’s character, Lieutenant Thomas Sands, getting bumped out of the Navy – for an unexplained breach-jam explosion that killed another – on testimony by another officer Chief Michael Mallory (O’Brien), who insists that his disapproval of Sands’ pending nuptials to his sister Myra (Wyatt) had nothing to do with it. After Pearl Harbor, Murphy reenlists as a seaman where (surprise, surprise) he’s assigned to Mallory’s unit, along with baby-faced Cooper, a displaced Austrian violinist (Esmond) dubbed ‘Dutch’, a crotchety coxswain (Baer), a Cuban-American and a Brooklyn baseball-fanatic (Jenks). They’re assigned to protect a Merchant Marine freighter (helmed by Collins) from German U-boats. Naturally Sands is given an opportunity to restore his good name. Directed by A. Edward Sutherland, it was based on the Borden Chase (Red River (1948)) story “Pay To Learn”, which was adapted by Earl Baldwin and John Twist, with a screenplay by Roy Chanslor and Aeneas MacKenzie.
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941) – a W.C. Fields classic in which the comedian is trying to have a film made featuring himself and his niece, singer Gloria Jean. He describes his idea to producer Franklin Pangborn (Mona Barrie plays his wife), who’s really not interested. In the movie within the movie, Marx Brothers actress Margaret Dumont appears. Irving Bacon appears as a soda jerk. It ends with a wacky automobile chase, complete with a fire engine ladder truck.
A Night at the Opera (1935) – classic comedy from the Marx Brothers, added to the National Film Registry in 1993. Groucho and Sig Ruman compete for Margaret Dumont’s affections by trying to sign the best singing talent for their operas. Allan Jones is one of the tenors; Kitty Carlisle (known to many of us younger fans as Miss “To Tell the Truth”) also appears.
The Night Of The Iguana (1964) – this cult classic won an Academy Award for its B&W Costume Design; its Art Direction-Set Decoration & Cinematography were also Oscar nominated as was supporting actress Grayson Hall, receiving her only recognition from the Academy. Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr star in this John Huston directed film and adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play.
None but the Lonely Heart (1944) – features one of (only two) Cary Grant’s Best Actor nominated performances; Ethel Barrymore won an Oscar playing his dying mother.
Northwest Passage (1940) – nominated for a Color Cinematography Oscar, this true story of Rogers’ Rangers features Spencer Tracy as the famous Major from the French and Indian (pre-Revolutionary) War times. Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Ruth Hussey, and Nat Pendleton also appear in this King Vidor directed film.
Nosferatu (1922) – one of the scariest films ever made (even though it’s over 80 years old!). This silent features Max Schreck in the title role, a vampire who prays on people (most notably, a woman) for blood, based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel.
The Nutty Professor (1963) – pretty good Jerry Lewis comedy, later remade with Eddie Murphy, also featuring Stella Stevens. Added to the National Film Registry in 2004.
The Odd Couple (1968) – this second successful comedy pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, later made into a TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, earned Neil Simon his first Academy recognition (an Oscar nomination for his writing; its Editing was also nominated).
Odd Man Out (1947) – a British noir directed by Carol Reed that earned editor Fergus McDonell his only Academy Award nomination. F.L. Green and R.C. Sherriff (Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)) adapted Green’s story about an IRA leader, Johnny McQueen played by James Mason, who’s on the run from the law after a botched robbery for funds needed by the organization. Because McQueen is injured and in need of assistance, he comes across various persons from many walks of life who then must decide for themselves whether to help or turn him in. Many are sympathetic to his cause and plight while others wish to capitalize on the opportunity for profit; an eccentric painter played by Robert Newton falls somewhere between these categories.
Oliver Twist (1948) – An outstanding British adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel by director David Lean, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Alec Guinness stars as Fagin, Robert Newton as Bill Sykes, Kay Walsh as Nancy, and John Howard Davies as the title character. Also, Francis Sullivan plays Mr. Bumble, the tyrannical orphanage employee who terrorizes the young lad; Henry Stephenson the wealthy Mr. Brownlow who rescues him. Anthony Newley plays the Artful Dodger.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1969) aka C’era una volta il West (1968) – a Western classic from director Sergio Leone, who cast Henry Fonda against type as the villain. Leone also wrote the story and screenplay with help from Bernardo Bertolucci (among others). The cast includes a lust-worthy appearance by Claudia Cardinale and notable performances from Jason Robards, a mysterious harmonica playing Charles Bronson, Woody Strode, Jack Elam, Keenan Wynn, and even Lionel Stander. A stylish essential film with a score by 2007 Academy Honoree Ennio Morricone and cinematography from Tonino Delli Colli. Added to the National Film Registry in 2009.
On Dangerous Ground (1951) – Directed and adapted by Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause (1955)), this drama features Ida Lupino as a blind woman who’s brother (Sumner Williams) is a murder suspect being hunted by too rough street cop Robert Ryan. Ward Bond, Ed Begley, and Ian Wolfe, among others, also appear.
One Man’s Way (1964) – is a fictionalized biography of Norman Vincent Peale, the world-famous minister, lecturer and best-selling author. It was directed by Denis Sanders (A Time Out of War (1954)) and written by John W. Bloch and Eleanore Griffin (Boys Town (1938)) from the Arthur Gordon book. Don Murray plays Peale, who as a boy (Mickey Sholdar) didn’t want to follow the same path as his father, Reverend Clifford Peale (William Windom); his mother Anna is played by Virginia Christine. But after a brief stint as a reporter with photographer Evelyn Grace (Carol Ohmart), Peale realizes his true calling when he talks a panicked girl (Veronica Cartwright) out of a partially demolished building, saving her before it collapses. He goes to Boston University’s School of Theology where he struggles to find his message, and then to his first church in Rhode Island before finally settling in at an historic church in New York’s Manhattan. While minister of a church in Syracuse, he met Ruth Stafford (Diana Hyland, her film debut), whom he later married. Though an inordinate amount of time is given to Peale’s wooing of Miss Stafford, fortunately there are ample highlights of his famous (often anecdotal) “sermons” and inspirational speeches. As his popularity grew, especially after his book on the “power of positive thinking” was published, some church elders questioned his motives, methods and views about God; he was especially troubled by words from Bishop Hardwick (Ian Wolfe). But after being called to help a doctor’s child out of a coma, his renewed faith spurred him on to face the challenges. Some other notable actors that appear in this drama include: Butch Patrick, Tom Skerritt, and Ann Morgan Guilbert.
Operation Crossbow (1965) – Fairly compelling “spies during war” film, set near the end of World War II, with George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Trevor Howard, and John Mills. About the Allies’ efforts to destroy the V2 rocket, after the V1 had done so much damage to London.
Operation Petticoat (1959) – an above average comedy (nominated for a Best Writing, Story & Screenplay Oscar) from director Blake Edwards starring Cary Grant as the Captain of a submarine, Tony Curtis as his first officer that can get him anything he needs, and Dina Merrill as the head nurse of a group which Grant & Co. must transport in close quarters;-) Also features four future television stars: Dick Sargent (Bewitched), Gavin MacLeod (The Love Boat), Marion Ross (Happy Days), and Arthur O’Connell (various).
Ordet (1955) – worth your time, especially if you like reading subtitles;-) Another masterpiece by director Carl Theodor Dryer.
Ossessione (1942) – this same story was used for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), which is a much better film IMO, though this is considered an Italian masterpiece by director Luchino Visconti.
Our Hospitality (1923) – a four star silent! Buster Keaton is a McKay, whose family is feuding with the Canfields in a rural community until he saves the day. Authentic steam engine, driven over odd tracks, and bicycle as well as harrowing river escapades mark this comedy.
The Paleface (1922) – a Buster Keaton classic; Keaton is at first chased, then befriended by Native Americans whose land is being stolen by oil barons.
Pale Rider (1985) – Directed by, and starring Clint Eastwood, this above average Western features Clint as a mysterious preacher who comes to the aid a gold prospecting family (Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass, and the attractive teenager Sydney Penny) in their struggles against the corrupt town’s leader (Richard Dysart), his son (Chris Penn), and their hired guns (which includes seven-footer Richard Kiel). Beautifully photographed!
The Paper Chase (1973) – a great college law school film featuring John Houseman’s Academy Award winning (Supporting) acting performance. Also stars Timothy Bottoms, Lindsay Wagner, James Naughton, and Edward Hermann.
Park Row (1952) – is a gritty newspaper drama set in 1886 that was produced, written and directed by Samuel Fuller. It features Gene Evans as Phineas Mitchell, the honest editor-publisher of The Globe; he was inspired to action by the hanging of a man that was precipitated by the tabloid “journalism” of The Star, published by the beautiful and wicked Charity Hackett (Mary Welch). The two have a love-hate relationship, causing her to covet his values while at the same time desiring to destroy her competition. Bela Kovacs plays Linotype inventor Ottmar Mergenthaler, Herbert Heyes plays the respected reporter Josiah Davenport, who comes out of retirement to assist Mitchell with his startup, Tina Pine plays a popular barmaid on the famed and titled journalism street – references (even statues) from Benjamin Franklin to Horace Greeley and Joseph Pulitzer abound – George O’Hanlon plays the Brooklyn Bridge jumper featured in The Globe’s first edition, J.M. Kerrigan, Forrest Taylor, Don Orlando, Dick Elliott, and Hal K. Dawson (among others) also appear.
A Passage to India (1984) – Peggy Ashcroft earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award (on her only Oscar nomination) as the traveling companion friend and future mother-in-law of Judy Davis’s character in this David Lean (screenplay) written and directed drama set in the titled country. Davis, whose lead performance was also nominated, plays a British woman who accuses a Muslim doctor (Victor Banerjee) of rape; he had been the women’s local guide to a cave in 1920′s India. A trial divides the natives and their English rulers. Maurice Jarre’s Score won an Oscar; the film, its Art Direction-Set Decoration, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, and Sound were nominated. Lean received nominations for his direction and writing. James Fox, Alec Guinness, and Saeed Jaffrey are among those who also appear in the cast.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) – one of the best silent films ever made, featuring the only performance of Maria Falconetti in the title role. Directed and co-written by Carl Theodor Dreyer.
Penny Serenade (1941) – Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are a young married couple who adopt a baby after their’s dies. They must struggle every step of the way. This unusual role for Grant earned him his first of only two Academy Award nominations. Ms. Dunne’s favorite of all her films, reportedly. George Stevens directed; Beulah Bondi provides support.
Phaedra (1962) – reteams Never on Sunday (1960) collaborators writer-director Jules Dassin and actress Melina Mercouri in another Greece-based story, derived from Euripides’s play “Hippolytus” by Margarita Lymberaki (aka Liberaki). Costume Designer Theoni V. Aldredge earned an Academy Award nomination. It’s a Greek tragedy whose plot could have been borrowed by the writers of The Graduate (1967) several years later. Mercouri plays the title role, a woman who falls in love with her stepson Alexis (Anthony Perkins) when her ambitious too busy husband Thanos (Raf Vallone) asks her to bring him from London to Paris to join the family business. By divorcing his first wife and marrying Phaedra – the daughter of a shipping magnate – Thanos had become a powerful shipping magnet in his own right. After Thanos convinces his son to come to Greece for the summer, Alexis meets his father’s niece Ercy (Elisabeth Ercy), and talks of a marriage between the two youngsters to consolidate powerful shipping businesses begin. Of course, Phaedra wants no part of it, and the inevitable transpires. Olympia Papadouka plays Phaedra’s son’s nanny, and supporter.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925) – this classic silent film with Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin has been remade, retold, and adapted “six ways from Sunday”. Don’t miss the original! Added to the National Film Registry in 1998.
Philadelphia (1993) – Tom Hanks earned the first of his consecutive Best Actor Oscars (tying him with Spencer Tracy for this distinction) playing an HIV-infected lawyer in this Academy Award nominated story from Ron Nyswaner; Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs (1991)) co-produced and directed the drama. Bruce Springsteen’s Original Song also won gold while Neil Young’s title song was nominated; the film’s Makeup also received a nomination. Denzel Washington plays the lawyer that sues Hanks’s employer for discrimination; Hanks’s character was fired when his AIDS becomes visible to clients. Jason Robards and Joanne Woodward are among those also in the cast.
Pillow Talk (1959) – features Doris Day’s only Oscar nominated performance, and Thelma Ritter’s 5th of 6 unrewarded Supporting Actress nominations. This Oscar winning story introduces the outdated “party line” concept to younger folks and is a very funny comedy with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall. The film’s Art Direction-Set Decoration and Score were also nominated. Added to the National Film Registry in 2009.
The Pink Panther (1964) – this first film with Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau is a comedy classic by director Blake Edwards. With David Niven, Robert Wagner, and Capucine (before Madonna, I guess;- ) it features the great theme music by Henry Mancini, as well as introducing the famous “Pink Panther” cartoon, even though the film’s title actually refers to a famous diamond. Added to the National Film Registry in 2010.
Pocketful Of Miracles (1961) – though not as good as director Frank Capra’s original version of the same (Lady for a Day (1933)), this comedy remake is still slightly better than average. It stars Glenn Ford as Dave ‘the Dude’ gambler who needs help from Bette Davis’s Apple Annie who in turn needs help from the Dude when her daughter Louise (Ann-Margret) comes to town. Hope Lange, Arthur O’Connell, Peter Falk, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Everett Horton, Mickey Shaughnessy, Sheldon Leonard, Barton MacLane, John Litel, Jerome Cowan, Ellen Corby, Jack Elam, Mike Mazurki, and Hayden Rorke are among those who also appear. Falk received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination; the film’s Color Costume Design and the title Song were also Oscar nominated.
Poltergeist (1982) – Featuring AFI’s 29th best movie quote “They’re here!”, this modern day horror story (written by Stephen Spielberg) received three Oscar nominations (Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects, and Score) and features Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Dominique Dunne, Oliver Robins, and Heather O’Rourke as family members who are terrorized by unknown forces in their home. Beatrice Straight plays a doctor and Zelda Rubinstein plays a clairvoyant. Tragically, actresses Dunne & O’Rourke both lived short lives.
Portrait of Jennie (1948) – Jennifer Jones is the “muse” for painter Joseph Cotten, who is supported by gallery owners Ethel Barrymore & Cecil Kellaway. But does she really exist? Lillian Gish and David Wayne also appear, as does Nancy Davis Reagan (at the very end) in this unusual, yet captivating story. A Best Special Effects Oscar winner, also nominated for B&W Cinematography.
Prizzi’s Honor (1985) – Angelica Huston made her family’s legacy as famous as the Barrymore’s when she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role as a hit-woman opposite Jack Nicholson’s hitman in this comedy romance drama directed by her father John, who’d also directed his father Walter to Supporting gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Nicholson received a Best Actor nomination; William Hickey was nominated in the Supporting Actor category. The film, its screenplay, editing, and costume design were also nominated for Oscars.
The Producers (1968) – see the original! This hilarious Mel Brooks directed comedy earned writer Brooks his only Oscar (for his Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen) and Gene Wilder his only acting nomination (Supporting). Accountant Wilder devises a way for womanizing producer Zero Mostel to make money, by producing a play that flops! But their casting of a flamboyant lead (Dick Shawn) inadvertently makes their attempt, a shockingly bad taste effort titled “Springtime for Hitler”, a smash hit. Recently remade into a musical on Broadway AND a new film, this one was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.
The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) aka The Creeping Unknown – predating The Blob (1958), this British sci-fi classic stars Brian Donlevy as Professor Quatermass, who’s sent a rocket ship 1,500 miles into space and returned it to Earth. But only one of its 3 man crew emerges, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), conveniently, because his wife Judith (Margia Dean) is the only spouse traveling with Quatermass, Dr. Briscoe (David King-Wood), and the Secretary of Defense (Lionel Jeffries) to the crash site. Carroon is rather catatonic, able to move haltingly when directed by others, and uncommunicative; he’s also undergoing some sort of physical transformation. Because of the other missing crewmen, Scotland Yard Inspector Lomax (Jack Warner) wonders whether Carroon is responsible for their disappearance. Aided by his well-meaning wife, Carroon escapes the hospital and goes on a killing spree before encountering a little girl (Jane Asher, uncredited) in a Frankenstein-esque scene. He then begins to absorb various plants and animals (including some from a London zoo) while growing into an octopus-like blob that interrupts a BBC TV producer’s (Gordon Jackson) documentary at Westminster Abbey. The film was directed by Val Guest, who also wrote the screenplay – with Richard Landau – which was based on the Nigel Kneale television play.
Quiz Show (1994) – excellent historical drama starring Ralph Fiennes as a smart, attractive wealthy young (“fair haired boy”) man who becomes the center of a scandal as a quiz show contestant who gets the answers in advance. Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons (1966)) earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination as Fiennes ethical professor father. Director Robert Redford, the film and its writing were also nominated.
The Rare Breed (1966) – fairly unexciting (and thankfully, not too long) Western about a British widow, played by Maureen O’Hara, and her daughter, played by Juliet Mills, who bring their Hereford bull to America, claiming it’s a superior breed. James Stewart, miscast for his age at the time (nearly 60!), is the cattle puncher who is hired to transport the bull to its breeder, played by an unrecognizable (per a ridiculous red beard) Brian Keith. Of course the trip doesn’t go smoothly, the value of the new breed is questioned (is it hardy enough to survive in “our” West?) by “us” ignorant Americans, but all turns out well in the end. Jack Elam, Ben Johnson, and Harry Carey Jr. lend their support.
Rashomon (1950) – Directed by Akira Kurosawa, who also co-wrote the screenplay, this crime drama mystery thriller starring Toshirô Mifune (among others), famous for its telling of the same incident from the different points of view of each of its participants, was voted an Honorary Award by the Academy’s Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1951; its B&W Art Direction-Set Decoration received an Oscar nomination in 1953 (for 1952).
The Red Badge Of Courage (1951) – I’ve read Stephen Crane’s novel. But, personally, I don’t think this film rates more than 3 out of 5 stars. Audie Murphy plays the Union soldier who struggles with his own courage in the Civil War. Andy Devine, Bill Mauldin, and Royal Dano also star in this John Huston directed film.
The Remains of the Day (1993) – excellent romance drama earning its two leads, Emma Thompson & Anthony Hopkins, lead acting Oscar nominations. The film, its director (James Ivory), its Writing, Costume Design, Art Direction-Set Decoration, & Score were also nominated.
The Revolutionary (1970) – written and (associate) produced by its novelist Hans Koningsberger, and directed by Paul Williams, this 1960’s era story about how a college philosophy major named “A” (Jon Voight) gets more and more radical in his rebellion against society, its conservatism, the “war”, and other ill-defined or perceived oppressions and oppressors is pretty tame, and even ends before “A” demonstrates his commitment to the “cause”, which could be generically defined as “against the way things are”. It begins with “A” as part of a group of students (among them is Jeffrey Jones, looking nearly the same as he would more than a decade later in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)) and some faculty at an unnamed college. They apparently have some grievances and define themselves as radicals but the filmmakers seem to have intentionally kept the specifics of their protests from the audience so that it might not become dated, assuming that there will always be those that rebel against the status quo; “A” even espouses some gobbledygook from Robespierre which proves that “revolution” is normal. Dissatisfied with the group’s lack of action, “A” joins some disgruntled, more organized laborers at a nuclear plant led by Despard (Robert Duvall), who’s a Marxist; instead of just talking about injustice, this group actually distributes leaflets! Estranged from his family, “A” finds free love with Ann (Collin Wilcox-Horne aka Paxton), who seems to really care for him even though he treats her badly; he leaves her as he has all attachments, though he’s later attracted to Helen (Jennifer Salt), the buttoned up daughter of a wealthy family (except for his good looks, her attraction to him is a complete mystery). During the course of A’s experience, he is arrested, beaten while police try to break up an unauthorized strike at the plant, is expelled from school and, refusing help from his father, is drafted and deserts. Through Despard, “A” finally meets a real radical, an extremist named Leonard II (Seymour Cassel), and finally finds the action he purports to have been seeking. They takeover a pawn shop and give away the store for a while, before plotting to blow-up a judge if he doesn’t set some others free.
Rio Grande (1950) – better than average Western by director John Ford with John Wayne as a post-Civil War cavalry commander charged with fighting off the Apache Indian attacks. Maureen O’Hara plays his estranged wife; Claude Jarman Jr. his new recruit son. Familiar story-lines. Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Chill Wills and Victor McLaglen are in his unit.
Rio Lobo (1970) – the last film directed by Howard Hawks was this John Wayne Western which also featured future producer Sherry Lansing’s last of two performances as an actress. Written by Burton Wohl and Leigh Brackett, from Wohl’s story, it’s a drama that begins at the end of the Civil War and ends in the titled Texas town. Union Colonel Cord McNally (Wayne) is frustrated by the Confederate’s success stealing his army’s gold shipments, but finally catches and jails the men responsible – Captain Cordona (Jorge Rivero) and Sergeant Tuscarora Philips (Christopher Mitchum) – after a train robbery that takes the life of the Colonel’s second-in-command, and dear friend. When the war ends, McNally befriends his former foes, gaining their assistance in tracking down and capturing the Union traitor (Victor French) that enabled their gold stealing success. Now known as Ketchum (French), he uses his ill-gotten gains as the corrupt boss of the titled town. After installing his own sheriff (Mike Henry), Ketchum has forced all but a few of the surrounding landowners into given up their deeds, killing anyone that gets in his way. One victim was the only man that had ever been kind to Shasta Delaney (Jennifer O’Neill); after rescuing her from one of the traitors (Robert Donner), as identified by Cordona, who McNally dubs Frenchy, all three head to Rio Lobo where they enlist the help of Tuscarora’s father (Jack Elam) to settle the score. Lansing and Susana Dosamantes play additional women that help the men seeking justice and revenge; David Huddleston plays the town’s honest dentist and Jim Davis, of TV’s Dallas, plays one of Ketchum’s flunkies. Writer George Plimpton, doing research for a book about Hollywood, also appears.
Road to Morocco (1942) – one of the better Bing Crosby-Bob Hope “Road” films, Best Writing Oscar nomination, with Dorothy Lamour & Anthony Quinn. Added to the National Film Registry in 1996.
Robin and Marian (1976) – a fair to middlin story about an older Robin Hood who returns home to his Maid Marian but must still battle the Sheriff of Nottingham. Only watchable because of its title character leads, Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn’s Marian is now a nun who’s not too happy with her adventurous former lover’s absence; Shaw plays the still evil law man, Richard Harris plays King Richard. Directed by Richard Lester, written by James Goldman (The Lion in Winter (1968)).
Rocky III (1982) – of the Rocky (1976) sequels, this is perhaps my favorite; it adds Mr. T as Clubber Lang to the mix (also pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan) and features the Academy Award nominated Song “Eye of the Tiger”.
Rules of the Game (1939) – another classic by director Jean Renoir explores the caste system, and the commonplace infidelity, in France. A famous aviator, who’s in love with an aristocrat’s wife, is invited by her husband, who’s involved with still another woman, to a hunting party weekend at their estate. The director himself plays an adviser to the aviator.
Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) – rated the 3rd best submarine film by USAA members (behind Das Boot (1981) & The Hunt for Red October (1990)), this World War II film provides its two stars, Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, a chance to argue. Jack Warden and Don Rickles also appear in this Robert Wise directed film.
Safety Last! (1923) – Comedian Harold Lloyd’s most famous silent comedy, featuring the classic scene where he climbs a skyscraper and ends up clinging to a clock as he hangs out, stories above the ground, over traffic. Added to the National Film Registry in 1994.
Same Time, Next Year (1978) – Oscar nominations for Ellen Burstyn, who stars opposite Alan Alda, Cinematography, Marvin Hamlisch’s Song “The Last Time I Felt Like This”, and Bernard Slade’s adapted Screenplay (his only).
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) – this film is really about the Marine Corps and the rigorous training that was done before the Pacific campaign of World War II could become a reality. It stars John Wayne (True Grit (1969)), who received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of unyielding leadership in the person of Sergeant John M. Stryker, and culminates with the famous flag raising. The film also received 3 other Oscar nominations, including for Best Writing.
The Scarecrow (1920) – Buster Keaton and his roommate compete for the same girl, lots of great gags which hold up today. Guess who gets the girl?
School for Scoundrels (1960) – is one of the few films in which the game of tennis is an integral part of the story. It’s a pretty good – veddy British – comedy about an Englishman who attends the titled institute to learn how to stop being a doormat, which reminds this American of the Charles Atlas “sand kicked in the face” ad’s promise. Ian Carmichael plays Henry Palfrey, who is taken advantage of by everyone including his employees (Gloatbridge played by Edward Chapman), a haughty head waiter (John Le Mesurier), a couple of automobile salesmen (played humorously by Dennis Price and Peter Jones), and Raymond Delauney (perfectly cast Terry-Thomas), who becomes Palfrey’s rival for the comely April Smith (Janette Scott). Losing an embarrassing tennis match to Delauney in front of April is the last straw for Palfrey, who then learns from Mr. Stephen Potter (Alastair Sim, whose character shares the name of the author whose novel was the movie’s basis) “Gamesmanship, One-upmanship, Lifemanship” (and woo-manship), at the school. With Potter’s mild assistance, Palfrey is able to systematically reverse his fortunes. Directed by Robert Hamer, the film’s screenplay was written by Patricia Moyes and Hal E. Chester.
Sense and Sensibility (1995) – even if Hugh Grant normally annoys you, like he does me, this is a pretty good film adaptation of Jane Austen’s story about two sisters (played by Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, both Oscar nominated) who live with their mother and are romanced by Grant and Alan Rickman. Thompson (Howards End (1992)) won her second Oscar for Writing, she adapted the novel for the screen.
Seven Samurai (1954) – this Akira Kurosawa directed classic was used by John Sturges as the basis for The Magnificent Seven (1960) and is a classic in its own right, though fairly long;-)
The Seventh Seal (1957) – dour, depressing, dark drama by director Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow. A highly rated foreign film!
The Seventh Veil (1945) – a drama that’s similar to both Svengali and Pygmalion at the same time. James Mason plays Nicholas, a stern taskmaster who wields a powerful influence over his charge Francesca (Ann Todd), a gifted piano player who’s driven by him to achieve greatness as a concert pianist; her life is necessarily lonely until the end. This Muriel-Sydney Box story was varied enough to win them that year’s original screenplay Oscar. Directed by Compton Bennett, it features Herbert Lom as the psychiatrist who, through hypnosis, helps Francesca to remember her life after a suicide attempt causes her to become silent. Hugh McDermott plays Peter, her musically adept first beau whose future plans with Francesca are prevented by Nicholas.
The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad (1958) – while it’s easy to believe that this film’s special effects may have been impressive in their day, it’s not unlike the movies which are made today that rely completely on their special effects to entertain. Yes, there is a story, but the acting is laughable and the painstakingly made Ray Harryhausen effects are less credible than those in the much earlier film, The Thief of Bagdad (1940). In fact, the whole experience is rather cheesy and second rate. Added to the National Film Registry in 2008.
The Seven Year Itch (1955) – Tom Ewell plays a married man whose wife (Evelyn Keyes) is away. His neighbor happens to be a blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe. You can guess what happens next. Also, this Billy Wilder film features the famous “dress blown above her waist” scene.
Shaft (1971) – Watch this for Isaac Hayes’s Oscar nominated Score, his Academy Award winning titled theme Song, or Richard Roundtree’s career performance as the titled Black detective fighting his city’s crime mobs; a blaxploitation classic!
Shall We Dance (1937) – another of the wonderful Mark Sandrich directed Fred (Astaire) & Ginger (Rogers) dancing Musicals with George & Ira Gershwin tunes like “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar). Humorous support provided by Edward Everett Horton & Eric Blore, as well as Jerome Cowan and Ketti Gallian.
Shampoo (1975) – Lee Grant earned her Best Supporting Actress Oscar (Jack Warden, his first Supporting Actor nomination) opposite Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn in this sex farce about a hairdresser (Beatty) who beds all his clients.
Shanghai Express (1932) – A classic, Oscar nominated film by director Josef von Sternberg (also nominated) starring Marlene Dietrich as a woman on a train and other intrigue. It won the Oscar for Cinematography.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) – highly rated, added to the National Film Registry in 1991. Buster Keaton is a projectionist in a movie theater who “enters” the film he’s showing to solve a crime in which he is the accused. Some stunning cinematography and stunt-work, including a scene (water tower) in which the comedian unknowingly broke his own neck!
Shoeshine (1946) – a neo-realistic drama by director Vittorio De Sica about two boys in postwar Italy that get caught in a black market scam, which leads to jail time for both of them. The conditions in the prison are deplorable: its bug infested, the food is barely edible, and the boys languish for far too long before being tried, convicted then sentenced, or released. The usual internally developed hierarchy and rivalries common among adult inmates is reflected in the prison population of boys. The masters – who keep the boys in line – and the warden conspire to get the two innocents to rat each other out, first by separating them, and then by staging a phony beating of one for the other. Some stereotypical scenes are featured – including a comedy movie shown to the prisoners and an escape – but at least its ending is somewhat unique.
Show Boat (1936) – it’s hard for me to choose between this one and the 1951 version. Lots of great songs, of course, in both. This one has Irene Dunne, who’s hard to beat, as well as Allan Jones, Charles Winninger, Helen Morgan, and Paul Robeson (who sings “Old Man River”). Directed by James Whale (Frankenstein (1931)), it was added to the National Film Registry in 1996. #24 on AFI’s 25 Greatest Movie Musicals list.
Show Boat (1951) – Although “Ol’ Man River” (#24 on AFI’s 100 Top Movie Songs of All Time) is not sung by the great Paul Robeson in this one, the other songs may be done better than in the 1936 version of this famous musical, especially “Make Believe”. Starring Howard Keel as Gaylord Ravenal and Kathryn Grayson as Magnolia, the scene at the end (including Ava Gardner) should make you cry. And don’t overlook Joe E. Brown and Agnes Moorehead as the parents of Ms. Grayson’s character. Directed by George Sidney, this film’s Score and Color Cinematography were nominated for Oscars.
Show People (1928) – a highly rated silent film by director King Vidor and starring Marion Davies. Davies plays a girl from Georgia who wants to be an actress that goes to Hollywood. Though she first finds work as the fall girl in slapstick comedies, she longs to be a dramatic actress and eventually gets a chance. However, prompted by her co-star, a John Gilbert wannabe, she gets too full of herself and almost ruins her career. There’s also a love (side) story with the comedian (William Haines) who helps her out initially. Added to the National Film Registry in 2003.
Silkwood (1983) – Mike Nichols (The Graduate (1967)) directed this thriller based on the true story of nuclear plant whistle-blower Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep), who later died under mysterious circumstances. Kurt Russell, Cher, Craig T. Nelson, Fred Ward, Diana Scarwid, and Ron Silver are among those also in the cast. Streep, Cher, director Nichols, editor Sam O’Steen, and screenwriters Alice Arlen and Nora Ephron received Oscar nominations.
Sinbad the Sailor (1947) – Fun family film with the dashing Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the title role, telling of his (eighth?) adventure(s) that no one is quite sure are true. A swashbuckling hero, two evil & ruthless villains (Walter Slezak & Anthony Quinn), and a beautiful girl (Maureen O’Hara) … what more do you need to know;-) Oh yes, riches beyond your wildest imagination, the treasure of Alexander the Great, and a magnificent adventure/voyage to find/get it. Career sidekick George Tobias, Jane Greer, Mike Mazurki, Sheldon Leonard, and Alan Napier (Alfred on TV’s Batman) also appear in this stunning, Technicolor delight!
The Sisters (1938) – I watched too long ago to remember too well, other than that I enjoyed it. It has a fabulous cast, including Bette Davis, Anita Louise, and Jane Bryan as the titled “sisters”, with Henry Travers and Beulah Bondi as their parents. Errol Flynn, Dick Foran, and Alan Hale play their suitors. Lots of melodrama, I do remember that, including Flynn marrying Davis and taking her away (to San Francisco?) where his drinking and gallivanting lifestyle lead to tragedy for their (expected) baby. Louise marries an older gentleman, Hale; Foran gets to marry Bryan, who then has a baby. The cast also includes Ian Hunter, Donald Crisp, Patric Knowles who I think pursues Louise, Lee Patrick, Harry Davenport, and more (like Susan Hayward, uncredited). Directed by Anatole Litvak.
Skippy (1931) – based on the comic book character by Percy Crosby, this comedy won director Norman Taurog the Academy Award for Best Director; the title character was played by Jackie Cooper, who was nominated for Best Actor. The picture and the adaptation by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Sam Mintz also received Oscar nominations. The story follows the exploits of the mischievous but good-hearted boy, his friend Sooky (Robert Coogan, younger brother of Jackie) and an annoying little girl named Eloise (Mitzi Green). The main plot element centers on Skippy’s father, Dr. Skinner (Willard Robertson), whose health department naturally wants to close down the ‘hazardous’ shanty town, where his son plays by day with one of its residents, Sooky, whose dog is captured by a vindictive dogcatcher. Helen Jerome Eddy plays Sooky’s mother. Skippy and Sooky try everything they can to raise enough money to save the dog from its fate.
Sleeper (1973) – one of Woody Allen’s better films? A look into the future, kind of a Rip Van Winkle type of story, with Allen as a man out of place in a utopian (?) world. Also with Diane Keaton. #80 on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies list.
Sleuth (1972) – Directing his last film, quadruple Oscar winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (5 Fingers (1952)) earned the last of his four Best Director nominations for this exceptional mystery-thriller by Anthony Shaffer (based on his play), which stars Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, each of whom were nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. To include its further distinction in these comments would reveal too much about the plot. The Score by John Addison (Tom Jones (1963)) was also nominated.
Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) – a 4 star comedy by director Ingmar Bergman involving extramarital sex, the class system, and several other ‘taboo’ subjects treated with humor. With subtitles.
The Sniper (1952) – Edward Dmytryk (Crossfire (1947)) directed this slightly above average crime drama thriller which earned an Oscar nomination for husband & wife writers Edward & Edna Anhalt (Panic in the Streets (1950)). The Anhalts also served as associate producers to Stanley Kramer, and Harry Brown (A Place in the Sun (1951)) wrote the screenplay. Arthur Franz plays the titled gunman, a sexually repressed sharpshooter who hates womankind, killing them with his Army issue M1 rifle from rooftops. Adolphe Menjou is top billed as the police lieutenant who tracks him down; Gerald Mohr plays his assistant. Marie Windsor is the piano player first victim, Frank Faylen the police inspector, and Richard Kiley plays a psychiatrist that figures out Franz’s motivation. Cliff Clark, Byron Foulger and Charles Lane (among others) appear briefly, uncredited, as the Chief of Police, a suspect and a nightclub drunk, respectively.
Soldier in the Rain (1963) – odd buddy film-comedy pairing of Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen, directed by Ralph Nelson and adapted from the William Goldman novel by co-producer Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin (Pillow Talk (1959)). The story kind of reminds one of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, though it’s McQueen in the ‘idiot’ Lennie role and “fat man” Gleason as the wise mentor “George”, and Ron Howard may have borrowed from this for his early comedy Night Shift (1982): McQueen plays a nonsensical “idea guy” that Michael Keaton later embodied. Gleason is Army Master Sergeant Maxwell Slaughter, and McQueen plays Sgt. Eustis Clay. Eustis admires Slaughter, who always has to rescue his younger protégé from the clutches of an MP (Ed Nelson) and a jealous rival Sergeant (Lew Gallo). Since Eustis is the base’s supply officer, Slaughter has leverage to get what he wants. But more than that, Eustis has a way with women; he sets the 40+ year old “fat man” up with a ditzy blonde high school senior named Bobby Jo Pepperdine (Tuesday Weld). Eustis has a protégé of his own: a brainy Harvard bound PFC named Meltzer (Tony Bill), who runs like the wind. So, Eustis is always getting in trouble doing things for Slaughter, who always bails him out. Eustis is always coming up with “million dollar ideas” that he and Slaughter can engage in after their terms of service expire; they’re all ridiculous, but Slaughter listens without making fun of him. It’s an odd friendship, but it works for them. Tom Poston plays a clueless base Lieutenant and Adam West makes an appearance as a Captain on inspection.
South Pacific (1958) – Worth watching if you haven’t seen it. The beach scenes with Mitzi Gaynor “washing that man right out of her hair”, and the guys led by Ray Walston, are hilarious. Some scenes are filtered with different colors, which I personally find distracting. Lead Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr, and Juanita Hall as “Bloody Mary” are also noteworthy. Won the Oscar for Sound, was nominated for its Color Cinematography & Score.
Soylent Green (1973) – though there is no great mystery or intrigue about what the titled substance is made of in this futuristic film focused on the problems of overpopulation, this Charlton Heston film is noteworthy in that it features the great Edward G. Robinson‘s last performance on film, that of a man who would give his life to see the beauty of our unspoiled country once again (even if it’s only a virtual reality).
The Spanish Main (1945) – the Academy Award nominated Color Cinematography, which helped dub Maureen O’Hara (in addition to the earlier, and similar, The Black Swan (1942)) Miss Technicolor, is not the only thing notable about this slightly above average swashbuckler. The fact that it was RKO’s first full Technicolor production is the other. Paul Henreid, Walter Slezak, Binnie Barnes, Barton MacLane, J. M. Kerrigan, and Mike Mazurki all appear in this Frank Borzage directed story that you’ve seen before with only slight modifications.
Sparrows (1926) – a terrific silent drama featuring Mary Pickford as the oldest of a dozen or more children who are forced to live in the squalor of a swamp, working the garden of an evil man. This man is also part of a gang that kidnaps the daughter of a wealthy couple, hiding her among the children at the muddy farm until the ransom is paid. Pickford’s character looks after and cares for the children, eventually rescuing them from their situation.
Speedy (1928) – which earned director Ted Wilde a nomination for Best Director, Comedy Picture in the only year this Oscar category existed, losing to Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)) and the Howard Hughes produced Two Arabian Nights (1927). Harold Lloyd is an obsessed baseball fan whose love for the game prevents him from keeping a job. Great scenes of Coney Island, NY (that must have been a fun place to visit!), a Babe Ruth cameo, a funny street fight copied many times over, and a perilous chase through the city make this a silent classic not to missed.
Spirited Away (2002) – when Pixar failed to release an animated feature in 2002, this Hayao Miyazaki film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Not for those lacking a florid imagination.
Spite Marriage (1929) – the second and last silent Buster Keaton made for MGM is also perhaps his last great work. He plays a pants presser that wears his clients’ clothes in order to make an impression on an actress he has fallen for, but she (of course) is interested in another actor in the show. Memorable moments include Keaton “ruining” said show, marrying the actress and putting her to bed, and several scenes on a boat. Keaton later assisted Red Skelton in ripping off most of his genius by helping him recreate most of these bits in I Dood It (1943).
Starman (1984) – Jeff Bridges earned his only Best Actor Oscar nomination (vs. three Supporting Actor noms to date) in the title role of this above average sci-fi drama from director John Carpenter. Crashing to Earth like a meteor in his spaceship, Bridges’s character assumes the physical makeup of widow Karen Allen’s husband so that she’ll accept him and aid his rendezvous with his planet’s mother ship. The starman adapts quickly; while learning about our way of life through naive eyes, he also teaches Allen (and us) about our foibles. Charles Martin Smith as a scientist, and Richard Jaeckel are among those who also appear in the film.
Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) – classic Buster Keaton silent featuring the famous cyclone scenes, including the building front which falls over him as he stands unawares.
The Story Of Seabiscuit (1949) – this fictional story about the titled horse was made into a very average family drama starring Shirley Temple in her second to last role along with Barry Fitzgerald as the horse’s trainer, and Lon McCallister as its jockey. Rosemary DeCamp and Donald MacBride also appear. Directed by David Butler.
Straw Dogs (1971) – is a (Sam Peckinpah-directed, hence) violent film about a married couple under siege in an isolated town in rural England. They’re a mismatched pair to begin with – he’s an intellectual (Dustin Hoffman!) and she’s an immature blonde beauty (Susan George) – plus, as an American, he’s a “fish out of water” in her native land and home town, where she has a past with one of the local hooligans. The town has a constable that barely keeps the peace; there’s a forceful elder (Peter Vaughan) who has undue influence on the layabouts that frequent the same pub as he, several of which are “helping” the couple fix up her father’s old home. The locals rebel against the American’s invasion of their town subtly at first, then boldly. An incident that involves the elder’s missing daughter and the village idiot leads to a full out attack on the couple and their home, when they harbor the idiot inside it. The nonsensical plot by David Zelag Goodman (Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)) and Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch (1969)) from a Gordon Williams novel is really just an excuse for (a controversial rape scene and) the over-the-top violence that makes up the last third of the movie, which earned Jerry Fielding an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score.
The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg (1927) – a four star Ernst Lubitsch directed silent about a young prince (Ramon Novarro) who learns to live, and love a commoner (Norma Shearer), before duty calls. Jean Hersholt plays the prince’s indulging teacher.
The Sunshine Boys (1975) – Neil Simon’s Oscar nominated script turned out to be just the ticket for George Burns, who earned a Supporting Actor Academy Award on his only nomination, in this story about a vaudeville comedy team who agree to reunite for a TV special, even though they haven’t spoken for years. Walter Matthau earned a Best Actor nomination for his role as the other half of the team; Richard Benjamin plays his son, the TV producer.
Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) – a pretty funny film in its own right with James Garner conning a whole town into believing bug-eyed Jack Elam is a notorious gunslinger, for his own purposes. Suzanne Pleshette, Harry Morgan, Joan Blondell, John Dehner, Grady Sutton, and Chuck Connors (uncredited as the actual gunslinger), among others, also appear.
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) – an excellent Western comedy spoof with James Garner in the title role. Garner agrees to take the job in a wild mining town that needs him, as a stopover on his way to Australia. Harry Morgan plays the Mayor who gives him the job; Joan Hackett his rich, klutzy daughter that becomes his love interest. Jack Elam is his reluctant deputy; Bruce Dern his first prisoner, the son of Walter Brennan, spoofing his role in My Darling Clementine (1946).
Take a Giant Step (1959) – is a combination coming-of-age/race relations film that featured the film debut of pop singer Johnny Nash in the leading role as Spencer Scott. Spence’s parents – played by Frederick O’Neal and Beah Richards, who would later appear as Sidney Poitier’s mother in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – had accepted the sacrifices of their pride inherent in moving to and living in the white suburbs of their town. They thought that leaving the slums would provide their son with the best opportunities without considering the impact it might have on him, being the only “colored” in his school etc. Only his wise grandmother (Estelle Hemsley) seemed to know and understand what the boy was going through; feeling friendless and all alone, Spence runs away for a day where he experiments with whiskey – Bill Walker plays the bartender – and comes in contact with prostitutes for the first time in his life. When he returns home, the entire family quarrels. When his grandmother passes, Spence mourns longer than the others and finds comfort with the family’s widowed maid Christine, played by Ruby Dee. In the end, Spence learns to keep his ‘rage’ in check. The drama was produced by writer Julius J. Epstein (Casablanca (1942)), who adapted Louis S. Peterson’s play and screenplay; it was directed by Philip Leacock.
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) – the original, the classic, featuring Johnny Weissmuller in the title role, Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane, C. Aubrey Smith as her father & Neil Hamilton as her boyfriend. Directed by W.S. Van Dyke, and based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel.
That’s Entertainment! (1974) – an outstanding review of MGM’s best Musicals, featuring many of its stars as narrators for the countless clips shown (eventually followed by two sequels).
That Touch of Mink (1962) – light romantic comedy starring Cary Grant determined to undermine Doris Day’s virtue; its Writing, Art-Direction, and Sound were Oscar nominated.
There Goes My Heart (1938) – based on a story by TV’s Ed Sullivan (screenplay by Eddie Moran and Jack Jevne), and directed by Norman Z. McLeod, this familiar – runaway heiress – screwball comedy stars Virginia Bruce as Joan Butterfield, whose tycoon grandfather (Claude Gillingwater) owns the department store chain bearing his name, and Fredric March as Bill Spencer, the reporter that discovers her ‘hiding-out’ as a worker in the New York City ‘family’ store. Having escaped her grandfather’s yacht, penniless Joan got help from (overly loud) Peggy O’Brien (Patsy Kelly), who already worked in the store, and her squirrelly fiancé Pennypepper E. Pennypepper (Alan Mowbray). Eugene Pallette plays Bill’s frustrated editor, upset because the inevitable happens: while his newspaper reporter is writing an expose about the ‘spoiled’ heiress, he discovers she’s a real down home gal instead of the snotty snoot he’d imagined, and falls in love with her. Irving Bacon appears as Joan’s/Peggy’s boss, and Marjorie Main appears uncredited as Joan’s first potential customer. The film’s Score earned Marvin Hatley (Way Out West (1937)) the last of his three unrewarded Academy Award nominations.
They Drive by Night (1940) – Ida Lupino is oh, so sexy in this remake of Bordertown (1935). George Raft, Ann Sheridan, and Humphrey Bogart also star in this Raoul Walsh directed film about a couple of truck driving brothers who are framed for murder by a lady psycho.
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) – Gig Young won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award (on his third Oscar nomination in the category) playing the producer, who’s also the master of ceremonies, of a Depression era dance marathon which exploits its willing participants for entertainment purposes. The lonely losers who volunteer for such abuse include characters played by Jane Fonda (her first Best Actress nomination), Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York (her only nomination, for Supporting Actress), Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia, and Bruce Dern. Michael Conrad plays a bouncer, Al Lewis the event’s co-producer. Director Sydney Pollack earned his first Best Director nomination; the film’s Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costume Design, Editing, Score, and Adapted Screenplay Writing were also nominated. The film’s title is a pun about the cruelty of such events; its ending gives Vietnam veterans something to cheer about.
They Were Expendable (1945) – a terrific film about the surprising successes of the PT boats during World War II, initially thought unworthy of any role in the conflict. Directed by John Ford, and starring Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Ward Bond, Leon Ames, and more; it was nominated for two Oscars, Special Effects & Sound.
They Won’t Believe Me (1947) – I’m afraid I don’t remember too much about this film noir starring Robert Young, who’s married to Rita Johnson’s character as more or less a kept man; he has affairs with Susan Hayward and Jane Greer, I believe, and I think the story is told in flashback while he’s on trial for his wife’s murder. It’s pretty good, was directed by Irving Pichel, with a screenplay by Jonathan Latimer that was based on a story by Gordon McDonell (Shadow of a Doubt (1943)).
This Sporting Life (1963) – grim, depressing, British rugby tale that reminds one of Raging Bull (1980), Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962), even Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), stylistically if not in content. Leads Richard Harris (looking very much like Marlon Brando did 10 years earlier) & Rachel Roberts earned Academy Award nominations (Harris’s first, Robert’s only) in this Lindsay Anderson directed drama from David Storey’s gritty story & screenplay. Alan Badel, William Hartwell, and Colin Blakely are among those who provide support. Glenda Jackson & Edward Fox appear uncredited in their film debuts.
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) – stylish film about a rich man so bored with his life that he turns to crime for excitement. This one stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. It was remade with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, also worth watching. The theme song of the film, “The Windmills of Your Mind”, won the Academy Award for Best Song. Directed by Norman Jewison (who had directed the Oscar winning Best Picture In the Heat of the Night the year prior to this one).
3 Godfathers (1948) – A most unusual film, and a remake of William Wyler’s Hell’s Heroes (1930) with Charles Bickford & Three Godfathers (1936) about three outlaws trying to get away from the law and find water that happen upon a dying about-to-be mother and then, inspired, make it their job to care for the newborn in the spirit of the Three Wise Men. John Wayne stars in this version by director John Ford. Harry Carey Jr., Ward Bond, Jane Darwell, Ben Johnson, and Guy Kibbee also appear.
Three Strangers (1946) – an entertaining film, mysterious and all, with three great lead actors – Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Geraldine Fitzgerald – that are linked together by a bet. Three stories in one, written by John Huston.
Throne of Blood (1957) – a four star classic by director Akira Kurosawa; check out the bizarre old woman in the woods. Not for everyone’s tastes.
The Time Machine (1960) – a sci fi classic which won the Best Effects, Special Effects Oscar, I actually think the film suffers in the final third with Yvette Mimieux. Rod Taylor plays H.G. Wells in his often copied or adapted story about time travel.
To Hell And Back (1955) – incredible true story of the most decorated soldier in U.S. history, starring the man himself, Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy. Pretty good film too, a faithful to his own autobiography (which I’ve read).
Tommy (1975) – This unique rock opera, directed by Ken Russell (Women in Love (1969)) who wrote the screenplay based on the Who’s album of the same name (and co-produced this film with Robert Stigwood), made the multi-talented (songwriter, rocker, guitarist) Pete Townshend an Oscar nominee (his Score was nominated) and earned Ann-Margret her Best Actress Oscar nomination. Lead singer Roger Daltrey plays the titled “deaf, dumb, and blind kid”, son of Ann-Margret (Carnal Knowledge (1971)) and Oliver Reed’s characters; Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon also play roles as do Elton John (who performs “Pinball Wizard”), Eric Clapton, Jack Nicholson, and Tina Turner (as the Acid Queen) among others.
tom thumb (1958) – nothing great about this Russ Tamblyn (in the title role) feature, story-wise, though it is a decent family film that did win an Oscar for Best Effects; and you can catch Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas in supporting roles.
Top Banana (1954) – is a stage show musical featuring the dated (and insufferable) burlesque comedy of Phil Silvers, as Jerry Biffle (a Milton Berle-type character). It was directed by Alfred E. Green and was adapted from the musical play by Hy Kraft and Johnny Mercer (The Harvey Girls (1946), Here Comes the Groom (1951)) by Gene Towne. Rose Marie appears in her typical self-deprecating role of comedienne without the looks to get the guy, singer Danny Scholl gets the gal (Judy Lynn), and Jack Albertson plays the obnoxious Biffle’s long suffering gag writer. Joey and Herbie Faye (his film debut) are among those that also appear.
Torrid Zone (1940) – comedy adventure at a banana plantation in Central America that probably wouldn’t be worth watching if it weren’t for its three stars, James Cagney & Pat O’Brien with Ann Sheridan, who make it fun. Andy Devine, Helen Vinson, Jerome Cowan, and George Tobias are also featured. George Reeves, Frank Puglia, John Ridgely, and Grady Sutton are among those who also appear. William Keighley directed; Richard Macaulay & Jerry Wald scripted.
Tortilla Flat (1942) – Victor Fleming directed this John Steinbeck story about the simple life in a fishing community. Spencer Tracy (gotta love that accident;- ), Hedy Lamarr (beautiful as ever), John Garfield, and Frank Morgan (who was Oscar nominated for his role) star. You’ll also see some great character actors like Sheldon Leonard, Henry O’Neill, and Allen Jenkins as Portagee Joe.
The Towering Inferno (1974) – Irwin Allen’s big budget disaster movie (when they were in vogue) with all-star cast which includes Steve McQueen as a fire chief, Paul Newman as an architect, William Holden as a builder, Faye Dunaway as Newman’s fiancée, Fred Astaire as a con man gigolo, Susan Blakely as Holden’s daughter and the wife of the building’s cost cutting electrical engineer Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones (her last return to the screen) as a hotel guest, O.J. Simpson as a security guard, Robert Vaughn as a Senator, and Robert Wagner. Academy Awards for Cinematography, Editing, and the Song “We May Never Love Like This Again”; Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Supporting Actor Astaire (his only), Art Direction-Set Decoration, John Williams’s Score and Sound.
The Train (1964) – Franklin Coen and Frank Davis (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)) earned an Oscar nomination for their story and screenplay – an action World War II thriller that was directed by John Frankenheimer. Based on a true story by Rose Valland, it details the efforts of a French museum curator (Suzanne Flon, playing Valland) and the French Resistance to foil a German officer (Paul Scofield, A Man for All Seasons (1966)) who wants to steal the precious art from a French museum – they want to keep the paintings from falling into the hands of the Nazis. Burt Lancaster plays a French railway official who leads the resistance; he directs a game of “cat and mouse” and other subterfuge with the train carrying the cargo. A spectacular crash (e.g. a train wreck involving multiple trains) is featured; Jeanne Moreau also appears.
Treasure Island (1934) – another pairing of Wallace Beery & Jackie Cooper, and perhaps the first sound version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s oft-filmed classic tale; it’s pretty good, but not great. Directed by Victor Fleming. Other actors which round out the cast include Lionel Barrymore, Otto Kruger, Lewis Stone, and Nigel Bruce. Beery plays Long John Silver, Cooper is Jim Hawkins, and Barrymore is Billy Bones; Charles Sale gives the film’s most memorable supporting performance as Ben Gunn.
The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) – With a cast that includes Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Alexis Smith, how can you go wrong? Well, the material is subpar and the direction isn’t any better, so it comes off as a second rate Hitchcock as it attempts to rip off the Master of Suspense’s Suspicion (1941); it even takes a stab at the famous director’s black humor at the very end. The drama – I wouldn’t call it a thriller per se – was directed by Peter Godfrey from the Thomas Job screenplay based on Martin Vale’s play. Bogie plays a psychopathic artist that poisons each of wives to inspire his “Angel of Death” portraits. Stanwyck plays the second wife, Smith the would-be third. The supporting cast includes veterans Nigel Bruce, as a doctor that (stereotypically) likes to have his drink, and Isobel Elsom as Smith’s mother. There’s also Pat O’Moore as the protective old beau of Stanwyck’s character, Ann Carter as a Bogie’s beyond-her-years daughter, Anita Bolster as Stanwyck’s disagreeable maid, and Barry Bernard as the chemist that supplies Bogart’s character with the poisonous ingredients while blackmailing him. Frank Waxman, who scored Hitch’s Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), wrote the score.
Two Women (1960) – A four star film featuring Sophia Loren’s Academy Award winning Best Actress performance; Eleonora Brown, who actually plays her daughter, is the other titled “woman”. Jean-Paul Belmondo also appears. The actual title is “La Ciociara (1960)“.
The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964) – I couldn’t get into this Oscar nominated foreign film, but a lot of people really like this Catherine Deneuve film; all the dialogue is sung!
Vera Cruz (1954) – is a very entertaining Western starring Gary Cooper and Burt Lancaster, sporting the whitest teeth you may ever see onscreen. Directed by Robert Aldrich and written by Roland Kibbee and James R. Webb from a Borden Chase (Red River (1948)) story, it’s chockfull of action, betrayal and ‘sex’. The cast is littered with familiar faces including Cesar Romero, George Macready, Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, Morris Ankrum, and Charles Bronson (when his last name was Buchinsky). Set during the time that France’s Maximilian I (Macready) was on the Mexican throne in 1866, the story begins when the Emperor hires American mercenaries Benjamin Trane (Cooper), an ex-Confederate officer that needs money to restore his Civil War losses, and ruthless gunfighter Joe Erin (Lancaster) and his gang – featuring Elam, Borgnine and Bronson – to escort ‘his’ Countess Marie Duvarre (Denise Darcel) through hostile territory to the titled coastal port; Romero plays one of Maximilian’s charges, ‘secretly’ the Countess’s lover. Along the way, they encounter revolutionaries like the lovely Nina (Sarita Montiel) and General Ramirez (Ankrum) of the rebel Juaristas. The poorly kept secret that the Countess’s caravan contains $3 million in gold spurs several untrustworthy alliances and the expected double-crosses. Will Cooper’s typical “white knight” take the spoils or will Lancaster’s ruthlessness win out?
Village Of The Damned (1960) – pretty good horror film about a strange occurrence which causes a rash of births nine months later. The offspring are children which grow up too fast and possess special abilities which give their parents cause for worry. George Sanders plays a professor who recognizes their capabilities first, and initially educates them, until he realizes what he’s helped to create. Check out their eyes!
Viridiana (1961) – an outstanding yet controversial drama from director Luis Buñuel (Julio Alejandro co-wrote the story with Bunuel) featuring Silvia Pinal in the title role, a woman ready to take her vows as a nun who’s first sent by her Mother Superior to pay respect to her benefactor and uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey). But he has other plans for her and, as they play out, she finds herself unable to return to the convent. However, she finds her own way to do God’s work, taking in beggars, but later (tragically) learns that “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. This film, initially banned in Spain and denounced by the Vatican, won the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival.
I Vitelloni (1953) – one of the best of director-screenwriter Federico Fellini’s films, this one about aimless youths; Fellini shared an Oscar nomination with two other writers for his original story.
The Way We Were (1973) – hard to recommend a film when the best thing about it is Marvin Hamlisch’s Oscar winning title song and Score.
Welcome to L.A. (1976) – a time capsule best left undiscovered, this dated Robert Altman-produced drama is even more incoherent than is his usual. Written and directed by Alan Rudolph, its soundtrack is monotonous, featuring the painful-to-listen-to vocals of Richard Baskin, who effectively plays himself: an “artist” named Eric Wood. A quick glance at the DVD’s box art reveals all you need to know about this apt-titled introduction to the Left Coast’s lonely wealthy, their Godless lifestyle, where everyone sleeps with everyone, anytime; only in the end do some of the characters realize the shallowness of their selfish natures. Keith Carradine plays the prodigal son of millionaire Denver Pyle; Harvey Keitel is Pyle’s employee and surrogate son, who ignores his wife Geraldine Chaplin; she’s stuck in a Camille (1936) fantasy of her own. Sally Kellerman is a desperate realtor, and John Considine is her pathetic husband who’s attracted to a shirtless housekeeper (Sissy Spacek). Lauren Hutton, who plays a photographer, is really just eye candy in a stereotypical illusive cool blonde role.
Westworld (1973) – popular sci-fi writer Michael Crichton wrote and directed this average sci-fi film about a futuristic theme park populated with robot workers who fulfill its guests’ every fantasy, until something goes wrong. Richard Benjamin and James Brolin play tourists who pay to realize their dream of entering a fictional Western town of the movies; Yul Brynner plays the robot villain whose wires get crossed.
Where Eagles Dare (1969) – An entertaining World War II movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood as co-conspirators who infiltrate an impenetrable German fortress without really trusting one another and/or the other members of their group. Based on the Alistair MacLean story.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – Won 3 Oscars and a Special Achievement Award (as well as nominations in three other categories) for combining animation with live action.
Wife vs. Secretary (1936) – Clark Gable is married to Myrna Loy and has an assistant played by Jean Harlow, who is being pursued by James Stewart. Gable’s mom is played by May Robson. It’s a comedy. What else do you need to know;-)
The Wild One (1953) – A somewhat disappointing film about a gang of men, led by Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, with nothing better to do than put on leather and ride motorcycles every weekend with typical mob mentality outcomes. I’m guessing this had a bigger impact at the time, now it’s pretty dated (even silly, at times).
Wild Strawberries (1957) – aka Smultronstället (1957), earned director Ingmar Bergman his first Academy Award nomination (his original story and screenplay was Oscar nominated), this dark depressing drama is about a elderly professor (Victor Sjöström aka Victor Sjostrom) – his journey to receive an achievement award forces introspection of his life: lost opportunities, failures, fears, love lost, etc. forcing him to question the value of his own empty existence.
The Wind (1928) – Directed by Victor Sjöström, with a screenplay from Frances Marion that was based on the Dorothy Scarborough novel, this above average silent drama stars Lillian Gish as a woman from the East who goes West, then finds herself unwanted by a jealous relative (Dorothy Cumming) with whom she’d been staying. She’s pursued by an unscrupulous married man (Montagu Love), but marries another hardworking wrangler (Lars Hanson). But while her husband’s away, Love’s character comes into her home out of the constantly blowing wind and forces himself upon her. She makes one fateful decision, exhibiting a tough pioneer woman persona previously unseen, after another. Added to the National Film Registry in 1993.
The Wind And The Lion (1975) – great cast makes this slightly above average adventure film enjoyable: Sean Connery plays an Arab that kidnaps American Candice Bergen causing an International incident, and President Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Keith) & his Secretary of State (John Huston) anguish. A military solution is needed (Steve Kanaly appears, as does Geoffrey Lewis). The film’s Sound and Score were Oscar nominated.
Wings of Desire (1987) – dark (mostly B&W), depressing, foreign film with subtitles (later remade as City of Angels (1998)), overrated.
Within Our Gates (1920) – Added to the National Film Registry in 1992.
A Woman of Paris (1923) aka A Drama of Fate (1923) – Though this film doesn’t feature the actor Chaplin (though he does appear in a very brief, unrecognizable cameo), it is a pretty good film featuring Edna Purviance as a presumably jilted woman who goes to Paris to sew her oats as Adolphe Menjou’s lover. When her former fiancé Jean (Carl Miller) returns, she learns that there was a misunderstanding regarding their failed elopement and can’t decide what to do … neither can Jean, who’s influenced by his mother. Not a comedy!
Yojimbo (1961) – director Akira Kurosawa’s classic received an Oscar nomination for B&W Costume Design. Starring Toshirô Mifune, the story is about a samurai who wanders into a town where there’s a feud going on between two families. He becomes involved in the conflict in much the same way that Clint Eastwood’s character does in director Sergio Leone’s remake, titled A Fistful of Dollars (1964).
You Only Live Once (1937) – pretty good film by director Fritz Lang (one of his best?) featuring Henry Fonda as a criminal who Sylvia Sidney believes is basically good. Lots of familiar faces in this one including Barton MacLane, William Gargan, Jerome Cowan, and Margaret Hamilton, and Warren Hymer among others. Even more uncredited, like Ward Bond and Al Bridge!
Ziegfeld Follies (1946) – a plethora of MGM’s stars highlight this review – similar to those that legendary showman Flo Ziegfeld used to do – which won the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Musical Comedy award.
- May, 2007 – Katharine Hepburn/John Wayne
- April, 2007 – Rita Hayworth
- March, 2007 – Gene Kelly
- February, 2007 – 31 Days of Oscar
- January, 2007 – Jean Arthur
- December, 2006 – Gary Cooper
- November, 2006 – Lucille Ball
- October, 2006 – Child Stars
- September, 2006 – William Holden
- August, 2006 – Summer Under the Stars
- July, 2006 – Elizabeth Taylor
- June, 2006 – Anthony Quinn
- May, 2006 – Bette Davis
- April, 2006 – Deborah Kerr
- March, 2006 – Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald
- February, 2006 – 31 Days of Oscar
- January, 2006 – Robert Montgomery
- December, 2005 – Bing Crosby
- November, 2005 – Joan Fontaine
- October, 2005 – Robert Mitchum
- September, 2005 – Greta Garbo
- August, 2005 – Summer Under the Stars
- July, 2005 – Audrey Hepburn
- June, 2005 – Ingrid Bergman
- May, 2005 – Orson Welles
- April, 2005 – Errol Flynn
- March, 2005 – Claudette Colbert
- February, 2005 – 31 Days of Oscar
- January, 2005 – Canadian Actors
- December, 2004 – James Stewart
- November, 2004 – archive
- October, 2004 – archive
- September, 2004 – archive