Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Favorite Movies---1960's (and beyond) list

My favorite films of the 1960's (and beyond) are mostly musicals and new 5-star film discoveries.  In fact, three of the the decade's faves are among my 5-star film discoveries of the year.  Two of the top 10 are musicals, with another musical in runner-up position.  I am including in this decade a 70's film as well.  Since I watch so few 60's and 70's films, it just makes sense to combine these decades.

10.  Charade

This Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn whodunit film puts me in mind of a James Bond movie.  From the thoroughly modern (and very cool) opening credits to the twists and turns of the plotline, Charade ranks up there with every Bond film I've ever seen (all 3 of them!).   Cary Grant---who grew better-looking through the years---is in his early 60's here...and looking incredibly gorgeous.  The chemistry between him and the always-lovely Audrey is wonderful.

9.    Strangers When We Meet

The first of my 5-star film discoveries of the year, Strangers When We Meet is a beautiful romantic drama starring Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak.  A very passionate film featuring terrific acting and a beautiful score, it deals with extra-marital love.  (Reviewed HERE)

8.    Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Bette Davis is out-of-this-world cruel to sister Joan Crawford in this "campy" drama.  One thing I love about Bette is that she was always more concerned with being a terrific actress than in being a glamour girl; therefore, she was willing to be ugly and grotesque if a role called for it...and in Baby Jane she is at her most grotesque.  

7.     Oliver!

My memories of this film go back over 40 years!!  I remember seeing this film at the movie theatre (near South Hills Village in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) with my grandparents, uncle, and brother.  I'm quite sure I developed a crush on Jack Wild (the Artful Dodger) from the very moment he appeared on screen.  My own kids more or less grew up on this movie, which has totally fantastic music.

6.    That Funny Feeling

One more of my 5-star film discoveries of the year, That Funny Feeling is an adorable romantic comedy starring the delightful real-life couple, Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin.    (Reviewed HERE)

5.    Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Another of my 5-star film discoveries of the year, this bold (for its time) film tackles the issue of interracial marriage.  Starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn (in an Academy Award-winning performance), and Sidney Poitier, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner garnered 10 Academy Award nominations.  (Reviewed HERE)

4.    The Sound of Music

I grew up on this beautiful film!!  It has been a part of my life since its release in 1965.  I have practically the entire movie memorized, including every song.  Several scenes always get me misty-eyed.  

3.    To Kill a Mockingbird

Completely fantastic film, featuring one of my all-time favorite fictional characters---Atticus Finch.  A man concerned with doing the right thing no matter what others thought, Atticus offered true wisdom when he told his children that until you've walked around in a man's skin, you cannot see things from his perspective.  To me, those words mean don't judge others, for you know not how you would respond in a similar situation.

2.  Les Miserables

This 1978 made-for-TV movie, starring Richard Jordan and Anthony Perkins, is my favorite screen adaption of Victor Hugo's novel.  Though I've seen the 30's version (starring Fredric March) and the 50's version (with Michael Rennie in the lead), this 70's version is, easily, my favorite, and that is really saying something, since I generally prefer old to new and since Fredric March is among my top 10 actors.  Both Mr. Jordan and Mr. Perkins bring a life to their characters which I did not find in the earlier two films.  (Reviewed HERE)

and my favorite movie of the 1960's...

1.  Madame X

Lana Turner is one of my top 5 favorite actresses, and while I love many of her films,  Madame X is, without question, my absolute favorite.  This is not just a tearjerker for is an absolute sobber, almost to the point that I can barely breathe.  I sometimes pop this movie in the player and then fast-forward to the final 30 minutes (the sobbing part), just so I can sob my heart out.  Strange, yes...but the absolute truth.  Lana's portrayal of the tragic Madame X is completely brilliant...her finest work in my opinion...very definitely worthy of an Academy Award nomination, which, unbelievably, she did not receive.  (Reviewed HERE)

Runner-up films are ShenandoahA Patch of Blue, True Grit, and My Fair Lady.

Next up...the revelation of my all-time favorite film.  And it may be a surprise to some, as the film which has been in the #3 position edged past #'s 1 and 2 this year.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Favorite Movies---1950's list

My ten favorite films of the 1950's scream "favorite men."  Five of my six "beloveds" have at least one film on this list.  William Holden has three, while Robert Ryan, Montgomery Clift, Gary Cooper, and John Garfield each have one (and Clift has a runner-up as well).  Plus, there's Fredric March, Cary Grant, and Rock Hudson.

10.  Born Yesterday

A delightful romantic dramedy starring Judy Holliday, in an Academy Award-winning role, Broderick Crawford, and the incredibly handsome Bill Holden.  Judy Holliday's character here---Billlie Dawn---is one of my favorite female film characters.  (Reviewed HERE)

9.    Pillow Talk

Adorable romantic comedy starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson.  Rock is drop-dead gorgeous here, and his "Rex Stetson" Texas accent puts me in stitches.  (Reviewed HERE)

8.    About Mrs. Leslie

My beloved Robert Ryan stars with Shirley Booth in this tearjerker romantic drama.  While "bad boy" Ryan isn't usually thought of as a romantic leading man, this touching films bears out that he well could have been one.  This is my absolute favorite Robert Ryan film.  (Reviewed HERE)

7.    Ten North Frederick

A total sobber, this romantic drama explores the May-December romance theme.  Starring my beloved Gary Cooper and Suzy Parker, this little-known gem is right up there with Mr. Deeds Goes to Town as my favorite Cooper film.  (Reviewed HERE)

6.    An Affair to Remember

A beautiful, touching Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr romantic drama.  This one always brings me to tears at the very same moment every time.  (Reviewed HERE)

5.    The Breaking Point

My favorite film of my beloved John Garfield, The Breaking Point is the truest film adaption of Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not.  According to Mr. Garfield's biography, Body and Soul: the Story of John Garfield, Mr. Hemingway "thought The Breaking Point was the best screen adaption of any of his novels.  He said that Harry Morgan as written had never become anything beyond an idea, but that John Garfield made Harry a person."   And to think that I very nearly skipped out on this movie because I don't care for the Bogey/Bacall version!!  (Reviewed HERE)

4.    Stalag 17

My darling Bill Holden's Academy Award-winning role.  With barely a woman in this film, this may seem very much like a man's war movie, but I completely and totally love it and can pretty much recite every line verbatim...I've watched it that much.  (Reviewed HERE)

3.    Middle of the Night

A touching romantic drama which explores the May-December romance theme.  Starring Fredric March, in what I think is perhaps the best performance of his career, and Kim Novak.  (Reviewed HERE)

2.    Sunset Boulevard

The favorite film of my beloved William Holden...and one for which I think he ought to have won the Best Actor Academy Award...definitely, his finest hour (and he had man fine hours!).  A romantic drama also starring Gloria Swanson, in an Oscar-nominated performance.  (Reviewed HERE)

and my favorite movie of the 1950's...

1.    A Place in the Sun

Not only my favorite film of the 1950's, but perhaps my favorite film of all-time, A Place in the Sun is a romantic drama, starring my beloved Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.  It is one of those films which I always wish had a different ending than the one it has.  (Reviewed HERE)

Runner-up films for the 1950's are From Here to Eternity,  All About Eve, Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday,  Sabrina, and Singin' in the Rain.

Next up, the 1960's.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, George Raft!!

Happy 117th birthday to one of my top 30 favorite actors...Mr. George Raft.  (September 26, 1895 - November 24, 1980)  NOTE:  I have found conflicting information about Mr. Raft's birth year, but I have gone with 1895, as that is the year on his gravestone.

Born George Ranft to a poor family in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York City, Mr. Raft spent his early years as a dancer.  With his fantastic sense of style, his flair for fashion, and his amazingly fast dancing feet, he was a regular on Broadway and in the New York nightclub scene, before making his way to Hollywood.  Though Mr. Raft found success in Scarface and other gangster films, he may have known even greater success.  Had he not turned down roles in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, those roles---which virtually launched Humphrey Bogart into stardom---might have made Raft the household name Bogart is.  It was through my desire to see the films of the man who played a part in making Humphrey Bogart a mega-star that I first discovered Mr. Raft.

My all-time favorite George Raft film is Each Dawn I Die (reviewed HERE).  This film, which pairs Mr. Raft with James Cagney is a superbly-acted prison drama.  The film sees Mr. Raft taking on the gangster persona with which he was so readily identified.

Rounding out my list of five favorite George Raft films are:

2.  They Drive by Night  (with Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and Ida Lupino)

3.  Invisible Stripes  (with William Holden, Jane Bryan, and Flora Robson---reviewed HERE)

4.  Black Widow  (with Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, and Gene Tierney---reviewed HERE)

5.  Johnny Angel  (with Claire Trevor and Signe Hasso)

There are many of Mr. Raft's films on my "want to see" list---Souls at Sea, The House Across the Bay, Manpower, and Spawn of the North to name just a few.  Unfortunately, I don't think any of those films are out on disc, nor are they on YouTube, so I must wait until TCM airs them.

So, Mr. George Raft, here's to you on your 117th birthday---or whatever birthday it is.  I am glad you left so many great films by which we can remember you.  And by the way, man, could you wear a suit!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Favorite Movies---1940's list

Now for my 10 favorite films of the 1940's.  This is my favorite decade ever...not just for films, but for fashion, hairstyles, and everything else.  This decade sees Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Teresa Wright, World War II, tearjerkers, and film noir being my faves.

10.  Pride of the Yankees

Lou Gehrig, who was struck down with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis---the disease which now bears his name---in the prime of life, faced tragic circumstances with courage and dignity, and his story is brought beautifully to life through the Academy Award-nominated performance of Gary Cooper.  (Reviewed HERE)

9.    I'll Be Seeing You

Sweet, tender, touching wartime romantic drama starring Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten.  (Reviewed HERE)

8.    Random Harvest

Tender, touching romantic drama starring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman.  (Reviewed HERE)

7.    Double Indemnity

Fabulous film noir, directed by my favorite director, the great Billy Wilder.  Starring Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale and Fred MacMurray---playing against type---as the man who falls for her charms.

6.    The Postman Always Rings Twice

My all-time favorite film noir, featuring Lana Turner as the femme fatale and John Garfield as the man under her charms.  (Reviewed HERE)

5.    Waterloo Bridge

A sobber (for me) of a romantic drama starring Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh.  (Reviewed HERE)

4.    Penny Serenade

Touching, tender tearjerker starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.  Not his usual ladies' man here, Grant plays paternal, and he does so beautifully.  (Reviewed HERE)

3.    The Best Years of Our Lives

A big winner for the 1946 Academy Awards.  Starring the amazing cast of Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Harold Russell, and Hoagy Carmichael.  (Reviewed HERE)

2.     Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman were magical in this classic, which also stars Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.  Having recently enjoyed this film on the "big screen," all I can say is that classic films were meant to be seen that way.  (Reviewed HERE)

and my favorite film of the 1940's...

1.    Now, Voyager

Touching and tender, this tearjerker romantic drama stars Bette Davis and Paul Henreid, with Claude Rains taking on a supporting role.  Features perhaps the most beautiful film score I have ever heard.  (Reviewed HERE)

My runner-up films for the 1940's are The Lost Weekend,  White Heat, It's a Wonderful LifeTomorrow Is Forever, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Next up, the 1950's.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Favorite Movies---1930's List

As I disclosed last week, I have been making changes to my favorite actor, actress, and movie lists.  I revealed the guys last week and will be doing the gals next week.  This week, I'll be revealing my favorite movies.  I'll first be breaking them down by decade, and after I've done that, I'll let you know what my favorite movie of all time is.

For the 1930's, 4 C's come away as my favorites---that would be Capra, Claudette, Clark, and Cagney.  (There's also Cary, Carole, and Cooper, as they each have a film on my list, but the first 4 C's have two films each on the list.)  Beginning at number 10, here are my 10 favorite films of the glorious 30's.

10.  The Public Enemy

Even now, some 80 years after its release, this is the quintessential gangster film.  Who could ever forget the grapefruit scene or Tom Powers' final arrival at his mother's door.  (Reviewed HERE)

9.    In Name Only

A beautiful, touching romantic drama starring Cary Grant and Carole Lombard in their only pairing.  (Reviewed HERE)

8.   A Star Is Born

A total tearjerker, starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in Academy Award-nominated performances.  (Reviewed HERE)

7.   Stella Dallas

Starring Barbara Stanwyck, in an Oscar-nominated role, John Boles, and Anne Shirley, this tearjerker is one of the movies I watch every Mother's Day weekend.  (Reviewed HERE)

6.   Dark Victory

Beautiful, touching tearjerker starring Bette Davis and frequent co-star George Brent.  (Reviewed HERE)

5.   Imitation of Life

Another of the movies I always watch Mother's Day weekend, Imitation of Life is a touching tearjerker starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers.  (Reviewed HERE)

4.   Angels with Dirty Faces

My favorite James Cagney film...was Rocky yellow?  Or did he pretend to be yellow to satisfy Father Jerry?  The viewer must make his or her own decision on that.

3.   It Happened One Night

Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable shine brightly in this adorable Frank Capra romantic comedy.  (Reviewed HERE)

2.   Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur star in this lovely Frank Capra dramedy.  The kindhearted, trusting, firetruck-loving, tuba playing Longfellow Deeds is one of my favorite film characters.  (Reviewed HERE)

and my absolute favorite film of the 1930's...

1.   Gone with the Wind

An absolute iconic film, Gone with the Wind is not only my favorite movie of the 1930's, but it is the film which introduced me to three of my favorite stars---Vivien Leigh, Olivia deHavilland, and Clark Gable.

Some other beloved 1930's films which barely missed making the top 10 list:  Make Way for Tomorrow, Manhattan Melodrama, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Stay tuned for the 1940's.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Death of a Salesman (5 stars)

Yes, it's the middle of September, but I am still in August mode (Fredric March) as far as movie reviews go.  I have three of Mr. March's movies to review, but I just haven't had the time to do them until now.  So, despite the fact that I had intended to focus on George Raft in September, Fredric March will still be seeing quite a bit of action here at They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To.

One of the films I enjoyed for Mr. March's August birthday celebration is the film which garnered him his fifth Academy Award nomination.  That film, which I caught for the very first time and which is one of my 5-star film discoveries of the year, is 1951's Death of a Salesman. Based on the Arthur Miller play of the same name, Death of a Salesman is a powerful, moving, emotionally-charged drama also starring Midred Dunnock, Kevin McCarthy, and Cameron Mitchell.

The salesman in Death of a Salesman is 60+ year-old Willy Loman (Fredric March), who after 36 years with his company, has just been removed from salary and put on straight commission.  Although Willy resides in New York, he is in charge of a New England route and is, thus, on the road every week.  His wife, Linda (Mildred Dunnock), worried because Willy's mind wanders and he has nearly had a car crash, suggests that he approach his boss about working out of the New York office instead.

Discontent with how his life has turned out, Willy spends much of his time reminiscing about former "good" days and thinking about his brother's success in Alaska.  Beyond that, as Linda confides to their sons, Willy has been borrowing $50 a week from a neighbor and pretending it is his pay.  He also has been trying to kill himself.

Willy and Linda's two adult sons, Hap (Cameron Mitchell) and Biff (Kevin McCarthy), return home for a visit, and immediately, there is strife between Biff and his father.  Though he showed promise as an athlete when in high school, Biff has been irresponsible and unmotivated since then, and he has never amounted to anything in Willy's eyes.  Willy has no idea that it was he, himself, who set Biff on the path of restlessness.

The situation soon reaches a crisis point---Willy asks about being given a local position...Biff meets with an old employer, hoping he will invest in a business venture...Hap abandons his father at a restaurant after picking up girls...Biff declares his father a fake...and Linda laces into her sons for their disrespect of their father.  And overriding it all is the fact that Willy cannot accept that he is just an ordinary man with ordinary sons.  How it all plays out is the balance of the film.

Death of a Salesman has enjoyed decades of success both on the screen and on the stage.  I have never seen any of the other versions and, in fact, had no knowledge even of the story until my viewing of this film.  Therefore, I am unable to compare one version to another---my review is based solely on what I saw in this film.  And what I saw here was completely sensational.  This is a powerful "message" movie, as it takes on some very deep, profound subjects...such as what constitutes success, acceptance of one's children for who they are, the yearning for parental approval, and the plight of aging workers.

While the acting of everyone in this film is fantastic, Fredric March and Kevin McCarthy moved me in an especially powerful way.  I could relate to Mr. McCarthy's character and, thus, was deeply touched by him.  I thought Mr. McCarthy's portrayal was heartfelt and completely real.  As for Mr. March...his portrayal of Willy Loman blew me away.  I already thought he was a sensational actor, but he was completely brilliant here.  This was the year which Humphrey Bogart won the Academy Award (for The African Queen), and I have long-said that I thought Mr. Bogart ought to have won for other films (namely Casablanca and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, for which he wasn't even nominated), but that Montgomery Clift ought to have won in 1951 (for A Place in the Sun).  Then, I saw Detective Story, and I thought Kirk Douglas was fantastic.  Though he didn't even garner a nomination, he could have given Mr. Clift a run for his money.  Now that I have seen Death of a Salesman, I definitely believe it ought not to have been Mr. Bogart's year.  Hands-down, I think Fredric March's portrayal of Willy Loman was the performance of the year.  (Even beating out my beloved Monty in my all-time favorite movie.)

This film is not out on DVD, and I don't believe TCM airs it very often.  At least, I don't recall seeing it on their schedule, and since I generally record most Fredric March films, I'm usually pretty observant of his name in a cast.  For those reasons, this has been a difficult film to track down, but I finally found it on YouTube (in parts).  Click HERE for part 1.  Definitely try to see this amazing and powerful film.

Happy viewing!!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Am Eating My Words...a Bit

Well, my dear blog friends, I am finding myself eating my words a wee bit with regard to nearly everyone's favorite Alfred Hitchcock film---Rear Window.  As many of  you already know, I have admitted to not liking that film.  Yes, I know I am completely out of step with nearly every classic movie fan on the planet, but I just don't like it.  Oh, it has never been one of my 1-star, "hate it" films; rather, since my first viewing of it 3 or 4 years ago, it has been a 2-star, "don't like it" for me, for the sole reason that  I just don't happen to think a peeping Tom is a worthy ambition.  (It seems rather sex predator-ish to me.)  I could never root for a man who spied on this neighbors, and I kept wondering how I would feel if one of my neighbors looked through his binoculars at every house on the block.  I am even out of step with my own family, as they like the film; when I complain about the peeping Tom aspect, my always-joking son tells me "it is the neighborhood watch program in action."

With yesterday being the 30th anniversary of Grace Kelly's death, our family decided to enjoy one of her films last night.  Though I was hoping for The Country Girl (and, thus, a William Holden fix), the majority of my family was clamoring for Rear Window.  Being the trooper that I am, I decided to go with the flow, and you know what---I actually found myself moving from 2 to 3 stars. I still don't like the fact that a Peeping Tom is a "hero," and I still would be greatly unsettled if one of my neighbors was focusing his binoculars on my house, but I recognize that the story is interesting and exciting, that the direction is fantastic, that the chemistry between the leads is perfect, that the wit of Thelma Ritter is terrific, and that Grace Kelly is her classy, elegant, beautiful self.

So, my friends, I wanted to let you know that when it comes to the beloved Rear Window, I am eating my words just a little bit.  While it will never be my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film, the fact that I've gone from 2 stars, "don't like it," to 3 stars, "like it okay" is rather huge.  I'm not quite so out of step anymore.