‘Tis the season to spread cheer and I’m doing my part by recommending classic movies – paying them forward – in hopes that these memorable distractions take people’s minds off negative goings on. I started this tradition last year and had a blast putting together a list of classics that are not necessarily popular with general audiences. I’m hoping others join me in this endeavor by recommending favorites in order to #PayClassicsForward on blogs or on other social media platforms.
Let’s give the gift of movies.
Here’s the challenge…pick movie recommendations to the “12 Days of Christmas” theme as I’ve done below. Keep in mind that movie choices should be those you think would appeal to non classics fans in hopes of growing our community and spreading the word about movies you think people would enjoy watching. You can use the same categories I have or make up your own. If it helps know that I set a few rules for myself, but it’s up to you how strict you want to be. For instance, I didn’t repeat any titles, chose 12 different categories from last year, avoided movies I’ve blogged about at length and chose mostly movies that non classics fans wouldn’t necessary be familiar with. Whatever guidelines you set for yourself just be sure to have fun! Here we go…
On the first day of Christmas, etc., etc., etc…
One Final Performance
I listed this category first thinking that choosing one memorable final performance would be a cinch. When I searched viable options, however, I realized there are many, equally great options. For instance there’s James Dean in Giant, Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond, Ingrid Bergman in A Woman Called Golda, Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and John Cazale in The Deer Hunter. All fantastic choices without a doubt, but in the end I had to go with what I believe is the most iconic portrayal of them all –
- Peter Finch as Howard Beale in Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976). Of all the choices listed in this entry this is probably the one most people have seen. If you haven’t then get to it!
- John Cromwell’s Anna and the King of Siam (1946) – humorous and heartwarming.
- Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) – for historical accuracy look elsewhere, but for a rambunctiously delicious time turn to Laughton and his pre-code excesses.
I’m recommending a Bette Davis trifecta here because they cover the spectrum.
- Anatole Litvak’s The Sisters (1938)
- Robert Aldrich’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
- Paul Henreid’s Dead Ringer (1964)
- Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) with an unforgettable performance by Maria Falconetti.
- Rouben Mamoulian’s Queen Christina (1933) is Garbo at her best.
- William Dieterle’s The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) features a terrific performance by one of my dad’s favorite actors, Paul Muni.
- Robert Z. Leonard’s The Great Ziegfeld (1936), which boasts a fantastic cast including William Powell, Myrna Loy, Louise Rainer, Frank Morgan and Fanny Brice as herself.
Five Romantic Couples
- Laura and Dr. Alec Harvey in David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945)
- Charles and Paula in Mervyn LeRoy’s Random Harvest (1942)
- Linda Seton and Johnny Case in George Cukor’s Holiday (1938)
- The Groom and The Bride in Cline/Keaton’s One Week (1920)
Special mention to Victor and Ilsa in Michael Curtiz’ Casablanca (1942)
His unconditional love for her. Her unwavering love and admiration for him. No disrespect for Bogie who kills it as the hero in this story, but it’s the pairing of Ilsa and Victor that moves me to pieces.
Six Private Detectives
- Sam Spade in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon (1941)
- Miss Marple in George Pollock’s Murder, She Said (1961)
- Nick Charles in W. S. Van Dyke’s The Thin Man (1934)
- John Shaft in Gordon Parks’ Shaft (1971)
- Hercule Poirot in Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
I’m not quite sure if Mr. Poirot is classified as a private detective, but he’s not “officially” on duty when a murder happens on the Orient Express. I have great affection for this movie and Albert Finney’s performance so this Poirot makes my list to remind you to see it.
- Stephen Roberts’ The Story of Temple Drake (1933) – a must for today’s audience with a memorable Miriam Hopkins in the title role.
- Robert Z. Leonard’s The Divorcee (1930) – a memorable look at marriage, infidelity and gender roles.
- Howard Hawks’ Scarface (1932) – simply one of the greatest, most influential gangster films ever made.
- Alfred E. Green’s Baby Face (1933) – The daring Barbara Stanwyck delivers the goods and then some in this.
- Clarence Brown’s A Free Soul (1931) – A favorite Norma Shearer performance up against a sizzling Gable.
- Clarence Brown’s Possessed (1931) – one of my favorite Joan Crawford performances who also sizzles opposite Gable.
- Lowell Sherman’s She Done Him Wrong (1933) – You gotta come up and see this. Mae West lived the standard.
Eight Memorable Telephone Calls
I avoided movies with titles referencing phone calls like Sorry, Wrong Number and Dial M for Murder although I made an exception for Pillow Talk because…well…I wanted to.
- Before online dating there were party lines. Michael Gordon’s Pillow Talk (1959).
- George Sidney’s version of a teenage party line, “The Telephone Hour” opens his By Bye Birdie (1963).
- Everybody yelling over each other while on the telephone in order to get a scoop in Howard Hawks‘ His Girl Friday (1940).
- Either she’s talking to the damned singing instructor or making believe she’s his sister. Telephones cause a heap of trouble in Leo McCarey’s brilliant The Awful Truth (1937)
- Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – there’s no explanation necessary as to why this is one of the loveliest scenes in movies. This is a popular one, I know, but I can’t leave it out. Mary and George realize their love in a series of awkward, heartwarming moments.
- Alex Segal’s Ransom! (1956) starring Glenn Ford and Donna Reed. You may have seen the 1996 version of this starring Mel Gibson, which is worth a look, but so is this earlier film noir version.
- C. C. Baxter compromises himself every time his phone rings in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960)
- Their infatuation and conversations are “Right down the line” in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944)
(Some spoilers in pictures!)
- Merian C. Cooper‘s King Kong (1933)
- William Wyler’s The Children’s Hour (1961)
- Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties (1939)
- David Kentley’s strangulation in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948)
- Robert Wise’s I Want to Live! (1958)
- Vera’s death in Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour (1945)
- Quinlan in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958)
- A double death in Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1949)
- Mrs. Henry Vale in Irving Rapper’s Now, Voyager (1942)
Ten Memorable Speeches
This category was especially difficult. There are so many fantastic speeches and monologues in movies – aside from opening sequences – that I could hardly choose just ten. I excluded several of my favorites because I think they’re already popular. But I must advise that if you haven’t seen Network, or listened to Mr. Smith’s filibuster, The Wizard’s speech in Oz, George Bailey defending his father to Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, Father Barry’s Sermon on the docks in On the Waterfront, Quint’s USS Indianapolis story in Jaws, and Barton Keyes’ on suicide in Double Indemnity then you simply must. If you have heard those then you might also like these…
- From Victor Heerman’s Animal Crackers (1930) – “How I shot an elephant in my pajamas.”
- From Lloyd Bacon’s 42nd Street (1933) – “You’ve got to come back a star”
- From Leo McCarey’s Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) – Patriotic butler
- From John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940) – “I’ll be there”
- From Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940) – (Spoiler clip) Final call to arms
- From The Bishop’s Wife (1947) – (Spoiler speech) Dudley’s sermon, “Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.”
- From Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) – “Look up, Hannah!” anti-fascist speech.
Eleven Trips Worth Taking
- Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-hiker (1953)
- Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973)
- Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935)
- Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
- Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon (1973)
- Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once (1937)
- John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939)
- Raoul Walsh’s They Drive By Night (1940)
- Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones (1958)
- W.C. Fields’ It’s a Gift (1934) – (features a hilarious family car trip to California you should not miss.)
- Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1949)
Twelve Writer’s Stories
(Assuming everyone has seen the likes of Sunset Blvd., All the President’s Men, Misery and The Shining)
- Sidney Lumet’s Deathtrap (1982)
- Fred Zinneman’s Julia (1977)
- Fred Newmeyer’s Girl Shy (1924)
- Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963)
- Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950)
- John M. Stahl’s Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
- Fritz Lang’s House by the River (1950)
- Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
- Peter Godfrey’s Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
- Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement (1945)
- Robert Moore’s Chapter Two (1979)
- William Wellman’s Nothing Sacred (1937)
Phew! Let me tell you, this is not an easy task, but it is fun. I hope you enjoyed the list and that – in the spirit of Christmas – you take this challenge and…