I Challenge You to #PayClassicsForward for Christmas

‘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!

Two Royals

Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison star as Anna and the King
Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison star as Anna and the King
  • 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.

henry

Three Siblings

I’m recommending a Bette Davis trifecta here because they cover the spectrum.

sisters
The Sisters also stars Errol Flynn, but this gorgeous lobby card features Jane Bryan, Bette Davis, and Anita Louise as sisters Grace, Louise and Helen
Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as Blanche and Baby Jane Hudson
Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as Blanche and Baby Jane Hudson
Bette Davis and Bette Davis as Dead Ringer sisters, Margaret DeLorca and Edith Phillips
Bette Davis and Bette Davis as Dead Ringer sisters, Margaret DeLorca and Edith Phillips

Four Biographies

  • 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

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard as Celia and Dr. Harvey
Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard as Laura and Dr. Harvey
Greer Garson and Ronald Colman in Random Harvest
Greer Garson and Ronald Colman as Paula and Charles in Random Harvest
  • Linda Seton and Johnny Case in George Cukor’s Holiday (1938)
Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant in Holiday - IMO their most romantic pairing.
Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant as Linda and Johnny in Holiday – for my money their most romantic pairing.
  • The Groom and The Bride in Cline/Keaton’s One Week (1920)
one-week
Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely play newlyweds in One Week
George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor
George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor as The Man and The Wife

 

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.

Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund and Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo in Casablanca
Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund and Paul Henreid as Victor Laszlo in Casablanca

 ◊

Six Private Detectives

Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon
It took her several decades to make a film appearance, but Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple charms and entertains
It took her several decades to make a film appearance, but Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple charms and entertains
  • Nick Charles in W. S. Van Dyke’s The Thin Man (1934)
William Powell is Nick Charles and Skippy is his loyal pooch, Asta
William Powell is Nick Charles and Skippy is his loyal pooch, Asta
  • John Shaft in Gordon Parks’ Shaft (1971)
Richard Roundtree is Shaft
Richard Roundtree is Shaft
Dick Powell is Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet
Dick Powell is Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet

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.

Albert Finney plays Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express
Albert Finney plays Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express

Seven Pre-Codes

  • 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).
Doris Day and Rock Hudson pillow talking
Doris Day and Rock Hudson pillow talking

his-girl-friday

  • 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)
the-awful-truth
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant as Lucy and Jerry Warriner, a couple having marital troubles in The Awful Truth
  • 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.
Reed and Ford in Ransom!
Reed and Ford in Ransom!
  • C. C. Baxter compromises himself every time his phone rings in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960)
cc
Jack Lemmon as C. C. Baxter in The Apartment
  • Their infatuation and conversations are “Right down the line” in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944)

Nine Deaths

(Some spoilers in pictures!)

It wasn't the airplanes!
It wasn’t the airplanes!
Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine - The Children's Hour
Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in The Children’s Hour
Weeping Panama Smith (Gladys George) came upon him and cradled his head in her arms as he expired on the steps of the church - the image evoked Michelangelo's Pieta.
A weeping Panama Smith (Gladys George) came upon him and cradled his head in her arms as he expired on the steps of the church – “He used to be a big shot” – James Cagney stars as Eddie Bartlett
  • David Kentley’s strangulation in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948)

rope

Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham in I Want to Live!
Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham in I Want to Live!
  • Vera’s death in Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour (1945)

vera

Orson Welles as Quinlan in Touch of Evil
Orson Welles as Quinlan in Touch of Evil
  • A double death in Joseph H. Lewis’ Gun Crazy (1949)

gun-crazy

  • Mrs. Henry Vale in Irving Rapper’s Now, Voyager (1942)
I soooo enjoy when this witch dies!
I soooo enjoy when this witch dies! Mrs. Henry Vale is played by the brilliant Gladys Cooper

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 Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940) – (Spoiler clip) Final call to arms

Eleven Trips Worth Taking

  • Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-hiker (1953)

hitch

  • Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973)

badlands

39

  • Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

sullivan

  • Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon (1973)

paper-moon

  • Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once (1937)

you-only-live-once

  • John Ford’s Stagecoach (1939)

stagecoach

  • Raoul Walsh’s They Drive By Night (1940)

they-drive-by-night

  • Stanley Kramer’s The Defiant Ones (1958)

defiant

  • W.C. Fields’ It’s a Gift (1934) – (features a hilarious family car trip to California you should not miss.)

its-a-gift

  • Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1949)

they-live-by-night

Twelve Writer’s Stories

(Assuming everyone has seen the likes of Sunset Blvd., All the President’s Men, Misery and The Shining)

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…

#PayClassicsForward

 

Since I used different categories last year you might like to visit that list for more recommendations.

7 thoughts

  1. Wow, this IS quite a challenge! I’ll have to rack my brains and see if I can come up with *gulp* silent film-only recommendations… 😀

    Btw, I’d like to cordially invite you to join the Third Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon, which I’m hosting February 19-21, 2017 on Silent-ology! 2017 is a very significant year since it will mark 100 years since Buster first entered “moving pictures,” so it’s a great opportunity for fans to come together and really celebrate his work (even more so than we already do!). I will also be working with the International Buster Keaton Society to help publicize this event.

    Let me know if you’d like to join the celebration, would love to have you! I’m off to mull over 12 categories of pre-talkies films… 😀

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