Today is NATIONAL CLASSIC MOVIE DAY. What we are tasked to do by Classic Film & TV Café is to list one favorite film from each decade from the 1920s – 1970s or from the 1930s -1980s.
I love the sweet torture of making lists. On the one hand, if some films don’t make the cut, I’m like… “Oh well.” Then on the other hand, if some films don’t make the cut I feel: “Am I really living withOUT this film?”
But the blood…and the sweat…and the tears…are all for a good cause…sharing my favorites with you and wholeheartedly recommending some pretty good films.
So, let me begin.
Now, in no way…shape…or form do I consider the 1980’s part of the classic era. But I know I could not do justice to the pioneering era of the 1920’s. This being said, I do have a favorite movie for this decade. Boy do I ever.
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“BODY HEAT” [ 1981 ] ~ Lawrence Kasdan
“Experience shows I can be convinced of…anything.”
This movie knocked my socks off. ( And socks are the least amount of clothes that come off in this movie ).
I was a big fan of Hollywood’s new kid on the block: William Hurt. Tall, blondish, handsome. Different kind of acting. I saw “Body Heat” when it first came out and it harkened back to my beloved classic movies, especially film noir. Then Kathleen Turner walked up the aisle of an outdoor concert in the beginning of the movie. What…the…hell!!!
The Story: A lawyer has a very steamy affair with a rich, married woman, and they plot to murder her husband. You know…’cuz that’s what you do.
You’ve seen it a million times? Not like this.
“You aren’t too smart, are you? I like that in a man.”
It’s the femme fatale that always traps us whether we’re in the audience or the hapless lug on the screen. You know how that goes, what is he gonna do about what she is gonna do—
I just think Kasdan has got it so right with this movie and because it’s the 80’s, he can bring it all ( sex, murder ) to graphic, steamy fruition. He makes it all make sense in its execution. I’m loving John Barry’s sexy score, there’s suspense in the plot, and the film is well-acted. J.A. Preston stands out for me:
“Ned, you’ve messed up before. You’ll mess up again. That’s your nature. But they’ve always been small-time. This might not be. She’s trouble, Ned. The real thing. Big-time, major league trouble. Watch yourself.”
It’s not that he’s ‘the Black friend’ but because the way he’s treated in the script…he’s really just, ‘the friend’ who loves his friend ( Hurt ) and sees him getting into a world of shit.
It’s all soooooo right. It was a big hit at the time. Can this movie really be 40 years old?
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“NETWORK” [ 1976 ] ~ SIDNEY LUMET
“You’re television incarnate, Diana – indifferent to suffering…insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You’re madness, Diana. Virulent madness.”
I don’t know if Paddy Chayefsky took a well-placed scalpel or a wild buzz-saw to television, but he certainly scalped it within an inch of its life.
The Story: A well-respected television journalist has a mental breakdown on live television, and the powers-that-be exploit him to get high ratings.
Faye Dunaway is the driven, force of nature pushing the boundaries of tv journalism off a cliff for ratings ushering in what we know today…in real life as “reality tv.” A well-deserved Academy Award for Dunaway’s efforts. Peter Finch plays the disturbed man who really is ranting against society. You simultaneously feel sorry for him, and angry with him. And for all those rather stuffy British roles he played, I see here he had a flare for farce/satire. William Holden is the man of integrity, though he’s drawn to the seductive and destructive force that is Dunaway. He’s so very good in this. Every body plays their part to a tee. The film is ferocious in its examination and I am simply riveted by this dark comedy.
When I first saw this movie on its initial release, my jaw dropped at the “What If” nature of the film as it explores what television can do. LOL! What if television had gotten that crazy. What if?
Runner-Up: “Blazing Saddles” ( 1974 )
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“SEND ME NO FLOWERS” [ 1964 ] ~ NORMAN JEWISON
“When he tells me he’s dying and he doesn’t DIE…wouldn’t he know that I’d get SUSPICIOUS?!”
If I ever feel sad or down, I merely have to look at any one of the trilogy of films by Doris Day with Rock Hudson, and a blanket of warmth comforts me. You might say they’re the King & Queen of ‘Rom-Coms’ but that’d be too reductive. I think they’re two fully-realized actors with good careers under their belt who came together for the first time in 1959’s “Pillow Talk.” And magic happened. The plot for “Send Me No Flowers is perfect.
The Story: When a hypochondriac husband believes he is dying, he tries to find the next husband for his wife.
I saw this movie when it came out in 1964 on a family outing to the Whitestone Drive-In in the Bronx. I remember longing for the suburban life-style in the movie; belonging to a country club. I remember liking the intimacy of marriage; at least of their marriage. In “…Flowers” the chase is over ( from their two previous movies ) and now they could be together in ‘every’ way, as far as my little 12-year old mind could imagine. The plot is just perfectly constructed, and what can I say about the teaming of Rock and Doris. Chemistry really can’t be acted. Tony Randall is never the third wheel. His characterizations are an integral part of the team. He is the cherry on top of all the fun.
The key word is fun. It’s infectious. They make you feel good. Who doesn’t want to feel good.
Runner-Up: “Strangers When We Meet” ( 1960 )
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“VERTIGO” [ 1958 ] ~ ALFRED HITCHCOCK
“Why did you have to pick on me. Why me?!”
The Story: A San Francisco detective is side-lined with vertigo. He’s asked by a college friend to follow his wife who he believes is on the way to a nervous breakdown and suicide. As the detective follows her…he begins to fall in love.
Runner-Up: “A Blueprint for Murder” ( 1953 )
P.S. I go into more detail on the movie:
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“OUT OF THE PAST” [ 1947 ] ~ JACQUES TOURNEUR
“You build my gallows high, baby.”
I know. I know. Everyone touts “Double Indemnity” ( 1944 ) as the ultimate film noir. But my sensibilities lean into “Out of the Past.” No doubt “…Indemnity” ‘shines bright like a diamond’ these past 77 years and has the Wilder / Paramount sheen and star power. But I think “Out of the Past” works its tropes into more twists and turns as it follows our detective trying to escape his past, but goes down a rabbit hole of lust and murder.
The Story: A big-time operator hires a detective to find his lover who shot him and stole his $40K. When the detective finds her, he falls for her himself.
I like the three leads in this movie very much. In his third movie, Kirk Douglas is quite menacing without getting his hands dirty. Big things to come in his career. Robert Mitchum is as smooth as black ice. He exudes tough cool as he uses his fists only when he has to. And damn, is that fedora and trench coat just made for his big, broad shoulders. Jane Greer is the movie for me. She doesn’t smolder obviously like Ava in “The Killers.” She walks in out of the sunlight, her allure cool, calm and in control. It’s her eyes. They’re devastating.
I love how there’s more of a world in “Out of the Past” and how it unfurls before us. I hope you give it a chance.
Runner-Up: “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” ( 1946 )
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“THE AWFUL TRUTH” [ 1937 ] ~ LEO McCAREY
“Marriage is a beautiful thing.”
This is my recommended gateway movie for someone tiptoeing around classic films. If you can’t like this one, I can’t even talk to you about movies. But listen…what’s not to like. There was none more dashing than Cary Grant in 1937 though his best is yet to come. For this being his first comedy, he does a really good job; partly b’cuz he’s teamed with Irene Dunne, newly trying comedy herself. Their great chemistry was wonderful, and they’re beautiful to look at.
The Story: The misunderstanding a married couple faces about trust leads to a spat which leads to divorce. They’ve got X-amount of time to realize they still love each other and get back together, before their divorce is final…inspite of what other love interests they drag into their lives.
I like the movie because it makes me laugh. The lines are funny, Dunne and Grant are naturals and the situations humorous. See Grant break in on Dunne’s recital. See Dunne crash the private soiree of Grant’s future in-laws. ( And while you’re at it, read the blog post in Once Upon A Screen where Citizen Screen makes a case for Irene Dunne ).
Yep, this is my favorite movie of the 1930’s. It is my recommended gateway for someone tiptoeing around classic films. If a person can’t be charmed by this comedy…they’re out of their continental mind.
Runner-Up: “Bombshell” ( 1933 )
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As you can probably tell from my list, I like to laugh a lot…and murder and drama are my thing as well. I hope my favorites don’t scare you off, but encourage you to watch classic films ( if I’m not already preaching to the choir ). And by the by, if you’re curious and care to peruse previous National Classic Movie Day Blogathons held by Rick at Classic Film and TV Café, you need only click the photos below:
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