The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XIX)
I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.
This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.
I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:
Vice Squad (1953)
Noir. Love this one. Edward G. Robinson is a detective, and we watch him as he goes about solving a bunch of cases. It’s as simple as that. Procedural kind of movie. It’s about him manipulating a witness to testify, using a prostitute informant to his advantage, and is just a lot of fun.
The Wild One (1953)
Culturally essential. Marlon Brando, bikers, all that stuff. It’s only 80 minutes long. It’s almost a B movie. But it’s a classic.
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)
Luis Bunuel directing a Robinson Crusoe movie. Which is strange. But this is actually really engaging. Dan O’Herlihy was nominated for Best Actor for this (against Brando in On the Waterfront, Bing Crosby in The Country Girl, Bogart in The Caine Mutiny and James Mason for A Star Is Born. All of which are on these lists. The idea, though, is that the category was stacked). It’s basically a one man show for a lot of it. Kind of a 50s version of Cast Away. It’s good. And Crusoe is an iconic story. And I really liked how this was told. I’m always interested in how tricky novels are adapted to the big screen. This one has a lot of voiceover, but it works.
The Barefoot Contessa (1954)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Bogart, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien. O’Brien won an Oscar for this (beat three Waterfront nominees, too). The movie is mostly about Gardner. Bogie plays a movie producer. OBrien is a cynical publicist. It’s a great film. Technicolor, good stuff all around. Not essential, but highly worth it.
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)
War picture. William Holden is given a mission to bomb some bridges. But like, the bridges. The ones you don’t bomb. The ones they defend with everybody. And throughout, Holden loses his nerve for fighting and has to overcome that. It’s a really good film. Kind of forgotten. In that sense, a bit of a hidden gem. Holden, Grace Kelly, Mickey Rooney, Fredric March, Robert Strauss. Good cast, good film.
LOVE this movie. Gene Kelly stumbles upon a village in Scotland that magically appears out of thin air. And he falls in love with Cyd Charisse there. It’s beautiful. Musical numbers, the fantasy elements — love this movie so much. And Vincente Minnelli directed it. Can’t recommend this one more highly.
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
This is essential. It just never made it onto the previous list. Probably because I knew Colin had seen it. But it’s totally something everyone needs to see. Bogie is a newly appointed captain who takes over for the guy everyone loved. And pretty soon starts showing signs that he might be crazy. So they mutiny. And of course have to be court-martialed. You get great naval ship stuff, great drama, and courtroom stuff. Bogie is terrific here. One of his best performances. Loaded with famous people too. Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Lee Marvin — you’ll recognize a lot of this cast.
Carmen Jones (1954)
It’s a Technicolor version of the opera Carmen, starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte. It’s a brilliant take on the source material, and Dandridge was nominated for an Oscar for this. Otto Preminger directs, and it’s great. I saw this in 7th grade, knowing nothing about movies, really, and loved it. All black musicals are great. (I mean… The Wiz.) More of those.
The Country Girl (1954)
Grace Kelly beat Judy Garland for Best Actress for this. It was controversial. Argument aside, Kelly is great here. Here’s the premise: William Holden is the director of a play. He wants to cast Bing Crosby, a has-been actor who has been an alcoholic for years. He believes he can keep it together for the play. He meets Grace Kelly, Crosby’s wife, and thinks she’s the reason for all his problems. And the movie shows the relationships between the characters developing as we get closer to the play being on the air. Kelly seems to be cold and demanding, Crosby seems to suffer from a lack of confidence brought on by his wife’s demeanor, and Holden is both repulsed by Kelly and attracted to her. It’s a great movie. I can’t call it essential, but I will say that you should for sure put this on your list if you haven’t seen it.
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Don’t need to explain this one. You know the title, you’ve heard of the title. Classic 50s monster movie. Essential. This would make a great first half of a double feature.
Crime Wave (1954)
Terrific noir. A guy and his gang rob a gas station. A cop is killed. The leader of the gang goes to his former cellmate’s place to lay low. Only the cellmate is trying to go straight. But helps him out of kindness. Though he dies before the crime doctor can get there. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang shows up and want to lay low too. And he has no choice. He’s trying to go straight, and they want him to be involved with their next job. Really good stuff here. The robberies are shot really well. The final one at the bank is really tense.
Executive Suite (1954)
The head of a company dies, and all the vice presidents start infighting about who is going to replace him. And the entire film is boardroom politics and stuff like that. It’s really good. Robert Wise directs. William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredrick March, June Allyson, Walter Pidgeon, Shelley Winters, Paul Douglas, Louis Calhern, Dean Jagger and Nina Foch star. That’s… what, six Oscars? And at least two dozen nominations. Nina Foch got nominated for this, playing the secretary. Great movie. Highly recommended.
The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson. (This is the second of three movies they made together. After The Stratton Story.) Anthony Mann directs. The title explains what this is about. It’s a good biopic.
The High and the Mighty (1954)
A melodrama of the air. This is Airport before Airport. A plane has some problems midair and the pilot loses his shit, so it’s up to the copilot to bring the plane in by himself. John Wayne is the copilot, Robert Stack is the pilot, and the rest of the cast on the plane (who all have subplots, of course. Just like Airport) includes Jan Sterling and Claire Trevor (both nominated for this), as well as Phil Harris (aka Baloo, O’Malley and Little John), Laraine Day, and Robert Newton. William Wellman directs. (He got nominated for Best Director here too.)
It Should Happen to You (1954)
George Cukor. Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon. This was his first movie. She plays a woman who wants to be famous. She decides to put her money into a giant billboard advertising herself. Though a soap company always uses that billboard. so they buy her out — they get that billboard, and give her a bunch more. So now her name is just on billboards throughout the city. And everyone wants to know who this woman is. Meanwhile, Lemmon and her become friends, and, well… you know where it goes. It’s a good movie. Lot of fun. She’s a great comedienne, and we all know how great he is.
Johnny Guitar (1954)
LOVE this western. It’s so bizarre. This was one of those westerns that everyone hated when we saw it in that westerns class. It’s a melodrama western. About the women. And it’s way different and weirder than usual westerns, which means people didn’t understand it. This movie is terrific. Nicholas Ray directs, and Joan Crawford stars. She’s a saloon owner who is tougher than most of the men (and proves it throughout the film). The town hates her. They want her gone. They do whatever they can to try to get her out, including her association with a former lover, Johnny Guitar, whose gang is in town with him. It’s a great movie. Highly recommended, and dare I say, essential.
La Strada (1954)
Fellini. I really am only putting the Fellini movies I really like on here. Some people really like Amarcord, and you can add that if you want. I’ll unofficially list that here. I’m gonna keep it simple. The two really essentials from the other list (La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2) and two more here that are really good (we’ll get to the other in a bit). You can go for any of his others, really. At this point, after four movies, if you like his stuff, that’s when you go specifically to him as a director.
But anyway, this movie is Guiliette Masina who is a free spirit who is sold to the strong man at the circus (Anthony Quinn). And he’s abusive as shit to her. It’s a really great film. Two great lead performances. And you know me with foreign films — I don’t put them unless they’re worthwhile.
Night People (1954)
A nice war/spy/mystery movie. In color. A soldier is abducted by the Russians. His father is a rich man in America (Broderick Crawford). He thinks the army isn’t doing its job in looking for his son. So he goes over there with all his money to conduct his own investigation. He uses his strings to get all the way over there and get access. He gets to the man involved in investigating (Gregory Peck), who has seen it all and knows how much back dealing and stuff goes into these kinds of exchanges. The Russians want to exchange the son for an old couple. And it’s all about trying to make that exchange happen while also not pissing anyone off to get people killed — it’s all the Cold War type of politics. Great, great stuff. Colin, this is one of those movies you’ll love. Cold War espionage and political dealings.
Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday. They worked together right after It Should Happen to You. They knew they had a great pairing and a hit on their hands. (And Lemmon really just burst onto the screen.) It’s a comedy of remarriage. They divorce and try to be separate. And things go hilariously wrong. Really, really funny. You should see this.
A great noir. Fred MacMurray, playing off his Double Indemnity persona, of the man who falls in love with the wrong dame. Kim Novak is that dame this time. The whole thing is about him as a cop falling for her and them double-crossing a criminal and covering the whole thing up by him being one of the people assigned to watch her and him manipulating the thing from both sides. Really well done.
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