The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XX)
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:
Silver Lode (1954)
B movie western that’s also an allegory for Joseph McCarthy. But also structured like High Noon. John Payne and Lizabeth Scott are about to get married. But then Dan Duryea (the man) rides into town (hint: his character is named Fred McCarty) and says that Payne murdered his brother and is gonna arrest him. And at first, everyone’s like, “Nah, he couldn’t have done it,” but then they slowly start turning on him and want to turn him in. Clear HUAC allegory. Good stuff. I like when B movies do this.
They call this a noir, but it’s in color. Still, a great thriller. The President is going to make a stop in a small town called (insert title here). Frank Sinatra and his gang are there to assassinate him. They hide in a house and wait for the train to show up. Meanwhile, Sterling Hayden is a local sheriff who is bringing the Secret Service around to secure the town. And Sinatra and his men have a family hostage, and tell them that if anyone finds out they’re there, they’ll kill them all. So it’s that Desperate Hours kind of a plot (which also will show up again pretty soon). Good film. Also in the public domain, so really easy to find.
Susan Slept Here (1954)
Dick Powell is an Oscar winning writer who now has writer’s block. On Christmas Eve, out of nowhere, the police show up with Debbie Reynolds. She’s a 17-year-old whose mother abandoned her and who was picked up for vagrancy. The cop knew he wanted to write a script about juvenile delinquents and figured he could keep her for a few days (since it’s Christmas and he doesn’t want to throw her in jail over the holidays). And comedy ensues. You know — he doesn’t want her there, but agrees, then she develops a crush, he’s got a fiancée, there’s a misunderstanding, etc. etc. It’s also borderline statutory rape, which also makes it amusing that this was a big Hollywood movie in the 50s. Debbie Reynolds is also awesome.
Track of the Cat (1954)
This movie is great. William Wellman directs from a book written by the guy who wrote The Ox-Bow Incident. It’s about a family living in a snowy mountain cabin. And they’re all bickering and have issues, meanwhile there’s a panther prowling around the hills that they’re after. And we see all the family relationships playing out during the winter and the search for the panther. Terrific film. Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Beulah Bondi, Tab Hunter. Highly recommended.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
These big Technicolor Disney literature movies are so much fun. Kirk Douglas stars, and his best friend is a seal. Which is great. And James Mason plays Captain Nemo, and Peter Lorre is in it too. Lot of fun. Looks great, too. The color in these movies is awesome. And I love the way they show technology in these movies. Any 50s movie that shows futuristic technology is amazing. Also, humorous side story — directed by Richard Fleischer, who was the son of Max Fleischer. And if you know about Disney, that’s… humorous. (Kind of like if a McCoy worked on a movie directed by a Hatfield. Not as extreme, but you get the point.)
Vera Cruz (1954)
Big western. More of a Mexican western, but it’s fun and it’s loaded with stars. Robert Aldrich directs. Starring Garry Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Cesar Romero, Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, George Macready and Charles Bronson. Seriously, what reason do you have not to see it?
White Christmas (1954)
Holiday Inn was the movie that spawned the song. (That was also Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. That’s an unofficial entry to this list as well.) This is just called that. I chose this one over that one because it looks great. This is Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, army buddies who go into show business afterwards and become a successful team. They fall in love with another act of sisters (Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney), and all four end up teaming up try to save their former CO’s hotel, which is about to go under. Really good movie. One of those musicals that is just easy to watch, fun for everyone, and just really looks terrific. Michael Curtiz directs, to boot.
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The Big Combo (1955)
Noir. Joseph H. Lewis. Looks great, especially the end. Cornel Wilde is a cop determined to bring down a gangster even though he can never get any evidence that sticks. So he decides to go after the gangster’s girl instead. Great movie. Classic noir. Essential, as noirs go. I think it’s worth seeing.
Blackboard Jungle (1955)
These movies are always interested. The unorthodox teacher in the inner city school. Stand and Deliver, To Sir with Love, Lean on Me, shit, even Dangerous Minds. They’re all entertaining. This one is 50s, so it’s all about them juvenile hoodlums. But still, really good. Glenn Ford is the teacher. Richard Brooks directs. Poitier actually plays a student here, which is great for a lot of reasons. Highly recommended.
Daddy Long Legs (1955)
I saw the Mary Pickford 1919 version before I saw this one. (Completely different movies. Just because of the eras.) The premise is — an aging millionaire sees a young orphan and is intrigued by her. But he realizes there’s like 30 years difference in their age. So he secretly gives money for her to go to college and make something of herself. And then later on, he meets her but doesn’t tell her he’s the one who is her benefactor (who she calls “Daddy Long Legs”). Romance happens, you know the deal. Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron star. Leslie Caron has the benefit of being one of the few who was able to dance with both Astaire and Kelly. It’s a good film. I’m down for anything with either of these actors, so to have both of them here is a treat for me.
The Desperate Hours (1955)
GREAT drama. I randomly saw this as a play in like middle school, so I was familiar with the story. Only saw the actual film version years later. Bogart and two other criminals break out of prison and take refuge in a family’s house. They plan to lay low until the heat is off and then go out. They tell the family they won’t hurt them if they can keep them there and not get them caught. So we see things play out between them and the family as things get more and more tense. Terrific film. Really great. Frederic March and Martha Scott are the parents. Arthur Kennedy and Gig Young are also in it. Terrific film. I consider this essential.
Guys and Dolls (1955)
I like when titles do all the work for me. It’s Guys and Dolls. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directs. Brando and Sinatra. Jean Simmons. Brando is pretty miscast, but the film is a lot of fun. And where else are you gonna get a pairing like this?
I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
I’m of the opinion that Susan Hayward should have won an Oscar for this movie (all due respect to Anna Magnani). She’s an actress with a domineering mother who becomes an alcoholic. It’s a strong performance, and a great movie about alcoholism. Jo Van Fleet plays her mother, Eddie Albert plays her AA sponsor, and Richard Conte is an eventual husband. Strong film.
Killer’s Kiss (1955)
Stanley Kubrick. His first… well, second movie. Fear and Desire is the first. This one starts to show more of the Kubrick we come to recognize. It’s mostly forgotten, though. Most people know The Killing as the earliest Kubrick, which was the year after this one. But — it’s a 70 minute noir by Stanley Kubrick. There’s no reason you can’t spare that time to see this movie. Who cares what it’s about, it’s Kubrick. That’s enough.
Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
Howard Hawks movie. This is a movie that Martin Scorsese calls a guilty pleasure of his, but I don’t get what’s so guilty about it. It’s entertaining as shit. First off — Howard Hawks directed a movie about ancient Egypt in CinemaScope. Why wouldn’t you want to see that? The whole movie is about a pharaoh who is obsessed with getting his tomb ready for his death. The movie looks great, the sets are huge, and there’s a cast of thousands in this. Really enjoyable movie.
Les Diaboliques (1955)
This will be on a lot of lists of essential movies. Had to include it. Henri-Georges Clouzot. Personally I like Wages of Fear more, but some will definitely prefer this. A man’s wife and mistress conspire to kill him. Only after the deed is done, his body disappears and weird stuff starts happening to them. Great mystery, great finale. This should be considered essential.
Not As a Stranger (1955)
Stanley Kramer. Which should be enough to get you to see it. Because Stanley Kramer has a great set of films to his name. We follow a couple of med students as they become doctors. Robert Mitchum is the main one, who is so ambitious he starts to lose sight of everything else. Olivia de Havilland is his wife. Frank Sinatra is his friend and fellow doctor. There’s also Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Charles Bickford, Lon Chaney Jr, Harry Morgan and Lee Marvin. Stacked cast. This is all but forgotten today, but it’s great. Really great. Highly recommended.
Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955)
This is a musical noir in color. A jazz noir, I guess. Jack Webb directs and stars. He’s a jazz player during Prohibition. Music and gangsters. Great stuff. Edmond O’Brien, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine, Ella Fitzgerald, Janet Leigh, Jayne Mansfield — Peggy Lee was nominated for an Oscar for this. Really good stuff. You should see this. This is one of those hidden gems that you can know about that a lot of people don’t.
The Phenix City Story (1955)
Noir. But a really famous one. It’s about a real-life assassination that happened the year before it was made. The beginning of the movie is a legit newsreel (fictional, but realistic) where they interview a lot of the main people, and then they tell the story. Incredibly realistic looking, and just well-made. I’m gonna call this near-essential.
Big Technicolor ensemble film. CinemaScope. Memorable because James Wong Howe did the cinematography for it. Also based on a Pulitzer Prize winner. Stacked cast. William Holden, Kim Novak, Rosalind Russell, Cliff Robertson, Arthur O’Connell, Verna Felton, Nick Adams, Susan Strasberg, Betty Field. Takes place over the course of a day during a small town’s annual picnic. William Holden drifts into town and turns everything upside down. Really good movie. You can’t really go wrong with a Pulitzer winner. Also nominated for Best Picture and a bunch of other Oscars.
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