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The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XXI)

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:

1955-1959

Run for Cover (1955)

This is fun. Kind of a noir western. James Cagney and John Derek are regular guys riding into town, and are mistaken for train robbers. And the town wants to string them up. But then everything is sorted and they become lawmen. Only then some robbers show up (whom Cagney and Derek know), and the town begins to have second thoughts. Good western. Nicholas Ray. VistaVision.

The Seven-Year Itch (1955)

Billy Wilder. Marilyn Monroe and the white dress over the subway grate. I don’t need to say anything more, this is essential.

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock makes a dark comedy. The trouble with Harry is that he’s dead. And the movie is about the rest of the town reacting to the death. They need to figure out who’s responsible for the death and what the hell they’re gonna do with the body. It’s a lot of fun. Good cast, too. Shirley MacLaine, John Forsythe, Edmund Gwenn, Mildred Natwick, Mildred Dunnock. Looks great in color. (All the 50s Hitchcock movies look great.) And it’s one of his few comedies. And anything with Shirley MacLaine in it is wholly worthwhile.

We’re No Angels (1955)

Great comedy. Bogart, Ustinov and Aldo Ray break out of prison and hide out in a small town. They go to rob a store, but end up staying around and helping out the family. So they become guardian angels to this family even though they’re convicts. It’s a lot of fun. They stay around and use their criminal skills for good. Michael Curtiz directed this. Very highly recommended.

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Best Picture winner. Huge film. Essential. LOADED with famous people in minor cameos. 100% essential. And you know the plot. I’m just gonna throw out all the people who appear in this movie: David Niven and Cantinflas star (as Fogg and Passepartout), then… Finlay Currie, Robert Morley, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Charles Boyer, Evelyn Keyes, Gilbert Roland, Cesar Romero, Alan Mowbray, Robert Newton, Cedric Hardwicke, Melville Cooper, Reginald Denny, Ronald Colman, Shirley MacLaine, Peter Lorre, Charles Coburn, George Raft, Red Skelton, Marlene Dietrich, John Carradine, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, Andy Devine, Victor McLaglen, Jack Oakie, John Mills, Glynis Johns, Hermione Gingold and Mike Mazurki. You know you need to see this.

Attack! (1956)

Big fan of war movies with exclamation points on the titles. Robert Aldrich directs this. A bunch of men are holed up near a town and tensions mount among them. Great movie. Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Robert Strauss, Richard Jaeckel, Buddy Ebsen. Lee Marvin is (as always) a badass in this. And this is just a straight badass war movie.

Baby Doll (1956)

Elia Kazan film. It’s pretty much a three-hander. Eli Wallach and Karl Malden are business rivals and both have the hots for Carroll Baker (Baby Doll). And she’s with Malden, and the entire film is this conflict between the two of them playing out. She’s this immature woman who is just really immature and dumb, and because of an agreement with her father, Malden can’t have sex with her until she turns 20 (which is in a few days). It’s… really good. Baker, I feel, was good enough to win Best Actress this year. Probably should have. Wallach is terrific too, as (always) is Malden. Strongly recommended, this one. It’s Kazan, though. You don’t need me to tell you to see it.

The Bad Seed (1956)

THIS MOVIE. This one’s awesome. The little girl is fucking evil. Like Orphan, only she’s not secretly 40. She’s just real fucked up. This is mostly for Colin: you know how evil you thought Briony was? She doesn’t have anything on this little girl. This girl — you watch her be a sociopath, and all you can think is, “Oh man, she is good.” She’s the kind of girl who, when the mother leaves the room, will sidle up to you and very calmly be like, “I’m gonna stab you. Just like I killed that homeless man in the alley,” and then the mother comes back in, and she’s just playing with her doll, and the other person is horrified. It’s really fucked up. Patty McCormack is great in this movie. I’m calling this essential. You need to see this one. It’s so good. (Also a Mervyn LeRoy movie. You find that his movies are very worthwhile.)

Bigger Than Life (1956)

Kind of essential. Nicholas Ray, made right after Rebel Without a Cause. James Mason is given cortisone and becomes addicted to it. And it starts driving him insane. In CinemaScope. Walter Matthau is in this too. It’s crazy good. Deals with addiction and mental illness in a great way. Let’s just call it essential.

The Catered Affair (1956)

Lot of fun. Richard Brooks directs. Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine are a Bronx couple. He is a cab driver trying to save up for his own company. She’s a housewife who is just embittered in that way that only Bette Davis can be. Debbie Reynolds is their daughter. She announces she’s engaged to Rod Taylor. So Bette starts planning this big, expensive wedding that they can’t afford whatsoever and Reynolds doesn’t even want. And we see all the familial conflicts play out during the film. I like it because it’s a New York family arguing for most of the movie, and getting all the neighbors involved. I grew up around that stuff. It’s also a really good movie. Barry Fitzgerald is in there too. And he’s great.

Crime in the Streets (1956)

Juvenile delinquent film. The better version of The Outsiders. Don Siegel directs. John Cassavetes and Sal Mineo star with James Whitmore. Teen gangs fighting against each other, and a social worker trying to keep them from throwing their lives away. Great film. Basically a noir version of West Side Story.

Friendly Persuasion (1956)

How do I explain this? The synopsis makes it sound unappealing. It’s about a family of Quakers. You hear that and you go… “Ehh, I don’t know.” Trust me, I felt the same way going in. But, it was a Best Picture nominee, it’s a William Wyler movie, and I guarantee you it’s more engaging than you’d ever think possible. Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire and Anthony Perkins. It’s structured like a lot of those great 40s movies, where you spend time within the community in episodic moments, and then when the plot happens in the second half, you’re totally invested. John Ford was the king of that stuff. It’s a really engaging movie, and looks great. Definitely worthwhile.

High Society (1956)

The 50s and 60s are filled with lavish musical versions of movies you saw in the 30s and 40s. My Fair Lady (Pygmalion), A Star Is Born (same), Silk Stockings (Ninotchka). And then there’s this, the musical version of The Philadelphia Story. Bing Crosby plays the Cary Grant role, Grace Kelly plays the Hepburn role, Sinatra plays the Jimmy Stewart role, and Celeste Holm plays the Ruth Hussey role. Oh, and Louis Armstrong is in this too. It’s a lot of fun, Grace Kelly’s last movie. And you know the plot, so you can just have fun with it. I’m a huge fan of how they incorporate Louis Armstrong into the film.

The King and I (1956)

Oh yeah, another 40s movie turned into a lavish musical. Anna and the King of Siam is the 40s movie (a good one, at that. Rex Harrison plays the king part there). This is a classic musical. Yul Brynner won an Oscar for this. Everyone knows this movie. It’s basically essential. Etc. etc. etc.

Lust for Life (1956)

Vincente Minnelli-directed biopic of Vincent Van Gogh starring Kirk Douglas. Need I say more? Okay, how about Anthony Quinn winning an Oscar for this? At this point, I really don’t need to sell you on this past what I’ve already said.

A Man Escaped (1956)

Essential film. It’s a giant prison break movie. French, but it doesn’t matter. It’s riveting, and it’s perfect. You need to see this.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

Hitchcock. Color. Looks amazing. Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day’s son gets kidnapped because he stumbles upon a murder plot. And they go around trying to find out who took him and how to get him back. It’s great. And also, this movie gave us the song “Que, Sera Sera.” Essential movie.

The Man Who Never Was (1956)

I’m not sure how many different ways I can say this movie is great, so I’ll just say: you will love this movie. It’s about Operation Mincemeat, where the Brits come up with a plan to use a dead man’s body to plant false information to lead the Germans away from discovering where D-Day will take place. It’s so good. It’s basically a heist/con movie. They have to get the dead man’s family to agree to let them use the body, but can’t explain why, and then they have to put all this stuff on the body that will make it look legitimate and not something they came up with. It’s so good. One of my absolute favorite 50s movies. I was shocked it took me so long to see this. This is one of the greatest, most underrated movies of all time.

The Mountain (1956)

It’s a 50s mountain-climbing movie. Need I say more? A plane crashes up in the alps and two men decide to go up and rob the bodies. Edward Dmytryk directs and Spencer Tracy and Robert Wagner star. It’s great. I love mountain-climbing movies. And add to that the 50s? How are you not in?

The Rainmaker (1956)

I remember doing a list after I finished the Oscar Quest of my favorite movies that I discovered during it. I guarantee you that this was in the top ten there, if not the top five. It’s so good. Burt Lancaster is a con man who goes around selling bullshit inventions. He comes into town and tells them if they give him $100, he can make it rain (they’re in the middle of a horrible drought). And they scrounge together the money (which is most of what they have), even though they don’t necessarily believe he can do it and know he’s a con man. And the rest of the movie plays out so beautifully. He meets Katharine Hepburn, the spinster daughter of the town sheriff, and they start this beautiful relationship. And the whole movie is about her gaining confidence as a woman and a person, and him using confidence to overcome his self-doubt. It’s just beautiful. And then the ending is so perfect. This is one of my favorite movies. I’m so happy I discovered this, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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