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

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

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

Biopic of Rocky Graziano, the fighter, starring Paul Newman, in his second movie. Got that? He was in The Silver Chalice, and then he was in this. He was a movie star after two movies. Robert Wise directed this. Pier Angeli also stars. And Sal Mineo, Steve McQueen and Robert Loggia also appear. It’s about Graziano growing up in gangs and on the wrong side of the law, and then gets drafted. And to make money, he becomes a boxer, and starts winning. But then the army finds out and discharges him. Then he goes back to boxing. It’s a great film. Newman is terrific. It’s crazy how the man just jumped onto the screen and made great movies.

Trapeze (1956)

Carol Reed directs. Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis star. (Fun fact, Lancaster actually was in the circus when he was younger.) Lancaster is a former trapeze artist who got hurt and can never do it again, and Curtis is the up-and-comer that Lancaster wants to train. And then there’s the female in the act, Gina Lollobrigida, and a love triangle ensues. You know how it goes. It all revolves around (essentially) a Triple Lindy, which Lancaster is the only one to have ever done, and now he thinks Curtis can do it. Mostly it’s about these two guys, and I love any movie that stars either of them. So to see them both here, plus Carol Reed — I’m in.

War and Peace (1956)

You may have heard of the book. It’s a big, epic version of it. Color, costumes, sets, all that jazz. Henry Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Ferrer, Herbert Lom. It’s good. Doesn’t hold up as well as the David Lean epics (sorry King Vidor), but it’s good. I like these epics. Even when you get to the DeMille ones (Ten Commandments came out the same year) — they might be too long and drag a bit, but you can’t beat big studio 50s movies on those sets and with those costumes. You really can’t.

An Affair to Remember (1957)

This is a color remake of Love Affair, directed by the same director (Leo McCarey). And this was also the inspiration for Sleepless in Seattle. So there’s that too. But you know the story — two people meet and have a love affair on a ship, and they agree to meet six months later on top of the Empire State Building. But then, an accident happens. It’s a classic romance. Up there with the most famous romance films of all time. Likely essential. Better to treat it as such. Plus Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. That should put it over the top.

Desk Set (1957)

Tracy and Hepburn. Standard plot for the two of them. Opposites who clash but fall in love. It’s about him as a computer expert who wants to digitize all the research for the company, and she believes in the old school method and the human component.

Edge of the City (1957)

John Cassavetes gets a job on the docks. He becomes friends with Sidney Poitier. Meanwhile, Jack Warden is the supervisor who is also a racist. Tensions mount. It’s a really great film. Sidney Poitier helped make huge strides in film in terms of racial cooperation between whites and blacks. And he made really important (and thoroughly entertaining) films. But most importantly — he chose his material well. He has a really strong ratio of good movies to bad movies.

Fear Strikes Out (1957)

Baseball drama. But with an interesting twist. It’s about a baseball player with mental illness. Anthony Perkins is the player, Karl Malden is his overbearing father. Robert Mulligan directs. It’s a good movie. Mulligan got a DGA nomination for it.

Funny Face (1957)

Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Stanley Donen directs. I don’t think I need any more than those three people. It’s a really famous musical. And honestly, why would you not want to see an Audrey Hepburn movie?

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

Aww yeah. One of the most famous titles of all time. And if you’ve seen My Darling Clementine (or Tombstone, etc), you’ve seen the story. Bury Lancaster is Wyatt Earp, Kirk Douglas is Doc Holliday, John Ireland is Johnny Ringo, Dennis Hopper is Billy Clanton. Jo Van Fleet is in it. Jack Elam. Lee Van Cleef. DeForest Kelley. You know the story, look at all the stars. And John Sturges directs. Come on.

Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (1957)

John Huston directs (in CinemaScope). Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. He’s a marine, she’s a nun. They’re washed ashore on an island. The first bits are fun because they’re all about him trying to bang her. Then they discover they’re not alone on the island. Some Japanese troops are there. It’s interesting. Looks great. Kerr got nominated for this.

Hell Drivers (1957)

Truck driving movie. These are always good. This is the noir version of one. Sean Connery is in it. The way this company works is — they have to deliver gravel from the quarry to the company lot. But they’re paid to do it at really fast speeds. The run takes like 12-15 minutes to do (or something like that). And they have to do a certain amount over the course of the day or else they’re fired. So they’re basically paid to drive faster and more reckless. And it’s about them doing this and trying to make money. It’s great. You need to see this one. It’s so good. Highly, highly recommended.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

Terrific effects here. Dude starts shrinking randomly, and they can’t figure out why. And eventually he gets so small he’s living in a dollhouse inside his own house. And that’s when the movie kicks into gear. It’s like Honey I Shrunk the Kids. He has to traverse the basement, and suddenly all the things we don’t think are threats suddenly become major obstacles. It’s great. Really recommend this one.

Jet Pilot (1957)

Didn’t know what the hell this was when I stumbled upon it. And I LOVED it. A plane lands at a U.S. base. Russian pilot. Defecting. John Wayne is the colonel there. Turns out, though, the pilot is Janet Leigh. So they tell Wayne to seduce her. He falls in love with her. Then they find out she’s actually a spy. So they decide to take things to the next level. It’s fun. They fall in love while on both sides of the Iron Curtain. I really loved this movie. So much fun. Cold War romantic comedy.

Les Girls (1957)

A musical told Rashomon-style. There’s a dance troupe with Gene Kelly and two women. We see the story told from all three points of view. Fascinating musical. George Cukor directs. Really worthwhile.

Love in the Afternoon (1957)

Billy Wilder. Gary Cooper. Audrey Hepburn. Maurice Cheavlier. Need I say more? How about — it’s Billy Wilder’s version of a Lubitsch movie. Honestly, if you’re not sold, I don’t know what’s going to do it for you.

Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)

Biopic of Lon Chaney, starring James Cagney. That’s all you need to know. It’s really good. One of my favorite now-unknown biopics.

Nightfall (1957)

Noir. One of my favorites. Aldo Ray is on a hunting trip with a friend. He runs into some bank robbers. They don’t want witnesses. The friend is murdered but he somehow survives. And somehow the guys leave the money behind. He runs off with it but ends up losing the bag. Then later on, the guys catch up to him, and Anne Bancroft is involved — it’s just a great, great noir. Only 80 minutes, directed by Jacques Tourneur. Highly recommended.

Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Fellini. Guiletta Masina is great here. She’s a prostitute looking for true love. I can’t even explain the plot. But it’s one of Fellini’s best. Essential.

Peyton Place (1957)

This begat a soap opera, so that should tell you the kind of movie we’re dealing with. It’s about all the stories and all the secrets of a small town. Incest, murder, suicide, all the good stuff. Nominated up and down the Oscars. Standouts are Diane Varsi, Arthur Kennedy and Lloyd Nolan. But it’s just an engaging movie. I didn’t think I was gonna like it and ended up loving it. I love 50s melodrama.

Sayonara (1957)

GORGEOUS looking movie. Takes place in Japan. Marlon Brando is a pilot courting the general’s daughter. The big issue he’s tasked with, though, is talking a fellow pilot, Red Buttons, out of marrying a Japanese woman. Big problems with that in those days. The men were told they should just fuck them and go back to their families and not actually marry them. But Buttons is in love. So he marries the woman. And the army makes his life hell. Brando is caught between both sides. Things get complicated when he falls in love with a Japanese actress. This was nominated for a bunch of Oscars. Buttons and Miyoshi Umeki actually won. It’s one of those movies I’ve really come to appreciate over time. You should see this.

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