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

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

Silk Stockings (1957)

A musical version of Ninotchka. Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (dancing together again after The Band Wagon). Peter Lorre is in this as one of the three Russian guys sent to bring her back. It’s just a fun, musical version of a story we know. I like when they make these.

The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)

This was a later Billy Wilder movie for me, and ended up being one of my favorite. It’s about Lindbergh’s journey across the Atlantic. It’s incredible. Jimmy Stewart plays Lindbergh, and he’s great, and the entire movie is great. Endlessly watchable. one of my favorites of the 50s.

The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Joanne Woodward won an Oscar for this. Terrific performance. She’s a housewife who gets headaches and is sent to a doctor. They find out she’s got multiple personalities. Lee J. Cobb plays the psychiatrist. We see her as this shy housewife and this crazy sexual other personality, and slip back and forth between the two. And over the course of the film, a third personality shows up. It’s really good. One of the early films to deal with multiple personalities.

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

You’ve probably seen the later version. This is the original. Also good. Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. Great stuff.

The Tin Star (1957)

Henry Fonda is a bounty hunter who rides into town with a fugitive. He’s real cynical, but he’s smart. He knows how to not get into bad situations. And Anthony Perkins is a young sheriff who has no idea what he’s doing. And he wants Fonda to teach him how to be a good lawman. This was one of my favorite Anthony Mann westerns. I really loved this. Fonda is great, I loved the tone, I like how psychological it got. Huge fan of this one. (And it got nominated for Best Screenplay. Which will hopefully sway you if you’re not sure about this one.)

The Wings of Eagles (1957)

One of my favorite underrated John Wayne movies. It’s John Wayne and John Ford. Underrated for both of them. This movie is so terrific. Fun, engaging — this is one of those movies I’d tell Colin, “Just watch it.” Because I know he’s gonna love it. It’s a biopic of an army pilot who became a screenwriter after being unable to fly again. It’s actually really surprising how effective this movie is. You won’t see it coming. 1957 is one of those great years in cinema that doesn’t get enough play as some of the others. Oh, and if John Wayne/John Ford isn’t enough for you — Maureen O’Hara is in this too, and Ward Bond plays a character that’s essentially John Ford. So if you want to see one of John Ford’s best friends make fun of him while being directed by him, look no further. Seriously, this one has everything you’d want in a movie.

Auntie Mame (1958)

You’ve seen this trope a lot in movies. The vivacious aunt who cares for the shy kid and teaches them how to live. This was really the first one. This is famous for the line “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Rosalind Russell plays Mame, and it’s a lot of fun. The kid is there, tending bar for her as she goes from one lover to the next, and goes off on trips and hosts parties. It’s a fun movie. And it became a musical later on, because when you watch it, it’s just begging to be a musical. But — lot of Oscar nominations this year, and one of those stories that everyone knows about.

Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Nice little comedy. Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. She’s a witch who likes him but hates his fiancée. So she makes it so he loves her. Only then she falls in love with him for real. It’s a lot of fun. Looks great in color, and Kim Novak looks great period. Jack Lemmon is in this too. A nice lighthearted romantic comedy. Not a lot of those in the 50s. They all seem to have music.

The Big Country (1958)

Love this movie. Gorgeous color. Big epic western. William Wyler. Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Charles Bickford. And Alfonso Bedoya, who don’t need no stinkin’ badges. Burl Ives won an Oscar for this (probably should have been for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but he’s great in both). Peck is a ship captain who goes out west to marry Carroll Baker. He’s gonna live on her father’s ranch. It’s kind of like the opposite set up of Giant. Where there, Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t fit for farm life and had to learn how to handle it. This is the same. Except here, it’s about Charles Bickford and Burl Ives. Bickford is Baker’s father, who owns the big profitable ranch. Ives is the smaller business that’s getting bullied by the bigger business. He runs a small ranch with his sons and the two are constantly fighting. Meanwhile, enter Peck, who gets himself involved in it. Meanwhile, there’s the foreman, Charlton Heston, who is in love with Baker, and doesn’t think Peck is a real man. And Jean Simmons, a local teacher who owns some land that both sides want for its water. It’s just a big western with a lot of stars and a lot of stuff going on. It escalates into a great finale and looks incredible. You can never go wrong with a big widescreen, epic western.

The Blob (1958)

Greatest monster theme song ever. Don’t even look it up on Youtube. This movie is essential. Just put it on. It’s wall-to-wall fun. The Blob lands, and starts taking people over. You’ve seen clips of this from Grease. It’s really a fun movie. Steve McQueen stars in it! It’s got some youth 50s stuff going on, but really it’s just a great monster movie. And the finale is awesome. The fireman is the greatest character in the history of movies. You need to see this if you haven’t.

The Bravados (1958)

Gregory Peck western. Henry Kind directed. He’s on the trail of four outlaws who murdered his wife. They escape from their hanging and he’s gonna hunt them down and exact revenge. It’s about vengeance and obsession, and it’s a really good western. Joan Collins is in it. Stephen Boyd, Lee Van Cleef. CinemaScope. Peck says the movie is an attack on McCarthyism. So there’s that too.

Gigi (1958)

Best Picture winner. Not the strongest Best Picture winner ever, but it looks great and is fun. Also incredibly creepy. Maurice Chevalier (who is like 70 at the time) sings a song called “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” And the whole movie is about a guy who isn’t interested in all the single women around Paris, but would instead rather be with a 15-year-old girl. So, you know. Morals. Leslie Caron is Gigi. Louis Jourdan (aka Kamal Khan) is the statutory rapist. It’s a fun movie about falling in love with an underage girl. The costumes and sets look incredible. Not sure why anyone wouldn’t watch a Best Picture winner.

High School Confidential (1958)

A terrible movie. But fun as shit because it’s so campy. It’s your typical “agent goes undercover as a high school student to uncover all the crime going on.” Russ Tamblyn is the agent. It’s basically 21 Jump Street, but loaded with 50s culture. Really worth checking out. Campy fun.

I Want to Live! (1958)

Susan Hayward won her Oscar for this. It’s a really good crime film. She’s a woman caught up in a robbery who ends up getting sentenced to death for it. She tries to tell them she didn’t kill anybody, but she’s not a particularly great person, so they don’t care. It’s fascinating, because here you have a troubled person who committed crimes, but the way they frame the character, she actually didn’t do what they’re going to execute her for. So they put you in a weird position of empathy. Robert Wise directed this and Theodore Bikel and John Marley are also in it.

The Lineup (1958)

GREAT noir. Eli Wallach. It starts with a guy having his luggage stolen by a porter when he gets off a ship. And we watch as the investigation slowly uncovers what’s really going on. Which is — they plant heroin inside people’s knick knacks they pick up on vacation. Then they either steal it back from them or send Eli Wallach and his partner to go pick it up. That’s the scheme. Eli Wallach plays a real psycho here. It’s a terrific movie. Highly recommended all around.

Mon Oncle (1958)

Tati. There are three Tati movies on this list. At least one of them is essential. You get the choice of which one you want to choose. This is his first color film. Also starring Tati as M. Hulot. This one is about him visiting his sister and her family and not being able to deal with all the crazy new technology they have. This is just good, clean comedy.

Murder by Contract (1958)

Nice noir. It’s nice because it’s about a hitman who narrates to us why he’s such a great hitman. How methodical he is, etc. And we follow him on his jobs… until the one that goes wrong. Really good, highly recommended. My favorite part about this is that the climax takes place on the exact place where I work. I was watching this and went, “Wait, I know that street. Oh shit!” So that was fun.

The Old Man and the Sea (1958)

This is basically a one-man show. Spencer Tracy in a boat for the whole movie, grappling with a fish. Based on Hemingway. John Sturges is the credited director. Apparently there were a lot of problems with this production. Bogie originally wanted the rights, but couldn’t get them and died before they could make it. It’s a good film. Tracy was nominated for this.

Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

Submarine movie. Robert Wise. Clark Gable. Burt Lancaster. Jack Warden. Don Rickles. I think I can safely rest my case with this one on what’s already been said.

Separate Tables (1958)

Big, classy drama. Delbert Mann. Won two Oscars. David Niven finally won for this (even though he’s only on screen for like twelve minutes or something like that) and Wendy Hiller won for it too. The cast is stacked though. Burt Lancaster, Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, Gladys Cooper, Rod Taylor. It’s about a bunch of people staying at a seaside inn. We see them and their stories, and they interact and overlap. Niven is an old army man, who constantly prattles on about his war stories. But then they figure out that he was actually disgraced from the army after a sex scandal. Then there’s Deborah Kerr, a spinster who lacks confidence because of her overbearing mother. Then Burt Lancaster, who’s sleeping with Wendy Hiller, the proprietor, but then Rita Hayworth, his ex-wife and actress (or model. One of the two) shows up to complicate things. It’s a really great film. I like it because it’s contained (based on a play, which is why it’s so contained) and great actors get to play out the drama. Big film. Nominated for a lot of Oscars. Not essential, but should be on your list.

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