The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XXIV)
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:
Some Came Running (1958)
Vincente Minnelli, CinemaScope, Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Dean Martin, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy. Sinatra is an army vet coming back to his hometown. Great entrance, too. He shows up, passed out drunk on a bus. He’s got Shirley MacLaine with him, a woman who’s not very bright and has clearly been around the block a few times. Arthur Kennedy is his brother. They have a contentious relationship. He owns a store and wants to be a respected member of society. Sinatra’s not helping that. And Sinatra starts fitting in — he becomes friends with Dean Martin and starts falling for Hyer. And MacLaine refuses to go away because she’s hopelessly in love with Sinatra. It’s a good drama. Lot of reasons to see this (all of which are in the first line).
Teacher’s Pet (1958)
Clark Gable and Doris Day. Classic rom com set up. He’s a newsman and she’s a journalism teacher. She asks him to give a lecture for her class. He treats this like a joke and sends a sarcastic letter. But his editor makes him go anyway. So he gets there and sees her making fun of him in front of the class. So he pretends to be a student in order to show her up and get back at her. (It’s kind of like Astaire and Rogers and the dance class in Swing Time.) And things go from there. It’s fun.
Ballad of a Soldier (1959)
This is a fucked up movie. It’s beautiful, but it’s very Russian, in the sense that it’s just depressing in nature. If you’ve seen The Cranes Are Flying, you know what I mean. It’s about a 20 year old soldier who does something brave and asks for a leave so he can help his mother fix the leaky roof of his house. He gets like four days, or something crazy. So we watch him on his journey home, seeing how fucked up his country is from the war. He hops a train. Along the way, a woman hops on, and they get close. It’s one of the saddest movies you’ll see. It’s really great, though. You should consider this essential.
Trial movie. Richard Fleischer. Two students kill a young boy on his way home from school. “Perfect crime” sort of deal. Like Rope. And they go on trial, because one of them leaves his glasses at the scene. So Orson Welles takes on the case. Seriously, why wouldn’t you see this?
Day of the Outlaw (1959)
LOVED this movie. I don’t know what it was about this, but I was riveted. Robert Ryan is the cattle boss of a town. The homesteaders hate him. He’s about to kill a guy when the guy’s wife says she’ll go back to having an affair with him if he promises not to kill him. Meanwhile, just as tensions are about to boil over — here comes Burl Ives. It’s the case of, “Oh, you thought your shit was the big drama? Nah, son, here comes the real problem.” Ives and his gang take over the town and hold everyone hostage. So now Ryan has to get rid of them so he can keep his town prosperous, and also make everyone not hate him anymore in the process. It’s a great western. Really recommend this one highly.
The FBI Story (1959)
A movie about the FBI, that actually has an appearance by J. Edgar Hoover. Mervyn LeRoy directs and Jimmy Stewart stars. Jimmy Stewart is the Forrest Gump of the FBI. He’s involved in all the major cases. It’s just an engaging movie. It’s really easy to watch, it’s well-made. Jimmy Stewart always made good movies. I really recommend this one. Definitely one of the more solid gems of the 50s.
The title is one you’ve heard. It’s also a really sexually progressive movie for the (admittedly late) 50s. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t seem like one you’d enjoy, but is surprisingly entertaining for a film of its era. And important, historically (probably). (Look at me, I’m) Sandra Dee is 16. Her friends want her to go out with them and basically find men to hook up with. But she’s a tomboy and isn’t interested in sex. Meanwhile she starts hanging out with surfer dudes (all of whom are significantly older than her. One of whom is Cliff Robertson, who is like 35 at the time). Mostly she’s interested in surfing. So she starts hanging out with them, becoming their mascot. But then she starts falling for one of the younger ones, and then there’s this weird “take my virginity” scene — it’s a very strange movie. I like it. It feels like a movie you should watch for historical context. This also begat like four sequels, so there’s that.
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
These 50s and 60s sci fi movies look so good. The way they depict technology and fantastic locations was never matched later on. The way the center of the Earth looks here is great. Colorful gems and stuff, and weird mushrooms and things. Shit you’d see in campy sci fi TV shows of the 50s. This movie is pure fun. Love, love, love it. Honestly, the only thing missing here is Ray Harryhausen. (It even has James Mason!)
The Last Angry Man (1959)
Colin will recognize the title. That’s a reason to see it. It’s about Paul Muni (the only man to be nominated for an Oscar for both his first and last screen performance), a doctor who helps everyone in his neighborhood, but is constantly bitching about how shitty things are now. He calls everyone galoots, which is just a great word. His nephew is trying to get ahead as a journalist and wants to do a profile on him because he thinks he’s interesting. It’s a small movie. Very reminiscent of the early 50s and not the decade that’s to come. More of a throwback, but that’s the whole point of it.
The Nun’s Story (1959)
Fred Zinnemann. Audrey Hepburn. It’s about a woman who makes a weird choice to become a nun in the first place, and proves her devotion over a bunch of horrible events (plagues, wars, etc). It’s a really engaging movie. Mostly because of Hepburn. A lot of those “nun movie” tropes. If you saw The Song of Bernadette, you’ll see some similarities. But it’s worthwhile because of Hepburn. And it’s actually a good movie. Nominated for 8 Oscars. And loaded with character actors and Oscar winners. Peter Finch, Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft, Dean Jagger, Mildred Dunnock, Beatrice Straight, Barbara O’Neil, Ruth White. Good stuff.
On the Beach (1959)
Stanley Kramer (he made a few good ones). Gregory Peck. Ava Gardner. Fred Astaire. Anthony Perkins. It’s post-apocalyptic. Post-World War III. The air is polluted. So the survivors are on a submarine traveling south to where the air (hopefully) is breathable. I don’t even want to get into what this is about. It’s great. And you should consider it essential.
Operation Petticoat (1959)
HILARIOUS comedy. Blake Edwards. Cary Grant. Tony Curtis. If you’re around my age, you remember the movie Down Periscope. This is a much better version of that. This is also similar to Mister Roberts, but without the sad shit at the end. It’s also kind of like In Which We Serve. It’s basically the history of a submarine. But funny. Cary Grant is the commander of the sub, and it gets sunk while in port. And most of his crew gets transferred off, and he gets a bunch of misfits. Tony Curtis is the kid from Brooklyn who is really good at re-appropriating materials and goods for other purposes. And they do crazy shit like pick up some army nurses, accidentally blowing shit up, getting their sub painted pink — it’s just hilarity. One of the great comedies.
Our Man in Havana (1959)
This one is great. Alec Guinness is a salesman recruited by SIS to be (insert title here). He has no idea what the fuck he’s doing, so he just makes shit up. But pretty soon things get very real. It’s terrific. Really great. Carol Reed directs. Maureen O’Hara, Burl Ives, Noel Coward and Ralph Richardson are in it. Really highly recommended.
Pillow Talk (1959)
CinemaScope. Rock Hudson and Doris Day. She got her only Oscar nomination for this. They share a party line, but they’ve never really met in person. And he’s bringing over a bunch of women and banging them, and it drives her nuts. And he decides to fuck with her by trying to seduce her in a different voice. And you know where it goes. Tony Randall, Thelma Ritter and Nick Adams are also in it. It’s fun.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
I don’t have to say a word about this one. Known as the “worst movie of all time.” If you saw Ed Wood, you saw clips of this movie recreated. It’s terrible. That’s the appeal.
Pork Chop Hill (1959)
Korean War movie. Lewis Milestone directs. Gregory Peck stars. It’s just a badass war movie. Rip Torn, George Peppard, Woody Strode (!), Norman Fell, Robert Blake, Martin Landau, Gavin MacLeod, Harry Dean Stanton. Badass. War movie. ‘Nuff said.
Room at the Top (1959)
Nominated for a shitload of Oscars, won Simone Signoret one. Laurence Harvey plays a dude whose only goal is to get to the top. So he starts sleeping with the boss’s daughter and is planning on riding that train all the way to the penthouse. Things get complicated, though, when he actually starts falling in love with Signoret, a middle-aged woman in a bad marriage. So he has to decide between legitimate love and his ambition. It’s one of those movies I didn’t fully appreciate the first time I saw it. But it’s actually quite beautiful and tragic (and well directed, too). Also holds the record for shortest Oscar-nominated performance. Hermione Baddeley is in the movie for something like two and a half minutes, and got nominated for this.
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Tennessee Williams. Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift. Taylor is a woman in a mental hospital because of something she saw when her cousin died. Clift is the doctor trying to get to the bottom of it. And Hepburn is her aunt, who wants nothing more than for Taylor to just be lobotomized so what actually happened never comes out. It’s mostly a three-hander. Really well-acted. Both Taylor and Hepburn got nominated for this. (Which means our entire 1959 Best Actress category is on on this list.)
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BUtterfield 8 (1960)
Elizabeth Taylor won her first Oscar for this. She sleeps around a bunch, but has morals, and it’s a whole thing. It’s a good movie. Hard to explain. Mostly about her and gives her a chance to shine. It’s worthwhile for her.
Elmer Gantry (1960)
Burt fucking Lancaster. Won his Oscar for this. And he is AMAZING in it. Richard Brooks directs, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy, Shirley Jones (who also won for this). But this is all about Lancaster. He’s a salesman. A con man, basically. And he comes upon a religious revival tent and realizes, “Shit… I can do this.” So he becomes a fire and brimstone preacher. I’m not gonna ruin it. It’s great. You NEED to see this movie. Burt Lancaster, man. Trust me on this.
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