The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XXVI)
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:
Hell Is for Heroes (1962)
Don Siegel war movie starring Steve McQueen. McQueen plays the loner of the bunch, naturally. It’s mostly about the men, who want to go home, but are sent back on another mission on the front lines. It’s a standard war movie. You get a lot of good McQueen work here, and it’s black and white. Which makes war movies look better, especially in this era.
How the West Was Won (1962)
One of my favorite all-time movies by sheer virtue of the fact that it’s awesome, it has everyone in it, and is gorgeously shot. It’s basically an anthology film, with the through line being that it’s about four generations of a single family. It’s set across five “chapters” — The Rivers, The Plains, The Civil War, The Railroad and The Outlaws.
The first segment (directed by Henry Hathaway) follows the Prescott family as they use the last of their money to embark on a fresh start out west. Karl Malden and Agnes Moorehead are the parents, Carroll Baker and Debbie Reynolds are the daughters. Along the way, they meet Jimmy Stewart, a fur trapper. He and Baker fall in love with one another. And then they also run into some murderous river pirates (led by Walter Brennan, of course. And Lee Van Cleef), but ultimately have to brave the rapids in order to get to where they’re going.
The second segment (also directed by Henry Hathaway) follows Debbie Reynolds as she decides not to stay with the family, but rather go to St. Louis and become a dance hall singer. She meets up with Gregory Peck, a gambler. He overhears that she’s inherited a gold mine from a relative of hers and decides to tag along with her as she goes along on a wagon train out to San Francisco. Robert Preston is the wagon master, and Thelma Ritter is the old maid looking for a husband. There’s singing and dancing and romance and Indian attacks. It’s fun.
The centerpiece of the film (directed by John Ford) follows George Peppard (Baker and Stewart’s son) as he enlists to fight for the Union. He gets involved in the Battle of Shiloh, which turns the tide of the war in favor of the North. Afterward, he finds Russ Tamblyn, a deserting Confederate soldier, disillusioned with war and wanting to just get away. However, they both stumble upon a conversation between General Grant and General Sherman (Harry Morgan and John Wayne), and Tamblyn realizes this is his chance to be a southern hero, by killing them both. Andy Devine makes a cameo appearance in this segment too.
The next segment (directed by George Marshall) has George Peppard, after the war and still looking for adventure, working for the railroad. He’s the guy sent to make peace with the Indians so the railroad man (Richard Widmark) can build his tracks without fear of being killed. Peppard runs into a friend of his father’s — Henry Fonda — here, and also realizes that Widmark is pretty much just out for his own interests. This section features a pretty outstanding buffalo stampede.
The final sequence (also directed by Henry Hathaway) has Debbie Reynolds (now a grandmother) traveling to meet Peppard and his family (Carolyn Jones plays his wife) in Arizona, where he is a sheriff. At the train station, he sees Eli Wallach, an outlaw he put in jail, now free. He becomes convinced that Wallach is going to go back to his criminal ways, and try to kill him. He tries to stop it rather than let it happen. It ends with a pretty great fight atop a train. Lee J. Cobb plays a marshal and Harry Dean Stanton is one of the outlaws.
It’s an amazing movie. Cameos galore. Even Raymond Massey shows up as Abraham Lincoln (he played him six times on screen!). The best thing about it, though, is that they shot it in Cinerama, which means three cameras shooting and the film being spliced together. Here in Los Angeles, they still have the Arclight with the Cinerama Dome (which is like five minutes from my office and is where I see most movies. I know, I’m spoiled), with a giant curved screen. It’s beautiful. I actually got to see this movie in original Cinerama print form back in April there. It was so great.
I think this is an essential movie for all time. Cinerama movies are incredible creations, and to me, this is the best one of them all. It’s so beautiful. If you ever have a chance to see this in original Cinerama form (which is not often), take it.
Ivan’s Childhood (1962)
Andrei Tarkovsky is a Russian filmmaker whose stuff appears on a lot of essential lists. I find a lot of his stuff intolerably boring. His later movies — The Sacrifice, Nostalgia — to me, it’s like watching paint dry. But he made a couple of movies that are really great. And this is the first one he made that will appeal to the most people. It’s about a boy who works as a spy during World War II. He’s able to cross the fronts without trouble because no one notices. It’s one of the most gorgeously shot films and is a staple of international cinema. You should see this one.
Jules et Jim (1962)
This is one of the most essential foreign films ever made. Which pretty much makes it essential. So you need to see it. If you’ve gotten this far, you need to see this. It’s love triangle with two friends and an impulsive woman.
The Longest Day (1962)
Yeah, boy. This is a war movie. Three hours, D-Day, told from both the American and German point of view. They had three different units working here — one for the Americans, one for the British, and one for the Germans. Ready for the cast? Eddie Albert, Paul Anka, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Henry Fonda, Gert Frobe, Leo Genn, Jeffrey Hunter, Curd Jurgens, Alexander Knox, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowall, Sal Mineo, Robert Mitchum, Kenneth More, Leslie Phillips, Robert Ryan, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Richard Todd, Tom Tryon, Robert Wagner, Stuart Whitman, and of course John Wayne. Nominated for Best Picture and one of the greatest war movies ever made. I think you understand how important it is that you see this.
The L-Shaped Room (1962)
This movie’s all but forgotten. I saw it because Leslie Caron was nominated for Best Actress for it. (She actually won the Globe and the BAFTA for it, but lost at the Oscars to Anne Bancroft.) She arrives at a rundown boarding house and rents a room. She’s there because she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to marry the father. And she meets all the residents of the house, who are all these odd little people. And they become a little family. And it’s this beautiful little movie about all these outsiders, meanwhile she’s deciding whether or not she wants to keep the baby, and whether or not she wants to be in a relationship with one of the other tenants of the boarding house. It’s a great movie. One of my favorite movies that I discovered on the Oscar Quest. A real gem.
The Music Man (1962)
Harold Hill, baby. You should know about this movie (or the musical). Harold Hill comes into a small town looking to rip them off. He gets them to agree to pay him to start a boys’ marching band. So once they pay for the instruments and uniforms and music lessons, he’s gonna skip town and leave them with nothing. But of course, he falls in love and starts to like all the townfolk. You know the deal. It’s a classic musical. The film itself is a little long (2 and a half hours) and unwieldy at times. Reminiscent of the bloated 60s musicals that represent the dying studio system. It’s still good, though. It’s worth seeing so you can at least say you’ve seen it.
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
You know the story, you’ve (hopefully) seen the 1935 version. This is the big, gorgeous, expensive 60s version. 70 mm Panavision. Marlon Brando is Fletcher Christian and Trevor Howard is Captain Bligh. Richard Harris, Hugh Griffith and Richard Hadyn are also in this. Mostly this is memorable for its gorgeous shots of Tahiti. Carol Reed started as director but Lewis Milestone finished and is credited. It was also a gigantic flop. (Mostly because it’s three hours and really all we care about is the exterior island shots.)
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Man… this movie. This is based on a Rod Serling teleplay, and is one of the most underrated movies of the 60s. Anthony Quinn plays a punch-drunk boxer (his performance is incredible. How he get completely overlooked for awards is beyond me) who has to quit. His manager is Jackie Gleason, who really has no scruples, and Mickey Rooney is his cut man, who is really the only one looking out for him. Then there’s Julie Harris as a social worker who might be his shot at redemption. Meanwhile, Gleason owes money to the mob and wants Quinn to go into a professional wrestling match. It’s a great movie. Muhammad Ali actually cameos in this. Do yourself a favor and see this. Anthony Quinn is otherwordly good in this.
Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)
Richard Brooks liked Tennessee Williams plays, huh? This one stars Paul Newman, Geraldine Page, Shirley Knight, Ed Begley, Rip Torn and Mildred Dunnock. Ed Begley is the boss of a southern town and Shirley Knight is his daughter. Newman used to be in love with her but was run out of town by Begley and told never to come back. He went out to Hollywood and tried to make it as an actor. But he couldn’t really find work and latched onto Geraldine Page, an aging, alcoholic actress who likes the pretty boy following her around and doing what she wants. He keeps her drunk and pretends like he’s gonna star in her next picture with her. Meanwhile he comes back to town, and Begley is pissed and out to get him, and he also starts falling in love with Shirley Knight again. It’s Tennessee Williams, so you know it’ll be interesting. It’s good. Begley won an Oscar for this, and Page and Knight were also nominated. (Newman got squeezed out by a particularly strong Best Actor category this year.)
America, America (1963)
The most underrated Elia Kazan movie. Perhaps his most personal, and also one of his best. It’s based on his uncle, who emigrates from Greece to the U.S. It’s incredible. It is full-stop essential, and probably should have been on the first list. Most people don’t get one perfect movie. Elia Kazan might have ten of them. (At least eight.) See this movie right now.
Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)
Strangely, I knew about this movie because I saw that Bobby Darin biopic with Kevin Spacey, Beyond the Sea. And they show him in this movie and losing at the Oscars and him being pissed off about it. It’s actually really great. Gregory Peck is the head of an army mental hospital. And he uses unconventional methods to treat his patients. And we see this. And it’s great. Tony Curtis plays that same kind of role he played him movies of this era (like Operation Petticoat). The guy who can get you what you need, even if it’s not entirely on the up-and-up. He’ll get it for you, just don’t ask how. Then there’s Angie Dickinson as a nurse. And Eddie Albert, Bobby Darin and Robert Duvall are some of the patients. It’s a really good movie. Highly recommended. This should be better remembered than it is.
Major classic. When people speak of the best Paul Newman performances, this usually gets mentioned near the top. Based on a Larry McMurtry novel (which is usually a breeding ground for awards), it’s about Newman as a dude who just fucks up everything he touches. And it’s mostly about him clashing with his farm owner father (Melvyn Douglas, who won Supporting Actor for his performance). Meanwhile, there’s the family housekeeper, Patricia Neal (who won Best Actress for this movie), and Newman’s younger brother (played by the kid from Shane). It’s pretty much just them in the movie. It’s really good. Martin Ritt directs. Great performances all around, and you can treat this as an essential movie.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Four “Mad”s, in case you’re keeping track. It’s a madcap comedy, shot in 70mm, directed by Stanley Kramer, and starring all the great comedians of the time. Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Carl Reiner, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Jim Backus, Joe E. Brown, William Demarest, Andy Devine, Peter Falk, Norman Fell, Sterling Holloway, Edward Everett Horton, Buster Keaton, Don Knotts, Charles Lane, Mike Mazurki, Jimmy Durante… cameos galore — and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson! He’s a black character actor whose voice you will recognize. This is essential.
Ladybug Ladybug (1963)
For the six people who actually read the stuff I write, you’ll recognize this title as something I brought up last year when reviewing a movie that pretty much no one saw. Which is neither here nor there, really. This is a Frank Perry movie (his second, after David and Lisa), about a class of schoolchildren out in the country. This is Cold War, when they instituted air raid drills in the event of a nuclear attack. And this town is miles and miles from any other town or city. So one day, their alarm goes off, which means a nuclear attack as happened and it’s not a drill. The teachers figure this is a malfunction and it’s not real, but no one can know for sure because they can’t get anyone on the phone. So they start walking the children back to their houses. Meanwhile, the kids end up on their own. And in doing so, lock themselves into a shelter, and the whole thing turns into Lord of the Flies. They start thinking that this is the end of the world, and actually start deciding which people should live and which should die. And they’re like, first grade. It’s really fucked up. It’s a real critique on Cold War paranoia. This is one of those movies that no one remembers but is great. It also contains one of the great ambiguous endings in cinema (which will be somewhat repeated in a film on tomorrow’s list). This film deserves to be seen by everyone.
The List of Adrian Messenger (1963)
Ah. This was a movie that was made to appear on a list like this. You haven’t heard of it, most people haven’t heard of it. It’s one of the forgotten movies in history. It’s a real gem though, and is entertaining as shit. I don’t even know how to explain it, and I think it’s best if you don’t go on IMDB to look this up. (There are some cameos in the movie that you shouldn’t know about and shouldn’t look for, because the joy of the movie is that they’re there and you don’t even know about them until the end.) So ignore the cast list. It’s not as stacked as IMDB might make you think.
But anyway — Adrian Messenger is a guy who realizes that a series of seemingly unrelated murders actually are related. Though he is killed before he can reveal the link. But before he died, he told his friend George C. Scott about it, and he decides to try to solve the case. The list of names revolves around a group of men who were all in the same POW camp. And we slowly start figuring out what happened from there. It’s a really great, really fun mystery. And, like I said, just watch it without looking into it and you’ll get a fun twist at the very, very end.
Love with the Proper Stranger (1963)
Ah. I remember this one. Natalie Wood got nominated for it. This is a movie that would have been made in the UK three years before this. She is a regular girl who works at Macy’s who gets knocked up by Steve McQueen after a one night stand. Yes, this is a movie plot and not something that actually happened, as much as it sounds like it. She finds him and tells him he needs to pay for an abortion. And they work together to raise the money for it. Meanwhile, there’s her Italian family, who wants her to marry this other boy, and then there’s her actually starting to have feelings for McQueen — it’s a great movie. The abortion scene is really powerful. This was also nominated for five Oscars, believe it or not.
Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963)
What a great movie. Jackie Gleason is the man. He’s one of those guys who just does whatever he wants. His wife says she doesn’t like the color of the neighbor’s house, so he goes and manages to get it painted. He decides to buy out the ice cream shop because the owner won’t sell sundaes for a penny. His daughter ends up saying she wants a pony, so he spends the family’s entire savings on a circus. It’s that kind of movie. It’s just fun. Jackie Gleason is a happy-go-lucky irresponsible, but loving, father. And it’s a lot of fun.
Shock Corridor (1963)
Sam Fuller. A guy trying to win a Pulitzer commits himself to a mental institution in order to solve a murder. It’s a great movie. A classic. Treat it as essential and see it.
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