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

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:

1960-1964

Soldier in the Rain (1963)

What a movie. Steve McQueen and Jackie Gleason. McQueen is a dumb, country boy and Gleason is his friend. McQueen isn’t very bright and Gleason looks out for him. It’s a really sweet movie. Criminally underrated. Jackie Gleason is one of those actors — you wonder why he never became an all-time great actor, because he clearly had it in him. Both comedy and drama. You see his dramatic range in The Hustler. Watch him in this too. It’s crazy how good he is.

This Sporting Life (1963)

Aww yeah. Richard Harris doing his best Brando. And here’s the thing — he’s great at it. Harris is an angry young man who becomes a rugby player. Only he lives really fast and loose, and much of the movie is about him trying to have a relationship with a widow. It’s a really great and tragic film. Richard Harris is incredible in it, and Rachel Roberts is also good (they both got nominated). See this. It’s terrific.

Tom Jones (1963)

No, not that Tom Jones. I know. It’s not an original joke. It’s based on the Henry Fielding novel, one of the great picaresque works of literature. This won Best Picture in 1963 (though I’m not really sure why or how). It’s about a rake who sleeps with a bunch of women who goes out into the world, looking for a fortune, and manages to come within seconds of getting himself hanged. Famous for the most sexualized eating scene in the history of cinema. Nominated for a bunch of Oscars. Albert Finney is terrific as Tom, and then there were three Supporting Actress nominees here (Diane Cilento, Edith Evans and Joyce Redman), and Hugh Griffith was nominated for Supporting Actor. It’s a fun movie. Has a silent movie beginning. It’s a good time. Should be seen to see if you think it should have won (against America America, Lilies of the Field, How the West Was Won and Cleopatra).

Twilight of Honor (1963)

Courtroom drama. Really hard to find, but good. This was one of the final ten Oscar Quest movies I saw. That’s how hard it was to find. It’s about a young attorney whose first case is a murder trial that can’t be won. So he asks his mentor, Claude Rains, to help him with the case. It’s Rains’ second to last role. He’s great here. Nick Adams got nominated for Supporting Actor (Rains gets snubbed again), and he’s also great. You can’t go wrong with a courtroom drama, especially one starring Claude Rains.

The V.I.P.s (1963)

Really like this movie. I’ve gone back to watch this a few times since I originally watched it for the Oscar Quest. It’s an ensemble drama about a bunch of people stranded at an airport because of fog. And we follow all the different stories as they unfold. It’s like Airport, but more dramatic instead of a thriller and on the ground. It stars Liz Taylor and Richard Burton as (essentially) Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. It’s based on the writer’s experience seeing Leigh almost walk out on Olivier and run off with Peter Finch, only to change her mind and go back to him after getting to the airport. Also in this are Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith. He’s a small business owner looking for the money to save it, and she’s his doting secretary who is secretly in love with him. Then there’s Orson Welles, a director who needs to get out of the country so he doesn’t have to pay his taxes. And there’s Margaret Rutherford (who won Supporting Actress for this), a kooky duchess who’s going to try to save her family’s house, which will be foreclosed if she doesn’t raise the money soon. It’s great stuff. This is a real underrated film from the 60s. This movie grows on me every time I see it.

The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Arthur Hiller directs James Garner and Julie Andrews. I’m pretty sure they both said this was their favorite movie they ever made. It’s really funny. Garner is a soldier whose talent is doing everything except fighting. He meets Julie Andrews and wants desperately to bang her. And she thinks he’s a coward, which he openly admits he is. And then there’s the admiral, who is in the middle of a mental breakdown and decides the first man to die during the upcoming D-Day invasion is going to be a Navy man. And James Garner does everything he can to not be that person. And hilarity ensues. This is a really great movie. This is such a great movie that no one even remembers anymore. You should see this. I think you’re gonna love it.

Band of Outsiders (1964)

Godard. One of his most famous movies, and one of his best. (His best movies are the ones made in the 60s.) It’s about two guys who meet a girl and plan a robbery with her. You know you’ve heard of it, and you know you should see it. It’s a lot of fun.

Becket (1964)

Oh, here we go. The 60s were a time when there were a lot of costume dramas made. Big, classy productions, with big stars, usually starring either Richard Burton or Peter O’Toole. Lot of Oscar nominations, and all really engrossing. This one stars both Burton and O’Toole. O’Toole is King Henry II and Burton is Thomas Becket. They’re great friends and old drinking buddies and Henry appoints him as Chancellor because he figures it’ll be easier having a friend there. Only Becket takes the role very seriously and actually starts to become annoying. And it’s a drama about the two men. So lots of great scenes between two titans of acting. Both nominated for Best Actor here, also starring John Gielgud as the conniving King of France. Nominated for twelve Oscars (winning only for Screenplay). You can trust that all these costume dramas from the 60s are worthwhile. (You’ve already seen A Man for All Seasons. This is more of the same. Great stuff.)

The Best Man (1964)

Oh, man. This movie. Barely a blip on the Oscar Quest (only nominated for Supporting Actor), but this was one of the best movies I saw. It’s about Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson as the two men vying for the Democratic nomination for President. They’re both waiting to see which one the President (Lee Tracy, who got nominated) is going to endorse. And over the course of the film (which takes place over the day of the DNC, both men end up stooping to political maneuverings and back channel smear campaigns to try to get the nomination. It’s an amazing, amazing movie, because it starts with two men who are ultimately good men and we watch them do terrible things because of the situation. It’s about the corruptive nature of politics. It’s so good. One of the best movies of the 60s. You’re gonna love this movie. Franklin Schaffner directs, too. Gore Vidal wrote the script. You will not be disappointed with this one.

Fail-Safe (1964)

Very famous movie. Sidney Lumet. This is the serious version of Dr. Strangelove. You need to see this just as a double feature to that. Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau star. You’ll notice a lot of similarities with Dr. Strangelove. This one has a very similar but different ending, and it’s actually one of the more striking and memorable endings in movie history. You need to see this one.

Father Goose (1964)

Cary Grant’s second to last movie (and his last good movie. Walk, Don’t Run is all right, but not great. It’s not on the list, but I’ll mention — it’s a remake of The More the Merrier set in Japan during the Olympics, with Grant playing the Charles Coburn role). He’s a drunken beachcomber who ends up finding Leslie Caron and a bunch of schoolgirls stranded on his island. And hilarity ensues. Very funny stuff. Leslie Caron is always good, and Cary Grant is always great. You know you’re getting the goods here.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

I mean, yeah. It’s the first in the Man with No Name trilogy. If you haven’t seen it coming in, do yourself a favor and treat this like the essential movie that it is.

Goodbye Charlie (1964)

Great movie. Very underrated. No one remembers this one. Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. I say it every time, and hopefully these lists are illustrating — Tony Curtis movies are always good. And Debbis Reynolds is making a strong case for the same treatment. Vincente Minnelli directs this one. It’s about a womanizer (Walter Matthau, which is just great) who dies after a husband walks in and he falls overboard and drowns. Only he comes back from the dead as Debbie Reynolds. So Debbie Reynolds is playing a man in a woman’s body for the entire movie. And (s)he goes to Tony Curtis’s house, because that’s his best friend. So now Debbie Reynolds (playing a reincarnated Walter Matthau) is living with Tony Curtis, and continuing to be a womanizing asshole. It’s great.

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane introduced a new genre into the world — the psycho biddy film. This is a continuation of that genre. The opening scene is Bette Davis and Bruce Dern going off to elope. But then she finds out he’s married, and he finds out his wife knows about it. So he breaks things off to salvage his marriage. Meanwhile, later that night, he gets beheaded. As it happens. Most people assume she did it. Cut to 40 years later. She’s an old spinster living in this run down house (it used to be a grand plantation and now it looks like a haunted house) with her loyal maid (Agnes Moorehead, who is always amazing). Meanwhile, the town wants to demolish the house so they can build a highway, Davis is starting to romance Joseph Cotten (who she was close with before the murder), and has her cousin (Olivia de Havilland) come live with her. And pretty soon, she starts going crazy, being haunted with visions of the murder. It’s a great movie. All these famous people, and you get the similar Baby Jane mind games, only now with Davis on the other end of the torture. Great movie. If you liked Baby Jane, you’ll like this.

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

Billy Wilder. Not his best, but good (because they all are… pre-1970). It’s a comedy with Dean Martin and Kim Novak. Dean Martin plays himself, essentially, and he’s in some small town in Nevada (called Climax. So that’ll give you a clue). Two local guys want to sell their songs to him. He’s stuck, so he stays with one of them, though there’s a good chance he’ll the guy’s wife. So he sends his wife out of town and gets Kim Novak, a local hooker, to pose as his wife so Martin will end up banging her instead. Hilarity ensues. Billy Wilder. Just see it.

And since we’re now finished with Billy Wilder, I want to go over some stuff with you guys.

He made 25 movies in all. The last five aren’t particularly memorable. Those are all 1970-1981. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is okay, but not great. Avanti! is the same. Not particularly memorable. The Front Page is a remake of that movie/His Girl Friday with Lemmon and Matthau. So there’s that. But it’s also not great. Fedora and Buddy Buddy are not great either. I recommend them because Billy Wilder is one of the ten great American writers of all time, but they’re really only worth it for him.

Now — Billy Wilder made 20 movies between 1942 and 1966. Okay? We’ll start with that. At least 10 of those movies are perfect. Full stop perfect.

Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole, Stalag 17, Witness for the Prosecution, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment. That’s just 8. All of them are on the first list. They are 100% essential movies.

Pick any two from this remaining list: Sabrina, Irma la Douce, The Fortune Cookie. I consider all three of them to be perfect. I put them all on the first list. At minimum, the man made 8 perfect movies, and we’re looking closer to 11 right here.

So that leaves the remaining 9 movies. The Major and the Minor — very funny. Not great, but very good. Five Graves to Cairo — really good thriller and very underrated. The Emperor Waltz — the one movie that doesn’t appear on this list. Probably his weakest in this era. Not a bad movie, but not something I love. Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine. He’s a salesman trying to sell the gramophone to an Austrian emperor. It’s all right, but clearly one of his bottom three of the 20.

Then there’s A Foreign Affair — very good. The Seven Year Itch — iconic. Marilyn Monroe. Not my favorite, but very memorable. The Spirit of St. Louis — great. Underrated, and great. Love in the Afternoon — also great. Hepburn and Cooper. Terrific movie. One, Two, Three — madcap, fun, very good. Kiss Me Stupid — fun, but not great.

Those are the 20 movies. So when The Emperor Waltz is the worst one, and that’s a solid movie in and of itself, that’s insane. When your worst four movies are Emperor Waltz, Kiss Me Stupid, One Two Three and The Seven Year Itch (to me, anyway), that’s insane.

Oh, and by the way — he also wrote the screenplays to Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, Midnight, Ninotchka, Hold Back the Dawn and Ball of Fire.

If you don’t finish these lists thinking Billy Wilder is one of the greatest writers and directors to ever walk the planet, I really question the way you watch movies.

Marnie (1964)

Marnie is Hitchcock’s last great movie. You can argue that it’s really all downhill from Psycho, but The Birds is good and Marnie is good. After this — Torn Curtain is decent, Topaz I don’t love, and Frenzy and Family Plot — ehh. Fine, but not Hitchcock level that we’ve come to know. Really, his style was all about being part of the studio system and undermining the whole thing. He infused a lot of sexual humor into his stuff, and once all that stuff was more open, along with the violence, he just couldn’t tell the stories the way he used to. Plus he was old. It’s hard for older directors to stay relevant as filmmakers. But that’s all beside the point.

Marnie is a great movie. Tippi Hedren and Sean Connedy. A great, great movie. She’s a thief with emotional issues, and he’s a rich guy who doesn’t care and marries her anyway. Just see it. It’s essential, and it’s one of Hitchcock’s most underrated great movies.

Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

I love this movie so much. So, so much. One of the most brilliantly funny comedies I’ve ever seen. I think this movie is genius. But for some reason so many people hate it. William Holden is a screenwriter being paid to write a script. He’s had 12 weeks to write it. He spent 11 of them on a bender in Paris. Now he’s got a week to come up with an entire story. He hires Audrey Hepburn, a typist, to take down his notes. He’s stuck with what to write. But in flirting with her, they come up with a story together. And the film has this brilliant device where we see the story acted out. For example, he starts with a title — The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower — and they work from there. But then he finds out she’s going on a date with this guy, and changes the story to berate the boyfriend, and turn him into the dashing hero who wins her heart. It’s — fun. I don’t want to spoil it. There are cameos galore. Tony Curtis is so great here. He has the most thankless role, but makes the absolute most of it. You’ll see. This is actually one of my all-time favorite movies. I’m actually really glad people don’t like this movie. Because that’s fine. I’ll be right here loving it all the same.

The Pawnbroker (1964)

And now, the Holocaust. Rod Steiger is (insert title here), who was put in a concentration camp during the war. Now he’s in Harlem, and is bitter. It’s a great, great movie. Rod Steiger is so good here. His performance is so good you actually start to figure that his Oscar win a few years after this was a makeup for this performance (he lost to Lee Marvin. Who… not quite this level of performance, as much as we love him). Sidney Lumet directed this, and honestly, just see it. It’s powerful.

The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

Anne Bancroft was nominated for this, and she carries this movie. Very small drama, but well-acted. She’s on her fourth marriage, and has a lot of kids. She finds out her current husband has cheated on her. And it’s about her dealing with that fact. Terrific performance by Bancroft.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)

The title speaks for itself. It’s a great 60s sci fi. The sets look gorgeous. And fake as shit. Which is the best part. The title explains everything you need to know about this movie. And I love it. The Crusoe story is usually entertaining, but on Mars, looking like a 60s sci fi movie — you can’t go wrong with that.

 

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