Mike’s Top Ten of 1959
This is a cool year. There’s a lot of amazing stuff on this top ten. Just about every film in the top ten can be describes as being a “classic” in its respective genre. And the other one… well, we’ll get to the other one. It’s amazing.
The French New Wave began this year, and it marks a major upturn (which had been coming over the past couple years) of European cinema. International film industries had been growing since the war, but the 60s were the time when the films greatly started making their way over to America in a big way.
Otherwise, you look at this year — Billy Wilder, William Wyler, George Stevens, Otto Preminger, Douglas Sirk, Howard Hawks — it’s one of those years with all the auteurs making some of the absolute most classic films.
Pound for pound, this is legitimately one of the best years of the decade.
Mike’s Top Ten of 1959
The 400 Blows
Anatomy of a Murder
The Diary of Anne Frank
Imitation of Life
North by Northwest
Some Like It Hot
11-20: Ballad of a Soldier, Day of the Outlaw, The Nun’s Story, Ohayo, On the Beach, Operation Petticoat, Our Man in Havana, Pickpocket, Pork Chop Hill, Room at the Top
Tier two: Ask Any Girl, Career, Compulsion, The FBI Story, The Five Pennies, Gidget, Hiroshima Mon Amour, A Hole in the Head, The Horse Soldiers, House on Haunted Hill, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Last Angry Man, Libel, Look Back in Anger, The Mouse That Roared, Pillow Talk, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Suddenly Last Summer, The Young Philadelphians, Warlock
– – – – – – – – – –
1. Rio Bravo
“A game-legged old man and a drunk. That’s all you got?”
“That’s WHAT I got.”
One of the ten greatest westerns ever made. I fucking love this movie so much.
Howard Hawks, John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan. What more do you need?
This film has one of the starkest openings of any movie. It’s a wordless sequence where Dean Martin (the town drunk) stumbles into a bar, too poor to afford a drink. And this asshole flips the money he needs for the drink into the spittoon, forcing him to humiliate himself to get a drink. Which he’s about to do. Until John Wayne walks in and kicks the spittoon away. Then Martin, desperate for a drink, knocks Wayne out and a scuffle ensues between him and the asshole. The asshole then shoots a bystander and flees, running to another bar. Wayne and Martin then walk in to arrest him. The opening line of the movie is, “Joe, you’re under arrest.”
It’s such a simple and perfect set up of the film. Martin’s the drunk, Wayne is the towering figure of masculinity and strength, and they’re catching the smarmy asshole who thinks he’s better than them. Once the guy is arrested, he’s taken to the local jail to stand trial. Only the guy is the brother of a rancher who basically owns half the town and does whatever he wants. So he’s gonna send some men to break his brother out of jail, and they’re gonna kill anyone who stands in their way. So Wayne has to defend the jail with Dean Martin, a drunk, Walter Brennan, an old man named Stumpy (you can imagine why), and Ricky Nelson, a young kid who is quick with a pistol.
It’s Wayne’s answer to High Noon. He felt it was unbecoming of a western hero to go around and ask for help. So his point here was that his character wasn’t gonna ask anyone to help him, but would take whatever he could get. Hence the ragtag group he has in the film. I’m not as interested in that aspect of the film as much as I am the fact that it’s just so much goddamn fun.
Half this movie is Wayne, Martin, Nelson and Brennan hanging around the prison, shooting the shit. Or Wayne going into the dance hall and flirting with Angie Dickinson. THAT’S the best part of this movie. There’s a moment in this where Walter Brennan actually does a John Wayne impression!
This is one of my all-time favorite films. I can’t even fathom that there are people out there who don’t love this.
2. North by Northwest
“You gentlemen aren’t REALLY trying to kill my son, are you?”
No matter what your favorite films from Hitchcock are — and Hitchcock has a lot of great films, so you can take just about any angle you want with them — everyone has this movie in their top five. Probably top three. You just do. It’s one of those movies everyone loves.
It’s the epitome of Hitchcock’s genre of “innocent man on the run” films. Cary Grant gets mistaken for someone else and becomes a wanted fugitive, having to chase the culprits across country and clear his name. It’s fucking wonderful. Everything about this movie. It’s got some of Hitchcock’s funniest moments, and the great final image which is the most sexual thing you could possibly show without straight up showing it.
I love this movie. You love this movie. There’s no movie buff who doesn’t love this movie. Because it’s perfect.
3. Anatomy of a Murder
“As a lawyer, I’ve had to learn that people aren’t just good or just bad. People are many things.”
One of the five best trial films ever made. I’d probably go so far as to say top three. This movie is incredible. There’s a great trial movie just about every year from 1957 through 1962. We got spoiled in these years.
This is Otto Preminger, again flaunting censorship by making a story that was gonna be controversial. This movie involves an army officer who murdered an innkeeper. The officer flat out admits he murdered the guy, but says he did it because the innkeeper raped his wife. Jimmy Stewart, a former district attorney and now-small time lawyer with a lot of free time on his hands, takes the case. It’s hard to get acquitted of murder when you freely admit it, even if you had a reason, but Stewart has a way he thinks he’ll get the guy off. And the film is about him preparing for the trial, with his alcoholic mentor (a great Arthur O’Connell), and then the last half of the film (the movie’s over two-and-a-half hours) — even more than that — is purely trial. He goes up against a local D.A. as well as a high-priced city lawyer (played by George C. Scott, who is awesome here).
This movie is spellbinding. It was hugely controversial at the time, since they have a lengthy discussion about the defendant’s wife’s panties — since she claimed they were torn off while being raped. The dialogue is frank about the whole thing, because it’s a trial. It has to be. It was so controversial that even Jimmy Stewart’s own father took out an ad in the paper urging people not to go see it.
I will not make such a request. Because this movie is incredible, and since trial movies are always interesting, and this is one of the three best trial movies ever made — everyone should see it.
4. Some Like It Hot
“I’m a man!”
“Well, nobody’s perfect!”
Generally regarded as the greatest comedy ever made. This still holds up today and is still hilarious today. Oh, and by the way — it’s Billy Wilder again. This is his tenth top ten film out of fifteen total films. (And, for those keeping score, three of the other five films were in my 11-20. No one else has that kind of track record.)
This has one of the great comedic premises of all time — Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are two musicians who watch the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Now on the run from the mob, they take a job in a band… which they find out is an all-female band. So they go on tour pretending to be women. And boy, does hilarity ensue.
Just about everything about this movie is iconic, especially the final scene (and line. Pictured above). It’s a masterpiece. We all know it’s a masterpiece. There’s really no way not to have this movie in the top ten for 1959. It’s amazing.
5. Imitation of Life
“So, honeychile, you had a mammy.”
“Yes. All my life.”
Douglas Sirk’s final film. And it might be his best. It’s a remake of the 1934 film, which is also tremendous.
It’s ultimately the story of four women, though after a certain point the focus narrows to two. Lana Turner and her daughter meet and befriend Juanita Moore and her daughter. Moore eventually comes to work as a housekeeper for Turner. Turner can’t afford her, but Moore needs a place to stay so they work out an arrangement where Moore comes to stay and in return helps keep the house. The women all become very close. Turner eventually becomes a successful stage actress. Moore stays with her, basically being both her best friend and housekeeper. Because Turner is so successful, she doesn’t have time to be at home, meaning that Moore basically raises her daughter for her.
The main conflict of the film is between Moore and her own daughter, played by several actresses but most notably Susan Kohner in the latter portion of the film. She’s light-skinned, and begins passing herself off as white at school. She begins to see herself as white and becomes embarrassed by her mother. Eventually she runs away from home, and Moore begins trying to find her. Leading to one of the most emotional scenes in the history of cinema (pictured above). The climax of this movie is absolutely heartbreaking.
Sirk was a master of the melodrama. He uses Technicolor, costumes and set design to heighten the artifice and hysterical nature of the genre while also including a lot of really socially conscious criticisms. The way this movie deals with racism is way ahead of its time. There’s a sexual assault that happens in this movie that seems as brutal as something you’d see today. (And Sirk, ever one to tweak the norm, cast Troy Donahue as the one who commits the assault. Which, for those who don’t know, is like if Taylor Swift were the star of a Lars Von Trier movie.)
I love this movie so, so much, and I think it’s my favorite Sirk film. I’m also not kidding when I say the scene at the end is legitimately one of the most emotional I’ve ever seen put to film.
6. The Diary of Anne Frank
“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart.”
I was nervous about this movie, the first time I watched it. Because it’s such famous subject matter, I was worried that the film was gonna be long, and boring, and not amount to much, but you had to pretend it was good because of what it’s about. That’s not even close to being accurate, I’m so happy to say.
George Stevens directed this movie, which is hint number one. And it’s just gorgeously shot and beautifully written. The entire film takes place in the attic where the family is hiding, and it maintains interest entirely throughout. It’s an incredibly uplifting movie and actually goes in as deep a territory as it can go, given the time period. I was really impressed by that.
Great performances all around here. Millie Perkins is great as Anne, Joseph Schildkraut is great as her father, and Shelley Winters won an Oscar for playing one of the other people hiding with the family.
This movie should be required viewing for all people. Not just film buffs. All people. This is important and needs to be seen.
7. Sleeping Beauty
“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream
I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam
And I know it’s true that visions are seldom all they seem
But if I know you, I know what you’ll do
You’ll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream”
I might make the case this is the most beautiful film Disney ever made. The design of this film is so unlike everything that came before it. And that, mixed with CinemaScope — oh. So gorgeous. They animated this for 70mm!
The story is kind of three movies in one, but it works. It’s part ‘evil witch curses a girl and tries to get rid of her’, part ‘girl living in a house with fairy godmothers’ and part ‘girl falls in love with prince’. And they all go together. Even when there’s a fight with a dragon. It’s like — “well, it looks great, so this is cool.”
Also definitely shows the hubris and stupidity of white people. “Oh man, the evil witch put a spell on our daughter that says she’ll go to sleep forever when she pricks a poison spindle on her 16th birthday. BURN ALL THE SPINNING MACHINES IN THE COUNTRY!”
Or you could, you know, just like, lock her up on the day of her 16th birthday and make sure she doesn’t come into contact with a spinning wheel. You know, just an idea.
Also, what’s with the built-in fail-safe of, “Oh, but she can also come out of it with true love’s kiss”? Kind of puts a damper on an evil plan when there’s also a way to overcome it.
Maybe also work on having your daughter fall in love with someone before her 16th birthday so that way just in case shit goes wrong you can fix it.
Man, it’s really lucky that almost everyone in this movie is completely inept, isn’t it?
“You can break a man’s skull, you can arrest him, you can throw him into a dungeon. But how do you control what’s up here? How do you fight an idea?”
Sometimes they refer to a film as having a “cast of thousands” to imply the size and scope of its production. Not here. There are literally thousands of people in this movie. This and The Ten Commandments are two of the biggest productions ever made in Hollywood. This one, though, by far, is the biggest.
It’s about a Jewish prince and his adopted brother. And we follow them over many years. The prince gets sold into slavery, and eventually returns as a charioteer, leading to the famous chariot race sequence where the two brothers race against on another at the Circus Maximus. And then there’s also a whole subplot about Jesus and the crucifixion.
The film is three-and-a-half hours and it’s epic as all get out. Charlton Heston gives the second most defining performance of his career, ultimately winning an Oscar for simply anchoring a movie of this size. This movie is automatically a top ten movie for the year by simply existing. It’s that grand in scale. It’s one of those movies that just washes over you. You don’t watch it so much as take it in.
It’s not gonna be everyone’s favorite film, but there’s no denying how incredible of an achievement this is. William Wyler directed this, by the way. And Yakima Canutt shot second unit and was the choreographer of the chariot race. Them’s some surefire hands, right there.
9. The 400 Blows
“Your parents say you’re always lying.”
“Oh, I lie now and then, I suppose. Sometimes I’d tell them the truth and they still wouldn’t believe me, so I prefer to lie.”
Françcois Truffaut’s first film, and by most accounts, his best. This, along with Breathless, jumpstarted the French New Wave and completely revolutionized cinema. They were influenced by a lot of the noirs and underrated American films of the 50s (and also Jean Vigo), and in turn highly influenced all the great American films that would come in the 70s. It’s a beautiful thing.
The film is based loosely about Truffaut’s own childhood, and was the first of five films Truffaut made around the character of Antoine Doinel. It’s, in a way, a French version of Rebel Without a Cause. A kid growing up whose parents just don’t get him. Though here, they think he’s a hoodlum and a ne’er-do-well, all because he’s rebellious and doesn’t like listening to authority.
This movie is so iconic, as is its final shot. This is the signature film of Truffaut’s career and it’s just incredible.
10. The Tingler
“Remember, if you scream at just the right time, it might just save your life.”
Okay, I’ve been waiting for us to get to this movie. This is my absolute favorite William Castle movie and one of the great campy horror movies of all time. This is one of those movies that actually makes me giddy when I get to introduce it to people who don’t know about it.
I saw this in a horror class I took my senior year of college, and the professor did his best to recreate Castle’s gimmick for this movie, which was called “Percepto.” He put buzzers underneath random seats inside the theater, which would go off randomly during the scary moments of the film. That’s not the part he recreated. The part he recreated was based on the film’s opening narration — where the theatergoers are encouraged to scream during the film. We’ll get to why in a minute. Castle actually had designated screamers sit in the audience to guide the audience through the scary moments. And that’s what happened with us. He and some other students were in the back, screaming at random times to give you the feel of being in the theater. Which was so great, and it’s one of the best theater experiences I’ve ever had.
So here’s what the film is about: Vincent Price is a doctor who discovers that the tingling sensation we feel on our spines when we’re scared is caused by an actual creature. Somehow medicine didn’t catch this for centuries until now. That creature is called a “Tingler.” What a Tingler does is attach to your spine and curls up more and more as you get afraid, essentially crushing your spine and killing you. The only way to keep the creature at bay is by screaming. (See how that worked out? What a genius gimmick and a preposterous setup for a movie. It only makes the movie better.)
Meanwhile, Price’s wife is having an affair pretty much openly, and his personal life is in shambles. Meanwhile, he manages to get his hands on a Tingler (doesn’t it just sound dirty? That’s what this entire movie is), which, through circumstance, breaks out of his lab and goes on the loose.
The climax of the movie involves the Tingler sneaking into a movie theater while a film is playing. (Kind of like The Blob, in a weird way.) And then the film gets really meta. It’s actually quite genius how is was set up, and is still one of my favorite film climaxes of all time. There’s also some insane shit that happens in this movie. Vincent Price does LSD!
When I say this is one of those movies you need to see, I’m not kidding. I suggest watching this in as big a group you can, on as big a screen as you can. Because you’ll get swept up in this. It’s a really good time at the movies.
– – – – – – – – – –
Ballad of a Soldier — One of the great films in Russian history. It’s about a soldier who gets decorated in battle, but instead of a commendation, asks if he can be given leave so he can visit his mother. He gets six days. The film is about him traveling home to see his mother, encountering a war-torn country and the people affected by it along the way. It’s incredible. This just barely missed my top ten. It’s so good.
Day of the Outlaw — One of the most underrated westerns of the decade. Robert Ryan is a cattle rancher who is feuding with the local homesteaders. There’s a lot of great shit going on between them. A farmer’s wife offers to sleep with him if he won’t kill her husband — there’s a full story going on there. But then Burl Ives and his gang of outlaws ride into town, and take everyone hostage. So now Ryan has to actually save a town that despises him. I’m a huge fan of this movie. Definite hidden gem alert.
The Nun’s Story — Audrey Hepburn as a nun. One of the few religious films I really like. She plays a woman who enters a convent, struggles through getting her vows, and then is sent to the tropics to help treat illnesses there (where she ends up in a possibly romantic situation with a doctor). It’s a really strong film. Fred Zinnemann directed it and Hepburn gives one of her best dramatic performances.
Ohayo — I love this movie. It’s an Ozu comedy about two kids who want a TV set, so they take a vow of silence in order to pressure their parents into getting one. It’s so much fun.
On the Beach — A Stanley Kramer post-apocalyptic film, and one of the great films of the genre. It takes place after a nuclear apocalypse. The fallout is spreading over pretty much the entire world, and the people in Australia have to come to terms with the fact that pretty soon their land will be uninhabitable too. So they send the last of the American submarines out to make contact with a signal that’s being picked up from the U.S. It’s one of the bleakest films you will ever see. Stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins. This is an all-time classic and a must-see for all film buffs.
Operation Petticoat — Another submarine movie. This one way different in tone. This is an out and out comedy. The enduring image from this film is a submarine painted pink. Cary Grant is an officer assigned to a sub that’s been sunk. So he’s stuck on land until they can repair it. His aide, Tony Curtis, has no sub experience whatsoever, but is really good at acquiring things. (A scrounger, is the more appropriate term.) He starts stealing all the supplies they need to fix the sub, and along the way they also manage to pick up a bunch of army nurses, who travel with them. It’s just a fun comedy all around. One of my favorite Blake Edwards movies.
Our Man in Havana — A great spy movie. Spy comedy, I guess. Alec Guinness is a vacuum salesman in Cuba (that set up can pretty much only lead to comedy) who is recruited to be a British spy. Though he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. And he gets way in over his head, especially when the spy business actually becomes for real. A real gem of a comedy. It’s directed by Carol Reed and based on a Graham Greene novel. This is one of the more underrated comedies of all time and needs to be seen by more people. It’s amazing.
Pickpocket — This movie is great. It’s about a guy who joins a group of pickpockets in order to make a living. One of Robert Bresson’s best films, and so wonderfully stylized.
Pork Chop Hill — A Korean War movie. Not many great ones of those. It’s about U.S. troops trying to take an important hill despite being vastly outnumbered by Chinese forces. Stars Gregory Peck, Rip Torn, Woody Strode and George Peppard. It’s good.
Room at the Top — Having this film here gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction, because the first time I saw this I did not like it. The fact that I was able to go back to this and reevaluate it and completely change my feelings of it makes me incredibly happy. This movie is truly one of the great romances in cinema history. The set up is vaguely reminiscent of A Place in the Sun, though it goes to much different places. Laurence Harvey is an ambitious man whose only desire is to marry rich and live off the wealth for the rest of his life. He begins pursuing the daughter of a wealthy businessman. He has no real feelings for her, but makes her fall in love with him. Meanwhile, he meets Simone Signoret, a middle-aged divorcée. And things get complicated when he actually starts falling in love with her. So he ultimately has to choose between happiness and a meager life and the wealth he desires and an unhappy marriage. The film is so great. Signoret won an Oscar for it, and deservedly so. This was Jack Clayton’s first film, and began a very underrated career of very solid work. This is actually one of the great romance films in cinema. A real gem.
– – – – – – – – – –
- Ask Any Girl
- The FBI Story
- The Five Pennies
- Hiroshima, Mon Amour
- A Hole in the Head
- The Horse Soldiers
- House on Haunted Hill
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- The Last Angry Man
- Look Back in Anger
- The Mouse That Roared
- Pillow Talk
- Plan 9 from Outer Space
- Suddenly, Last Summer
- The Young Philadelphians
The Mouse That Roared is a great comedy. Satire, I guess is the more appropriate term. It’s about a tiny European country that becomes bankrupted when America finds a way to cheaply manufacture their only export. So they make a plan to declare war on America, knowing they’re gonna lose. That way, when they lose, America can come in and rebuild their economy again. Though, when they do actually declare war… things don’t quite go according to plan. Peter Sellers stars in this. Playing, naturally, three different roles. You’re gonna enjoy the hell out of this one.
Compulsion is one of the great trial movies of all time. You know the movie Rope? It’s based on the Leopold and Loeb murder, which is what this is also based on. It’s about two friends who kill someone to commit the “perfect crime.” Though they are soon caught. Orson Welles plays their attorney, who only shows up in the last part of the film, but completely steals the show with a tour-de-force closing argument. This is a movie good enough to be ranked way higher. It’s a real classic. The FBI Story is a great (though clearly largely fictional) biopic about the founding of the FBI. Jimmy Stewart stars as one of the bureau’s earliest members, who recounts all the famous cases the bureau solved over its many years. If you’re cool with knowing it’s fictionalized, this movie is great. I enjoyed the shit out of it. Libel is an interesting one — man with PTSD from the war has trouble remembering things. Then a guy shows up and says he’s an impostor in the press, leading to a trial… where stories come out, and no one is quite sure who is telling the truth. It’s really solid.
Hiroshima, Mon Amour is Alain Resnais’ masterpiece. It’s about a French actress in Japan who has an affair with a married Japanese man. It’s a beautiful romance that also includes a lot of shots of the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. It’s one of those movies you need to see. It’s incredible, and it’s something that even non film buffs should see. At this point it’s history. Suddenly, Last Summer is based on Tennessee Williams and stars Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Katharine Hepburn. Taylor is a woman who is institutionalized after her cousin dies on vacation. Clift is the doctor assigned to treat her. And Hepburn is the boy’s mother, who wants Taylor to be lobotomized so no one finds out the truth about what happened to her son. This movie is all about the performances. I can’t say I love the actual story — the reveal of what happened to the cousin is actually kind of ridiculous. But the performances here are great. Hepburn wins best in show, naturally, but Taylor and Clift are both great too.
House on Haunted Hill is another William Castle. This film’s gimmick was called “Emergo,” which was a pulley system placed in the theater that would fly a plastic skeleton over the audience in the right moments. The film stars Vincent Price (just like The Tingler), and is about a millionaire couple who invite a group of random people to their house, which they claim is haunted. They say that whoever manages to stay the night in the house will win a bunch of money. Naturally, this is all prelude to a lot of scary shit (and some interesting revelations). This is legitimately one of Castle’s best films, and is a horror classic. It’s not as overly campy as The Tingler, but it’s really good. I remember seeing the remake to this when I was a kid. Journey to the Center of the Earth is one of the great adventure films of all time. James Mason is a professor who wants to follow a legendary explorer’s trail to find a trail that leads to the center of the earth. And there’s a rival professor that tries to beat him there, and it’s a race, but then they get there, and cool shit happens. I love the special effects of this movie. They’re so dated, but they’re great. This is the kind of movie that makes me feel like a kid again.
Warlock is an awesome western. It stars Henry Fonda, Richard Widmark and Anthony Quinn. That should get most people in, because how awesome are all of those people? Fonda is a famous gunslinger hired to be the sheriff of a town. He hires his friend, Quinn, as his deputy. They basically take over the town. Kind of like of Gene Hackman rules over the town in Unforgiven. He’s protecting it… but also there’s some autocracy there. Widmark plays a former outlaw who becomes their deputy, but surprises them by his desire to actually want to go by the letter of the law. It’s a really great movie. A nice twist on the genre. Last Train on Gun Hill is a John Sturges western with Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn. Quinn is a cattle baron and Douglas is a marshal. They’re friends, but not in this situation. Douglas’s wife is raped and murdered and he sets out to find the killer, only to realize the killer is Quinn’s son. It’s good. It’s got most of the cast and crew that did Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The Last Angry Man is a film I knew nothing about until I saw the Don Rickles documentary John Landis did. Billy Crystal makes a joke about Rickles dying and him stealing his act. He refers to Rickles in relation to this movie. So once that happened it was on my radar. Then it became part of the Oscar Quest, because Paul Muni was nominated for it. (Fun piece of trivia: Muni is the only person to be nominated for both their first and final screen performance.) The film is about Muni as a doctor who is the purest example of what a doctor should be. He treats the poor who can’t pay and refuses to take any money for his services. And he’s constantly railing about how awful everyone and everything is, calling everyone a “galoot.” His nephew works in TV and wants to do a story on his uncle. But once that happens, it does nothing but cause problems for him. It’s a really great film. Muni plays very much the kind of person I can see myself becoming in fifty years. The Horse Soldiers is John Wayne and John Ford. And you get William Holden to boot. It’s about calvary troops sent to destroy Confederate railways to prevent them from getting supplies to their troops.
Career is a drama about the blacklist. Dean Martin and Anthony Franciosa are actors who work for a very liberal theater group who put on subversive plays. Martin ends up becoming a successful Hollywood director until he is blacklisted. Franciosa, meanwhile, plugs away to get acting roles. Though when he finally gets his breakthrough, his past comes back to haunt him, and he too gets blacklisted. Shirley MacLaine plays an alcoholic love interest and Carolyn Jones plays an agent. It’s one of the first films that was openly about the blacklist, which to this point was one of those things Hollywood didn’t openly talk about. The Five Pennies is a musical biopic about Red Nichols, a famous early jazz musician. No one remembers this movie, but it’s solid. If you like these musical biopics like The Glenn Miller Story, you’ll enjoy this. Danny Kaye plays Nichols, and Louis Armstrong is featured prominently as himself. The Young Philadelphians is about Paul Newman as a poor boy who rises to prominence as a lawyer, eventually having to defend his friend on a murder rap. It’s part trial film, which is what makes it interesting. Robert Vaughn got nominated for this as the friend.
Plan 9 from Outer Space is Ed Wood’s… uhh, masterpiece. If you saw Ed Wood, you know all about this one. One of those “so bad it’s good” movies, famous for being called “the worst movie ever made.” A Hole in the Head is Frank Capra’s penultimate film. Frank Sinatra plays an irresponsible widower trying to keep custody of his son. Also stars Edward G. Robinson, Carolyn Jones, Eleanor Parker, Thelma Ritter and Keenan Wynn. Famous for the song “High Hopes,” which is a classic. Look Back in Anger is the film that spawned the “Angry young men” genre as part of the British realism movement of the 60s. There’s gonna be quite a few of these types of movies (or movies influenced by this one) coming up over the next few years. This is the one responsible for all of them. It’s kind of a British Five Easy Pieces. Richard Burton is a working class guy who can’t stand everything around him. Along with Burton, Claire Bloo, Edith Evans and Mary Ure also star.
Gidget is the movie that began the “beach party” film genre. It’s about a virginal girl who hangs out with an older, surfer crowd. It’s very much in that late 50s, teen culture. It’s openly about her thinking about losing her virginity and things like that. This movie also features characters named “Kahuna” and “Moondoggie.” It’s actually a classic for the era, and it’s a fun film. Ask Any Girl is a rom com with Shirley MacLaine is an office girl who falls for the younger brother of one of her clients. Like Henry Higgins, he transforms her into the kind of woman his brother would go for. Though naturally that makes things complicated between the two of them. David Niven and Gig Young play the brothers. Pillow Talk is a Doris Day/Rock Hudson rom com about two people who share a party line. He’s a womanizing playboy, and she’s constantly picking up the phone while he’s wooing one of his many conquests. Naturally, she can’t stand this. But they’ve never actually met in person. Though he then meets her in person and begins wooing her under a false identity. It’s almost a variation of the Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail scenario. It’s fun.
– – – – – – – – – –