Aurora over at Once Upon a Screen has hit upon the genius idea of celebrating the joy of Christmas by recommending classic movies (see her post). This #PayClassicsForward prompt follows the theme of the carol Twelve Days of Christmas.
I have created my own categories and as requested am recommending movies which might appeal to non-classic film fans. Not only am I spreading the joy of classic films, but I’m also giving the gift of recommending many lesser known but entertaining titles.
“On the first day of Christmas of Christmas…”
One Stunning Silent
Lucky Star (1929) -Silent films can be intimidating to some. I’ve seen many of the best from names like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore, Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, John Gilbert and more. But the one that has stuck with me the longest features frequent co-stars Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. It is an emotionally riveting, beautiful story of self-denial and sacrifice and the power of love, which pulled my heart strings.
Two Thieves a Thieving
- William Powell as The Robber in Jewel Robbery (1932) -I wouldn’t mind getting robbed by this gentleman thief. He even brings a little something to make the whole experience more fun.
- Michael Caine as Harry Dean in Gambit (1966) -Harry Dean can make me over any time to partner with him in crime.
Three Eventful Train Rides
- Twentieth Century (1934) -I’m pretty sure this trip turns out a lot better for flamboyant director Oscar Jaffe then it does for his actress protégé.
- Shanghai Express (1932) -Note to self; when traveling by train in unstable countries, make sure to befriend the prostitutes.
- Sullivan’s Travels (1941) -What better way to learn how the peons live than hopping a train dressed as a hobo?
Four Pairs of Co-stars in Four Films
Thanks to the old studio system, many actors and actresses were paired together numerous times.
- Priscilla Lane & John Garfield –Four Daughters, Daughters Courageous, Four Wives, Dust Be My Destiny –I’m a fan of Lane and think Garfield’s edgy persona is a perfect foil of her girl next door charm.
- Rosalind Russell & Brian Aherne –Hired Wife, My Sister Eileen, What a Woman, Rosie! –Neither Russell nor Aherne get enough attention for their work, but they are both wonderful actors.
- Clark Gable & Lana Turner –Honky Tonk, Somewhere I’ll Find You, Homecoming, Betrayed –Gable may have been better matched with Joan Crawford or Jean Harlow, but I can’t help loving his films with Turner.
- James Stewart & Maureen Sullavan –Next Time We Love, The Shopworn Angel, The Shop Around the Corner & The Mortal Storm -I’ve always wondered what kind of conversations these two might have had regarding Sullavan’s first husband and Stewart’s best friend Henry Fonda.
Five Golden Voices
With perfect diction, these well modulated voices could melt butter.
Six European Locales
I adore travel. But sometimes, I have to content myself with armchair travelling. Here are a few films which highlight some interesting locations which I would love to visit in real life.
- County Galway, Ireland –The Quiet Man (1952) -If you crave a trip to Ireland but don’t have the money, this is the best arm chair trip you can make. Yes, it features, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and is directed by John Ford. But the real star of this show is Ireland.
- Naples –It Started in Naples (1960) -Clark Gable and Sophia Loren star as in-laws fighting over who gets custody of their nephew. Naples also stars.
- Venice –Summertime (1955) -Katharine Hepburn in Venice. What more do you need to know? It’s beautiful and painful all at once.
- Spain –It Started with a Kiss (1959) Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford star in this film about a military wife who joins her husband at his new posting.
- Florence –Light in the Plaza (1962) -My favorite discovery of the year. I love the focus on the mother-daughter relationship. Olivia de Havilland gives a beautifully nuanced performance. And of course Florence is gorgeous.
- Paris –Funny Face (1957)-Several of Audrey Hepburn films feature Paris. But this one gives the best tour. Plus, it also stars Fred Astaire.
Seven Authors Whose Works Have been Adapted to Film
Hollywood often mines classic literature as a source for new films. Names like Hemingway, Austen, Fitzgerald, the Brontes, Dumas and others have had their stories adapted for film. But the film industry also takes inspiration from modern authors as well.
- Somerset Maugham –Of Human Bondage, The Razor’s Edge, Sadie Thompson/Rain, The Painted Veil, The Letter
- Thornton Wilder –Shadow of a Doubt, Our Town
- James M Cain –Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity
- A.J. Cronin –The Keys of the Kingdom, Vigil in the Night, The Citadel, The Green Years
- Dashiell Hammett -The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man, The Glass Key
- Edna Ferber –So Big!, Cimarron, Showboat, Dinner at Eight, Stage Door, Saratoga Trunk, Giant
- Edward Streeter –Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, Father of the Bride
Eight Classic Remakes
Old Hollywood had a habit of dipping into its’ archives and freshening them up with new actors. Many popular films were remade, sometimes more than once, including Love Affair, The Man Who Knew too Much, A Star is Born, Red Dust, The Philadelphia Story and other popular titles. But I’m highlighting remakes which may not be as well known.
- Personal Property (1937) /The Man in Possession (1931) – A man down on his luck takes a job guarding the property of a formerly rich widow. Robert Montgomery stars in the original and another Robert (Taylor) takes the lead in the remake with Jean Harlow co-starring.
- The Swan (1956) /One Romantic Night (1930) – A princess must marry for duty, but is tempted by love. The original stars Lillian Gish, the remake features Grace Kelly.
- How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) /Ladies in Love (1936) -Three girls pool their resources to rent a swanky apartment in order to attract wealthy men. Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young and Constance Bennett headline the original with Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe in the remake.
- The Rains of Ranchipur (1955) /The Rains Came (1939) -A married woman travels to India and falls in love with an Indian doctor. I prefer the original with Myrna Loy, Tyrone Power and George Brent. The remake stars Lana Turner, Richard Burton & Fred MacMurray.
- The Children’s Hour (1961) /These Three (1936) – A chilling tale which shows how gossip can ruin lives. Director William Wyler had the chance to tell this story twice, the first time with Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea. The second time with Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn and James Garner.
- Back From Eternity (1956) /Five Came Back (1939) -Survivors of an airplane crash in a jungle and must work together to survive.
- Move Over, Darling (1963) /My Favorite Wife (1940) -The day of his second marriage, a man learns his first wife is still alive. Though Doris Day and James Garner are adorable in the remake, I love Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in the original.
- Pocketful of Miracles (1961) /Lady for a Day (1933) -When a poor woman learns her daughter is getting married, a local gangster helps her create a façade of respectability. Frank Capra directed both versions of this story. The first stars May Robson and William Warren and the second features Bette Davis & Glenn Ford.
I appreciate films which highlight female relationships and already put together a list of my favorites over at The Silver Petticoat Review.
But I also enjoy seeing male friendships portrayed in cinema.
- Jim Lane(Clark Gable) & Gunner Morse(Spencer Tracy) –Test PIlot (1938) -Gunner is a much better friend to Jim than he deserves.
- C.K Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) & “Mike” Connor (James Stewart) –The Philadelphia Story (1940) -A new and unlikely friendship forms when both men love the same woman. Add a little alcohol and blackmail and their bond is forged.
- Jim Wade (William Powell) & Blackie Gallagher – Manhattan Melodrama (1934) -Though disparate in character and temperament, their loyalty is proved through Blackie’s sacrifice.
- Sgt. David Stewart (Dennis Morgan ) & Sgt. “Fixit” Gilman (Dane Clark) –The Very Thought of You (1944) -Fixit’s impulsiveness ends up working in David’s favor as both men fall for some great women.
- Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) & Harvey –Harvey (1950) -Granted Harvey never shares any screen time with Elwood, but his presence is definitely felt. Friendship should always make you a better person.
- Johnny Eager (Robert Taylor) & Jeff Hartnett (Van Heflin) –Johnny Eager (1941) -A more unequal friendship you will not find. Though Johnny takes advantage of him, Jeff sees something redeemable in him and tries to act as the voice of reason.
- Brad Allen (Rock Hudson) & Johnathan Forbes (Tony Randall) –Pillow Talk (1959) -Johnathan acts as the perfect but foolish comedic foil for ladies man Brad.
- MSgt. Maxwell Slaughter (Jackie Gleason) & Sgt. Eustis Clay (Steve McQueen) Soldier in the Rain (1963) -Though Slaughter acts more as a mentor than a friend, his impact on Clay is proufound. I discovered this film last year and quickly added it to my favorites list.
- Erich Lohkamp (Robert Taylor), Otto Koster (Franchot Tone) & Gottfired Lenz (Robert Young) –Three Comrades (1938) -A sad example of how politics can ruin a good friendship.
Who doesn’t love a good meet-cute? Particularly when it involves embarrassment or a misunderstanding.
- Nicole Bonnet(Audrey Hepburn) & Simon Dermott(Peter O’Toole) in How to Steal a Million (1966) -She shoots at him when he breaks into her home.
- Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) & Freddie Denmark (David Wayne) in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) -Thanks to her refusal to wear glasses she takes the wrong plane and ends up with him for a seat mate.
- Mary Evans (Constance Bennett) & Lonny Borden (Neil Hamilton) What Price Hollywood (1932) -He hits her with his polo ball.
- Jennifer Nelson (Doris Day) & Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) –The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) -While fishing he strips her of her mermaid tail, leaving her “bottomless.”
- Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) & Captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) –The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) – He tries to scare her away from his home by “haunting” her.
- Susan (Katharine Hepburn) & David (Cary Grant) –Bringing Up Baby (1938) -She steals his golf ball and then his car and it just goes downhill from there.
- Princess Maria & Eddie O’Rourke – Princess O’Rourke (1943) -After taking too many sleeping pills she passes out on his plane.
- Alice Maybery & Corporal Joe Allen-The Clock (1945) -She trips over him in the train station.
- ‘Candy’ Johnson (Clark Gable) & Elizabeth Cotton (Lana Turner) –Honky Tonk (1941) -He hits on her on the train, but she rebuffs him.
- Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) & Myra (Vivien Leigh) –Waterloo Bridge (1940) -They meet while seeing shelter during an air raid.
Eleven Underrated Stars
Everyone is familiar with the names and films of stars like Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck. But there are many other stars who were popular actors in their day but are not as well-remembered now. Along with my list of favorite underrated stars, I have listed a few films which I think showcases their talent.
- Miriam Hopkins –The Stranger’s Return, The Story of Temple Drake
- Frances Lederer –Romance in Manhattan, Voice in the Wind
- Sylvia Sydney –Merrily We Go to Hell, Fury
- Gene Tierney –Shanghai Gesture, The Razor’s Edge
- Herbert Marshall –Trouble in Paradise, Foreign Correspondent
- Warner Baxter–Penthouse, 42nd Street
- Ruth Chatterton –Dodsworth, Female
- Laraine Day –Keep Your Powder Dry, The Locket
- Chester Morris –The Big House, Public Hero No.1
- Robert Williams –Platinum Blonde
- Constance Bennett –Topper, Tail Spin
Twelve Underappreciated Comedies
Comedy is my very favorite genre and has been ever since my introduction to classic film with Bringing Up Baby. As much as I enjoy watching my favorites over and over, I’m always on the lookout for lesser known comedies. Here are a few I love.