Nearly 30 'Great Films' Highlighted for Your Classic Movie Night

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By Mark R. Gould

It has been a lot of fun to write about some of my favorite classic movies and share my thoughts with our growing audience. I have written about movies for a long time, and published interviews with film figures from the classic era to contemporary artists, including the great director Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo, To Have and Have Not, His Girl Friday). and  one of the best  film actors of the past forty years, Jeff Bridges, below.   

 

Jeff BridgesLong-time star Joel McCrea (Sullivan’s Travels, Foreign Correspondent, Ride the High Country), who could play comedy, suspense and westerns with ease, was a generous interviewee and a pleasure to work with. Can’t say the same about Tommy Lee Jones or Jane Fonda. However, Olivia de Havilland,  Bruce Dern, Ben Gazarra, Roy Scheider (just after he made Jaws) were warm companions whose company I enjoyed.  Director Mel Brooks invited me to watch him edit one of his best  films, Young Frankenstein  at 20th Century Fox studio in West Los Angeles  during a hilarious afternoon.

I have been on movie sets with Steve McQueen and Paul Newman (The Towering Inferno), Charles Bronson (Telefon) and Ava Gardner and Charlton Heston (Earthquake) and attended events with  directors Billy Wilder(Some Like It Hot, William Wyler (Ben Hur), and Vincent Minnelli (Bandwagon, Some Came Running) and producer Hal Wallis (Casablanca). Most of my work was published in the Chicago Sun TimesChicago Daily News and other daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, throughout the country.

Screenshot: Bad dAT AT bLACK rOCKThis article contains links to many  of  the ‘Great Movies’ postings I have written  in the past couple of years: Directors Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Vittorio de Sica and Vincent Minnelli are among my favorites and have been spotlighted.  Great action films with a message are a passion, and why I have included John Sturges’ Bad Day at Black Rock (Spencer Tracy, pictured above) and The Magnificent Seven and John Huston’s Treasure of Sierra Madre. I love film noir, and White Heat with James Cagney remains a favorite since the day I saw it at Chicago's Biograph Theater.

I have also posted an interview with Alan K. Rode,  a leading film historian from the Film Noir Society, who has a new book soon to be published regarding the great film director, Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). 

Screenshot: North by Northwest (Cary Grant)I have  written about my favorite actor several times, Cary Grant, left. Others who never fail to move me or entertain me include Alec Guiness, Albert Finney, Fred Astaire,  and an actor not so well remembered, unfortunately, with a much different style who ranks with the all time greats,  John Garfield. Meryl Streep, in my view, is one of the greatest film actress of them all, and who can take their eyes off of such compelling artists as  Gena Rowlands, Audrey Hepburn and Jean Simmons.

Movie acting is a particular skill that few have. I have always said to my film fan friends—to some loud disagreement—that I would rather watch a film with John Wayne than Lawrence Olivier. The acting is better and emotions more authentic.

In the old days, I would try to see classics on the big screen, in  theaters like the seedy Clark Theater in downtown Chicago, Parkway Theater on Chicago’s North Side, or at such museums as the Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Art Museum, or on campus at Northwestern University.

 

Joel McCrea with Veronica Lake in Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels (1941)

The advent of high quality DVDs has changed the landscape. So thank you to the Criterion Collection folks and others in the preservation business for all of the good work you do remastering  great works for our viewing pleasure and creating extras that help illuminate these works for art.

I also want to send a shout out to the Film Noir Society. If gun molls and damsels in distress are your cup of tea, the organization has a wonderful touring film festival each year in a number of cities and its website is rich with information about this important genre. They also fund the restoration of film noir gems.

I was a hungry freelancer who wanted to break into entertainment journalism when I sent a letter to Roger Ebert asking for advice on what books to purchase and start reading. A letter arrived on Chicago Sun Times stationery a week or so later. The generous note steered me to, among others, critics Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris and Manny Farber. Those books  provided me with many hours of great reading and insightful criticism and introduced me to many new films to enjoy and appreciate.  Ebert soon joined the critical pantheon with his great interviews with such legends as Lee Marvin, Robert Mitchum and others in Esquire and his ability to communicate so winningly about foreign films as well as the great American classics on his then PBS television show with the late Gene Siskel.

Although not very popular today, Rex Reed also was writing some insightful celebrity interviews as well in those days, and he pretty much captured the celebrity interview market for a time. His long form interviews were revealing in ways readers weren’t used to and remain good reads to this day.

In the months ahead, I will be writing about more of my other favorites. Expect to see a series on the great musicals. I also plan to write more about Vittorio De Sica, John Ford, Elia Kazan, Ida Lupino, and some indie filmmakers including my favorite, John Cassavettes, and  Wes Anderson and  John Sayles.

So here are the links to many  of the Great Films series. At the beginning I called the series: Classic Films for Movie Night. I kind of like that name. But for now here are the links. Thanks for reading. Your local library will likely have DVDs of most of these movies that have stood the test of time.

 

Great Movies: 'Breathless' and the French New Wave

Great Movies: 'Bernie' and the Career of Director Richard Linklater

Great Movies: Price of the Ruthless Quest for Power: 'Godfather Part Two'

Great Movies: 'Blackboard Jungle' and the Underappreciated Career of Glenn Ford

Great Movies: 'Marnie,' Hitchcock's Last Masterpiece

Great Movies: 'The Highest Moment in the Movies:' City Lights

Classic Film for Family Movie Night: Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest

Classic Film for Movie Night: Notorious

They're Young. They're in Love. And They Kill People: Bonnie and Clyde

Great Movies: Citizen Kane- Most Influential Film in History

Classic Movie Night: Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is the Latest Classic Film for Movie Night

'Nobody's Perfect': Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot

Classic Film for Family Movie Night: The Band Wagon

Classic Film for Movie Night: Bull Durham

Classic Film for Movie Night: The Third Man

Classic Film for Movie Night: Bad Day at Black Rock

Classic Film for Movie Night: White Heat

The Best Hitchcock Movie Hitchcock Did Not Make: Charade

Classic Film for Movie Night: The Magnificent Seven

Woody Allen's Manhattan Tells Us Why Life is Worth Living

Classic Films for Movie Night: The Treasure of Sierra Madre

John Garfield, Film Noir and the Hollywood Blacklist - Part 2

Either You Bring the Water to L.A. or You Bring L.A. to the Water: Chinatown

John Garfield, Film Noir and the Hollywood Blacklist

Film Noir--Stylish Crime Dramas that Stand the Test of Time

 

Visit your local library for the following:

Book by Pauline Kael

I Lost It at the Movies (1965)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968) 

Going Steady (1969) 

Deeper into Movies (1973) 

Reeling (1976)

When the Lights Go Down (1980) 

5001 Nights at the Movies (1982, revised in 1984 and 1991) 

Taking It All In (1984)

State of the Art (1987) 

Hooked (1989)

Movie Love (1991)

For Keeps (1994)

Raising Kane, and other essays (1996)

Books by Andrew Sarris

The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968

Confessions of a Cultist

The Primal Screen

Politics And Cinema

You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: The American Talking Film – History and Memory, 1927-1949

Books by David Thomson

A Biographical Dictionary of Film (first edition 1975)

America in the Dark: Hollywood and the Gift of Unreality (1978)

Overexposures: A Crisis in American Filmmaking (1981)

"Have You Seen...?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films (2008)

Books by Roger Ebert

Scorsese by Ebert

Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert – a collection of essays from his 40 years as a film critic, featuring interviews, profiles, essays, his initial reviews upon a film's release, as well as critical exchanges between the film critics Richard Corliss and Andrew Sarris.

Ebert's "Bigger" Little Movie Glossary – a book of movie clichés

The Great Movies, The Great Movies II , and The Great Movies III  – three books of essays about great films

I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie  – a collection of reviews of films that received two stars or fewer. (Title comes from his review of North.)

Roger Ebert's Book of Film – a Norton Anthology of a century of writing about the movies

Questions For The Movie Answer Man  – his responses to questions sent from his readers

Your Movie Sucks  – a new collection of less-than-two-star reviews. (Title comes from his review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.)

Roger Ebert's Four-Star Reviews 1967–2007

Life Itself: A Memoir. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011.

Richard Schickel

Woody Allen: A Life in Film (2004)

Elia Kazan: A Biography (2005)

Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart (2006)

The Essential Chaplin: Perspectives on the Life and Art of the Great Comedian (2006) (editor)

Documentaries

The Men Who Made the Movies (1973), eight-part series, PBS, Emmy nominated

Cary Grant: A Celebration (1988),

Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey (1994), AMC, Emmy nominated

Shooting War: World War II Combat Cameramen (2000), ABC, Emmy nominated

You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (2008), three-part series, PBS

Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin (2003)

Alan K. Rode

Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy

Look for his soon to be released book about director Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” Mildred Pierce”).

 

 

Images:

     
Jeff Bridges at the Independent Spirit Awards in Los Angeles on March 5th, 2010.
Date     5 March 2010

Joel McCrea with Veronica Lake in Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Screenshot: Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock

Screenshot: Cary Grant in North by Northwest

 

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