Nearly 30 'Great Films' Highlighted for Your Classic Movie Night
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.
Long-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 Times, Chicago Daily News and other daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, throughout the country.
This 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).
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.
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)
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)
Movie Love (1991)
For Keeps (1994)
Books by Andrew Sarris
Books by David Thomson
A Biographical Dictionary of Film (first edition 1975)
Books by Roger 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
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.)
Life Itself: A Memoir. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2011.
Woody Allen: A Life in Film (2004)
Elia Kazan: A Biography (2005)
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
Alan K. Rode
Look for his soon to be released book about director Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” Mildred Pierce”).
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