Thursday, 10 March 2011

Talking heads III

More reference worthy must see films.

Film History by Decade: 100 Years of Movies written and edited by Tim Dirks

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), 129 minutes, D: Frank Capra
One of Frank Capra's time-honored classic comedy/dramas about the triumph of the ordinary man over the corrupt political elite, restoring faith in democracy. An idealistic, naive Boy Rangers leader Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is drafted by his state's governor to the Senate in Washington as a freshman senator to complete the remaining term of a dead Senator. The corrupt "political machine," led by his state's senior Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) believes he will easily be controllable, but when Jefferson discovers the land-scam plans of his supporters, he becomes stubbornly determined to not forsake his dreams and to do what's right against the corrupt, greedy forces running his state. With the support of his secretary Saunders (Jean Arthur), he delivers a powerful, rousing and passionate filibuster on the Senate floor in the final climactic moments.

The Wizard of Oz (1939), 103 minutes, D: Victor Fleming
One of the most popular films of all time, a children's fantasy classic, based on Frank Baum's novel. A farm girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) from Kansas (Kansas sequences are in sepia-tone) is transported with her dog Toto in a twister to the magical fantasy land of Oz (Oz sequences are in Technicolor). There she meets delightfully colorful characters including the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) and three companions - the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley), and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). With them she sets off on the yellow brick road to seek the Wizard's (Frank Morgan) help to get home. The Wizard grants all of their wishes when they subdue the Witch. In the land of Oz, she discovers that things aren't always better somewhere else. With the well-known theme song, "Over the Rainbow."

The Women (1939), 132 minutes, D: George Cukor
With an all-woman, all-star cast of more than 125 strong-minded women, from Clare Boothe's (Luce) play. A comedy/drama full of biting wit, fast dialogue, and superb performances. The complex story line about matrimony and men and women is full of twists and diversions, almost unimportant. One of the socialite women Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) learns that her husband is having an affair with an amoral perfume sales clerk Chrystal Allen (Joan Crawford). She seeks a divorce with a six-week stay in Reno. The cast of women engages in cat-fighting and bitching, vicious gossip and cattiness, husband-stealing, and back-stabbing, while the film provides insight into female bonding and the role of women in society.

Wuthering Heights (1939), 104 minutes, D: William Wyler
One of the greatest romantic love stories ever filmed, from Emily Bronte's tragic Victorian novel. An abandoned orphan Gypsy boy Heathcliff (Rex Downing as child, Laurence Olivier as adult) is taken in by a well-to-do 19th century English family, the Earnshaws (Cecil Kellaway as the father) on the isolated moors. He becomes their stable boy and falls in love with the family's spoiled young daughter Catherine Earnshaw (Sarita Wooten as child), his childhood friend. The beautiful Cathy (Merle Oberon as adult) is desperately in love with Heathcliff, but because of his low birth begins seeing a wealthy neighbor's son. Heathcliff leaves during a misunderstanding and with driving ambition later returns moderately wealthy, discovering that she has married rich Edgar Linton (David Niven), in spite of her passionate love for him. In revenge, he spitefully marries Edgar's naive sister Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) and then neglects her. The long-suppressed passionate feelings that they have had for each other continue to torment them as haunted, star-crossed lovers.

Fantasia (1940), 120 minutes, D: Ben Sharpsteen and Disney
An innovative and revolutionary animated classic from Walt Disney, combining classical music masterpieces with imaginative visuals, presented with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The eight animation sequences are colorful, impressive, free-flowing, abstract, and often surrealistic pieces. They include the most famous of all, Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with Mickey Mouse as the title character battling brooms carrying endless buckets of water. Also Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite," dinosaurs and volcanoes in Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," the delightful "Dance of the Hours" by Ponchielli with dancing hippos, crocodiles, ostriches, and elephants, and Mussorgsky's darkly apocalyptic "Night on Bald Mountain.

The Letter (1940), 95 minutes, D: William Wyler
A superb melodrama, adapted from the W. Somerset Maugham play. In the opening scene, Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell), an old family friend, is killed and shot point-blank on the front steps of the Crosbie Malayan rubber plantation by Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) while her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall) is away on business. She claims that she killed him in self-defense to protect her honor (in fact, she killed him because as her lover, he threatened to leave her). Her husband faithfully believes in her and hires respected lawyer Howard Joyce (James Stephenson) to defend her, but soon the lawyer has his doubts. An incriminating letter (from Leslie to Geoffrey) surfaces in the possession of Hammond's Eurasian widow (Gale Sondergaard), and she blackmails them for $10,000. The letter must be retrieved personally in a dramatic scene. Leslie is found innocent of murder charges in the court trial, but she suffers a fateful retribution in the conclusion.

The Philadelphia Story (1940), 112 minutes, D: George Cukor
A classic romantic comedy, a witty adaptation of Phillip Barry's Broadway hit. Set among the upper class society in Philadelphia, a spoiled, wealthy heiress, Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) is about to be remarried to a stuffy executive, George Kittredge (John Howard). She divorced her first husband C. K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) because he drank excessively and was irresponsible. He still loves her and shows up in attendance. So do Spy Magazine's scandal reporter Macauley "Mike" Connor (James Stewart) and a photographer. Dexter is there to prevent them from publishing an expose about the womanizing reputation of Tracy's father Seth (John Halliday), his ex-in-law. Things get complicated when the inquisitive, cynical Connor falls in love with Tracy and teaches her what love is.

Rebecca (1940), 130 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Adapted from Daphne du Maurier's novel of gothic romance and mystery, a compelling romance-mystery with intense psychological suspense. Following a rapid courtship, a shy, naive young woman becomes the second Mrs. de Winter (Joan Fontaine) by marrying a dashing, but brooding British nobleman (Laurence Olivier). She is haunted by the memory and shadow of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, who died under mysterious circumstances. At his huge Manderley mansion, the icy-cold housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) taunts and frightens her. The untold secrets of the past are slowly unraveled, finally freeing her from her fear and uneasiness. A winning Best Picture film.

The Thief of Bagdad (1940), 106 minutes, D: Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell and Tim Whelan,
Produced by Alexander Korda
One of the best, most enchanting fantasies ever made - with an Arabian Nights theme, including spectacular special effects, amazing photography, a memorable musical score, and wonderful performances. A mischievous young urchin/thief Abu (Sabu) is thrown in a dungeon for theft. He helps the good-hearted, prince Ahmad (John Justin) of the city of Bagdad - who is tricked out of his kingdom - save his kingdom, his throne, and his love for the Princess (June Duprez) from an oppressive, evil magician Jaffar (Conrad Veidt) with the help of a giant genie Djinni (Rex Ingram) and a magical flying carpet.

Now playing: Joan Armatrading - The Weakness In Me

1 comment:

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Ah, fabulous.
The Philadelphia Story.
My favourite movie.