24 Frames: 4th Annual Ten Best Classic Films Watched…For the First Time

It’s time again for our annual Twenty Four Frames Top Ten List of Classic Films Watched… For The First Time. This is our fourth year presenting this list of the best films that I have finally managed to catch up with. As usual the films are in alphabetical order.

In 2013, the list was dominated by American films, unlike in 2012 when only three U.S. films made the list.  There are two films from France and one film, a co-production, from the U.K. and India. The 1930’s and the 1950’s had the most films on the list with three each. Both the 1920’s and the 1980’s had tw0. There are 10 honorable mentions all of which are worthy works in and of themselves and deserve to be seen. For easy access, I have provided a link to all the films watched in 2013. http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/film-diary-2013/

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1931) Lewis Milestone

all quiet on the western front

Classic anti-war film that still packs a punch on the horrors, the meaninglessness and evils of war along with the stupidity of those back home preaching the glories of dying for ones country with shallow patriotic slogans and rhetoric. The battle scenes are as graphic, and magnificently shot, as the war is shown to be senseless.  A highlight is when Lew Ayres returns home and visits the classroom of a former teacher. The young teen students are all anxious and ready to go to war. Ayres tells them how it really is…”There’s no glory, we live in the trenches, we fight…we try not to be killed – that’s all!”  This is Lewis Milestone’s masterpiece. While he made a few other good films, “The Racket,” “The Front Page,” and “Of Mice and Men” to name a few, he never came close again to making this fine and powerful a cinematic work.

CAMILLE CLAUDEL (1982) Bruno Nuytten

Camille

A heartbreaking, passionate, romantic tragedy about art and love. Isabelle Adjani is stunning in the role of the tragic artist Camille Claude who spent the last 15 years of her life in an psychiatric hospital thanks to her brother .

DODSWORTH (1936) William Wyler

dodsworth_2

Few American films are as honest about marriage as this excellent William Wyler production. Named Best Picture in 1936 with superbly fine tuned performances from Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton and Mary Astor (I don’t think Astor ever looked more ravishing). For anyone studying acting this is required viewing. The characters are complex, full bodied and three dimensional.   The rest of the cast include David Niven, Paul Lukas, Spring Byington and a young John Payne. “Dodsworth” skillfully captures the sadness, the melancholy of realizing one day that you’re not married to the person you thought you were.

GANHDI (1982) Richard Attenborough

gandhi3

Richard Attenborough’ superb biographical film on the life of Mahatma Ghanhdi, India’s famed leader who led a peaceful revolt against Bristish superamacy. Ben Kingsley is inspirational in the lead role winning a well deserved Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

 

PICKPOCKET (1959) Robert Bresson

Pickpocket-Robert-Bresson_zps00c190c6

A penniless writer who becomes a pickpocket feels intellectually superior to everyone and above the law. He sees no reason lesser individuals should not “provide” for his lifestyle. He could get a regular job like most people but that would be beneath him; he rather read a book. He has a woman in his life, a good woman, but he cannot bring himself to have a life with her fearing she will make him common…and honest.  A work of subtlety and style from Robert Bresson.

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THE PILGRIM (1923) Charles Chaplin

Pilgrim-Chaplin-charlie-chaplin-30690877-500-394

Charlie is an escaped convict who poses as a minster and finds himself the new pastor in a small town church. With a running length of about 40 minutes, this would be Chaplin’s final short. This was also his last film with his long time leading lady, Edna Purviance.

SABOTAGE (1936) Alfred Hitchcock

steviebus

More than seventy years after its release “Sabotage” remains relevant, in fact, it is even more relevant today, considering the world we live in, than in 1936 when it was first released. Karl Verloc (Oscar Homolka) is a member of a terrorist group set on crippling London. The films’ most shocking sequence is the terrorist blowing up a London bus filled with people and a young boy who is used to carry the bomb aboard the bus. In 1936, this was considered too shocking and probably far-fetched. In today’s environment we all know this idea is much too close to reality for comfort, just think back to the  2005 series of coordinated public transportation bombings in London including a double-decker bus. The fact we have come to like the boy in earlier scenes only makes it that much more uncomfortable and tragic.  The film remains even stronger emotionally today and relevant because of these powerful scenes.

SAFETY LAST !(1923) Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor

Harold_Lloyd_Safety_Last

Country bumpkin Lloyd leaves home, saying goodbye to Mom and promising his  girl they will soon marry. He heads to the big city where he plans to become a big success. His famous scene where Harold is hanging on a clock outside a tall building is just one of many stunts the comedian peformed. One of the great silent comedies of all time.

THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956) Douglas Sirk

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An undeservedly lesser known film by Sirk exploring the darker side American family life in the 1950’s, a topic the director has explored in many of his works. The film, unlike most Sirk films, centers on the male character, portrayed by Fred MacMurray, and how his needs at home are neglected. Both his kids and wife who has little interest in her husband sexually, fulfilling her own needs by focusing on their ungrateful kids. Freddie finds himself involved with an old girlfriend, Barbara Stanwyck, who is town on business. The film is bleak and offers little in the way of solutions. While MacMurray hopes to start a life with Babs she realizes there is no future for them.

YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (1937) Fritz Lang

Gehetzt

One of the earliest versions of young lovers on the run, think Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Fritz Lang and like much of the director’s work there is a touch of social commentary, cynicism  as well as a love story. Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sydney star.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater)

Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)

The Breaking Point (1950) Michael Curtiz

Convicts 4 (1962) Millard Kaufman

Crashout (1955) Lewis R. Foster

Monte Walsh (1970) William A. Fraker

Passion (2012) Brian DePalma

Scandal Sheet (1952) Phil Karlson

Sunnyside (1919) Charles Chaplin

Term of Trial (1962) Peter Glenville

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18 comments on “24 Frames: 4th Annual Ten Best Classic Films Watched…For the First Time

  1. An impressive list. I saw a silent version of “All Quiet on the Western Front” and found it even more powerful than the “talkie”, and that version is seared unto my memory. There’s an emotional depth to the films on the list which says a lot about great cinema and the viewer. I wonder what 2014 will hold.

    • John Greco says:

      Patricia, Yes, most of the films on the list have a strong “emotional depth” with characters that you can really sink your teeth into. What will 2014 bring? Well, suprisingly I watched two films this year already that have good chances of making the year end list or at least HM,. Carol Reed’s THE FALLEN IDOL and a newer film from 2007 THE COUNTERFEITERS, an Austrian film which won the OSCAR fro Best Foreign film. Both are must sees!

      • Judy says:

        John, I loved ‘The Fallen Idol’ – excited to hear that you have just seen it. Ralph Richardson is so good in it and the little boy is amazing tool

      • John Greco says:

        Judy – Yes, THE FALLEN IDOL is terrific as is Richardson. The film is Hitchcockian in its suspense and beautifully photographed.

  2. dlhartzog says:

    Nice selection of films. Good to see the great Monte Walsh at least get hon. mention.

    • John Greco says:

      MONTE WALSH should get more respect than it does. I got interested in seeing it after reading Dwayne Epstein’s excellent biography on Lee Marvin.

  3. Patti says:

    I caught “Dodsworth” for the first time last year as well. While I didn’t think of it quite as highly as you did, I definitely enjoyed it. Like you, I had never seen Mary Astor looking so lovely.

    SO glad to see “The Breaking Point” one of your honorable mentions. That was one of my 5-star discoveries for 2012.

    • John Greco says:

      I have been trying to see THE BREAKING POINT for years and could never get the chance, so I was glad to finally catch up with it. Thanks!

  4. I have to say I’m a little surprised at some of the titles on this list. I just figured a blogger of your stature would have seen almost every classic film. :)

    I was also intrigued by some of the more obscure (to me) films. I’m really keen to see “The Pickpocket”. Thanks for sharing this list!

    • John Greco says:

      SS – I have some holes in my viewing for sure. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is one I am “embarrassed” to admit as are the Chaplin films but for one reason or another it’s taken this long. Actually, that is a good idea for an article, something like “Classic Films I am Embarrassed to Admit I Have Not Seen!”

  5. Judy says:

    John, a fabulous list – I love ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and ‘Dodsworth’ – also ‘the Breaking Point’ in your honourable mentions. Must admit there are quite a few I haven’t seen, though!

    Which leads me on to say… your conversation with Silverscreenings reminds me that I had an embarrassing time when I went to see ‘Vertigo’ on the big screen a year or two ago… having never seen it before. When I arrived, I found that someone was giving a talk about it beforehand to some students, so I waited round the corner in another room for it to finish, to avoid spoilers. A couple came along and asked me what I was doing, then when I explained they were clearly reeling at the thought that anyone of my age could have possibly not seen ‘Vertigo’! But it was great for my initial viewing to be on the big screen anyway.

    • John Greco says:

      Judy, You were right to wait until the talk was over. You would not want to ruin it. VERTIGO is one of Hitchcock’s best works and the shots of San Francisco are great. He used the city well.

  6. ClassicBecky says:

    Frankly, John, I was amazed at myself — I have not seen most of these! Camille Claudel is one of my favorite movies, just fantastic. Now I have to keep this list and catch up on the ones I haven’t seen — thanks for the idea!

    • John Greco says:

      Becky, I love films about artists and this I thought was one of the best. Superb performance by Adjani. There is a more recent film made about her called CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 with Juliette Binoche in the role which I hope to see some day.

  7. Sam Juliano says:

    John, I am sorry I arrived to this magisterial post late, but I am no less overwhelmed at the scroll of cinema classics you site having seen over the past year. My two absolute favorites are ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and PICKPOCKET, but there are so many other treasures here like CAMILLE CLAUDEL, SAFETY LAST, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW. These are all films you would want to see many times over, and it’s always a special occasion when you do.

    Great job here!

    • John Greco says:

      Sam, The top two you mention are my favorites also along with CAMILLE CLAUDEL. I have a weakness for films about artists!

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