Aurora from ONCE UPON A SCREEN came up with a great and fun way to spread the holiday cheer and for folks to take a break from the rushing around during this joyous, but sometimes, stressful Christmas season. Share some favorite films and #PayClassicsForward on your blogs, by noting your recommendations in the comments or sharing across social media.The challenge is to select movie recommendations to the “12 Days of Christmas” theme with choices that will hopefully appeal to non classics fans. So here we go…
On the first day of Christmas…
ONE Film Short
Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant.
One of Charlie’s best film shorts and considering the political climate today, thanks to a former reality TV personality, American’s need to remember this holiday season that we all started off as immigrants.
TWO Comedy Teams
Laurel and Hardy films may be considered by newcomers to be a little slow, but sit back and give them a chance. The still above is from Big Business, one of their best shorts. The boys are door to door salesman selling Christmas trees. Their customer is the great Jimmy Finlayson. He get into an escalating war of tit for tat destruction with our boys. The comedy team of Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts should be better known and get more respect. They had great rapport and both were funny ladies. Check out shorts like Alum and Eve and The Bargain of the Century and you will see what a great team they were.
Laurel & Hardy
Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts
THREE Anti-heroes of the 1950’s
The term anti-hero has come to mean a lot of loose and different traits over the years: cowards, crooks and outlaws to mention a few. For me, the anti-hero was always more of a romantic and rebellious ideal. He’s the guy who goes his own way with his own moral personal code. Just watch Montgomery Clift as Prewitt in From Here to Eternity. Prew refuses to box no matter how much his lifer Sgt. (Burt Lancaster) hassles him and throws nasty duty at him. He fights the system keeping his own values and ideals. The 1950’s and 1960’s were peak periods for anti-heroes with Dean, Clift and Brando leading the way.
FOUR Classic Gangster Films
The first gangster film was D.W. Griffith’s Musketeers of Pig Alley, a short made in 1912. However, it was not until Josep Von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York that the gangster film gained popularity with the public. No studio did gangland warfare better than Warner Brothers who were known for producing films filled with social significance…and gunfire. Cagney, Bogart and Robinson led the way. Three of the four films listed here came from the Warner Brothers stable. Scarface, made in 1932 was an independent production produced by Howard Hawks.
Angels With Dirty Faces
FIVE Wisecracking Dames
Wiscracking women have been a staple in movies since they learned to talk. Jean Harlow, Joan Blondell, Glenda Farrell all added spicy lip service to the pre-code films of the early 1930’s. The wisecracking did not end with the enforcement of the production code though. just check out Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday or Eve Arden in Stage Door and Mildred Pierce, a role for which she received an Academy Award nomination.
SIX Foreign Language Films
If one is not familiar with foreign films, the six here are a good place to start. High and Low is a police procedural based on American writer, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel, Cop-Hater. Directed by Akira Kurosawa, it’s as the poster states, “one of the best detective thrillers ever filmed.” Les Diaboliques is a Hitchcokian suspense thriller that made the American master jealous when he saw it.
High and Low (Akira Kurosawa)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
Umberto D (Vitorrio De Sica)
Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle)
Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski)
Les Diaboliques 1955 (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
SEVEN James Cagney/ Joan Blondell Films
James Cagney and Joan Blondell were never officially a team like say, William Powell and Myrna Loy or Tracy and Hepburn, but never the less they made seven films together. Start with Footlight Parade, Blonde Crazy and The Public Enemy and work you way through the rest from there.
The Public Enemy
He Was Her Man
Other Men’s Woman
The Crows Roars
Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903) is generally credited as being the first real western. Within its ten minute running time, it set the pattern for westerns ever since. There was the crime, the hunt and finally retribution. The eight films listed are all classic examples from master directors of the genre: John Ford, Howard Hawks, Sergio Leone, Anthony Mann, Delmar Dave and Same Peckinpah.
Once Upon a Time in the West
3:10 to Yuma
The Naked Spur
The Wild Bunch
NINE Silent Films
Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd! You don’t get better than that. These masters have never been equaled. They are great introductions to anyone new to silent film. Follow them with a few serious classic films like The Crowd and Metropolis that will leave you stunned. Each of these films are masterpieces of cinema.
The Gold Rush
The Kid Brother
Ten Hitchcock Films
If you don’t like Hitchcock’s films then I have to ask just what the hell are you doing here reading this? Even non film lovers known who Alfred Hitchcock is and are familiar with his work. If not, the list here is essential.
Dial M for Murder
The Lady Vanishes
The Thirty Nine Steps
North by Northwest
ELEVEN Pre Codes
The phrase pre-code is generally credited to Bruce Goldstein who was the film programmer at the Film Forum in New York City back in the 1980’s. Goldstein, at the time, programmed some of the first pre-code film festivals and helping to bring the phrase into general use.
In 1930, the Hollywood studios created a set of governing rules under the guidance of one Will Hays. However, theses rules were generally ignored and studios continued to produced films filled with sex, drug use, prostitution, adultery and other vices. This left studios at the mercy of state and local censors and the Catholic Church which monitored and provided a guidance rating, acceptable or unacceptable, to the countries large Catholic population. In 1934, with pressure mounting from the guardians of the Catholic Church and fear of government intervention, the studios became to clean up their act under what became known as the Production Code of America. No longer would murders go unpunished. No longer could men and women, even if they were married, sleep in the same bed. No longer would drug use be an acceptable on screen.
For many years, some pre-code films disappeared, locked in studio vaults. Some like The Public Enemy, King Kong and Scarface were shown on TV but in edited, cleaned up versions. It wasn’t until Goldstein programmed his film festivals and later in the 1990’s when a group of pre-code films were released on VHS under the series titled, Forbidden Hollywood, did pre-code come to the attention of many movie lovers.
I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Tarzan and his Mate
Gold Diggers of 1933
I’m No Angel
Design for Living
TWELVE Film Noirs
The name film noir came from the French, black film, representing a new darker attitude that was noticed in American film since the war. During the war France, and most of Europe, were cut off from American films. When the war ended, the films came flooding back into European cinemas. The French critics noticed a darker, more cynical attitude. Films filled with bleakness and sexual innuendo. Low-key lighting and off kilter camera angles were practically mandatory. Film noir is not quite a genre like say the western or science fiction, it’s more of a visual attitude. You can’t go wrong with the dozen listed below.
The Big Heat
Night and the City
Touch of Evil
This Gun for Hire
The Big Combo
The Maltese Falcon
The Woman in the Window