Mettel Ray Movie Blog is a site devoted to the love of movies and an interesting challenge was posted there last weekend : Make an alphabetical list of your favorite movies, or actors and actresses, or directors, or all three topics. I found it a fun and challenging list to make, and decided to focus on classic films that I think teens and young adults should see. I recently heard through the family grapevine that my grown nieces and nephew, ( and a couple of nephew-in-laws) don’t like old movies because they’re too boring, so I chose my list to challenge that opinion! What follows is My Movie Alphabet:
A-All Quiet on the Western Front- 1930 Academy Award winner for Best Picture and Best Director, Lewis Milestone. Produced by Universal Studios. Based upon the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Starring Lew Ayres, in a star-making turn as a student who rushes to join the German army to fight in World War I, only to gain disillusionment from the horrors of war. Excellently told and a very moving film.
B- Bringing up Baby- 1938 screwball comedy produced by RKO Studios. Directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, along with a leopard, aka the “Baby” of the title. Madcap, rich lady chases around a shy, studious paleontologist; love and marriage are heavy on her mind. Fast-paced, hilarious film. Did I mention the leopard?? C- Captains Courageous- 1937 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel by MGM. Directed by Victor Fleming. Academy Award for Best Actor for Spencer Tracy. Co-starring child actor Freddie Bartholomew. Spoiled, rich brat falls overboard from an ocean liner and is rescued by a fishing vessel. Before the brat can be returned to his father, the brat learns about hard work, ethics, and life. All of these elements turn the brat’s attitudes around for the better.
D- D.O.A.- 1950 film noir produced by United Artists. Directed by Rudolph Mate. Starring Edmund O’Brien and Pamela Britton. An accountant is poisoned and has only 24 hours to find his killer. Taut, suspenseful film, very well done noir. Did I mention that there is no antidote for the poison??
E-The Enchanted Cottage- 1945 fantasy romance produced by RKO Studios. Directed by John Cromwell. Starring Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young. Narrated by Herbert Marshall. A veteran of World War II, his face disfigured, runs away to live in a secluded cottage near the New England coast. He meets the homely, young woman hired to clean the cottage. Will love bloom? A very sweet, tenderly-depicted love story.
F-The Four Feathers-1939 British film based upon the novel by A.E.W. Mason. Produced by London Films and distributed by United Artists. Starring Sir Ralph Richardson, John Clements, and June Duprez. During Queen Victoria’s reign, in 1895, a British officer decides to resign his commission and his 3 best friends send him a white feather apiece, calling him a coward. His fiancee dumps him. ( Her refusal to defend him is the fourth feather.) He vows to regain their trust and make amends. Great action and tale of redemption. Filmed in technicolor and on location in the Sudan. Better than the Heath Ledger version!!!
G- Gone With the Wind-1939 historical romance film produced by Selznick International Pictures and based upon Margaret Mitchell’s very popular novel. 1940 Academy Award winner for : Best Picture, Best Director(Victor Fleming), Best Supporting Actress(Hattie McDaniel), and Best Actress(Vivien Leigh). Also starring Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, and Olivia de Haviland. Technicolor, with a glorious musical score, it’s the depiction of one lady’s romances, heartbreaks, and schemes, set before, during, and after the Civil War; set in Georgia. Especially heartbreaking is the scene at Atlanta’s train depot with all of the wounded and dying soldiers lying in the dirt, a tattered Confederate flag waving in a breeze.
H-Harvey- 1950 comedy produced by Universal International Pictures, based upon a Pulitzer Prize winning play, written by Mary Chase. Directed by Henry Koster. Starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull. Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, a kindly, middle-aged gentleman who has for a best friend, a 6’3 and 1/2″ tall rabbit, named Harvey. Only Elwood can see Harvey, and this is distressing to his sister and her daughter, as this is keeping them from joining the society of their community. What will the ladies do to achieve their goal? What will Elwood and Harvey do?? A fun story, well acted by the entire cast, including Harvey.
I-The Invisible Man-1933 horror film based upon H.G. Well’s novel. Produced by Universal Pictures. Directed by James Whale. Starring Claude Rains and Gloria Stewart(she was the “elderly Rose” in Titanic.) I am including this film for it’s excellent special effects in depicting someone becoming invisible. Brilliant scientist creates a concoction that makes him invisible. Unfortunately, it messes with his mind and makes him diabolically evil, ruining his future with his fiancee. Will the police and Scotland Yard catch him? Will he go on terrorizing Great Britain, and possibly spread his plans of ruling the world? Rains does a great job in his part and it put him on the path to stardom.
J-Jane Eyre- 1943 version of Charlotte Bronte’s gothic romance novel, produced by 20th Century Fox. Directed by Robert Stevenson. Starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. Mr. Welles has such a rich and resounding voice and that makes his portrayal of Mr. Rochester my hands-down favorite of all the Mr. Rochesters that have been portrayed in all the other Jane Eyre films. Poor, orphaned Jane grows up and gets employed as a governess for the ward of Mr. Rochester, a rich but very moody and brooding man. Love blooms between Jane and Mr. Rochester, but at the wedding, a terrible secret is revealed!!
K-To Kill a Mockingbird- 1962 adaptation of the novel by Harper Lee. Produced by Universal Studios. Directed by Robert Mulligan. Starring Gregory Peck, in his Academy Award winning performance for Best Actor. Co-starring child actors Mary Badham and Philip Alford. Look for a pale Robert Duvall as Boo Radley. If I didn’t include this movie on my list, my own mother would probably refuse to speak to me! You may have read this book for an English class, and you may have had to watch the movie, but watch it again for your own betterment and insight. Moving story of a brother and sister, growing up in the segregated South during the 1930s, when their father accepts to take on the courtroom defense of a partially- crippled black man, accused of raping a white woman who herself, is from a dirt- poor family. Honest in it’s portrayals of racism, misunderstanding of the mentally ill, and parental love.
L-The Lady Vanishes-1938- suspenseful espionage British movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, before he moved to Hollywood. Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, and Dame May Whitty(the Lady of the title). Rich, young, society gal boards a train for England, after vacationing in Europe. Has a lovely chat and some tea with an elderly lady on the train. After a nap, society gal can’t find the elderly lady. Employees of the train and other passengers say they never saw an elderly lady on the train! Society gal is determined to find out what is going on and a handsome music professor agrees to help solve the mystery.
M-The Maltese Falcon-1941 film noir produced by Warner Brothers, based on the book by Dashiell Hammett. Directed by John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. A man is murdered. A beautiful and frightened woman turns to private eye Sam Spade for help, as she is trying to locate her sister and a statue of a bird, known as The Maltese Falcon. Two other men appear who also want that statue. What is so important about a statue that someone is willing to murder for it? Someone isn’t being honest with Spade and he’s bent on finding out the truth. Excellent, twisting story line, great acting, and Huston’s first directorial debut.
N- Notorious- 1946 suspense and romance film produced by RKO Radio Pictures. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains. American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy agrees to work with a U. S. government agent in order to become part of a group of Nazis now living in Brazil. The daughter and the agent fall in love, but she has to join that Nazi group! Then she has to let the leader of the group fall in love with her and marry him-yuck!! Next, what is it about the wine bottles at a dinner that her husband hosts that the sight of the bottles drives one of the dinner guests to hysterics? What might be hidden in the wine cellar? Can her first romance with the agent be saved? Great story line, well acted, and Claude Rains as the Nazi leader, he manages to make the audience feel sorry for him!
O- Oliver Twist-1948 British film version of Charles Dicken’s novel and produced by the Rank Organisation. Directed by David Lean. Starring Robert Newton, Alec Guiness(before he was ever Obi Wan Kenobi!!), Kay Walsh, and child actors John Howard Davies(Oliver), and a young Anthony Newley(The Artful Dodger). This is my favorite version of Oliver Twist. The cinematography is wonderful, full of grays and shadows amid the black and white. Newton is sinister as Bill Sikes, and Alec Guiness is so good as Fagin; acting all sweet to Oliver, yet dangerous if crossed. The only thing I don’t want to know…how did they get Bullseye, Sikes’s dog, to shake so much after Bill murders Nancy? I mean it, don’t tell me!!!
P- The Parent Trap-1961 comedy drama produced by Walt Disney Studios. Directed by David Swift. Starring Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, and child actress Hayley Mills, portraying identical twins. I have seen both versions of this clever film; this one and the Lindsay Lohan version. The latter one is good, and I liked it. However, my favorite version is the original 1961 film. As a mom of identical twin daughters myself, I just love the whole concept of this movie. Twin sisters separated as toddlers when their parents divorce, are accidentally reunited at summer camp. They make a promise to “trap” their parents into falling in love with each other again. A fun, satisfying film.
Q- The Quiet Man-1952 comedy drama produced by Republic Pictures. Academy Award winner for Best Director(John Ford) and Best Cinematography(Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout). My late father-in-law recommended this movie to me and I am glad he did. Filmed in lush technicolor, many scenes filmed in Ireland. Starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick, Arthur Shields, and Eileen Crowe. Not a western, which Wayne is usually noted for. He plays an American boxer, who has decided to leave America and live in the Irish town his parents were born and raised in. He buys his ancestral cottage, angering a local squire who happens to be his new neighbor, and who also has a beautiful sister. Wayne’s character wants to marry the girl but her bully of a brother says no. Will love grow and a marriage happen? Will the Squire learn to stop being such a bully? Will Wayne’s character’s secret reason for leaving America be discovered? A charming film.
R- The Adventures of Robin Hood-1938 actioner with romance and adventure, produced by Warner Brothers. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Haviland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains. This is the best Robin Hood movie ever made! Forget that version with Kevin Costner(Robin with an American accent???!!!) In technicolor, with a gorgeous musical soundtrack. Flynn is dashing as the Saxon hero, out to save King Richard’s throne; Richard, while returning from a crusade, gets kidnapped on his journey across France. His conniving,evil, younger brother, Prince John, wants to take over that throne. Claude Rains is Prince John and he has a field day with the role. Basil Rathbone is excellent as Sir Guy of Gisbourne, full of malice and hatred towards Robin; their sword fighting scenes are epic and well-staged. Olivia de Haviland is beautiful, the perfect Maid Marion. Let this version forever erase the Kevin Costner one from your brain!!
S- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers-1954 musical produced by MGM. Directed by Stanley Donen. Starring Jane Powell and Howard Keel. The oldest of the seven Pontipee brothers goes to their nearest Oregonian town to buy supplies and to get a wife. He succeeds but forgets to tell his new wife that she’ll be sharing the cabin with him and his seven younger brothers. The new wife is horrified as the brothers are rude, uncouth and unkempt. She rolls up her sleeves and gets to work, cleaning up the cabin, cooking wholesome meals, teaching the brothers table manners, insisting that they clean themselves up, and teaching them how to court a girl. On the next trip to town, the seven brothers see seven lovely ladies they would like to court. Will the ladies’ town boyfriends allow this to happen? Big brother, happily married, comes up with a crazy plan based on a story by Plutarch about the Roman soldiers and the Sabine Women, as a way for his heartsick younger brothers to catch their ladies. This is a funny and lively musical, filled with great songs, and the dance at the barn-raising scene is a must-see.
T-The Thing from Another World-1951 science fiction/horror production by RKO Radio Pictures. Directed by Christian Nyby and an uncredited Howard Hawks. Starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Douglas Spencer, Robert Cornthwaite, and James Arness(before he was ever Sheriff Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke). Often known as “The Thing”, the plot concerns itself with an Air Force crew and a group of scientists at a remote Arctic research station, forced to defend themselves from an alien creature who’s ship has crash-landed nearby. The creature needs mammal blood for survival, whether that blood is from sled dogs or humans, it doesn’t care. Survival and destroying the creature become of the utmost importance, but that pesky head scientist keeps insisting that he can reason with the creature, that it’s intelligent, and that they can all just become good friends. Ha!
U- Up the Down Staircase-1967 drama produced by Warner Brothers, based upon the book by Bel Kaufman. Directed by Robert Mulligan. Starring Sandy Dennis. Good story about an idealistic, young teacher and her first job, teaching in a New York City public high school. As a former teacher myself, I think all young people should watch at least one movie from a teacher’s point of view!
V-Vertigo-1958 suspense & romance drama produced by Paramount Pictures. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. A San Francisco police detective is forced into an early retirement due to his developing vertigo and a clinical depression. A wealthy man hires the detective to work as a private investigator and follow around the man’s beautiful wife, who is acting strangely. The wealthy man claims his wife is possessed, possibly by the spirit of her deceased great-grandmother. Is the wife possessed? Someone or several of the characters are untruthful. Will the detective get well? Will he discover the truth? A well-acted movie with a lot of twists and turns.
W-West Side Story-1961 musical based upon the Broadway hit. Produced by Mirisch Pictures and distributed by United Artists. Directed by Robert Wise. Starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris, and Russ Tamblyn. Romeo and Juliet, retold and set in New York City. Instead of the Montagues and the Capulets, we have the warring gangs, the Sharks-immigrants from Puerto Rico, and the Jets-immigrants from white Europeans. Well-acted, lively dancing, beautiful songs with moving lyrics, and fast-paced songs with clever lyrics. Even if you had to watch this in high school English class when you studied Romeo and Juliet, you owe it to yourself to see it again, at least once!
X- X the Unknown-1956 Science fiction/horror film produced by Hammer Studios, in England. Directed by Les Norman and Joseph Losey. Starring Dean Jagger, Edward Chapman, Leo McKern, and Anthony Newley. What could have been a mess of a movie is actually a well-acted one. There is a mysterious radioactive ooze in the ground in Scotland. The army is called out to investigate, and unfortunately the ooze is killing people or causing burns which eventually do the victims in. It is up to a group of scientists to stop the ooze, and many of their plans are proving unworkable or uable to halt the stuff. How many more people will become victims? At times tense, a bit gross in depicting the victims, and the actors taking their parts seriously, all of these factors make a very good sci-fi/horror yarn.
Y-Old Yeller-1957 drama produced by Walt Disney Studios, based upon the book by Fred Gipson. Directed by Robert Stevenson. Starring Dorothy McGuire, Fess Parker, and child actors Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. A family striving to make a living on their Texas ranch post- Civil War. One day a stray, yellow dog appears and soon is proving its worth around the ranch, even saving the little brother from a bear attack. The oldest boy grows to love that “Old Yeller” dog. However, one night Old Yeller is attacked by a rabid wolf while defending the family. With dad away on a cattle drive, it will be up to the oldest son to make the hard decision as to what to do with Old Yeller. A rite of passage film, movingly told. Keep the kleenaxes at the ready. My only complaint is that the part of the little brother is so annoying in the movie, I wouldn’t have minded if the bear had got him!
Z- Zulu-1964 action/drama produced by Paramount Pictures and Embassy Pictures. Directed by Cy Enfield. Starring Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsen, James Booth, and Nigel Green. Narrated by Richard Burton. Based on the actual Battle of Rorke’s Drift when an outnumbered group of 150 British soldiers fought valiantly to defend a mission outpost against an army of 4000 Zulu warriors. This was Michael Caine’s first starring role and he is great in the part. Stanley Baker is also outstanding as the engineering officer who is forced to take charge of the situation and use his brains and common sense in order to hold the mission. An excellent, excellent film.