Normally, the start of a new year suggests a look forward, but here’s an opportunity to look backward and consider some of the finest golden oldie movies still available for viewing – movies that remind us of the high standards for good, well written scripts, long time professional directors and a host of exceptionally trained actors. Let’s look at them in alphabetical order – with samples to realize, especially first and foremost, how a good script is necessary to lay the foundation for a memorable movie:
ADAM’S RIB — 1949 – George Cukor, famous for directing top notch stars like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, here as husband and wife attorneys on the opposite sides of an attempted murder case in one of MGM’s most successful romps of the year. Add David Wayne, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell and Jean Hagen to a perfect cast and you’ve got Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin’s Oscar-winning script to zip you through a wide range of laughs and surprises rarely seen in one smash comedy.
AU REVOIR LES INFANTS (Farewell to Childhood) — 1988 is the finest anti-war film ever told – takes place in a French orphanage of sorts where the children of wealthy families are kept; the signs of war creep gradually into the place, but only after we get a remarkable glimpse of how the boys face their fates. (In French with sub-titles.) This is a haunting story that remains in the memory long after it has been watched – with an unforgettable cast and a remarkable script written and directed by Louis Malle, based on his own life story as a child during WWII.
BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK — is a 1954 suspense drama starring Spencer Tracy as a one-armed stranger (Spencer Tracy) who encounters sinister situations in a Western town. The suspense builds to a high pitch, thanks to director John Sturges and a remarkable cast who hold you on the edge of your seat from the start to the final suspenseful conclusion.
CHINATOWN — A 1974 multi Oscar-winning suspense film with Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston, perfectly directed by Roman Polanski in this biting exposer of crime in a California water mystery that unfolds in a 1930s area surrounding Los Angeles. Builds from a simple crime mystery to a plot that gradually envelops much, much more.
THE DEFIANT ONES — A 1958 thriller that introduced Sidney Portier as a co-star with Tony Curtis in an inspired racial drama in which the two men attempt to escape as convicts in a Southern institution. Directed by Stanley Kramer, who received just one of the many Oscars for a film that grips with suspense from start to finish.
FANTASIA — The surprise winning animation in 1940 from the Disney Studios, packed with animations to some of the greatest classical musical works ranging from light humor to satire to suddenly serious drama. Musical backgrounds are brilliantly handled by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia orchestra. Cleverly presented to please everyone from children to adults.
FUNNY GIRL — The 1968 song fest starring Barbra Streisand, who is perfect as the comedienne Fanny Brice in this glittering musical. She gives it her best shot as she belts out a slew of showstopping tunes with exceptional gusto – aided and abetted by Omar Sherif and Walter Pidgeon. Streisand won an Academy Award, memorable for her rendition of “People.”
GHANDI — Richard Attenborough’s magnificent, sweeping, inspirational biography of India’s architect of non-violent action, who led his country to freedom from British oppression and occupation. At the center focus of the film is Ben Kingsley as the saintly Mahatma (Great Soul). Over 3 hours long, but never loses its power or passion. Loads of Academy Awards including Richard Attenborough as director.
HIGH NOON — One of the best westerns of th 50’s, with tight-lipped Gary Cooper doing a sensational job as a determined lawman who bravely faces the villains alone in a final, suspenseful shoot-out. Includes Grace Kelly as his faithful wife. Fred Zinnemann’s direction is tight, with the film running in real time, ending with the suspenseful showdown at high noon.
And there you have it, a broad, varied sampling of Golden Oldies that prove that old does not necessarily mean second-rate.
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