Friday, April 11, 2008

How's your classic movie scorecard?
I adore old movies. Give me Bogart and Bacall or Katharine Hepburn, a bowl of popcorn, and no commercials, and I'm in heaven. TCM is my friend. I would much rather watch anything from the 30s or 40s than most movies made in the last ten years. I'm not sure how your own classic movie viewing history is, or even if you care, but being in a sharing mood I thought I'd share with you my all-time favorite top ten must-see classic movies. They aren't really in order, since narrowing it down to ten was hard enough -- ranking them (and, oh my God!, choosing an absolute favorite) is just too hard. But I hope if there are some on this list that you haven't seen, that you check them out. Each and every one is a part of history that you must put into your life.

1. The Philadelphia Story. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart. Need I say more? One of the funniest movies ever. (Ever!) Sparkling script, top-notch performances from everyone. (Virgina Weidler as Kate's little sister steals every scene she's in.) The chemistry between the three stars is magical and keeps you rivited to the screen.
Favorite moment: James Stewart in a drunken staring contest with a mounted fox head.

2. Casablanca. The ultimate classic. Can anything beat the romance of Rick and Ilsa at the airport? Or the patriotism of Victor Laszlo leading the crowd in a rousing version of La Marseillaise? It sums up in one film the nobility that people who fought WWII felt about their cause. Nasty Nazis, comic refugees, and a cast of extras that are each unforgettable. We'll always have Paris.
Favorite moment: "Round up the usual suspects."

3. Singing in the Rain. Could this be the best movie musical ever? Several classic numbers, including Donald O'Connor breaking the laws of physics in "Make 'em Laugh," Donald and Gene Kelly twisting their tongues over "Moses Supposes," and of course, the iconic title song -- all conspire to make even the most dour of souls smile. Debbie Reynolds is extra cute, Jean Hagan hilarious as Lina Lamont, and Cyd Charisse has the most breathtaking legs ever. You'll be humming the score for days.
Favorite moment: Lina Lamont making more money than Calvin Coolidge, put together!

4. To Have and Have Not. Based (loosely) on a Hemingway novel, this is the movie that launched Lauren Bacall into stardom. And from her first line it's clear why. Her sultry, sexy, "anybody got a match" line with the patented "head down, eyes up" look is a moment from film history. It's where Bogart met Bacall (and fell in love) and he's so darned tough as a cynical boat owner who finds he has a conscience after all.
Favorite moment: Hoagy Charmichael singing "Hong Kong Blues."

5. Gone with the Wind. I am not one of those "I love Scarlet O'Hara" types. Nor do I think this is the greatest movie ever. It's never made me cry, long for the old south, or want to be a belle. But for sheer spectacle, it's right up there with Ben Hur. The performances are wonderful (and I don't usually like Clark Gable) and the scope of the film is so ambitious you wonder how they ever had the nerve to start. It's not for everyone, this movie, but if you haven't seen it at least once you really need to cross it off your list.
Favorite moment: Scarlet in the shocking red ball gown.

6. The Big Sleep. I've seen this movie probably a dozen times and I still don't understand it. Never mind, just go with it. It's Bogart and Bacall again, this time in a Raymond Chandler novel (with screenplay by William Faulkner) and a mystery so convoluted that you'll barely keep the characters straight, let alone follow all the plot twists. So why watch it if it's so confusing? Because it's a great film. The crackling dialogue, the sparks flying between the leads, the wonderful character actors, and the total immersion into film noir combine to make for a truly rewarding classic movie experience.
Favorite moment: Bogart flirting with the lady bookstore clerk.

7. The Thin Man. The first "Nick and Nora" film is still the best. Watch it just for the two leads. I want a marriage like these two. Rich, sophisticated, smart and sassy. And, of course, Asta -- the cutest movie dog ever. (Screw you, Benji!) The mystery is the exact opposite of The Big Sleep, you'll probably figure it out fairly soon. But it's just a tremendous amount of fun getting there.
Favorite moment: Nora ordering seven martinis.

8. The Women. An all-female cast (there aren't even any photos of men in this movie), with a tagline of "It's all about men!" The glowing Norma Shearer leads a cast that includes Paulette Goddard, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Fontaine in a comedy/drama about gossip, infidelity, friendship, and more gossip. In many ways, the original "chick flick."
Favorite moment: The opening credits.

9. On the Town. Another gorgeous Gene Kelly musical, this time with Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett. A fun romp through New York city, complete with "cooch dancers," Miss Turnstiles, and the worst museum ever. A delicious Betty Comden/Adolph Green screenplay that captures the frantic excitement of sailors on a 24-hour pass. The "romances" are true old movie innocence with a sweet boy and girl next door kind of air. This one never fails to put me in a good mood.
Favorite moment: "The Hippodrome?!?"

10. Every other movie I don't have room for, including (but not limited to): The Maltese Falcon, Rebecca, Vertigo, Rear Window, (hell, anything by Hitchcock) Top Hat, African Queen, Key Largo, Sunset Boulevard....oh God, there's just too many to mention!

1 comment:

Fo said...

I don't have the mental fortitude to assemble a top ten list, but if I did it would have a lot in common with yours. A few alternate favorite moments...

Philadelphia Story - Dinah and Tracy Lord introduce themselves: Enchanter! Le smallpox! and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady".

Casablanca - Rick helps the Romanian refugees. Or any scene with Cuddles.

Singing in the Rain -

On the Town - The (highly improbable) Museum of Anthropological History, which apparently does not employ security guards.