cinema-retro

When looking back throughout the history of cinema, there are years that standout: 1941 (Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, How Green Was My Valley, Ball of Fire, The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels (both from Preston Sturges) and Joan Fontaine’s Oscar-winning performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion), 1951 (The African Queen, A Streetcar Named Desire, An American in Paris, A Place in the Sun), 1969, (Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch) and 1974 (Chinatown, The Conversation, The Godfather, Part II, A Woman Under the Influence and Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (both by Mel Brooks)) are all good film years. But, 1939 stands alone as the film year to beat all other film years.

Here’s a list of noted films that were released 75 years ago in 1939:

Babes in Arms

Beau Geste

Dark Victory (Best Picture (Outstanding Production) nominee)

Destry Rides Again

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Recently, I flew to London to attend several days of the two-month-long The Genius of Hitchcock festival held at the British Film Institute’s Southbank campus.
Starting in June and ending after London’s yearly October film festival, the BFI pulled out all of the stops to honor one of their own…a British director who became an international sensation by helming such movies as Rear WindowVertigoNotorious and Psycho

The Genius of Hitchcock celebration caps off the year-long fund-raising push entitled Rescue the Hitchcock 9, a campaign to save nine of Hitchcock’s early British silent films.  These nine films are in dire need of restoration…without it, there is the chance they might be gone forever.
Being a BIT of a Hitchcock fan (OK…a little understatement —I’m obsessed), I would have loved to hunker down in London all four months, savoring classic after classic.  But, there is this little thing called WORK, not to mention MONEY, of which staying in London requires a lot.  So, alas, I settled on cramming in as many movies as I could in my limited time (five films, to be exact).
Have I seen all five before?  You betcha.  Do I own all five on DVD?  Yes, I do.  But, somehow, traveling over 3,700 miles to see movies I know by heart doesn’t seem all that silly to me.   Obsessed, I tell you!
Like I said, I saw five of Hitchcock’s masterpieces (sadly none of the restored “Hitchcock 9” were playing when I was there).  I watched a double feature of Shadow of a Doubt and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) on one night, followed by a double feature of Mr. and Mrs. Smith (no, not THAT one…the 1941 film with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard…the only romantic comedy Hitchcock ever made) and Strangers on a Train on the next.

But, the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance was the 3D showing of Dial M for Murder.  No, this is NOT NEW 3D…this is old, classic 3D.  This is when 3D was done for effect and not financial gain.  This is when 3D was not a marketing ploy.
I have a strong distain for the new wave of 3D films sweeping through Hollywood, though I am much more against 2D films being re-released in 3D, such as Titanic (1997) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).  When I saw Scorsese’s Hugo (which I heard nothing but great things about in 3D), I specifically sought out the 2D version.
Maybe I’m equating my lack of interest in modern 3D with my lack of interest in most contemporary animation.  Look at Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs —imagine how tedious and superior the animation process was back in 1937 and compare that with today’s inferior “computer” animating.  So OK, modern 3D is not that bad…but, RE-RELEASING already-shot films just to capitalize on the 3D bandwagon is the last straw.  Where will it end?
Dial M for Murder is different.  Hitchcock filmed it in 3D but it was released in 1954 in mostly 2D.  Aside from a limited 3D re-release in the early 1980s, most people have not seen Dial M for Murder in the original 3D Hitchcock intended it to be shown.  And, among filmies, it is supposed to be one of the best, if not THE best, example of 3D filmmaking.  And, after seeing it, not only does it not disappoint but I would have to agree that the use of 3D was amazing.
Unlike much of 1950s’ Hollywood 3D, nothing here is done just for the 3D effect (such as no paddleballs bouncing at the screen, a la The House of Wax (1953)).  Everything here is done for a reason…the use of foregrounds and backgrounds become more of a 3D element than in-your-face effects.  In one scene, the infamous purse that becomes a key item in the plot stands boldly in the foreground, with character action going on behind it.  The purse, a simple inanimate object, looks as if it is right in the audience’s lap.  And that is how Hitchcock uses 3D throughout the entire movie…subtly but OH SO effectively.  But then again, would we expect anything less from the Master himself?
Keep in mind that as long as Hollywood keeps making money off of 3D, they will keep making these so-so 3D movies and…even worse, keep re-releasing existing 2D movies in 3D.  If The Bridge on the River Kwai in 3D comes out in cinemas, I’m moving to Mongolia and living in among the yak herders in a nice yurt!
Madness, Madness.  Soapbox over.

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An adorable, fun film starring two of my favorite unsung actors…Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas. Loy stars as a single lady who pretends to be married to keep all unwanted suitors away…one in particular. Through a series of comic events, Douglas begins passing himself off as her husband, who was supposedly away on business. Myrna Loy has never been better than she is here. She is vibrant and full of life. She is constantly irritated at Douglas’ character, even though we know she’s madly smitten with him at the same time. And Douglas, who always has a knack for comic timing, is spot-on here as the goofy, long-lost hubby. The chemistry between both of them is perfect and sure to please all. I had seen this film once ages ago on Turner Classic Movies and wanted to re-watch it instantly. Unfortunately, it was never put on VHS (at least not that I could find) and took a while coming out on DVD…so now that it is out, please do yourself a favor a check it out!

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1900s-1920s
Blacksmithing Scene (1893) (part of the Treasures From American Film Archives)
Great Train Robbery, The (1903)
From The Manger to the Cross (1912)
In the Land of the War Canoes (1914)
Birth of a Nation, The (1915)
The Cheat (1915)
Regeneration (1915)
Hell’s Hinges (1916) (part of the Treasures From American Film Archives)
Intolerance (1916)
The Immigrant (1917) (part of the Chaplin Mutuals)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
The Last of the Mohicans (1920)
The Kid (1921)
Tol’Able David (1921)
Foolish Wives (1922)
Nanook of the North (1922)
Salome (1922)
Safety Last (1923) (part of the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection)
The Chechahcos (1924) (part of the Treasures From American Film Archives)
The Iron Horse (1924)
Peter Pan (1924)
Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Clash of the Wolves (1925) (part of the More Treasures From American Film Archives)
The Freshman (part of the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection)
The Gold Rush (1925)
Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925) (part of the More Treasures From American Film Archives)
The Lost World (1925)
Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Black Pirate, The (1926)
Mighty Like a Moose (1926) (part of the Charley Chase Collection)
Son of the Sheik, The (1926)
The Strong Man (1926) (part of the Harry Langdon Forgotten Clown collection) 
Flesh and the Devil (1927)
General, The (1927)
It (1927)
Jazz Singer, The (1927)
Sunrise (1927)
The Cameraman (1928) (part of the Buster Keaton Collection)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) (part of the Treasures From American Film Archives)
There it is (1928) (part of the More Treasures From American Film Archives)
Applause (1929)
Big Business (1929) (Laurel and Hardy)
Hallelujah (1929)
1930s
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
The Big Trail (1930)
Little Caesar (1930)
City Lights (1931)
Dracula (1931)
Frankenstein (1931)
Front Page, The (1931)
Tabu (1931)
Freaks (1932)
Grand Hotel (1932)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
Love Me Tonight (1932)
The Music Box (1932) (Laurel and Hardy)
Scarface (1932)
Trouble In Paradise (1932)
42nd Street (1933)
Baby Face (1933) (part of the Forbidden Hollywood Collection 1 set)
Duck Soup (1933)
The Emperor Jones (1933)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)
Invisible Man, The (1933)
King Kong (1933)
She Done Him Wrong (1933)
Imitation of Life (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Punch Drunks (1934) (Three Stooges)
Tarzan and His Mate (1934)
The Thin Man (1934)
Twentieth Century (1934)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
A Night at the Opera (1935)
Top Hat (1935)
Dodsworth (1936)
Flash Gordon serial (1936)
Fury (1936)
Modern Times (1936)
My Man Godfrey (1936)
Swing Time (1936)
The Awful Truth (1937)
The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Jezebel (1938)
Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)
Destry Rides Again (1939)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Gunga Din (1939)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Ninotchka (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)
The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
The Women (1939)
Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)
1940s
Mark of Zorro, The (1940)
The Bank Dick (1940)
Dance Girl Dance (1940)
Fantasia (1940)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
The Great Dictator (1940)
His Girl Friday (1940)
Melody Ranch (Gene Autry) (1940)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Pinocchio (1940)
The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
The Blood of Jesus (1941)
Citizen Kane (1941)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
The Lady Eve (1941) 
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Sergeant York (1941)
Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Casablanca (1942)
Cat People (1942)
Mrs. Miniver (1942)
Now, Voyager (1942)
Road to Morocco (1942)
To Be or Not To Be (1942)
Woman of the Year (1942)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Lassie Come Home (1943)
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Stormy Weather (1943)
Why We Fight (Series Of Films) (1943)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Going My Way (1944)
Laura (1944)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)
National Velvet (1944)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Story of G.I. Joe, The (1945)
Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A (1945)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Detour (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Killers, The (1946)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
Notorious (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Out of the Past (1947)
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Force of Evil (1948)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
Louisiana Story (1948)
The Naked City (1948)
Red River (1948)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Adam’s Rib (1949)
All the King’s Men (1949)
Gun Crazy (1949)
The Heiress (1949)
Twelve O’clock High (1949)
White Heat (1949)
1950s
All About Eve (1950)
Asphalt Jungle, The (1950)
D.O.A. (1950)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The African Queen (1951)
An American in Paris (1951)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
A Place in the Sun (1951)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
The Thing from Another World (1951)
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
Bambi (1952)
High Noon (1952)
Singin’ In the Rain (1952) 
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Big Heat (1953)
Duck Amuck (1953) (Looney Tunes cartoon)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
The Little Fugitive (1953)
The Naked Spur (1953)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Shane (1953)
War of the Worlds (1953)
Carmen Jones (1954)
Johnny Guitar (1954)
On The Waterfront (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
Sabrina (1954)
Salt of the Earth (1954)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
A Star Is Born (1954)
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
Marty (1955)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Oklahoma (1955)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
The Court Jester (1956)
Giant (1956)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The Searchers (1956)
The Ten Commandments (1956)
12 Angry Men (1957)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Face in the Crowd, A (1957)
Incredible Shrinking Man, The (1957)
Jailhouse Rock (1957)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
7th Voyage of Sinbad, The (1958)
Gigi (1958)
Touch Of Evil (1958)
Vertigo (1958)
Ben-Hur (1959)
Jazz On a Summer’s Day (1959)
North by Northwest (1959)
Pillow Talk (1959)
Shadows (1959)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
1960s
The Apartment (1960)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)
Primary (1960)
Psycho (1960)
Dog Star Man (1961-1964) (By Brakhage collection)
Exiles, The (1961)
Flower Drum Song (1961)
The Hustler (1961)
A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
West Side Story (1961)
How the West Was Won (1962)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The Music Man (1962)
Ride the High Country (1962)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Shock Corridor (1963)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Nothing but a Man (1964)
Point Of Order (1964)
Pink Panther, The (1964)
The Sound Of Music (1964)
Pawnbroker, The (1965)
The Endless Summer (1966)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Don’t Look Back (1967)
The Graduate (1967)
In Cold Blood (1967)
In The Heat of the Night (1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Bullitt (1968)
Faces (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
The Producers (1968)
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Easy Rider (1969)
Medium Cool (1969)
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Salesman (1969)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
1970s
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
M*A*S*H (1970)
Patton (1970)
Woodstock(1970)
The French Connection (1971)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
The Hospital (1971)
Shaft (1971)
Cabaret (1972)
Deliverance (1972)
The Godfather (1972)
Harold and Maude (1972)
Exorcist, The (1973)
The Last Picture Show (1972)
American Graffiti (1973)
Badlands (1973)
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Mean Streets (1973)
The Sting (1973)
Antonia: A Portrait Of The Woman (1974)
Blazing Saddles (1974)
Chinatown (1974)
The Conversation (1974)
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Hester Street (1975)
Jaws (1975)
Nashville (1975)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
All the President’s Men (1976)
Grey Gardens (NF) (1976)
Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976) (NF)
Network (1976)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Rocky (1976)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Annie Hall (1977)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Star Wars (1977)
Animal House (1978)
Days of Heaven (1978)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Eraserhead (1978)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
All That Jazz (1979)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Black Stallion (1979)
Manhattan (1979)
Norma Rae (1979)
1980s-1990s
Airplane (1980)
Atlantic City (1980)
Empire Strikes Back, The (1980)
Raging Bull (1980)
Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Blade Runner (1982)
Chan is Missing (1982)
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Tootsie (1982)
Koyaanisqatsi (1983)
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Terminator, The (1984)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Back to the Future (1985)
Hoosiers (1986)
Sherman’s March (1986)
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)
Dances with Wolves (1990)
Goodfellas (1990)
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Boyz N the Hood (1991)
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
El Mariachi  (1992)
Malcolm X (1992)
Unforgiven (1992)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Hoop Dreams (1994) (NF)
Toy Story (1995)
Fargo (1996)
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Adam’s Rib
Affair to Remember, An
All That Heaven Allows
Annie Hall
Apartment, The
Awful Truth, The
Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, The
Barefoot in the Park
Born Yesterday
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Bride Came C.O.D., The
Brief Encounter
Bringing Up Baby
Casablanca
Come September
Desire Under the Elms
Desk Set
Doctor Zhivago
From Here to Eternity
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Gilda
Glass Bottom Boat, The
Gone With the Wind
Graduate, The
His Girl Friday
Holiday (1938)
Houseboat
How to Marry a Millionaire
Indiscreet
Intermezzo
It Happened One Night
It’s a Wonderful Life
Lady Eve, The
Last Time I Saw Paris
Love in the Afternoon
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Love Story
Lover Come Back
Magnificent Obsession
Manhattan
Meet John Doe
Move Over, Darling
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
My Favorite Wife
My Man Godfrey
Ninotchka
Notorious
Now, Voyager
Pat and Mike
Philadelphia Story, The
Pillow Talk
Place in the Sun, A
Random Harvest
Robin and Marion
Roman Holiday
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Sabrina (1954)
Same Time, Next Year
Sandpiper, The
Send Me No Flowers
Shop Around the Corner, The
Summer Place, A
Talk of the Town
Teacher’s Pet
That Touch of Mink
Three Coins in the Fountain
Thrill of It All, The
To Catch a Thief
To Have and Have Not
Touch of Class, A
Two for the Road
Way We Were, The
Wife vs. Secretary
With Six You Get Eggroll
Women in Love
Young at Heart

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When I first saw this one years ago, I thought it was too much of a farce…too over the top…too silly. But, re-watching it, I am able now to see it’s fine details as one of America’s great broad comedies. Cary Grant is at his wackiest here…as the nephew of two matronly ladies who have begun an unusual pastime…murdering lonely old men and having them buried in the basement. We’ve all seen (and loved) Grant do screwball…but this is pretty much as slapstick as comedy can get. He’s physical and very expressive…perfect for this role as the befuddled nephew of these two crazy killers. Directed by Frank Capra, I think one of the reasons this one took a while to sink in is because it’s almost TOO over the top. But, I guess as I’m getting older, I find the need for more and more comedy. And this one will sure satisfy that need!

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This movie, forever known for the line “I don’t have to show you any stinking badges,” is more of a philosophical study on human nature than an action film. Yes, there is action and a certain sense of mystery, but the core of the film is a character study about materialism, morals and friendship. Don’t be alarmed…all of these things make it sound like a boring “educational” film, which it is most definitely not. Based on a novel by the elusive author B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre lives up to its reputation as a true classic directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th Century (John Huston). Humphrey Bogart, who had already developed a working relationship with Huston with films like 1941’s The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo also from 1948, changed his clean-cut ladies man image to take on the role of a scruffy, indigent American Fred Dobbs trapped in Mexico. With a coincidental twist of fate, Dobbs meets up with Curtin, who is just as down on his luck, and an aged prospector (Huston’s father Walter) who tells the two younger men about his good old days gold mining. That’s when it really all begins…the three of them head out of town to hunt for gold. Whether they find some of not is soon irrelevant since once in the middle of nowhere Curtin’s and especially Dobbs’s greed and paranoia starts to take over. Walter Huston’s character, Howard, is the one constant in the film. He does not change since he already has experienced the highs and lows of prospecting and knows what not to do. Also, being the oldest, Howard has the least to lose or gain from finding gold. Put all of these characters and situations together and what you have is one great film filled with flawed, yet powerful people learning an equally powerful message. Don’t worry—this film is not preachy in its morality. It just depicts how easily greed can corrupt. A good film for everyone to watch but especially recent lottery winners!

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This film is not one I can watch over and over again like most of my other favorites. Why? Well, just see it and you might get some sense of that. It’s a hard movie to watch…violent, extreme, and scary in its realistic bloodiness. It is not the type of film that I think of putting in the DVD player on a cold night when I want to make myself feel better. This, of course, does not lessen its impact on me. The first time I saw this film, I was shocked and dazed…between the violence I had just witnessed and the remarkable film I just had seen, I didn’t know how to feel. Director extraordinaire Martin Scorsese does this a lot with his films…he wants the audience to go to such emotional extremes that when the film is over, all we feel is drained. Taxi Driver is really a film about a lost and wandering man who just wants to find where he belongs. This is a VERY basic premise on what is a complicated, stylized story with Robert De Niro playing one of the century’s most complex characters, Travis Bickle, best known for the line, “You talkin’ to me?” Bickle’s confusion and desire to change the world into his own bizarre vision is what drives the film. The second film from the working relationship of Scorsese/De Niro (the first being Mean Streets), Taxi Driver is a masterpiece of filmmaking and also an intense psychological study about the downfall of a man.

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