Wednesday, January 27, 2016

1001 Classic Movies You Should See: 2016 Edition


Here's the list of the 1001 classic movies you see for 2016.

Go here for the 2017 entries.

The films made in Hollywood's studio system between  1930-1970 were an unparalleled outpouring of artistic achievement. Never, except perhaps in the Italian Renaissance, have so many great artists been gathered together in one place and one time. The Hollywood studios nurtured (and, admittedly, in some cases discarded) great talents like the visionary director John Ford, the anarchic comedy of the Marx Brothers, and the soaring voice of Judy Garland. The studios were also  a safe haven for talent from around the world, especially before and during World War II, when artists like composer Max Steiner, writer and director Billy Wilder, and actress Ingrid Bergman flourished.

Estimates vary, but the Hollywood studios pumped out about 400 films per year during the 1930's-1950's, which gives classic movie fans a dizzying array of options. This list isn't designed to be a best of list (I realize that virtually no one has the time to watch all 1001 selections), but more of a guide for classic movie newbies and those dedicated fans who want to learn more about their favorite stars and films.

This list will only contain American films made between 1930-1970. It will exclude all foreign language films, and English films not made by the Hollywood studios (for example, I'm not going to consider Alfred Hitchcock's work before he came to America to make Rebecca in 1940). Each month will cover a specific topic related to an actor, director or  theme. So, without further ado, here's a list of what's been written and what's coming up.

 January 2016


High Society in Old Hollywood: A look at the classic romantic comedy, The Philadelphia Story (1940), and its musical remake High Society (1956). Both films are about a wealthy heiress and the three men in her life.

The Philadelphia Story: Simply one of old Hollywood's best films.

High Society: Can't compare with the original, but it's still glamorous, frothy fun. 

February 2016

Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard in Mr and Mrs. Smith (1941).

Love and Marriage Hitchcock Style: The great director Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense, but many of his movies also featured marriages as part of the plot. 

Mr and Mrs. Smith (1941): This is Hitchcock's only pure comedy. It's about the complications that arise when a couple (Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard) finds out their marriage isn't valid.

Rebecca (1940): A socially awkward newlywed (Joan Fontaine) must deal with the lingering presence of her aristocratic husband's first wife in this adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel.

Rear Window (1954): A photographer (James Stewart) and his girlfriend (Grace Kelly) become amateur sleuths after they seem to witness a neighbor (Raymond Burr) killing his bedridden wife.

Suspicion (1941): A shy young woman (Fontaine) begins to suspect that her husband (Cary Grant) is trying to kill her.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): An American couple (Stewart and Doris Day) become enmeshed in an assassination plot while vacationing in North Africa.

March 2016

Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur.
Biblical Epics: I'll celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Ten Commandments with a look at that film and two other classics featuring Biblical characters.

Ben-Hur (1959): A Jewish prince living in Roman occupied Palestine has a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.

The Ten CommandmentsDirector Cecil B. DeMille's all-star extravaganza about the life of Moses (Charlton Heston) is still one of the most popular old Hollywood movies.

Quo Vadis (1951): This classic tale of Christians who are persecuted by the Emperor Nero (Peter Ustinov) is both over-the-top and touching.

 April 2016

Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar (1953).
Brush Up Your Shakespeare: I'll commemorate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death with a look at four bard-inspired films.

Julius Caesar (1953): Marlon Brando, James Mason and company get their togas on for this traditional adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy.

Kiss Me Kate (1953): Composer Cole Porter's musical adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew is one of the great American musicals.

Man of the West (1958): This psychological Western from director Anthony Mann stars Lee J. Cobb as a King Lear-like cattle rancher.

To Be or Not to Be (1942): This sharp satire from director Ernst Lubitsch about a troupe of actors in Nazi-occupied Warsaw has many witty Shakespearean references.

May 2016



1941 Best Picture Nominees: I'm celebrating the 75th anniversary of Citizen Kane, which premiered on May 1, 1941, with a look at Orson Welles masterpiece and three other great movies that lost the best picture Academy Award to How Green Was My Valley. FYI: I covered Best Picture nominee Suspicion during my Hitchcock series in February.

Citizen KaneWelles' classic about the rise and fall of a newspaper magnate is and will always be the greatest American film ever made.

The Maltese FalconDirector John Huston's adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's private eye novel was one of the first major films noir.

The Little FoxesDirector William Wyler's sharp adaptation of Lillian Hellman's play about a dysfunctional Southern family features a fearless performance from Bette Davis.

Sergeant YorkGary Cooper won his first best actor Oscar for his earnest portrayal of a real-life Tennessee backswoodsman who became a World War I hero.

June 2016


June Brides: June is the traditional month for weddings, so I'll look at four diverse films that have "bride" in the title.

Father of the Bride (1950): Spencer Tracy plays a doting dad who is trying to give his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) the wedding of her dreams in this classic family comedy.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954): This innovative musical directed by Stanley Donen finds Howard Keel as the head of a pioneer clan of lonely brothers who are looking for some "Sobbin' Women."

Bride of Frankenstein (1935): The monster (Boris Karloff) gets a wife (Elsa Lanchester) in this movie, which is one of the best Universal Pictures horror films of the 1930's.

I Was a Male War Bride (1949): This delightful comedy of errors starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan was based on a true story.

July 2016


I'll celebrate the 100th birthday of this Old Hollywood legend with a look at three of her best films.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): This rollicking swashbuckler about medieval English outlaw Robin of Locksley and the noble Maid Marian is the best of the Errol Flynn/de Havilland films.

The Snake Pit (1948): De Havilland gives a sensitive performance as a troubled young woman who spends time in an insane asylum.

Hush. . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964): De Havilland and her old Warner Bros. pal, Bette Davis, team up for this creepy Southern Gothic horror film.

August 2016


The August theme will coincide with TCM's Summer Under the Stars film festival, which celebrates a different actor each day in August. I'll feature five great films from each Monday's honorees starting on Aug. 1 with Edward G. Robinson (above).

Scarlet Street (1945): Robinson plays a meek artist who gets entangled with femme fatale Joan Bennett and her slimy boyfriend (Dan Duryea) in this Fritz Lang-directed film noir.

Million Dollar Mermaid (1952): Esther Williams plays aquatic star Annette Kellerman in this biopic that features several elaborate Busby Berkeley numbers.

How Green Was My Valley (1941): Roddy McDowall is superb as the youngest son of a Welsh coal-mining family in director John Ford's elegiac masterpiece.

They Were Expendable (1945): Navy veteran Robert Montgomery co-stars with John Wayne and Donna Reed in this story of a PT boat crew stationed in the Philippines during World War II.

Algiers (1938): Charles Boyer rocks the Casbah as jewel thief Pepe le Moko, who is hiding out from the authorities while also romancing Hedy Lamarr.

September 2016


This year's best picture Academy Award winner Spotlight has brought a renewed interest in the good, old-fashioned newspaper movie. Throughout September, I'll feature a screwball comedy, a film noir, and a Western that deal with the printed page. FYI: Citizen Kane is a famous newspaper movie I've already written about in this series.

His Girl Friday (1940): Cary Grant plays a hard-charging editor and Rosalind Russell plays a wise-cracking reporter who are battling over love and deadlines in this classic newspaper comedy

Sweet Smell of Success (1957): This noir about a powerful newspaper columnist who uses his influence to interfere in his sister's personal life features a dynamic lead performance from Burt Lancaster.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962): Director John Ford's elegiac Western introduced the famous catchphrase "print the legend."

October 2016


Felines in Film: Throughout October, I'll write about five diverse films that feature cats in one form or another.

Bringing Up Baby (1938): Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn chase a pet leopard all over the New England countryside in this classic screwball comedy from director Howard Hawks.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): Elizabeth Taylor gives a daring performance as Maggie "the cat" in this film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning play.

To Catch a Thief (1955): Cary Grant plays a reformed jewel thief who is trying to catch a cat burglar on the French Riviera in director Alfred Hitchcock's lush romantic thriller.

Cat People (1942): This bizarre Val Lewton-Jacques Tourneur horror film features Simone Simon as a young woman who believes she is descended from a tribe of feline shape shifters.

The Cat and the Canary (1939): Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard and company milk laughs out of a every haunted house trope in this fun horror spoof.

November 2016


American Presidents: In honor of November's Presidential election, I'll write about four films that feature U.S. commanders in chief in one form or another.

Young Mr. Lincoln (1939): Director John Ford's mostly fictional portrait of the 16th President features a great lead performance from Henry Fonda.

North by Northwest (1959): Mount Rushmore is the backdrop for this exciting thriller from director Alfred Hitchcock.

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942): Broadway legend George M. Cohan (James Cagney) tells his life story to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in this flag-waving musical.

Knute Rockne, All-American (1940): President Ronald Reagan got his "Gipper" nickname from this biopic about the legendary Notre Dame football coach (Pat O'Brien).

December 2016


Christmas with Barbara: This month, I'll be celebrating the holidays with three Yuletide classics starring all-time great Barbara Stanwyck.

Remember the Night (1940): Stanwyck's first film with Fred MacMurray is an offbeat holiday romance between a shop lifter and a district attorney.

Meet John Doe (1941): Stanwyck and Gary Cooper spend a memorable Christmas Eve together in director Frank Capra's timely satire.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945): This comedy about a homemaking columnist who in reality can't even flip a pancake is a delightful holiday treat.


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