May 16th marks the National Classic Movie Day. For this occasion, let’s imagine I’m on a remote island, with no one around me except for five classic movies I can choose on my own. It’s not so very easy to decide which movies you’d like to live with during the rest of your life. Well, that’s just what I had to do now.
This job was as tough as it sounds. My basic principle was based on my thought that watching these movies would be my only way to pass the time – which means it would not be too pleasant to get bored of them before long. I think I managed to choose five classics that are not very easy to get fed up with because of the way they look at life – they’re lively and heartwarming and just as fresh as in the year they were first released. Let’s examine them a bit more thoroughly!
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin & Paulette Goddard
Year of release: 1936
Running time: 87 minutes
Brief synopsis: The Little Tramp gets a nervous breakdown because of the inhuman conditions he has to endure in the factory he is working at. Not knowing where to go, he first ends up in prison, only to get acquainted with a young Gamin. The two form a strong bond of love and go through a great number of adventures before they set out to the world hand in hand.
Something to see: Chaplin singing the Nonsense Song in the restaurant – this hilarious scene was the first time the audience heard his voice on the screen.
Something about the characters: Chaplin was the kind of director who paid attention even to the least significant character, but because of the movie’s episodic nature, it’s clear that no one has a chance to become a major character apart from the Tramp and the Gamin. In spite of all this, I’d like to point out Chester Conklin whose part is simply frenetic!
Something about the shooting: Chaplin considered shooting the film as a talkie but after recording a scene with sound he was completely dissatisfied and gave up with the idea.
Something about the reception: The film was highly successful among the critics who were praising Chaplin’s talent which they hadn’t witnessed for five years. Nowadays it’s still one of Chaplin’s most famous films, mentioned along with The Gold Rush and City Lights.
Something to point out: This movie features the Little Tramp for the last time and it is also marks the ending of the Silent Movie Era. It is just the loveliest farewell to this wonderful age.
Something to love: Modern Times is charming and uplifting, full of amazing episodes and has Chaplin at his funniest.
Directed by: Howard Hawks
Written by: Dudley Nichols & Hagar Wilde
Starring: Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn
Year of release: 1938
Running time: 102 minutes
Brief synopsis: Dr. David Huxley’s life turns upside down when he meets Susan a day before his wedding. Before he could realize what’s happening, he’s on his way to the ranch of Susan’s aunt to deliver the old lady a pet leopard she’d ordered. And that’s just the first of the many adventures they’re about to get into.
Something to see: Katherine Hepburn’s impressive performance in prison.
Something about the characters: They are as goofy as possible. There’s not a normal soul in this picture – that’s what makes it so much fun to watch!
Something about the shooting: Grant and Hepburn found it hard not to laugh at the jokes they had to perform. The film went over schedule with two months because of their laughing fits – but who could blame them after all?
Something about the reception: Only moderately successful at its first run, Bringing Up Baby is a movie that was unjustly dismissed by some period critics and even its director. Gaining a higher popularity among television audiences in the 50s and 60s, the movie is now considered to be among the best of its genre and an eternal classic.
Something to point out: It’s the king of the screwball genre. It contains everything a great screwball comedy needs – a mischievous dog, a frightening leopard and a singing Cary Grant among them.
Something to love: This movie never fails to surprise you or make you laugh. Or both at the same time.
Directed by: Howard Hawks
Written by: Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder
Starring: Gary Cooper & Barbara Stanwyck
Year of release: 1941
Running time: 111 minutes
Brief synopsis: Eight professors are in the process of writing an encyclopedia when a sudden problem occurs: Professor Potts needs to find out more about slang to be able to finish his entry on the subject. When a beautiful nightclub singer appears in the house to provide the professor with a couple of slang expressions the calm life of the eight bachelors turns into an everlasting chaos.
Something to see: The professors dealing with the gangsters using their own methods. This scene is as thrilling as funny!
Something about the characters: The professors are loveable and versatile. I especially loved Professor Oddley who was such a cute old man with a big heart – and I was shocked to learn that Richard Haydn was only 36 when he played to role. Cheers to the costume designers!
Something about the shooting: It was Gary Cooper himself who recommended Stanwyck for the role after they’d shared the screen a couple of years earlier. Lots of other actresses were auditioned, but Cooper’s advice was followed in the end.
Something about the reception: The film was highly successful among the critics when it was first shown and it was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1942, including the Best Actress Award for Barbara Stanwyck. It’s still considered one of the best screwball comedies made in the 40s.
Something to point out: This is the last film Billy Wilder has written but not directed, from this film on he was both the writer and the director of all of his films.
Something to love: This movie presents knowledge as a positive feature, while it also shows that it’s worth nothing without love. All of this is spiced with gentle comedy and you get a film you can’t refuse to love. Extra point for Gary Cooper playing the role of a linguistic professor – I’m just fond of linguistics!
Directed by: Robert Wise
Written by: Ernest Lehman
Starring: Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer
Year of release: 1965
Running time: 174 minutes
Brief synopsis: A new governess arrives at the Von Trapp family to change their lives forever – Maria loves to sing and dance and she brings cheerfulness to the children and their widowed father which they had missed for long. The children, who had been raised with strong discipline so far, soon turn into lively young people – and their strict father into a pleasant gentleman, thanks to Maria’s presence.
Something to see: Christopher Plummer singing Edelweiss in front of the Nazi audience – I think it’s the emotional highlight of the movie!
Something about the characters: After some time you can’t help but feel with them. That’s because everyone has a really strong bond with the others and they represent an extremely positive way of living in a family.
Something about the shooting: The film is based on the life of a real Austrian singing family who fled from the Nazi reign to America. The recollections of Maria Von Trapp were among the writer’s basic sources and she even appears in the movie with a couple of her children as a walker-by in the street behind Julie Andrews.
Something about the reception: The film was an instant hit and it’s the highest grossing musical in the history of cinema up to now. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won five of them, including the award for the Best Film, the Best Director and the Best Score. It is still considered one of the best musicals ever released.
Something to point out: Despite the fact that it was made during the last decade of true Hollywood musicals, this film helped redefine the genre and introduced some songs that are widely known and loved up until now.
Something to love: Aside from the impressive Austrian mountains, it’s Julie Andrews’s voice and her chemistry with everyone else in the cast that makes this movie exceptional.
Directed by: William Wyler
Written by: Harry Kurnitz
Starring: Audrey Hepburn & Peter O’Toole
Year of release: 1966
Running time: 123 minutes
Brief synopsis: Nicole’s father is a professional forger who lends his artwork to museums for a nice sum of money. This time, however, he gets into trouble, as his fake statue must go through examination because of insurance matters. Nicole decides to take drastic measures and asks a thief she has just got acquainted with to help her steal the fake Cellini Venus.
Something to see: When Nicole asks Simon to meet her in the restaurant and thereafter to help her steal the statue. There’s some hilarious dialogue here!
Something about the characters: The two protagonists are vivid and pleasant – what should an art thief and the daughter of a professional forger be like after all? You just wish you could spend more time in their company after the movie ends.
Something about the shooting: A couple of fake paintings that were created to hang on the set of the museum were stolen – someone must have been tricked by the recreated masterpieces that were to present the collection of the imaginary museum. Some set designers working on the movie were as efficient art forgers as Nicole’s father!
Something about the reception: Though found a bit outdated and old-fashioned, the film was quite popular with both the critics and the audience at its first run. It absolutely craves for a better reputation these days because it’s the sort of movie that can make you look at life more cheerfully.
Something to point out: This was the third and last time Audrey Hepburn and director William Wyler worked together and it’s also among the last real, romantic movies of Old Hollywood – but thank God it’s the most lighthearted of them all!
Something to love: No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it here – there’s Audrey Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Paris, witty dialogue, nice dresses, fine music, an exciting heist and even a lovely romance! Who needs more than this?