Sunday, November 24, 2013

Easy to Love: Ten Classics for People Who Don't Know Classics


Last month the Siren went up to Syracuse University to speak to Lance Mannion's delightful honors seminar, which he teaches with professor, author and poet Steven Kuusisto. It’s called “Public Intellectuals and the Digital Commons” but Lance likes to call it “Blogging for Fun and Profit.” The Siren had a wonderful time with his hugely intelligent, delightful students.


However. These are not film majors. And when we started discussing what my blog is about, Lance asked the group if anyone had ever seen a Bette Davis movie.


What followed was the most terrible 30-second silence of my life.


One woman (bless her) said she'd seen and liked Mildred Pierce, and someone else cited some John Ford films. And several mentioned love for Audrey Hepburn, especially Roman Holiday.


Still, this is a situation that hurts the Siren’s evangelical little heart, where beats the conviction that almost anyone can be a classic-movie fan. It’s purely a matter of seeing the right films. As a thank-you to Lance and the students who were so welcoming and attentive, the Siren decided do a post recommending films for people who have seen little or nothing of pre-1960 American cinema. The idea being that a person could pick out one and watch it recreationally, and maybe afterward, consider watching some more.


The Siren picked ten films that are sophisticated enough to appeal to these whiz kids, modern enough in attitude to be approachable, and embodying what's best in the filmmaking of their time. Nine of them are permanent, canonical classics; one of them, in the Siren’s considered opinion, should be, and she adds that it’s barely been a couple of years since she saw it. One thing about loving old movies: There are always fresh ones to discover. (Below, in a sidebar, you can see what happened when the Siren posed this question to some fellow cinephiles.)


Nothing was picked for Film 101 reasons. This list intentionally resembles a syllabus not one itty-bitty little bit. These films were picked because they are easy to love.


All were and remain influential. All have great dialogue; to head off an occasional question, no, nobody spoke exactly like that back then or at any other point in history, and isn’t it wonderful. The Siren thinks most conversations only benefit from having Billy Wilder or Joseph Mankiewicz to write them.


Most American studio-era films are designed down to the last doily on the last sideboard. Years ago, in the 1980s, there was a brief flutter about “colorizing” movies. You took some then-new technology and presto! Casablanca in color! There were just a few problems. One was that colorized movies looked like crap. The colorizers had trouble with small parts of the image like lips, with the result that from medium-shot to close-up, Ingrid Bergman’s lipstick varied to a degree that would have given the actress a nervous breakdown. And colorization somehow emphasized the phoniness of everything--the fake palm trees, the sets.


The most important point was made at the time by directors like John Huston and Orson Welles. The two color movies on this list were carefully, gorgeously visualized that way. The eight black-and-white movies, on the other hand, were not designed in everyday real color with the idea that what the heck, it was bound to look good in black-and-white too. Every costume and set and location and light and angle was calibrated to use that film stock’s possibilities to the fullest.


These movies are all beautiful by design, and fabulous forever.




Sherlock Jr. (dir. Buster Keaton, 1924)
Silent film is its own art form, and a glorious one, with many masterpieces that are (contrary to popular belief) very accessible; but the Siren stuck to one, otherwise she’d need another list. (And if you want another list, hey, JUST ASK.) This movie, the story of a lovelorn movie projectionist (Buster Keaton, of course) who dreams of becoming a detective, was selected because when the Siren saw it at the Film Forum in front of an audience of children and parents, it went over like gangbusters. The film has everything that makes Keaton a genius: the wildly inventive use of all the possibilities of film; the comedy ranging from subtle to manic slapstick; the athletic stunts, one of which could have paralyzed Keaton. Excessive description tends to kill comedy, so the Siren is leaving it at that; but trust her, this is no quaint antique. (Above, Buster Keaton is...well, it’s complicated.)





My Man Godfrey (dir. Gregory La Cava, 1936)
Carole Lombard, one of the greatest comediennes of all time, plays heiress Irene Bullock, for whom the term “madcap” might have been coined. During a scavenger hunt, Irene turns up a “forgotten man” (i.e., hobo) Godfrey, played by Lombard’s real-life ex-husband William Powell. He winds up as the butler at her mansion (“Can you butle?” she asks Godfrey). Godfrey helps her dizzyingly eccentric family get a grip on life, and far from coincidentally, what’s going on in Depression-era America right under their privileged noses. A supreme example of the style known as screwball comedy, the film’s atmosphere is summed up by Irene’s father (Eugene Pallette): “All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people.” The many, many treats include beautiful Gail Patrick as Irene’s sister, whom Godfrey characterizes as “a Park Avenue brat”; character actor Mischa Auer doing an alarmingly accurate monkey imitation; and an attitude toward the idle rich that skewers their every foible, yet never devolves into anger or preachiness. (Above, Lombard and Powell get ready to play their big love scene.)





The Adventures of Robin Hood (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1938)
When the Siren showed this ravishing Technicolor spectacle to her family, her 9-year-old son announced at the end, “That was the best movie I’ve ever seen.” Certainly this tale--wherein Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) robs the rich, gives to the poor, and battles Prince John (Claude Rains) and Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) on his way to winning Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) and restoring King Richard to the throne--appeals to the kid in everyone. It is also a model of how to structure and pace an action movie. (One key expository scene that the Siren can’t get enough of shows Maid Marian in the background of the shot, creeping down a winding stone staircase to listen in on a nefarious plot. She’s right out there in the open, the staircase doesn’t even have a banister. But the castle set is so vast that of course the Prince and Sir Guy wouldn’t notice her at first.) And if you look closer, to Robin Hood’s explicit plea for human rights and democratic government in a year where the world was sorely lacking in both, that diminishes the joy not one bit. (Above, Rathbone and Flynn cross swords.)





Stagecoach (dir. John Ford, 1939)
There was no way the Siren would compile this post without a Western, and she’s still debating whether this is the ideal choice. Then again, of course it is. This movie has everything you could want in a great Western: John Ford, Monument Valley, John Wayne so young and handsome it almost hurts to look at him. And there’s a climactic action sequence so dangerous its centerpiece stunt (performed by Yakima Canutt--remember that name) would be hard to recreate today without resorting to computer trickery. It’s a simple tale of a motley group of passengers on a stagecoach going to Lordsburg. They include John Carradine as a Southern gentleman turned gambler; Louise Platt as a gently bred belle, pregnant and going to join her husband; Claire Trevor as a prostitute who’s been run out of town; and Thomas Mitchell as an alcoholic doctor. (He won a Supporting Actor Oscar in a year where almost anything that wasn’t nailed down went to Gone With the Wind.) Within this small group, John Ford tells a bustling, exciting story, while looking at class differences and community in a way that remains frank and touching. (Above, the shot that arguably made John Wayne a star at the age of 32.)





His Girl Friday (dir. Howard Hawks, 1940)
One of the rare instances where the remake of a great film (1931’s The Front Page) turns out better than its predecessor. Hawks turned the reporter Hildy Johnson into a woman (Rosalind Russell) and came up with a comedy that’s striking in its feminism. Hildy wants to marry Bruce (Ralph Bellamy) and settle down to raise babies “and give them cod-liver oil and watch their teeth grow,” she sputters. But her ex-husband, newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant), knows better: “You’re a newspaper man,” he tells her. To that end, he tricks and cons Hildy repeatedly so she’ll help save an innocent man from execution--and, more importantly, sell some papers in the process. The jokes fly so fast that when you see this in a theater, some good lines get drowned out by laughter. The script makes sharper digs at corrupt Chicago politics and ruthless newshounds than many a latter-day thriller. (Above, after Russell lets fly with that bag, Grant tells her, "You're losing your arm. You used to be better than that.")





Double Indemnity (dir. Billy Wilder, 1944)
Insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) gets more trouble than he dreamed of when he knocks on the door of Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the discontented wife of an older man. Together they plot to bump off Mr. Dietrichson in a way that will allow them to collect double his life insurance premium, the “double indemnity” of the title. Edward G. Robinson plays Neff’s boss, a man who prides himself on his ability to snuff out a bad claim. There are earlier examples of the style known as film noir, and goodness knows many later ones, but this is echt noir. “I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the girl,” Neff announces at the opening; as Brian De Palma observed, you can’t get much more noir than that. It’s often very funny, and intentionally so; Billy Wilder, who co-wrote the script, never made a humor-free movie in his life. But it’s also tragic, with a killer fadeout, and it’s a great introduction to the peerless Stanwyck and Robinson. Also, if anyone’s parents had them watch some old Disney films, this vision of Fred MacMurray retains some shock value. (Above, MacMurray, Stanwyck, and a car.)




The Breaking Point (dir. Michael Curtiz, 1950)
Perhaps the Siren should have gone with Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, as she tried to diversify her list with Method acting and the social drama that so dominates independent filmmaking in our own era. Certainly On the Waterfront is a capital-G Great Movie. But this is the Siren’s list, and she’s doing it her way, and the Siren truly thinks that this dark, tense movie has great appeal for a modern audience. Plus, the Siren loves John Garfield, the revolutionary actor who came from a tough New York neighborhood and was ultimately destroyed by the House Un-American Activities committee. He was enthrallingly sexy, and his subtle playing only underlines his boiling emotion. This underseen film (available on Warner Archive) is based on the Hemingway novel that Howard Hawks filmed as To Have and Have Not, but where Hawks is dashing and adventurous, here Michael Curtiz is melancholy and fatalistic. Garfield plays a California fisherman with a family to support and no work coming in. To make ends meet, he agrees to pilot his boat for gangsters as they run in some illegal immigrants. Also notable for the African American actor Juano Hernandez, giving a tremendous performance as a fellow fisherman. Hernandez’s role is written with dignity and feeling; the part was beefed up at Garfield’s insistence, which tells you a lot about the man. The final shot is one of the most heartbreaking in all classic film. (Above, Hernandez and Garfield.)




All About Eve (dir. Joseph Mankiewicz, 1950)
Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) becomes a star, by latching onto Margo Channing (Bette Davis) and working her lying, conniving wiles on not just Margo, but everyone around her. Siren obsession George Sanders won his only Oscar for playing Addison de Witt, the ultimate poison-pen critic and one of only two people who twig to Eve right away. The other is Birdie, Margo’s sharp-eyed maid, played by Thelma Ritter. Davis gave many great performances in her incredible career, but Margo is generally acknowledged as her crowning achievement. Margo is a star, and got there in part because she’s a smart cookie. How and why she is taken in by Eve’s act contains a great deal of existential truth about human behavior (and pointers on how to spot Eves in your own life; believe me, that skill comes in handy). Margo’s a diva, but the biggest betrayal in the movie comes not from her, or even Eve; it’s via sweet housewife Karen (Celeste Holm). Joseph Mankiewicz wrote an endlessly quotable script, not so much laugh-out-loud funny as it is scalding. With Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest roles; watch the perfection of Monroe’s timing at the ripe old age of 24. (Above, Margo salutes Eve; Hugh Marlowe is on the left and Gary Merrill, who became Davis’ fourth husband, is in the middle.)




Rear Window (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
Photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies, laid up with a broken leg, becomes obsessed with watching his neighbors across a Manhattan courtyard. There’s a heat-wave going on, and the open windows (and lack of air conditioning) mean he can usually hear what they’re saying as well. Together with his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) Jeff becomes convinced that neighbor Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) has murdered his shrieking harpy of a wife. The Siren herself ranks Rear Window well above Vertigo (which recently dethroned Citizen Kane as the Greatest Movie Ever Made in the once-a-decade Sight and Sound poll) as one of the best movies Hitchcock ever made. Rear Window takes a teeming, diverse group of New Yorkers and gradually reveals every life arrayed around that courtyard. James Stewart’s grumpy character isn’t as far from his nice-guy persona as he’d get with Vertigo, but it’s close. Grace Kelly wears an Edith Head-designed wardrobe that actually elicited a few audience gasps when the Siren saw this in a theater. There are plenty of moral quandaries to chew on. And there’s Thelma Ritter, still dispensing cranky common sense four years after All About Eve.  (Above, anybody can give you Grace Kelly. The Siren is giving you a new world in pet transportation.)

P.S. This was posted in haste and corrected at leisure; sincere thanks to all who pointed out my howlers.


39 comments:

Michael Dempsey said...

Great list -- though one must not underestimate the antipathy of 20-something the world over to "old movies" (i.e., anything released more than five years ago).

I once showed some ESL students "I Walked With A Zombie," the first black-and-white movie most had seen. (Those who have seen some generally say what they saw was a Chaplin something or other. Some took to the picture. But most others hated the black-and-white. Likewise, it didn't meet present-day standards for what constitutes a horror movie. So they just acted bored and above it all.

However, a different sort of movie, "Rope," which might be expected to produce a comparable reaction (it has color but also lots of dialogue, plus nothing of what is considered "action" nowadays), has more than once gone over quite well when I showed it to the same kind of audience.

By the way, it's probably just a typo, but the co-writer of "Double Indemnity" (seen recently, as great as ever) is Raymond Chandler, not Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder's customary producing-writing collaborator at the time the film was made. Brackett apparently found James M. Cain's novella, the film's source, too sordid for his liking and bowed out of the project early on.

The Siren said...

WHOOPS - Michael, you are absolutely right, I'll correct it.

Vanwall said...

Excellent list! Good thing to highlight Lombard and MacMurray, two whose better performances are often underseen nowadays, if at all, and "Stagecoach" couldn't be a better choice for a Western, and a very influential film in general. "The Breaking Point" is a savvy way to get Juano Hernandez and John Garfield, two of the greatest actors H'wood produced in one great film. "Double Indemnity" just gets better every year, don't you think? I was musing "The Asphalt Jungle" might've been a good one, too, it was full of modern touchstones that are still that. All in all, fine work!

Carrie Rickey said...

Well said. Discriminating. Nicely argued.

VP81955 said...

MacMurray's work for Disney didn't include "The Love Bug," but "The Absent-Minded Professor" and "The Shaggy Dog," among others. Just to clarify. Other than that, a superb list, and I'm glad you included "Godfrey," "Stagecoach" and "Double Indemnity."

The Siren said...

Vince, I have no idea how that one graf had so many mistakes. Profuse apologies, I am correcting.

joel65913 said...

So glad you included The Breaking Point! To me a much more enjoyable film than On the Waterfront, maybe because Waterfront is so overpraised in my view and the other ignored. Love John Garfield in it as well as it affording Patricia Neal the best part of her early career. The whole cast is excellent and it's so well directed to boot.

I may be in the minority on this but I don't think All About Eve is Bette Davis' best performance. Her most defining surely but I've always felt Dark Victory contained her best work.

Jennifer Garlen said...

Great list! A lot of these are films that I also suggest when people ask me "where to start" watching classic movies. I always had great luck showing classic noir to college freshmen, but classic horror was a hard sell (as Michael Dempsey's comment about I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE reminds me). Hope your list inspires some folks to give those pictures a chance.

Patrick Wahl said...

Wyler fan that I am, I would have worked Best Years of Our Lives in there somewhere, although I see it in your supplemental post below. I like that you rate Rear Window so highly, it has a much higher fun quotient than Vertigo, for me anyway, one of my favorites.

Vienna said...

Can't argue with that great list.

Erich Kuersten said...

I feel you dear, I did a Halloween presentation to a film class here at Pratt, and no one knew who Boris Karloff was, or Bela Lugosi... I nearly fell over, enraged, saddened, at a loss...

It's because there are so many options for every demographic no one has to learn about anything not pitched directly at them at that moment, and it's a damn shame... or shared history gone....like tears in rain...

John Plunkett said...

Wonderful list! If you don't like these, kids, you don't like movies.

Lee Tsiantis said...

Farran, a few months ago I introduced my 9- and 11-year old nephews to silent films by showing them SHERLOCK JR. I told them that at 45 minutes, if they got bored the film would soon be over, as it's Keaton's shortest feature. Well, I put it on, and the giggles from the boys started early on (searching for the missing dollar bill), esclating to howls of delight (the billiard table sequence) to outright belly laughs (the climactic chase). Needless to say, I was delighted beyond words at their response; they truly GOT Buster -- not that one has to be a whiz intellectually to achieve this. The next morning (it was a sleepover), I heard music emanating from my tv room downstairs; they had put on STEAMBOAT BILL JR. all on their own and were enjoying it. So I've now got two converts to silent comedy in the family. Next on the agenda: introducing them to Chaplin and Lloyd....

Edward Kazala said...

One more correction - your list includes only 9 movies. What's the 10th?

AndrewBW said...

Welcome back. I know you've been busy but I was starting to wonder!

Kevyn Knox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevyn Knox said...

Once, way back in the late 1990's, I was working at a now defunct bookstore (remember those?) called Encore Books. One of my coworkers told me of when her 13 year old daughter had a friend from school over and they watched an old movie (I forget which one) and the friend was amazed as she had not even known of the existence of black and white. My former co-worker and her daughter were (and I am sure, still are) big classic film fans (that is great parenting if ya ask me) and were so shocked by this 13 year old girl's lack of knowledge of black and white - not just B&W films, but B&W anything. Crazy. And this was fifteen some years ago, I can only imagine the lack of B&W knowledge these days.

Lemora said...

Mwah! Mwah! For Robin Hood, Phyllis Dietrichson and her ankle bracelet, the Copacabana School of Dramatic Art, and Claire Trevor! I'm impervious, I'm afraid, to the charms of Irene Bullock's scavenger hunt, Grace Kelly in everything but "High Society," and Hildy Johnson's amphetamine rush. One women's brilliant repartee is another woman's shrillness, for me at least. And I usually adore Carole Lombard (I'd love to see what Woody Allen would do with her) and I like Rosalind Russell. But not in these two. Blasphemy, I know! I still think Barbara Stanwyck is the reason my mom wouldn't let me have an ankle bracelet in elementary school. I wish Babs and Carole could time travel and remake "Thelma And Louise."

Casey said...

I like the list. I especially like the fact that you included not one but two Curtiz flicks. The Breaking Point is one of his best, and it hasn't gotten nearly enough attention. One correction, Robin Hood is a co-credit he shares with William Keighley. I know Keighley was replaced, and no doubt Curtiz deserves the lion's share of the credit, but it seems unfair to omit his name.

Trish said...

It's a very credible list, Farran. I love your inclusion of Stagecoach, Double Indemnity and All About Eve... especially Stagecoach.

But I admit that I don't understand the love for His Girl Friday. I do love Cary Grant in most everything, but Rosalind Russell is an acquired taste that I've never been quite able to acquire in over 40 years of film love. Just off the top of my head, I'd far rather watch "Ball of Fire". :D

Kevyn Knox said...

I too think Russell may be an acquired taste, but at the same time, the only time I have ever really enjoyed her was in -- ta da -- His Girl Friday.

The Siren said...

Edward Kazala: That is hilarious. I was working on this for hours BUT -- I didn't do a double-check before I posted. Hence this endless array of fucking MISTAKES that I usually take care of. Including this one. Now we all know why my children never ask Mommy to help with the math homework. I suppose I could do something about this but I kind of like it the way it is; much more do I love the fact that 99% of my patient readers have not pointed out that I can't count, and the one who did, did so with impeccable politeness. Thank you for giving me a heads up. Don't mind me, I'll be off in a corner, reading up on the British researchers who supposedly have an Alzheimer's cure in the pipeline.

taci said...

It feels like Christmas for to see a list from Siren.
This is realy great list. I adore Sherlock Jr., it is my favorite Keaton. And you can’t go wrong with Hitchcock
I would add some other great comedies as are Duck Soup, Thin Man and Some Like It Hot.
I enjoy old adventure movies as Tarzan, the Ape Man or The Thief of Bagdad (both Korda and Fairbanks version). And for someone more serious and thinking I would suggest Casablanca, Brief Encounter, 12 Angry Men or The Ox-Bow Incident.
It would be great to see Siren’s list of ’10 classic movies to watch with your kids’ or maybe ’10 feel good classics’ or maybe ’10 classic gems from far away lands’ or any list you can think of.

Charlie Bury said...

Great list, but isn't there only 9 titles here? Not ten?

The Siren said...

Charles, see my reply to Edward Kazala above. :) One of those absent-minded pre-holiday things. Come for the film opinions, stay for the math skills...

C_Oliver said...

Add me to the list of those who rate Rear Window above Vertigo.

Four more (predictable) suggestions, for what they're worth: Kiss Me Deadly, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Safety Last!, and the reconstructed Touch of Evil.

Happy Miser said...

Bless you for nominating The Breaking Point for a must see classic!!! I would nominate House of Strangers. Richard Conte, Susan Hayward, Luther Adler, period.

mas82730 said...

If the whippersnappers can't respond to any of these lovelies, then they've either been buried or burned at Waugh's Whispering Glades.

Dexter Peabody said...

What would Woody Allen do with Carole Lombard?
He'd put Woody Allen dialogue in her mouth so she'd talk just like Woody Allen.

Lemora said...

Dexter, did you think Diane Keaton sounded "just like Woody" in Annie Hall? Every time she spoke? Carole would sound like Carole most of the time! I've reconsidered Rosalind Russell. I don't take to her either. She had a couple of moments in "Auntie Mame," but only during "Chu Chin Chow." And I've decided I like Olivier in "Rebecca." It's the character of Max DeW who I can't stand. I've viewed it a couple of times and I keep yelling for Joan to smack him across the chops with a wet flounder (at home, not at the repertory house, which doesn't exist any more). Olivier actually makes the jerk sympathetic. And I'd pick "The Wizard Of Oz" for my Gateway List. Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton were never better. And --as I stated in another post-- the men behind all the curtains can always use the exposure. And a female dog, Terry, portrays the male Toto. So, it could have some tranny-crossover appeal. Hey, I love "The Wizard Of Oz" and just can't understand it not making any lists.

Trish said...

I'd put "Raw Deal" on my list. The actors are very ordinary looking people to whom I can relate. Whenever I watch it I completely believe in them as human beings. I wouldn't feel the same way if Joe had been played by Tyrone Power instead of Dennis O'Keefe. Pat is so pathetically desperate, and no one plays that better than Claire Trevor. And Raymond Burr is one of my all time favourite villains.

But wait a minute -- there's also "He Walked By Night" with psycho badass Richard Basehart.

I love "Rear Window" dearly, but I'd replace it with "North By Northwest" or "Vertigo".

The Metzinger Sisters said...

's terrible that nobody even heard of Bette Davis!! This is a great list on a topic that you can argue about for days on end with any classic film fan! Robin Hood and Double Indemnity are definite winners, but I have to say ( from experience ) that My Man Godfrey and His Girl Friday don't quite pull in an audience. My sister and I were born film fans but even so, when we were kids we missed the point of these films entirely. The whole idea of "screwball" just eluded us. ( We were dumb kids ). All About Eve we adored, even at the age of 8 and Hitchcock can be enjoyed at any age, but any non-film fan.

Ahem...did you say "just ask" if we want to see a silent film list? We're asking!

david hartzog said...

Excellent list. Nice to see a personal favorite, The Breaking Point, make the list, a film as relevent today as it was decades ago, With a powerhouse ending. And ain't that sad.

RosieP said...

Very good list. And "STAGECOACH" is a very good selection for a Western.

Kirk said...

Never heard of THE BREAKING POINT, I'll have to seek it out.

Tim Klobuchar said...

I show, or have shown at some point, five of the films on this list -- Sherlock, Jr., Stagecoach, His Girl Friday, Double Indemnity, and Rear Window -- to my high school film classes. All of them have been popular with students to some degree. So thanks, Siren, for confirming that I haven't been imagining the positive reactions

Kevin Deany said...

This list was a terrific antidote to a culturally depressing holiday weekend. A friend of mine, who is 53, said he decided to watch a really old movie - "The Matrix." Sigh.

The same day, a fellow movie buff told me he was thinking about taking his mom to see "Nebraska" but she may not want to see it since its in black and white. The mom is 94 years old! Double sigh.

It's conversations like these that make me sometimes want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. But we have to continue to spread the word about classic movies and fight the good fight.

Casey said...

I know what you mean, Kevin. I guess the term "old movie" is relative. Sure, you could consider a film that was made ten years ago "old". It's interesting that for the people who visit this site, "old movie" is understood to mean something that came out prior to nineteen sixty.

I have a friend who is in her sixties who somehow grew up without being exposed to anything from the studio era. She had never seen a film with Humphrey Bogart, and asked me to lend her something, so I gave her Casablanca and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. She returned them, saying that they were both "fun". I didn't know how to respond.

david hartzog said...

When I was teaching, I used to show The Great Train Robbery, and the last 10 minutes of The Beast of the City, to show how the basic framework of westerns and thrillers were set some time ago.