May 2012: Classic Movie Month

If you were to ask me what, if any, era of cinema I am way, way behind on, I would quickly and without hesitation reply “classic Hollywood cinema of the 30s, 40s and 50s.” Which is why, after admirable persistance from Anna at Defiant Success, I have decided to dedicate the entire month of May to a much-needed boost in my classic movie experience. I have gathered as many titles as I can (mainly from the invaluable 1001 Movies You Must See Before You die book) from this era and have searched vigorously for as many classic films in the English language as I can find. It was not easy to find a lot, but I have found several much-lauded titles that I will, rest assured, be seeing this month. Though I am certainly not limiting this new experience to just the month of May, it will be during this month that I give it particular emphasis. Here are a list of the films I will be watching so far. I have already began the marathon with two movies: Sweet Smell of Success and Bigger than Life, which I’ve seen.

In no order, the titles are:

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Bigger than Life (1956)

Modern Times (1936)

The Red Shoes (1948)

The Night of the Hunter (1956)

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

The Palm Beach Story (1941)

Stagecoach (1939)

The Searchers (1956)

Brief Encounter (1945)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

The African Queen (1952)

Seven Days in May (1964)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

Notorious (1946)

The 39 Steps (1935)

Rebecca (1940)

His Girl Friday (1940)

My Man Godfrey (1936)

In A Lonely Place (1950)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Touch of Evil (1958)

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Midnight (1939)

The Man from Laramie (1955)

Winchester ’73 (1950)

Safety Last (1923)

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Spellbound (1945)

All About Eve (1950)

Citizen Kane (1941) – REWATCH

Casablanca (1942) – REWATCH

As I add new films to this list, I will update it on this page. Feel free to make film suggestions in the comments, but don’t if you don’t have to, as I already have way more than I need. Thanks!

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Posted on May 7, 2012, in Lists, Movies, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. I generally find myself in the opposite position, i.e. needing to get better acquainted with newer releases. I’m way behind on anything new. At the same time, though, there’s still a fair amount of classic 30s/40s cinema I could probably do with getting acquainted with more than some of the stuff I’ve actually got lined up to watch over the next I dread to think how many months.

    I’ve seen most of the above list (have not seen Bigger than Life, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Palm Beach Story, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Seven Days in May, Notorious and Rebecca) and can recommend pretty much all the ones I have seem (with the possible exceptions of Gone With the Wind and The Red Shoes). Just saw My Man Godfrey a week ago, in fact, and have been planning a Kane rewatch.

  2. I approve of this.

  3. We pick a year from the classics period and watch films from that year on Monday nights.

    We did the films of 1955 one year, and the best are Night of the Hunter (already on your list), Bad Day at Black Rock and Marty.

    Last year we did 1939. My favourites were Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Midnight. Midnight I must recommend. It is perhaps the best screwball comedy I’ve seen, much better than My Man Godfrey. I think it might very well be the most underrated film of the 30s. Seems no one knows about it.

    • I’ll take note of those titles, thanks! I’ve seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but it was a while back and I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

  4. That’s a huge category…you’ll need more than just May to catch up. You mentioned The Big Sleep in a tweet, don’t leave that one out. Strangers on a Train is an under-rated Hitchcock masterpiece.

  5. jackdeth72

    Hi, Tyler and company:

    You have a great list and have some enjoyable work ahead of you!

    Though James Mason is quite good in Nicholas Ray’s ‘Bigger Than Life’, I’ve always thought Ray Milland would have exposed his inner demons more scarily. Kind of an extension of his performance in ‘The Lost Weekend’.

    • Yeah, I think Milland’s performance in The Lost Weekend reaches a level of pure terror and insanity that Mason doesn’t quite capture. Still, Bigger than Life is a great film.

  6. I’m going to watch Brief Encounter for my Cannes Marathon starting on the 16th. Of the films on that list, I’ve seen In a Lonely Place, The Red Shoes, Modern Times, The Searchers, and Casablanca. With the exception of Casablanca (which I do enjoy), I recommend all of these films.

  7. It’s an area I could certainly spruce up on. I’ve seen most of these and you’re gonna get to see a lot of good stuff this month.

  8. I’m working my way through a bunch of classics right now as well. Out of your list, I have only seen five: Modern Times, The Night of the Hunter, It’s a Wonderful Life, Citizen Kane and Casablanca. All of them are amazing.

    • Citizen Kane and Casablanca (especially the former) are esteemed classics I love and can’t wait to see again. The other three also excite me.

  9. Holy motherfuck. You haven’t seen any of those? Man, you gotta cut down on the arthouse flicks. (I’ll shut up because you’ll say the reverse to me.)

    • I prefer to think of as: “Holy motherfuck, I haven’t seen any of these! I’m so excited.” Because hell yeah, I am excited.

  10. I recommend it every time people bring up classics, but you should try to get to Holiday (1938) if you haven’t seen it before. It’s completely underrated despite its cast. If you’re looking for any others, I’d throw The General and Laura in there as well.

    I only recently watched Notorious and Stagecoach for the first time, and both of them jumped straight into my Top 100. Night of the Hunter and His Girl Friday are both brilliant too. Hope you enjoy them all! I should try to get around to the others as well. I’ve been putting off Gone With the Wind for as long as I remember. Maybe I’ll try to get them done this month as well.

  11. That’s a great list. I’ve seen most of them and there isn’t really a clunker there. I noticed some Hitchcocks. but not Rear Window or North by Northwest. I would definitely list them as his two best films, but perhaps you have already seen them.

  12. I’ve been on the same crusade for the last 2 months myself. For a long time I only really actively pursued Hitchcock and westerns due to my love of Jimmy Stewart. Most of the westerns on your list I own and recommend.

    Although I lot of people would disagree with me I quite frankly dislike John Wayne and don’t think he could act to save himself so I personally don’t rate The Searchers although it did have some redeeming features of interest. Once you have seen these westerns I highly recommend Destry Rides Again which is a parody of the genre. It will be harder to find as my DVD is a US import but worth it.

    Also on the subject of westerns one of my all time favs of the genre is McCabe & Mrs Miller. It and Destry are the reason I love the genre.

    Trying to make a dint in noir is harder to do as some titles are very elusive. I managed to catch The Big Sleep and Mildred Pierce on TCM this month. The Big Sleep was a little unnecessarily convoluted which detracts from it a bit, but overall enjoyable. Whereas I really got into Mildred Pierce and would recommend you add it to the list.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the original 12 Angry Men but it is sensational.

    Many people think Gone with the Wind is overrated but it is one of my favourite of the era and I watch it every time it’s on. Rhett and Scarlett are two of the greatest characters ever to be on screen.

    I think you’ll love All About Eve too.

    I need to rewatch Casablanca too sometime. Best Bogart ever. I also think Citizen Kane is one of the most overrated films of all time. It is still a good film but most of the praise it receives is due to matters behind the scenes and its place in cinema history rather than the film itself.

    I bought The Red Shoes and The Leopard on Blu-ray so I need to watch those soon but just too busy trying to keep up with the movie channels.

    Enjoy your classic catch up.

    • I’ve never seen a John Wayne film so I’m intrigued to discover him.

      I found Destry Rides Again on YouTube but ignored it. I’ll have to add it to the marathon.

      I have seen – and I love – the original 12 Angry Men.

      I’ve avoided Gone with the Wind for a while but it’s about bloody time I see it.

      I have to respectively disagree with you on Citizen Kane. I think it is an absolutely incredible film and one of my favourites of all time.

  13. Woo hoo! Hurray for Classic Movie Month. There are still a TON I need to catch up on, but I have seen the one on your banner. I know you already have a bunch of movies to watch here but may I put a punt in for at least one Gregory Peck movie? :D

  14. At least, I can say I have seen Gone with the Wind and It’s a Wonderful Life lalalalaa ;) Two pretty long movies though, especially the former so I can see why you haven’t checked them out yet.

  15. thefilmfreak

    Some on your list are not technically Hollywood films, but you should still watch them as they are classics. Not necessarily this month, since you have quite a task ahead of you, but certainly for future regard, I would like to recommend a few other great Hollywood films from the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s, assuming you haven’t already seen them. I left off Wilder films since it seems like you’ve seen a lot of his work.

    Philadelphia Story (1940)
    Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
    To Have And Have Not (1944)
    Killers (1946)
    Out of the Past (1947)
    Pickup on South Street (1953)
    Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

  1. Pingback: Classic Movie Month Weekly Update: May 15 « Southern Vision

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