A dedication to those classic movies that are in our humble opinion "Absolutes" meaning every classic movie fan either has seen these films or must see these films! These are in no particular order - enjoy:
Now, Voyager - This 1942 Warner Brothers classic about The love story of Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis), a middle-aged spinstress who suffers a nervous breakdown because of her domineering mother and is finally freed after a brief love affair with Jerry (Paul Henreid), a man she meets while on a cruise after spending time in a sanitarium. They never marry, but through a miracle of chance Vale ends up raising his daughter for some time. This film ranks #23 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions, a list of the top love stories in American cinema.
The Lady Eve - (1941 Paramount Pictires) Returning from a year up the Amazon studying snakes, the rich but unsophisticated Charles Pike meets con-artist Jean Harrington on a ship. They fall in love, but a misunderstanding causes them to split on bad terms. To get back at him, Jean disguises herself as an English lady, and comes back to tease and torment him.
My Man Godfrey (1936 Universal Pictures) - In the Mother of screwball comedies, “My Man Godfrey” tells the screwy tale of a forgotten man, Godfrey Parks, down on his luck meeting a high society heiress, Irene Bullock. She hires him to be butler/zoo keeper of a menagerie of kooky characters at the Bullock Estate. Comedy ensues as scatterbrained Irene decides to foster Godfrey as her protégé. Special note must be made of a minor character, Molly, the only servant able to maintain her position with this crazy family. Her hard boiled point of view and wise cracking comments add irresistible flavor to the zany exploits. Jean Dixon as Molly has few lines, but don’t miss a single one! - tco7
The Hustler (1961 20th Century Fox) should be required viewing for every young man about to embark on his fortune. Fast Eddie is a pool shark out to prove he is the best there ever was. The man to beat is Minnesota Fats (played brilliantly by Jackie Gleason), the pool room’s undefeated champion. The story is a philosophical tale about what really matters in life. Eddie believes if he beats Fats he will have fulfilled his destiny. George C. Scott plays the man who offers to help Fast Eddie achieve this goal, but at a high cost to Eddie’s dignity. Piper Laurie plays a broken alcoholic that sees the greatness in Eddie but knows what it is to be possessed for pennies on the dollar. Each performance is rich and though the action moves slowly by today’s standards, the payoff is well worth it. - tco7
Marty (1955 UA) is a simple story about a simple man who just wants to find a “good girl” and settle down. What makes this uncomplicated story such a great film? Outstanding script and performances! Ernest Borgnine offers a finely detailed, subtle performance as an aging bachelor, living with his mother. Marty is routinely nagged by his family to get married, but sees nothing in his life but a lonely future. He meets a girl and begins to hope that, perhaps, there is something more for him. Paddy Chayefsky writes real people dialogue with real people’s problems in such compelling terms. He seems to speak more with a few words than most writers will say in their entire volume of work. The thing makes this movie amazing is that it tells the truth. It’s not a glamorous, exciting truth, but it touches the heart because when the truth is told we all respond. - tco7
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958 MGM) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is an almost perfect motion picture. Though the film was diluted for the benefit of the Hays Code, all the fire is there. Elizabeth Taylor was never more beautiful or seductive as Maggie the cat, who desperately clings to her less than warm marriage. Her husband Brick (played perfectly by Paul Newman) seems more in love with the bottle than with his wife. The story revolves around Maggie and Brick’s visit with Big Daddy for his birthday and his return from the hospital where he receives dubious news. The supporting roles are played deliciously, and verge on being ridiculous caricatures. Jack Carson as Brick’s sibling rival proves he is more than capable of playing the happy dope. Tennessee Williams play is not only dry cleaned but slightly sweetened for full resolution of the characters conflicts by Richard Brooks and James Poe’s competent screenplay. Brooks shines masterfully in his direction! The only thing that keeps this film from being perfect, aside from the deviations from the stage play script is the haunting notion of Orson Wells playing Big Daddy-like character of Will Varner, in “The Long Hot Summer”. Though Burl Ives is more than a competent actor and originated the role on Broadway, I can’t help thinking Orson Wells’ performance as Big Daddy would have made this a perfect masterpiece. - tco7
The Big Sleep (1946 WB) The Big Sleep is a must see film, but not for its deep insights or compelling story. In fact, I couldn’t understand the plot until I’d seen it 5 times. Why did I then see this film 5 times, you ask? It’s chemistry, plain and simple, you science students. The dialogue and energy between this cast is running on all cylinders. Bogie is at his very best trading quips and barbs with every character. He is all things to all men, but mostly women. He and Lauren Bacall burn the screen up whether there’s sexual tension or not. The plot is convoluted due to many rewrites, but it doesn’t interrupt the beauty of this film. Here anyways is a synopsis: Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to resolve gambling debts his daughter, Carmen, owes to bookseller Arthur Gwynn Geiger. His older daughter, Mrs. Vivian Rutledge (Lauren Bacall), suspects he is there to find her father’s friend Sean Regan, who had mysteriously disappeared. They play cat and mouse games as the chemistry ensues. This detective movie has all the patter that many young people find false and ridiculous. I am not sure people ever talked this way in real life, but how I wished I lived in a world where they did. - tco7
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Miracle on 34th Street is as close to Harry Potter as I can appreciate. Well except for “Bewitched” but that was small screen. There’s such a magic quality about the story of the man who attempts to convince the world that he is Santa Claus. Natalie Wood plays the little girl better than (except for Miss Temple) any little girl ever did. She is precocious and yet pure in childlike wonder. The bubblegum scene shows almost exclusively her reaction; that’s because she is Natalie Wood. Maureen O’Hara, a highly underrated actress, in my opinion is outstanding as the wounded divorcee punishing 'make believe' for her abandonment issues. John Payne plays lawyer and love interest in his only memorable leading role as far as I can recall. Edmund Gwenn certainly secured a place in my heart as the beloved Kringle character. This story will warm your heart or you are as dead as a reindeer-runned-over grandma. - tco7
Father Goose (1964 Universal Pictures) is the story of Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), a man who has dropped out of society in favor of drinking and steering clear of everyone else by floating around the Pacific. World War II comes along and he is volunteered against his will. First to report enemy aircraft from a remote island and then to rescue several young girls and their teacher, played with great comedic talent by Leslie Caron. This is an absolute must see because the comedic timing of Cary Grant has never been sharper. He is radiant as a bitter, nasty man could ever hope to be. He and Caron have a great chemistry and Grant is particularly gifted in working with kids. There are great laughs and tender moments here you won’t want to miss. - tco7
Asphalt Jungle (1950 MGM) is not only a must see film noir, but a prototype of the classic ‘heist’ movie, where the experts are gathered together to plan one huge score to set them for life. The caper unfolds as Doc gets out of prison with an ideal plan to score over a million dollars worth of precious jewels and metals as he assembles an all star ensemble to pull off the job. Louis Calhern plays the elegant bad guy so beautifully here; his major flaw? He can’t spend his wife’s money fast enough on the very young Marilyn Monroe. She is so young, in fact, that she is not pictured in the Movie’s promo poster. This is a must see because John Huston does film noir like no one else. At the time it was hailed as a very “real to life” depiction of the underbelly of the crime world, and during the 11 minute heist scene, there is no score contributing to the hold your breath suspense. Some may do noir as well as Huston, but not comparable to Huston! - tco7
West Side Story, (1961 UA) directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins is arguably the greatest filmed musical ever (nosed closely from behind by “The Sound of Music”). Not only was Wise blessed with a classic theme (Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ set on the modern streets of New York), but, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful, haunting score there has ever been. Wise proved his surname by agreeing to allow Jerome Robbins, who’d been the director of the Broadway production, to direct the dance and musical numbers. Robbins suffered a breakdown and the remaining sequences were handled by Robbins’ assistants. Wise generously allowed Robbins directing credit though he was fired before filming ended. The choreography is among the best ever put on film, and the production and direction are brilliant. West Side Story won 10 Academy Awards, more than any other musical film, ever. - tco7
The Snake Pit (1948 20th Century Fox) is an absolute must see film, but don’t watch it alone, in the dark, if you are not sturdy of mind! Only the film “Gaslight”, has ever rivaled the feeling in me that sanity is a temporal gift and not necessarily yours for life. The film opens with Olivia de Havilland’s character in a schizophrenic amnesia that leaves her lost as to who and where she is. Her husband is unfamiliar to her, and she is quite lost. The horrifying really begins in the flashbacks and her second break with reality. Without giving too much away, this comes close to the film “Freaks” garish illumination into the inner sanctum of the mad. Like a ghoulish nightmare, we just can’t look away, and Miss de Havilland is someone who plays her characters so sympathetically that butter melts only where it should! - tco7