Category Archives: Classic Film

Mae West Was No Angel

MaeWest-GettyImages-3169453.jpgI wrote two blog posts on Hollywood icon Mae West to accompany the PBS American Masters documentary on her life (I work on the show). Click below to read them, and if you’re a PBS Passport member, watch the film here.

She Was No Angel: 8 Mae West Quotes That Will Get Your Blood Flowing

Did Mae West Really Say, “Come up and See Me Sometime”? The Story of One of Hollywood’s Most Famous Quotes

Church at the Movies: “Going My Way”

Bing Crosby (center) as Father Chuck O’Malley in GOING MY WAY 

In honor of Pope Francis’s visit to New York City, check out Going My Way, the 1944 Leo McCarey-directed classic about another religious figure in New York who decides to do things, well, a little differently. The trailer below was released following the film’s seven Oscar wins (not sure why the trailer says eight), including Best Picture, Best Actor (Bing Crosby), Best Director, and Best Writing (Original Story and Screenplay). The film spawned a sequel, 1945’s The Bells of St. Mary’s (nominated for eight Oscars in its own right, with one win for Sound Recording), starring Ingrid Bergman and Crosby reprising his role as Father Chuck O’Malley.

Eight Hitchcock Essentials

It’s no secret that Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite filmmaker. I’ve even emblazoned a 20-panel art installation of the Master of Suspense on my living room wall. So on this, his 116th birthday, I’m turning my focus to the eight Hitchcock films that have found a place on my 170 list. Check out these memorable shots from just some of the master filmmaker’s essential films, featuring Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Teresa Wright, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, James Stewart, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh, and Tippi Hedren.

REBECCA (1940)

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He Is the Yankee Doodle Boy

My go-to movie every 4th of July is Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 1942 biopic about celebrated song-and-dance man George M. Cohan. During his career, Cohan published more than 300 songs, including “Over There,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” and patriotic tunes “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” The son of Irish vaudeville performers, Cohan was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 3 (though he and his family insisted he was “born on the 4th of July”). A proud American patriot, Cohan followed in his parents’ footsteps, entertaining people for years before his death in 1942, only a few months after this film’s release. Aside from the biopic, his life was depicted in the 1968 stage musical George M!.Thanks to Cohan’s contributions to American musical theatre, a statue stands in his honor in the heart of Times Square.

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Summer of Darkness: Investigating Film Noir

TCM Summer of Darkness

This summer, TCM is shedding light on some pretty dark films. The second “Summer of Darkness” (the first was in 1999) is a de facto film noir film festival, airing 24 hours of films noir every Friday this June and July. With over 100 films scheduled, the festival is hosted by Eddie Muller, producer and host of Noir City: The San Francisco Film Noir Festival and president of the Film Noir Foundation.

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Hollywood Ranks Its 100 Favorite Films

I love lists. In particular, I love movie lists. This should be obvious since I dedicated this blog to the list of 170 films I sought out to watch before my 30th birthday. Well, here’s one more list. The Hollywood Reporter recently released its list of “Hollywood’s 100 Favorite Films.” Filmmakers and industry brass were given the opportunity to vote on the films that would make up the final 100, and I can say that I was honored to be among them. Many of my picks made the final cut. Are your favorites on it? Check it out here.

One of the Good Guys: Jefferson Smith and Behind the Scenes of MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON

There’s Frank Underwood … and then there’s Jefferson Smith. They’re about as opposite as opposites get. With antiheroes dominating pop culture as of late, it’s worth taking a step to the left to appreciate one of the good guys. Smith, portrayed by my favorite actor James Stewart in my favorite film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), may be naive, but he’s also pure of heart. It’s his pure intentions and intestinal fortitude that make all the difference when he seeks to make a difference. And he succeeds.

Check out these behind-the-scenes images from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, featuring Stewart, director Frank Capra, co-stars Jean Arthur and Claude Rains, and more.

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A Film of Olympic Proportions

In light of the Olympic Winter Games and TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, it seems appropriate to draw focus to the classic film Chariots of Fire. Set during the 1924 Olympic Games, one Jewish and one Christian track athlete—both British—compete against each other in this epic story of sportsmanship. Directed by Hugh Hudson, the 1981 film went on to capture four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and its now Olympics-synonymous score. Other nominations were earned for the film’s directing, editing, and supporting performance by Ian Holm.

Transport yourself back to 1924 and the Olympic games and take a listen to this iconic, Oscar-winning score:


On My DVR: My Dinner with Andre (1981)

Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory, apparently playing themselves, share their lives over the course of an evening meal at a restaurant. Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more talkative of the pair. He relates to Shawn his tales of dropping out, traveling around the world, and experiencing the variety of ways people live, such as a monk who could balance his entire weight on his fingertips. Shawn listens avidly, but questions the value of Gregory’s seeming abandonment of the pragmatic aspects of life.

I first heard of this film, which takes place entirely at a dinner table, while watching a parody of it on the brilliant NBC sitcom Community, a scripted TV show that honors cinema unlike any other I’ve seen. The film’s Criterion trailer and a clip from that episode of Community follow the jump.

Director: Louis Malle
Screenwriters: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Cast: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Distributor: New Yorker Films
Runtime: 110 min.

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My Favorite Movie of All Time: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

“You’re not gonna have a country that can make these kind of rules work, if you haven’t got men that have learned to tell human rights from a punch in the nose.”

With the US presidential election just three days away, there’s been talk on TV and in social media about the best political films of all time. Seeing as my favorite movie of all time is a political film, it’s worth giving it its due now (though it’s always worthy of much-deserved consideration).

After a US senator from an unnamed state dies, the governor chooses an unlikely replacement to fill his seat. At his young sons’ urging, the spineless governor appoints Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), leader of the Boy Rangers (a sort of Boy Scouts), to take the position. Wide-eyed and naive, Smith ventures to the nation’s capital for the first time, where he meets and is mentored by fellow senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). When Smith learns of his mentor’s involvement in a crooked political scheme, the green senator is forced to face the reality of American politics head on. With the help of his secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), Smith learns to take a stand against corruption and in favor of true democracy.

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