GONE WITH THE WIND (Victor Fleming)
For all its legendary status, GWTW is actually a pretty good movie. It doesn’t have to be all that great to be essential, after all. But this is one case where the story of its making may be as good as the movie itself. (See the 2-hr documentary appropriately titled THE MAKING OF GONE WITH THE WIND)
GUNGA DIN (George Stevens)
A rousing adventure movie if there ever was one. Would INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM exist without it? For that matter, would Steven Spielberg? Doubtful.
LE JOUR SE LEVE (DAYBREAK) (Marcel Carne)
Another jewel in the crown of classic French Cinema. So much pathos, so much humanity. And so thoroughly French.
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Frank Capra)
The perfect Capra everyman movie with the perfect everyman star, the young Jimmy Stewart. Capra walks the tightrope without falling into corniness or over-sentimentality, no mean feat for him. Like MEET JOHN DOE, it actually makes some solid political points along the way, as well.
THE RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir)
This French masterpiece has only grown in stature since its rediscovery and restoration in the 50’s. A wise and witty observation of manners and mores, and of love and class on a French country estate. After its release, the invading Nazis attempted to propagandize the film as a display of typical French decadence. The stigma somehow stuck, tarnishing its reputation. This, despite having been made by one of the most esteemed film directors in the world. This is the kind of film that will linger in your heart and mind for years to come, perhaps forever.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (Victor Fleming)
When I was growing up in the early 60’s, the annual TV telecast of THE WIZARD OF OZ was a much-anticipated event. My family never missed it. It was even a bigger event when we got our first color TV and could watch the transition from B&W to color when Dorothy opened that door. I was aware, even then, that THE WIZARD OF OZ was an “old” movie, but so special was its nature that it always seemed to defy existing in a place in time. After becoming something of a cinephile, I appreciated all the more the realization that this timeless classic was a studio production from 1939. Kudos to M-G-M.
THE WIZARD OF OZ could be considered the poster-movie for Hollywood as the “Dream Factory.” A collaborative effort of artists and technicians at the top of their game, they created an enchanting (and surreal) world for audiences everywhere. Add a song that would become an enduring classic, some perfect casting and well ……voila!
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (William Wyler)
Yes, I love this movie almost beyond reason. Almost. There is plenty of reason in appreciating the steady, knowing brilliance of William Wyler’s direction, the brooding excellence of Laurence Olivier’s performance as Heathcliff, Merle Oberon’s radiant Cathy, the heart-breaking poignancy of Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Isabella, the stunning cinematography by Greg Toland, the sheer strangeness of Emily Bronte’s love story, beautifully rendered in Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s screenplay. Quite simply a masterpiece. Often remade, never improved upon.