For Classic Film and TV Cafe’s 5 Movies on an Island Blogathon, the task is to write about the five classic movies we’d want to have if stranded on a deserted island. (Happily and absurdly, we are allowed to assume we have electricity, a projector, big screen, and popcorn.) We are asked to identify our criteria as well as our choices and, because this celebrates National Classic Movie Day, we are to list classic films only.
Criteria: To create my list, I’ve distinguished between “great” movies (those I feel are particularly powerful in theme, style, historical importance, or the like) and “favorite” movies (those I just enjoy the hell out of for whatever reason). Then, I’ve nuanced “favorite” further, in order to differentiate films I have enjoyed but don’t need to see again and those I could watch forever. It’s the latter category of which my list of five is composed. Finally, because this is a noir blog, I’ve created two lists of five: (1) my all-time always-watchable cherished five classics; and (2) my all-time always-watchable favorite five noirs.
Note: Because there are almost no contemporary films I’d choose for my desert island five (general or noir), this was a little easier for me than it might be for some. I’m sorry to lose Cold Comfort Farm (1995), I suppose, as it delights me every time I watch it, but since we get through the 70s, I’m cool.
MY FIVE CHOICES:
- Holiday (1938). Dir. George Cukor. Stars Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton. Romantic comedy about wealth and its psychological burdens. Hepburn and Grant do acrobatics, Ayres plays the piano, and Horton is delightful as always.
- Ball of Fire (1941). Dir. Howard Hawks. Stars Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. My favorite screwball comedy, a tale of desire between a gangster’s moll and a nerdy professor.
- All About Eve (1950). Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Stars Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders. Behind the scenes of the theater in all its vicious, desperate glory.
- Some Like It Hot (1959). Dir. Billy Wilder. Stars Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon. Gloriously queer prohibition-era ride. Lemmon steals the film, but everyone’s great.
- Young Frankenstein (1974). Dir. Mel Brooks. Stars Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn. Incomparable homage-parody of James Whale’s original Frankenstein (1931). Yes, I’m calling it a classic.
As soon as I typed all of this, of course, I wondered if I wanted to substitute Metropolis (1929) or Born Yesterday (1950) or the true classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). I resisted.
Then I cringed at the politics (especially the sexism/objectification of women and the glaring whiteness) of these choices. They speak of the white male dominance of Hollywood and its standards, of course. But I’ll be on an island away from patriarchal dominance, right?
MY FIVE NOIR CHOICES:
- Scarlet Street (1944). Dir. Fritz Lang. Stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea. Downtrodden everyman falls for bad girl Kitty and pays for it. You’ll never stop hearing “Jeepers, I love you, Johnny.”
- The Big Sleep (1946). Dir. Howard Hawks. Stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall. So what if the plot makes little sense? I love every twist and turn, and especially Bacall.
- The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946). Dir. Lewis Milestone. Stars Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas, Lizabeth Scott, Van Heflin. Stanwyck is more disturbed than Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944) and equally fatale.
- Night and the City (1950). Dir. Jules Dassin. Stars Richard Widmark, Googie Withers, Gene Tierney, Francis L. Sullivan. Widmark at his best in a London tale of a crooked guy who wants to make something of himself and fails at every turn. Tierney is wasted but Withers and Sullivan are stunning.
- The Big Combo (1955). Dir. Joseph Lewis. Stars Richard Conte, Jean Wallace, Cornel Wilde. Sadistic crime lord vs. determined cop, with a wilting femme between them. Awesome secondary characters, including Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as Fante and Mingo as well as Helene Stanton as the burlesque gal Cornel Wilde uses and discards.
I feel a mite guilty for omitting Gilda (1946), but watching Ford’s Johnny torture her is just plain hard to watch. The ending is unearned. And the dubbing of her voice for “Put the Blame on Mame” is an unnecessary insult.
It’s also odd to have to leave out actors I adore (Robert Mitchum, for example) and important directors. But five is a small number and I’ll have to watch these few films over and over. So I’ll stand by my choices…for this post at least.