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Old 10-03-2005, 13:36   #1
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Recommend me some Hollywood classics (please)

Hi

Despite the fact that my knowledge (and viewing) of Hollywood films from the 1970s onwards is pretty good, I've never managed to get into films before that period. I haven't seen classics such as Gone With the Wind and Dr Zhivago, and it wasn't until recently that I watched (and enjoyed) Casablanca and Citizen Kane.

My request to all you experts is: what classics, available on dvd, should I be looking to purchase next? I'm thinking of getting some of the Warner Bros 2disc sets, and some of their R1 box sets, but what else would you suggest? Ideally, I'd like a mix of eveything; comedies, musicals, drama and action.

Assume I've seen nothing (which isn't far from the truth) and pick your favourites - I'm working on the assumption that it will be better to start with the very best of "old" Hollywood and work my way down...if that makes sense!

Any suggestions much appreciated as, thanks to reading through this forum frequently, I can spot there are quite a few knowledgable souls on here!

Thanks
Tony
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Old 10-03-2005, 13:49   #2
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See this thread.

It's always tough trying to commend a film to someone when you don't really know their tastes, but...

I think the Warners 'Legends' Box set is a must as is the 'Film Noir' box and the recent 'Classic Comedies' set. The 'Cary Grant Signature Selection' is also a good buy, but try and pick a star or a director you're at least vaguely familiar with to get going and work your way through the very best that's on offer. The Fox Studio Classics films have the benefit of mainly excellent transfers, good extras and they're cheap, if you like westerns, have a trawl through this thread. Film noir? Look here.

As you get more adventurous, you'll discover movies, stars, directors you never knew existed and the joy is, you'll be enjoying them afresh, for the very first time. Bliss.
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Old 10-03-2005, 23:16   #3
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Favourites of mine include:

The Innocents (still not available on DVD, shame on you Fox)
Wages of Fear
Les Diaboliques
White Heat
A Matter of Life and Death
Key Largo
Ben Hur (1959 version)
The Big Sleep (1946 version)
Rififi

Try not to be put off by any Bank Holiday preconceptions you may have about films such as Ben Hur. They have their reputations for a reason - they're good films!

Good luck finding stuff you like.
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Old 11-03-2005, 01:39   #4
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There is an excellent 4 hour documentary called "A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies" and it's out on DVD. It's an excellent introduction to film history and a very entertaining masterclass on filmmaking. It could serve as an inspiration to search out the films discussed.
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Old 11-03-2005, 08:22   #5
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Not a great disc, but everyone I've shown 12 Angry Men to loved it, and it's dirt cheap if you shop around.
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Old 11-03-2005, 10:55   #6
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When someone comes along, like TonyA, and asks for guidance about which classic films he should see . . . and then someone recommends he watch Scorsese's documentary trawl through Hollywood history . . . I start to wonder, surrounded as I am by masses of film books and magazines, I start to wonder if anyone these days actually reads or even buys films books. I must admit that my own purchasing has diminished substantially (only Lindsay Anderson's Diaries in past 12 months) while I buy DVDs by the yard. Has the era of the movie book passed through the gates of histoy into legend? And what are your favourites - mine would start with Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary (early eds. before he went too pop) and Truffaut's Hitchcock.
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Old 11-03-2005, 11:22   #7
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Well, thanks to you all so far. Some new ideas for me there. In case you're interested, I watched The Adventures of Robin Hood yesterday and was very impressed. Errol Flynn's charm was like nothing I've seen from an actor/character in modern Hollywood cinema; this was a performance with real charisma, a character whom you couldn't take your eyes off. It's made me think very seriously about the Flynn boxset coming soon in R1, just so that I can see how he acted in (presumably) different types of character.

Watch now for the queue of people telling me they hate that film! Lol...

Wendell. Good point, and as someone who until recently managed a bookshop, I'm afraid you are right. There may be "classic" texts on cinema, but these days shops seem to stock the glossy glossy-table style book, rather than anything with any depth.

However, why I asked the question here (which, I might add, was after reading these forums and other web sites) was because I've learnt a lot from reading the opinions on film lovers on these forums . In the past it has made me visit films from more recent times that I had previously ignored. In this instance I find the personal views of people that I know genuinely love cinema, mostly without pretention, far more genuine and rewarding than any book or personally run web site. And I am grateful that people are willing to share their thoughts with people like me!

Last edited by TonyA; 11-03-2005 at 11:25.
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Old 11-03-2005, 11:42   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Armbruster
When someone comes along, like TonyA, and asks for guidance about which classic films he should see . . . and then someone recommends he watch Scorsese's documentary trawl through Hollywood history . . . I start to wonder, surrounded as I am by masses of film books and magazines, I start to wonder if anyone these days actually reads or even buys films books. I must admit that my own purchasing has diminished substantially (only Lindsay Anderson's Diaries in past 12 months) while I buy DVDs by the yard. Has the era of the movie book passed through the gates of histoy into legend? And what are your favourites - mine would start with Kevin Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary (early eds. before he went too pop) and Truffaut's Hitchcock.
"Someone" reads masses of film books. Like for many others, the Truffaut Hitchcock was my first which I read when I was 13. The writer who has probably influenced the way I watch films most is Pauline Kael. I love reading her even when I completely disagree with her opinion and she set my bull**** detector high.

Is there anything wrong with the Scorsese documentary as a general introduction to classic Hollywood filmmaking for someone who's only just watched Casablanca ? It can do something books can't by giving you a taste of the films itself and Scorsese's enthusiasmn is infectuous. His choice often bypasses the obvious for a film less known, but undervalued.

I'd certainly take it over any of David Thomson's drivel, new or old. The Truffaut Hitchcock is a great introduction, but it buys into Hitch's self manufactured myths and can't always be trusted. My favourite writings on the man is the original edition of Robin Wood's Hitchcock essays.

Last edited by Reno; 11-03-2005 at 12:39.
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Old 11-03-2005, 12:20   #9
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I second Reno's recommendation for the Scorsese documentary. If anyone unfamiliar with classic American cinema can watch that and not end up with a list of at least 50 films to see then they are a lost cause.

My favourite writers on film are Pauline Kael, Joseph McBride and Paul Schrader. In particular, although unrelated to this topic, Schrader's piece about his relationship with Kael during the last year of her life is quite beautifully written. I like David Thompson's prose well enough but his opinions are often utterly baffling.
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Old 11-03-2005, 13:24   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reno
I'd certainly take it over any of David Thomson's drivel, new or old. The Truffaut Hitchcock is a great introduction, but it buys into Hitch's self manufactured myths and can't always be trusted. My favourite writings on the man is the original edition of Robin Wood's Hitchcock essays.
I agree with you about the obsequious Truffaut, not the most the critical of Hitch's work but a great read all the same. Wood's book is much more studied and balanced but if you want Grand Guignol (although it is certainly not brief) I would add Donald Spoto's rivetting 'The Dark Side of Genius' to the list - a gloriously vicious alternative to the other two.
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Old 11-03-2005, 13:55   #11
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I didn't really mean to imply any criticism of the Scorsese docu or the recommendation of it. I saw it when it was shown on C4 (?) some years back and thought it was pretty sound with great clips. I am simply wondering if the age of the movie book has passed or is passing, being supplanted by DVD ancilliaries, by discussion fora such as this and so on. I still find Kael a rivetting read but I long ago gave up reading British newspaper critics. Philip French was always my favourite but I gave up reading him and his colleagues a few years ago, maybe because the current film culture (oh that phrase) isn't so interesting at the moment.
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Old 11-03-2005, 16:00   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Person A
I agree with you about the obsequious Truffaut, not the most the critical of Hitch's work but a great read all the same. Wood's book is much more studied and balanced but if you want Grand Guignol (although it is certainly not brief) I would add Donald Spoto's rivetting 'The Dark Side of Genius' to the list - a gloriously vicious alternative to the other two.
Spoto's "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock" is even better and provides insightful analysis on every one of his films. As biographies go the recent A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan is even more comprehensive and possibly more accurate than the Spoto book.


I agree Wendell, there are no British critics worth reading right now and I generally turn to the internet (Salon or Slant) to read reasonably intelligent reviews but good books are still being published. I recently enjoyed the Hitchcock biography mentioned above (though I disagree with his assessment of some of the films), Heaven & Hell to Play With on the making of The Night of the Hunter, Sonntag & Kael analysing the contrasting approaches of the two critics/writers and the excellent From the Atelier Tovar by the Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin.

Here 10 classic recommendations, as I've gone off topic so far:

Pandoras Box (Pabst)
Trouble in Paradise (Lubitch)
Meet Me in St. Louis (Minelli)
Cat People (Torneur)
I Know Where I'm Going (Powell/Pressburger)
The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks)
Johnny Guitar (Ray)
The Night of the Hunter (Laughton)
Vertigo (Hitchcock)

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Old 11-03-2005, 20:12   #13
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Sunrise (Murnau)
Bride of Frankenstein (Whale)
Scarlet Street (Lang)
Notorious (Hitchcock)
Out of The Past (Tourneur)
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (Ford)
On Dangerous Ground (Ray)
Objective Burma (Walsh)
All About Eve (Mankiewicz)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan)
Stalag 17 (Wilder)
The Band Wagon (Minnelli)
Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich)
Rio Bravo (Hawks)
El Cid (Mann)
The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer)

A couple of underrated films to look out for which aren't on DVD but will no doubt turn up at some point - Arthur Penn's "Mickey One" and Nicholas Ray's "Bigger Than Life".
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Old 11-03-2005, 20:17   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reno
and the excellent From the Atelier Tovar by the Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin.
Favourite of mine... Maddin's a pretty fascinating character.

I have to admit, my days of hunting through vintage magazine shops in Soho for old issues of Films & Filming (best British film mag ever, imho) and the like have faded into the ether... similarly, I don't find myself with the time I once had to read much film theory or history anymore...
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Old 12-03-2005, 20:15   #15
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Originally Posted by Bolch
Not a great disc, but everyone I've shown 12 Angry Men to loved it, and it's dirt cheap if you shop around.
Agree with this 100%. If only I could watch this film for the first time again.
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Old 12-03-2005, 20:18   #16
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I'm surprised these haven't been suggested:

On the waterfront
From Here to Eternity
Rebel without a Cause
The Searchers
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Old 15-03-2005, 12:53   #17
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You'll not like them all.

http://www.bfi.org.uk/features/bfi100/

http://www.afi.com/tvevents/100years/movies.aspx

But you'll be busy.

Is life long enough these days? Is it possible to have a truly authorative knowledge of the history of film? As time passes, I think it's becoming more difficult.

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