6 Films–6 Decades Blogathon for National Classic Movie Day #NationalClassicMovieDay @classicfilmtvcafe

Happy National Classic Movie Day! Reel Charlie’s participating in this year’s Blogathon for National Classic Movie Day. Here’s the description from creator Classic Film TV Cafe,

To celebrate National Classic Movie Day on May 16th, we are hosting the 6 Films–6 Decades Blogathon. Per its title, each participating blogger is invited to list one favorite film from each decade from the 1920s through the 1970s. (If you prefer, you could also list one film per decade from the 1930s through the 1980s). Our goal is to highlight the incredible movies that were made during cinema’s classic era.

Below I post 6 Reel Charlie reviews of films from each decade – I choose the 1930’s to the 1980’s.

Stage Door (1937)
Edna Ferber’s adaptation of the stage play she wrote with George S. Kaufman won Best Picture from the NY Film Critics Circle and was nominated for four Oscars. Stage Door is the kind of old film (1937 is pretty old at this point in the game) that has you marvel over the dialogue. You somehow get it in your head that snappy dialogue was invented with your generation. Then you watch Stage Door and can’t believe the string of one-liners that come out of the mouths of Ginger Rogers, Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Anne Miller, and of course Eve Arden. This film is classic comfort food. I enjoy it more with each viewing. Perfect delivery. Things haven’t changed all that much in 85 years. Young people still come to New York to try to make it on Broadway. They still nearly starve to death hoping to strike it big. And some even imagine they can sleep their way to the top. It’s especially fun seeing Lucille Ball pre I Love Lucy as well as Eve Arden with a live white cat around her neck throughout the film. And of course watching Katherine Hepburn try to pretend she can’t act is just hysterical. All the girls are here and they are laugh out loud funny! 5 out of 5 for this perennial classic. Stage Door is a must-see. If you’ve never seen an old film or haven’t watched a classic in a while, treat yourself to Stage Door.

Rebecca (1940)
First time reviewing Hitchcock‘s classic, Rebecca here on Reel Charlie. Of course I’ve seen Rebecca before just not since beginning the blog. Rebecca is a classic on so many levels. It was Hitch’s first American film made in 1940 for David O. Selznick. Second, it was an eerie Gothic thriller based on the famous Daphne du Maurier novel. Third it stars two powerhouse actors, Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. And finally it has that famous scene where Mrs. Danvers strokes the fur coat, displays the women’s underwear and shows off the sheer negligee. Very steamy, this scene made the Celluloid Closet as a blatantly veiled display of lesbian longing by the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers to the deceased Rebecca. Gothic, camp, classic, and a little bit insane all rolled up into one, Hitchcock’s black and white masterpiece Rebecca stands strong after nearly 75 years. 5 out of 5.

A Place in the Sun (1951)
George Stevens’ adaptation of An American Tragedy became the 1951 Oscar winning film, A Place in the Sun. Starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters, Stevens’ film follows the modest rise and fall of a nephew to a highly successful industrialist. Clift plays George Eastman, a young man who ends up leading a double life, getting first involved with Alice Tripp, Winters character, a working class girl until he meets and falls madly in love with socialite Angela Vickers played effervescently by Taylor. The love triangle comes to a head one Labor Day at the Eastmans’ lake house. The story’s peppered with larger than life issues such as work ethic, honor, love, and betrayal, and even though the nearly 70 year-old film uses exaggerated melodrama to propel the story, the three leads continue to captivate guiding the film as it seeks a contemporary audience. I adore A Place in the Sun. The chemistry between Taylor and Clift feels real, reflecting their strong friendship. Thrilled to own this on Blu-ray thanks to Imprint from Australia who created an all-region version which can be played in North American players. 5 out of 5 for this gorgeous classic.

Victim (1961)
In 1961, U.K. director Basil Dearden did something remarkable. He made a big budget film starring Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Sims about homosexuality. The title of the film was Victim. Ironically instead of portraying the lead character as a victim, Deardon’s film was the first to portray a gay character as anything other than negative. Bogarde’s Melville Farr is married to a woman, a rising lawyer in London who decides to go after the blackmailer of gay men. The twist is that Farr is gay himself, closeted. He has been with a young man whom he mistakes for being a blackmailer, ignores, and then realizes he must avenge. Victim is so ahead of its time. Of course there are minor characters who spew the hatred we still hear today. But Dearden populated the film with many characters who are more concerned with Farr as a human being than with dragging him down because of his sexuality. Remember this is 1961. An amazing glimpse into the future provided by screenwriters Janet Green and John McCormick who create a world that begins to look a little like the one we live in today. Farr’s life may change drastically, he may lose his social standing and his career. But his decision to live in truth lifts a huge burden off his shoulders making his relationships more genuine and offering him hope for a more honest and authentic life. A lesson as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago. 5 out of 5 for Basil Dearden’s classic film Victim.

Julia (1977)
There exist a handful of films I watch so many times with such intensity I imagine the next scene a moment before it arrives on the screen. Such is my experience with Julia, the 1977 adaptation of the Lillian Hellman story, Pentimento based on her childhood friend, who left a life of wealth behind to fight fascism during World War II. There also exists controversy over whether Julia even existed. Not condoning the stealing of a story if that’s what happened. I do love the film so much, it not only makes my top 100 films’ list, it’s easily got a spot in my top 10 and yes probably even top 5 list of favorite films of all-time.

What is it about this film that captures my attention viewing after viewing. Is it the romance of Julia and Lily’s life-long friendship? Is it the marvel of watching a young woman become a successful writer? Is it her relationship with another successful writer? Is it the life and death stories that happened to millions before and during the war? Is it the suspense of Lily smuggling money into Berlin for Julia to use to save hundreds of people from Hitler? Is it the longing for Lily to follow Julia’s life story through the worst of circumstances? Is it director Fred Zimmerman’s penultimate film? Is it the heartbreaking score from Georges Delerue or the glorious cinematography by Douglas Slocombe? Is it because it’s Meryl Streep’s first film role? Or is it the delicate dance between Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave who should have done 100 more films together? Yes. Yes to each question. Yes to all questions.

Julia resonates so deeply with me, when I was younger I didn’t know anyone who felt the same way about the film. In the early 1990’s, I saw a performance piece by John Kelly. I can’t remember the show’s name, but at one point, Kelly starts yelling, “Mr. Johan, Mr. Johan… hello Mr. Johan.” I still get chills thinking of the moment where the art I was experiencing connected with this film I love so very much. Julia continues to be all that and more. It’s quiet and respectful and full of commitment, adoration, lifelong friendship, and the loss from hatred and war. Julia remains a nuanced work of art. 5 out of 5.

Victor Victoria (1982)
The celebratory and light years ahead of its time, Victor Victoria. Director Blake Edwards and star Julie Andrews made cinematic and musical history with a madcap story on gender, sexuality and the power of love. Based in Paris during the 1920’s, Julie’s an out of work opera singer who befriends a cabaret performer – the incredible Robert Preston in his late career defining performance as Toddy. Together Andrews and Preston create an illusion and a superstar – Julie’s Victoria is a woman who plays a man who dresses up like a woman. Confused yet? So is every character in the film. Victor Victoria is a laugh out loud, sing out loud triumph of love and happiness. Supporting actors James Garner and Alex Karras run the gamut of masculinity and Leslie Ann Warren’s turn as bombshell Norma is nothing short of genius. Victor Victoria holds up beautifully over 30 years after its release. It’s still timely, still relevant, still hysterically funny and still gorgeously scored with incredible performances to sing and dance along to. Must-see and classic barely do this film justice. If you’ve never seen Victor Victoria, you are in for a treat. If it’s been years, consider adding it to the top of your list of films to watch this year.

Favorite line: Robert Preston’s Toddy: “There’s nothing more inconvenient than an old queen with a head cold.” This post is dedicated to my friend Pat B. who probably still has as much of this film memorized as I do. She and I roared over Victor Victoria when we were in college together.

Special thanks to Classic Film and TV Cafe for inspiring me with these blogathons.
Explore these decades on Reel Charlie:

6 Responses to “6 Films–6 Decades Blogathon for National Classic Movie Day #NationalClassicMovieDay @classicfilmtvcafe”

  1. flickchick1953 Says:

    Oooh – I adore your choices. Robert Preston’s performance in Victor/Victoria is my #1 Oscar snub of all time.


  2. Rick Says:

    Victim is a superb drama and the less one knows about the plot, the better. It starts as a mystery, but, as you wrote, it evolves into so much more. Bogarde is excellent as the protagonist and Sylvia Simms is equally compelling in the role of his wife. I agree that Victor/Victoria holds up amazingly well. I recently watched The Bird Cage, which has dated and lacks the zip of Edwards’ film.


  3. The Lady Eve Says:

    I like your list! I’ve seen all of the films but Victim, which sounds fascinating, and I also chose A Place in the Sun on my own list. A nice diverse selection of classics.


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