The Big Sleep (1946)
Private detective Philip Marlowe becomes embroiled in a complex case of blackmail and murder.
The Big Sleep was originally produced as a follow-up to the successful teaming of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the latter making her film debut, in To Have and Have Not (1944). When studio head Jack Warner asked producer-director Howard Hawks to suggest a follow-up, he immediately thought of Raymond Chandler’s first novel about flinty, honorable private eye Philip Marlowe. Warner had actually considered the story earlier, but like most in Hollywood, thought Chandler’s work unsuitable because of censorship problems. In The Big Sleep alone, he would have to convince the Production Code Administration to pass a story involving pornography, nymphomania, homosexuality and police corruption. In addition, the story’s ending suggested that Marlowe had gotten away with murder.
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Brief Encounter (1945)
A woman is tempted to cheat on her husband after meeting a stranger in a railway station. An emotional love affair ensues.
Brief Encounter was the film that first established David Lean as one of the world’s great directors, with a sense of character and romantic fatalism that would be found in such later hits as Great Expectations (1946), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). It was also Lean’s first film to use trains and train stations, which would become a trademark of his work, appearing in such films as Summertime (1955), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago.
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Dark Victory (1939)
A socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and chooses to live out her final days with dignity.
Dark Victory was a three-hanky hit. Filmgoers and critics alike knew their emotions were being manipulated, but so expertly and touchingly that they couldn’t help but cheer. Both Davis’ performance and Max Steiner’s score were nominated for Academy Awards. As for the Davis-Brent romance, it endured through three more films onscreen, and for over a year off screen. Davis later admitted that she had wanted to marry Brent, but he didn’t think it would work. But they maintained an enduring affection and respect for each other. “Of the men I didn’t marry,” Davis would say, “the dearest was George Brent.”
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Repeat Performance (1947)
A noir crime-thriller, science-fiction story, and love-gone-wrong tale in one.
Film noir meets The Twilight Zone in this rarity, which was almost impossible to find until the Film Noir Foundation restored it. After fighting to get out of her Warner Bros. contract, Joan Leslie discovered that Jack Warner had put her on a semi-blacklist so that no major studio would hire her. So, Leslie went to Poverty Row studio Eagle-Lion for a distinct change of pace. In Repeat Performance, she stars as a temperamental actress who kills her philandering husband on New Years Eve.
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Never Fear (1949)
A dancer in the prime of her career, newly engaged to her partner and choreographer, learns she’s contracted polio.
One of the greatest treasures held by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is this 1949 drama that marked actress Ida Lupino’s official directing debut (she had earlier taken over direction of the same year’s Not Wanted, which she had co-written and co-produced for her and husband Collier Young’s Emerald Productions). Like most of the films she made with Young, it deals with social issues from a woman’s perspective.
Brian’s Song (1971)
Based on the real-life story of Brian Piccolo (James Caan), a Wake Forest University football player stricken with terminal cancer after turning pro, and his friendship with Chicago Bears running back teammate Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams), who supports him through the struggle.
This adaptation of the true story of the friendship between Chicago Bears players Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo has been called the greatest football film ever made. It ranks among the top-rated made-for-TV-movies though it was also shown theatrically in some US markets, and has even been called one of the best “guy cry” films.
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One Potato, Two Potato (1964)
The story of an interracial marriage in the turbulent 1960s.
In 1964, Larry Peerce directed a low-budget independent production about the social impact of an interracial marriage in America’s Heartland. Titled One Potato, Two Potato, after the children’s counting game, the film was released the same year that Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, a network of Civil Rights groups launched a program to register voters in Mississippi, and Martin Luther King won the Nobel Prize. It was also the year that three Civil Rights volunteers, James E. Cheney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were kidnapped and brutally murdered by the Klan in Mississippi. The film’s storyline is powerful not only for progressively depicting an interracial marriage but also for showing the effect of the relationship on a society who is really only as progressive as its most backward-thinking members.
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Star Burt Lancaster spent time in the circus as an acrobat and performed nearly all the trapeze stunts himself.
Internationally famous as the first continental sex symbol to emerge from post-war European cinema, Gina Lollobrigida was not only glamorous and seductive but an accomplished actress as well, and Trapeze (1956) is probably the best demonstration of her various attributes. Cast as a scheming acrobat who comes between a famous trapeze star (Burt Lancaster) and his assistant-in-training (Tony Curtis), she practically steals the film from her co-stars, who were both in their physical prime and at the height of their popularity.
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Los tallos amargos (1956)
Cinematographer Ricardo Younis studied under Gregg Toland who shot Citizen Kane. American Cinematographer magazine named the movie one of the best photographed films of all time.
Film noir heads south of the border in this little-seen Argentine film about a reporter (Carlos Cores) caught up in fraud with a Hungarian expatriate (Vassili Lambrinos). Their bogus journalism correspondence school is soon making them rich, but Corres begins to question his partner’s motives and the future of the scam.
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The Long Goodbye (1973)
Elliott Gould’s Detective Philip Marlowe helps a friend who is accused of murdering his wife.
The Long Goodbye deconstructs the myth of the American private eye as the urban knight on the corrupt city and turns the hardboiled romanticism of Raymond Chandler’s novel inside out. It stars a rumpled, slovenly Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe, far from the ideal imagined by Raymond Chandler for his saint of the city–“Hey, it’s okay by me” is the mumbled philosophy of this rumpled private investigator in the 1970s Los Angeles–but ideal for Altman’s idiosyncratic adaptation.
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