10 Classic Films Too Awesome to Miss, part 2

C: And we’re back, with five more top-of-their-game B&W films it would be a shame to miss.  See the first five here.

notorious_posterdarkNotorious (1946), unlike most of the previous films, is a romantic suspense drama.  Starring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it’s shocking that this movie isn’t as well-known as it deserves to be.  Bergman plays Alicia Huberman, daughter of a Nazi sympathizer imprisoned for treason, who is recruited by the U.S. government to infiltrate her father’s friends in Rio de Janeiro; Grant plays her handler.  It’s brilliantly shot, tense, and has one of the greatest endings ever filmed.  The inimitable Claude Rains also has one of his best roles here.

philadelphiastory_posterredHaven’t seen The Philadelphia Story (1940)?  I’ve got six words for you: Katharine Hepburn.  Cary Grant.  Jimmy Stewart.  As if that’s not enough, we also have George Cukor (My Fair Lady, Gaslight, etc.) directing.  Wealthy, chilly Tracy Lord is about to marry her 2nd husband when everything wrong in her life comes down around her ears (propelled by Grant as her ex, Stewart as that old Hollywood favorite – an undercover reporter – and a brilliant supporting cast).  Both touching and acidly clever, this is simply one of the best films ever made.

sabrina_posterSabrina (1954) is the movie that taught me to crack open an egg with one hand.  It’s also a classic most people have heard of but too few have seen.  Audrey Hepburn is luminous as the shy chauffeur’s daughter who goes to Paris hopelessly in love with one wealthy Larrabee brother (William Holden) and comes home to find herself pursued by both.  Humphrey Bogart is creepily old for Audrey (55 to her 25!) and was never handsome, but I still prefer this to watching Harrison Ford romance Julia Ormand.  That ought to say something about this movie’s stellar script, great acting, and overall quality.

shoparound_posterThe Shop Around the Corner (1940), a sometimes-dark comedy about shop workers in Budapest, is an early sample of that romantic comedy staple, a pair who bicker and fight but are really in love – and don’t know it.  But the love plot isn’t really the point here; you rather pity Jimmy Stewart for getting stuck with Margaret Sullavan’s character (not at all as likable as Meg Ryan’s in remake You’ve Got Mail).  Instead it’s the ensemble cast (including Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz himself) who, under Ernest Lubitsch’s inspired direction, carry the show with true feats of comic timing and sentiment (the good kind).

youcan'ttakeitwithyou_posterYou Can’t Take It With You (1938) is a lesser-known masterpiece from director Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life).  While Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur are at their most adorable here (his speech about harnessing the energy of grass is both goofy and oddly prescient), Lionel Barrymore is at the heart of this production as an older man with a simple philosophy: people should do what makes them happy.  He’s collected a bunch of charming misfits all living by this system, but they may lose their home because paying rent and taxes isn’t their forte.  A dotty comedy with a heart of gold.

I’m already thinking of some great ones that, alas, got left off this list.  Anybody else?  What are your favorite film classics?


21 comments on “10 Classic Films Too Awesome to Miss, part 2

  1. otahyoni says:

    Oh, this is a fantastic list. And since I’ve only seen a handful of these (for shame!), I’m off to Netflix to get the rest in my queue. 🙂 Thanks!

  2. thepresidentrix says:

    I was surprised by the number of films on this list *haven’t* seen, but I’m not sure why, when my classical education has been neglected something shocking! Definitely need to put a whole bunch of these on my Watch list!

    It’s a terrible shame that, last I checked, Notorious isn’t even out on DVD. That strikes me as an unforgiveable oversight!

  3. E says:

    I don’t love You Can’t Take It With You quite as much as you do – mostly because I read the brilliant play first, adored it, was thrilled to find a movie version by Frank Capra with Jimmy Stewart (I think Dad bought it for me as a present,actually, knowing how much I loved the play), and was just so let down by everything they changed. I should rewatch it now, since its been a while since I’ve read or seen the play; it probably holds up on its own, but in comparison? Just not as great as it could have been.

    • C says:

      Never read the play, and in a way I’m glad since I have no reason to be disappointed with the movie. I’d love to get the chance to see it performed live sometime, though. And after all this time, hopefully you would enjoy the movie.

      • E says:

        You really ought to read the play – you would love it. Actually, I think we were introduced to it through a filmed stage version on PBS – Great Performances, probably. Either way, I heart Kaufman and Hart.

  4. M says:

    For the record, now that my memory has returned to me, I am deeply disappointed in myself for not remembering one of our all time favorites before this list went up… The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942). Monty Woolley, Ann Sheridan, Jimmy Durante, and the great Bette Davis. C, how did we forget this while researching the list?

  5. chet says:

    I demand that ‘Morons from Outer Space’ be added to this list.


  6. […] such classics as It Happened One Night, Mr Deeds Goes To Town, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and You Can’t Take It With You, will forever be most famous for the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life.  In that, […]

  7. Excellent wordpress post, I will be sure to bookmark this in my Propeller account. Have a good evening.

  8. Nadja says:


    This is a great list! Such wonderful, wonderful movies. There’s only one of them I don’t have, and that’s ‘Midnight’. But if it is great enough to be included on a list with ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (admittedly my favourite movie of all time), ‘Notorious’ (my favourite Hitchcock), ‘It Happened One Night’ and the rest of these amazing classics, then I can’t wait to watch it. And also who cannot love Claudette Colbert? Love her! So on your recommendation I just ordered ‘Midnight’ from Amazon – now I only have to wait till it arrives (hopefully soon!).

    Thanks for the list,

  9. Dee says:

    Hi, I just found your website and love your movie list. Some classic movies I think are great (couldn’t stick to 10) in no particular order are:

    Arsenic and Old Lace
    The Maltese Falcon
    She Done Him Wrong/I’m no Angel (Mae West/Cary Grant)
    Singin in the Rain
    The Manchurian Candidate (original)
    Wuthering Heights
    The Wizard of Oz
    The Bad Seed
    Duck Soup (Marx Brothers)

    • Dee says:

      I got so into my list that I forgot you said B&W classics, LOL! Sorry for including W of Oz and Singing in the Rain.

      • E says:

        And sorry that it look us an entire year to respond to this (I’m sure you’ll get this email and have no idea why it’s arrived) but many of the movies on your list are family favorites as well, particularly Casablanca and Singing in the Rain. A great list, thanks for sharing it!

  10. aussiesmurf says:

    i’ve discovered this site through your Good Wife recaps (I’m only now watching Season 2), My classic B & W movies (not in your list) :

    Casablanca (my favourite movie of all time)
    The Maltese Falcon
    The Big Sleep
    Miracle on 34th Street
    Arsenic and Old Lace
    Here Comes Mr Jordan
    Captain Blood
    Mr Smith Goes to Washington
    City Lights
    Marx Brothers (Night at the Opera / Day at the Races / Duck Soup / Animal Crackers / Horse Feathers
    Bringing Up Baby
    Pat and Mike
    Adam’s Rib

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