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 (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.
Haven’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 (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.
The 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).
You 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?