Category Archives: 52 Before 62

52 Before 62 — #12 Topper (1937)

Topper Lobby Card 2.jpgDirected by Norman Z. Mcleod

Screenplay by Jack Jevne, Eric Hatch and Eddie Moran, from the novel of the same name by Thorne Smith

Starring Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Roland Young, and Billie Burke

The first Tim Burton movie I ever saw was Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, which they showed us in school in 1986 as a reward at the end of the school year.  I was in the fifth grade.  This movie was actually a little bit controversial for some people in the school, owing to Dee Snider and Twisted Sister making an appearance.  Not that Twisted Sister did anything all that controversial themselves, just that in the mid-80s it was still very-early days in the era of men dressing overtly feminine.  There were worries some parents would raise a stink, which sort of speaks to what a different time it was where I came from in the mid-80s.  Either way, in the end we got to see the movie and as far as I know, nobody turned to a life of crime for having seen Dee Snider in a corset and fishnet stockings.

While Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was the first Tim Burton movie I ever saw, it really wasn’t demonstrably a “Tim Burton” movie in the way we know them now, as much as it was an extension of the Pee Wee Herman brand.  Sure, Burton might have brought a certain skewed perspective to the movie, but it was never really his.  And how could it be, with the stars name right there in the title? Continue reading


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52 Before 62 — #11 The Informer (1935)

The Informer poster.jpgDirected by John Ford

Screenplay by Dudley Nichols, based upon the novel of the same name by Liam O’Flaherty

Starring Victor McLaglen, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, and Preston Foster

During the Communist witch-hunt, the rabidly anti-communist Cecil B. DeMille wanted to force the Director’s Guild to require its members to basically investigate the communist leanings of everybody who worked on their films.  This came about when allegations were made that Director Guild of America president, Joseph L. Mankiewicz had communist sympathies.  So, at a meeting of the guild, DeMille and his boys tried to run this bullshit through.  Well, after the meeting had been going a while, and after DeMille’s goons spent a good long time talking shit about Mankiewicz, John Ford decided he’d had enough and took the floor to defend Mankiewicz, famously saying:

“My name’s John Ford. I make Westerns. I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who knows more about what the American public wants than Cecil B. DeMille — and he certainly knows how to give it to them. But I don’t like you, C.B. I don’t like what you stand for, and I don’t like what you’ve been saying here tonight.”

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52 Before 62 — #10 King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

Kingsolomonsmines1950.jpgDirected by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton

Screenplay by Helen Deutsch, from the novel by H. Rider Haggard

Starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Richard Carlson, Kimursi, Siriaque, and Hugo Haas

My overriding theory when it comes to film criticism is to try to find things I like in every film I see.  To be a champion for them.  If you follow me on, and you probably don’t, then you’d know I put this theory into action by giving most everything 4/5 stars.  Basically, it’s my equivalent of the “Gentleman’s C” and forms the baseline I work from.  Others may put their baseline at 2.5/5 or 3/5, and I suppose as long as everybody is grading fairly along their own chosen scale, then the movies are treated honestly, even if one man’s 3/5 is another man’s 4/5.

Why do I go with 4/5?  Because most movies are adequately-good, in one way or another, and to give anything less of a rating implies problems that just aren’t there.  The fact is, most films don’t have real problems or critical flaws.  Sure, most could be better, but at the same time, they could be a whole lot worse. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 — #9 Holiday (1938)

Holiday poster.jpgDirected by George Cukor

Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart and Sidney Buchman, from the play of the same name by Phillip Barry

Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres, Henry Kolker, Edward Everett Horton and Henry Daniell

Hollywood loves a remake.  Just last year we had A Star is Born, which remade a 1974 film, which itself remade a 1954 film, which itself remade a 1937 film, and which itself basically remade another film, What Price Hollywood? (1932).[1]  If there’s one thing we all know from Hollywood, it’s there’s no profitable idea they won’t try to wring a few more dollars out of if given half a chance. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #8 The Far Country (1954)

Image result for the far countryDirected by Anthony Mann

Written by Borden Chase

Starring Jimmy Stewart, Walter Brennan, John McIntire, Ruth Roman, and Corinne Calvet

One of the best documentaries of the last few years was Dawson City: Frozen in Time.  That movie told the story of about 125 years in the life of Dawson City, a remote town in the Canadian north.  Dawson City’s claim to fame was that the small backwoods outpost experienced a population explosion in the Yukon Gold Rush of 1896-1899, only to see the same population fall dramatically in the immediate aftermath of that gold rush.  What’s important is that, like any other town, Dawson City liked its movies. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #7  Meet John Doe (1941)

Poster - Meet John Doe 01.jpgDirected by Frank Capra

Screenplay by Robert Riskin, from the story by Richard Connell

Starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, and Walter Brennan

Frank Capra was inarguably the most successful director in the early years of the Oscars, at least as far as winning awards were concerned.  He won Best Director three times,[1] the first man or woman to win three awards total, was nominated for Best Director three other times,[2] and saw two of his films win Best Picture.  On top of this he led the propaganda unit of the U.S. Military during World War II, making films in the Why We Fight series, winning an Oscar for Best Feature Documentary for his troubles[3], bringing his career haul to four.  But more important than critical acclaim, and the appreciation of his peers, his films tended to be financially successful, which is the only metric Hollywood ever put any stock in. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #6 Seven Men From Now (1962)[1]

Poster of the movie Seven Men from Now.jpgDirected by Budd Boetticher

Story and Screenplay by Burt Kennedy

Starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russel, Lee Marvin, and Walter Reid

After his wife is killed in the robbery of a Wells Fargo gold shipment, the prideful former-sheriff Ben Stride (Randolph Scott) gives chase of the thieves, driven to revenge mostly by his own guilt at his wife working as a Wells Fargo clerk in the first place.  One-by-one Stride kills the men, meeting a wife and husband travelling to California (Gail Russel and Walter Reed) along the way, and also running into an ex-con Stride once put in jail (Lee Marvin).  Together they make their way along the trail, each with a different agenda than the other, bound only by a common destination.  In the end, Stride has his revenge, returns the gold to Wells Fargo, and puts aside his pride to take the job as a deputy to the man who replaced him as sheriff.

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52 Before 62 #5 – Titanic (1953)

Titanic 1953 film.jpgDirected by Jean Negulesco

Written by Charles Brackett, Richard L. Breen and Walter Reisch

Starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Wagner, Audrey Dalton, Harper Carter, Thelma Ritter, Brian Ahern, and Richard Basehart

The R.M.S. Titanic has a rather interesting cinematic history.  Direct depictions of its sinking appeared almost as soon as the ship went down, with Saved from the Titanic, starring an actual survivor, released on May 14, 1912, less than a month after the ship sank.  To be fair, the film was only ten minutes long, so compared to other, epic-length film versions of the vents, this one could be done in a flash.  Besides, they didn’t do releases of film in 1912 the same way they do today, where they go out on 3000+ screens.  No, a release in those days could conceivably be just one print, in one theater. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – # 4 Call Northside 777 (1948)

Callnorthside777.jpgDirected by Henry Hathaway

Screenplay by Leonard Hoffman and Quentin Reynolds

Starring James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, and Helen Walker

Jimmy Stewart had a career.  Started out in the 1930s as a sort of everyman in light comedies and Frank Capra films, with a natural charm accentuated by gangliness and height.  Played a couple romantic leads, an idealist or two, won an Oscar, then took five years off to do his part in World War II.  When he returns, he suddenly seems to favor darker material – It’s a Wonderful Life, Rope, and Winchester 73.  Now and then he gives a glimpse of his old ways, popping up in Harvey, bio-pics like The Glenn Miller Story, and the ultra-frivolous, The Greatest Show on Earth, but no matter what else he did, it’s that cynical streak of films he took with after the war that defines Jimmy Stewart for us today. Continue reading

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52 Before 62 – #3 The Horse’s Mouth (1958)

The Horses Mouth poster US.jpgDirected by Ronal Neame

Screenplay by Alec Guinness, from the novel of the same name by Joyce Cary

Starring Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Renee Houston, Mike Morgan, Robert Coote

Who doesn’t love an artist?  Everybody does, at least in some sense.  Why else would we listen to music, and watch movies, and read books, if we didn’t love an artist.  Or, at least love their art, which is arguably an extension of the artist.  Which means I guess I have a little love for Mel Gibson being a shitbag, because I’m genuinely okay about his movies.

But, boy do we love movies about artists.  Or, at least people love making movies about artists.  On just visual artists alone – painters and sculptors – there’s Rembrandt, Lust for Life, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Basquiat, F For Fake, Pollock, Crumb, Frida, Big Eyes, Girl with the Pearl Earring, and more.  Many more. Continue reading

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