One of the highlights of growing up in a suburb of NYC was to get to see a movie at the local Boulevard Theater. I got to see Disney animated features, of course, and on Saturday mornings there was the Lone Ranger and other serials.
The Boulevard was a local theater and often didn’t get first-run movies for a year or two after they opened in Times Square.
When I got a little older I remember the great comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner” starring Monte Wooley, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Jimmy Durante.
I now know that was in 1942 and I spread my wings to the bigger RKO theater on a bus ride to neighboring Flushing.
That was the first and one of the only movies I ever saw more than once.
So, here without further ado are the movies that had the most affect on me, not always the best but the ones that stirred my emotions for reasons I’m not sure I fully understood.
Maybe they’ll spark a few of your memories, too.
Lost Horizon (1937) – A thought-provoking drama that was stimulating and very entertaining. Ronald Coleman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton and Thomas Mitchell scrambling to board the last plane out of a chaotic Chinese airfield. As the plane flies, they realize they’re going in the wrong direction. They end up flying to a new ideal location, Shangri-La. It had action, drama, mystery, suspense and fantasy. It was a truly exciting experience for a young film viewer.
Gunga Din (1939) – A Rudyard Kipling poem, Gunga Din is a fitting framework for the story of a crude cockney soldier’s tribute to a naïve Indian water boy who remains at his job even after being mortally wounded. An inspiring story capably played by Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Sam Jaffe and Joan Fontaine. Really inspiring!
Casablanca (1942) – This is the captivating story of a war-time adventure, romance and intrigue. It’s Humphrey Bogart as a world-weary freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in intriguing Casablanca and Ingrid Bergman who make the decision to leave the city of mysteries at the start of WWII. It was intense and gripping!
Laura (1944) – The film starts with the discovery that Laura (Gene Tierney) has been murdered. Tough NYC detective (Dana Andrews) methodically questions the chief suspects. It was a haunting, intriguing experience with lots of surprises.
The Third Man (1949) – Another gem from Orson Welles who arrives in post-war Vienna to visit his old friend who he discovers was killed in a street accident and wanted by the police as black marketer. Also stars one of my early favorites, Joseph Cotten.
Shane (1953) – The Wyoming range war is the focus of this western classic. Alan Ladd is a mysterious drifter who rides into a tiny homestead community and accepts the hospitality of a farm family. The farmer (Van Heflin) is impressed by the way Shane handles himself when facing down the land baron although he has trouble placing his complete trust in the stranger. Wife Marion (Jean Arthur) is attracted to Shane in spite of herself and son, Joey, flat out idolizes Shane. Also stars Jack Palance.
On The Waterfront (1954) – This classic story of mob control on the NY/NJ docks. Mob boss (Lee J. Cobb) controls the waterfront, with an iron fist. The authorities know he’s been responsible for a number of murders, but no witnesses will come forward. Washed up boxer, a young Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets Eva Marie Saint and gets the courage to speak up. Also starred Rod Steiger as a crooked union lawyer. It was electrifying.
The Graduate (1967) – “Plastics” was the cultural touchstone of the 1960’s as it seeped into the California upper-middle class. Totally adrift in the summer after college graduation, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) would rather float in the family pool than follow any adult advice about his future. He drifts along until he accepts the invitation of Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) to have an affair. Summer fun goes fine until Ben meets Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross), and then his pursuit gets really rollicking. Super entertaining!
If my memory holds out, next week we’ll tackle the last part of my list.