Great Movies of the Golden Age – Part 11

Posted on 12 Jun 00:00


Human beings are social beings and most seek to be happy. In attaining this happiness, there is a wide array of options to choose from. There is music, computer games, swimming, reading novels, hiking, and watching movies, among other forms of entertainment. The movie industry has grown quickly and has presented us with multitudes of great movies to watch. Below is a few.

1.  The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups)

'The 400 Blows' is a 1959 French drama of the New Wave Movement. It is a literal translation from the French phrase ‘Les Quatre Cents Coups.’ It was filmed in Paris and Honfleur. The leading actors in the film are Claire Maurier, Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Albert Rémy. The writers are Truffaut and Marcel Moussy. The film is about Antoine Doinel, an adolescent. He has a rebellious nature and is misunderstood by his parents and teachers because of this. Of all Truffaut’s work in his home country, the 400 Blows was the most successful. It recorded a 4.1million admission and also won awards and nominations. One such award and nomination is the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 1960.

Plot; Antoine is a young boy in Paris. He steals and skips school. When in school, he lies about his absenteeism and also writes on walls. Parents and teachers don't understand him because of these actions and torture him, causing him to run away from school and home, frequently. His teachers find him plagiarizing Balzac, and he quits school. In planning to escape, he steals his stepdad's typewriter, but he is caught with it. His dad turns him into the police and spends a night in jail. He is eventually sent away to a home for troubled youth.  While playing football, he escapes and runs to the seashore, a place he has always wanted to be. The film ends with Antoine in a freeze-frame.

Cast: the film has seventeen characters. Sometimes Truffaut would include himself and his friends in the background.

Production: the title is adopted after the distributor changed the original title 'Wild Oats' to 'The 400 Blows'. The theme is based on Truffaut's life and his friends. It also exposes the unjust treatment of juveniles in France around the 1950s. The filming locations are various areas in Paris.

2)  Kind Hearts and Coronets

This is a black comedy film shot in 1949. Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, and Alec Guinness are the stars in the movie. The story is loosely based on a novel by Roy Horniman called the 'Autobiography of a Criminal'. The film revolves around Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini. He is the son of a woman disowned by his aristocratic family because she married outside her social class. When his mother dies and is denied burial in the family mausoleum, Louis takes revenge by killing eight of the family members who are ahead of him in the line of succession. The movie is produced by Michael Balcon and directed by Robert Hamer.

Plot; the film starts with Louis awaiting his hanging. His lfe is shown in flashbacks. He has killed eight in order to achieve the dukedom. His father dies when he is born, and Louis is raised by his widowed mother.  His only friends are Sibella and her brother, children of a doctor. The last death convicts andl frees him. He is released when Sibella produces the suicide note of the dead man. The film ends with Louis going out of the prison to meet Sibella and Edith, but to his horror, heremembers that he has left his compromising memoir on the table in the open for anyone to read..

Cast; the film has 27 characters, with Alec Guinness playing nine roles. 

Production; the film was adapted from the 1907 novel, 'The Autobiography of a Criminal.' Few changes were made to the story, such as the name of the main character was changed to Louis. The title was taken from an 1842 poem titled 'Lady Clara Vere de Vere.’ Filming took place in Leeds Castle and Ealing Studios. The themes of the film revolve around social status and sexual repression.

3.  An American in Paris

This is a 1951 American musical comedy. 'An American in Paris' orchestral composition by George Gershwin in 1928 inspires the comedy. The film stars  Leslie Caron, Georges Guétary, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch, and Gene Kelly. The movie has several song interspersions. Such songs include ‘Love is Here to stay,’ ‘S Wonderful,' 'I Got Rhythm,' 'I Will Build Stairway to Paradise,' and 'An American in Paris.' 

Plot: the film is about love and disappointment. Milo (Nina Foch) loves Jerry (Gene Kelly), but the feelings are not mutual. Instead, Jerry feels for Lise (Leslie Caron), who is already attached to Henri (Georges Guétary). Milo supports Jerry's artwork hoping that one day he will love her. Henri and Jerry are friends and are shocked to realize they are interested in the same girl – Lise. When Henri proposes to Lise, she says yes, and the two leave. Later in a performance, Jerry and Milo meet Henry and Lise.  Jerry tells Milo about his feelings for Lise. Henri overhears Jerry and Lise bid each other farewell as they leave. Jerry wishes he had Lise as his and is interrupted by a car horn; Henri is bringing back Lise to Jerry.

Cast; the film has eight main characters and many uncredited roles. 

Production; Alan Jay Lerner wrote the script; Vincente Minnelli directed the comedy and set it in Paris. George Gershwin and his brother orchestrate the music

4.  Rashômon

Rashomon is a Jidaigeki psychological thriller/crime film released in 1950. The leading roles are played by Machiko Kyō, Takashi Shimura, Masayuki Mori, and Toshiro Mifune. Rashômon is among the most successful Japanese films. It got a good reception, winning awards such as the Lions Award in 1951 and the Academy Honorary Award in 1952. In fact, it is termed 'one of the greatest works ever done.' Today's Rashomon effect was adopted its name after the film.

Plot: the film is a rape and murder story of a samurai and his wife, respectively. These vices are conducted by Tajōmaru. Four witnesses relate four completely different accounts of what happened. The witnesses are a woodcutter, a bandit-rapist, a samurai (through a medium), and a samurai's wife. The priest is discouraged, and he loses hope in humanity when he observes the falsehoods. The woodcutter does not want to be involved in the case, a factor that makes the commoner call him 'a bandit calling another bandit.' The woodcutter called the commoner a bandit for taking an amulet and a kimono left behind for a baby that had been forsaken. The woodcutter asks the priest for the baby. The film ends with the woodcutter walking home with the baby, which rebuilds hope towards humanity that the priest had lost.

Cast; the cast list consists of eight people who lived together at the film's production time.

Production; the film and its characters are based upon a short story called 'In a Grove' by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The framing and the title are underpinned by another short story by Akutagawa called ‘Rashômon.’ The film was theatrically released in the USA in 1951 by RKO Radio Pictures with English subtitles.

5.  Strangelove (1964)

This 1964 black comedy film creates satire about the cold war fears induced by nuclear conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union. The movie's starring characters are Slim Pickens, Peter Sellers, Sterling Hayden, and George C. Scott.

 Plot; This film is about decisions paralyzed by cold war fears. General Ripper turns insane while in action. As the tension increases, he cannot stand it anymore and commits suicide. Later, he is discovered by Mandrake. He finds the general's desk blotter and relays the CRM codes to Pentagon. The codes reveal all the bombers, except Kong.  Out of fear, the president recommends that people live in the mines after radiation subsides for repopulation. The ratio should be 10 females to 1 male. Before this is done, a series of explosions start, and the song 'Till We Meet Again' is played while the film ends.

Cast; the film has twelve characters, with Peter Sellers playing three roles.

 Production; the film was shot in the United Kingdom, where Stanley Kubrick directed, produced, and co-wrote it. The movie's storyline is underpinned by a thriller novel called the 'Red Alert' by Peter George. Anthony Harvey edited the play.

6.  The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep is a 1946 American film noir. Part of it remained unpresented in 1945, but after re-scripting, a new version was released in 1946. Starring roles were played by Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Vickers, and Martha Malone.

Plot; the theme of the film revolves around investigation, blackmailing, love and murder. Carmen and Vivian are sisters and daughters of General Sternwood.  Carmen owes a bookseller called Arthur Geiger's gambling debt. It is this debt that Sternwood wants Phillip Marlowe, a private detective, to resolve. Joe Brody is a gambler and blackmails Sternwood and her daughter Vivian. In the process of investigating this case, many misfortunes occur. Owen Taylor, Sternwood's driver, is killed. Regan, Vivian's boyfriend, is also murdered. At some point, Marlowe is almost killed by Canino, a gunman hired by landlord Eddie Mars to find Agnes Geiger. Marlowe finally discerns the truth: it is Mars blackmailing Vivian since Carmen, Vivian's sister, had killed Regan. The film ends with Mars being forced out by Marlowe and being killed by his own men. Marlowe calls the police, informing them that it was Mars who had killed Regan. Vivian is advised to take Carmen for psychiatric care. Owen Taylor's death remains a mystery- did he kill himself, or was he killed by someone?

Cast Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Vickers, and Martha Malone.

Production; the film was adapted from the novel 'The Big Sleep' by Raymond Chandler in 1939. Leigh Brackett, William Faulkner, and Jules Furthman took part in co-writing the screenplay.

7.  Frankenstein

Frankenstein is an American pre-Code science fiction horror film released in 1931. The film has its storyline developed from Peggy Webling’s 1927 play. The Webling’s play is underpinned by Mary Shelley's novel that she produced in 1818 and named 'Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.' The Frankenstein film stars Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae ClarkeEdward Van Sloan, John Boles, and Dwight Frye. This work of art has become popular over time. For instance, in 1991, the US Library of Congress saw that the film was aesthetically and culturally significant and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.


Plot; the film is about a scientist called Henry Frankenstein and his assistant Fritz who make a human from dead bodies. He gets parts from cemeteries or freshly hanged criminals. They connect parts and give life through a perfected electrical device. He sends Fritz to steal a brain from a nearby school lab. Fritz trips and breaks the innocent brain. All he has left is a criminal brain which he gives Henry, who uses it to bring the creature to life. The creature ends up being destructive, strangling Fritz, Maria, and Dr. Waldman. It also knocks Henry and frightens his fiancée Elizabeth. The village sets up to find the Monster. The Monster happens to be inside a windmill which the villagers set ablaze with the Monster trapped inside. Henry weds the love of his life.

Cast; the team consists of twelve characters.

Production; the film was directed and produced by Universal Studios in New York City in 1931.


 Movies and films have formed part of human entertainment over the last two centuries. As far as the early 1930s, we find thrilling films that we still can watch today and enjoy. The Big Sleep, Frankenstein, An American in Paris, Kind Hearts and the Coronets, and Dr. Strangelove are among these breath-taking movies of the Golden Age. In fact, some films were so significant that they formed parts of what we have today. For instance, the Rashômon Effect was named after a movie with the title Rashômon.  Looking for something to watch? Give the great movies of the Golden Age a try.

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