Great Movies of the Golden Age - Part 2

Posted on 10 Apr 00:00

Classic movies are considered relics of the past, but they a more than that. These classic movies from the Golden Ages are some of the finest films ever to grace the theatre screens. From mastermind directors, producers, actors and writers these films are wistful memories for some. Whether you are looking to re-watch these films or see them for the first time; we have made the perfect list for movie buffs.

1.  Bell Book and Candle (1958)

Bell, Book, and Candle is a comedy-drama romance whose plot centers on the life of Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak). She lives in Greenwich Village and owns a rare African art store, and secretly practices witchcraft. Gillian is bored with her routine life and distracts herself by taking a keen interest in her neighbor Shepherd Henderson (James Stewart), a publisher. Shepherd comes home to find Gillian’s aunt, Queenie (Elsa Lanchester), in his apartment.

Shepherd asks Queenie to leave his apartment. But, before she does, she casts a spell on his telephone. This causes him visit Gillian when he needs to use a phone. The two discuss the bestselling book on witchcraft called Magic in Mexico. After going through Shepherd’s letters, Queenie tells Gillian he is engaged. Nevertheless, she encourages her to use magic to pursue him.

Richard Quine directed the movie based on a successful Broadway play done by John Van Druten in 1950. The film received Academy Award nominations in two categories that included the Best Art Direction and the Best Costume Design. The movie was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for the Best Motion Picture-Comedy. 


2. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

The Best Years of Our Lives is a drama whose plot is based on three veterans returning from serving in the Second World War. The three veterans, captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews), naval officer Homer Parrish (Walter Baldwin), and an infantry sergeant AI Stephenson (Fredric March) live in a fictional mid-western town called Boone City.

Before joining the military, Fred was a soda trader who married Marie Derry (Virginia Mayo) before going on a mission. AI was a family man and banker living with his wife Millie Stephenson (Myrna Loy), his grown daughter Peggy Stephenson (Teresa Mayo), and teenage son Rob (Michael Hall). Homer is a former high school star athlete living with his parents and sister. Homer’s arms are amputated during the war and he comes back home with mechanical hook prostheses.

The three veterans face problems functioning in post-war society. For example, Homer struggles to adjust to his family and girlfriend Wilma because of his disability. AI has a drinking problem which causes conflict with his family and business associates.

William Wyler directed the movie and it received nominations for several awards including Academy Awards for the Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor.


3.  Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is a drama with a plot centered on a mansion called Xanadu, which is part of a huge palatial estate in Florida. Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) is on his deathbed in the mansion. While holding a snow globe, he says the word “Rosebud” and dies. The globe he was holding slips from his hand and breaks on the floor. During the burial ceremony, an obituary narrating the life of Kane is read.

Kane was a very successful newspaper publisher and industrialist. His death is publicized around the world through news channels. One of the producers gives a reporter Jerry Thompson (William Alland) the task to find out the meaning of the word “Rosebud.” Jerry goes to interview Kane’s friends and associates. He tries to talk to his wife Susan Alexander who owns a nightclub and is an alcoholic. But, she refuses to talk to him.

Jerry turns to the private archives owned by a deceased banker named Walter Parks Thatcher (George Coulouris). He finds a memoir on the rise and decline of Kane’s fortune written by Thatcher.

Orson Welles produced and directed the movie based on the real life of American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The film won an Academy Award for the Best Original Screenplay, and is today, considered a masterpiece.


4.  The Birth of a Nation (1915)

The film was originally called The Clansman before becoming The Birth of a Nation. The plot is divided into two. The first part ends with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The first part revolves around two families compared in the film. One family is that of an abolitionist and U.S Representative Austin Stoneman (Lilian Gish). He lives with his daughters and two sons. The second family is that of Dr. Cameron who lives with his wife, two daughters, and three sons.

Phil (Elmer Clifton), the firstborn son of Stoneman falls in love with Margret Cameron (Miriam Cooper) when visiting the Cameron estate in South Carolina. Ben Cameron, his younger brother meanwhile admires the picture of Elsie Stoneman (Lillian Gish). The youngest Stoneman son and two Cameron sons are killed in combat. The confederate soldiers rescue the Cameron women.

The second part of the film is based on the reconstruction era telling the story of Stoneman and his apprentice Silas Lynch (George Siegmann). Lynch is a psychopathic mulatto who goes to South Carolina to oversee the implementation of reconstruction policies. Stoneman is elected governor in a fraudulent election where black people are shown stuffing the ballot as white people are denied the right to vote.

D.W Griffith directed the movie. In 1992, the U.S Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.


5.  Cleopatra (1963)

Cleopatra is a historical drama.  It tells the story of Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) during his visit to Egypt. Caesar traveled to Egypt with the pretext that he was going to assist the young Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (Richard O’Sullivan) and his sister Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) to execute their will. Cleopatra succeeded in convincing Caesar to help seize the Kingdom from her younger brother.

Caesar controls Egypt and sentences Pothinus (Gregoire Aslan) to death for attempting to assassinate Cleopatra. Ptolemy is banished to the eastern desert where he and his small army face danger from the Mithridates. Meanwhile, Cleopatra is crowned as the Queen of Egypt and she has grandiose thoughts of ruling the world together with Caesar.  

Caesar and Cleopatra marry and have a son Caesarion whom he accepts publicly. This becomes a problem in Egypt and Rome. Caesar is made emperor for life and he invites Cleopatra to Rome to celebrate in a lavish ceremony. However, the Senate is divided when Caesar announces that he wants to be made King of Rome for life.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed the film. It won the National Board of Review Awards for the Best Actor and Laurel Awards for the Top Roadshow. The film was nominated for several awards and won a number.


6.  Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia is an epic historical drama and a British production based on the life of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole). The plot is divided into two parts. The first part opens with Lawrence being killed in a motorcycle accident. His memorial service is held at St. Paul’s Cathedral where a reporter tries to gain insight into the life of Lawrence.

The storyline then shifts to World War I. The deceased Lawrence was a British Army lieutenant who stood out for his education and brashness. Lawrence is sent to check on Prince Faisal (Alec Guinness) in his war against the Turks. Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains) sends him against the objection of General Murray (Donald Wolfit).

In the second part, Lawrence launches guerrilla warfare along with Prince Faisal by bombing trains and harassing every Turk he comes across. His actions are publicized by an American war correspondent, Jackson Bentley (Arthur Kennedy).  Lawrence becomes famous.

David Lean directed the movie that was produced by Sam Spiegel. The movie won seven Academy Awards that included the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay, and the Best Cinematography among others. The film was nominated and won several other awards including the British Academy Awards for the Best British Film, Best Foreign Actor, and the Best British Actor among others.


7.  On the Waterfront (1954)

On the Waterfront is a crime drama film whose plot is based on the life of a well-connected mob boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). He brags about his iron fist control over Waterfront, the Waterfront Crime Commission, and the police. He is linked to several murders, but nobody is willing to testify against him.

Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), a dockworker is a boxer. His brother Charley (Rod Steiger), Friendly’s right-hand man, tells him to lose his next boxing match in order that Friendly wins some money by betting against him.

Eliza Kazan directed the film written by Budd Schulberg. The movie won several Academy Awards that include the Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and the Best Supporting Actress among others. The film became available on DVDs in 2001.


Conclusion

Classic movies from Hollywood’s golden age cannot be compared to any other because of the manner they challenged mainstream social and political beliefs. Characters from golden age movies are among the most memorable in cinematic history. One of the most striking traits of golden age movies is the perfect balance between nostalgia and entertainment. 


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