Great Movies of the Golden Age - Part 5

Posted on 1 May 00:00

 The golden age of Hollywood is also known as the classical Hollywood, old Hollywood, or the classical era. Golden Age Hollywood refers to the period between the 1910s and the 1960s. During this era, production houses developed classical filmmaking techniques that are still in use today.

1.  Vertigo (1958)

'Vertigo' is a psychological thriller based on the novel “D’entre les morts” published in 1954 by Boileau-Narcejac. The name of the novel means “From among the Dead.” The plot is based on the life of a former police detective, John Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart). He is forced to resign from the police force because of the trauma he suffered that caused him to develop acrophobia (extreme fear of heights) and vertigo (a false sense of movement).

Scottie is hired by a close friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) to spy on his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) who was behaving strangely. Gavin tells Scottie that his wife’s mental state was abnormal which could put her at risk. Scottie reluctantly accepts the job and follows Madeleine to a flower shop where she buys a bouquet. She heads to the Mission San Francisco de Asis to visit the grave of Charlotte Valdes.

She proceeds to the Legion Museum where she gazes at the portrait of Mrs. Valdes. However, when Scottie tries to locate her at the museum, he discovers that she is missing. Alfred Hitchcock produced and directed the movie that received recognition from the American Film Institute. T

2.  Stagecoach (1939)

'Stagecoach' is a Western whose plot is adapted from the novel “The Stage to Lordsburg” written by Ernest Haycox in 1937. The plot is based on experiences of strangers riding on a stagecoach through dangerous Apache territory.

The group consists of a prostitute who had been kicked out by the “Law and Order League.” An alcoholic called Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell), a pregnant woman by the name Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt), who is traveling to rejoin her husband, and a whisky salesman by the name Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek).

Doc Boone takes charge of the group while inebriated. The stagecoach driver, Buck, looks for his shotgun guard Marshal Curley, he is told that he is away searching for a fugitive. Meanwhile, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) breaks out of prison after getting the news that his brother and father have been murdered by Luke Plummer. Buck informs Curley that Ringo is traveling to Lordsburg. Curley knew that Ringo swore to revenge and he follows him as a guard.  Eventually Ringo is caught by Curley, and Ringo becomes another passenger on the already cramped stagecoach.

John Ford directed the movie that was nominated for several awards and ended up winning two. The Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actor and the Best Music (Scoring).

3.  Ben-Hur (1959)

'Ben-Hur' a religious epic whose plot revolves around a character called Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) who is a wealthy Jewish prince and merchant living in Jerusalem. He lives with his mother, Miriam (Martha Scott), and sister Tirzah (Cathy O’Donnell). A loyal slave to the family, merchant Simonides visits the family together with his daughter, Esther (Haya Harareet). Judah and Ester see each other for the first time since childhood. They fall instantly in love, but Ester was already engaged to someone else.

Judah’s childhood friend, Messala (Stephen Boyd) returns as the commander of the Fortress of Antonia after spending several years in Jerusalem. He believes in the glory of the Roman Empire and its power. On the contrary, Judah is committed to his faith and securing freedom for the Jewish people. The difference manifests as tension between the two friends, and consequently, the friendship breaks.

William Wyler directed the movie that was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won 11 of them. The film received Academy Awards for the Best Director, the Best Motion Picture-Drama, and the Best Supporting Actor-Motion Picture among others. 

4.  Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

'Mutiny on the Bounty' is a drama that takes place in Portsmouth, England in 1718. The movie opens with a gang breaking into a bar and forcing all the men to join the sailing crew. The ship is called the HMS Bounty and the captain is  William Bligh (Charles Laughton).

The crew is told that captain Bligh is a brutal tyrant who harshly punishes crew members who lack discipline or try to escape. The ship leaves England for a voyage into the Pacific Ocean. The ship’s lieutenant, Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) is a compassionate man who does not like the manner in which Bligh treats the crew.

Roger Byam (Franchot Tone) is a midshipman who is torn between his friendship with Christian and his loyalty to Captain Bligh.

Frank Lloyd directed the movie. It won the Academy Award for the Best Picture. The movie was also a huge success at the box office and was the highest-grossing film in 1935.

5.  Key Largo (1948)

'Key Largo' is a drama whose plot revolves around the life of an army veteran named Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart). He arrives in Key Largo, Florida, and checks in hotel Largo. Frank is in Florida visiting the family of George Temple, who was a friend that served with him in the military but was killed during the Italian campaign. He meets Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), George's widow, and father James (Lionel Barrymore), the hotel owner.

Franks arrives at the hotel when the winter vacation is ending and a hurricane is approaching. The guests include Boorish Curly (Thomas Gomez), Dapper Toots (Harry Lewis), servant Angel (Dan Seymour), and stoned-faced Ralph (William Haade). Gaye Dawn (Claire Trevor), aging, but attractive alcoholic was also staying at the hotel. The visitors tell Frank they are in Florida for a fishing expedition. Unfortunately for all, the hotel is taken over by mobsters.

John Huston directed the movie that won the Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actress that went to Claire Trevor. The movie was released on the Blue-ray version and DVD in 2016.

6.  The Petrified Forest (1936)

'The Petrified Forest' is a drama whose plot is adapted from a Broadway Drama by the same name produced by Robert E. Sherwood. The movie is set during the great depression era. The main character in the movie Alan Squire (Leslie Howard) is a failed British writer who has lost hope and penniless. He wanders into a roadside diner that is run by Jason Maple (Porter Hall) together with his daughter Gabriel (Bette Davis), and Gramp (Charley Grapewin), Jason’s father.

Gramp entertains anyone who will listen to his old stories of adventure when he was a young handsome serviceman.

Archies Mayo directed the movie that was adapted on radio and television.

7.  Notorious (1946)

'Notorious' is a spy film whose plot revolves around the life of the daughter of a Nazi spy, Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) who gets recruited by a government agent named T.R Devlin (Cary Grant). Her mission is to infiltrate an organization run by Nazis after World War II. Alicia initially refuses to cooperate with the police, but Devlin plays a recording of a fight between her and her father. In the recording, Alicia professes her love of America.

In time, Delvin and Alicia fall in love in Rio de Janeiro while waiting for the details of her assignment. However, Delvin is reluctant to proceed with the affair because he knows of Alicia’s promiscuous past. Delvin then receives a message that Alicia needs to seduce Alex Sabastian (Claude Rains), a member of the Nazi group and a father’s friend. Delvin wants to say no to the plan but fails in convincing his superior.

Alfred Hitchcock produced and directed the movie that became the selection for the Cannes Film Festival in 1946. The movie was also a box office success making over $4.85 million in theatrical rentals in the U.S.


Film narratives started in the mid-1890s when moviemakers sought to harness the power of live theatre. Most of the filmmakers during the golden age era started as directors in the early 19th century. Movie buffs love films made during the golden age era because of the captivating storylines and theatrical melodramas.

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