Thursday, February 18, 2010

60 Years Ago: My Favorite Movies of 1950

Here's something you might not know about me (or care to know, really) but inspired by this man I have top ten lists of films for every year all the way back to 1930. Wild, huh? Weird and sort of obsessive, sure. But as I have demonstrated before due to say, holes in those years or what not to every list has ten films on it. Whats my point? Not too much really, I just thought for the sake of my own personal sense of completism, I would go back and finish off my list of favorite films "on the tens" as the radio DJ's like to say. I have to admit, for the very first part of 2010, I haven't seen a lot thats new, whether it be new to me or just new in general. Hopefully, with the release of Shutter Island (I first wrote "Shitter Island" by accident, which I am sure would be a much different movie. When they make it, the Farrellys can owe me for the idea.) I have to admit thats the first new release of 2010 that I have been really excited about. It was supposed to open in October of 2009 but kept getting pushed back. And now, finally, its ready to open, and on top of it early reviews are really good. I still kind of love getting excited about things like that. Much to Tina's sometimes chagrin.

Now, back to the year 1950. As you might note, there is a lot of Jimmy Stewart on here. What can I say, both Martin Scorsese and really enjoy what has been termed his "dark period", made of darker westerns.

Anyway, here we go:

10) Broken Arrow
I guess you could say this was a sort-of precursor to The Searchers. Sort Of. Jimmy Stewart plays Tom Jeffords, a man who is slowly starting to change his mind about the Apaches that his settlers have been warring with for ten years after saving the life of a young boy. He makes himself an ambassador to try to end the fighting, and has to come to terms with how deep the hatred and mistrust is on both sides of the fence.

9) The Asphalt Jungle
Let's all just agree that Sterling Hayden is awesome. This is a nice companion to Kubrick's The Killing, which is also about an elaborate heist. John Huston's noir about a heist that starts to fall apart (as they tend to do) due to bad luck and double-crosses. Awesome stuff.

8) In a Lonely Place
Oddly enough, I have just been reading about The Ghost Writer the new Polanski movie also coming out this weekend, and it shares a certain similarity with In A Lonely Place. Mostly the idea of writers (or screenwriters) getting caught up in a mystery because of the subjects they are trying to cover. I'm gonna go out on an uninformed limb and say that In A Lonely Place does it better. Also, I wonder what was up with down and out screenwriters as characters in 1950? Nice little twist at the end too.

7) Winchester '73
Here's Mr. Stewart again. A neat little Western where Stewart plays Lin McAdam, who wins a marksmanship contest, and the titular rifle is his prize. The runner-up immediately steals it . The film then not only follows McAdam's pursuit but also the rifle itself as it switches hands, until there is a final showdown on a mountain over the prize.

6) Night and The City
A tragic little noir from Jules Dassin. This one is set in London and follows Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) as a conman and his scheme with a wrestler. Fabian tries to con everyone around him, figuring this is his greatest get-rich-quick-scheme, but ends up getting tripped by his own machinations. Good stuff all around.

5) Stage Fright
A nice, twisty little Hitchcock thriller. Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich are awesome here. Features a little twist on the common Hitchcock idea of a man trying to prove his innocence against impossible odds. The question up to the end is he actually innocent in this instance?

4) Rashomon
Kurosawa's masterpiece about a murder and how it is viewed/recalled from different points of view. An idea that would be oft-imitated in later years. Toshiro Miifune, as usual, is great here.

3) All About Eve
Hey, Marilyn Monroe pops up here again. Bette Davis, of course, gives a for-the-ages performance here. The dialogue from Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also directed, just dazzles here.

2) Sunset Boulevard
Oh man, William Holden is so great. Here is the hack screenwriter who comes in to write a screenplay for an aging silent film star, an amazing Gloria Swanson here, who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. So odd, sad, and dark. Norma Desmond (Swanson) becoming a somewhat insane recluse, and her former director and husband is now her butler...just more bitter brilliance from director and writer, Billy Wilder. This is some devastating ruminations on how fame can become toxic and, well, somewhat insane.

1) Harvey
Ah, we end up on a lighter note, at least on the surface, from the previous entry. Jimmy Stewart owns as Elwood P. Dowd who might be an alcoholic and might not be all there, but is also a gentle, pleasant man. Who happens to have an invisible 6-foot rabbit that happens to be his best friend. Stewart is so good here, in a movie which is actually ends up being a bit darker than one might think, even though Dowd is unflappable in trying to bring his own sense of happiness in the world. Just really good stuff all around.


  1. Thanks for the shout out. 1950 was a dark year.

    I haven't seen quite a few of these. My top ten:

    All About Eve
    Born Yesterday
    King Solomon's Mines
    Rio Grande
    The Rocking Horse Winner
    Summer Stock
    Stage Fright
    Sunset Boulevard

  2. On the flipside, I haven't seen "Summer Stock", "King Solomon's Mines", or "The Rocking Horse Winner" either. "Born Yesterday" almost made my top ten, its so good, but just missed it.

    It really was a pretty dark year. I guess I didn't realize until I was actually listing them here.