Notes on Classic Films

Notorious (1946)

In high school, my brother took a film history course, and the rest of the family ended up doing most of his “homework” with him. I’ve always been kind of wary of classic films because they so often feature surprise sexism and/or racism, plus the different acting style used in the 30-50s isn’t always my cup of tea. But his assigned viewing list actually ended up introducing us to a lot of classic movies that we liked a lot and might otherwise have never tried, so it ended up being a fun semester for all of us, and we started adding more classic movies to our movie nights from then on.

Unfortunately, however, I haven’t seen most of these movies for 10-15 years, so I don’t remember most of them well enough to do a full review, but here are some notes based on what I do remember:

All About Eve


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I didn't know much about this film before watching it, but ended up absolutely loving it. My memory of exactly why is fading at this point, though I do remember that the script was fantastic.
An Affair To Remember


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I don't remember it very well, but don't remember being that impressed
Arsenic and Old Lace


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Hilarious madcap comedy starring Cary Grant as a put-upon fellow who discovers his spinster aunts have started poisoning old men at tea. Enjoyed this one a lot!
Casablanca


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This film is famous as a great romance, but to be quite honest, I thought the romance was by far the least memorable part of the film. The complicated relationship between Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains was much more fun. Aside from that, the film had fantastic dialogue, suspense, great music, and more. It's easy to see why it's such a beloved film. We enjoyed it immensely.
Citizen Kane


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I can see why it's so often named one of the best movies ever made, but didn't like it that much myself
Dial M For Murder


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I confuse this film with Sorry, Wrong Number below and don't remember it very well
Double Indemnity


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I remember liking this film about a murderous wife. Having loved The Shaggy Dog as a kid, I also remember being shocked by how well Fred MacMurray played a crook.
Gaslight (1944)


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A genuinely creepy psychological thriller that has given its name to a psychological term describing a type of mental abuse in which the abuser tries to make the victim question his or her sanity. (Though not usually as elaborate as depicted in the film, "gaslighting" is actually a relatively common practice, especially by sociopaths and narcissists.) It was also my first introduction to Ingrid Bergman, who's probably my favorite of the female classic film stars, and has some funny work by the young Angela Lansbury in her screen debut. I've also seen the 1940 version, but don't remember it as well.
Harvey


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Meh
High Noon


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I'm not a big Western fan in general (unless written by William Goldman), so I had low expectations going into this film, but ended up really enjoying it. Like Rope below, it plays out in real time, which is a very suspenseful narrative technique when done well.
It Happened One Night


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Didn't Like
It's a Wonderful Life


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I know this is so popular that a lot of people watch it every year, but I remember being fairly meh about it
Laura


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Don't remember it very well - have been meaning to rewatch it
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington


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As a fellow idealist, loved it
North By Northwest


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Didn't like this classic Cary Grant thriller
Notorious


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Another great Ingrid Bergman thriller, this one with Cary Grant (one of my favorite leading men of the era) and Claude Rains (great character actor). Bergman plays the "notorious" daughter of a Nazi spy, who's recruited by Grant to infiltrate a group of former Nazis who escaped to South America after the war.
Pride & Prejudice


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A strange adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel that has the women in 1840s dresses and makes major changes to the plot.
Psycho


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I can see why it's considered such an iconic film, but it wasn't really my cup of tea
Rear Window


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Kind of meh for me
Rebecca


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Pretty good adaptation of one of my favorite novels
Rope


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An unusual and suspenseful film about a pair of college students who murder a guy for the thrill of it. Unlike most films, it plays out in real time, and it was one of the first films to use this narrative technique, which is still rare today.
Some Like It Hot


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Somehow, I went into this movie knowing almost nothing about it except that it had Marilyn Monroe in it, so I was in for a pretty pleasant surprise when it turned out to be an absolutely hilarious film about a couple male musicians who disguise themselves as women to hide from the mob.
Sorry, Wrong Number


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I remember enjoying this film noir about a woman who becomes increasingly convinced her husband is trying to kill her.
Sunset Boulevard


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Loved this film, great script!
Suspicion


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Don't remember it very well
The 39 Steps


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Decent thriller
The African Queen


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I think I fell asleep watching this one
The Apartment


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Remember really enjoying this one. It's another that had Fred MacMurray playing against type as a creep, and as in Double Indemnity, he's shockingly good at it.
The Man Who Knew Too Much


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Don't remember very well
The Philadelphia Story


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Didn't like
The Trouble With Harry


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I don't remember this film very well, aside from the fact that it involved multiple exhumations and reburials of a corpse, but remember finding it unexpectedly hilarious
To Catch a Thief


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Didn't like this one very much
To Kill a Mockingbird


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Pretty good adaptation with a great performance by Gregory Peck
Vertigo


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Didn't like
You Can't Take It With You


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I remember enjoying this madcap comedy about a girl from an eccentric family with little regard for money who falls in love with her wealthy boss's son

May Or May Not Have Watched

And should re/watch to try and remember:

What are your favorite classic films?

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