Here are my answers to the rest of your classic film questions. Thank you so much to everyone who sent me questions. I hope that you will all enjoy reading my answers. I’ve really enjoyed writing my answers. It’s been a lot of fun.
4StarFilmFan asks me to share some classic era directors who I feel are underrated.
I have two directors from my own country of Britain who I want to spotlight. The first one is Thorold Dickinson. It is unreal how seriously underrated this guy is.
He made very few films during his career. He has become someone who is not very well known by film fans today.
He did make two films which were destined to become his masterpieces though. The first of his two masterpieces is the fantasy-horror film Queen Of Spades(1949), this is a film which came so very close to being lost forever, and it features one of Anton Walbrook’s most powerful film performances.
The second film is the original British version of Gaslight(1940). I like the remake, but this earlier version has more menace and a much more unsettling atmosphere. Anton Walbrook oozes malevolence as the husband who subtly sends his wife mad. The photography, mood, period detail, and the magnificent performances found in both of these two films are outstanding. Dickinson is a director whose name deserves to be on the lips of classic film fans of today.
The second underrated director is Robert Hamer. Classic film fans will probably all have seen(or at least heard of)his most well known film, the black comedy Kind Hearts And Coronets, which is notable for having Alec Guinness play multiple characters. Hamer did so much more than just direct this film though.
Hamer often moved between film genres. During his career he dabbled in comedy, horror, drama and Noir. I like him because every film/genre he was involved with felt as though that was all he had ever been working on. I never find myself wondering why he picked a certain project, this is because the overall quality of his films was always so good, and I always get the sense that he was comfortable and confident with whatever he was working on at the time.
Dead Of Night, It Always Rains On Sunday and Pink String And Sealing Wax.Screenshots by me.
He directed three real gems. The first one is Dead Of Night(1945), which is one of the best horror anthology films of all time. The second one is Pink String And Sealing Wax(1946) , which is a very underrated period piece featuring one of Googie Withers greatest performances. The third is the gripping British Noir It Always Rains On Sunday( 1947).
Palewriter asks what my favourite classic film biographies and autobiographies are.
Furious Love: The Love Affair Of Elizabeth And Richard by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger.
Ever, Dirk: The Bogarde Letters edited by John Coldstream.
Ava Gardner by Lee Server.
Spencer Tracy by James Curtis.
I’m not much of a fan of autobiographies, but I do like Loitering With Intent by Peter O’Toole and What’s It All About? by Michael Caine. I also love Bring On The Empty Horses by David Niven.
Canterbury Tale asks my opinion of British cinema in the 1930’s.
I don’t consider it to be our strongest decade for film. I think that we didn’t really get going as a film industry until the 1940’s. However, having said that, there are a few gems to be found in the 1930’s.
A few British films from this decade that I recommend watching are The Spy In Black(1939), The Lady Vanishes(1938), Borderline(1930), Death At Broadcasting House(1934), Pygmalion(1938), The 39 Steps(1935) and Fire Over England(1937).
Thoughts All Sorts asks what classic era Westerns I like.
I love so many Westerns, but I love the psychological westerns directed by Anthony Mann the most. These films show the emotional/psychological toll that life out West took on the people who lived there.
These films are also among some of the darkest and most brutal Westerns ever filmed. Films such as Man Of The West, The Naked Spur and The Man From Laramie. I also love many of the Randolph Scott films including Ride Lonesome, Commanche Station and Seven Men From Now.
True Grit, The Searchers, The Man With No Name Trilogy, Once Upon A Time In The West, Yellow Sky, The Train Robbers and El Dorado are all favourites.
DB Movies Blog asks me what my favourite foreign language film is.
It’s way too hard to just narrow it down to one. So here are my top five favourites from the classic era. Ikiru, Charulata, La Belle Et Le Bete, Rashomon and La Strada.
Charulata, Ikiru, La Strada, Rashomon and La Belle Et Le Bete. Screenshots by me.
My favourites from the modern era are House Of Flying Daggers, Priceless, My Best Friend and The Devil’s Backbone.
Alex Raphael asks me to name my favourite performance by Robert Mitchum.
That would have to be a tie between Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and Cape Fear.
In Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, Robert is sincere, awkward, decent, tender and honest. He plays a man who we like and sympathise with. His performance here is the complete opposite of the cynical, cool and tough characters who he became so well known for playing.
In Cape Fear he is completely terrifying. I think he is even scarier than Robert DeNiro in the remake, because he often seems so normal and his performance isn’t over the top like DeNiro’s is. Robert Mitchum’s version of Max Cady knows just how far he can harass and push Gregory Peck’s character before the law can get involved. Robert captures all the things that make people like Cady(there are plenty of people like him out there)so frightening and unsettling.
Silver Screen Classics asks which classic actor I would interview if given the chance. He asks me to list five questions that I would ask them.
Buster Keaton. He is someone who fascinates me. I would love to have met him and spoken to him about film and his approach to it. I would have asked him the following questions.
1.Do you prefer arranging, setting up, and performing your stunts? Or do you prefer setting up and performing your comedy sequences? Which do you prefer and why?
2. What do you think about the fact that film will allow you and your work to be watched, enjoyed and discussed decades,possibly centuries, after you have made your films?
3. Which of your feature films and shorts are you most proud of and why?
4. What do you feel when you watch yourself up there on that big screen?
5. What is the riskiest stunt that you yourself have ever been involved in? What is the riskiest stunt that you have helped to set up?
Vinnieh asks which classic actresses I really like.
I have so many favourites. There are two who I not only like, but who I admire a great deal too. Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn.Both Ava and Audrey were not afraid to be themselves.
Ava and Audrey. Screenshots by me.
What you saw was what you got with both of these ladies. Ava told it like it was, she was down to earth, generous, fun, open and a real free spirit. Audrey was kind, gracious, down to earth and so classy. Both women lived life on their own terms. Neither one behaved or dressed how others thought they should.
I also think that neither of them was changed much by being famous, they would both still happily associate with ordinary people, crewmembers etc. They didn’t become divas who thought they were better than others because they were famous. They both stayed true to themselves, and I for one love them both for it.
Vinnieh asks whether or not I think classic films were classier in their depiction of certain things than modern films are.
That’s an interesting question. I think many were, but there are so many Silent, Pre-Code and Noir films that contain content which still has the ability to shock or raise eyebrows when viewed today. I think that classic era directors were much better at insinuating violence or sexual content than modern directors are. Many Noir films from the 1940’s have suggestive dialogue and sexy scenes which are somehow more shocking than a fully nude sex scene would be.
There are also many violent scenes to be found in classic era films, these scenes are capable of shocking you and making you squirm, but these scenes don’t become nearly as graphic and drawn out as similar scenes would be in modern films. I think that’s a good thing because there comes a point where such scenes become sadistic, and they reach a point where it seems like the director is just wallowing in the disgusting and horrible imagery they are filming.
I think that graphic depictions of violence and injury have their place in modern war films because that content helps the story be more realistic in my opinion. Most scenes of graphic violence and sex really don’t add anything to the majority of films and series of the modern era. Sometimes I think that it is best to leave these things to the imagination of the audience, or to depict these scenes on screen in a less graphic way.
Movie Rob asks my opinion on The Oscars and Best Picture winners.
I’m not a fan of the Oscars at all. I have never seen the point of the ceremony to be honest. Taste in film is subjective, as all art is, the trouble is that when the Academy or the critics call something excellent or terrible, those labels seem to stick to the films or performances in question forever and I think that is so wrong. Audiences will like and hate what they want to, all the rest is just nonsense.
There are so many films made each year around the world, how can you even begin to narrow those down to a handful and then proclaim one to be the best? It’s ridiculous.
Occasionally the Academy Awards will praise a particular film or performance and I will agree with them, but mostly I don’t agree with the awards given out. Some Best Picture Award Winners that I don’t have a problem with winning are Gone With The Wind, All Quiet On The Western Front, Lawrence Of Arabia, All About Eve, Gandhi and The Godfather(part 1 and 2).
Mike’s Take On The Movies asks me what my favourite classic Western film is.
The Searchers(1956). It is a film that never fails to leave an impact and make me eager to see it again. It has so many layers, you can interpret characters and events within it in so many different ways.It is one of the most complex and dark westerns ever made.
It still intrigues me, even though I have watched it so many times. An endless cycle of love, hate, revenge, violence and hope. It looks stunning and beautiful visually, and it features unforgettable performances from the whole cast. You can read my full review here.
Alex Raphael asks me if there is any classic film that I wish had gotten a sequel.
The Wizard Of Oz. It didn’t really require it, but there are so many other adventures and stories that could have been experienced by Dorothy in the land of Oz.
This could easily have become a film series(or at least a second film)with Dorothy returning to that land(be it by dream or by another way)to have further adventures with The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and The Lion.
Thanks again for your questions. 🙂