Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Must See: Silent Film, 30's & 40's, Noir & Gangster

Several of my students have recently asked me if I have a list of recommended films. I didn't, but it sounded like a great idea so I thought I'd compile one. I immediately became consumed with doubt and confusion. How many films should be on the list? Should I limit the number of films from any one filmmaker? Is the list supposed to be my favorite films, the films I think are most historically significant, the best written films or simply the best films?

I decided I was overthinking it.

What I am going to do from time to time over the next several weeks is posts lists of films under various headings relating to subject matter, time period or type of film. I am calling these my "Must See" lists.

I will use a code to indicate whether the film made the list because of Historical Significance (HS), Artistic Filmmaking (AF) or because they are a Personal Favorite (PF). I haven't set any arbitrary number of films for each list, but I am trying to break them down into groups of between five and fifteen. And I am trying to pick the best representative samples for each heading so many fine films will not make the cut. I figure this approach will help anyone inclined to follow my recommendations prioritize their viewing.

And a couple of disclaimers: My knowledge of films is good but not encyclopedic. And my memory isn't perfect. So I may very well leave deserving films off the lists due to oversight. And I reserve the right to update the lists later. In other words, these are my lists and that's all they are.

So with all that out of the way, here are the first three lists I've compiled:

The General (written by Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman, adaptation by Al Boasberg & Charles Smith) – HS, PF, AF
The Kid (written by Charles Chaplin) – HS, PF, AF
Nosferatu (written by Henrik Galeen) – HS, AF
The Birth of a Nation (written by D.W. Griffith & Frank E. Woods) – HS
Battleship Potemkin (script by N.F. Agadzhanova-Shutko) – HS, AF

Notorious (written by Ben Hecht) – PF, AF
Rebecca (screenplay by Philip MacDonald, Michael Hogan, Robert E. Sherwoon and Joan Harrison) – PF, AF
The Thin Man (screenplay by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich) – PF
Citizen Kane (screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles) – HS, AF
Bringing Up Baby (story by Hagar Wilde, screenplay by Dudley Nichols & Hagar Wilde) – PF, HS
Casablanca (screenplay by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch) – PF, AF, HS
Gone with the Wind (screenplay by Margaret Mitchell) – HS
The Philadelphia Story (screenplay by Donald Ogden Steward) – HS, PF, AF
The Wizard of Oz (screenplay by Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, adaptation by Noel Langley) – HS, PF, AF

The Third Man (written by Graham Greene) – PF, HS, AF
The Maltese Falcon (screenplay by John Huston) – HS, PF, AF
Key Largo (written by Richard Brooks and John Huston) – PF, AF
Little Caesar (screenplay by Francis Edwards Faragoh) – HS
Chinatown (written by Robert Towne) – HS, AF
Body Heat (written by Lawrence Kasdan) – PF
The Godfather (screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola) – PF, AF, HS
The Godfather II (screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola) – PF, AF, HS
Goodfellas (screenplay by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese) – PF, AF

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