Marx, Chaplin, and Bogey

March 05, 2005

A couple of times now I have asked the students if they have seen one or another cultural milestone, Casablanca for example. Few have. Heck, I never got around to until last year when La Sheila's rants finally convinced me to watch the thing.

On Tuesday we have a class titled "Karl, not Groucho." I predict that most of them will get the joke in the title, and that almost none of them will have ever seen a Marx Brothers movie.

The week after that is spring break. I am thinking about giving them an unofficial assignment - a recommendation rather than a requirement - that they watch at least one classic movie over the vacation. But what to require. As of right now my list is:

Anything by Buster Keaton
Anything by Chaplin
Anything by the Marx Brothers
Anything with Bogart and Bacall
Anything with Marlene Dietrich
Triumph of the Will (hard to find in video stores for some reason.)

What else should I give them?

Posted by Red Ted at March 5, 2005 08:36 PM | TrackBack

Top Hat (fluff, but such lovely fluff)
His Girl Friday (possibly my favourite Cary Grant film)
Frankenstein (or other early horror)
Double Indemnity
What about some early Hitchcock: The Lady Vanishes, 39 Steps?

Posted by: Sharon at March 6, 2005 07:22 AM

The classics? Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, even St. Elmo's Fire....

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Seriously, Citizen Kane is conspicuous by its absence. Some Like it Hot, so they can see that White Chicks really isn't funny. The Maltese Falcon, so they can see what all the detective shows on TV wish they were.

I'll name a few that I haven't seen myself but know I should have. On the Waterfront, worth listing not only for its inherent value but also for Elia Kazan's trouble with the HUAC. A Raisin in the Sun, which I did not see but did read the play in school. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, practically a must for history or civics. All Quiet on the Western Front, assuming someone won't wrap themselves in the Patriot Act and come after you for suggesting an anti-war movie.

Finally, so I don't lose geek cred, I'll pitch a few SF offerings. The Day the Earth Stood Still, for its picture of society's anxiety over nuclear weapons. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original, of course), as an allegory of the Red Scare. Forbidden Planet, as the precursor to Star Trek, first to show Manifest Destiny taken to the stars, not to mention Shakespear.

Of course, you could just point them here:

and tell them anything from the 60s and back is "classic", on the theory that a classic movie should be at least as old as I am....

...when did Motley Crue become classic rock?

Posted by: Venture at March 7, 2005 02:46 AM


I had been kicking around the idea of asking for one movie made before 1950, and then giving a list of suggestions. I do like the idea of Citizen Kane; I also like the idea of finding films that are touchstones of cultural literacy.

We will see, I don't have to decide until tomorrow morning.

Posted by: Ted K at March 7, 2005 08:26 AM

Here are a couple of my thoughts:

Double Indemnity.
Sunset Boulevard.
Notorious. - a personal favorite
True Grit, maybe?

Posted by: red at March 8, 2005 12:26 PM

Blue Angel! Classic Dietrich. Very disturbing movie.

Posted by: red at March 8, 2005 12:27 PM

"The Wizard Of Oz", or something else starring Garland. "Meet Me in St Louis", "A Star Is Born", or any of the Andy Hardy series. They need to see where the original musical comedy star of the twentieth century did her thing.


Youg Frankenstein
What's Up Doc?
Gone With The Wind
The Women

All landmark films.

Posted by: Alex at March 8, 2005 12:32 PM

In keeping with the current dilemma facing La Sheila.. I'd add Bad Day at Black Rock to the recommendations.. and DEFINITELY add anything with Archie Leach, preferably co-starring Katharine Hepburn, say Bringing Up Baby..

Posted by: peteb at March 8, 2005 12:51 PM

Classics are glorious fun. Here are some to ponder:

- Rebel Without a Cause - To let them know it's always been this way.
- Forbidden Planet - I'll join with Venture here in the comment above; this movie is extraordinary. The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which I just saw big-screen in Boston, holds up beautifully but has a bit of a slow start, and may not be ideal for Die-Hard Kidz.
- Nosferatu - To let them know that the monsters who stay with you for the rest of your life aren't necessarily computer-generated.
- Ivanhoe - To let them know that cheesy and corny can be brilliant, and to demonstrate to another generation that the young "Violet Eyes to Die For" Elizabeth Taylor truly was one of the most beautiful women ever to walk the earth.

Posted by: Linus at March 8, 2005 01:23 PM


42nd Street
All About Eve
Dead End

Posted by: Stevie at March 8, 2005 04:06 PM

"Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe"

Any of the old Buster Crabbe serials show where a lot of great summer movie history originated.

70 years on and they still make you hungry for popcorn.

Posted by: popskull at March 8, 2005 05:51 PM

Metropolis. The original silent classic. Even without spoken dialog it's riveting.

Posted by: Ted at March 8, 2005 09:09 PM

You Can't Take It With You -Capra's wonderful 1939 movie, loaded with stars.

Posted by: Carl V. at March 9, 2005 09:18 AM
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