Top Ten Films From the Golden Era

Words by Greg Bailey


The Philadelphia Story 1940 (two Oscars): Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and James Stewart star in a comedy where a Philadelphian socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn) learns who she really when her ex husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and tabloid spy journalist Macaulay Connor (Stewart) show up just before her remarriage.

The treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948 (four Oscars): Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt appear in this amazing adventure set in the west. Two men Dobbs (Bogart) and Howard (Huston) are in need of some luck and convince an old gray prospector to help them look for gold in theSierraMadreMountains. Though finding the gold is the first hurdle in a series of many; bandits, the elements and greed itself set out to jeopardize their mission.

Gone with the Wind 1938 (eight Oscars): Vivien Leigh plays Scarlett O’Hara a calculating woman that is having an affair with a charming rogue Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) to a backdrop of Civil War and reconstruction in the American South. Absolute classic.

North by Northwest 1959 (three Oscar nominations): Hitchcock directs this mystery adventure where Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) an advertising executive from New York is believed to be a spy by foreign operatives. He has to find a way to survive while being chased across the United States by the misidentifying gang of spies along and the American Government themselves, while being helped by a mysterious beautiful blonde.

Vertigo 1958 (two Oscar nominations):  Hitchcock strikes again with an exciting crime mystery where a detective from San Francisco; John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart)  who suffers from a fear of heights, is asked by an old college friend to watch over his wife for fear she is losing her sanity. Though doubtful Scottie agrees after he sees his friends beautiful wife and it doesn’t take long for the investigation to evolve into an obsession.

Sunset Boulevard 1950 (three Oscars): Billy Wilder directs and this gripping drama of a unstable faded silent-film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) who currently lives in a crumbling Hollywood mansion with her butler Max, who used to be her director and husband. Dreaming of a comeback she befriends a small time screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) who becomes her lover and helps her write a screenplay. Things start to go change when Joe falls in love with an ambitious young writer Betty Schaefer and Norma’s jealousy starts to affect her greatly.

Wizard of Oz 1939 (two Oscars):  Victor Fleming directs the L. Frank Baum stories that have become the fantasy adventure classic we should all be familiar with. This film has bought to life a range of unforgettable and continuously emulated characters. In this story Judy Garland plays Dorothy Gale who is swept away with her dog Toto to a magical land via a tornado. She find herself on the quest to find the wizard so he can send her home and fulfill the goals of her new friends; a brain, heart and courage. Timeless classic.

The Great Dictator 1940 (five Oscar nominations):  Charlie Chaplin satirical view on the story of Nazi Germany. Adenoid Hynkel rises to take control of the Nation of Tomainia twenty years after the loss of WWI. Hynkel seeks a pure Aryan Tomainia rid of all jews, these events are unbeknown to Jewish-Tomainian barber who has since been recovering for injuries sustained in the First World War and suffers memory loss regarding the fighting that took part. This barber happens to be an exact double for the dictator himself, and an interesting turn of events occur after the barber is exposed to the inhumanities the Jews are subject to. An amazingly moving film, a must see if not for the beautiful monolog near the end.

Modern Times 1936: Charlie Chaplin’s final silent film, though the use of sound affects are used throughout the feature. If anyone else tried to produce this film it would just be a sequence of comedy sketches held together with a weak plot line. But this is Mr. Chaplin; and his apparent genius is evident in the time surpassing message of the struggle those in poverty face. The situations themselves are played out beautifully and brilliantly as only Chaplin could. So much volume of events played out in this film is breath taking. This is a cynical satire about modern technology as well as a farewell to the silent era. This is pure Chaplin on form!

Casablanca 1942 (three Oscars): If you asked someone to name a classic; there is a high possibility this would jump off of their tongue first. One of the best known classics where Humphrey Bogart plays a former American freedom fighter Rick Blaine who runs the most popular nightspot in Casablanca during WWII. He runs into his former love Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) who left him inParis, bitter feelings dissipate after he finds out the reason she left but things never go according to plan. This is an amazing classic that has everything in it; fantastic villains; love; excitement and an amazing plot. Astounding cast, brilliant dialogue, remarkable story. Definitive classic.


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