Saturday, June 11, 2011

1950, It was a Very Good Year

I was born in 1950, so I thought it would be good to check out which great movies were released that year.  I know you can look up the movies by year in IMDb, but I wasn't certain exactly how. 

In IMDb each movie title has the year of release, and that number is a link to the movies made that year.  All I had to do was find a 1950 movie and click on the year link.  Henry Fonda was a big star in the middle of the last century, so I entered his name.  A scroll down his filmography to 1950 and...he had no releases that year!

I did eventually figure it out, and the list is impressive.  I was born in a great movie year!  1950 was a year of change, not only in the movies, but in America.  The war was over for five years, and all the new families were booming babies.  The suburbs were a new phenomenon, created by William Levitt and his Levittowns. 

My family moved from Philadelphia to the suburbs in 1953.  We have 16mm silent home movies that my grandfather shot.  As a child, I still remember the new neighborhood with no trees.  As I grew up, so did the flora.  My wife and I were just talking about how, during the summer, we would wait for the Good Humor ice cream truck to come by.  Of course, I didn't know her then.  We both miss the old experiences.

Back to the movies. IMDb lists 1,667 titles for the year 1950, and some of them are television.  If you list the movies by box office gross, Cinderella was the big winner at $34.1M.  There is no denying that it was a great movie, carrying on the Disney tradition of excellent animation, all hand drawn.

My guess is that the rest are less than accurate on the box office take.  Annie Get Your Gun, starring Betty Hutton (1921 - 2007) was next at $8M.  I'll stick with the 1934 Barbara Stanwick version, but Hutton's did receive a better rating from IMDb viewers.

Then came Destination Moon with $5M gross at the box office.  This was the first Sci-Fi movie that attempted realism and mostly accurate science.  This one starred John Archer (1915 - 1999), Warner Anderson (1911 - 1976) and Tom Powers (1890 1955).  Three names that to me say Bit Actors.  Maybe we'll take a closer look at them in a future post.

Fancy Pants with Bob Hope came in with $2.6M, and All About Eve starring Bette Davis shows only $10,200 at the box office?  That can't be correct.  Keep in mind that these numbers probably came from posters, such as myself.  I doubt that IMDb has any way to check everything that is posted, nor should they be responsible for inaccuracies.

Re-sorting by the IMDb Moviemeter brings up some choice 1950 movies.  Sunset Blvd. is the #1 rated film on IMDb for that year.  "I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille."  Probably the most famous Gloria Swanson line ever spake.

Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracey and Liz Taylor is a perennial favorite, as are The Asphalt Jungle, Treasure Island (the Disney release), Rio Grande (John Wayne and John Ford, together again), Cheaper by the Dozen with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, Winchester '73 my favorite James Stewart western, Stage Fright with Marlene Dietrich and Alfred Hitchcock, Born Yesterday a great Judy Holliday flick, and The Gunfighter with Gregory Peck.  I have written about many of these films and their stars and Bit Actors.

1950 is definitely a year of great films.  But then again, most years have great films.  But I was born in this one!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nigel Bruce

Let's take a quick look at Nigel Bruce (1895 - 1953) today.  No need for introductions to classic film fans, Bruce IS Dr. Watson in the popular Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone (1892 - 1967).

Bruce was actually born in Mexico, while his father was working there.  Royal blood flows (flowed) in his veins, and he was probably not acting very much in many of his roles, just being himself. 

Bruce started acting in films in a Mae Marsh (1894 - 1968) silent called Flames of Passion (1922).  It was a very small role, but he kept at it.  A few more silents, and a good bit of stage work, and he starts moving up the cast list in the 1930s. 

Look for him in the 1934 classic, Treasure Island, starring Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper.  He then plays royalty (The Prince of Wales, no less) in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) starring Leslie Howard.

Bruce works with Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), and the same year with Errol Flynn in The Charge of the Light Brigade

In 1939, his two most famous films were released by Twentieth Century Fox, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  He set the standard for Dr. Watson, just as Rathbone did for Holmes.  Sadly, the other twelve Holmes/Watson films, made for Universal in the 1940s, didn't maintain the quality.  They are still worth watching, though, and if you haven't seen them all, the mysteries are a lot of fun to see for the very first time.

Bruce and Rathbone also made Crazy House (1943) and Frenchman's Creek (1944) together.  I haven't seen either.

Bruce was in four films that included some Alfred Hitchcock work, but only in two that Hitch directed.  Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941).  The other two were Lord Chamber's Ladies (1932) produced but not directed by Hitch, and Forever and a Day (1943) which had Hitch on the writing staff.

In 1943 and 1945 Nigel played a part in Lassie Come Home and Son of Lassie, respectively.  And in 1952 he appears as the Impresario in Charlie Chaplin's final big film, Limelight

That is quite a career for a chap who basically played the same type-cast Brit.  He started in silent films and ended making a film with the biggest silent star who ever lived. 

Nigel Bruce has 79 titles listed on IMDb, with only one appearance on television.  I can't name all of his work here, but let me know which were your favorites.  In my book, he will always be Dr. Watson.  I bet I'm not alone.