Project Golden Age, Vol. 1

I recently embarked on a new pop culture project: Project Golden Age. While my knowledge of Hollywood classics is better than average, there are entirely too many embarrassing gaps (particularly for a pop culture blogger). If it’s not a musical, an Alfred Hitchcock film, Disney animation, or something starring James Dean, there’s a decent chance I haven’t seen it. And with all the streaming options available to me, there’s no excuse (at least no GOOD excuse). I figured as long as I was going on this journey, I might as well share it with all of you! Here’s a peek at the films I’ve watched so far; this project will be ongoing, so look for additional volumes.

  • Gaslight (1944)

Directed by: George Cukor

Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Angela Lansbury (in her film debut)

17th Academy Awards: Seven nominations – including Best Picture, Best Actor for Boyer, and Best Supporting Actress for Lansbury – and two wins, Best Actress for Bergman and Best Production Design

The verdict: Film noir perfection. Gorgeously shot. Fantastic performances. 10/10

Fun fact: In the mid-1960s, psychologists began using the film’s title as a verb (known as denominalizing), but the term “gaslighting” only came into common use in the last several years.

Gaslight is available for streaming on HBO Max.

  • A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Directed by: Richard Lester

Starring: The Beatles, Wilfred Brambell, Richard Vernon

37th Academy Awards: Two nominations (Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score)

The verdict: The Fab Four, at the peak of Beatlemania, having a genuinely good time. Musical perfection. 10/10

Fun fact: A Hard Day’s Night, which basically invented the music video, is one of the most influential musical films of all time, inspiring everything from spy thrillers to The Monkees.

You can stream A Hard Day’s Night on HBO Max.

  • Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Directed by: Alexander Mackendrick

Starring: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner

11th BAFTAS: One nomination, Best Foreign Actor for Tony Curtis

The verdict: Well made but didn’t do much for me. I guess I’m just not into the whole anti-hero thing right now. 8/10

Fun fact: Sweet Smell of Success is filmmaker Barry Levinson’s favorite movie and it’s featured in two of Levinson’s own films: 1982’s Diner, in which a minor character only speaks in Sweet Smell quotes, and 1988’s Rain Man (the film can be seen playing on a television set).

You can watch Sweet Smell of Success for free on Tubi or Pluto.

  • The Thin Man (1934)

Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke

Starring: Myrna Loy, William Powell, Maureen O’Sullivan, Nat Pendleton

7th Academy Awards: Four nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor for Powell

The verdict: Fizzy chemistry between the leads. Endlessly quotable dialogue (Nora: I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids. Nick: It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids). A mystery worthy of the hard-boiled source novel by Dashiell Hammett. An absolute delight from start to finish. 15/10

Fun fact: Asta, the Charles’s Wire Fox Terrier, is played by Skippy, who also had roles in The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby.

The Thin Man (along with its five sequels) is available for streaming on HBO Max.

The dialogue is <chef’s kiss> Nora: How many drinks have you had? Nick: This will make six martinis. Nora: [to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more martinis, Leo? Just line them right up here.
  • Royal Wedding (1951)

Directed by: Stanley Donen

Starring: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill (daughter of Winston)

24th Academy Awards: One nomination, Best Original Song for “Too Late Now”

The verdict: Fluff, but entertaining fluff. Charming performances. Lawford was absurdly handsome. Fun song and dance sequences, especially “You’re All the World to Me” AKA the ceiling dance (the primary reason I chose this particular Fred Astaire movie). 8/10

Fun fact: The technology used to create Astaire’s iconic ceiling dance – essentially a set built into a giant rotating barrel – has remained relatively unchanged for seventy years. It was used in the music video for Lionel Richie’s 1986 jam “Dancing on the Ceiling” (which was directed by Royal Wedding helmer Stanley Donen) and more recently, for Billie Eilish’s 2019 SNL performance of “bad guy”.

You can stream Royal Wedding on Amazon Prime.

The OG ceiling dance
This cool video demonstrates how the rotating set works
According to director Stanley Donen, Lionel Richie picked up the ceiling dance moves faster than Fred Astaire did
Just because
  • Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Directed by: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow

48th Academy Awards: One nomination, for Best Film Editing (it lost, correctly, to Jaws).

The verdict: Fine. Honestly, I’m a little underwhelmed. The cast is great, especially Redford (proving once again why he was THE movie star of the 1970s) and von Sydow as antagonist Joubert. I also loved the Dave Grusin score. But the romantic subplot feels forced and detracts from the film’s pacing. 7/10

Fun fact #1: In the Seinfeld episode “Junk Mail”, Newman’s speech to Kramer uses one of Joubert’s monologues almost verbatim.

Fun fact #2: In Out of Sight, Jack Foley (George Clooney) and Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) discuss the film’s romantic subplot; it’s honestly sexier than any of Three Days of the Condor‘s scenes.

Three Days of the Condor is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

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