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.
- 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.
- 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.