Classic Movies You Should Watch (Part 1)

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I love classic movies and have so many favorites that I can’t list them all. This is Part One of some of my favorite movies. Do you agree? I would love to hear from you.


Madame X            Madame X

This Tearjerker starring Lana  Turner and John Forsythe is terrific.  Holly Parker (Lana Turner) is married to Clay Anderson (John Forsythe)  a wealthy,  prominent politician. When Holly’s lover is killed, her mother-in-law forces her to fake her own death and leave her young son behind. Holly goes into a downward spiral and the final scenes,when Holly is reunited with her son who doesn’t recognize her, is  heartbreaking.  The film is soapy and dramatic but Lana Turner gives a spectacular performance of a flawed woman who would do anything to protect her son. It was released in 1966 and when I first watched it, I sobbed uncontrollably. Many years later, watching it as an adult, I still cried.

It also stars Ricardo Montalban of “Rich Colombian Leather” fame,  Virginia Grey, Keir Dullea, Burgess Meredith, Constance Bennett and several other stars who were popular at that time.

Broken Lance


Broken Lance

I grew up on westerns as a child.  I loved Roy Rogers and Dale, Gene Autrey and The Lone Ranger. This movie, released in 1954, is one of the best westerns I have ever watched. It has an all-star cast with  Spencer Tracey, a very young Robert Wagner, Earl Holliman, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado, Hugh O’Brien and E.G. Marshall.

Matt Devereaux (Spencer Tracy) is a cattle baron in 1880’s Arizona. He runs his family with a tight fist but has a soft spot for his son, Joe, (Robert Wagner) from his second marriage to an Indian woman (Katy Jurado).  His other sons resent this and turn against their father and Joe with devastating results.

Broken Lance won two Oscars and Katy Jurado was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award. Broken Lance seems to be overlooked in a lot of best Westerns lists and I’m not sure why.  I loved this movie from the firs time I watched it.

Best of Everything

The Best of Everything

Based on the book by Rona Jaffe (also very good)  it focuses on women working in the publishing world on Madison Avenue in 1959.  It is another movie that has an all-star cast led by Joan Crawford. Other stars in this movie who were popular at that time are  Hope Lange, Stephen Boyd, Martha Hyer, Brett Halsey, Diane Baker, the famous model of the time, Suzy Parker, and Robert Evans who went on to produce movies and marry several Hollywood beauties. It also had Louis Jourdan, a  suave, French actor who was well known at the time.

The Best of Everything is a good look into what women faced as they tried to break into an area that was dominated by men. They came out of college only to be relegated to the typing pool, thought they had found true love, only to be disappointed. The Best of Everything  covers tough issues such as pregnancy out of wedlock, alcoholism, workplace harassment and obsessive love that leads to tragedy.  In this  classic 1950’s melodrama the women wear great clothes and New York City is predominately featured.   I also love the theme song that is sung by Johnny Mathis.

SusansladeSusan Slade

This 1961 movie by the well known screenwriter and director, Delmer Daves  is an overlooked gem. Connie Stevens stars as Susan Slade  an innocent seventeen year old who has lived in a remote part of Chile with her parents for the last ten years.

Susan’s father was an engineer in a remote Chilean mine but they are on a ship headed for California. Unknown to Susan or her mother, her father has a heart condition and must leave the mine to recuperate. On the ship, Susan meets handsome Conn White and falls madly in love with him. Conn is a mountain climber and is on his way to Alaska but promises to come back for her.When Susan finds out that she is pregnant and a tragedy occurs, her parents make a decision that will ultimately affect all of them. In the end, long held lies and  secrets will be revealed. 

Susan  Slade has an all star cast with Troy Donahue, Lloyd Nolan, Dorothy McGuire, Brian Aherne and Grant Williams. The cinematography is beautiful and the soundtrack by Max Steiner is wonderful.


Written on the WindWritten on the Wind

This melodrama directed by Douglas Sirk focuses on the Hadleys, an oil rich Texas family.  The patriarch of the family,  Jasper Hadley  (Robert Keith), is trying to hold the family together but without much success. His irresponsible son, Kyle (Robert Stack), is an alcoholic playboy who meets and quickly marries Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall) when he is in New York City. He brings her back with him to Texas and Lucy manages to keep Kyle under control for awhile. When Lucy doesn’t become pregnant, Kyle goes off the deep end.  Kyle’s nymphomaniac sister, Marylee (Dorothy Malone), is the town tramp who is in love with Mitch Wayne  (Rock Hudson) who secretly loves Kyle’s wife, Lucy. The explosive ending is soapy and dramatic.

Dorothy Malone won a Best Supporting Actress Award, Robert Stack was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award and the theme song by Sammy Cahn and Victor Young won for Best Original Song.

A Summer Place

This A Summer Place1959 romantic drama directed by Delmer Daves is one of my favorites.  Two families vacation at an inn on the coast of Maine and love blossoms again between two middle aged people who were in love many years before. Their children, Molly (Sandra Dee) and Johnny (Troy Donahue) also fall in love with disastrous results for all of them. There is a lot going on in this movie and I don’t want to ruin it by giving too much away. 

The scenery in Maine and Carmel, California is breathtaking. The house that Molly’s father and new wife live in was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The musical score by Max Steiner is wonderful as is the  theme song by Percy Faith and his orchestra.  Stars in it are Sandra Dee, Troy Donahue, Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuire, Constance Ford and Arthur Kennedy. Don’t miss this one!


Peyton Place Peyton Place

This must see movie is based on the 1956 bestselling but scandalous novel  by Grace Metalious.   Peyton Place is run by straight laced Christians who won’t allow any impropriety in their town.  However, in this small New Hampshire  mill town there are secrets that everyone is trying to keep hidden. The film is narrated by  sweet, innocent, Allison Mackenzie (Diane Varsi) who is the daughter of straight laced Constance Mackenzir (Lana Turner). 

Peyton Place deals with the effects of war, incest, abortion, scandal  and a murder that will make everyone in the town rethink their moral code. The picturesque small town setting is perfect and the acting is top notch. 

Lana Turner, Diane Varsi, Hope Lange, Russ Tamblyn Lloyd Nolan  Arthur Kennedy, Terry Moore,David Nelson (Ricky’s brother),  Mildred Dunnock and Lorne Green star in this engrossing movie.



I fell in love with surfing, Sandra Dee and James Darren when I saw this movie. I was going to be a surfer despite the fact that I live hundreds of miles away from an ocean and hate to swim in salt water. My father gave me surfing books for Christmas and I was going to find my own Moondoggie who would be just as handsome as James Darren was in this movie..

Innocent Francie Lawrence is urged by her  girl friends to find a boyfriend.  Her friends hang out at the beach hoping to meet cute guys. Francie isn’t interested in boys but while at the beach with her friends, she decides that she wants to learn to surf. The boys on the beach make fun of her and give her the nickname,Gidget, because she is small like a midget and a girl.   They teach her to surf and bring her into their group because she brings them food. However, things change for Francie over that summer as she does become interested in boys.  But it is one boy in particular who takes awhile to realize that he is interested in her, too.

This is the first of three Gidget movies and there was a TV show with Sally Field as Gidget. Gidget was a real person and the book that this movie is based on was written by her father. Their is also a terrific documentary about the real-life Gidget.

Sandra Dee is darling as Gidget and James Darren as Moondoggie had me swooning. The film also stars Cliff Robertson, Arthur O’Connell, Doug McClure and actors who were popular at that time, Joby Baker, Yvonne Craig and Tom Laughlin who went on to star as Billy Jack in a couple of movies. Gidget is a wonderful coming of age movie that many of us probably watched when we were younger. It is worth a re -watch.

I didn’t find my Moondoggie and I never learned to surf but this movie still has a place in my heart.


Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life My list seems to be heavy with movies starring Lana Turner and Sandra Dee but they were in so  many terrific movies that I have to list them. This is another  well done film by Douglas Sirk.

Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) and her daughter, Susie, meet Annie Jackson (Juanita Moore) and her daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) at Coney Island. Annie is homeless and  Lora is a struggling actress. They are both single mothers and decide to share a small apartment. Susie and Sarah Jane become fast friends but Sarah Jane is rebelling against being black. She is very light skinned and could pass for being white and she wants to be white. As Lora’s career takes off, Annie becomes her housekeeper and trusted friend.  Sarah Jane and Susie are like sisters but Sarah Jane is neurotic and doesn’t want to be black and the daughter of a housekeeper. She leaves home and starts dancing in a New York city nightclub where she passes herself off as a white woman with disastrous results. Susie is also becoming rebellious because although she has everything she could ever want now that her mother is a famous theater star, she doesn’t have her mother’s attention or presence in her life.

This is another tearjerker with wonderful performances by everyone in this movie. Mahaliah Jackson sings in it and my father always loved her.  I have always loved John Gavin and he plays Lora’s love interest. Dan O’Herlihy and  Robert Alda are in this film and so is Troy Donahue. He has a very small part as a bad guy. This is a remake of the 1934 movie starring Claudette Colbert  that I haven’t seen. It is based on the Fannie Hurst novel. One of my favorites.

Ten North Frederickten-north-frederick-movie-poster

 Set in 1945, Gary Cooper stars as Joe Chapin, a successful, moral businessman,who is being pushed into politics by his rigid, ambitious wife (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Their children are the victims of their unhappy marriage. Their son is a confused alcoholic with musical ambitions that his mother won’t allow. When their daughter becomes pregnant out of wedlock, they don’t want the scandal.  Joe falls in love with a younger woman and many years later, secrets are revealed. I have never been much of a Gary Cooper fan but I saw this movie once when I was young and have always remembered it. Unfortunately it has never been released on DVD. It is on YouTube but I keep hoping that it will someday be available to watch on DVD. Diane Varsi is also in this one along with Stuart Whitman, Ray Stricklyn and Suzy Parker. If you can find it, I highly recommend it.