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Take 1: The '50s

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Most movies in the 1950s were shot in black and white, but the color on everyone’s mind was an angry shade of red. With Cold War paranoia gripping the nation — and the blacklist tearing Hollywood apart — sci-fi flicks preached an anti-communist credo (beware of the pod people!). Yet, for all this lockstep conformity, a strain of individuality prevailed, thanks in large part to the New York-trained Method actors (Marlon Brando, James Dean, Montgomery Clift) who spilled their angst in ways audiences had never seen before. And, in too many cases, would never see again.

Jimmy Stewart cuts a back-end deal with ‘Winchester ’73’: June 7, 1950

When critics call Tom Hanks a modern Jimmy Stewart, they’re not kidding. Hanks owes the $60 million he raked in for Forrest Gump to his illustrious forerunner. Stewart didn’t set out to change the power of movie stars. He just wanted to star in Universal’s Harvey. His agent, MCA chief Lew Wasserman, then negotiated the legendary deal. Unable to afford the actor’s $200,000 salary, the studio agreed to pay him a percentage of the profits for two projects: Winchester ’73 and Harvey. Similar arrangements had been made before, but never of this magnitude. “It changed the template of the business,” says superagent-turned-supermanager Michael Ovitz. “Now everybody gets a percentage. Lew started it all.” Rank 58

‘Eve’ and ‘Boulevard’ explore the darker side of stardom: 1950

Two masterpieces of dialogue, two jaundiced looks at showbiz, two grande dames at the top of their form, playing female stars terrified of hitting bottom. Who said Hollywood had to be happy? After All About Eve’s Bette Davis told us “It’s going to be a bumpy night” and Gloria Swanson descended that staircase for her final close-up in Sunset Boulevard, no one ever looked at actresses in quite the same way. How did things get so cynical so fast? Blame director-writers Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Billy Wilder, whose films grabbed a combined 25 Oscar noms that year. “I knew Billy very well,” says film writer Budd Schulberg. “He had a remarkably cynical take on Hollywood, which he brought over from Berlin. Even as a young writer he had that snide, sad look at things. And Joe wasn’t much different — those guys had bad attitudes.” Lucky for us. Rank 26

Sci-fi discovers the Cold War: 1951

Ever since Georges Melies’ 1902 fantasia A Trip to the Moon, moviemakers’ love affair with outer space had been about Saturday-matinee escapism. But at the dawn of the ’50s, those interplanetary flights of fancy took a more serious tone: 1951’s The Thing, When Worlds Collide, and The Day the Earth Stood Still — all barely veiled Cold War parables — brought the enemy closer to home. Sure, those flying saucers looked like pie tins, but beneath it all was an unsubtle message. ”The real fear was that an atomic bomb would be used in a war with the Russians,” says John Carpenter, who directed the ’82 remake of The Thing. ”We’d seen what happened in Japan, and we feared it was our turn.” Rank 83

#3 Moment Marlon Brando bellows in ‘Streetcar’: Sept. 19, 1951

In the canon, there is nothing like it, despite endless imitations and wannabes. A beefy up-and-coming stud named Marlon Brando shouts “Stellaaaa!” while filming Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Streetcar Named Desire, and a legend is born. Before Brando, it’s fair to say film acting was still in its adolescence. His seething Stanley Kowalski shoved movies straight into modernity, heralding a whole new style of swagger, sexuality, and riveting technique. Says costar Karl Malden: “Marlon became Stanley; he wasn’t acting. There was never anything like it, and every kid in America wanted to be Stanley Kowalski.” But for the cast members, it was all just another day at the office. “Don’t forget,” says Malden, “Marlon, Kim Hunter, and I had done the play for over two years in New York. After you’ve done anything for two years, it’s difficult to think you’re making history.” Not that anyone since then has let them forget. Says Stella herself, Kim Hunter: “I used to live in an apartment that faced the street. Shortly after making the film, every night people would shout ‘Stella!’ Even today, I still hear it once in a while.” Rank 13

Gene Kelly makes a splash in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’: March 27, 1952

If we suddenly find ourselves breaking into song when we’re caught in a downpour, it’s thanks to Kelly, an umbrella, and a gloomy-looking street that the dancing-singing genius transformed into a wet wonderland. But while the scene has proved timeless, the film, when it was first released, couldn’t even score a Best Picture nomination. Rain “wasn’t such an enormous success, it was just another movie,” says director Stanley Donen, who still remembers The New York Times’ less-than-glowing review. As for rumors that Kelly twirled through the studio-created rain with a raging fever, Donen wants the record set straight: “He had a minor cold. It wasn’t anything gloriously dramatic.” Just glorious. Rank 11

Movies get bigger: Sept. 30, 1952

TV slashed movie attendance in half. What to do? Get a gimmick! While 3-D flicks caused eyestrain, and Smell-O-Vision, frankly, stank, the giant-screen travelogue This Is Cinerama pulled in megabucks. Shot with three connected cameras, the film was projected on three interlocking curved screens. “It was great for scenery, lousy for storytelling,” says Douglas Trumbull, the F/X guru behind 2001 and Universal Studios’ Back to the Future ride. Result? Cinerama proved a finite novelty, but simpler, one-camera wide-screen formats like CinemaScope and Panavision still flourish. Rank 100

Otto Preminger breaks the Code: July 1, 1953

In no way was Otto Preminger’s 1953 comedy, The Moon Is Blue, a blue film. But it did include the taboo words virgin and pregnant — and, for those reasons, the Breen Office, which enforced the Motion Picture Production Code, refused to give its seal of approval. When the director refused to excise the offending words, Moon simply opened sans approval — and nabbed a handful of Oscar nods. “He was being deliberately provocative, telling America and the [Code] to grow up,” says film scholar David Thomson (A Biographical Dictionary of Film). Preminger’s stand marked the beginning of the end of content restrictions and led to the formation of the ratings system. The irony: Today, Moon would be a shoo-in for a PG. Rank 53

Marlon Brando walks ‘On The Waterfront’: July 28, 1954

Marlon Brando’s coulda-been contender was supposed to have been killed by the corrupt union he dared speak against. But in 1954, movie heroes didn’t die, so Brando got up and stumbled triumphantly to work. Some see Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront as his bid for martyrdom, castigated as he was for naming names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in ’52. Among his critics: Waterfront costar Rod Steiger, who says, “This man was a millionaire; he never had to work in movies. I knew people whose lives were shortened because of blacklisting.” Steiger, for his part, doesn’t buy the Waterfront-as-sympathy-plea theory: “A magazine called the last scene ‘Christ’s walk to Calvary.’ Kazan told me he was just trying to find an ending.” What isn’t in doubt is the movie’s magnificence, or the immortality of its star’s Oscar-winning performance. Rank 13

#10 MOMENT
Marilyn Monroe does grate things for ‘Seven Year Itch’: June 3, 1955

Of all the cinematographic images of Marilyn Monroe, the most enduring may be one that never existed. Cleaned up to avoid opposition from the ethics-enforcing Production Code, Billy Wilder’s adaptation of a Broadway hit about adulterous sex in the city would be far less memorable if not for the scene of an ecstatic Monroe cooling herself on a hot summer night. Her dress just floats above her knees in the film, but by the time The Seven Year Itch was released, the world had seen — and still remembers — much more, thanks to what photographer Elliott Erwitt calls a “well-organized publicity stunt.” Led by the press (and Fox publicity chief Harry Brand), thousands of New Yorkers had turned out nine months earlier to watch Monroe, in a billowy white dress, do some 15 takes of the scene in front of midtown’s Trans-Lux theater. Photos of her skirt at full fly made the papers—and the film made a successful (at the time) $5.7 million. “She’s vulnerable and sexy and innocent all at the same time,” says feminist author Erica Jong of the image. “That was the secret, in a way, of Marilyn’s appeal.” Rank 10

Judy Garland’s ‘Star’ shines again: Sept. 30, 1954

Garland rose out of the ashes of depression and drug abuse for her career comeback in the grand-scale musical A Star Is Born. While her delivery of “The Man That Got Away” proved she still had vocal chops, it was the irony in her character’s struggle to save her fading, alcoholic husband (James Mason) that stirred the emotional pot. Rumors abounded that Garland’s behavior drove up the production’s cost and duration, but her then husband, Sid Luft, who coproduced the film, says it isn’t so: “Judy never held up the company for one minute. She couldn’t wait to get to the studio every day.” Rank 64

James Dean sees red in ‘Rebel’: Oct. 27 1955

To think the archetypal angry young man was almost a nerd. James Dean’s Jim Stark originally wore a brown jacket and glasses. But when Warner Bros., thrilled with the B&W dailies of Rebel Without a Cause, told director Nicholas Ray to reshoot in color, the specs went bye-bye and costumer Moss Mabry wanted Dean in screaming red. “It would make him stick out like crazy!” Mabry remembers arguing. Decades later, the actor (killed in a car crash 27 days before Rebel opened) still sticks out like crazy. Says costar Dennis Hopper, “He’s the greatest actor I ever saw work.” Rank 18

Westerns reach a new peak with ‘The Searchers’: May 30, 1956

Probing the dark side of frontier pluck, director John Ford won acclaim for this tale of a revenge-obsessed loner (John Wayne) out to rescue his niece, who’s been kidnapped by Comanche Indians. Over the decades, it became a touchstone for such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and George Lucas (it’s all over Star Wars). Producer Polly Platt, who befriended Ford in the ’60s with her ex-creative partner/husband Peter Bogdanovich (and often screened a 16 mm print of the film to critics and friends), explains why the film endures: “It’s purely visual. Run it with no sound, and you follow every story point just by how he uses the camera.” Rank 38

Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ redefines the Western: July 3, 1956

Since it first cut a swath across cultures, Samurai has been revered for taking a genre distinctly American and adding essential elements to it. An antiheroic “Western” set in feudal 16th-century Japan, Samurai went on to influence movies of many stripes, from direct remakes like John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns to cartoons: In A Bug’s Life, the rogue warriors defending a farming village are reimagined as a flea circus. Says David Hyde Pierce, who voiced a walking-stick bug: “When Flik goes to find bigger bugs to fight the grasshoppers, it’s exactly Seven Samurai.” Rank 70

#7 Moment
Charlton Heston parts the Red Sea: Nov. 8, 1956

Heston admits that at 32, he was “a little green” to play the aged Moses. Fortunately, with Pharaoh’s pool turning red, and the Red Sea being parted, stunned audiences weren’t noticing any thespian greenery. The Ten Commandments wasn’t just a costume epic, it was an F/X extravaganza of … well, biblical proportions, bringing millions back to see not just its cast of thousands but its B.C., B.D. (Before Digital) miracles. Cecil B. DeMille shot largely on location in Egypt, but “the actual parting of the waters,” as Heston explains, was of course “done on Paramount’s backlot—they dumped the water in, then ran it backwards.” (Eat your heart out, ILM.) Heston was personally more impressed with the bloody-pool-water effect and God’s fiery engravings upon Sinai rock. But it was those separated seawalls that most enthralled moviegoing masses—and ensured the Bible’s representation on the Universal Studios tour for generations to come. Rank 7

Foreign film goes mainstream with ‘The Seventh Seal’: Oct. 13, 1958

The images were deliberately theatrical: A knight weary from the Crusades (Max von Sydow) delays his fate by playing chess with a black-cloaked Death (Bengt Ekerot); a line of plague victims dances into the afterlife. Ingmar Bergman—then as now, a theater director—created stark tableaux in Seventh Seal that, compared with American works, must have seemed like messages from another world. But they reached philosophically hungry fans wherever they were. “Bergman taught me the landscape of a face,” says Canadian director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter; Felicia’s Journey). “That’s really the most absorbing aspect of cinema — the way you can magnify layers of emotion, and the places that can take you.” Rank 85

?Vertigo? baffles the critics: May 28, 1958

“I have no idea why people think it’s so great,” says Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell. “I didn’t understand it when it came out, and it’s certainly not my favorite.” (Her pick: 1946’s Notorious.) The modern sentiments of Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter pretty much sum up the feeling in 1958, when Vertigo was considered by many a critical and financial disappointment. Ah, sweet time. Since the 1980s, when it was freed from a rights limbo that had prevented theatrical showings for years, the discomforting Jimmy Stewart-Kim Novak sexual thriller has been rehabilitated by scholars, critics, and modern masters (most famously Martin Scorsese) alike. Now it’s widely considered a landmark of obsession, suspense, and virtuoso filmmaking. Rank 20

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis find ?Some Like It Hot?: March 29, 1959

Forty years after its release, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot is still considered by many to be one of the most expertly executed, sublimely timed, sartorially sharp comedies ever captured on film, a miraculous mixture of pitch-perfect casting, direction, and screenwriting. And 40 years after its release, Jack Lemmon still remembers the agony he endured making the movie. “Those high heels were murder,” he says. “Tony Curtis and I were dying because of those shoes. Every time Billy yelled ‘Cut!,’ we’d dump those damn shoes and put our feet into big bowls of ice.” Rank 19

The new wave breaks with Francois Truffaut’s ‘400 Blows’: Nov. 16, 1959

He was such a terror writing for the rabidly intellectual Cahiers du Cinema that he was refused credentials at Cannes in 1958. But a sweet humanism soon emerged—and that’s how Truffaut and his debut feature are remembered. “He established himself as a nice guy after being the bastard in French criticism,” says critic Andrew Sarris, who helped import the auteur theory to America. “After The 400 Blows was discovered, it was a roller coaster. Anyone who saw it had to like it.” And like the final freeze-frame of Jean-Pierre Leaud by the sea, Truffaut’s reputation was set. It wasn’t a bad year for him: In ’59, he also contributed the story to Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Rank 35

‘Ben Hur’s’ sweet chariot race Nov. 18 1959

“Some say it’s the best action sequence in the history of movies,” says Charlton Heston, “not least of all because it’s a live sequence.” We’re gonna argue with a guy who wields a whip? Ben-Hur’s chariot race, filling the ultrawide screen with spokes, sweat, and trampling underfoot, took suspensefully staged stunt work to new heights. Doubles did the head-over-reins stuff, but Heston spent five weeks learning chariot helmsmanship, after a year of prep work by second-unit director Yakima Canutt, who supervised the sequence while William Wyler concentrated on human spectacle. In ’59, you see, a film could be defined by its action set piece without becoming an “action film”—or, as Heston says, “yeah, there’s talk in Ben-Hur, too.” Rank 49

Best Picture Oscar Winners

1950 ALL ABOUT EVE
1951 AN AMERICAN IN PARIS
1952 THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
1953 FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
1954 ON THE WATERFRONT
1955 MARTY
1956 AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
1957 THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
1958 GIGI
1959 BEN-HUR

Beyond the Top 10

A selective guide to some other ’50s treasures

1. GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953) A diaphanous Marilyn Monroe and a devilish Jane Russell boggle the minds of men in Howard Hawks’ richly funny treat.

2. THE NAKED SPUR (1953) Westerns entered postwar maturity with this bitter saga, starring a nearly unrecognizable Jimmy Stewart.

3. PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) Samuel Fuller’s fast and nasty yarn about a pickpocket (Richard Widmark), a dame (Jean Peters), and some Communist microfilm is peak noir.

4. TOKYO STORY (1953) Yasujiro Ozu’s drama is a simple story of an elderly couple trying to connect with their grown children—and one of the most humane films ever made.

5. REAR WINDOW (1954) A great, unsettling entertainment, of course, but Hitchcock’s classic thriller is a subtle crash course in the ethics of watching movies.

6. THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Charles Laughton’s sole directorial credit is a fairy-tale nightmare of childlike power, with Robert Mitchum as one seriously evil preacher.

7. INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) The first movie to put the alien in alienation, this enduring creep-athon is the direct ancestor of The X-Files.

8. THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT (1956) Positing a lunatic id behind the starchy superego of the ’50s, it celebrates Jayne Mansfield’s breasts and lets rockers like Little Richard go berserk.

9. WRITTEN ON THE WIND (1956) A camp classic? Or soap opera as subversion? Douglas Sirk’s glossy Technicolor weepie works on many levels.

10. SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (1957) 1950s New York presented as a gorgeous tabloid hell, with Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster giving career performances. —Ty Burr

Best of the rest

Best whistled theme music: The Bridge on the River Kwai

Best performance by a space vegetable: The pods in Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Best narration by a dead guy: William Holden in Sunset Boulevard

Best turn in a wheelchair: James Stewart in Rear Window

Best date movie: Roman Holiday

Best movie if you can’t get a date: …And God Created Woman

Best couple (off screen): Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini

Best couple (on screen): Rock Hudson and Doris Day

Best closing-credits bonus scene: Patty McCormack getting spanked in The Bad Seed

Best Western: High Noon

Best leading-role debut: “Steven” McQueen in The Blob

Best place we wish we lived: Burt Lancaster’s penthouse in Sweet Smell of Success

Best performance by a future resident of Mayberry: Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd

Best backstabbing bitch: Anne Baxter in All About Eve

Best Nazi: Otto Preminger in Stalag 17

Best new monster: Godzilla

Best dad: Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride

Best mom : Lana Turner in Imitation of Life

Best performance by a future studio head: Robert Evans in The Best of Everything

Best Death: Bengt Ekerot in The Seventh Seal

Best lines

1. “I’d hate to take a bite out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

2. “I’m a girl. I’m a girl. I wish I were dead. I’m a girl. I’m a girl. I’m a girl….”

3. “I wouldn’t worry too much about your heart. You can always put that award where your heart ought to be.”

4. “That’s a — quite a dress you almost have on.”

5. “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?” “What do ya got?”

6. “I’ll wear the darn clothes if you want me to if…you’ll just like me.”

7. “The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle. The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.”

8. “Even a monkey, brought up in the right surroundings, can learn the meaning of decency and honesty.”

9. “I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I’ve finally won out over it.”

10. “I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating.”

11. “Don’t you think it’s better for a girl to be preoccupied with sex than occupied?”

12. “You have a civil tongue in your head. I know — I sewed it there myself!”

13. “Only my friends call me wop.”

Lines spoken by…

1. Burt Lancaster to Tony Curtis (Sweet Smell of Success)

2. Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot)

3. Bette Davis to Anne Baxter (All About Eve)

4. Gene Kelly (An American in Paris)

5. Peggy Maley and Marlon Brando (The Wild One)

6. Kim Novak to Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo)

7. Danny Kaye (The Court Jester)

8. Ronald Reagan (Bedtime for Bonzo)

9. Jimmy Stewart (Harvey)

10. Katharine Hepburn (The African Queen)

11. Maggie McNamara (The Moon Is Blue)

12. Whit Bissell (I Was a Teenage Frankenstein)

13. Frank Sinatra (From Here to Eternity)

Notable moments

Dec. 13, 1950 Forty-three years before Hallie Eisenberg is born, James Dean makes his acting debut in a Pepsi spot.

April 1951 Lauding such auteurs as Alfred Hitchcock, the criticism journal Cahiers du Cinema is first published.

June 26, 1951 The once-powerful studio system is dealt another blow when reigning mogul Louis B. Mayer resigns as the head of MGM. Agents step up to become the next power players.

Dec. 22, 1951 Opposites do attract: Katharine Hepburn’s queen of priss falls for Humphrey Bogart’s lout in The African Queen.

Dec. 26, 1951 A success at the Venice Film Festival, Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon becomes part of the American vocabulary.

March 19, 1953 NBC airs the first televised Academy Awards ceremony. Movie attendance suffers that night as the broadcast receives the largest single audience in network TV’s five-year history.

March 31, 1953 Stanley Kubrick’s first feature, Fear and Desire, opens. He later dismisses it as “lousy.”

April 10, 1953 House of Wax unveils a new master of horror: Vincent Price.

June 4, 1953 Sick of being typecast as a “slobbermouth,” Brando takes on Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.

June 1954 Filming of The Conqueror begins in St. George, Utah, 137 miles from the A-bomb testing site in Nevada. Almost half the cast and crew eventually die of cancer, including John Wayne.

July 17, 1955 It all started with a mouse…. Walt Disney opens the gates of Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, Calif.

Nov. 9, 1955 To hide his homosexuality, Rock Hudson marries secretary Phyllis Gates. It ends in divorce, but his secret doesn’t come out until shortly before his death in 1985.

Dec. 15, 1955 Frank Sinatra opens in The Man With the Golden Arm—even though the film fails to earn the Production Code seal of approval due to its gritty depiction of heroin addiction.

March 21, 1956 Memorable Oscar moment: Marty, a small, poignant film adapted from TV, pushes aside Picnic and Mister Roberts to nab Oscar’s top prize.

April 18, 1956 We always knew she was royalty: Actress Grace Kelly weds Monaco’s Prince Rainier III.

April 27, 1956 The nuclear-monster age begins when Godzilla stomps in from Japan. Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidrah soon follow.

June 28, 1956 Giving hope to the hair-impaired, Yul Brynner bares his bare pate in The King and I, sending female fans swooning.

Aug. 16, 1956 Bela Lugosi, best known as aristocratic bloodsucker Dracula, dies of a heart attack. He’d asked to be buried in his cape.

Nov. 15, 1956 Elvis Presley decides it’s now or never, and makes his film debut in Love Me Tender. A reviewer complains that fans’ screams drowned out the dialogue.

March 27, 1957 Memorable Oscar moment: Robert Rich wins the original-screenplay award for The Brave One. It is later discovered that Rich is a pseudonym for blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo finally receives his award in 1975.

May 29, 1957 Director James Whale, who brought Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein to life, is found drowned in his swimming pool.

Aug. 8, 1957 Houseboat begins filming, and Cary Grant begins his first dip into LSD. A psychiatrist later claims that acid deepened Grant’s sense of compassion for people.

April 4, 1958 Cheryl Crane, 14, daughter of Lana Turner, stabs her mother’s gangster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. After the grisly killing, Turner’s career skyrockets.

Summer 1958 Steven Spielberg, 12, shoots a 3 1/2-minute Western (budget: $8.50) to earn his Scout merit badge. Other career options are suddenly left in the dust.

Jan. 21, 1959 Cowlicked child star Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer of Our Gang fame is shot to death after a scuffle over a $50 debt.

LEGENDS: Gena Rowlands

Born 1934 Resume 29 feature films, 2 Academy Award nominations Most recently Costars with Brooke Shields in The Weekend Why act? I love not being confined to one life. On making movies with husband/director John Cassavetes He’d write the part then give it to us and tell the actors not to talk to each other about our parts. Then without rehearsals he’d see what happened. There’s something very spontaneous, very dangerous about that.

Favorite role A Woman Under the Influence. It was the first time I had the freedom to work without time constraints, because my husband and I had financed the movie and weren’t under studio pressure. Dream role Katharine Hepburn’s in The Lion in Winter. Weirdest preparation for a role In Gloria, my character had a New York toughness. For days I walked up and down, in four-inch heels, trying to develop the most intimidating walk I could. Would love to work with Meryl Streep, and Martin Scorsese, of course. He’s so wonderful.

Rowlands’ classic roles

A hooker in Faces 1968

A fraying wife in A Woman Under the Influence 1974

A weary, tenderhearted gun moll in Gloria 1980

A widow examining her life in son Nick’s Unhook the Stars 1996

Godmother of the indie-film movement

KEVIN SMITH’s Five Favorite Comic-Book Flicks

THE ROCKETEER 1991 “This is probably the closest translation to screen that comics have ever had, dumbing nothing down for the mainstream.”

BATMAN 1989 “Not the best representation of the Dark Knight (Batman would never fire missiles at anyone), but the brooding tone was right.”

SUPERMAN II 1981 “Superman facing off against not just Lex Luthor but also three Kryptonian convicts of equal strength made this the best of the bunch. And he didn’t even turn back time by making the earth rotate in the opposite direction.”

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 1990 “Joke if you must, but the movie was really close to the comic.”

CONAN THE BARBARIAN 1982 “Granted, he was a pulp hero before he was a comic-book character. But this flick was a pretty strong adaptation of the comic, as well as a showcase for one of Arnold’s best performances. Ever.”

STYLE
From the beach to the boudoir: The flirty ’50s whet our appetites for fun and frills

Best wet T-shirt: Katharine Hepburn’s blouse in The African Queen

Best dry T-shirt: Marlon Brando’s tank top in A Streetcar Named Desire

Best beachwear: Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the surf in From Here to Eternity

Best school clothes: James Dean’s in Rebel Without a Cause

Best performance by an article of clothing in the title of a movie: The Robe

Best evening wear (formal): Cary Grant’s tux in To Catch a Thief

Best evening wear (informal): Grace Kelly’s nightgown in Rear Window

Best hair: Yul Brynner in The King and I

Best accessory: Audrey Hepburn’s wimple in The Nun’s Story

Best star vehicle: The chariot in Ben-Hur

Best drag queens (male): Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot

Best drag queens (female): Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard; Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame

Reunions: Charles Heston & Janet Leigh, August 14, 1999

“It feels funny being back here, doesn’t it, kid?” Janet Leigh asks Charlton Heston. The legendary actors have returned to the sunbaked streets of Venice Beach, Calif., where more than 40 years ago, they stood before Orson Welles’ handheld camera for the shadowy 1958 masterpiece Touch of Evil. Heston looks around, not recognizing the area now with its incense shops, hemp boutiques, and henna-body-art galleries.

“It couldn’t have been this part of Venice,” he insists, even though it was exactly this strip of old balustrades that was the backdrop for Welles’ story of a Mexican narcotics investigator (played without accent by Heston) and his wife (Leigh) caught up in a murder investigation. From the famous long traveling shot that opens the film, through the noirish shadows, to Marlene Dietrich’s “adios” at the end, it is, as Heston says now, under the echo of the surf, “not a great movie, but rather the best B movie ever made.”

The going rate: 1955

Avg. Ticket Price: 50[cents]

Avg. Movie Budget: $900,000

Sophia Loren’s Five Favorite Italian Movies

Two Women 1961 “Because it shows the tragedies and miseries of war and the courage of common people.”

Gold of Naples 1957 “An open, zestful, and unprejudged look to the many facets of Naples and its colorful people. It was the beginning of my long association with my beloved maestro, Vittorio De Sica.”

Open Center 1946 “The masterpiece of the Italian neorealism. It is the most shaking and true story of Rome under the Nazis’ occupation.”

La Dolce Vita 1960 “Fantasy, poetry, absolute mastery of cinematographic language to describe the Roman life of the ’50s.”

Life is Beautiful 1998 “Roberto’s masterpiece, winner of the Academy Award. [He had] the courage and the fantastic idea of making a sweet and desperate comedy out of the darkest tragedy: the Holocaust.”

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