I don’t know about y’all, but I grew up in a movie-loving family, and not just any kind of film, old ones especially. My dad would come home all the time with a new classic movie that he said would culture me and my three older siblings. However, whenever I mention one of these movies to my friends, they give me strange looks. So I don’t really know if I’m more cultured, but hey, I have five movies that you have to watch.
A Night at the Opera (1935)
Honestly, anything by the Marx Brothers would be time well spent, but this particular movie is my personal favorite. That, and it’s on the National Film Registry, so you know it’s good!
Groucho Marx, with his signature shoe polish mustache, plays Otis B. Driftwood who is a wealthy woman’s business manager. He arranges for Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to become a patron of the New York Opera Company. With her money, the Company will be able to hire Rodolfo Lassparri (Walter Woolfe King), “the greatest tenor since Caruso.”
Meanwhile, Fiorello (Chico Marx) agrees to be his best friend’s manager. Ricardo Baroni (Allan Jones) is just in the choir, but both he and Fiorello are convinced he will make the “big times.” When Driftwood goes to find Lassparri, he finds him attacking Tomasso, played by Harpo Marx. Tomasso knocks Lassparri out with a mallet (classic Harpo move). Fiorello shows up and proudly announces that he is the manager of the greatest tenor in the world. Driftwood automatically believes he is talking about Lassparri, and he signs a contract with the wrong singer.
Chaos ensues, but I’m not telling you anything else. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what happens next.
The Mark of Zorro (1940)
Nothing beats the classic tale of a talented swordsman who brings justice to the early 19th century California. Tyrone Powers plays the dashing Don Diego Vega, called home from his studies in Spain by his father, the Alcade. Upon his return, he realizes that his father has been deposed, and a corrupt man, Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), rules in his stead. In order to relieve the overtaxed people, Diego becomes Zorro. However, Quintero’s captain of the guards, Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone), is suspicious of Diego and attempts to expose him. Linda Darnell stars as the love interest, Lolita, Quintero’s niece. There are plenty of daring horseback chases and sword fights to keep everyone entertained.
My Friend Irma (1949)
My sister knows the entire theme song, that’s how much we watched this movie. We would quote it all the time when we were kids. She would play the smart, money-seeking Jane Stacey, and I would be Irma Peterson, the classic dumb blonde.
Jane (Diana Lynn) wants to marry a wealthy man because she’s tired of being ordinary. Irma (Marie Wilson) is head over heels for a con artist named Al (John Lund). Al overhears a young man, Steve (Dean Martin), singing while he is working in a juice stand. He is captivated by Steve’s voice and declares that he would like to become Steve’s manager. Seymour (Jerry Lewis), Steve’s best friend, pops in with some comic relief. Naturally, Steve and Jane meet, and Jane’s plan goes out the window.
This is the film that introduced the world to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. You’re welcome.
The Crimson Pirate (1952)
Who doesn’t like a swash-buckling pirate who fights against a corrupt government? Captain Vallo (Burt Lancaster), better known as the Crimson Pirate, terrorizes the Caribbean with his crew, including his lieutenant and best mate, Ojo (Nick Cravat). To gain more money and power, he strikes a deal with Baron Gruda (Leslie Bradley), promising to turn in the rebel “El Libre” (Frederick Leister). However, things go astray when Vallo meets El Libre’s daughter (Eva Bartok).
Plus, Burt Lancaster. Must I say more?
The Stooge (1952)
I don’t remember watching this movie as a kid, but we’ve owned it for a really long time. Over spring break, I was perusing my parents’ movie collection and discovered it. I popped it in, and I couldn’t stop laughing! It’s truly a feel good movie.
The Stooge is another Lewis and Martin movie. Martin plays Bill Miller, a singer trying to go solo, who eventually fails. He gets help from a kid, Theodore “Ted” Rogers (Lewis), to make a comedian act. The two are a hit! However, Miller has a terrible habit of stealing the spotlight, even though Rogers makes the show. Rogers is unaware that he’s the reason people like the show, and he only discovers it when his girlfriend refuses to marry him unless he stands up for himself.
So, if you’re ever looking for a good classic movie to watch, I’ve got you covered.
– Jessica Lucas