“Gone With the Wind”
The king of Hollywood classic films, the four-hour Civic War saga tells Scarlet O’Hara’s transformation from sexy Southern vixen to cold-hearted mistress of Tara. The epic merged scenes of Southern gentility and the horrors of war through the lives of its unforgettable characters, dashing Rhett Butler, played by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh’s scheming Scarlet. Director Victor Fleming, who won the Oscar, created a landmark film that rates as Hollywood’s greatest classic film.
Hollywood’s first all female film starring the top actresses of the day, “The Women,” laid the foundation for future chick flicks. Headed by Norma Shearer, the jilted wife, and Joan Crawford, the other woman, the two feisty women and their gal-pals wage of war of wit. Directed to perfection by George Cukor, “The Women” exposed the trials and tears of a woman as she faced a bitter divorce.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”
Charles Laughton brought Victor Hugo’s most famous character, Quasimodo, to life in this best film version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Disfigured and hated by Parisians, the kind-hearted bell ringer found love for the gypsy siren Esmeralda. This 1939 classic still rings true as the ultimate tale of unrequited love conquering all when the tragic hero gives his life to save her.
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”
Simple-minded but principled freshman Senator Jefferson Smith fights a crooked Washington D.C. in Frank Capra’s tale of political power run amok in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Jimmy Stewart portrayed a naïve Smith with all-American decency as he learned the hard way that his political hero, played by Claude Raines, was a greedy crook. Smith's heart-felt speech in the filibuster scene at the end is a reminder of best of the American way of life.
“The Wizard of Oz”
Flying monkeys, dancing munchkins and talking trees, oh, my! “The Wizard of Oz” still stands as a scary and beloved masterpiece. A favorite of children and adults, its beautiful sets, unforgettable songs and characters make “The Wizard of Oz” Frank Baum’s most popular novel. Judy Garland’s molasses sweet Dorothy is offset by Margaret Hamilton terrifying Wicked Witch in one of classic films’ ultimate showdowns.
Witty, acid-tongue Ninotchka, played by the legendary Greta Garbo, turned Paris upside down in Ernst Lubitsch’s sophisticated comedy of capitalism and love. Mix one tough-minded Russian on a mission with a free-spirited American politician, Melvyn Douglas, and you get a delightful satire of seduction. Director Lubitsch added secret agent elements to keep the audience guessing who was seducing whom. “Ninotchka” is a classic, charming and smart romantic comedy that has had many imitators.