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Classic Hollywood Movies On Hub Pages

Updated on October 27, 2011
Marilyn Monroe c.1952
Marilyn Monroe c.1952 | Source

The era of Classic Hollywood movies, also known as Hollywood's golden age, lasted for approximately 30 years, from the advent of Talkies in the late 1920's to the late 1950's when television viewing figures started to soar and spoilt the Hollywood party.

Before television the cinema was the only way that fantasies could be indulged. The weekly visit to the local Odeon or Gaumont was a trip to another world, a world of glamour and excitement, of beautiful actresses and devil- may-care actors, a world without financial constraints and of infinite possibilities. Some of the greatest actors and actresses ever seen were at their peak during this time, and they helped to create some of the finest movies ever seen, many of them still at or near the top of lists of all time great movies.

Films such as Citizen Kane and Casablanca, musicals like the Wizard of Oz and Singin' In The Rain are perennial favourites. Dancers like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, clowns like Charlie Chaplin, beauties like Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardener, directors like Busby Berkely and Alfred Hitchcock and swashbucklers like Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and Errol Flynn bestrode the world like demi-gods. The world was ready for them. The world has changed now and the Golden Age of Hollywood will never return.....but it can still be enjoyed.

Here are my Hub Pages top movies. Your list will probably be different. So make a hub and tell us! 

Welles as Kane
Welles as Kane

1) Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane, made in 1941, was the extraordinary achievement of the 25 years old genius, Orson Welles who directed it as well as starring in it.  

 His film was the recipient of nine Oscar nominations with only one win - Best Original Screenplay (Mankiewicz and Welles). The other eight nominations included Best Picture (Orson Welles, producer), Best Actor and Best Director (Welles), Best B/W Cinematography (Toland), Best Art Direction (Perry Ferguson and Van Nest Polglase), Best Sound Recording (John Aalberg), Best Dramatic Picture Score (Bernard Herrmann with his first brilliant musical score), and Best Film Editing (Robert Wise). With his four Academy Awards nominations, Welles became the first individual to receive simultaneous nominations in those four categories. The less-lauded John Ford picture How Green Was My Valley (1941) won the Best Picture honor.  

The movie is still looked on as something of a training manual for would-be directors due to its profusion of new ideas, cinematic and narrative techniques and experimental innovations (in photography, editing, and sound). The movie has a brilliant script and a thought-provoking plot. Its absolutely wonderful.  

Donna Reed, James Stewart and Karolyn Grimes
Donna Reed, James Stewart and Karolyn Grimes

2) Its A Wonderful Life

Made in 1946 and one of the most popular American films of all-time, It's A Wonderful Life is one of the most popular and heartwarming films ever made. It was also James Stewart's favorite of all his feature films.

It tells an unlikely tale of an angel called Clarence who helps a potential suicide, George Bailey, played by James Stewart, realise he does indeed have a wonderful life.

It was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (James Stewart in his first film in almost six years), Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Sound Recording and Best Film Editing, but won no Oscars.(It was eclipsed by William Wyler's award-winning The Best Years of Our Lives.)

The American Film Institute named it one of the best films ever made, putting it at the top of the list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers, a list of what AFI considers to be the most inspirational American movies of all time. The film also appeared in another AFI Top 100 list: it placed at 11th on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list of the top American films. It's A Wonderful Life is an indisputable movie classic.

O'Connor, Reynolds and Kelly
O'Connor, Reynolds and Kelly

3) Singin' In The Rain (1952)

It is the greatest of all musicals. It will always be remembered for Gene Kelly singin' and dancin' his way through its famous title number but the movie offers so much else besides. In fact it's been dubbed the'perfect' musical for its wonderful combination of classy stars, superb music and polished, witty script.

It is strange to think now that at first the movie went mostly unnoticed at the Academy Awards (just one nomination for Jean Hagen as Best Supporting Actress), but as time went on, its joyful sequences and charismatic stars proved too strong to resist.

The action of the movie takes place in 1927 with the arrival of sound in the Movie industry. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a celebrated silent movie star and the main action of the film concerns his attempts to remake a silent film as a Talkie. The love interest is provided by lovely newcomer, Debbie Reynolds. Throw Cyd Charisse and Donald (Make 'em Laugh) O'Connor into the mix and you've got a sure-fire hit.

I'll say it again: The greatest of all musicals.

Judy Garland as Dorothy
Judy Garland as Dorothy

4) The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic, a much loved film musical and is generally ranked among the top ten best movies of all-time.

It propelled the teenage Judy Garland as Dorothy into world stardom. With her companions — the clowning but clever Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the compassionate Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the blubbering Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) — she journeys along the yellow brick road through a fantasy land of magic and wonder.

Thanks to its exposure on television The Wizard of Oz has been seen by more viewers than any other movie. In a recent People Magazine poll, it was chosen as the favorite movie of the twentieth century.

Grant, Hepburn and Stewart
Grant, Hepburn and Stewart

5) The Philadelphia Story

If you want to see three of Hollywood's top talents performing and interacting at their absolute peak then The Philadelphia Story is a must-see. It is an intelligent, sophisticated, romantic comedy of love and marriage, human growth and class distinctions. Its screenplay is a witty, sparkling, and bright adaptation of Philip Barry's Broadway hit play.

The three top talents are Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. They form an incomparable romantic triangle and the script abounds with witty dialogue and quick-fire repartee between them. Ace Hollywood director George Cukor adapts this urbane comedy with precision and wit.

The film is so extraordinarily well-done that it can be watched repeatedly, revealing each time new and hidden delights. It strikes the perfect balance of being spectacularly well-acted, hysterically funny, and delightfully silly while maintaining an elegant veneer. The cast is nearly overwhelming in its quality, with Hepburn and Grant turning in especially fine performances.

6) 42nd Street

The story line has become an oft-repeated classic. Fresh-faced chorus girl is asked to replace the star in a musical. She is drilled to exhaustion but bravely goes out there and is a major success. A sparkling cast gives the film a vivacity and joie de vivre, including Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Warner Baxter and Ginger Rogers and the big discovery, a tap dancing treat making her film debut, Ruby Keeler, Broadway darling and wife of Al Jolson. To top it all busby Berkely directed the musical numbers. It was his big break and he seized it with gusto.

The movie is #13 on AFI's 25 Greatest Movie Musicals list. It's title theme song is #97 on AFI's 100 Top Movie Songs of All Time. Baxter's inspiration line to Keeler "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" is #87 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list.

Although the movie is about the Depression and set during the Depression it has a message of optimism and hope. It is the quintessential film about those who dream of becoming a star on the world's biggest stage.It actually helped save Warner Brothers from bankruptcy and was a contributory force to its growth into a major studio.

Stewart and Novak
Stewart and Novak

7) Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo is easily the most psychologically ambitious, disturbing and unclassifiable of Hitchcock's films. For a full appreciation it demands multiple viewings and for this reason it was not at first a commecial success. However, its reputation has steadily grown over the years and it is now regarded as one of the best and most important movies ever made.

The film tells the story of a retired policeman who falls in love with a mysterious woman he has been hired to follow but this simple plot unravels and becomes a masterful study of romantic longing, identity, voyeurism, treachery, female victimization and degrading manipulation. Eventually, however, the detective is revealed to have been a pawn in somebody else's deceptive scheme all along.

The cast was headed by James Stewart, a Hitchcock stalwart, and Kim Novak as the elegant, troubled blonde Madeleine Elster and the earthy shopgirl, brunette Judy Barton. Barbera Bel Geddes, later to achieve fame as Miss Ellie in Dallas, also stars.

8) City Lights (1931)

City Lights is an out and out masterpiece. It offers a combination of pathos, slapstick and comedy and shows Chaplin's comic, acting and artistic genius at its finest and that's saying something. He was responsible for the film's production, direction, editing, music, and screenplay.

The movie tells the deceptively simple story of Chaplin's famous little tramp character who is touched by a blind flower seller (graceful Virginia Cheryl) and saves an eccentric millionaire from suicide. He takes on a variety of jobs in order to earn money to restore her sight, including the memorable 'fixed' boxing match - I defy you not to laugh.

The AFI recently ranked this #76 on their list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time. Orson Welles had called it his favorite film of all time, while in the mid-‘60s, Stanley Kubrick placed it at #5 on his list of favorites. It's viewed by many others as the quintessential Chaplin film, a masterpiece in slapstick comedy, romance and pantomime. An absolute gem.

Cooper and Grace Kelly
Cooper and Grace Kelly

9) High Noon

Its the classic Western, with the classic Western image: the lone Marshall standing alone, awaiting his fate at noon.

The film it comes from is brilliantly and deceptively simple, a battle between good and evil, and Gary Cooper is at his best in his Oscar winning role as the embattled Marshall Kane. Watch also for the young Lee Van Cleef in one of his first movies. 

High Noon is generally regarded as one of the best Westerns ever made. It was nominated for 8 Academy awards and won 4, including Best Actor for Coooper and Best Song for the hit, "Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling" sung by Tex Ritter. High Noon is rated number 27 of the best ever movies on the American Film Institute's list.

Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon
Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon

10) Wuthering Heights (1939)

William Wyler's adaptation of Emily Bronte's amazing novel, Wuthering Heights, is unsurpassed as a Gothic tale of passion and romance thwarted by social circumstance.  It is the film which propelled Lawrence Olivier to world stardom and which Samuel Goldwyn regarded as the best he ever produced.  In a vintage year for Hollywood movies, Wuthering Heights held its own among intense competition, even surpassing Gone With the Wind to win the New York Film Critics' Award as 1939's Best Picture. And though it only took home one Academy Award--for Toland's atmospheric photography--there were Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Screenplay, Director Wyler, Supporting Actress Geraldine Fitzgerald (in the role Vivien Leigh rejected), Alfred Newman's score--and, in the first of his Best Actor nominations, Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff.   Heathcliff's speech about the life he and Cathy will live together is one of the most poignant moments in Hollywood movies. The acting of Olivier and Merle Oberon as the doomed lovers, framed against the wild and stormy Yorkshire moorland setting makes the film intensely memorable.


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    • gunsock profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from South Coast of England

      Yes, there's a whole world of great movies out there. Thanks for the comment lafenty.

    • lafenty profile image


      9 years ago from California

      All great movies. Really hard to pick top ten from so many wonderful choices.

    • gunsock profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from South Coast of England

      There's some really interesting titles there William, including some I've not seen. Time for me to do some homework. I don't think any 2 people will agree on an 'all time top ten' list, but its fun trying!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      The Golden Age of Hollywood was pretty much my era, gunsock, so I agree your Top 10 are truly gems. My list, however, would probably include "Going My Way," (Bing Crosby), "Gunga Din" (Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbank's Jr. and Victor McLaglen), "Sahara," (Humphrey Bogart), "Double Indemnity," (Barbara Stanwyck) and "Hamlet," (Laurence Olivier.)

    • Candace Morgan profile image

      Candace Morgan 

      9 years ago from New York

      Oldies but goodies. Thanks.


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