What was your favorite classic movie discovery this year?

 

We had fun, didn't we, comrades?
We had fun, didn’t we, comrades?

I did a year end recap in 2013 and I will be doing another one this year but I wanted to add a little something fun. One of my favorite aspects of the year in retrospect is considering the “new to me” films that I discovered. This is where you come in.

I thought it would be enjoyable to include a list of classic films that my readers saw for the first time in 2014. Winter is upon us and I am hoping to compile the best possible to-watch list for those snowy nights ahead. (Yes, it does snow in California.) So, I’m crowd-sourcing the list! Leave me a comment and let me know your favorite pre-1970 discovery this year.

Your discovery doesn’t have to technically be the best, it just has to be the film that you enjoyed the most. So-bad-it’s-good is perfectly acceptable as long as you had a good time. Your choice can be famous or obscure. Again, your enjoyment is the only criteria.

Thanks in advance! I look forward to your wonderful recommendations.

My favorite silent discoveries in 2014

(Click on any title to read my review of the film)

1. Michael Strogoff (1926)

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The movie may as well have been made to order, it’s a veritable laundry list of Stuff Fritzi Likes. Russian cast? One that includes Ivan Mosjoukine? Filmed with an entire army (like, literally an army, as in military men) of extras? Elaborate plot? Intrigue? Stencil color? Bliss!

Read my review here.

2. The Canadian (1926)

The Canadian 1926 image (43)

What was in the water back in 1926? So many great movies! This understated drama features some of the best acting of the silent era. It’s about a marriage of convenience in the grain fields of Canada. If you think silent films were all about melodrama, prepare for a shock.

Read my review here.

3. The Wishing Ring (1914)

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I went in with zero expectations and was utterly charmed by this sweet little film. It’s an old English romance (as directed by a Frenchman in America) with plenty of humor. It is also the single most beautiful movie from the ‘teens that I have ever had the pleasure to experience.

Read my review here.

4. Beyond the Border (1925)

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This action-comedy is light as a feather but I have rarely had this much fun at the movies. Harry Carey is a put-upon western sheriff who quickly discovers that no good deed goes unpunished. The intertitles are a riot!

Read my review here.

beyond-the-border-i-want-my-pants

5. The Burning Crucible (1923)

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Weird, wild, wonderful. Ivan Mosjoukine makes the list again (as well he should!) with a crazy detective story that he wrote, directed and starred in. At turns surreal, hilarious and bizarre, I can guarantee you have never seen anything like it. I certainly hadn’t.

Read my review here.

53 Comments

  1. dlhartzog

    The Eddie Duchin Story, Show People, Shanghai Express. Although post-1970, the documentary, LA Plays Itself, was amazingly informative about how the movies portray that city. I was also captivated by Scott Eylan’s The Speed of Sound, a book you recommended.

  2. Chuck Day

    My favorite discoveries this year (among many, thanks to your site) are: “His Trysting Place” (1914) with Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand…an absolutely hilarious short and, “Asphalt (1929) with Gustav Fröhlich and breathtakingly beautiful Betty Amann.

  3. Bob Duggan

    My favorite discoveries were Lon Chaney’s “The Unholy Three” (great acting by the always great Chaney) and a Max Linder documentary done by his daughter Maud back in 1983, “The Man in the SIlk Hat.” Watching the LInder doc, which was basically a Linder’s greatest hits package all in one place, made me realize why Chaplin called Linder his “professor.” Without Linder, there’s no Chaplin, or at least not the Chaplin we’ve all come to know and love.

  4. Todd Benefiel

    As far as silents go, being a Harold Lloyd fan, I finally got to see ‘Safety Last’, which I thought was a heck of a lot of fun. Moving forward a bit, I also really enjoyed ‘Kings Row’ and ‘No Highway in the Sky’.

    And a question for you, and I’m not being a wise guy here…I’m just curious: do you watch any films that aren’t silent? And if so, what genre or era do you like? I love film noir, and I maybe watch one or two for every ten films I see…what’s your percentage of silents to everything else watched?

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I do watch other eras. Since I started the site, my proportion of silents has risen but it’s probably about a third of what I watch. I like British TV (Sherlock, George Gently) and catch most of the big animated films when they come out.

  5. Charles W. Callahan

    They’re all talkies. TOUGH GUY, ALGEIRS, 5 CAME BACK and SUNDOWN
    with Joseph Calleia. They may not be classics, but he was amazing. I’ve seen Calleia over years in countless films. TOUCH OF EVIL, AFTER THE THIN MAN, THE GLASS KEY, FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL, etc. But I always took him for granted. He was a superb actor! Oson Welles thought so too.

  6. karentheknowitall

    I don’t know if “In a Lonely Place,” which I saw for the first time last week, is considered a classic. If not, I think it should be. I was never particularly a fan of Bogart or of Gloria Grahame. But in this film their acting is brilliant, bringing so many facets to the characters. They are helped in this by a great script – an excellent mystery and beautiful writing.
    Dlhartzog mentions “Shanghai Express” which has been a favorite of mine for many years. If you like “Shanghai Express,” “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” directed by Frank Capra is another film you might enjoy.
    I almost forgot – “Pickup on South Street” is another great film which for a number of years seems to have been largely neglected by critics and public.

  7. Erin

    I really started delving into Japanese cinema this year, so many of my favorite discoveries reflect that: Ikiru (I watched and loved a lot of new-to-me Kurosawa this year, but Ikiru was my favorite), Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, The Human Condition. I’d also add The Big City (I watched a lot of great Satyajit Ray movies too), Il Sorpasso, and Winter Light, and too many others to name. As for silents, I’d say my favorites were Lubitsch’s The Doll and The Oyster Princess, both of which I discovered through your blog. I also loved The Ascent, which you’ve also reviewed, but it’s post-1970.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yeah, The Ascent is one of the most gloriously depressing things I have ever seen. So amazingly beautiful though. I have not yet had the courage to tackle The Human Condition, though I adore Tatsuya Nakadai and Kobayashi.

      1. Erin

        Yes, The Human Condition is pretty intense, even apart from the major time commitment. (And I think Tatsuya Nakadai might actually be my favorite classic movie discovery of the year.)

  8. Rich

    HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, which I had the privilege of seeing with a live score from the Alloy Orchestra, was a huge highlight for me. Also saw Hope & Crosby in ROAD TO BALI and laughed myself silly.

  9. John Hitchcock (@HitchcocksWorld)

    Oh wow, that is a tricky one, but there’s been a few. The best was probably when I finally sat down to watch Battleship Potempkin and finally found a Russian movie I actually liked (and for that matter, a Russian director I actually felt like I could get into, even putting one of his other films on my 2015 blindspot list). I also have irrefutable proof that Sergei Eisenstein may have inspired Kate Bush: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HYFVeaW-Ufw/VFACJ7zs5nI/AAAAAAAAFtY/rQcDUjfkZ_I/s1600/Kate%2BBush%2BEisenstein.jpg

  10. Le

    I’ll still write about my favorite discoveries on my blog, but I can already say two of them were The Scarlett Empress and The Big Parade. I mean, I don’t vn buy DVDs but I HAD TO buy the extended version of The Big Parade.

  11. Lindsey

    I’ll be doing a whole list of discoveries (by decade) on my blog in January but if I had to choose just one, my favorite would have to be ‘The Red House,’ a near-forgotten 1947 mystery starring Edward G. Robinson. I own it in one of my Mill Creek multipacks and was just so impressed with it when I watched it — great performances, suspenseful story, everything you want from a mystery film! A shame it hasn’t been properly preserved/restored!

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      A shame indeed. That’s the double-edged sword of public domain films. We can get them cheaply and easily but it also means that the original studio has little interest in pouring money into a restoration.

  12. Jan Ostrom

    Just saw Fritz Lang’s “Woman in the Window” – 1945. Now I’m torn between it & “Scarlet Street” – – Same great cast, almost the same story—which is better?

  13. Patti

    i think i’ve only seen ~few movies this year and it makes me feel very bad. 😦

    anyway, here’s the list of my classic movie discoveries (that i really liked) this year:

    Cape Fear (1962)
    A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
    Notorious (1946)
    Cool Hand Luke (1967)
    Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

    among them i think i love notorious the most. cary grant and ingrid bergman’s amazing chemistry just won me over.

    (i might make a blog post inspired by this!)

      1. Carter Burrell

        I would say: STELLA MARIS (1918) is the top one for me. That was just amazingly beautiful, it has held up very well. I think Mary Pickford’s dual performance in that was one of the best performances in any era of acting. The cinematography was gorgeous and very inventive. I give it a 10 out of 10.
        Other faves:
        MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929) is astounding, creating an absorbing narrative out of purely visual elements. It was an effort to create a cinema free of literary or theatrical allusions, and I think it was amazingly successful. I saw a version with a modern post-rock-jazz score that actually fit very well. It’s just as modern now as it was in 1929.
        TRAFFIC IN SOULS (1913), a really solid early feature
        THE ITALIAN (1915), a moving and beautiful film about the immigrant experience
        WINGS (1927) – what more needs to be said? Great acting, cinematography, epic scale – just great all around.

  14. Ronald

    My top three for 2014:

    3. Two Women (La Ciociara, 1960): Sophia Loren stars in this heartbreaking tale of atrocity during the last days of World War II. Also stars Jean-Paul Belmondo. Directed by Vittorio de Sica.

    2. Exit Smiling (1926): Beatrice Lillie as a would-be actress in a second-rate touring theater troupe is by turns hilarious and poignant. Also stars Jack Pickford. Directed by Sam Taylor.

    1. Metropolis (1927): Director Fritz Lang went for broke in this unforgettable blend of fantasy, science fiction, and socio-religious message. This is the movie that changed me from an occasional silent movie viewer to an outright silents fan. Stars Gustav Frölich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, and Brigitte Helm.

    Still pondering my “wish list” for 2015, but that’s another topic.

  15. Jeffrey Nelson

    My five fave silent discoveries of the year:

    TOL’ABLE DAVID (1921) starring Richard Barthelmess
    THE MAGICIAN (1926) starring Paul Wegener
    UP IN MABEL’S ROOM (1926) starring Marie Prevost
    GETTING GERTIE’S GARTER (1927) starring Marie Prevost
    WHY BE GOOD? (1929) starring Colleen Moore

    Glad to see someone else has discovered the absolutely wonderful EXIT SMILING (1926). Beatrice Lillie is riveting in her Chaplinesque performance.

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