Instant Classics: March

New This Month

The Black Pirate (1926) Mar. 1
Exhibiting his trademark bravado and finesse, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. portrays the titular buccaneer, the lone survivor of a pirate attack that killed his father. Naturally, the valorous swashbuckler vows vengeance. Sword in hand, he infiltrates the lair of the villainous high-seas marauders, single-handedly captures one of their merchant vessels and scores the hat trick with the requisite rescue of a damsel in distress (Billie Dove).

His Private Secretary (1933) Mar. 1
A straight-laced father tries to control his free-spirited son in this romantic comedy. Fed up with his son’s wild ways, Mr. Wallace (Reginald Barlow) forces him to take a job as a collections agent. But Dick (John Wayne) falls for Marion (Evalyn Knapp), whose grandfather is overdue on his payments. Wallace is convinced Marion’s a gold-digger and forbids the relationship, so she takes a job at his office to prove she’s daughter-in-law material.

The Kennel Murder Case (1933) Mar. 1
William Powell brings his urbane insouciance (and considerable detecting skills) to this “Philo Vance” mystery, which finds the unflappable gumshoe (Powell) nosing around a Long Island dog show where an apparent suicide has just occurred. But Philo isn’t convinced… it smells like a murder! The slate of suspects in director Michael Curtiz’s vintage whodunit includes Mary Astor, Paul Cavanaugh, Ralph Morgan, Helen Vinson and Jack LaRue.

Black Sheep (1935) Mar. 1
When gambler John Dugan (Edmund Lowe) tries to prove the innocence of Fred Curtis (Tom Brown), a young man who’s been framed for a jewel heist aboard a cruise ship, some of the passengers question why the notorious Dugan would help a stranger. Turns out, he has a secret motivation: As the card shark and the real jewel thief match wits, it becomes clear that Dugan is Fred’s long-lost father, hoping to make up for abandoning the boy.

Gulliver’s Travels (1939) Mar. 1
This animated adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s classic story follows the escapades of Lemuel Gulliver, a shipwrecked English sailor who washes ashore in the land of the minuscule Lilliputians. There, he tries to bring peace between his new hosts and their rivals in the land of Blefiscu, but spies, busybodies and other factions thwart his efforts. Animation giants Dave and Max Fleischer are the duo behind this Oscar-nominated, tuneful adventure.

Santa Fe Trail (1940) Mar. 1
Set in the 1850s, director Michael Curtiz’s frontier tale recounts the bloody conflict between the Army and abolitionist John Brown (Raymond Massey) in the years preceding the Civil War. As West Point alumni Jeb Stuart (Errol Flynn) and George Armstrong Custer (Ronald Reagan) attempt to crush Brown’s antislavery crusade, they find themselves competing for the affections of a lovely lass (Olivia de Havilland). Van Heflin and Alan Hale also star.

The Outlaw (1943) Mar. 1
When infamous gunslinger Billy the Kid (Jack Beutel) rides into town, Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) and legendary lawman Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) are forced to test their friendship. But once the sultry Rio (Jane Russell) shows up to test their libidos, all bets are off. Eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes directs a young and buxom Russell in her screen debut — a cleavage-bearing performance that kept Hollywood censors on their toes.

The Southerner (1945) Mar. 1
Jean Renoir received a Best Director Oscar nod for this adaptation of George Sessions Perry’s story about Sam (Zachary Scott), a tired Texan sharecropper who turns his energies to cultivating his own cotton crop. But Sam faces bitter odds as he struggles to build a better life for himself and his family in this rural take on the American Dream. A critical hit, The Southerner won Best Film at the 1946 Venice Film Festival.

Till the Clouds Roll By (1947) Mar. 1
Composer Jerome Kern’s life and times are tunefully chronicled in this star-studded biopic. Kicking off with a 20-minute production of “Show Boat” — including Lena Horne’s definitive rendition of “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” — the film culminates in a glitzy theatrical tableau featuring Frank Sinatra crooning “Old Man River.” Robert Walker stars as the Broadway songwriter, with Van Heflin zigzagging through the events as Kern’s crotchety guru.

Call Northside 777 (1948) Mar. 1
James Stewart stars in this documentary-style legal drama based on a true story. During Prohibition, Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) is falsely accused and imprisoned for killing a cop in a speakeasy. His mother, Tillie (Kasia Orzazewski), has a fierce belief in her son’s innocence, but it’s only when reporter P.J. McNeal (Stewart) starts investigating the crime 11 years later that the truth comes to light. Lee J. Cobb costars as McNeal’s editor.

The Inspector General (1949) Mar. 1
Energetic funnyman Danny Kaye stars as Georgi, a traveling medicine show schlemiel who ambles into a fraud-ridden Russian hamlet that’s expecting the czar’s Inspector General. Taking the snake-oil shill for the examiner, the town’s corrupt officials curry favor with Georgi and shower him with bribes. What will happen when the bona fide inspector arrives? A great supporting cast, including Walter Slezak and Elsa Lanchester, adds to the merriment.

The Big Lift (1950) Mar. 1
Testing their post-World War II power, the Soviets choke off West Berlin, prohibiting the Allies from getting provisions to the city’s starving people — resulting in a gutsy but dicey Allied airlift. Montgomery Clift stars as a flier who pursues an ill-fated affair with a pretty German war widow (Cornell Borchers), while Paul Douglas plays a bitter sergeant — and former Nazi prisoner of war — who can’t get over his animus toward the Germans.

The Road to Bali (1952) Mar. 1
The sixth and final Road movie (and the only one in color) that Bing Crosby and Bob Hope made for Paramount finds the boys acting as scuba divers in the South Pacific. It’s not long before the pair winds up on a tropical island with — who else? — Dorothy Lamour, a princess with treasure troubles. Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke once again write the songs. Watch for the cameo from Carolyn Jones (of “Addams Family” fame).

The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) Mar. 1
After journalist Charles (Van Johnson) marries Helen (Elizabeth Taylor) in Paris, he supports her with a low-level reporting job while writing a novel at night. But frequent rejections discourage him, and he gives up his creative passion. An oil-well investment allows Charles to live a luxurious lifestyle, but his newfound attitude creates tension in the marriage in this loose adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Babylon Revisited.”

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) Mar. 1
After serving as an Army captain in World War II, Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) returns home a changed man. But 10 years later, with her eyes on a nicer house and a better life, his wife (Jennifer Jones) is still longing for the go-getter she once knew. To make her happy, Tom takes a high-paying PR job with a Madison Avenue company. But his memories of the past — and his discomfort with the present — make it difficult to embrace the future.

An Affair to Remember (1957) Mar. 1
Although each is already engaged to another, Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) meet on an ocean liner and fall deeply in love. Tempting fate, they agree to meet at the Empire State Building in six months if they still feel the same way. But a tragic accident prevents their rendezvous, and the lovers’ future takes an uncertain turn. This classic love story was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Music.

House on Haunted Hill (1958) Mar. 1
Millionaire Frederick Loren offers five people $10,000 to stay a night in a remote haunted house, giving each of them a loaded gun as a “party favor.” Throughout the night, they’re terrorized by skeletons, disembodied heads and other grisly apparitions. Will any of the guests survive to win the prize? Or will the house scare them to death? The legendary Vincent Price stars in one of director William Castle’s most famous chillers.

The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) Mar. 1
Based on the novel by Theodore Pratt, this quaint little children’s fantasy leads the viewer on a deep-sea adventure. Henry Limpet (Don Knotts), a bespectacled, milquetoast bookkeeper, loves his pet fish so much that he longs to be one. When Henry’s wish comes true and he’s turned into a talking fish, the simple ocean life he’d envisioned proves more exciting than mundane as he helps the U.S. Navy defeat the Nazis during World War II!

Star! (1968) Mar. 1
This musical about Broadway star Gertrude Lawrence stars Julie Andrews as the determined beauty who was so adamant about furthering her career that she even walked out on her husband and daughter. A source of strength throughout her life was playwright Noel Coward (Daniel Massey), who was also very honest in his opinions of her work. Later in life, Lawrence fell for financial investor Richard Aldrich (Richard Crenna).

Send Me No Flowers (1964) Mar. 4
George Kimball (Rock Hudson) is a sweet husband, a respectable businessman… and a hopeless hypochondriac. He overhears his physician discussing another patient’s terminal diagnosis and mistakes it for his own, prompting him to find a suitable husband for his wife, Judy (Doris Day). George’s error leads to a whole sequence of hilarious mix-ups. Doris Day sings the title song in this Hudson-Day comedy classic.

Cheyenne Autumn (1964) Mar. 28
Director John Ford’s last Western chronicles the 1878 migration of a band of Cheyenne, who — in defiance of the U.S. government — leave their barren Oklahoma reservation to return to their ancestral home in Wyoming. As chiefs Little Wolf (Ricardo Montalban) and Dull Knife (Gilbert Roland) lead the starving tribe on the 1500-mile trek, sympathetic Capt. Thomas Archer (Richard Widmark) and bigoted Capt. Oscar Wessels (Karl Malden) are in pursuit.

Dallas (1950) Mar. 29
After the Civil War, Confederate soldier Blayde Hollister (Gary Cooper) travels to Dallas to avenge the savage murder of his family. Discovering his enemy is now an esteemed citizen, Hollister plots to expose the villain and his syndicate. But to do so, he must first switch identities with a helpful U.S. marshal. Meanwhile, the marshal’s fiancée (Ruth Roman) begins to fall for Hollister as the action unfolds in a tense cat-and-mouse game.

Curse of the Faceless Man (1958) Mar. 31
After pulling the remarkably preserved body of a faceless Etruscan gladiator out of the ashes in Pompeii, two scholars — Italian archaeologist Carlo Fiorillo (Luis Van Rooten) and American medical researcher Paul Mallon (Richard Anderson) — debate whether the body still harbors any life. But one thing is frighteningly certain: Death seems to find anyone who spends time alone with the petrified body.

I Want to Live! (1958) Mar. 31
Barbara Graham (Susan Hayward) — party girl and prevaricator — works as a shill, enticing naive men into rigged card games. She tries to reform, but when her new life crumbles, she falls back on her old ways. Soon Barbara and her partners in crime find themselves charged with murder and facing the death penalty. As the wheels of justice spin, Barbara desperately asserts her innocence. Hayward reaped an Oscar for her electrifying portrayal.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) Mar. 31
Incompetent mayor Italo Bombolini (Anthony Quinn) rises to the occasion when his small Italian town is threatened by approaching Nazis planning to seize the town’s supply of valuable wine near the end of World War II. Organizing the locals, he facilitates a plan to hide a million bottles in a nearby cave. Anna Magnani, Virna Lisi and Hardy Krüger co-star in Stanley Kramer’s appealing comedy, which garnered a Golden Globe for Best Film.

Expiring This Month

The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) Mar. 28
Swedish actor Max Von Sydow made his English-speaking debut in this gargantuan retelling of the life of Christ from Giant director George Stevens. The much-ballyhooed all-star cast includes Charlton Heston as John the Baptist and John Wayne as The Centurion at The Crucifixion. Filmed in Death Valley and in Utah, Nevada and Arizona locations, this dazzling epic garnered five Oscar nominations, including Best Special Effects and Best Score.

Laura (1944) Mar. 31
Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) has been murdered, and as New York Det. Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates, he finds that everyone seems to be in love with her — and he, too, gradually falls under her spell. But things aren’t always as they seem. Otto Preminger’s classic mystery received four Academy Award nominations, including a nod for Best Director, and won the Oscar for Best Cinematography.

The Dark Corner (1946) Mar. 31
Mark Stevens stars as hardboiled private eye Bradford Galt, who relocates to New York City after serving two years in stir on a manslaughter charge. Framed by his shyster ex-partner, Tony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger), Galt soon finds himself set up again — this time for Jardine’s murder. Lucille Ball portrays Galt’s adoring secretary, and Clifton Webb plays an unctuous art collector in this gritty film noir from director Henry Hathaway.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Mar. 31
A humanoid envoy (Michael Rennie) from another world lands in Washington, D.C., with a warning to Earth’s people to cease their violent behavior. But panic erupts when a nervous soldier shoots the messenger, and his robot companion tries to destroy the capital. A sci-fi hallmark that offers wry commentary on the political climate of the 1950s, this Golden Globe-winning classic is less concerned with special effects than with its potent message.

Decision Before Dawn (1951) Mar. 31
Set during World War II’s waning days, this taut thriller stars Oskar Werner as Cpl. Karl Maurer, a turncoat German prisoner of war sent on a dicey espionage mission as the Allies get ready for a final onslaught. But Col. Devlin (Gary Merrill) and Lt. Rennick (Richard Basehart) — the Americans in charge of pulling off the radical scheme — harbor grave doubts about where Maurer’s loyalty lies. The 1951 film snagged an Oscar nod for Best Picture.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Mar. 31
Two American showgirls in the mood for love board a luxury liner to Paris. Engaged to be married, fair-haired Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) is unknowingly tracked by a private investigator who was hired by her future father-in-law. But the detective only has eyes for her brunette friend, Dorothy (Jane Russell). Based on the Broadway musical starring Carol Channing, the film features the memorable tune “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Frenchie (1950) Apr. 1
Hoping to track down the men who callously murdered her father when she was a child, New Orleans casino owner Frenchie Fontaine (Shelley Winters) returns to her Western hometown of Bottleneck and opens a gambling house. She soon faces hostility from churchgoing residents and becomes entangled in a love triangle, as sheriff Tom Banning (Joel McCrea) tries to help her in this Western inspired by the 1939 film Destry Rides Again.

Foxy Brown (1974) Apr. 1
Smart and sexy black heroine Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) is one of the most popular icons of the 1970s, thanks to this blaxploitation flick oozing with sass and funky style. Gangsters murder Foxy’s government-agent boyfriend because her cokehead brother ratted him out. Now, on a kick-ass quest for revenge, she joins a high-class prostitution agency to get closer to the drug ring. There’s plenty of violence, plenty of nudity — but no mercy.

1 Comment

  1. Wow! I’d go broke if I tried to buy all the ones I like! What an extensive list, and some real favorites of mine — The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Kennel Murder Case, Call Northside 777, Santa Fe Trail and House on Haunted Hill would be my first choices. Thanks for the heads-up and informative info on these movies, Garbo!

%d bloggers like this: