This past Sunday I took advantage of the less-than-stellar weather and hunkered down to watch Doctor Zhivago for the first time. Five slices of pizza and 197 minutes later, I was able to cross another film off of the AFI 100 list. The only other David Lean film I’ve seen is Lawrence of Arabia, which clocks in at 216 minutes. But I’ve also heard that Bridge on the River Kwai is quite lengthy which got me thinking – has David Lean ever made a film that’s not outrageously long?
I turned to IMDB for help. According to them, Lean is credited with directing 16 feature films. Here they are with durations:
A Passage to India (1984) – 164 minutes
Ryan’s Daughter (1970) – 195 minutes
Doctor Zhivago (1965) – 197 minutes
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – 216 minutes
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) – 161 minutes
Summertime (1955) – 99 minutes
Hobson’s Choice (1954) – 107 minutes
Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952) – 118 minutes
Madeleine (1950) – 114 minutes
One Woman’s Story (1949) – 86 minutes
Oliver Twist (1948) – 116 minutes
Great Expectations (1946) – 118 minutes
Brief Encounter (1945) – 86 minutes
Blithe Spirit (1945) – 96 minutes
This Happy Breed (1944) – 105 minutes
In Which We Serve (1942) – 115 minutes
So the answer to my question is yes, David Lean clearly is capable of telling a story in two hours, he’s just better at making films that run for three. And all the long ones come at the back half of his career. Perhaps he wanted more of his films to hit the three hour mark, but only received the creative control to once he had become an established director.
Since I don’t often get enough time to sleep much less watch movies during the school year, I try to make up for it during the summer. I somehow lucked out and managed to score a summer job this year where I can work and watch movies at the same time. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the films I’ve been able to watch so far:
Summertime (1955): I started the summer out with the appropriately named film, Summertime. I described this film to Linds as the shortest David Lean film I had seen. It’s not an epic, but it is a pretty good romantic film starring Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi. I liked the story, the Venetian backdrop, and thought Hepburn was excellent as a lonely spinster looking for something more to life.
Black Narcissus (1947): I read somewhere that Black Narcissus borders on boring, but was intrigued by the praise for the cinematography and by the film’s star, Ingrid Bergman. I didn’t find the film to be boring, but it is a slow psychological thriller that eventually builds to a dramatic ending. I was surprised at how modern both the subject matter and cinematography seemed even though it was made in the late ’40s. Out of all the films I’ve watched so far this summer I think this was my favorite. I’m interested to know if anyone else has seen this film and what they thought of it.
Picnic (1955): I think I was expecting more from this film and sadly I didn’t think it delivered. Maybe its one of those films I need to watch a second time to appreciate. I wasn’t very interested in the main storyline and couldn’t sympathize with many of the characters. I did think Rosalind Russell was great in this film, however, and wished the story focused more on her character.
Night and the City (1950): Like all good film noirs, Night and the City has some excellent scenes where light and shadow are used to create drama and suspense. Richard Widmark isn’t too bad either as the unsympathetic, smalltime hustler with big dreams.While I liked the film in general, the climactic wrestling scene between Gregorius and the Strangler was a little hard to watch (although that was probably director Jules Dassin’s intent to make the scene uncomfortable) – and I am not exactly faint of heart.
The Wild Bunch (1969): I like westerns like Shane, High Noon, and The Misfits, but The Wild Bunch was too brutal for my taste. Blood, guts, and gore don’t bother me at all, but guys shooting and killing each other for an entire film is not my cup of tea. Also, this film reminded me why I don’t like to watch films with horses in them. There were too many horses falling down, falling off of bridges, and getting shot at. Don’t bother looking for a “No animals were harmed…” disclaimer or like me, you’ll be looking in vain for a long time.
West Side Story (1961): I had not seen this film for a long time and it’s a good thing I picked it up to follow the Wild Bunch or I’m not sure I would have been able to sleep well that night. Nothing makes me giggle like no good teenage gangsters who also happen to have a background in ballet.
Next up on my list of films to watch are M (1931), Yojimbo (1961), Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), and Metropolis (1927). What films are on your summer movie list?
Go ahead and sing the title of this post out loud, a la Dwight Shrute. But Ryan didn’t start this fire, Billy Joel did. Joel’s 1989 hit includes a whole lotta classic film references and we’re going through them one by one for those Gen Y’ers who know the song but wonder where the River Kwai is (in Thailand).
Doris Day – Wholesome singer and actress Doris Day starred in films such as Pillow Talk, That Touch of Mink, and Love Me or Leave Me. In Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), she performs the song “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)”.
South Pacific – Rodgers & Hammerstein musical adapted to film in 1958. Neither of us have seen the musical or movie, so we’ll recommend Oklahoma! instead. Yeow!
Marilyn Monroe – I’m pretty sure we all know who MM is. She’s best known for her comedies, but also made a couple dramatic films including The Misfits (1961) which I highly recommend.
Brando – Marlon Brando is one of the most influential actors of all time. Famous classic films include A Streetcar Named Desire (“Stelllllla!!!”), On The Waterfront (“I coulda been a contender…”), and The Wild One (“What’re you rebelling against? / “Whaddya got?”). Famous modern films include The Godfather (“I”m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”) and Apocalypse Now (“The horror”). This EW article talks about how fascinating Brando is, on and off screen.
The King And I – Another Rodgers & Hammerstein musical-turned-film about a British schoolteacher who travels to Siam to tutor the royal family. Deborah Kerr (love her! even though it’s not her singing in this one) and Yul Brynner star.
James Dean – I’m sure we’re all familiar with Mr. Dean as well. In only 3 films (and one tragic accident), Dean became the quintessential rebel.
Princess Grace – Or, as she was pre-April ’56, Grace Kelly. Yes, as in the one Mika sang about. My favorite actress and an American style icon, you can read more about her in our birthday tribute.
Peyton Place – A 1957 film about the scandalous lives of small town inhabitants. Basically “One Tree Hill” in the 50′s.
Bridge On The River Kwai – Alix set me straight on this one. David Lean’s (read: lonnng) 1957 film was the top moneymaking film that year right ahead of Peyton Place. One of the greatest war films of all time, Bridge won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.
Ben-Hur – A 1959 Biblical-times epic starring Charlton Heston. If you’re around our age, you probably know him as the guy who was president of the NRA during our youth. If you like chariot races, check this one out.
Psycho – Hitchcock’s most famous film boasts a handful of iconic elements: the shower scene, the Bates Motel, “mother”, screeching violins. The string cue is arguably the most replicated music cue ever, appearing in everything from “The Simpsons” to Finding Nemo.
Lawrence of Arabia – Peter O’Toole (remember that old guy with the super blue eyes who was nominated for Best Actor along side Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling in 2006? Him.) stars in this based on a true story epic about T.E. Lawrence and the Middle Eastern theatre during WWI. One of mine and Steven Spielberg’s favorites.
Reagan – Ronald Reagan was a movie actor before he became the 40th President of the United States. While not a major star, he did appear in well-known films like Dark Victory, King’s Row, and Knute Rockne, All American.
What’s the best thing about winter break besides seeing family and drinking caramel apple spices from Starbucks? More free time to watch classic films of course! Here is a short break down of the films I’ve watched recently and which I would recommend:
Out of the Past (1947): This is a great example of what a film noir should be and I think would be a great introduction for those not already familiar with the genre. Film noirs can sometimes seem over-dramatic (especially if you’re new to classic film) and the characters can be hard to keep track of. Out of the Past does not fall into either of these categories. What I liked most about the film is the snappy dialogue between characters. Take this for example:
The Lady in the Lake (1946):Another film noir, this one is probably better for those already interested in classic films. The film stars Robert Montgomery, but in an unconventional way. Montgomery, as detective Philip Marlow, is heard but rarely seen as the story is told from his point of view. The camera acts as his eyes so when Marlow blacks out, so does the camera. When Marlow is punched, a fist flies at the screen. Its an interesting film to watch due to the unique camera work, but it also comes off slightly awkward at some points (for example, long periods looking straight at a character’s face). A good film to watch for a classic film buff, but not something I would recommend to everyone.
Doctor Zhivago (1965): If you like sweeping epics and have 200 spare minutes, then this is the film for you! Its a beautiful story with amazing cinematography (desolate, Russian countryside never looked so good!) and a great score. Its also in color for those who are not fond of black and white. David Lean is a phenomenal director and I would highly suggest checking out any of his films if you have time.
Nothing Sacred (1937): I’m not a big fan of screwball comedy, but even I enjoyed this film. Carole Lombard’s acting is terrific and there are still plenty of laughs for those who may prefer more subtle humor. I would recommend this film to those who like screwball humor or to those interested in seeing a great Carole Lombard film. I will warn though that the film is in pretty tough shape, unless someone knows of a better version? If you do, let me know in the comments!