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Don't save the drama for your mama!

10 Great Classic Dramas

Classic Drama is a hard sell. Far too many people tend to write off any movie made before they were born and that makes me sad. One of the things that makes Scarecrow special is our dedication preserving and celebrating the entire history of cinema, we don't just have the best movies from last year,  we have the best movies from the past century! I'm really excited about that, and you should be too. When I chose these films I did my best to find movies that most people haven't seen, these aren't the most famous dramas, but every one of them stands out in its own way, and most of them were Oscar-nominated.

Here are the movies I have selected for this month:

Ace in the Hole
How far will down and out newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum go in order to get a great story? Billy Wilder answers that question in the recently re-discovered classic Ace In The Hole. When big city journalist Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) bottoms out, he finds himself begging for work at a tiny New Mexico newspaper. After a few months of boredom he stumbles upon a local man who has been trapped in a cave-in. Determined to spin the unfortunate accident into a national Story he creates a media circus around the man who is trapped and dying. Will the man make it out alive?

The Bad and the Beautiful
Sometimes drama requires a little bit of glamor, and if a glamorous drama is what you are looking for, then you'll probably want to check out The Bad and the Beautiful. Ruthless Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields has clawed his way to the top of his profession, but at what cost. This film, directed by Vincente Minnelli tells the story of Shields' rise to fame, and the price that he pays for it.

The Caine Mutiny
Like most people, I mainly know Bogie from his tough guy roles in films like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. In the Caine Mutiny, he plays a completely different type of character and he does it flawlessly. As a naval captain on trial following the mutiny of his crew, Bogie turns in a spectacular performance. Over the course of this tense courtroom drama his character, Captain Queeg, undergoes an amazing transformation. The Caine Mutiny is also the movie that inspired a young British actor to take the stage name Michael Caine. And the rest of the story.

The Catered Affair
Bette Davis squares off with Ernest Borgnine in this intense drama from 1956. When their daughter announces her engagement, her impoverished parents are pleased that she only wants a small wedding. A dinner with the wealthy groom's parents who spend the evening bragging about the lavish weddings that they provided for their own daughters changes everything. Pressure to provide their own daughter with an expensive ceremony that will wipe out their life savings, threatens to destroy their own marriage.

A Face in the Crowd
If you are only familiar with Andy Griffith from his role as laconic southern sheriff, Andy Taylor, you will be amazed at how great he is as a charismatic pitchman in A Face In the Crowd. The film traces the meteoric rise of Lonesome Rhoads, a down and out hobo who becomes a corrupt power-mad demagogue after being discovered by a young radio reporter. Despite being set in the 1950s the social commentary in this film is just as accurate today, thanks largely to the folks at Fox News.

Gentleman's Agreement
Nobody has ever been as good at portraying broad shouldered good guys as Gregory Peck. In this classic Elia Kazan drama, Peck plays Phillip Green a reporter who goes undercover to discover a secret world of anti-semitism lurking in his own neighborhood. This film does an amazing job of revealing just how subtle and poisonous racism truly is. I prefer Peck's performance in this to his performance in To Kill a Mockingbird, largely because the character’s journey from ignorance to anger is so much more interesting.

Leave Her to Heaven
This 1945 thriller stars Gene Tierney as a woman who will do anything to keep the man she loves. This is my favorite Gene Tierney film, partially because of the great story, and partially because it is beautiful to look at. Cinematographer Leon Shamroy won an Oscar for this film and you can see it in every frame. Tierney's eyes are luminous in technicolor.

A Patch of Blue
Sidney Poitier and Shelley Winters star in this moving coming of age story about a young blind woman and the kind stranger who befriends her despite her domineering racist mother. Although nearly forgotten today, this film was nominated for five Oscars. Poitier's restrained performance is a graceful contrast to Winters' Oscar winning hard-as-nails bitchery. Newcomer Elizabeth Hartman (remembered by many as the actress who voiced Mrs. Brisby in the Secret of NIMH) was given a best actress nomination for her role as the sheltered daughter who is torn between love and loyalty.

Stella Dallas
You know those movies where a poor girl marries a rich man and they live happily ever after? This isn't that movie. When lower class Stella (Barbara Stanwyck) marries man about town, Stephen Dallas she expects her life to be easy. Instead she is thrust into a social world that is both bewildering and infuriating. Unable to fit in with Stephen's wealthy friends and family, she ends up as a divorcee with a baby to raise. A devoted mother, Stella does everything in her power to give her daughter a perfect life - including making the ultimate sacrifice. This is the kind of film my mother calls a "tear-jerker" so you might want to stock up on Kleenex before you watch it.

Suddenly, Last Summer
Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor got dual Best Actress nominations for this film adaption of a Tennessee Williams play. When Sebastian Venable mysteriously passes away while on vacation with his cousin Catherine (Taylor), his mother Violet blames the girl for what happened. Catherine, understandably horrified by what happened, is locked away in an asylum while Violet plots to have her lobotomized. The climactic scene in this film is unforgettable.

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