2013 was a fantastic movie viewing year in which I saw a record-setting 277 films.
That stacks up against 220 films in 2012 and 2009, 211 titles in 2010, and 226 in 2011.
I attribute the much higher total this year in part to watching a very high number of short "B" movies and pre-Codes, which allowed me to fit in more films. I also sent another child off to college this fall, the up side of which was fewer chores and more free time for me back at home.
25 of those repeat viewings comprised exactly half of the 50 films I saw on a big screen this year. The number of big screen viewings is down slightly from last year's 55 films, but it's still a substantial number which makes me very happy, as it represents many extra-special viewing experiences.
I'd like to preface the year in review summary which follows by noting it's impossible to list all the films seen last year or go into great detail in this post, but I hope the links shared here might provide resources for readers to explore ideas for their own viewing in the months to come. Each review linked below contains detailed information on each title's availability.
...I will think of 2013 as the "Year of the Western," as I explored many films starring George O'Brien, Tim Holt, Audie Murphy, George Montgomery, and Rory Calhoun for the first time. It was also a year focused on series detectives, "B" films, and pre-Codes. I saw 18 films directed by "B" movie specialist Lew Landers, and I also began exploring films by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, with more of his films certain to come in 2014.
...The highlight of my year was the TCM Classic Film Festival, which I was privileged to cover as a member of the credentialed media. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet good friends I'd previously only known online, and we all had a grand time immersing ourselves in classic films. I was sad when the festival came to an end! I wrote a dozen posts on the festival, which are linked at the end of this post; my festival reviews included THE KILLING (1956), NOTORIOUS (1946), THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1948), KISMET (1955), and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934). The TCM screenings included the chance to see introductions by Coleen Gray, Norman Lloyd, William Wellman Jr., Eva Marie Saint, Jacqueline White, Ann Blyth, and Susan Ray, widow of director Nicholas Ray, not to mention favorite historians Leonard Maltin and Eddie Muller.
GUN CRAZY (1950), TRY AND GET ME (1950), REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947), THE CHASE (1946), HIGH TIDE (1947), JOHNNY COME LATELY (1943), and THE INSIDE STORY (1947). Along with these films I had the great opportunity to see Russ Tamblyn, Marjorie Lord, and Marsha Hunt as they shared memories. REPEAT PERFORMANCE and THE CHASE were two of my very favorite films of the entire year, and in fact I went and saw REPEAT PERFORMANCE again at the Noir City Film Festival. If you have the chance to see this rare blend of noir and fantasy, don't miss it!
HELL DRIVERS (1957), STREET OF CHANCE (1942), APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW (1957), GUILTY BYSTANDER (1950), and THE KILLERS (1946). The gritty HELL DRIVERS, with its phenomenal cast including Sean Connery, David McCallum, and Patrick McGoohan, was a particular favorite.
...This fall I saw three films at the World 3-D Film Expo at the Egyptian, including two new-to-me titles, I, THE JURY (1953) and INFERNO (1953). The Mickey Spillane film I, THE JURY was one of the more enjoyably bizarre movies I've ever seen! I was also able to finally see Robert Mitchum and Linda Darnell in SECOND CHANCE (1953) in 3-D. It was a special experience to see all three of these films as they were originally intended to be viewed.
THE IRON HORSE (1924) and NOAH'S ARK (1928) -- the latter on a big screen at UCLA! -- plus a whole bunch of his RKO "B" Westerns. My favorite of his Westerns was THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939), which for me epitomizes a well-done, economical yet creative "B" film. I'm looking forward to reading O'Brien's biography, which I received for Christmas.
...Other actors seen most often in 2013: Chester Morris (11 films), Tom Conway (10), Tim Holt (10), George Montgomery (8), Preston Foster (7), James Cagney (7), Audie Murphy (6), Walter Pidgeon (6), Edmond O'Brien (5), and Frank Lovejoy (5), along with supporting actors James Millican (5), Peter Graves (5), and Brian Keith (5). Sterling Hayden, Victor Mature, Dan Duryea, Alan Ladd, and Harold Lloyd were each seen in four films apiece. Further down the list, with three films apiece, are Dane Clark, Rod Cameron, Richard Carlson, Jeff Chandler, Robert Montgomery, Macdonald Carey, Ricardo Cortez, Clark Gable, Brian Donlevy, Rory Calhoun, Philip Carey, Lyle Talbot, and Robert Mitchum. That list is certainly reflective of many of the actors I most enjoy watching!
...Ann Blyth, Virginia Vale, Martha Hyer, and Mae Clarke tied for second place as the most-watched actress of 2013, with half a dozen films apiece. That's certainly an eclectic group! In the case of Hyer and Clarke the tally includes small roles from early in Hyer's career and late in Clarke's. Other actresses seen most often in 2013 were Bette Davis (5), Wendy Barrie (4), Laraine Day (4), and Gail Russell (4). Seen in three films apiece: Jean Harlow, Jeanette MacDonald, Claire Trevor, Joan Fontaine, Marie Windsor, Audrey Totter, Sally Eilers, Jean Parker, Virginia Mayo, Jobyna Ralston, and Maureen O'Hara.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013), SAVING MR. BANKS (2013), and FROZEN (2013). SAVING MR. BANKS was a special evening, with Leonard Maltin conducting an hour-long interview with Emma Thompson before the film, but the best of this group, far and away, was FROZEN, which joins the ranks of the great Disney animated musicals. I'm hoping to see it again in 2014.
...I saw four older Disney films on a big screen this year: PETER PAN (1953), which I enjoyed at both the El Capitan Theatre and the Disneyland Main Street Opera House, and at the El Capitan I also saw MULAN (1998), THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989), and MARY POPPINS (1964).
10 Classics to be sure I finally saw this year. I was especially glad I saw Harold Lloyd in SAFETY LAST! (1923), as I enjoyed it so much that I watched three additional Lloyd films, my favorite of which was GIRL SHY (1924). From my 10 Classics list I also especially enjoyed HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1946). The other seven films on the list were THE IRON HORSE (1924), LITTLE CAESAR (1931), CAT PEOPLE (1942), LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (1948), THE GUNFIGHTER (1950), 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954), and SOME CAME RUNNING (1958). I'm glad to have finally seen all of these! Even the films on the list about which I was less enthused enriched my year and provided context for other viewing. I'll have a new list for 2014 posted in the next few days.
DAVY CROCKETT, INDIAN SCOUT (1950) ties with Richard Arlen and Jean Parker in FLYING BLIND (1941) for the worst film seen in 2013. These films join previous Worst Picture "winners" HULLABALOO (1940) from my 2009 list, FORT BOWIE (1958), seen in 2011, and INHERIT THE WIND (1960) from last year's list.
...Below is a look at additional titles not already listed above which made some of the biggest impressions in 2013. Believe it or not, I have to leave a significant number of movies seen out of this post or it would be twice as long!
RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO (1954) with Audie Murphy as a quiet young deputy matching wits and guns with notorious gunslinger Dan Duryea...Also seen early in January was THE UNSUSPECTED (1947), a murder mystery with a dream cast including Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, and Constance Bennett...PERSONAL MAID'S SECRET (1935) was an especially engrossing programmer with Ruth Donnelly, Margaret Lindsay, and Anita Louise...George Montgomery plays Philip Marlowe in THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (1947) which proved to be a good film with great atmosphere -- and I've watched the Rose Parade from the building where the film's murder occurs!...DOUBLE DANGER (1938) kicked off my personal festival of "B" films directed by Lew Landers and cemented my love for Preston Foster...FLIGHT FROM GLORY (1937) was my other favorite Landers film, with Chester Morris and Van Heflin in a film which plays like a forerunner of ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939), seen a couple days later (what a cast!)...I liked the atmosphere in Landers' NIGHT WAITRESS (1936) with Margot Grahame and Gordon Jones...Lander's CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938) was another favorite, with Lee Tracy as a screenwriter and Richard Lane as the head of production ("Eight pages a day!")...James Stewart and Audie Murphy were excellent as brothers on opposite sides of the law in NIGHT PASSAGE (1957).
AWAY ALL BOATS (1956)...I enjoyed Walter Abel and Margot Grahame in TWO IN THE DARK (1936), an early version of a favorite "B" film, TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945)...GIRL MISSING (1933) was a zippy pre-Code comedy-mystery with Glenda Farrell, Mary Brian, and Ben Lyon...Dick Powell directed the WWII suspense film THE ENEMY BELOW (1957), a battle of wits between U.S. destroyer captain Robert Mitchum and German U-boat captain Curt Jurgens...I attended a Valentine's Day screening at UCLA of HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937), a favorite with Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer...I was impressed by the sumptuous production values of Tyrone Power's PRINCE OF FOXES (1949), filmed in Italy...THE FALCON IN HOLLYWOOD (1944) is one of Tom Conway's best entries in the series, with a great tour of the RKO lot.
SHADOW OF A WOMAN (1946), a neat little suspense film with the unique actress Andrea King...THE LAWLESS (1950) was one of many "newspaper" themed films I saw this year, starring Macdonald Carey and Gail Russell...Carey also starred in CAVE OF OUTLAWS (1951), a genial Universal Western costarring Alexis Smith, with Edgar Buchanan as a Wells Fargo agent...SIERRA (1950) was another great example of the Universal Western, with the young Audie Murphy costarring with Wanda Hendrix, Burl Ives, and Dean Jagger, colorfully shot on location in Utah...Tim Holt's STORM OVER WYOMING (1950) was so beautifully shot by J. Roy Hunt that I almost felt I had a sense of what it was like to be standing right there as it was filmed.
MEET BOSTON BLACKIE (1941), a superior "B" film with a great sense of humor...CRIME WAVE (1954) was one of my very favorite films of the entire year, with Sterling Hayden as a gruff toothpick-chewing detective and song-and-dance man Gene Nelson completely believable as a tough ex-con trying to go straight and enjoy life with his wife (Phyllis Kirk). Bert Glennon's B&W cinematography of L.A. was to die for. Glenn Erickson calls this one "a major undiscovered delight"...I watched a Fritz Lang Gothic noir double feature of Joan Bennett in SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947) and Louis Hayward in HOUSE BY THE RIVER (1950), a pair of odd but worthwhile films.
THE FAKE (1953), an art forgery story which had a great opening credits sequence set to "Pictures at an Exhibition"...I saw WHITE HEAT (1949) for the first time when I reviewed the new Warner Bros. Blu-ray, and I was particularly impressed by Virginia Mayo as James Cagney's moll, as Mayo wasn't afraid to be seen in an unflattering light -- even snoring! I also enjoyed Edmond O'Brien as the FBI man who works his way inside Cagney's organization...Jacques Tourneur's richly detailed CANYON PASSAGE (1946) gets better with each viewing. Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward lead an outstanding cast, with Hoagy Carmichael songs and lush Technicolor photography in Oregon...PANHANDLE (1948), starring Rod Cameron, was one of the best surprises of the year, with a smart script cowritten by Blake Edwards and some unique staging, culminating in a gun battle in the rain at dusk...I love submarine films and finally caught up with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster in RUN SILENT RUN DEEP (1958).
...June was an especially good month for viewing at home, starting off with my first viewing of Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Mary Astor in RED DUST (1932) in years...When Esther Williams passed away I celebrated her life by revisiting a favorite of her films, DUCHESS OF IDAHO (1950). It's a film which provides great enjoyment in terms of cast, music, and location shooting...It was fun to see the very young Eleanor Parker in BUSSES ROAR (1942), a WB "B" film...Jacques Tourneur's NIGHTFALL (1957) was one of my finds of the year, especially as it was filmed in my favorite little town, Bridgeport, California. Aldo Ray was charming in the story of an innocent man everyone thinks is hiding $350,000...I loved Richard Conte and Dianne Foster's relationship in THE BROTHERS RICO (1957), about a clean-living businessman whose brothers are in trouble with the mob...Phil Carey was adorable as a detective in PUSHOVER (1954), in which fellow cop Fred MacMurray falls for Kim Novak and ends up in big trouble...George O'Brien seems to be having a wonderful time in LEGION OF THE LAWLESS (1940), made with frequent leading lady Virginia Vale...Audie Murphy proves he grew into a terrific actor in the psychological Western NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959), in which he terrorizes a town while simply drinking coffee and playing chess...Dick Powell was a BROADWAY GONDOLIER (1935), singing "The Rose In Her Hair" plus joining the Mills Bros. for "Lulu's Back in Town"...Marian Marsh and Warren William were terrific in the pre-Code rom-com BEAUTY AND THE BOSS (1932), with Charles Butterworth in rib-tickling support...EASY TO LOVE (1953) was another great Esther Williams film, with a gem of a moment for Tony Martin at movie's end.
IN OUR TIME (1944), an absorbing film, although I wish so much hadn't been left on the editing room floor...George O'Brien and Tim Holt costar in THE RENEGADE RANGER (1938), costarring Rita Hayworth...Lyle Talbot and John Archer try to save L.A. from radiation poisoning in the entertaining CITY OF FEAR (1959)...Marie Windsor's many fans will want to check out the fun 64-minute film DOUBLE DEAL (1950)...I always love the chance to see Preston Foster starring in a movie, as he did in Samuel Fuller's I SHOT JESSE JAMES (1949)...LOVE ON A BET (1936) was a delightful RKO romantic comedy with Gene Raymond and Wendy Barrie, with Helen Broderick in support...ONE MINUTE TO ZERO (1952) wasn't a perfect film, but I enjoyed Robert Mitchum and Ann Blyth costarring in this Korean War drama...Lawrence Tierney is BORN TO KILL (1947), costarring Claire Trevor and Audrey Long...APACHE DRUMS (1951) has terrific atmosphere, with Coleen Gray, Stephen McNally, and James Griffith in an adobe church holding off an Indian attack...Another of the year's best discoveries was Aldo Ray in THREE STRIPES IN THE SUN (1955), based on a true story. Ray plays a soldier in Occupied Japan whose resentment of the Japanese is transformed when he volunteers at an orphanage and then falls in love with his Japanese translator...EQUINOX FLOWER (1958) was my first exposure to the beautiful films of Yasujiro Ozu; I loved the splashes of color including bright red teapots and orange soda bottles...Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston are a delightful screen team, and I loved them in THE KID BROTHER (1927), which had some truly stunning moments...I saw more Gene Raymond and Wendy Barrie in another romantic comedy, CROSS-COUNTRY ROMANCE (1940).
THE OFFICE WIFE (1930), with Joan Blondell shining as Mackaill's sister...I was surprised by how much I enjoyed DILLINGER (1945), with Lawrence Tierney in the title role and an excellent Anne Jeffreys as his girlfriend...Douglas Sirk's THUNDER ON THE HILL (1951), starring Claudette Colbert and Ann Blyth, is a great example of a very well-made studio film, with Colbert playing a nun trying to save Blyth from the gallows...George O'Brien teamed with Marjorie Reynolds and Chill Wills in TIMBER STAMPEDE (1939), filmed in Sonora...I really liked George Montgomery (and his gorgeous black cowboy hat!) in ROBBERS' ROOST (1955), costarring Peter Graves and Richard Boone...There was more Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston seen in August, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE (1926).
SMART GIRLS DON'T TALK (1948) led off in September, with Virginia Mayo trying to put mobster Bruce Bennett behind bars...I revisited Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier in THE LOVE PARADE (1929) and ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932) for the first time in years; I'd forgotten just how funny Jeanette could be...I really enjoyed Jeff Chandler and John Lund in the Universal Western THE BATTLE AT APACHE PASS (1952), with Chandler reprising his BROKEN ARROW (1950) role as Cochise...GUN DUEL IN DURANGO (1957), starring George Montgomery and Ann Robinson, is a great example of a solid, well-made little '50s Western...I found Debra Paget as the PRINCESS OF THE NILE (1954) to be grand fun; it's almost a cartoon, but so entertaining!...Warner Bros. TV stars galore appear in the procedural FBI CODE 98 (1963)...A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956) was a colorful and interesting tale of murder and betrayal...I enjoyed the teaming of Dane Clark and Margaret Lockwood in the Cold War thriller HIGHLY DANGEROUS (1950).
TRIPLE JUSTICE (1940)...SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955) was a really fun discovery thanks to Olive Films, with Frank Lovejoy as an incognito FBI man chasing Commies at a beachfront diner...I don't know why Leonard Maltin rated CANYON RIVER (1956) just 1-1/2 stars, as I liked this George Montgomery Western so much I bought my own copy from the Warner Archive after watching it via ClassicFlix...Jacques Tourneur's WICHITA (1955), with Joel McCrea as Wyatt Earp, was easily in my top 10 or 20 favorite films of the year, a beautiful film...FORT DEFIANCE (1951) was another really good one, with Peter Graves as a blind rancher who forms a new "family" of sorts with friend Ben Johnson, then has to deal with the return of his outlaw brother (Dane Clark)...I was so fortunate that my very first viewing MOONRISE (1948) was in 35mm at UCLA. A hypnotic, haunting film with Dane Clark and Gail Russell, and an especially good turn for Allyn Joslyn as the town sheriff...FORT DOBBS (1958) was another top-drawer Western, starring handsome Clint Walker and Virginia Mayo...Rod Cameron and Gale Storm costarred in STAMPEDE (1949), another film I'm grateful the Warner Archive has made available.
DOWN THREE DARK STREETS (1953), a docu-noir with Broderick Crawford as an FBI agent -- who proved to be the same character played by Glenn Ford in EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962). I saw both films in November; can't recommend the beautiful Twilight Time EXPERIMENT IN TERROR Blu-ray enough...SHORT GRASS (1950) was another interesting Rod Cameron Western, this time costarring Cathy Downs...THE ATOMIC CITY (1952) was a really enjoyable Cold War noir...I enjoyed a Ginger Rogers/Gregory LaCava double bill at UCLA consisting of STAGE DOOR (1937) and FIFTH AVENUE GIRL (1939)...One of the best screenings of the year was the very colorful musical THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT (1967), with George Chakiris interviewed before the movie and Russ Tamblyn, Shirley Jones, Richard Chamberlain, and Patricia Ward Kelly in the audience...Fay Wray was hilarious as a Renaissance-era Valley Girl in THE AFFAIRS OF CELLINI (1934), seen on a double bill with an old favorite, UNFINISHED BUSINESS (1941) starring Robert Montgomery, Irene Dunne, and Preston Foster...THE SILVER WHIP (1953) was a very good Fox Western with Rory Calhoun, Dale Robertson, Robert Wagner, and James Millican...The animated RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (2012) was a pleasant surprise on Thanksgiving...Stanley Tucci's THE BIG NIGHT (1996) isn't a perfect film but it has a perfect ending, worth waiting for.
THE FLAME OF NEW ORLEANS (1941), part of a set I bought at a low, low price...GOOD MORNING (1957) was a fun Ozu film about community and encroaching Westernization in Japan (although I wish he'd skipped the bathroom humor)...I've seen WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) countless times but had my first-ever chance to see it on a big screen at my favorite Cinemark theater...I'd never seen THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994) and enjoyed it on Christmas night...I started watching George Sanders' Saint series with THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1939)...The year ended with a New Year's Eve viewing of the enjoyably bad THE CONCORDE...AIRPORT '79 (1979).
Previously: Tonight's Movie in 2009: The Year in Review; Tonight's Movie in 2010: The Year in Review; Tonight's Movie in 2011: The Year in Review; Tonight's Movie in 2012: The Year in Review.