2015 was an amazing movie year for me, in which I saw a record-breaking 310 films!
That number is higher than any previous year, besting my previous record of 286 in 2014. I saw 277 films in 2013, 220 in both 2012 and 2009, 226 in 2011, and 211 movies in 2010.
I also set my all-time record for movies seen in a theater in 2015, with 115 titles seen on a big screen. That's a significant jump from my previous high of 78 big screen movies in 2014, and a considerable jump from 50 big-screen viewings in 2013 and 55 in 2012.
Both increases are due in large part to my attendance at several film festivals in 2015, as well as attending ongoing series at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater on a regular basis. Digital screenings of classics at multiplex theaters also added to the total, including REAR WINDOW (1954), ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), and the DisneyScreen series. More on DisneyScreen below!
The number of "repeat" viewings also increased a bit, from 68 in 2014 to 76 this year; 46 of those repeat viewings were watched on a big screen. In the case of a couple of titles, such as ABANDONED (1949) and MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946), I saw them in theaters on two separate occasions in the same year, with the second viewing contributing to the "repeat" tally. For comparison, the "repeat" numbers were 41 in 2013, 36 in 2012 and 2009, 15 in 2011, and only 13 in 2010.
Each of the hyperlinked titles in this post links to my past reviews. As I typically note in my "year in review" posts, it's impossible to list all the films seen in the past year or to go into great detail here, but I hope the linked reviews included here will provide inspiration and resources for readers to explore ideas for their own future viewing.
Each linked review includes a list of varied options available for watching each title, including DVD, Blu-ray, streaming, and even VHS, a format I continue to utilize, along with some of my readers.
As always, the next section of this post will look at additional stats, including films seen at festivals and lists of most-seen actors. The last part of the post is a month-by-month review of additional titles not mentioned earlier in the post.
So here we go with a fond look back at the exciting viewing year that was 2015!
...I attended more film festivals than any previous year in 2015, and they greatly enriched my viewing. I also attended several long-running series at UCLA, starting with a series of Cecil B. DeMille films in January. I saw four DeMille films for the very first time: THE BUCCANEER (1938), MADAM SATAN (1930), DYNAMITE (1929), and FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE (1934). I also saw two films for the first time in years, REAP THE WILD WIND (1942), which I reviewed in 2009, and UNION PACIFIC (1939). The wild pre-Code MADAM SATAN made a particularly strong impression!
Festival of Preservation: THE GUILTY (1947), BACHELOR'S AFFAIRS (1932), SOCIETY GIRL (1932), THE BIG BROADCAST (1932), and THE MILKY WAY (1936). Among these new-to-me films I was especially taken with the very funny BACHELOR'S AFFAIRS, which deserves to be far better known. I also attended what was for me a special screening of HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946) at the festival, with the movie's child actor Winston Severn in attendance and an interview with director Edgar G. Ulmer's daughter, Arianne Ulmer Cipes.
...At the end of March it was time for the TCM Classic Film Festival, which is always an unforgettable experience. Again this year I covered the festival as a member of the credentialed media. This year I saw 16 films, up from 15 in 2014 and 11 in 2013. Exactly half of the TCMFF films were new to me; I've individually reviewed QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933) and THE PROUD REBEL (1958). Seeing so many films in a short time frame makes it a challenge to write individual reviews, but I hope to share more about some of the films seen at the festival in the future. Favorite experiences at the festival included WHY BE GOOD? (1929), AIR MAIL (1932), and PINOCCHIO (1940), as well as revisiting great films such as SO DEAR TO MY HEART (1948) and CALAMITY JANE (1953), which were both very warmly received by the audiences. Also seen at the festival: MY MAN GODFREY (1936), MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946), STEAMBOAT BILL JR. (1928), REBECCA (1940), IMITATION OF LIFE (1959), THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), and MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE (1964), plus two more previously reviewed films, CHRISTMAS IN JULY (1940) and REIGN OF TERROR (1949).
...In April it was on to the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival! I was at most of this year's Noir City screenings, where I saw 14 films for the first time: WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), THE UNFAITHFUL (1947), THE HIDDEN ROOM (1949), THE SLEEPING TIGER (1954), THE SUSPECT (1944), THE UNDERWORLD STORY (1950), ABANDONED (1949), WITNESS TO MURDER (1954), JEOPARDY (1953), BERLIN EXPRESS (1948), THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943), THE NINTH GUEST (1934), LET US LIVE (1939), and HEAT LIGHTNING (1934). I also reviewed SAFE IN HELL (1931), which I'd previously seen at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, and saw DARK PASSAGE (1947) on a big screen for the first time; I'd not seen it since I was a teenager.
At Noir City I revisited four additional films, THE CHASE (1946), THE LEOPARD MAN (1943), CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951), and RIDE THE PINK HORSE (1947). My total of 20 films seen at this year's Noir City fest was up from 13 in 2014. As always, Noir City was one of my favorite experiences of the year!
Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival for the first time ever. This Palm Springs event was wonderful; I saw 11 films in three days but also had "down time" to relax in between screenings. Two of the 11 films were first-timers for me, THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) and THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949).
Repeat viewings at the Arthur Lyons festival were ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951), THE BIG CLOCK (1948), CHICAGO CALLING (1951), TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951), M (1951), BORN TO KILL (1947), PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950), ABANDONED (1949), and HANGOVER SQUARE (1945). It had been years since I'd seen some of these films, and most of them I'd never seen in a theater. ABANDONED, which I saw on a big screen twice this year, was one of my favorite discoveries of 2015, and I very much hope this Universal film will someday come out on DVD!
William Wellman series: ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953), WESTWARD THE WOMEN (1951), YELLOW SKY (1948), BEAU GESTE (1939), and TRACK OF THE CAT (1954). Each film was introduced by William Wellman Jr., providing another very special opportunity for Southern California classic film fans.
...I saw a pair of memorable new-to-me films at UCLA's Frank Borzage series, seeing LUCKY STAR (1929) in July and I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU (1946) in September. I also revisited MOONRISE (1948). LUCKY STAR, seen with live piano music, made enough of an impression for me to invest in the giant Murnau, Borzage and Fox DVD boxed set when it was on sale, so look for more Borzage reviews here in 2016.
Lone Pine Film Festival, which I attended for the second time. Of the eight films seen, I had only previously seen two of them, FRONTIER MARSHAL (1939) and THE HIRED GUN (1957). New to me at Lone Pine: IN OLD COLORADO (1941), HEART OF ARIZONA (1938), CODE OF THE WEST (1947), RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1941), THE ROUND-UP (1920), and APPALOOSA (2008). I was impressed with filmmaker Ed Harris's feel for the Western genre in APPALOOSA and hope to see his version of RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1996) in 2016. It was also a treat to see THE ROUND-UP with live piano accompaniment; I later realized the story was somewhat familiar as it was loosely remade a couple decades later with Richard Dix, Preston Foster, and Patricia Morison.
Classic Science Fiction Film Festival. I saw seven films in two days, five of which were new to me: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953), THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1957), THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), and THEM! (1954). I also saw CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) and IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) for the second time each. As someone who has come to '50s sci-fi relatively late, this weekend was not only fun, it was educational, and it was a great time seeing these movies with an enthused crowd. THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, and THEM! rank high among my favorite moviegoing experiences of the year.
Archive Treasures: 50th Anniversary Celebration: THE RED SHOES (1948), MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946), SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), FOLLOW THRU (1930) and BECKY SHARP (1935). What great experiences! My first (but not last) time to see THE RED SHOES; my first time to see an all-time Ford/Wayne favorite, SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, in a theater; and the distinctive orange and green two-strip Technicolor of the beautifully restored FOLLOW THRU all stand out in the memory. As should be apparent from this post, the UCLA Archive screenings at the Billy Wilder Theater have enriched my viewing tremendously.
...This was a good year for brand-new movies seen in a theater. New films seen this year were THE IMITATION GAME (2014), MCFARLAND, USA (2015), CINDERELLA (2015), SAN ANDREAS (2015), ANT-MAN (2015), THE 33 (2015), BROOKLYN (2015), THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015), THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015), and CREED (2015). That's a tie with new big-screen films seen in 2014. The only one I found seriously lacking was the overrated THE IMITATION GAME; I liked all the others very much. BROOKLYN was a particularly special find, with a memorable performance by Saoirse Ronan.
...Of those new films, CINDERELLA and MCFARLAND, USA were Disney movies. Older Disney films seen at the Disney-operated El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood this year were ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1951), THE ARISTOCATS (1970), and THE INCREDIBLES (2004).
...Thanks to the DisneyScreen program at my local Cinemark Theatre, I also had a great time seeing several other Disney films on a big screen this year. In the order seen they were: OLIVER & COMPANY (1988), EIGHT BELOW (2006), THE LOVE BUG (1968), THE ROCKETEER (1991), ROBIN HOOD (1973), POLLYANNA (1960), and POCAHONTAS (1995). It was great to revisit old favorites for the first time in years, especially the wonderful POLLYANNA, and I also enjoyed making new discoveries; I found the new-to-me films THE ROCKETEER and POCAHONTAS especially enjoyable. At home I caught the Disney/Pixar film INSIDE OUT (2015) via Blu-ray, though it must be said it didn't wow me as it did many other viewers.
...Another of the new films seen in a theater, ANT-MAN (2015), is part of the Disney-owned Marvel franchise. This was the year I dove into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a very big way, also watching CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011), CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014), IRON MAN (2008), IRON MAN 2 (2010), THOR (2011), THE AVENGERS (2012), IRON MAN 3 (2013), and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014). I'd add to that that on TV I loved both AGENT CARTER and AGENTS OF SHIELD. In 2015 I also bought my first comic book since buying STAR WARS comics back in the '70s -- Marvel's MOCKINGBIRD #1, about SHIELD agent Bobbi Morse.
ABANDONED (1949) and COVER UP (1949), so much that I watched them each twice this year!
...Pat O'Brien came in second at nine films, followed by Lionel Barrymore (Dr. Gillespie!) at eight and Forrest Tucker at seven. Dan Duryea and Brian Donlevy were seen in six films each, and actors seen in five films apiece were James Stewart, Dick Powell, Dick Foran, Lew Ayres, and Jim Davis. Further down the list, at four films apiece, are Preston Foster, Zachary Scott, Robert Preston, Joel McCrea, Robert Taylor, Fred MacMurray, Bing Crosby, Bill Elliott, and Robert Ryan.
PERSONS IN HIDING (1939), seen in 2014, and seeing the century-old Morison in person this year made me interested in exploring more of her career. I have a few other Morison titles I hope to see this year!
...Joan Leslie and Laraine Day came in tied for second, at five films each. Following them, at four films apiece, were Barbara Britton, Gale Storm, Claire Trevor, Shirley Temple, Martha O'Driscoll, Lynn Bari, and Linda Darnell.
...For the fifth year in a row I made a list of 10 Classics to see for the very first time in 2015. So far I've posted reviews of five of them: 3 BAD MEN (1926), THE SMILING LIEUTENANT (1931), THE LOST WEEKEND (1945), THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), and THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958). I'll be adding links to the final five films to this paragraph as I have time to write them; despite a good push to see half the list earlier in the year, I still ended up with a few to see during the holidays! The films still to be reviewed are FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926), THE LETTER (1940), COLORADO TERRITORY (1949), THE LONG GRAY LINE (1955), and EL DORADO (1967).
...Being a "glass is half full" kind of viewer, I find things to appreciate in the vast majority of films I watch, but there are always a handful movies which I simply don't like. This year's worst film is THE ROBIN HOOD OF EL DORADO (1936), which didn't work for me on any level, despite being directed by a real favorite, William A. Wellman. It was depressing, downright painful viewing, and I was relieved when it finally came to an end.
Previous years' Worst Picture "winners": HULLABALOO (1940) from my 2009 list, FORT BOWIE (1958), seen in 2011, INHERIT THE WIND (1960) in 2012, a tie between DAVY CROCKETT, INDIAN SCOUT (1950) and FLYING BLIND (1941) in 2013, and FORT YUMA (1955) in 2014.
SUGARFOOT (1951) and BOMBARDIER (1943) for the Randolph Scott Blogathon, WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (1933) for the William Wellman Blogathon, JUBILEE TRAIL (1954) for the Republic Pictures Blogathon, and EARLY SUMMER (1951) for the Criterion Blogathon. (Seen in photo, director William Wellman and leading lady Dorothy Coonan, soon to be Mrs. Wellman, on the set of WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD.) I plan to participate in several blogathons early in 2016!
...I enjoyed writing for the ClassicFlix site again this year; my columns can be found here, and this year I also reviewed THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) and LADY ON A TRAIN (1945).
...I'll be writing a post on Favorite Discoveries of 2015 for Rupert Pupkin Speaks, and I'll add the link here once it's up. (Update: Here is my post on the list, and here is the direct link to my post at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.)
...What follows below is a month-by-month look at some additional titles not already listed above which I found especially memorable viewing in 2015.
SPARE PARTS (2015), which had good performances by George Lopez and Jamie Lee Curtis in a film about a national underwater robotics competition, of all things...I was able to see another of Paramount's hard-to-find J. Edgar Hoover series, PAROLE FIXER (1940)...Hedy Lamarr was enjoyable in I TAKE THIS WOMAN (1940), which I found better than its reputation...Joel McCrea is fine as THE OKLAHOMAN (1957), costarring Barbara Hale...it was great to see the screwball classic LIBELED LADY (1936) on a big screen again, sponsored by the Black Maria website. (Later in the year the Black Maria later evolved into The Retro Set.)
GUNFIGHTERS (1947), a stylish film costarring Dorothy Hart, Barbara Britton, Forrest Tucker, and Bruce Cabot...IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD (1937) was a charming film with Richard Dix and Fay Wray...I reviewed Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW (1963) in tandem with my friend Kristina, and I thought it was a terrific thriller. Toshiro Mifune stars...the little-known Republic film FLIGHT NURSE (1953), with moving performances by Joan Leslie and Forrest Tucker, was a favorite film this year...GIRL TROUBLE (1942) was a cute lesser-known romantic comedy with Joan Bennett and Don Ameche...CALIFORNIA PASSAGE (1950) was a very enjoyable Western with Forrest Tucker and Adele Mara...I really liked SMART WOMAN (1948), with Constance Bennett as a laywer battling colleague Brian Aherne in the courtroom, while falling in love with him. It had a good supporting cast including Barry Sullivan and Michael O'Shea.
HOME SWEET HOMICIDE (1946) starring Randolph Scott and Lynn Bari, along with a trio of appealing child actors, Peggy Ann Garner, Connie Marshall, and Dean Stockwell. Next goal: to read the book by Craig Rice...I enjoyed revisiting Shirley Temple as KATHLEEN (1941), costarring Laraine Day and Herbert Marshall. The majority of films I saw in March were at festivals!
...April was another festival month! At home I enjoyed Randolph Scott in WESTBOUND (1959), a film I seem to enjoy more than some fans of Scott and director Budd Boetticher...Preston Foster and Lynn Bari were engaging in the "newspaper" flick NEWS IS MADE AT NIGHT (1939)...BLACK MIDNIGHT (1949), a Monogram Western starring Roddy McDowall, was creatively staged by director Budd Boetticher and featured terrific location filming in Lone Pine...Barry Sullivan and Marjorie Reynolds were interesting as a Western bad man and his "moll" in BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE (1949)...I found the plot murky but you sure can't beat the cast of RIDE THE MAN DOWN (1952): Rod Cameron, Ella Raines, Brian Donlevy, Forrest Tucker, Barbara Britton, Chill Wills, and Jim Davis...THAT HAGEN GIRL (1947), with Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan, is another film I found better than its reputation, although the script definitely goes off the rails a bit toward the end.
COVER UP (1949), a charming Christmastime mystery starring Dennis O'Keefe, Barbara Britton, and William Bendix; O'Keefe cowrote it under a pen name. I watched it again in December!...It was great to watch the beautiful new Warner Archive Blu-ray of 42ND STREET (1933)...I'm fond of ARROW IN THE DUST (1954) with Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray, plus a great character turn by Tom Tully. It's a flawed film but I like it anyway...Tim Holt, Marjorie Reynolds, and Ray Whitley were fun in CYCLONE ON HORSEBACK (1941)...I really enjoyed CANAL ZONE (1942), a "B" film with Chester Morris and Harriet Hilliard (Nelson) which gave insight into the early days of WWII...KID GLOVE KILLER (1942) is a favorite "B" procedural starring the appealing team of Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt (but those scientists sure do smoke a lot!)...ESCAPE FROM EAST BERLIN (1962) was a compelling Cold War thriller with Don Murray...Dennis O'Keefe and Coleen Gray are charming in LAS VEGAS SHAKEDOWN (1955), a minor film which I nonetheless enjoyed tremendously...Forrest Tucker was outstanding in the leading role in THE QUIET GUN (1957), released by Olive Films...I also really liked Richard Dix as THE PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931), a seemingly indolent playboy who is really a Batman-ish hero known as "The Reckoner"...ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (1941) was lovely Americana with Fredric March and Martha Scott as a Methodist minister and his wife.
...June started off with SOCIETY SMUGGLERS (1939), a very enjoyable "B" film with Preston Foster, Irene Hervey, and Regis Toomey...I thought MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY (1947) with Dennis O'Keefe and Marguerite Chapman was a good find...STAGE TO CHINO (1940), was the last George O'Brien-Virginia Vale film I needed to see, and as usual I enjoyed it...DAVID HARDING, COUNTERSPY (1950) was lots of hokey fun...RIFFRAFF (1947) was one of this year's favorite discoveries, a stylish crime film with Pat O'Brien and Anne Jeffreys (seen at right)...I can't get enough of "B" movies like CRIMINAL COURT (1946), starring Tom Conway and Martha O'Driscoll, directed by Robert Wise...What a treat to see a TV production of KISS ME, KATE (1958) at UCLA, starring the original Broadway leads Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison...SPECIAL AGENT (1935), starring George Brent, Bette Davis, and Ricardo Cortez, is another relatively minor crime film with lots of entertainment value.
TWO O'CLOCK COURAGE (1945), which kicked off July viewing, is one of my all-time favorites. It stars Tom Conway and Ann Rutherford, directed by Anthony Mann...the silent film LONESOME (1928) was recommended to me on Twitter during a Criterion sale, and I didn't regret buying it, as it was another favorite film last year. What a lovely film, including some moments in color (seen at left)!...Sandra Dee is cute as a button in DOCTOR, YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING! (1967); it's impossible not to like her in it, she's adorable...Robert Montgomery and Bette Davis sparkle in JUNE BRIDE (1948), with another great supporting performance by Tom Tully...I saw another Toshiro Mifune film directed by Akira Kurosawa, the police procedural STRAY DOG (1949), and I thought it was excellent...the Republic Western WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (1953) was great fun, with a top cast including Joan Leslie, John Lund, Audrey Totter, and Brian Donlevy...I described SHOWDOWN AT ABILENE (1956), starring Jock Mahoney and Martha Hyer, as a "darn good Western."
...In August I enjoyed Gale Storm and Patricia Morison in WHERE ARE YOUR CHILDREN (1943), which shed an interesting light on the little-known topic of WWII-era juvenile delinquency...NINE LIVES ARE NOT ENOUGH (1941) was yet another "B" film with a terrific cast, including Ronald Reagan and a host of character actors who made it great fun...I enjoyed HELL'S FIVE HOURS (1958), an "atomic noir" with Stephen McNally and Coleen Gray...while traveling out of state I enjoyed watching a trio of cheaply made but entertaining "B" (or maybe "C"!) films, RADAR SECRET SERVICE (1950), MOTOR PATROL (1950), and HIGHWAY 13 (1948).
...In October I watched the lovely new Warner Archive Blu-ray of MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)...What a joy to watch Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935)! I'll be reviewing more MacDonald Eddy films here in 2016...I've now seen all of Lloyd Nolan's Michael Shayne series thanks to watching TIME TO KILL (1942)...Marie Windsor chews the scenery wonderfully in NO MAN'S WOMAN (1955), out from Olive Films...I like FLAXY MARTIN (1949), a Warner Bros. crime film with Virginia Mayo, Zachary Scott, and Dorothy Malone...THE MONOLITH MONSTERS (1957) was an oddball yet fun sci-fi film with Grant Williams and Lola Albright.
...The year drew to a close with LATIN LOVERS (1953) the first film of December. It's a colorful film I enjoy, starring Lana Turner, Ricardo Montalban, and John Lund...THE KID FROM CLEVELAND (1949) was an enjoyable baseball movie with an excellent cast headed by George Brent, Lynn Bari, and Russ Tamblyn; it was a thrill for this baseball fan to see many of the game's greatest players on screen...EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS (1952) was released in a beautiful remastered print by the Warner Archive. It's an enjoyable film starring Marge and Gower Champion along with Dennis O'Keefe...one of the year's special viewing experiences was a 35mm screening of REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940) at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater...on Christmas I finally saw DIE HARD (1988) for the first time, so now I can join the annual online debates about whether DIE HARD is a Christmas movie...and I revisited another good baseball movie, DEATH ON THE DIAMOND (1934), starring Robert Young. It seems fitting, given how frequently Dennis O'Keefe turned up in my viewing this year, that he has a bit role in this one as a baseball announcer!
As I wrap up here, I'd like to once again thank each and every visitor to this blog. You are each deeply appreciated! I wish all my readers good health, happiness, and lots of classic movies in 2016!
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; Tonight's Movie in 2013: The Year in Review; Tonight's Movie in 2014: The Year in Review.
Update: Please enjoy this video looking back at my 2015 movie year.