Looking for film recommendations (1940s/1950s)

Lately Mrs. Mustard has shown an interest in watching older movies. She wants to see some ‘wholesome’ films that depict a simpler time.

As a point of reference, we’ve recently watched ‘Marty’ and ‘The Apartment’, and she loved them both.

I have some of my own ideas for future viewings, but I’d love to hear some recommendations.

And please indicate why you are suggesting a particular film.


(too late to edit)

We can expand the time frame into the 1930s and perhaps the early '60s.

The only older movies she’s already seen, aside from the two mentioned above, are ‘Wizard of Oz’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, so the field’s wide open.

My wife and I are (slowly) making our way through the Academy Award-winning Best Pictures in chronological order. We really enjoyed *Marty *quite a lot when we saw it a few months ago. Although there’s some serious subject matter at the heart of most Best Pictures, here are some recommendations that aren’t quite So Deep:

It Happened One Night (1934): One of the first movies to realistically show chemistry between its two leads. I’d seen Gone With the Wind several times before seeing this, but this movie made me a true Gable fan. He and Claudette Colbert are really fun to watch. It’s a Frank Capra movie, as is …

You Can’t Take It With You (1938): A star-studded cast in a movie that’s a ton of fun. If you’ve only seen Lionel Barrymore as Old Man Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life (1946; Capra movies in general pretty much fit your needs), it’s a pretty surprising change of pace.

Going My Way (1944): Bing Crosby is a priest whose newfangled ways ruffle some feathers in his new parish. Its sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s, is also fun to watch (and has Ingrid Bergman, to boot).

My Man Godfrey (1936): I could say that a ditzy socialite on a scavenger hunt meets a vagrant and hires him as the family butler, but that would miss the point. Some movies aren’t so much about the plot as the characters and dialog. Made me a Carole Lombard fan. (I already liked William Powell.)

Some of my favorites from Abbott & Costello:

Buck Privates (1941): they enlist in the Army to avoid jail. Their drill sergeant is non other than the arresting officer!

In the Navy (1941): they join the Navy along with a buddy (Dick Powell), whose girlfriend eventually tracks him down and stows away. The routine “7 x 13 = 28” appears.

The Naughty Nineties (1945): in the 1890s, they help a riverboat captain (Henry Travers) take back control from a group of gamblers. The most popular version of “Who’s On First?” appears.

Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion (1950): as wrestling promotors, they track down a wrestler (Wee Willie Davis) in Algieria and are tricked into joining the Foreign Legion.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951): as newly-minted private detectives, they help an accused murderer–who uses an invisibility serum from his fiancée’s uncle–find the real killer.

Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953): as accidental astronauts, they pay a visit Mardi Gras in New Orleans, where they are hijacked by bank robbers and end up on Venus.

Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955): in 1912, they want to break into the movie business but fall victim of a pair of con-artists (Fred Clark & Lynn Bari), who they track to Hollywood. They end up as stuntmen working with the same con-artists, who are disguised as a German director and his secretary.

Mr. Blandings builds his dream house - Cary Grant comedy, much better than the similar Jack Benny film George Washington Slept Here.

Sitting Pretty - The original Mr. Belvedere movie

I’ve been watching older movies that I haven’t seen that happen to be free on Hulu right now. Foreign Correspondent was pretty good - older Hitchcock movie, with George Sanders and two other people I can’t remember off the top of my head.

I also watched the original D.O.A - great old noir movie with some really great performances. If I had one complaint it would be that towards the beginning of the movie he checks into a hotel and every time an attractive woman walked by they would play this extremely irritating slide-whistle effect. Must’ve done at about ten times - I thought there was some poopup doing it on my computer. I have no idea why they did that - this wasn’t a comedy and it was completely outside of the bounds of the rest of the movie stylistically. Still scratching my head about that.

Dial M For Murder is made of awesome.

Some widely acknowledged classics:

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
All About Eve (1950)
Casablanca (1942)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
His Girl Friday (1940)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Some Like It Hot (1958)
12 Angry Men (1957)

The Philadelphia Story

His Girl Friday

Gaslight (1944, not 1940)

Arsenic and Old Lace

To Be or Not to Be (not the Mel Brooks remake, obviously)

Inherit the Wind (1960) Perhaps more serious than what you’re looking for.

The Corn is Green (1945)

Mildred Pierce (1945)

High Noon (1952)

I love the Ealing comedies of that period, e.g., Passport to Pimlico (1949) and The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953).

Casablanca is, of course, the best movie ever made. I will fist fight anyone who says differently. *

You can hit practically the entire classic Disney collection by sticking to this era: Snow White, Dumbo, etc. I am particularly fond of Fantasia (1940), which is visually stunning and has spectacular sound (IIRC it was originally recorded as something like an 18 track sound production, which is a few steps ahead of the usual 5.1 or 6.1 soundtrack you’ll get on your DVD or Blu-ray system).

I also quite liked Sunset Boulevard (1950) and I can also second My Man Godfrey, which we have on DVD at home.

  • Assuming that person says so in the next 5 minutes while standing in my office. :smiley:

“Letter From an Unknown Woman”

I don’t know too many people who have seen this. The plot is of the ultimate doormat (Joan Fontaine) falling for the ultimate cad (Louis Jourdan). Sounds dumb, but it’s an absolute gem, with Max Ophuls as the director and Howard Koch as the screenwriter.

A couple that haven’t been mentioned (I hope)

Singin’ in the Rain

Gone With the Wind

I was firmly in the “yeah, I know it’s a ‘classic’, but I have no desire to see it” camp on both of these, right up until the point I actually watched them. Absolutely brilliant.

Anatomy of a Murder. Brilliant trial movie, perhaps the best after from To Kill a Mockingbird. Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott, Lea Remick, Ben Gazzara, and Eve Arden. Fascinating in many ways, not least for the treatment of an alleged rape victim by the legal system of the day.

You can watch it here My Man Godfrey : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

These are both very good. Another in that same vein is The Man in the White Suit, starring a very young Alec Guinness.

How Green Was My Valley
Roman Holiday
His Girl Friday
Pat and Mike
The Philadelphia Story
No Highway in the Sky
It’s a Wonderful Life
The Front Page
The Shop Around the Corner

I see High Noon has already been mentioned, so I’ll toss in Shane.

Can you elaborate on “wholesome”? Does everybody need to be a good guy? If so, that’s going to eliminate a lot of great films. Here are some other great films of the past, but I’m not entirely sure the fit the wholesome bill – I typically associate the term with movies made for small children.

Key Largo
3:10 to Yuma (the original, not the recent remake)
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Red River
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
White Heat
The Magnificent Seven
12 O’clock High
The Big Country

Gilda- GREAT film, with the sexiest moment on screen as Rita Hayworth strips off…her gloves
Citizen Kane- Orson Welles in the great classic
The Third Man- Orson again, but in war-torn Vienna. Beautifully shot, great score, interesting story
The Razors Edge - Somerset Maugham story brought to the big screen. Tyrone Power is excellent
Blood & Sand- great film with a bullfighting backdrop
A Place in The Sun - great film, starring a gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift focusing on love and infatuation
From Here to Eternity - a classic with Burt Landcaster, a gorgeous Donna Reed and a badass Ernest Borgnine. Sinatra won an Oscar for his role in it (I think), but he wasn’t the highlight for me.
It’s a Wonderful Life - The Christmas classic. And a classic at anytime
Double Indemnity - classic suspense thriller starring a beautiful Barbara Stanwyck and a hard-ass Fred McMurray. yeah, the same guy from My Three Sons
A Face in the Crowd - One of the best acting jobs EVER, by—surprise: Andy Griffith. Powerful!