Set during WWII, Casablanca is one of many movies of the era meant to champion values like honor and freedom. However, this one stands out. Winner of the “Best Picture” Oscar in 1942, the movie tells of Rick (Humphrey Bogart), a bar owner in the German-occupied Casablanca. Casablanca is described as a holding pen where many Europeans waited to obtain a visa to America. While most people hope to get out, Rick (Humphrey Bogart) sets up shop and makes a living off those stuck in Casablanca. Rick is shocked when long lost love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his “gin joint.” He then finds out that Ilsa is married to a wanted man, Victor Lazlo (Paul Henreid). Flashbacks of Rick and Ilsa’s romance get viewers not only invested in the characters, but shows the escalation of WWII. But Casablanca is not a war movie. It is about the values everyone hope to have: selflessness and honor.
I should mention that quotes from this movie appears on the American Film Institute’s “100 years…100 quotes” list six times, with “Here’s looking at you, kid” ranked number five. It one of my personal favorite movies, beat only by Gone with the Wind.
You are invited to come to my house to watch The Philadelphia Story. We will pop popcorn, pour some wine and sit back to laugh at the antics of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn. I’m a Katherine Hepburn kind of girl. Give me Katherine’s rough edges and blunt manner any day. In The Philadelphia Story, you aren’t sure if you like Hepburn or not. The movie centers on the wedding of a socialite (Hepburn). Complications arise as her ex-husband (Cary Grant) reenters the scene along with a journalist (Jimmy Stewart) who wants to cover her wedding for a gossip magazine. Hepburn’s tough exterior starts to deteriorate under the influence of her father, Stewart and Grant. This is more than a romantic comedy – it’s the story of a girl who tries so very hard to be perfect and expects the rest of her loved ones to be as well.
3. His Girl Friday
Newspaper editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is doing everything he can to stop his ex-wife and former star reporter, Hildy Johnson, from getting remarried. He manages to convince Hildy (Rosalind Russell) to cover one last story — the execution of a murderer. As the story turns into a big scoop for Hildy, hilarity ensues as Walter has Hildy’s husband-to-be repeatedly arrested for fake crimes. The rapid fire speech between Grant and Russell is reason enough to watch. It’s also nice to see a career woman in an old romantic comedy for a change. As a working, ambitious woman, I find it easy to relate to Hildy. The film is public domain and you can watch the full movie for free on Hulu.
4. Arsenic and Old Lace
There are only a few movies that I actually enjoy watching over and over again; Arsenic and Old Lace is one them. Cary Grant plays a writer who elopes with the girl next door (literally) on Halloween night. After their quick wedding, they head back to his childhood home to tell his two spinster aunts. And then the plot thickens… This happy couple stumble into a plot of “assisted suicide” of sorts in which the aunts are the key players and of course, the bad brother shows up to make everything worse. It’s a laugh, it’s suspenseful, and you are left wondering if the craziness of the Brewster family came to light because of Halloween or if that’s a mere coincidence. Impressively, Frank Capra (Director and Producer) shot the film in only 8 weeks in 1941, though it was not released until 1944 just after the Broadway production closed.
If you love Christmas and you love NYC, you will definitely love this movie. In fact, it’s kind of a shame if you haven’t seen this movie. Miracle on 34th Street is classic because it reminds us why we loved Christmas as a child and it captures the quintessential American spirit. It starts with an important holiday event – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. On the day of the parade, Santa shows up drunk and the event director Doris Walker (played by Maureen O’Hara) must essentially pull a man off the street who “looks” like Santa. This random man turns out to be Kris Kringle. Kris begins to work at Macy’s, sitting in as Santa, and quickly adds an air of Christmas magic that surprises even the staunch disbelieving Doris. Throughout the movie, Kris slowly admits that he is in fact Santa and then has to convince not only Doris and her daughter, but all of the US. There is so much that happens in just an hour and a half! And by the end of it you will believe in miracle of Christmas once again. The film won three Oscars (nominated for one more), two Golden Globes, and one film festival award.
Notable mentions: Meet me in St. Louis, Fantasia, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, For Whom the Bells Toll, Rebecca, Holiday Inn, Shop Around the Corner