filmstruck: One Movie, One Actor by Greg Ferrara Let’s say…


One Movie, One Actor by Greg Ferrara

Let’s say you’re a classic movie fan and someone comes up to you and says, “I’ve never seen a Gene Kelly movie before. What would you recommend?” Do you give them an early Kelly, late Kelly or something in between? Well, I know what I would do: pick the movie that has a little of everything, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (’51). Directed by Vincent Minelli, starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and Oscar Levant, it has…

Gene with kids!

Romantic Gene!

And a big finale!

Of course, there’s so much more. But this gives you a pretty good idea. Before diving right in to the complexities of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (’52) or catching up on the early stuff, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a good place to start.

What about a non-musical actor? What about a serious dramatic actor, like Montgomery Clift?

From RED RIVER to THE MISFITS, Monty Clift was one of the greatest actors in Hollywood. He gave a great performance in A PLACE IN THE SUN (’51) with Elizabeth Taylor but for a full range of what he could do, I’d recommend starting with FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (’53).

It’s got…

Monty in uniform…

Monty in a Hawaiian shirt…

And Monty on the horn. Hey, Sinatra seems to like it.

This was the performance Clift felt he would win the Oscar for but it wasn’t to be. Still, it’s a great primer on all things Clift and a great performance to boot.

Let’s speed up the process. One star, one movie, one still.

Natalie Wood, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (’61). Never better and also never so fully challenged.

Katharine Hepburn, WOMAN OF THE YEAR (’42). After this, explore the earlier screwball and the later dramas. Also, this is the same movie I’d recommend for anyone wishing to start off with their first Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn movie. But for Tracy alone?

FATHER OF THE BRIDE (’51). It’s an odd choice at first glance, even Tracy thinks so (just look at that glance he’s giving me), but hear me out. Tracy was a great dramatic actor but also a great comedian and this movie shows his great comic timing and his tender side.

Ellen Burstyn is known by most people for her role in the harrowing horror film, THE EXORCIST (’73) but the movie that best exemplifies her range is this one, ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (’74) directed by Martin Scorsese.

Charlie Chaplin is one of the most important figures in film history. He did a wealth of silent comedy shorts, a handful of sound feature films and a generous amount of silent features. The one that will give a newcomer the best idea of Chaplin the man and artist is this one, CITY LIGHTS (’31).

How about Judy Garland? I know, I know, most people would say THE WIZARD OF OZ (’39) or A STAR IS BORN (’54) and those are great choices. But the one that really gives you an idea of the dramatic range and emotional depth is, honestly, this beautiful and sweet movie, THE CLOCK (’45). As a matter of fact, it’s a great entry point for Robert Walker, too.

I could go on and do selections for Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Jimmy Cagney, Jimmy Stewart and every other star in Hollywood history but we’d be here all day. So I’ll leave it at this, for now. They’re all available on FilmStruck. Watch them and then explore for more. Then pick your one movie for one star!