2012 was an outstanding movie year in which I enjoyed 220 movies.
That total was down slightly from last year's 226 movies, but still comfortably over my minimum goal of 208 films for the year, which averages to four movies per week. It's a match for 2009, when I also saw 220 films, and ahead of the 211 films seen in 2010.
Three dozen titles were repeats this year, which also matches my viewing stat from 2009; that's up from 15 titles rewatched last year and just 13 movies which weren't first-timers in 2010.
Before diving into 2013, here's a look back at this year's viewing. 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 a resource for readers to explore ideas for their own viewing in the months to come. Each review contains links with varied resources available for watching each title.
...First and foremost, this year was special due to the amazing number of films I was able to see at movie theaters. Exactly 25% of this year's total movie viewing was done in theaters, with 55 titles seen on a big screen. That's a feat I'm not sure I'll be able to repeat again, but I'm certainly willing to try!
Five of the big-screen films were new movies, including the latest animated Disney movie; there were also several older Disney films, with release years spanning 1950 to 2001, which I was able to see in theaters including the historic El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard and the beautiful Disney Studios theater on their lot in Burbank. The remainder of the movies seen in theaters were all from the classic film era.
I was joined at several of these screenings by friends met via this blog; I'm grateful for the connections blogging has allowed me to make with so many wonderful people who share my interests.
...As was the case in 2011, the highlight of my movie year was the Noir City Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre, where I saw 18 films, plus an encore showing of one title, SUDDENLY, correcting digital projection problems which had occurred the first time I saw it. Films seen for the first time at the festival were THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) and THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), with Alan Ladd's daughter and Macdonald Carey's son present, along with the son of screenwriter Richard Maibaum; Sterling Hayden in NAKED ALIBI (1954) and SUDDENLY (1954); THE WINDOW (1949), shown as part of a Cornell Woolrich triple bill; Anthony Mann's "French Revolution noir" REIGN OF TERROR (1949), with Norman Lloyd present for a conversation; SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE (1957) with actress Julie Adams doing a Q&A afterwards; George Raft in JOHNNY ALLEGRO (1949); Geraldine Fitzgerald in THREE STRANGERS (1946) and NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946), with her son Michael Lindsay-Hogg speaking; a fun "B" flick, CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE (1945); THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948) starring Susan Peters; and the delightful MARY RYAN, DETECTIVE (1949), with Marsha Hunt present for a discussion. I also had the chance at the festival to revisit several films I like very much, PHANTOM LADY (1944); BLACK ANGEL (1946); SCENE OF THE CRIME (1949); JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947); and KID GLOVE KILLER (1942).
...There was more great noir viewing around town this year. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted a series on Mid-Century California Noir, and I loved all four films seen: CRISS CROSS (1949) with Burt Lancaster, Dan Duryea, and the stunning Yvonne DeCarlo, never more beautiful, with terrific L.A. locations including the Angels Flight Railway; EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962), a truly scary film with Glenn Ford and Lee Remick, memorably shot in San Francisco locations; a highly entertaining Joan Crawford film, THE DAMNED DON'T CRY (1950), partially filmed in Palm Springs; and the "Technicolor noir" SLIGHTLY SCARLET (1956), with John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, and Arlene Dahl. I also saw Peggy Cummins in person at an Egyptian Theatre screening of GUN CRAZY (1950) at the TCM Classic Film Festival, and at the historic Million Dollar Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles I saw a knockout double bill, PITFALL (1948) and THE BIG COMBO (1955). These films were all great entertainment!
...I saw a significant number of films in UCLA's Spencer Tracy, Budd Boetticher, and Mitchell Leisen series at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood; and over at the Egyptian, I revisited two Rodgers and Hammerstein favorites, SOUTH PACIFIC (1958) and THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965), both screened in glorious 70mm.
...I saw a mere handful of "new" movies in theaters this year: CONTRABAND (2012), THIS MEANS WAR (2012), WRECK-IT RALPH (2012), ARGO (2012), and LES MISERABLES (2012). Films of relatively recent vintage seen on DVD were MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011) and SOMETHING NEW (2006).
...I saw many Disney films in 2012. Six were seen on a big screen: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955), IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962), CINDERELLA (1950), WRECK-IT RALPH (2012), and MONSTERS, INC. (2001). Thanks to DVDs I also caught up with THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941), THE MOON-SPINNERS (1964), THE UGLY DACHSHUND (1966), SO DEAR TO MY HEART (1948), and revisited a childhood favorite, SNOWBALL EXPRESS (1972). Alan Ladd fans should be sure to see THE RELUCTANT DRAGON! He's pictured here playing a Disney animator in a scene with Robert Benchley.
...The Bay Theatre in Seal Beach, where I saw SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) early in the year, closed suddenly in August. There's no word if or when it will reopen.
...My most-viewed actor in 2012 was Dick Powell, a big favorite of mine who clocked in with seven films: THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD (1950), COLLEEN (1936), PITFALL (1948), SHIPMATES FOREVER (1935), CORNERED (1945), BLESSED EVENT (1932), and a repeat viewing of JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947) at the Noir City Film Festival.
...Other actors seen most often in 2012: Alan Ladd, George Brent, Tom Conway, Dan Duryea, Randolph Scott, Edmond O'Brien, John Payne, Richard Carlson, Jeff Chandler, Sterling Hayden, Fred MacMurray, Richard Conte, Chester Morris, Victor Mature, and Spencer Tracy. All of these actors were seen in four to six films apiece, except that in Carlson's case that number includes a film he directed but didn't appear in. That list is definitely a good reflection of some of the actors I most enjoy watching.
...Coleen Gray was my most-viewed actress this year, with seven titles: KISS OF DEATH (1947), THE SLEEPING CITY (1950), COPPER SKY (1957), ARROW IN THE DUST (1954), THE WILD DAKOTAS (1956), FURY AT FURNACE CREEK (1948), and NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947). The year ended on a high note with the chance for me to interview her in December for an upcoming issue of the Dark Pages film noir newsletter which will focus on NIGHTMARE ALLEY.
...Joan Fontaine came in second on the most-watched actress list, with five films, while Gail Russell, Brenda Marshall, Yvonne DeCarlo, Geraldine Fitzgerald, and Nina Foch followed closely with four films apiece. This year I seemed to have watched a more diverse list of actresses than actors.
...For the second year in a row I chose a list of 10 Classics to be certain to finally see this year for the first time. I loved CRISS CROSS (1949) and DARK VICTORY (1939) and very much liked THE RAZOR'S EDGE (1946); I found THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942) and HAMLET (1946) to be satisfying and worthwhile viewing. I could understand others' admiration for BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), but found it difficult to connect with emotionally. I disliked STALAG 17 (1953), 12 ANGRY MEN (1957), THE BIRDS (1963), and especially THE APARTMENT (1960), which at times made for interesting discussion with my fellow classic film fans! I'll be posting my new list of 10 Classics to see in 2013 in the near future.
...My choice as the worst movie seen this year may be a controversial pick in some quarters, but I have no hesitation in naming INHERIT THE WIND (1960), which I found to be cartoonish, smug, and surprisingly shallow, a real disappointment. Since I saw it the first week of the year, 2012 movie viewing had nowhere to go but up from there!
...I was honored to participate in four blogathons this year: I reviewed Hitchcock's ROPE (1948) as part of the For the Love of Film fundraiser...watched Fred MacMurray and Anne Baxter in SMOKY (1946) for a Horseathon in May...reviewed the WWII film WING AND A PRAYER (1944) for a Dana Andrews blogathon in the summer...and saw the spooky THE LEOPARD MAN (1943) for a Val Lewton blogathon last Halloween. I appreciate all the hard work done by the blogathon hosts and think the blogathons help foster a nice sense of community among classic film bloggers.
...Below is a look at additional titles which made some of the biggest impressions in 2011. 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!
...In January's viewing, Tom Conway took over the Falcon series from his real-life brother, George Sanders, in THE FALCON'S BROTHER (1942). I saw several FALCON films this year and really enjoy the series...CRY OF THE CITY (1948) was an excellent film noir pitting cop Victor Mature against crook Richard Conte, with lovely Debra Paget as Conte's love interest...I loved Ruth Roman and Steve Cochran in TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951), and I'm delighted Eddie Muller will be showcasing it on TCM on the evening of January 17th, 2012...Cary Grant gave a really interesting performance as a steely doctor matching wits with a dictator in CRISIS (1950)...As a fan of aviation films, I enjoyed the beautifully filmed STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND (1955), starring James Stewart and directed by Anthony Mann...I found WEST POINT WIDOW (1941), with Anne Shirley and Richard Carlson, to be a very enjoyable "B" movie (my sincere thanks to Mel for his help with that title!)...SAN FRANCISCO (1936) and LIBELED LADY (1936) was a great "1936" double bill at UCLA's Spencer Tracy Festival...I liked Ray Milland and Patricia Roc in Jacques Tourneur's mystery filmed in the UK, CIRCLE OF DANGER (1951) (thanks to Kristina for making it possible for me to see it!)...THE SECOND WOMAN (1950) was an interesting psychological thriller with Robert Young and Betsy Drake.
SPRING PARADE (1940), which felt a bit like the '50s SISSI movies thanks to the Austrian setting and the story by SISSI writer-director Ernst Marinschka...My favorite Joan Fontaine film of the year was FROM THIS DAY FORWARD (1946), a really wonderful story of struggling newlyweds in the '40s; Mark Stevens plays the husband...WITHOUT HONOR (1949) was a very entertaining example of "housewife noir," with Laraine Day as an unhappily married woman who stabs her lover (Franchot Tone) with a kabob skewer...THE FOREST RANGERS (1942) was a colorful Paramount film with a trio of favorite actors, Fred MacMurray, Susan Hayward, and Paulette Goddard, although the firefighting sequences were somewhat bizarre...THE BEGINNING OR THE END (1947), MGM's engrossing depiction of the Manhattan Project and the dropping of the first atomic bomb, had an excellent, deep cast headed by Brian Donlevy, Robert Walker, Tom Drake, and Audrey Totter...I really enjoyed FOXFIRE (1955), an excellent romantic melodrama from Universal starring Jeff Chandler, Jane Russell, and Dan Duryea. It was based on a novel by Anya Seton.
...March started off on a great note with ROAD HOUSE (1948), a terrific noir with an atmospheric setting starring Richard Widmark, Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, and Celeste Holm...I very much enjoyed the Universal courtroom drama THE TATTERED DRESS (1957), starring Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain, and Gail Russell (thanks, Carrie!)...TWICE BLESSED (1945) was an early variation on the PARENT TRAP theme, with the talented Lyn and Lee Wilde as the twins -- both ladies are still with us at this writing -- and Preston Foster and Gail Patrick as the parents...I thought Jack Webb's newspaper film -30- (1959) was flawed but very entertaining viewing...THE SLEEPING CITY (1950) was a memorable docu-noir with police detective Richard Conte, a former Army medic, masquerading as an intern in order to solve a murder at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Coleen Gray was the nurse who might not be as sweet as she seems...Budd Boetticher's SEMINOLE (1953) was beautifully produced in Technicolor, with good roles for Rock Hudson and Anthony Quinn...SECOND CHANCE (1950) was a rather fascinating film with a religious theme, originally produced for church audiences, starring Ruth Warrick, John Hubbard, and Hugh Beaumont. The movie itself had a "second chance" after a surviving print was discovered in Quebec and released by the Alpha public domain line.
...April was one of my favorite viewing months this year, thanks to the Noir City Festival and the TCM Classic Film Festival. Back at home, I started out the month continuing to explore '50s sci-fi with EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1954), which I enjoyed a great deal...I thought BLESSED EVENT (1932), seen via the Warner Archive, was a terrific pre-Code comedy. It starred Lee Tracy and Dick Powell, with a great supporting cast including Ruth Donnelly, Allen Jenkins, and Ned Sparks...Another Warner Archive pick, FOG OVER FRISCO (1934), was a very entertaining crime drama starring a scenery-chewing Bette Davis, plus Margaret Lindsay and Lyle Talbot...I love '50s Air Force movies and enjoyed Frank Lovejoy in TOP OF THE WORLD (1955), seen via Netflix streaming...COPPER SKY (1957), sort of an AFRICAN QUEEN tale set in the desert, was very special to me. Although I was a bit perplexed by the casting of Jeff Morrow -- Sterling Hayden would have been perfect -- I thought Coleen Gray was marvelous and ended up rewatching several scenes the next day...More '50s sci-fi: Richard Carlson in IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953), a very creepy movie!...I absolutely loved the deep, deep cast of the survival drama ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953), starring John Wayne and directed by William Wellman. What an amazing group of faces in that movie...I watched the delightful DESIRABLE (1934) for the second time, in which George Brent finds friendship and then love with much younger Jean Muir.
...In May the Noir City Festival ended at the Egyptian and the Mid-Century California Noir series started at the L.A. County Museum of Art. I also had the thrill of seeing cast members from THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) at the Egyptian on Mother's Day! Viewing at home included ESPIONAGE AGENT (1939) with Joel McCrea and Brenda Marshall, sort of an enjoyable forerunner to McCrea's later, better FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)...I thought the "B" noir HOMICIDE (1949), with Robert Douglas as a Canadian serving on the LAPD, was something of a find, a really good detective film with a strong lead actor, marred only by a weak climax...THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET (1949) was an entertaining little Warner Bros. noir starring Wayne Norris and Janis Paige, with the fun of James Mitchell as a bad guy and a couple ultra-obvious bloopers, including a huge WB soundstage with its door open glimpsed at the end of a quiet residential street...and real-life marrieds Bill Williams and Barbara Hale starred in a good little noir titled THE CLAY PIGEON (1949).
...June was a light viewing month due in part to our summer vacation. I thought Hayley Mills was fun in Disney's THE MOON-SPINNERS (1964), a "Hitchcock lite" mystery filmed on gorgeous Crete, but was disappointed in her earlier film IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962), which I saw at the Disney Studios Theatre...I liked DALLAS (1950), a Gary Cooper Western with some very amusing moments...I found the WWII spy film O.S.S. (1946), starring Alan Ladd and Geraldine Fitzgerald, to be engrossing...TWO SMART PEOPLE (1946) was an enjoyable noir with John Hodiak, Lucille Ball, and Lloyd Nolan.
...In July 711 OCEAN DRIVE (1950), starring Edmond O'Brien and Joanne Dru, was a memorable noir in a great noir viewing year. I especially loved the location shooting at Hoover Dam...O'Brien was also in the Deanna Durbin film THE AMAZING MRS. HOLLIDAY (1943), a moving film partially directed by the uncredited Jean Renoir...WHEN STRANGERS MARRY (1944) was an atmospheric, nifty little noir from the Warner Archive, with Robert Mitchum, Kim Hunter, and Dean Jagger, creatively directed by William Castle...I saw the beloved Randolph Scott Western SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956), costarring Gail Russell and Lee Marvin, on a big screen for the first time at UCLA's Budd Boetticher festival, paired with DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957), a somber film memorable for Scott's raw performance and excellent supporting turns by Noah Beery Jr. and John Carroll...SOUTH PACIFIC (1958), viewed at the Egyptian with France Nuyen in the audience, was a transcendent experience, much better than I remembered and absolutely stunning in a perfect 70mm print. Seeing it was pure movie joy...RIDE LONESOME (1959), another film seen at UCLA's Boetticher festival, was one of the best Westerns I've ever seen, with a perfect Burt Kennedy script and a great cast including Randolph Scott, James Coburn, and a surprisingly compelling, charming Pernell Roberts...I also loved the Boetticher-Scott film COMANCHE STATION (1960), which costarred Nancy Gates and Claude Akins.
...I saw my first George O'Brien "B" Western, GUN LAW (1938), in August and was impressed with the deft handling of a complex plot and by O'Brien and his sidekick Ray Whitley...Really liked Sterling Hayden in the Western TOP GUN (1955), with a good role for Regis Toomey as his pal...Loved Gregory Peck and Ann Blyth in Raoul Walsh's adventure THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS (1952)...Enjoyed the odd but interesting Western RAW EDGE (1956) with Rory Calhoun and Yvonne DeCarlo because of the lead actors...MAN OR GUN (1958), seen via Netflix streaming, was one of my favorite little discoveries of the year, a creative Western starring Macdonald Carey, Audrey Totter, James Craig, and James Gleason...I found THE AFFAIRS OF DOBIE GILLIS (1953), an MGM "B" musical with Debbie Reynolds, Bob Fosse, and Bobby Van, much more enjoyable on this viewing than when I first saw it a few years ago.
...In September I enjoyed some old favorites while recovering from surgery: Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban in NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949), Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds in THE TENDER TRAP (1955), FOR THE LOVE OF MARY (1948) with Deanna Durbin, YOU'RE IN THE NAVY NOW (1951) with Gary Cooper and Jane Greer, and Sinatra, Michele Morgan, and Jack Haley in HIGHER AND HIGHER (1943), costarring Mel Torme, Victor Borge, and Barbara Hale...September also brought my first Tim Holt "B" Western, THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), costarring Martha Hyer and directed by Lew Landers. Really liked it and look forward to more Holt movies...CRIMINAL COURT (1946), a fun "B" movie directed by Robert Wise, starred Tom Conway and Martha O'Driscoll, and happened to borrow a couple songs from HIGHER AND HIGHER, made three years earlier at the same studio...COW COUNTRY (1953) with Edmond O'Brien was another fun discovery; I really like him as a Western hero...THE STALKING MOON (1968) was an absorbing Western with Gregory Peck as an ex-Army scout who comes to the aid of a white woman freed from years living with the Apaches...DANGEROUS MISSION (1954) was just plain fun, with NY detective Victor Mature protecting murder witness Piper Laurie from hit man Vincent Price in Glacier National Park...and FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954), recommended by my friend Blake Lucas, was a special Western in which Rory Calhoun and Colleen Miller fall in love, growing up and maturing in the process. It really needs a DVD release.
SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 (1950), filmed around Los Angeles, and EAST OF THE RIVER (1940), a spin on the old MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934) story, with John Garfield and William Lundigan as adopted brothers who end up on opposite sides of the law...THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944), depicting the famous Doolittle raid, is a terrific WWII film, and I found the powerful anti-Nazi film THE MAN I MARRIED (1940), starring Joan Bennett and Francis Lederer, to be one of the most interesting films seen this year. It's available thanks to this year's new Fox Cinema Archives line...FBI GIRL (1951) was another fun "B," how can you not love Cesar Romero and George Brent as "G" men? It costarred Audrey Totter, Tom Drake and Raymond Burr, and the VCI DVD also had a strong commentary track by the Film Noir Foundation's Alan Rode...I continued delving into '50s sci-fi with IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), featuring Ray Harryhausen's famous "sexapus"...CAPTAIN CAREY, U.S.A. (1950) was an atmospheric thriller starring Alan Ladd and Wanda Hendrix, directed by Mitchell Leisen and featuring the debut of the song "Mona Lisa"...I loved Brenda Marshall as the SINGAPORE WOMAN (1941), directed by Jean Negulesco...it was fun to revisit the "matchmaker" romance CROSSING DELANCEY (1988) after many years...RAGE IN HEAVEN (1941) was a highly entertaining thriller starring Ingrid Bergman, George Sanders, and a very effective Robert Montgomery as Bergman's mentally disturbed husband...FLAME OF ARABY (1951) with Jeff Chandler and Maureen O'Hara was great Technicolor fun...and I saw a very good TV-movie, MIRACLE LANDING (1990), for the first time in decades. September and October were two of my favorite movie months in a very strong year!
...November started off with another Brenda Marshall movie, SOUTH OF SUEZ (1940)...THE ADMIRAL WAS A LADY (1950) was a pleasant surprise, a very cute romantic comedy with Edmond O'Brien, Wanda Hendrix, and Rudy Vallee...ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950) is 67 minutes of "B" noir bliss, filmed on location in L.A., with Charles McGraw as a dogged detective on the hunt for his partner's killer...What a joy to watch I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945) again, it's truly magical filmmaking...EASY LIVING (1949) was another great discovery thanks to the Warner Archive. Victor Mature stars as a football player with health problems; there's a terrific cast including Lucille Ball, Lloyd Nolan, Lizabeth Scott, Sonny Tufts, Jeff Donnell, Richard Erdman, Paul Stewart, and Jack Paar. Great stuff...I enjoyed old favorites EASY LIVING (1937) and MIDNIGHT (1939) at UCLA's Mitchell Leisen festival...THE FALCON AND THE CO-EDS (1943), with some Val Lewton influences, was one of the best to date from an enjoyable movie series...SHADOW OF DOUBT (1935) is a mystery which should be better known, and happily it's just been released by the Warner Archive. Ricardo Cortez and Virginia Bruce star, with Regis Toomey and Constance Collier in strong support...RAILS INTO LARAMIE (1954) is a very enjoyable Western starring John Payne and Dan Duryea, with a memorable supporting turn by James Griffith as a loyal but nervous marshal who assists Payne in taming a town...SWING HIGH, SWING LOW (1937) was a very interesting Lombard-MacMurray film seen at UCLA's Mitchell Leisen festival. It played with the wonderful HOLD BACK THE DAWN (1941).
NO MAN OF HER OWN (1950) with Barbara Stanwyck and John Lund; it was a thrill to see this on a big screen in gorgeous 35mm...I took another look at a favorite comedy, IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935) and found it as charming as ever...ALASKA PASSAGE (1959) was a fun "B" about truckers which benefited from location shooting in Alaska...I hadn't seen LADY IN THE DARK (1944) since I saw it at the L.A. County Museum of Art as a teenager, so I was thrilled to have the chance to see it again at UCLA...BUREAU OF MISSING PERSONS (1933) was a pre-Code that was great fun, with a wonderful cast. As I wrote in my review, Allen Jenkins and Ruth Donnelly working in a police station make my heart happy...FROM HEADQUARTERS (1933), a police procedural with George Brent and Margaret Lindsay, wasn't quite as much fun as BUREAU OF MISSING PERSONS, but it definitely had its moments, including an autopsy scene shot from the point of view of the corpse!...This might have been the year of the "B" movie for me, and TRUCK BUSTERS (1943) was another fun one, which made Warner Archive's year-end "best of" list, labeled "For Refined Palates Only"...Movies don't come any more joyous than SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941), an old favorite I watched on Christmas. It stars John Payne, Sonja Henie, and Glenn Miller, with a fantastic specialty number by the Nicholas Brothers...The year ended on a strong note on New Year's Eve with three films, including the excellent new musical LES MISERABLES (2012).
In closing, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you who regularly visit this blog, whether you're a reader or one of the regular commenters I'm so fortunate to have share ideas. You are all deeply appreciated, and I wish my readers good health, happiness, and lots of classic movies in 2013!
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.