Years ago, actors and actresses used to say they were making "pictures" as opposed to movies. It wasn't so much an art form to them as much as it was about telling an interesting story. I used to love to go to the movies, but I tend to balk at today's comic book style computer generated reruns. True, I like the older films, but there are three pictures in particular I never get tired of watching:
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - was directed by Otto Preminger and featured James Stewart as a defense attorney representing Ben Gazzara, an Army officer charged in the death of a saloon keeper who raped his wife (Lee Remmick). Stewart is assisted by Arthur O'Connell, a broken-down "has-been" attorney, and his secretary, played by Eve Arden. It was an interesting story which Preminger brilliantly directed. There were three things that stood out for me; first, Duke Ellington's score of the movie (he also made a cameo appearance in it); second, a young George C. Scott did an excellent job as one of the prosecuting attorneys (it was one of Scott's earliest film roles), and; third, Jimmy Stewart playing the piano while the jury was out which gave me a totally new perspective of Stewart.
In Harm's Way (1965) - this was another Otto Preminger project and featured John Wayne as a newly appointed World War II admiral charged with stopping the Japanese advance in the South Pacific. He is assisted by Kirk Douglas, Burgess Meredith, as well as several other notable character actors. What I found interesting was Wayne's relationship with his nurse, who was played superbly by Patricia Neal; Wayne's complicated relationship with his son, Brandon De Wilde, and; Kirk Douglas showing a dark-side rarely seen in his film career. Although the movie has plenty of action, it is the dynamics between the characters that makes it interesting, which was all played convincingly by the cast. I think Preminger brought the best out of the actors as they portrayed human frailties you don't normally see from people like Wayne and Douglas. To me, this is the definitive John Wayne movie, not what Howard Hawks created.
12 Angry Men (1957) - was directed by Sidney Lumet and featured an impressive cast including Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam and more. The story revolves around the deliberations of a jury hearing the trial of a teenager charged with the murder of his father. It had a powerful script and, to me, captured the sense of the times back then. Again, it is the dynamics between the jurors which makes this a fascinating story.
All three films were nominated for Academy Awards, but none took home the prize. Regardless, there is something about these films that fascinates me. Perhaps it was because they were all shot in black and white which added a sense of realism to me, someone who vividly remembers television before the advent of color. More importantly though, I believe these films had excellent scripts and dialogue, intelligent stories, believable characters and situations, and good acting and directing.
Maybe I am dating myself by these selections, but I will take these classic "pictures" any day of the week over the "movies" of today.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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