I received these gems from my father this week; some have been out of print for a while:
Stalag 17 and Ace in the Hole were made by my favourite director, Billy Wilder. The commentary track for Stalag 17 says that Charlton Heston was originally slated for the William Holden role; the writer (who was a POW in a German stalag) was very relieved when Heston was offered the role, as he thought he was not suitable (too big and over the top). I can’t imagine anyone playing the cynical Sefton any better than William Holden.
Ace in the Hole is my favourite Kirk Douglas film: Its biting criticism of the news media stands the test of time and would be very applicable to our news media today with its sensationalist 24-hour coverage of often very tragic events.
The Killers launched the career of Burt Lancaster (he and Holden are two of my favourite actors). Lancaster does not play the major role in this film, but he makes his always magnetic presence felt. The Miklos Rozca score, of course, is marvellous.
It Happened One Night is great fun. I’m not generally a fan of Frank Capra, as I find some of his films be a little too light for my taste, but this one is a classic. Clark Gable clearly had a great deal of fun making this film; Claudette Colbert, on the other hand, apparently complained a lot and thought the film was beneath her, even though she won an Oscar for her role. Gable clearly had a very deft comedic touch; it’s shame that he was rarely given the opportunity to show it.
I first watched Triumph of the Will in one of my undergraduate history classes. I still remember the day I watched it and the impact it had on me. It’s a fascinating and horrifying look at the carefully-crafted propaganda machine of the Third Reich. Leni Riefenstahl, who was a very talented film maker, never recovered from this film and her personal association with Adolf Hitler.