TEN FAVORITE MOVIES* 2014 EDITION – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The title has an asterisk because this is an impossible post. I can’t begin to do justice to all the movies I love when limited to ten. However, a dear friend (and fellow movie maven) asked me to compile such a list for a project.

Inside the Loew's Valencia. Queens, New York.

Inside the Loew’s Valencia. Queens, New York.

I saw my first film at age four in 1946. I recall relatives saying I talked like a grown up, spouting familiar lines. Frequently they were lines from movies. That quirk would continue for the rest of my life right to the present.

I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with many of the legends from old Hollywood, which sometimes clouds my perspective. I become totally immersed with movies. I become part of the film, sharing the feelings of the characters. Love, hate, joy and sorrow. And now …

GARRY ARMSTRONG’S FAVORITE MOVIES –  SEPTEMBER 2014 VERSION

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES – 1946. The first movie I saw. I was 4-years old. Mom and Dad looked like a celebrity couple. Dad, just back from active duty in World War Two, seemed 10-feet tall in his uniform. The film’s theme, GI’s readjusting to civilian life, would become a personal issue in our family.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN – 1960.  If I love movies, I am passionate about westerns! I saw “The Magnificent Seven” 6 times during its first week in the theater. Steve McQueen was “the man”. All the stars were so very cool. Eli Wallach was a hoot as the Mexican bandit leader. His line, “Generosity, that was my first mistake” is my email tag.

INHERIT THE WIND – 1960. Every time it’s on, we watch it. Marilyn and I smile, anticipating the lines, waiting for the Spencer Tracy/Clarence Darrow monologues. The Tracy-Fredric March courtroom scenes are perfect. Two masters at work. Gene Kelly does his best dramatic work as the acerbic H.L. Mencken character.  The film’s an excellent classroom tool for anyone unfamiliar with the Scopes trial.

THE AMERICANIZATION OF EMILY – 1964. If you love great script and dialogues, this may be the all-time best movie. The real star is the script and its writer, Paddy Chayefsky. James Garner’s favorite movie and best film role. Garner was brilliant! Ably supported by Julie Andrews (her first dramatic role). Hard to watch a gung-ho action war flick after viewing this one.

TOMBSTONE – 1993. I came on board after the second or third viewing of this one because of Marilyn’s love of this version of the Earp saga. It’s fast-paced, well-acted, relatively authentic and beautifully photographed. The film gives us a jolt of vicarious pleasure as the good guys mow down the bad guys. We have coördinated Tombstone tee shirts.

GIGI – 1958. I remember seeing this first run. I was 16, head over heels in love with Leslie Caron. A couple of years earlier, I’d waited outside the tiny Trans-Lux Theatre in Manhattan where Caron’s “Lilli” had a record-breaking run. A wonderful musical. Music, sets, cast. Marilyn and I know the songs and sing along. It never gets old.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN – 1952. Maybe best musical. Ever. So many wonderful “numbers” including Gene Kelly’s iconic (I know the word is overused) title tune sequence. Once upon a time, I used to dance to work in the rain, just singing and dancing — like Gene Kelly. I got more than a few stares.

SHANE – 1953. Marilyn and I both saw this first run at the Loews Valencia in Queens, New York, but not together. The Valencia was like Radio City Musical Hall. Fantastic and huge, with a starlit ceiling. Alan Ladd’s finest performance thanks to director George Stevens. I’ve seen Shane dozens of times and still marvel at its photography and editing. “Reb” funeral scene is classic, cinematic magic.

S.O.B. – 1981. Blake Edwards scathing take on Hollywood. It didn’t endear him to tinsel town’s movers and shakers and they tried to sabotage S.O.B.’s distribution. William Holden and Julie Andrews head a wonderful ensemble cast. Holden’s dialogue to a suicidal friend could well have been Holden’s own eulogy.

CASABLANCA – 1943.  Who doesn’t love this film? I met co-writer Julius Epstein in the 70’s. He shared lots of great stories about the making of Casablanca. He said every day was crazier than the previous one, with new dialogue arriving as scenes were set up. We saw a remastered Casablanca on the big screen last year, a celebration of its 70th anniversary. Bogie and the gang were in their prime.


Ask me to my ten favorites next month. Different answers! Hoo-Ray for Hollywood!



Categories: Celebrities, film, Garry Armstrong, Movies, Reviews, Show Business

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. I now have some great movie rental ideas! Bring on the popcorn! 🙂

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  2. Since the Scopes Trial was in Tennessee, I wish Inherit the Wind was more historically accurate. Next month, I am giving a presentation about the trial and think the real story is more interesting that the one they created.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rick, I hope you share your presentation with us.

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    • The movie trial is mostly word for word taken from the actual trail, though not the surrounding social stuff. The speeches of the primary players were lifted from the transcripts. But they did greatly alter the historical and social context, I suppose for dramatic effect. Still, there are some speeches and monologues to die for.

      Certainly the real players motivations were more interesting. Scopes was not an unintended victim but an active willing participant. The intent of the parties was pretty much what they got — publicity for their points of view. I think you could easily use the trial segments while explaining the context. You really can’t go wrong with Spencer Tracy and Frederick March.

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  3. Movies can be such a personal choice, especially what we find that moves us. I’m familiar with about 60% of the movies on your list and love these. My own top 10 list would look radically different because of my like and dislikes. It would read something like this:

    Young Frankenstein – 1974
    Blazing Saddles – 1974
    Monte Python & The Holy Grail – 1975
    Quest For Fire – 1981
    Unforgiven – 1992
    Nell – 1994
    The Last Samurai – 2003
    Avatar – 2009
    Up – 2009
    Despicable Me – 2010

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve got a bunch of our favorites too. That’s why Garry always says this is the imossible assignment. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and History of the World are all Mel Brooks favorites and we watch them OFTEN. Airplane! is another. Hot Shots Deux yet one more. Unforgiven is a hell of a western. I loved Avatar, though I don’t rewatch it much … maybe because it’s just long. I’ve never seen The Last Samuarai … no reason why not just haven’t. But that’s why Garry always says that each time he does this, the list is different. Some things stay — like Casablanca, Shane, The Magnificent 7 … but others switch places. I think you’d have to do our top 100 to get a real sense of it … and that would be too long a post for this blog 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Love your list, Bob. These things, as I said, are very subjective. I omitted LOTS of wonderful films due to constraints. That’s why I love AFI’s various top 100 lists. Even then, I quarrel with films omitted.

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