Tag Archives: AFI

Actor: Spencer Tracy

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn starred in nine films together, one of the most successful movie pairings in Hollywood history. Uploaded by media-2.web.britannica.com.

I’ve never been able to precisely characterize Spencer Tracy’s persona. You know, Marlon Brando = rebel…Tom Hanks = guy next door…John Wayne = hero. Spencer Tracy’s characters were usually strong, moral, self-assured. He made me root for him in almost every film. But I never felt like I knew him.

Tracy is one of only two actors to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in two consecutive years. (Tom HanksGreat American Things, June 8, 2009 – was the other.) Tracy won for Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938).

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Some of his best work was done with Katharine Hepburn (Great American Things, December 26, 2009). They made nine films together, and had a lifelong love affair that was somewhat tempestuous – not unlike some of their movie roles.

Among Spencer Tracy’s best performances are:

Captains Courageous (1937 – Best Actor) • Boys Town (1938 – Best Actor) • Woman of the Year (1942) • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) • Adam’s Rib (1949) • Father of the Bride (1950 – Nomination) • Pat and Mike (1952) • Bad Day at Black Rock (1955 – Nomination) • The Old Man and the Sea (1958 – Nomination) • Inherit the Wind (1960 – Nomination) • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961 – Nomination) • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967 – Nomination)

Entertainment Weekly named him the 15th greatest movie star of all time, and he is the ninth greatest movie star of all time according to the American Film Institute.

Film: Casablanca

Rick: If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. Uploaded by img272.imageshack.us.

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

It’s the movie that made Humphrey Bogart (Great American Things, August 11, 2009) a major star. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. And it’s one of the most romantic movies of all time. Not happy romantic, like Sleepless in Seattle, but unrequited romantic.

“We’ll always have Paris.”

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Ingrid Bergman was at the height of her beauty in this film, and her inability to commit to Bogart broke our hearts. Casablanca was released just a few weeks after war broke out in North Africa, as Churchill and Roosevelt were meeting in the city, making the setting all the more relevant to its audiences.

“Round up the usual suspects.”

As with most great movies, Casablanca had a terrific cast. Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Dooley Wilson as Sam. Although the movie didn’t do overwhelming business at the box office, it was quickly recognized as the classic film that it has become.

“The fundamental things apply as time goes by.”

Casablanca was named #1 in the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Passions category, and #2 in “100 Years…100 Movies.” “As Time Goes By” was #2 in “100 Years…100 Songs”. Also, the movie had more entries in the “100 Years…100 Movie Quotes” countdown than any other film, topped by #5:

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Film: Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is a brilliant movie. Once you get past its quirky premise, that a man has to live one day – Groundhog Day – over and over and over again, you begin to see a film that’s not only funny, but smart, and romantic, and redemptive.

Bill Murray (Great American Things, April 25, 2009) does an exceptional job as weatherman Phil Connors. This role is the bridge between his broader comedies and the more sophisticated parts he played in Rushmore and Lost in Translation. Andie MacDowell does a serviceable job as the female lead, but this is Murray’s movie.

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Harold Ramis co-wrote and directed Groundhog Day, but nothing he did before or has done since would hint that he had this movie in him. I consider it the It’s a Wonderful Life (Great American Things, December 1, 2009) of our generation. Consider: both fantasy stories, both with a protagonist who’s frustrated by his life, both of whom end up doing what’s right despite the personal cost to them. And both of whom are rewarded with joy and satisfaction as a result. In It’s a Wonderful Life, it starts to snow when Jimmy Stewart (Great American Things, April 8, 2009) says he wants to live again; in Groundhog Day, it starts to snow when Murray realizes that whatever happens in the future, he’s happy now.

The American Film Institute named the movie its number eight fantasy movie of all time, and number 34 comedy. But perhaps the film’s greatest tribute is how the phrase “Groundhog Day” is now a part of the language, indicating any experience that’s repeated time and again.

Film: The Graduate

These famous legs don't actually belong to Anne Bancroft, but to actress Linda Gray. Uploaded by projectorhead.wordpress.com.

Beyond a memorable script, a terrific cast, a visionary director, and perfect music, some movies just happen to fully embody the Zeitgeist of its era. So it was with The Graduate, a masterful movie that perfectly captured the freedom and angst of the late 60s.

The script came courtesy of Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Dustin Hoffman made his major movie debut, and was perfect as Benjamin Braddock, while Anne Bancroft portrayed Mrs. Robinson with the perfect blend of sultriness and ennui. It was director Mike Nichols’ second film, following the startling Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. That’s a pretty auspicious beginning. And the music of Simon and Garfunkel was expertly woven through the film, a soundtrack not just for the movie, but for the times.

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I love behind-the-scenes movie trivia, so here are a couple of things about The Graduate I found interesting. Dustin Hoffman was 30 and Anne Bancroft was 36 when the movie was made, but Hoffman looked so young and Bancroft so mature that they carried off cross-generational lovers. And the legs in the famous movie poster, beyond which we see Hoffman, didn’t belong to Bancroft, but to a young model – Linda Gray, who went on to play Sue Ellen Ewing in Dallas.

The Graduate was selected as the number seven movie in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies” program. Two lines from the movie also are among the most famous in film history: “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?” was selected as number 63 by the AFI and number 17 by Premiere magazine. And “Plastics” was the AFI’s number 42 quote.

Film: Young Frankenstein

Peter Boyle as the monster and Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein perform "Putting on the Ritz." Uploaded by grouchoreviews.com.

When Mel Brooks was good (Young Frankenstein) he was very, very good. When he was bad (Spaceballs), it was uncomfortable to watch. In 1974, though, Brooks reached the zenith of his career, releasing both Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles. Now, that was a year.

Uploaded to Flickr by Matthew and Tracie.

Uploaded to Flickr by Matthew and Tracie.

One of the reasons YF was so good was who was in the cast, and who wasn’t. Gene Wilder was magnificent as the good doctor, and he also co-wrote the movie. Marty Feldman was the perfect Igor, Teri Garr was fetching as the lovely Inga, and Cloris Leachman stole the show as the spooky Frau Blucher. So whose omission from the cast made the movie better? Mel Brooks. He had a tendency to think he could act, which was a serious miscalculation.

It helps if you’ve seen the classics: Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Son of Frankenstein. Brooks actually did a great job of recreating the settings, music, and cinematography of those movies for comic effect. And if you like fast wordplay and visual puns, Young Frankenstein has them in spades. (Dr. Frankenstein and Inga are standing in front of huge castle doors. Dr. Frankenstein: “What knockers!” Inga: “Why thank you, Doctor.”)

Young Frankenstein was number 13 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Funniest American Movies, and also was on Bravo’s list of 100 Funniest Movies. Here’s my favorite scene from the movie: