1940-1960 – The Golden Era of English Movies – Part I
“Old is gold” so the saying goes and we can wholeheartedly endorse the saying for old English Movies. The movies that were released during 1940 to 1960 still remain evergreen in everybody’s memory. Thinking of them, we journey back to those times, becoming young. Here we intend to recapitulate them though not chronologically but under different categories such as religion, history, thrillers, fiction, war movies, romance and humor.
Many films have been produced based on The Bible. The movie “The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966) is production of the first part of the book of Genesis. It covers the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Isaac. The scene of tremendous down pour of rain and the sheltering of all and sundry was simply breathtaking. “Ten Commandments” (1956) is another great movie produced by the movie mogul Cecil B DeMille. This film does not conclude with ‘The End’, but with a caption “So it was written, so it shall be done.” The scene of parting of red sea is indelible in the minds of those who watched the movie. Earlier in 1949, De Mile gave us “Samson and Delilah”, also a tale from Bible. The lion fight and the destruction of the Temple of Dagon were awe inspiring. “BEN-HUR” (1959) a tale written by Lew Wallace was noted for its stunning horse race where the villain Messala gets killed. The story is inspired by The Bible and the photography was spectacular. I am sure that people like me who have seen the movie will never forget it. “David and Bathsheba” (1951) was another movie with Bible as its base. Susan Hayward who donned the role of Bathsheba lived the role which also had Gregory Peck in his only ever biblical role.
There were movies based on the history of the countries. “EL CID” (1961) was one such. It told the story of Spain and EL CID, the Spanish hero, who led his army to victory even after being hit by a deathly arrow. Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren played the hero and heroine. Can anyone forget “CLEOPATRA” (1963)? It follows the history of Rome and Egypt. The portrayal of Julius Caesar by Rex Harrison and Mark Antony by Richard Burton were unforgettable. Elizabeth Taylor, the English beauty was every inch Cleopatra. The Roman revelry was brought to us in all its grandeur. “BECKET” (1964) probes the changing relationship between two close friends who become deadly enemies as they pursue their separate destinies, that of king and a saint. Richard Burton as Becket and Peter O Toole as King Henry II played their roles to perfection.
The period of King Louis XIII in all its splendour came to us in “Three Musketeers”, (1948) the story of Alexandre Dumas, made into a film. It portrays the adventures of D’Artagnan who comes to Paris to become a musketeer. His experiences with action, love, hate and of course his everlasting friendship with the three musketeers Athos, Porthos and Aramis are all depicted splendidly in this movie. The character of D’Artagnan was enacted by Gene Kelly and my lady was played by the seductive Lana Turner. Van Heflin as Athos, Gig Young as Porthos and Robert Coote as Aramis provided able support.
Scott’s “Ivanhoe” hit the screen in 1952. Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor played Ivanhoe and Rebecca, both vying for acting honours. The role of Rebecca was essayed by Elizabeth Taylor with effortless ease.
Thrillers are a class by themselves. The master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock gave us “Psycho” (1960), “North by North west” (1959), “Rear window” (1954), “Dial M for murder” (1954), “Birds” (1963) etc. All his films riveted us to our seats, nail – biting. To mention a few: the bathing scene, where the heroine (Janet Leigh) is stabbed by the villain cum hero (Antony Perkins) in Psycho, the chasing scene in North by North west where the hero (Cary Grant) runs, chased by a helicopter, the final scene in The Man who knew too much where the hero is looking for his abducted son are spine – chilling.
War movies like “Guns of Navarone” (1961), “The Longest Day” (1962), “The Great Escape” (1963), “Bridge on the river Kwai” (1957), made us feel as if we are participating in the adventure.
Musicals gave us some everlasting melodies. “Sound of Music” (1965), “My fair lady” (1964), “Mary Poppins” (1964) are a few which belong in this category. “Singing in the Rain” (1952) is a delightful musical with Gene Kelly in the lead. His dancing reiterates the fact that he is a great choreographer and a wonderful dancer.
Romances were aplenty. The civil war in the background, “Gone with the wind” (1939) was a box office hit. It draws crowds even today. “An affair to remember” (1957) was a superb romance movie. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr played the hero and heroine. What about “Roman Holiday” (1953)? It is a splendid feel good romantic film which fetched Audrey Hepburn her Oscar in her debut movie itself!!!
The word humor invokes names of stalwarts such as Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, Laurel and Hardy etc. All these people have created movies which are gems to be preserved for posterity.
We have tried to list a few classic movies and this is only the tip of the ice berg.