1940-1960 – The Golden Era of English Movies – Part II
To continue the previous article, I would like to list and discuss a few more classic movies here.
“Two Women”, a tragic novel written by the Italian writer Alberto Moravia came as a movie in 1960. It tells the sad tale of a mother and daughter. Both of them are raped by war soldiers inside a church. Mother herself broken and sorrow stricken sees her dishevelled daughter slowly losing her mind. The Italian star Sophia Loren donning the role of mother gave a scintillating performance fetching her an Oscar. Sophia Loren’s Best Actress Academy Award was the first Oscar ever given for a performance in a foreign-language film.
“Hunchback of Notre Dame” – Victor Hugo’s novel was made twice as movies. The second version which came in 1956 had Anthony Quinn as the hunchback and the lovely Italian beauty Gina Lollabrigida as Esmeralda. My elders who have seen both the films, used to say that the earlier one (1939) was much better. It had the great Charles Laughton as the hunchback and the seductive Maureen O Hara as Esmeralda.
“Good Earth” – Pearl S Buck’s novel, which got her the Nobel Prize, came out as a movie in 1937. The poor Chinese peasant, his toiling wife, the grinding poverty prevalent, how the peasants try to save their lands from the rapacious landlords forms the basis of the story. Paul Muni, the versatile actor was the peasant and Luise Rainer his wife, both of them winning accolades for their portrayal.
Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland donned the roles of Peter Blood and Arabella Bishop in the movie of the same name (1935) adapted from the adventurous novel “Captain Blood” by Rafael Sabatini. Flynn also appeared as the dashing Robin Hood in many movies which depicted the adventures of Robin Hood who lived as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest on the outskirts of London looting the rich and helping the poor.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr., also appeared as a sword wielding hero in many movies. “Man in the Iron Mask” (1939), a movie based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas was a class by itself.
“Witness for the prosecution” which was Agatha Christie’s novel came as a movie in 1957. It was the tale of a man on trial for murder. It was a taut court room drama and till the end we were tied to our seats as it was so gripping. Charles Laughton as the lawyer lived that role. The surprise ending took us unawares.
“Bathing beauty” (1944) had the swimming queen Esther Williams as the heroine ably supported by Steve Elliot. Esther is alive today, perhaps the only surviving member of a by gone era. Aged more than 90, she is now a businesswoman residing at Beverly Hills.
“It’s a mad mad mad world” (1963) was a rib tickling comedy. The dying words of a thief spark a madcap cross-country rush to find some treasure.
“Quo Vadis” (1951) depicted the last days of Roman Empire. A fierce Roman general becomes besotted with a beautiful Christian hostage and begins questioning the despotic leadership of the Emperor Nero. Nero was donned by Peter Ustinov very effectively. We saw Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr played the leading roles.
“The Greatest show on Earth” (1952) came to us from Cecil De Mille. The dramatic lives of circus artists were depicted as a heart-warming story. The train wreck scene was spectacular.
Concluding, I feel that the period 1940-1960 can rightly be called as the Golden Age of Movies.
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