Bbandmoviegal

Is there a definitive list of 'B' films?

7 posts in this topic

I would like to know if there is a reference to use to determine whether a given film is A or B. Clearly, some are obvious, but to me, anyway, others aren't. It would greatly help my understanding and appreciation of film noir and beyond to know this when encountering a film for the first time. Thanks for any guidance!!

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It is interesting, isn't it?  I suppose if there were a large budget and the presence of big name stars in a film, then it could be heavily promoted and thus would be an "A" film.  It reminds me of when LPs and singles were released on vinyl and there was an "A" side and a "B" side and the "A" side was the one the disc jockeys pushed but sometimes the "B" sides did equally well and went on to be big hits.  

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That's a good question. As davecook mentioned, I think generally the presence of big name stars means "A", and less familiar stars mean "B". (But this can be tricky, because sometimes "big name" stars like Bogart started out in B movies early in the career--before they became the big name stars. :-)

 

Eddie Muller shared a really interesting story in the intro to "The Narrow Margin" last night on TCM--he said that after Howard Hughes watched B-film "The Narrow Margin" with Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor, he loved it so much he offered the director an opportunity to re-shoot the whole thing as an A-film with A-stars Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell--which, long story short, the director turned down, but ultimately led to an A-film opportunity for him.

 

I think also film length can sometimes indicate A or B film? I'm under the impression that generally shorter films fall in the B category, like 60-70+ minutes are B, maybe even around 80 minutes. But I think 90 minutes or more seem to fall in the A category. That's just my own observation.

 

I'd love to see a list of film noir B movies too, hopefully someone can provide a link or website. :-)

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Thanks for the thoughtful replies.  I think there are definitely "clues" like the length of the film or who the primary actors that were chosen.  However, I'm finding that as I get more into classic film I discover actors who were in their time truly "big" stars but I may not have heard of them before -- and thus in my initial ignorance would maybe have judged a film to be a 'B' based on not being familiar with the actors... 

 

I really do hope such a list exists, as I understand the studios were very clear about which were As and which were Bs when they were making them at the time.

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Thanks for the thoughtful replies.  I think there are definitely "clues" like the length of the film or who the primary actors that were chosen.  However, I'm finding that as I get more into classic film I discover actors who were in their time truly "big" stars but I may not have heard of them before -- and thus in my initial ignorance would maybe have judged a film to be a 'B' based on not being familiar with the actors... 

 

I really do hope such a list exists, as I understand the studios were very clear about which were As and which were Bs when they were making them at the time.

 

A 'B' picture was a film slated for the bottom half of a double feature.   In most cases they had a lower budget and didn't involve the 'A' unit stars, directors, and other top rated picture making studio staff.      Of course some 'B' pictures were so popular that after their initial big city release,  for the nationwide release they were released as the top picture in a double feature.    

 

Getting a list of the films that were actually released as the bottom half of a double feature would be difficult (were these records even retained???).    So generally I define a 'B' picture based on the leads cast at the time (i.e. were they the studio's major stars),  the director,  the director of photography,   musical director,  costume designer etc...

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Speaking of A and B films, something I've always been curious about--which was shown first? I know from my grandfather that there would be news reels, cartoons, shorts etc. before the 2 movies, but I'm guessing the B film was sort of a warm-up act to the main feature A film, is that right?

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Thanks, jamesjazzguitar.

 

I appreciate your method and will have to use it. I still am rather surprised that such a list does not exist, as I understood it, studios had A units and B units, so historians of the studios would probably(?) be able to unearth which firms belonged to which unit.

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