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Det Jim McLeod

And Your Favorite William Wyler Film Is

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Here is my top ten in chronological order 

1 These Three (1936)a great version of Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour,although toned down,however Bonita Granville plays the nastiest schoolgirl in film history who destroys two teachers lives with her vicious lies. 

2 Dead End (1937)another film version of a play,the set is great and there is a great sense of city life.Many stories going on at once,with the Dead End kids,a bunch of tenement kids who live right next door to some rich people in a brand new building. 

3 The Westerner (1940)one of the most unusual westerns ever made.Gary Cooper is a drifter who walks into town where vicious judge Walter Brennan hangs anybody when he feels like it. There is a great scene in a theater toward the end. 

4 The Little Foxes(1941)-again Wyler makes a great film version of a play.One of Bette Davis's best as a cold hearted head of a nasty southern family. Great scene of dying Herbert Marshall climbing the stairs in the background while Davis sits coldly waiting in the foreground. 

5 The Heiress (1949)Oscar winner for Olivia DeHavilland as plain rich girl courted by fortune hunter Montgomery Clift. Great final scene of Clift pounding on the door. 

6 Detective Story (1951)another play and one of my top ten films of all time. Set in a sweaty claustrophobic set,Kirk Douglas's greatest performance and best portrayal of police work on film. I really wish more people today would discover this one. 

7 Roman Holiday (1953)one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made,Audrey Hepburn won a well deserved Oscar,the ending avoids cliche and is the reason why the film is not just very good but great. 

8 The Desperate Hours (1955)Tense and suspenseful story of a gang of escaped cons holding a family hostage.Humphrey Bogart gives one of his last performances in one of his most despicable roles. 

9 The Collector(1965)a great suspense film,not too well known today but deserves to be.Terence Stamp is a psycho who kidnaps student Samantha Eggar so she will fall in love with him.There is a very tense scene involving an overflowing bathtub. 

10 Funny Girl (1968)Wyler finally did a musical and this is probably the last great one that has been made. Barbra Streisand's greatest performance,she hasn't done any thing as good as this since then.

 

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Not The Best Years of Our Lives?

Hell's Heroes is underrated.

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"Best Years" would get my vote, followed closely by DEAD END.

But yet, ANOTHER of those "choose your favorite from that LONG LIST of "favorites" from some director, actor, actress or whichever.  :rolleyes:

Sepiatone

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'The Westerner', probably #1 for entertainment value. Although these are all among my 'top' lists:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • The Big Country
  • Ben Hur
  • Detective Story (not a noir)
  • Roman Holiday
  • Mrs. Minniver

'Big Country' is in my Top-Twenty-westerns, and 'Best Years of Our Lives' is usually found in my 'Top Ten American Movies' alongside worthy neighbors like 'Citizen Kane'.

p.s. Detective Jim McLeod, thanks very much for posting this classics movie discussion on this classics movie discussion website! Refreshing!

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Some of these films I enjoy for reasons other than Wyler's direction, as noted below:

Screen shot 2018-02-21 at 4.54.59 PM.png

1. THE HEIRESS (1949)...flawless in every single way, and as I've written before, it should have received the Oscar for Best Picture.

2. DEAD END (1937)...holds up surprisingly well, it spawned many imitations at the poverty row studios; all the performances are right on the mark.

3. THESE THREE (1936)...inhibited by the production code, but Wyler manages to make it quite powerful; the remake which Wyler also helmed continues the fascinating long-time collaboration between Wyler and actress Miriam Hopkins.

4. THE LETTER (1940)...the best of the Wyler-Davis collaborations; it's a film that invites multiple viewings.

5. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)...it's too long, but it's too good to be left off any list of Wyler's best films.

6. DODSWORTH (1936)...dated and overrated but has an undeniable charm; the best role of Chatterton's career and an excellent turn by character actress Maria Ouspenskaya.

7. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)...I don't enjoy this film as much as I once did, but it will always be a classic; I think the film's success is owed more to the lead stars, Gregg Toland's cinematography and Sam Goldwyn's impeccable production values. 

8. MRS. MINIVER (1942)...like Wuthering Heights, this one works because of the acting, cinematography and MGM's polished production values. I think any other skilled director of the studio era could have had the same success with it.

9. FRIENDLY PERSUASION (1956)...one of Wyler's best films from the 1950s, an Oscar nominee for best picture, which had never happened before at Allied Artists; it was Wyler's first feature film in color.

10. THE GOOD FAIRY (1935)...an underrated gem from Universal; though I think what makes it good is not Wyler's direction so much but Preston Sturges' witty screenplay and Margaret Sullavan's sparkling performance.

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I like that poster art. Montgomery Clift might've had shoulders that broad in one of his drug-addled daydreams but never in real life. Ha!

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16 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I like that poster art. Montgomery Clift might've had shoulders that broad in one of his drug-addled daydreams but never in real life. Ha!

screen-shot-2018-02-21-at-4-54-59-pm.png

And for that matter, that doesn't resemble Olivia de Havilland much either here.

(...looks more like a brunette Lizabeth Scott to me)

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And btw...

Seeing as how my favorite all-time film is that one Wyler made about three WWII vets returning to civilian life after the war's end and how they'd each have to find their own ways of coping with it, well, I suppose you can guess which of HIS films would be MY favorite here.

(...and then in Wyler's case, followed by The Heiress and then The Big Country and then Wuthering Heights)

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  1. The Best Years of Our Lives
  2. Detective Story
  3. Mrs. Miniver
  4. The Westerner
  5. The Heiress
  6. Dead End
  7. The Collector
  8. Dodsworth
  9. Ben-Hur
  10. The Letter

I've also seen The Little FoxesJezebelThese ThreeWuthering HeightsCome and Get ItThe Desperate HoursRoman HolidayThe Children's HourFriendly Persuasion, and How To Steal a Million, and enjoyed them all. I was not crazy about The Big Country or Funny Girl, but I wouldn't call them bad, either.

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I haven't seen THE DESPERATE HOURS though figure it's something I might like, since I enjoy Fredric March's acting.

Wyler's last film, THE LIBERATION OF L.B. JONES, is one that was lambasted by critics. But I rather like it. Not in the same league as his more famous works, but it's still worth viewing.

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31 minutes ago, Dargo said:

screen-shot-2018-02-21-at-4-54-59-pm.png

And for that matter, that doesn't resemble Olivia de Havilland much either here.

(...looks more like a brunette Lizabeth Scott to me)

Looks more like a guy dressing up like a brunette Lizabeth Scott to me.

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46 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Looks more like a guy dressing up like a brunette Lizabeth Scott to me.

So Lorna, in other words...

;)

(...although, I always thought Lizabeth Scott herself looked and sounded a bit manly, now that you mentioned this)

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10 minutes ago, Dargo said:

So Lorna, in other words...

;)

(...although, I always thought Lizabeth Scott herself looked and sounded a bit manly, now that you mentioned this)

LIZABETH SCOTT is A LOT manly. It’s OK to say it.It’s OK to say it. It’s part of her appeal.

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WILLIAM WYLER differs from the other masters to me in that his films run a wider spectrum- from perfect to almost to awesome to good to notsogood.

With Wilder and Hitchcock and some of the others, the films are either perfection or total messes, Wyler runs a wider spectrum (for me at least.)

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From going over his credits, I think my favorite has to be THE LETTER. 

His other bests (as I recall) would be THE WESTERNER, THE LITTLE FOXES, THESE THREE, THE HEIRESS, FUNNY GIRL (sue me), BEST YEARS and THE DESPERATE HOURS (It’s been too long since I’ve seen THE DESPERATE HOURS but I remember absolutely loving it.)

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10 minutes ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

WILLIAM WYLER differs from the other masters to me in that his films run a wider spectrum- from perfect to almost to awesome to good to notsogood.

With Wilder and Hitchcock and some of the others, the films are either perfection or total messes, Wyler runs a wider spectrum (for me at least.)

I see what you're saying here Lorna, but don't you think the reason for this might be that almost any director who has once or twice in their career made what many consider "a perfect film", their other works will always suffer by comparison?

(...in other words, I don't see the reason for singling out Wyler in this regard here)

 

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1 minute ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

From going over his credits, I think my favorite has to be THE LETTER. 

His other bests (as I recall) would be THE WESTERNER, THE LITTLE FOXES, THESE THREE, THE HEIRESS, BEST YEARS and THE DESPERATE HOURS (It’s been too long since I’ve seen this one though, it’s been a few years but I remember absolutely loving it.)

How did I miss The Letter? I edited my choices above to include it.

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Wow,  listing my top 10 favorites is difficult but here goes, in chronological order:

Dodsworth

Dead End

The Westerner

The Letter

The Little Foxes

The Best Years of Our Lives

The Heiress

Detective Story

Roman Holiday

The Big Country

 

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Wyler's elegant, unobtrusive direction, combined with Tony Gaudio's stunning black and white photography and gliding camerawork, makes the 1940 adaption of THE LETTER a masterpiece of mood. Wyler coaches from Bette Davis one of the actress's most restrained and effective performances. Less in her case can be so much more. Furthermore, the film boasts a superbly understated performance by James Stephenson as Davis's attorney who is emotionally torn by his compromise of his principles.

Max Steiner's musical score is one of his best, in my opinion.

But it's the visuals from this film that remain perhaps the most haunting in this memorable tale of sexual repression and duplicity:

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The-Letter-06.jpg

theletter.jpg

544full-the-letter-(1940)-screenshot.jpg

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My personal favorite of his is probably Funny Girl followed by Ben Hur. The Sadie number is probably my favorite of the entire film.

 

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Wyler is one of my favorites. He has all the tools of a great director: knows how to draw performances out of actors; doesn't tell the audience how we're supposed to think; and knows where to place the camera. A few cases in point of the latter:

--The Letter has one of the greatest openings in cinema. The succession of shots that ends with Bette Davis shooting her lover is what the director's art is all about.

--Wyler is great at turning plays in confined spaces into real films. Counsellor at Law (1933) may even exceed Detective Story in this regard. The scene is a lawyer's office, with waiting room, inner offfice, and the corridor outside, in front of the elevators. The story is complicated, so are the camera set-ups, and everything works. All this and an outstanding performance by John Barrymore.

--Wyler loves to show us characters' backs so that we will go crazy wanting to find out how that character will react. For instance, in Dodsworth when Ruth Chatterton tells Walter Huston she is leaving him, we're looking at Huston's back, not his face. How is he going to react? The suspense is agonizing. He does something even better in Jezebel. The camera is looking over Bette Davis' back at three other characters as she learns that her old beau Henry Fonda is now married. Of the three whose faces we can see, the camera emphasizes the aunt (Fay Bainter), who's in agony wondering if her niece is going to go ballistic. That just ratchets up our suspense even more.

--The traveling shot in Jezebel as Fonda forces Bette to say hello to all the people she has scandalized by wearing a red dress.

--The beautiful shot of the fighter plane seen through the roof of the ruined church that concludes Mrs. Miniver.

--The staircase in The Heiress that almost becomes a character in the story, especially in the big scene where Olivia De Havilland has to carry her suitcases back up the stairs.

--The many scenes in The Best Years of Our Lives that involve people looking through plane windows, car windows, windows in the office above a drugstore, the glass of a phone booth. The glass motif continues in the great scene in the ladies' room between Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo ("It says Ladies, but I go right on in").

--The fight between Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston in The Big Country where both men become exhausted. This is not how most directors would shoot the scene.

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5 hours ago, kingrat said:

--Wyler is great at turning plays in confined spaces into real films. Counsellor at Law (1933) may even exceed Detective Story in this regard. The scene is a lawyer's office, with waiting room, inner offfice, and the corridor outside, in front of the elevators. The story is complicated, so are the camera set-ups, and everything works. All this and an outstanding performance by John Barrymore.

 

The scene that I particularly recall is when Barrymore, contemplating suicide, stands at an open window of a high rise building. It's an incredibly gripping scene. There is no dialogue. It's all in Barrymore's face. He's like a man staring into an abyss.

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5 hours ago, kingrat said:

--The fight between Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston in The Big Country where both men become exhausted. This is not how most directors would shoot the scene.

Wyler's making a statement by staging much of this fight in long shot with the two men dwarfed by the huge country landscape around them. After the fight has ended Peck then asks Heston what did it all prove.

The Big Country is one of my favourite westerns, with an epic musical score by Jerome Morross. How many westerns have a pacifist message?

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