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Classic yes but is it essential?


TopBilled
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After watching THE MISFITS last night on TCM, I looked up the title on the TCM database and found several very good articles.  The first article, though, was one that didn't feel right to me.  The author called THE MISFITS an Essential, and I agree with that-- but-- and here's the rub-- the author said it was an Essential because its value increased after the deaths of Gable and Monroe.  I do not agree with that statement.

 

I think the criteria for an Essential must be independent of whether or not the performers died young or tragically.  The film has to be judged for itself, not because of the performers' careers or personal lives which may or may not intersect with what we see on screen.

 

Am I making sense here?

 

Anyway, the reason I am starting this thread is because I think a lot of people have voiced disapproval over some (not all) of what has been selected for the TCM Essentials series in the last year or so.

 

So let's do what we do best, fellow message board posters-- let's discuss one film per week in this thread-- deciding whether it is truly an Essential-- for or against, and why.  

 

I will post the 'schedule' for this thread tomorrow...

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I believe we should first agree what the definition of "Essential Film" means to TCM Nation.   For example, I might give reasons why I believe "Waterloo Bridge" with Robert Taylor and Vivian Leigh should be noted as an "Essential" film.  Members of TCM Nation may question my sanity or offer their support in my argument.  

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I believe we should first agree what the definition of "Essential Film" means to TCM Nation.   For example, I might give reasons why I believe "Waterloo Bridge" with Robert Taylor and Vivian Leigh should be noted as an "Essential" film.  Members of TCM Nation may question my sanity or offer their support in my argument.  

Indeed.  But do you think a definition of it will be nailed down?  Or will it be an on-going discussion?  I thought perhaps if we throw one film into the ring each week, we can better shape a definition by applying it to films from different genres, different decades and different studios.  Specifically, I'd like to go over films by directors or stars who have made essential films but maybe there is something on their resume that was not a real hit-- is it still as essential as their other work?  Also, what about films that might be essential to a target audience-- like essential to kids or to older audiences?  And then there is the whole area of remakes-- some versions of a story are more essential than others.

 

I think there are a lot of ways this conversation could go...

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I call Random Harvest an Essential, but then again it is my all-time favorite film. I realize though that not everyone would think of the film that way.

I think, obrienbrundy, you have  summed up how subjective a label like "Essential" is when applied to art, including films.

 

Many would argue that art is essentially, well, inessential.  (I don't necessarily agree with that argument.)

 

But, if we accept the notion that some works of art are "essential," what exactly are they "essential" for? Certainly not essential for life itself.

 

PS. I agree that RANDOM HARVEST is a fantastic film, especially Greer Garson's work in it. I've only discovered Greer Garson's work relatively recently. Not only does she have an amazingly expressive voice, but her face can convey so much without utttering a single word. Her performance in the scenes in RANDOM HARVEST where she desperately wants Ronald Coleman to remember their previous life together is so incredibly nuanced and achingly "real."

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To use TopBilled's example of the film "The Misfits" ; there maybe some justification for that film to be rated as an essential but the reasoning that it was Gable's and Monroe's last film is a very weak reason. Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe were two of the biggest and most influential movie stars in Hollywood history but there are several films for each actor that offer a better representation of their careers. So pick from those films to be presented as an essential film. I believe the term "essential" is either a poor choice of word or the word shouldn't be taken too literally. What we want is a film that can best represent a specific category , that can be used as a first step into that category. What film would be a good introduction to "Clark Gable the actor" for a young viewer? What film would be a good representation of a "30's Screwball Comedy" or a "40's Film Noir" ? How do you introduce Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford to a new viewer in a way that would encourage them to seek out other films done by those men? Think of an "Essential" only as way of encouraging the viewer to go further down that path and view other films of a similar type.

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What we want is a film that can best represent a specific category , that can be used as a first step into that category. What film would be a good introduction to "Clark Gable the actor" for a young viewer? What film would be a good representation of a "30's Screwball Comedy" or a "40's Film Noir" ? How do you introduce Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford to a new viewer in a way that would encourage them to seek out other films done by those men? Think of an "Essential" only as way of encouraging the viewer to go further down that path and view other films of a similar type.

 

 

Exactly. Conversation completed.

(there is an entire subcategory devoted to THE ESSENTIALS....why isn't this thread there?)

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What we want is a film that can best represent a specific category , that can be used as a first step into that category. What film would be a good introduction to "Clark Gable the actor" for a young viewer? What film would be a good representation of a "30's Screwball Comedy" or a "40's Film Noir" ? How do you introduce Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford to a new viewer in a way that would encourage them to seek out other films done by those men? Think of an "Essential" only as way of encouraging the viewer to go further down that path and view other films of a similar type.

 

That's a very good way of putting it, though in practice it often equates to "A movie is 'Essential' because it's already well-known."  And yet "well-known" is in turn often dependent on how wide a distribution the movie received when it first came out, and the state of its availability since then.  As a result, a list of "Essentials" becomes "essentially" a perpetual motion machine.

 

Throw in the widespread mainstream resistance to foreign films, and the concept of  "Essential" often becomes little more than an internet popularity contest.  Every regular contributor here can probably think of a hundred movies that would be "essential" for any viewer with an open mind, and yet would never make the TCM cut, for the reasons cited above.  It's not necessarily a problem that TCM is equipped to tackle head-on, but it is a problem nevertheless.

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Exactly. Conversation completed.

(there is an entire subcategory devoted to THE ESSENTIALS....why isn't this thread there?)

Don't think I like the dismissive wave of the hand that the conversation is completed when in fact it has just barely begun.  It may be completed for you, and you can move on to other threads, but for some of us we're going to stay and keep posting. LOL  I intentionally placed this thread away from the Essentials board, because we are going to look at a completely different list of films to see if they are essential-- not what is on TCM's current schedule.  And I had this weird feeling that if I placed this thread over on the other forum, it would eventually veer into a discussion about Drew Barrymore and again, this is not about TCM's programming or hosts-- at least not directly.  

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To use TopBilled's example of the film "The Misfits" ; there maybe some justification for that film to be rated as an essential but the reasoning that it was Gable's and Monroe's last film is a very weak reason. Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe were two of the biggest and most influential movie stars in Hollywood history but there are several films for each actor that offer a better representation of their careers. So pick from those films to be presented as an essential film. I believe the term "essential" is either a poor choice of word or the word shouldn't be taken too literally. What we want is a film that can best represent a specific category , that can be used as a first step into that category. What film would be a good introduction to "Clark Gable the actor" for a young viewer? What film would be a good representation of a "30's Screwball Comedy" or a "40's Film Noir" ? How do you introduce Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford to a new viewer in a way that would encourage them to seek out other films done by those men? Think of an "Essential" only as way of encouraging the viewer to go further down that path and view other films of a similar type.

Yes. You have it.  THE MISFITS is almost in a class by itself.  I do think it is an essential film because two major things are happening in it, and neither one has to do with Gable or Monroe as nearly-deceased icons. The first one is that Miller and Huston are subverting the archetypes of the western format, something that hadn't been done to this degree before-- especially since they have brought the western into the present era-- not placing the story back in 1800-whenever and are showing that the characters are not good or evil.  

The second thing is the fact that old-school style acting (represented by Gable and Ritter) is now fusing with newer acting methods (represented by the other younger cast members). I think Gable's willingness to use some of the newer method, and the other performers' willingness to pay homage to old-school approaches, makes this film a breakthrough on many levels.  The fact that two of the stars died a short time after production has nothing to do with the film itself and the artistry found in it.  Gable and Monroe could have both lived to 100, and they could have had more hit films that would have made THE MISFITS seem even more inconsequential-- but that does not change the way this film itself, judged on its own merits, is an essential.

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What we want is a film that can best represent a specific category , that can be used as a first step into that category. What film would be a good introduction to "Clark Gable the actor" for a young viewer? What film would be a good representation of a "30's Screwball Comedy" or a "40's Film Noir" ? How do you introduce Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford to a new viewer in a way that would encourage them to seek out other films done by those men? Think of an "Essential" only as way of encouraging the viewer to go further down that path and view other films of a similar type.

 

That's a very good way of putting it, though in practice it often equates to "A movie is 'Essential' because it's already well-known."  And yet "well-known" is in turn often dependent on how wide a distribution the movie received when it first came out, and the state of its availability since then.  As a result, a list of "Essentials" becomes "essentially" a perpetual motion machine.

 

Throw in the widespread mainstream resistance to foreign films, and the concept of  "Essential" often becomes little more than an internet popularity contest.  Every regular contributor here can probably think of a hundred movies that would be "essential" for any viewer with an open mind, and yet would never make the TCM cut, for the reasons cited above.  It's not necessarily a problem that TCM is equipped to tackle head-on, but it is a problem nevertheless.

Yes.  I think we can even toss in animation.  How many animated films are seen as 'Essential?'  I put together a 'schedule' of films I would like to discuss in this thread and one of the films is THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD.  I specifically picked this one because it contains animation, and because it is a feature (not a cartoon short) and because it was made in the 1940s and does not have today's computer-generated effects.  I also picked PAISAN, getting back to your comment about foreign films, because it too was made in the '40s and seems to be one that people know about, even people who do not really watch foreign films.  

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I call Random Harvest an Essential, but then again it is my all-time favorite film. I realize though that not everyone would think of the film that way.

Interesting that you mentioned RANDOM HARVEST, because I selected it for the 'schedule' of films I wanted to discuss here, to determine how essential it is... 

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These are the films I would like to go over, discussing if they are essentials:

 

April 14: THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE

April 21: E.T.

April 28: THE LOST WEEKEND

 

May 5: JOURNEY INTO FEAR

May 12: Mother’s Day Special -- JOHNNY BELINDA and TROOPER HOOK

May 19: CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD

May 26: PAISAN

 

June 2: THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD

June 9: MARNIE

June 16: TILLIE’S PUNCTURED ROMANCE

June 23: TITANIC (1953)

June 30: CORNERED

 

July 7: FLAMINGO ROAD

July 14: PINK FLAMINGOS

July 21: MA AND PA KETTLE

July 28: THE JOLSON STORY

 

August 4: SONG OF THE SOUTH

August 11: THE GOOD EARTH

August 18: YELLOW SKY

August 25: THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE

 

September 1: AIRPORT

September 8: UNITED 93

September 15: RANDOM HARVEST

September 22: MORNING GLORY

September 29: JAILHOUSE ROCK

 

October 6: I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF

October 13: MASCULIN FEMININ

October 20: QUADROPHENIA

October 27: Halloween Special: PSYCHO (1960) and PSYCHO (1998)

 

November 3: MRS. DOUBTFIRE

November 10: THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE

November 17: ZORBA THE GREEK

November 24: PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE

 

December 1: SINCE YOU WENT AWAY

December 8: DECEMBER 7TH

December 15: ROMAN HOLIDAY

December 22: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

December 29: PURSUED

 

January 5: THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA

January 12: THE KARATE KID

January 19: THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER

January 26: SPECTER OF THE ROSE

 

February 2: THIS IS THE ARMY

February 9: HEAVEN CAN WAIT

February 16: SHAFT

February 23: REAP THE WILD WIND

 

March 2: THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

March 9: THE MOON IS BLUE

March 16: ODD MAN OUT

March 23: CAPTAIN BLOOD

March 30: AMARCORD

 

April 6: SONG OF THE THIN MAN

April 13: DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK

April 20: THE MORTAL STORM

April 27: THE MUPPET MOVIE

 

May 4: MONSIEUR VERDOUX

May 11: I REMEMBER MAMA

May 18: JOHNNY GUITAR

May 25: Memorial Day Special-- BATAAN and BACK TO BATAAN

 

June 1: PIN-UP GIRL

June 8: CLEOPATRA (1934)

June 15: THE CAREY TREATMENT

June 22: MY FRIEND FLICKA

June 29: FRIENDLY PERSUASION

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I can't stick around today to discuss any of these in depth, but I'm particularly glad to see these four films on the Essentials list:

 

May 26: PAISAN  I might have chosen Germany: Year Zero as an alternative to Open City, since in terms of depicting the effect of World War II on civilians it's hard to top that one.  But in terms of accessibility it may be that Paisan is the most "accessible" of the three great Rossellini war triology films, and best suited for the casual TCM viewer.

 

July 14: PINK FLAMINGOS This was the first of the great underground "Midnight Movies" of the 70's, introducing John Waters and Divine to a generation of film phreaks.  I only hope that TCM doesn't cut out the last scene.  SPOILER ALERT:  The plot revolves around a contest for "filthiest family", and the LOSING family kidnaps teenage girls, takes them to a dungeon-like basement, impregnates them, and then sells the babies on the black market in order to finance a heroin ring that concentrates their sales on schoolchildren.  So you can only imagine what the winner must do to top that!

 

And hey, if a few of the details are a bit off, it's been over 40 years since I've seen it. ;)

 

August 4: SONG OF THE SOUTH  I've never seen this, and I hope that we're getting the original version, because from what I've heard, the racial stereotypes in this film make Butterfly McQueen seem like Abbey Lincoln in Nothing But A Man by comparison.  It's a landmark in film history, and it deserves to be shown in unexpurgated format, and fully discussed.

 

August 25: THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE  In the absence of the unlikely discovery of a print of Convention City, this movie has got to be the rawest of all the pre-code films, and as such is about as "essential" as it gets.  Not even the obligatory impossible ending can erase everything that went on before.  Miriam Hopkins is at her Trouble In Paradise best, only in an entirely different type of role.

 

There are quite a few other great movies on that list, but in terms of what I'd call "Pleasant Surprises", these four are at the top.

 

 

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Given just one of the many definitions of the word "essential",  "Of the utmost importance", one can dismiss the whole thing as nonsense.  They're only movies, and therefore not all that important.

 

Except, of course, to people like US.

 

And yet, what's an essential when it comes to motion pictures can still be subjective.  YOU might think THE MISFITS is an "essential" film.  I might not.   I do, actually, but let me play "Devil's advocate" for a minute.

 

Now, some movie might be MY "all time favorite",  but that doesn't necessarily make it an "essential".  It would be helpful if we all settled on a clear cut definition in this case, and see how it stands against how TCM uses the word.  Otherwise, this thread will become nothing more than a smattering of "favorites" lists, and we know there are many here whom consider their favorites to be the only movies that are "essential".

 

Sepiatone

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I can't stick around today to discuss any of these in depth, but I'm particularly glad to see these four films on the Essentials list:

 

May 26: PAISAN  I might have chosen Germany: Year Zero as an alternative to Open City, since in terms of depicting the effect of World War II on civilians it's hard to top that one.  But in terms of accessibility it may be that Paisan is the most "accessible" of the three great Rossellini war triology films, and best suited for the casual TCM viewer.

 

July 14: PINK FLAMINGOS This was the first of the great underground "Midnight Movies" of the 70's, introducing John Waters and Divine to a generation of film phreaks.  I only hope that TCM doesn't cut out the last scene.  SPOILER ALERT:  The plot revolves around a contest for "filthiest family", and the LOSING family kidnaps teenage girls, takes them to a dungeon-like basement, impregnates them, and then sells the babies on the black market in order to finance a heroin ring that concentrates their sales on schoolchildren.  So you can only imagine what the winner must do to top that!

 

And hey, if a few of the details are a bit off, it's been over 40 years since I've seen it. ;)

 

August 4: SONG OF THE SOUTH  I've never seen this, and I hope that we're getting the original version, because from what I've heard, the racial stereotypes in this film make Butterfly McQueen seem like Abbey Lincoln in Nothing But A Man by comparison.  It's a landmark in film history, and it deserves to be shown in unexpurgated format, and fully discussed.

 

August 25: THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE  In the absence of the unlikely discovery of a print of Convention City, this movie has got to be the rawest of all the pre-code films, and as such is about as "essential" as it gets.  Not even the obligatory impossible ending can erase everything that went on before.  Miriam Hopkins is at her Trouble In Paradise best, only in an entirely different type of role.

 

There are quite a few other great movies on that list, but in terms of what I'd call "Pleasant Surprises", these four are at the top.

Andy,

To avoid confusion-- these films are not on TCM's upcoming Essentials schedule.  These are films I chose to discuss in this thread (some have aired in the past on TCM, and some have not yet aired on TCM and maybe this thread will encourage the TCM programming department to select them in the future).

 

I chose to discuss SONG OF THE SOUTH, because it seems to be unofficially banned in North America-- but if it is truly an essential film, despite the objectionable content, shouldn't it be available?  If you will notice, I listed it next to THE GOOD EARTH, which has questionable depictions of Asians (but is frequently shown). I hope we have a very thought-provoking discussion when we reach those films.  

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Given just one of the many definitions of the word "essential",  "Of the utmost importance", one can dismiss the whole thing as nonsense.  They're only movies, and therefore not all that important.

 

Except, of course, to people like US.

 

And yet, what's an essential when it comes to motion pictures can still be subjective.  YOU might think THE MISFITS is an "essential" film.  I might not.   I do, actually, but let me play "Devil's advocate" for a minute.

 

Now, some movie might be MY "all time favorite",  but that doesn't necessarily make it an "essential".  It would be helpful if we all settled on a clear cut definition in this case, and see how it stands against how TCM uses the word.  Otherwise, this thread will become nothing more than a smattering of "favorites" lists, and we know there are many here whom consider their favorites to be the only movies that are "essential".

 

Sepiatone

I agree Sepia.  So how do we arrive at a definition?  I think whatever we come up with is going to have to be a working definition, and the word 'classic' and the word 'essential' should be differentiated.  Not all classics are essential.  

 

This is not necessarily a favorites sort of list.  I picked a few films I am not particularly crazy about, but I wanted to see if other people considered them essential.  And in the case of one or two, I think they are most likely not essential, but I am curious if someone can make a case to prove they are essential.

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I don’t think any random group of film fans can agree on what’s ESSENTIAL, except for a few major films, such as:

 

GONE WITH THE WIND

CITIZEN KANE

HIGH NOON

THE SEARCHERS

DOUBLE INDEMNITY

OUT OF THE PAST

THE GRAPES OF WRATH

 

A couple of the major war films (but which ones)

 

And some of the early silents and early sound films such as:

 

WINGS

HELL’S ANGELS

 

And a few of the films made from early 19th Century books, such as:

 

WUTHERING HEIGHTS

LITTLE WOMEN

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

 

But of course there are dozens of others we could add to that list, but not without disagreements.

 

And I’m sure we will have some disagreements over the short list I’ve just made.

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I don’t think any random group of film fans can agree on what’s ESSENTIAL...

 

Yes, and I don't think we all should agree on this-- use of the term 'essential' should have parameters, but be somewhat flexible. I put MY FRIEND FLICKA on the list I want to discuss.  I do not consider it essential-- but I can see how someone might make a case that it is essential as a family film, for that certain audience, and I wouldn't be able to dispute it.  Not every film is going to be GONE WITH WIND caliber...and even GONE WITH THE WIND may not be seen as an essential film a century from now.

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Film #1

 

images-27.jpg

I wanted to start with this film because I find it to be the most unknown, least played of the motion pictures that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did in the thirties at RKO.  It happens to be the only one of their ten pictures together that lost money during its original run in theaters, not that this fact makes it any less essential to audiences then or now.

 

But maybe the reasons the film under-performed at the box office are why it does not seem as essential as the other Astaire-Rogers productions.  Could it be that without the screwball antics of Edward Everett Horton or Victor Moore to liven up the proceedings, it falls flat?  Or that without the classic chase consuming most of the film (the couple is married early on in this film), it lacks a sense of romance and excitement? Then, there is the absence of a happy ending (Astaire's character meets with a tragic fate), which is probably what kept the film from being profitable with Depression-era audiences who wanted to be uplifted when they went to see a movie, especially a Fred & Ginger movie.

 

One user comment I read at the IMDB suggested that if you are going to introduce anyone to the world of Fred & Ginger and ballroom dancing in classic movies, not to pick this film first.  Perhaps that is because the writer considered it non-essential.  

imgres-110.jpg

Does the fact that it is based on a true story have anything to do with it?  THE STORY OF VERNON AND IRENE CASTLE is a bit more sentimental in spots, that's for sure.  Also, there is a montage showing the couple's real-life successes that seems to take up unnecessary screen time and take us out of the narrative. Still, there are aspects of this picture that work.  If you are a fan of art deco, the set design would be essential viewing for you.

imgres22.jpg

Perhaps the stars should have sat this one out. It would be another ten years before they would get back out on the dance floor together.

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Andy,

To avoid confusion-- these films are not on TCM's upcoming Essentials schedule.

 

Ouch!

 

But then I guess that two of those titles we mentioned (Pink Flamingoes, Song of the South) are probably too hot (or raunchy) for TCM to handle, albeit for entirely different reasons.  Paisan and The Story of Temple Drake have been shown at least several times already, and they would make terrific additions to an "Essentials" list that tried to reach beyond the stale confines of the AFI Top 100.

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Andy,

To avoid confusion-- these films are not on TCM's upcoming Essentials schedule.

 

Ouch!

 

But then I guess that two of those titles we mentioned (Pink Flamingoes, Song of the South) are probably too hot (or raunchy) for TCM to handle, albeit for entirely different reasons.  Paisan and The Story of Temple Drake have been shown at least several times already, and they would make terrific additions to an "Essentials" list that tried to reach beyond the stale confines of the AFI Top 100.

 

 

I don't think there is anything too "hot" or "raunchy" about Song of the South. The fly in the ointment with that film is the Disney Company's complete and adamant refusal to allow the film out of the vault at least here in the States.

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I don't think there is anything too "hot" or "raunchy" about Song of the South. The fly in the ointment with that film is the Disney Company's complete and adamant refusal to allow the film out of the vault at least here in the States.

 

Probably that's the case, but I'd bet a fair amount of money that the reason for Disney's position is the inflammatory racial stereotyping.  Of all the major studios, Disney has always seemed the most PR-conscious of the lot, and Song Of The South apparently had all of the negative racial aspects associated with Gone With The Wind, but without a powerful dramatic story (not to mention Rhett and Scarlett)  to fortify it against future assaults.

 

But just to repeat myself, I would be strongly in favor of a TCM screening of Song of the South, if for no other reason than to see it for myself.  Suppression of art is never a winner in my book.

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Re: "Song of the South,"

 

I have seen this film.  I can see why it did (and still does) raise eyebrows regarding the depiction of slavery in the film.  I only saw the film once, but I believe that the whole story is about a man, a former slave, named Uncle Remus.  The film takes place after the Civil War.  None of the African-American characters in the film are current slaves.  The main plot of the film is Uncle Remus telling a small group of white children what slavery was like.  This film is part live action, part animation.  I know that one of the main controversies of the film was that some people felt that it glorified slavery and conveyed a white supremacist message.  Many of the typical African American stereotypes that are present in alot of films from that era (1930s-1940s) are in this film as well.  I feel that this may have just been representative of the time and was not intended to offend.   

 

The memorable song "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" is from this film.  Splash Mountain at Disneyland features the music and characters from this film.  If The Walt Disney Company really felt they had inadvertently created an offensive film, I don't know why they would create a whole ride celebrating it.  I believe that the actor playing Uncle Remus also won an Honorary Academy Award in 1948 for his work in this film.

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It's hard to define "classic" versus "essential" as I believe people's personal preferences and prejudices could come into play.  I am not sure if there is any way to come up with a definitive definition for both terms.  

 

I will however offer my opinion on the manner.

 

CLASSIC

 

Traditionally, the classic era of film is considered the time between the first "talkie" The Jazz Singer in 1927 until the end of the traditional studio system in the early 1960s, I believe 1962 or 1963.  The "classic" designation not only relates to time; but also the style and film making techniques used.  Using this definition, basically all films from this era would qualify as "classics."  

 

While I completely understand this viewpoint as it's coming from a purely chronological and technical standpoint, I prefer to narrow it down a bit.  Frankly, as with any time period of cinema, there are a lot films from this era that are terrible.  I personally would not tack a "classic" label on some of those films.  I believe that classics are films that: represent the best of their genre; feature a revolutionary film making technique; contains a memorable movie moment, song, quote, etc.  Any film that becomes intertwined with culture I believe makes it a classic--regardless of the actual quality of the film.  While I believe that acclaim through critics or prestigious awards can help make films classics, ultimately it's up to the moviegoers to decide.  

 

The term "classic" is very broad; but ultimately I believe it narrows the field down from ALL films to an elite group of films who after many years remain memorable, identifiable and timely.  

 

ESSENTIAL

 

I think the term "essential" takes the group of "classics" and narrows it down further.  To me, "essentials" are films that are indispensable.  The absolute cream of the crop, the best.  They represent the absolute best of their genre, an actor's work, the director's work, etc.  In these cases, the cast, director, screenwriters, everyone came together perfectly and created an "essential." These are films that could be screened to someone completely unaware of the film, the genre, etc. and pique their interest to watch more "essentials" or even just classics that share the same characteristics.  These are films that even the most layman of movie watchers could name as being some of the best films made.  I believe that critical and public reaction (either during the film's time or in the years following) make films "essentials."  

 

Classics are more personal.  Essentials are more public opinion.  

 

Again, it's difficult to come up with a distinct definition.  Someone's "classic" could be someone else's absolute "must see it before you die" film.  TCM's "Essential" titles are just the opinions of their programmers and hosts.  

 

For me, here are some essentials:

 

The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Wizard of Oz

Singin' in the Rain

Gone With the Wind

Psycho

North By Northwest

Citizen Kane

All About Eve

The Philadelphia Story

Bringing Up Baby

Double Indemnity

Sunset Boulevard

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