Influencing A Master Of Modern Cinema
Over at Mental Floss, legendary director Martin Scorsese has picked his favourite films of all time and here’s his first 20 choices…
1. The Infernal Cakewalk (1903) Director: Georges Méliès
Deep into a vast cavern of the pitch-black inferno, a couple of professional dancers demonstrate the cakewalk that is currently so much in vogue, and now, everyone in the once-gloomy underworld is doing the crazy dance. Who is the best?
2. Secrets of the Soul (1912) Director: Vincenzo Denizot
Secrets of a Soul is a silent German drama directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. As with other Pabst films of the late 1920s, it reflects the style and themes of the New Objectivity movement. The sets were designed by the art director Ernö Metzner.
3. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) Director: Rex Ingram
In Argentina, Julio (Rudolph Valentino) is a smooth-talking, wanton man, and the favourite grandson of rich landowner Madariaga (Pomeroy Cannon). Julio is French, and his very large family also has a German side, but after Madariaga’s death, Julio decides to desert them all for Paris. There, he takes up with married woman Marguerite (Alice Terry). But as World War I begins, Julio joins up with the French, and soon has an unpleasant reunion with his German relatives on the battlefield.
4. Nosferatu (1922) Director: FW Murnau
In this highly influential silent horror film, the mysterious Count Orlok (Max Schreck) summons Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) to his remote Transylvanian castle in the mountains. The eerie Orlok seeks to buy a house near Hutter and his wife, Ellen (Greta Schroeder). After Orlok reveals his vampire nature, Hutter struggles to escape the castle, knowing that Ellen is in grave danger. Meanwhile Orlok’s servant, Knock (Alexander Granach), prepares for his master to arrive at his new home.
5. Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) Director: Fritz Lang
This silent film, based on the pulp novel by Norbert Jacques, follows the devious schemes of criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). Using disguises and hypnosis, as well as an assortment of henchmen, Mabuse begins to amass a fortune, with gambling and murder factoring heavily into his plans. Though the villain is careful to cover his tracks, a resourceful police inspector (Bernhard Goetzke) remains determined to put Mabuse behind bars.
6. Metropolis (1927) Director: Fritz Lang
This influential German science-fiction film presents a highly stylised futuristic city where a beautiful and cultured utopia exists above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated workers. When the privileged youth Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) discovers the grim scene under the city, he becomes intent on helping the workers. He befriends the rebellious teacher Maria (Brigitte Helm), but this puts him at odds with his authoritative father, leading to greater conflict.
7. Napoleon (1927) Director: Abel Gance
This ambitious silent film, renowned for its groundbreaking camerawork and editing, portrays the early life of French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte (Albert Dieudonne), beginning with his childhood and ending with a successful military campaign in Italy. A native of Corsica, Napoleon becomes a staunch supporter of his island home, but eventually flees due to conflicts with its leadership. Once settled on the French mainland, Napoleon begins his climb up the military ranks.
8. The Power and the Glory (1933) Director: William K Howard
After the suicide of hated industrialist Tom Garner (Spencer Tracy), Henry (Ralph Morgan) discusses his former boss’ career. Flashbacks show Tom taking the younger Henry under his wing, teaching him how to stand up for himself, and securing him a spot in the railroad business. As the years pass, Tom is shaken by a labor dispute that leads to many accidental employee deaths, and his home life is touched by a tragedy involving his first wife and a stunning revelation concerning his second.
9. It Happened One Night (1934) Director: Frank Capra
In Frank Capra’s acclaimed romantic comedy, spoiled heiress Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) impetuously marries the scheming King Westley, leading her tycoon father (Walter Connolly) to spirit her away on his yacht. After jumping ship, Ellie falls in with cynical newspaper reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who offers to help her reunite with her new husband in exchange for an exclusive story. But during their travels, the reporter finds himself falling for the feisty young heiress.
10. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) Director: Frank Capra
Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a resident of small-town Vermont, leads a simple life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. Soon, unscrupulous lawyer John Cedar (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of much media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him — but are her feelings for him really that shallow?
11. La Grande Illusion (1937) Director: Jean Renoir
A group of French soldiers, including the patrician Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and the working-class Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin), grapple with their own class differences after being captured and held in a World War I German prison camp. When the men are transferred to a high-security fortress, they must concoct a plan to escape beneath the watchful eye of aristocratic German officer von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), who has formed an unexpected bond with de Boeldieu.
12. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Director: Frank Capra
When the idealistic young Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) winds up appointed to the United States Senate, he gains the mentorship of Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). However, Paine isn’t as noble as his reputation would indicate, and he becomes involved in a scheme to discredit Smith, who wants to build a boys’ campsite where a more lucrative project could go. Determined to stand up against Paine and his corrupt peers, Smith takes his case to the Senate floor.
13. Stagecoach (1939) Director: John Ford
John Ford’s landmark Western revolves around an assorted group of colourful passengers aboard the Overland stagecoach bound for Lordsburg, New Mexico, in the 1880s. An alcoholic philosophiser (Thomas Mitchell), a lady of ill repute (Claire Trevor) and a timid liquor salesman (Donald Meek) are among the motley crew of travellers who must contend with an escaped outlaw, the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), and the ever-present threat of an Apache attack as they make their way across the Wild West.
14. The Roaring Twenties (1939) Director: Raoul Walsh
After World War I, friends Eddie (James Cagney), George (Humphrey Bogart) and Lloyd (Jeffrey Lynn) return to America with ambitions for the future. Lloyd becomes a lawyer, but Eddie can only find work as a cab driver and eventually falls into the bootlegging business. Eddie and George become partners in crime, but the stock market crash destroys their operation and turns the old friends against each other, while Eddie falls in love with Lloyd’s girlfriend, Jean (Priscilla Lane).
15. The Rules Of The Game (1939) Director: Jean Renoir
In this melancholy French social satire, André (Roland Toutain) is having an affair with Christine (Nora Gregor), whose husband, Robert (Marcel Dalio), himself is hiding a mistress. Meanwhile Christine’s married maid, Lisette (Paulette Dubost), is romantically entangled with the local poacher. At a hunting party, trusted friend Octave (Jean Renoir) also confesses his feelings for Christine, as the passions of the servants and aristocrats dangerously collide.
16. Citizen Kane (1941) Director: Orson Welles
When a reporter is assigned to decipher newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane’s (Orson Welles) dying words, his investigation gradually reveals the fascinating portrait of a complex man who rose from obscurity to staggering heights. Though Kane’s friend and colleague Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten), and his mistress, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), shed fragments of light on Kane’s life, the reporter fears he may never penetrate the mystery of the elusive man’s final word, “Rosebud.”
17. How Green Was My Valley (1941) Director: John Ford
Huw Morgan (Roddy McDowall), the academically inclined youngest son in a proud family of Welsh coal miners, witnesses the tumultuous events of his young life during a period of rapid social change. At the dawn of the 20th century, a miners’ strike divides the Morgans: the sons demand improvements, and the father (Donald Crisp) doesn’t want to rock the boat. Meanwhile, Huw’s eldest sister, Angharad (Maureen O’Hara), pines for the new village preacher, Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon).
18. Sullivan’s Travels (1941) Director: Preston Sturges
Successful movie director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), convinced he won’t be able to film his ambitious masterpiece until he has suffered, dons a hobo disguise and sets off on a journey, aiming to “know trouble” first-hand. When all he finds is a train ride back to Hollywood and a beautiful blonde companion (Veronica Lake), he redoubles his efforts, managing to land himself in more trouble than he bargained for when he loses his memory and ends up a prisoner on a chain gang.
19. Cat People (1942) Director: Val Lewton
Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon), a New York City–based fashion designer who hails from Serbia, begins a romance with marine engineer Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). After the couple gets married, Oliver becomes concerned about Irena’s notion that she is cursed and may transform into a large cat in the heat of passion. Confiding in his beautiful assistant, Alice Moore (Jane Randolph), about his marital issues, Oliver unwittingly triggers Irena’s curse, with tragic results.
20. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Director: Frank Capra
Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the knot on Halloween. When the newlyweds return to their respective family homes to deliver the news, Brewster finds a corpse hidden in a window seat. With his eccentric aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), disturbed uncle (John Alexander), and homicidal brother (Raymond Massey), he starts to realise that his family is even crazier than he thought.
To read the entire list visit Mental Floss’s piece here