- Great Expectations
- The Killers
- The Yearling
- The Big Sleep
- Beauty And The Beast
- My Darling Clementine
- The Stranger
- The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers
Alfred Hitchcock loved finding the dirty side of the cleanest actors, and one of his favourites to exploit was Cary Grant. At that point more famous for comedy roles (with the odd melodrama like Penny Serenade and None But The Lonely Hearts earning him Oscar nominations), Grant was never seedier or sexier than in Hitchcock’s Notorious, as the secret agent who enjoys making love to co-star Ingrid Bergman as much as he does putting her in harm’s way. It’s the master’s best film of the decade and still holds a lot of power.
Jane Wyman would have to wait two more years to win an Oscar, for playing the award-garnering favourite of a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda; I prefer her mastery of more subtle material, such as in The Yearling where her tired, exasperated mother is constantly at odds with her cheerful son and his adoration of a baby deer. Rather than play it in hand-wringing cliche, Wyman brings a lot of heavy regret and pathos to the role, and its one of her career’s greatest achievements.
One of cinema’s greatest ever character actors was Claude Rains, the man whose narrow eyes and stocky build made him captivating and compelling but always slightly shady. You wanted to watch him to see what he would do next, but you were never quite sure if it was safe. Never was this on better display than in Notorious, where his nefarious bad guy poses a great danger to Ingrid Bergman when she’s working undercover by his side, than poses an even greater one when he finds out about it.
Death and decay are everywhere in a house covered by cobwebs and a rotting wedding banquet, in what is probably the greatest film adaptation of a Dickens novel, David Lean’s masterful Great Expectations. The head of this decrepit household is the terrifying Miss Havisham, and in the hands of the great Martita Hunt, the character is an absolute terror: all the horrific obsession of memories clutched in her grasp but mixed with the gleeful adoration of the young boy she takes under her wing. Hunt was never able to appear in a film without stealing her scenes (just watch her few moments as the kooky old lady in the attic in Preminger’s marvelous Bunny Lake Is Missing), and here you probably have her greatest showcase on film.
Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious