- The Quiet Man
- High Noon
- Life Of Oharu
- Umberto D.
- The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice
- Singin’ In The Rain
- The Importance of Being Earnest
- Moulin Rouge
- My Cousin Rachel
The Italian neo-realists were huge on hiring non-professional actors as leads in their films, and this never paid off more than when De Sica got Carlo Battisti to play a retired pensioner trying to keep up in a world beyond his control in the director’s most powerful film Umberto D. For a movie about an old man and his small dog, it is, surprisingly, not in the least bit manipulative or schmaltzy.
My preference is for a performance that isn’t quite so showy but blends into the film’s perfection with exceptional ease. John Ford made the first Hollywood film shot entirely in Ireland and it was among his best: The Quiet Man is powerful and romantic, and its heart beats in the incredible sensitivity, not to mention awe-inspiring physical beauty, that Maureen O’Hara brings to her role as John Wayne’s love interest.
Singin’ In The Rain is regarded as the greatest musical ever made, probably because its self-parodying irony makes it the easiest musical to watch when you don’t watch musicals. What it has going for it in spades, regardless of whether or not you agree with its canonization, are two terrific performances in supporting roles by superb character actors. Donald O’Connor kicks, flips and spins up a storm as Gene Kelly’s “sidekick”, not to mention delivering clever dialogue and singing a few songs, and steals the show from his million-dollar-smile co-star.
Honour Roll: Michael Denison, The Importance Of Being Earnest
The other scene stealer in Singin’ In The Rain is a brilliant silent screen parody pulled off by Jean Hagen. Many silent stars had their careers destroyed when sound cinema revealed them to have vulgar, unattractive voices to match their classy physicality, and Hagen pushes the stereotype to its extreme with her hilarious accent and exasperated personality.
John Ford, The Quiet Man