North by Northwest

  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: Ernest Lehman
  • Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

A Madison Avenue advertising executive, Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant), is mistaken for a Mr. George Kaplan and kidnapped by thugs Valerian (Adam Williams) and Licht (Robert Ellenstein). He is taken to the house of Lester Townsend on Long Island. There he is interrogated by a man he assumes to be Townsend, but who is really Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). When Thornhill repeatedly denies he is Kaplan, Vandamm becomes annoyed and orders his right-hand man Leonard (Martin Landau) to get rid of him.

Thornhill is forced to drink bourbon in an attempt to stage a fatal accident. However, after a car chase on a perilous road, he is rear-ended by a police patrol car and apprehended. He is charged with drunken driving. He is unable to get the police, the judge or even his mother (Jessie Royce Landis) to believe what happened to him, especially when a woman at Townsend’s residence claims he got drunk at a dinner party; she also informs them that Townsend is a United Nations diplomat.

Thornhill and his mother go to Kaplan’s hotel room, but cannot find anyone at the hotel who has seen him.

Narrowly avoiding recapture, Thornhill takes a taxi to the General Assembly building of the United Nations, where Townsend is due to deliver a speech. Thornhill meets Townsend face to face and is surprised to find that the diplomat is not the man who interrogated him. Then Valerian throws a knife that strikes Townsend in the back. He falls forward, dead, into Thornhill’s arms. Unthinkingly, Thornhill removes the knife, making it appear to witnesses that he is the killer, forcing him to flee.

The scene transitions from Thornhill pulling Eve to safety on Mount Rushmore to him pulling her (the new Mrs. Thornhill) up onto an overhead train bunk. The final shot shows their train speeding into a tunnel.

Who s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

  • Directors: Mike Nichols
  • Producers: Ernest Lehman
  • Writers: Ernest Lehman, Based on the play by Edward Albee
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis

Set on the campus of a small New England college, the film focuses on the violent and volatile relationship of associate history professor George and his overweight, hard-drinking, and crudely boisterous wife Martha, the daughter of the college president.

It’s 2:00am Sunday morning, and they have returned from one of her father’s gatherings. Martha announces she has invited a young couple – Nick, a young, good-looking, newly-appointed instructor, and his mousey wife Honey – to join them for drinks. George is disturbed because she did so without consulting him first, prompting Martha to launch into the first of many loud and lengthy tirades during which she taunts and criticizes him. Knowing his wife is an ugly drunk, he asks her to behave herself when they arrive, and when the doorbell rings, he warns her to refrain from mentioning their child to their company.

Overhearing Martha’s crude retort as the door opens, Nick and Honey – too polite and naïve to have declined the late-night invitation in the first place – immediately feel ill at ease and quickly find themselves caught in the middle of a verbal warzone when their efforts to engage in small talk set off a volley of insults between their hosts. Martha begins to flirt lewdly with Nick while his meek wife tries to pretend she is unaware of what is happening.

Nick suddenly realizes George and Martha’s child never existed. For years they have filled the void in their marriage with a pathological obsession with a fantasy child. As the sun rises, Nick and Honey depart, leaving their hosts physically exhausted and emotionally depleted. Martha asks if it really was necessary for their son to die, and George gently tells her it was time.

West Side Story

  • Directors: Jerome Robbins 1, Robert Wise 1
  • Producers: Robert Wise 1
  • Writers: Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Ernest Lehman
  • Genres: Musical, Romance, Drama
  • Actors: Natalie Wood 1, Richard Beymer 1

The film opens in the streets of Manhattan in the 1950s. There is a mounting tension set to music (“Prologue”) between a white American gang, the Jets, led by Riff (Russ Tamblyn), and a rival gang of Puerto Rican immigrants (some being white also), the Sharks, led by Bernardo (George Chakiris). The police arrive and the gangs disperse.

Later, the Jets discuss challenging the Sharks to one last all out fight, or “rumble”, that will decide who gets control of the streets, and they will deliver the challenge to the Sharks at a dance later that night. Riff and the other Jets sing about their gang pride (“Jet Song”). Riff decides that his best friend Tony, a co-founder of the Jets who has left the gang to work at a local store, would be the best member of the Jets to present the challenge to the Sharks, despite opposition from Action (Tony Mordente). When Riff visits Tony (Richard Beymer) at the store, Tony tells Riff that he senses something very important is about to happen to him (“Something’s Coming”). Tony initially refuses Riff’s request to meet with the Sharks, but he later changes his mind.

At the bridal shop where she works, Bernardo’s sister, Maria (Natalie Wood) complains to Bernardo’s girlfriend, Anita (Rita Moreno) and other coworkers. Maria believes that Bernardo is overprotective, never allowing her to have enough fun. Bernardo arrives and takes her to the dance. At the gym, the Jets, Sharks and girls are greatly enjoying themselves (“Dance At The Gym”), but the rival gang members and their girlfriends remain apart. Tony and Maria see each other, become infatuated, almost going into a trance-like state and begin to dance, oblivious of the rivalry between their ethnic groups. Bernardo angrily interrupts them and orders Maria home, and tells Tony to stay away from his sister. Tony leaves in a happy daze, singing of his newfound love (“Maria”), while Riff challenges Bernardo to the “war council”, for which they agree to meet at Doc’s drug store.

Wandering onto a playground, Tony sees Maria, and they begin to run toward each other with joy. However, Chino appears and shoots Tony. Maria and a severely wounded Tony reaffirm their love (“Somewhere”), but Tony dies in her arms. The police arrive, along with other Jets and Sharks. Maria takes the gun from Chino and blames the rival gang members for causing the deaths with their hate. When the gang members see Tony dead, some of the Jets lift his body, and the Sharks join them to carry him off. As in Romeo and Juliet, tragedy has brought the feuding between the two sides to an end.

The Sound of Music

  • Directors: Robert Wise
  • Producers: Robert Wise
  • Writers: Autobiography, Maria von Trapp, Book of musical, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse, Screenplay, Ernest Lehman
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, Family, Musical
  • Actors: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer

In Salzburg, Austria, Maria, played by Julie Andrews, is studying to become a nun but Reverend Mother (Peggy Wood) is not sure if convent life is right for her, and sends her temporarily to be the governess to seven children of a widower naval commander, Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Maria and the Captain immediately disagree on the way the children are treated; the Captain has been raising them according to the principles of military discipline, while Maria wants them to enjoy life as children while they can. The children are Liesl (16) (Charmian Carr), Friedrich (14) (Nicholas Hammond), Louisa (13) (Heather Menzies), Kurt (11) (Duane Chase), Brigitta (10) (Angela Cartwright), Marta (7) (Debbie Turner), and Gretl (5) (Kym Karath).

The children, mischievous and initially hostile to Maria, eventually come to love her when she introduces them to the pleasures of music and singing. After a confrontation between Maria and the Captain, at the end of which he orders her to return to the abbey, he unexpectedly hears the children singing. He softens, tells Maria that she was right, and asks her to stay. One of the Captain’s friends, Max Dettweiler (Richard Haydn), tries to persuade the Captain to let the children perform in his concert. Maria finds herself falling in love with the captain, who seems likely to marry to The Baroness Elsa Schraeder (Eleanor Parker), a very wealthy baroness. The Baroness becomes jealous of Maria and convinces her to leave during a grand party at the house, by exploiting Maria’s inner conflict about becoming a nun and her discomfort at the Captain’s obvious affection towards her.

The Third Reich takes power in Austria as part of the Anschluss and tries to force Captain von Trapp back into military service. The Captain, unwilling to serve the Reich, delays the matter by insisting to Zeller (Ben Wright), the Gauleiter, or party leader for the district, that he is part of the von Trapp Family Singers and must appear with them during a performance at the Salzburg Music Festival, in a guarded theater. After they fail to appear for their curtain call, a search party is formed to track the family fugitives. Rolfe alone discovers the von Trapps hiding in a cemetery at Maria’s old convent, and after a brief confrontation with the Captain, alerts his fellow soldiers to their presence. The soldiers give chase as the family flees, but they are unable to catch up with the von Trapps: their vehicles have been sabotaged by the nuns at the Maria’s former abbey. The von Trapps are free. The film ends with the von Trapps hiking over the Alps to Switzerland.

Sweet Smell of Success

  • Directors: Alexander Mackendrick
  • Producers: James Hill
  • Writers: Ernest Lehman, Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir
  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis

Press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) has been unable to get his clients a mention in J.J. Hunsecker’s (Burt Lancaster) influential newspaper column because he has been unable to make good on his promise to break up the romance between Hunsecker’s younger sister Susan (Susan Harrison) and Steve Dallas (Martin Milner), an up-and-coming jazz guitarist. Falco decides to spread false rumors that Dallas is a dope-smoking Communist in a rival column, then to encourage Hunsecker to rescue Dallas’s reputation and make Dallas choose between his integrity and owing something to Hunsecker, for whom he has no respect. The plan works, in a way; Dallas insults Hunsecker, and Susan breaks up with Dallas in order to protect him from her brother. Hunsecker, however, deciding to leave nothing to chance, and against Falco’s advice, orders Falco to plant reefers on the musician and have him arrested and roughed up by Harry Kello (Emile Meyer), a corrupt police officer.

Falco is summoned to Hunsecker’s penthouse apartment by a message apparently from Hunsecker, only to find Susan about to attempt suicide. He saves her just as her brother walks in; Hunsecker, encouraged by Susan’s silence, accuses him of trying to rape [“make time with”] Susan. In a climactic confrontation with Hunsecker, Falco reveals in front of Susan that her brother had told him to destroy Dallas’ reputation. Hunsecker tells Kello to arrest Falco for planting the reefer on Dallas. Susan admits she attempted to commit suicide and walks out on her brother in order to join Steve; she tells Hunsecker that she does not hate him but just pities him. Falco is arrested by Kello and Hunsecker loses Susan.