Angel Face

  • Directors: Otto Preminger
  • Producers: Otto Preminger
  • Writers: Story, Chester Erskine, Screenplay, Ben Hecht, Oscar Millard, Frank S Nugent
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Crime
  • Actors: Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Mona Freeman, Herbert Marshall

One night, Beverly Hills ambulance driver Frank Jessup and his partner Bill are called to the cliffside estate of Charles and Catherine Tremayne. By the time they arrive, Catherine has already been treated for gas inhalation, which the police believe occurred accidentally, but which the wealthy Catherine suspects was deliberate. As he is leaving the house, Frank notices Catherine’s beautiful English stepdaughter Diane playing a melancholy piano piece and assures her that her stepmother will be fine. When Diane becomes hysterical, Frank slaps her face to calm her. Confused, she slaps him back, then apologizes. Later, after getting off work, Frank goes to a nearby diner, unaware that Diane is following him in her sports car. In the diner, Frank tries to call his girl friend, Mary Wilton, a hospital receptionist, but gets no answer. Diane then comes in and strikes up a flirtatious conversation with him. When Mary finally calls him, Frank turns down her dinner invitation, claiming that he is too tired. Frank takes Diane out, and over dinner, she tells him that her father is a well-respected novelist but has not finished a book since her mother’s death during the war. Diane then asks Frank, a former race car driver who dreams of owning his own garage, about Mary, and he reveals that Mary has been saving her money to help him. The next day, Diane invites Mary to lunch and, while pretending that she wants to contribute to Frank’s garage fund, lets her know that he spent the evening with her. Seeing through Diane’s tactics, Mary rejects her offer but admits that her faith in Frank is shaken. That night, Mary is about to go out with Frank when he lies again about his date with Diane.

To help Diane, Vance hires Fred Barrett, a renowned defense lawyer. Just before the trial is to start, Fred convinces Frank and Diane to marry so that he can propose that Diane’s suitcase was in Frank’s room because they were planning to elope. During the trial, Barrett skillfully deflates expert testimony regarding the car’s transmission and steering mechanism, which appears to have been tampered with, and paints Frank and Diane as innocent lovebirds. Frank and Diane are acquitted, but once back at the estate, Frank tells Diane he is divorcing her. Diane finally talks about the jealousy and loneliness she felt when her father married Catherine and the grief she suffered upon seeing their crushed bodies. Despite Diane’s remorse, Frank insists he is returning to Mary. After Diane bets Frank her sports car that Mary will not take him back, Frank goes to Mary, who rejects him in favor of Bill. Diane, meanwhile, visits Barrett’s office and insists on confessing to the murders, detailing how she asked an unsuspecting Frank to explain the car’s transmission. Reminding Diane about the double jeopardy rule, Barrett tears up the confession. Upon returning home, Diane finds Frank packing for Mexico and asks if she can go, too. Frank says no, but agrees to let her drive him to the bus station. After Frank gets in, Diane shifts into reverse, jams her foot on the gas pedal and sends the car over the cliff.

Spartacus

  • Directors: Stanley Kubrick
  • Producers: Kirk Douglas
  • Writers: Howard Fast, Dalton Trumbo
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Biography, Drama, History, Romance
  • Actors: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Tony Curtis

The film begins with slaves working in the Roman province of Libya. Spartacus (Kirk Douglas), a burly Thracian, comes to the aid of an old man who has fallen down. A Roman soldier whips Spartacus and tells him to get back to work, only to be attacked and bitten on the ankle. For this, Spartacus is tied up and sentenced to death by starvation. Lentulus Batiatus (Peter Ustinov), a lanista (an impresario of gladiatorial games), arrives looking for recruits for his gladiatorial establishment. He inspects several slaves before finally settling on Spartacus, recognizing his unbroken spirit, along with his good health and physical condition. Batiatus purchases Spartacus and several others, then sails for Capua where his gladiatorial training camp is located. The trainer, Marcellus (Charles McGraw), immediately tries to provoke Spartacus into giving the trainer a reason to kill the Thracian as an example. Spartacus also befriends another gladiator, Crixus (John Ireland).

After several scenes showing gladiator training and life at the school, Crassus (Laurence Olivier) arrives with some companions, wishing to be entertained by watching two pairs of gladiators fight to the death. Spartacus is selected along with Crixus, an Ethiopian named Draba (Woody Strode), and another gladiator named Galino. During the first fight, Crixus and Galino are the first to fight, in which Crixus slays Galino. Next, Spartacus duels Draba and is defeated. Draba, however refuses to kill him, instead throwing his trident into the elevated spectators’ box and leaping to attack the Romans. Crassus quickly dispatches the slave and prepares to depart. As he leaves, he purchases the pretty slave woman from Britiannia, Varinia (Jean Simmons), whom Batiatus has assigned to Spartacus. Spartacus and Varinia have fallen in love, and in frustration at his loss and the overseer’s callous treatment, Spartacus begins a successful uprising. The gladiators eventually take Capua and all the surrounding districts. Many local slaves flock to the insurgents. Spartacus outlines his plan to escape by sea, aboard the ships of the Cilician pirates, who he plans to pay from the slaves’ plunder.

Batiatus and Varinia leave for Gaul via the Appian Way and find Spartacus hanging on the last cross by the road, not quite dead. Varinia shows Spartacus their newborn son, vowing that he will grow up a free man, promises to tell her son, “Who his father was, and what he dreamed of,” and bids Spartacus a final farewell. With one last breath, Spartacus’s head slumps back, and Varinia gets back onto the wagon and rides on.

The Big Country

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Gregory Peck, William Wyler
  • Writers: Robert Wilder
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, Western
  • Actors: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons

Wealthy, newly-retired sea captain and ship-owner James McKay (Gregory Peck) travels to the American west to rejoin his fiancée Patricia (Carroll Baker), whom he had met back East, at the enormous ranch of her father, Major Terrill (Charles Bickford). Terrill is a powerful rancher who is feuding with the equally tough patriarch of a poorer, uncouth, and less refined clan, Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives). Patricia’s best friend, schoolteacher Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons), is caught between the two, as she is the owner of the “Big Muddy”, a (smaller) big ranch with a vital source of water desired by both men; Hannassey desperately needs it for his cattle, while Terrill wants to gain control of it to bring his rival down.

McKay is a puzzle to Major Terrill, his foreman Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) and even his fiancee; he refuses to be provoked into proving his manhood, even when harassed. We learn that McKay’s father died in a duel, and — as McKay explains to Terrill — no one could remember what the duel was about. One morning, McKay rides out alone, goes to the Big Muddy, and persuades Julie to sell him the ranch, promising her that both the Terrills and the Hannesseys will always have access to the river, hoping that this will defuse the conflict. She agrees to the sale.

Meantime, Terrill, Leech and their men have ridden into the ambush and are pinned down in the canyon. Although Leech realized that the risk was too great, he is unable to dissuade Terrill from going into the canyon, and ultimately Leech follows him in out of loyalty. Acknowledging the truth of McKay’s accusation, Hannassey orders his men to hold their fire. He then challenges Terrill to come out and face him man to man. The two men walk to a final showdown and kill each other. McKay and Julie ride out together.

Hamlet

  • Directors: Laurence Olivier
  • Producers: Laurence Olivier
  • Writers: Play, William Shakespeare, Screenplay, Laurence Olivier
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Laurence Olivier, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie, Jean Simmons

The film follows the overall story of the play, but cuts nearly half the dialogue, and includes an opening voice-over that represents Hamlet’s fundamental problem as indecision.

The film begins with a narrator quoting some of Hamlet’s lines from Act I Scene IV:

The narrator then breaks from Shakespeare’s words to inform us “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”

The action begins on the battlements of Elsinore where a sentry, Francisco, (John Laurie) is relieved of his watch (and questioned if he has seen anything) by another sentry, Bernardo (Esmond Knight), who, with yet another sentry, Marcellus (Anthony Quayle), has twice previously seen the Ghost of King Hamlet. Marcellus then arrives with the skeptical Horatio (Norman Wooland), Prince Hamlet’s friend. Suddenly, all three see the Ghost, and Horatio demands that the ghost speak. The ghost vanishes then, without a word.

Inside the Great Hall of the castle, the court is celebrating the marriage of Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) and King Claudius (Basil Sydney); old King Hamlet has died under mysterious circumstances and his wife, Gertrude, has, within a month of the tragedy, married the late King’s brother. Prince Hamlet (Laurence Olivier) sits alone, refusing to join in the celebration, despite the protests of the new King. When the court has left the Great Hall, Hamlet fumes over the hasty marriage, muttering to himself the words “and yet, within a month!” Soon, Horatio and the sentries enter telling Hamlet of the ghostly apparition of his father. Hamlet proceeds to investigate, and upon arriving on the battlements, sees the ghost. Noting that the ghost beckons him forward, Hamlet follows it up onto a tower, wherein it reveals its identity as the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. He tells Hamlet that he was murdered, who did it, and how it was done. The audience then sees the murder re-enacted in a flashback as the ghost describes the deed – Claudius is seen pouring poison into the late King Hamlet’s ear, thereby killing him. Hamlet does not at first accept this as the truth, and then prepares to feign madness, so as to test Claudius’ conscience, without jumping to conclusions.

Hamlet meets Laertes’ challenge, and engages him in a duel. Hamlet wins the first two rounds, and Gertrude drinks from the cup, suspecting that it is poisoned. Whilst in-between bouts, Laertes rushes Hamlet, and strikes him on the arm, fatally poisoning him. Hamlet, not knowing this, continues to duel. Hamlet eventually disarms Laertes, and switches blades with him. Hamlet then strikes Laertes in the wrist, fatally wounding him. Gerturde then submits to the poison, and dies, warning Hamlet not to drink from the cup. Laertes, dying, confesses the whole plot to Hamlet, who flies at Claudius in a fit of rage, killing him, before finally expiring himself. Horatio, horrified by all this, orders that Hamlet be given a decent funeral, and the young prince’s body is taken away, while the Danish court kneels and the cannons of Elsinore fire off a peal of ordinance in respect. (A few women can be seen weeping quietly in the background.)

Great Expectations

  • Directors: David Lean
  • Producers: Anthony Havelock Allan, Ronald Neame
  • Writers: Original novel Charles Dickens, Screenplay adaptation, Anthony Havelock Allan, Cecil McGivern, Ronald Neame, Kay Walsh
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: John Mills, Anthony Wager, Jean Simmons, Valerie Hobson, Alec Guinness, Martita Hunt, Finlay Currie

An orphan, Phillip “Pip” Pirrip (Anthony Wager), lives with his shrewish older sister (Freda Jackson) and her kindhearted blacksmith husband, Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles). One day, Pip runs into an escaped convict, Abel Magwitch (Finlay Currie). Magwitch intimidates the boy into getting him some food and a file for his chains. However, the man is caught when he attacks another escapee he hates and taken back to prison.

Later, Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), a rich, very odd spinster, arranges to have the boy come to her mansion regularly, to provide her company and to play with a cruel but beautiful teenage girl, Estella (Jean Simmons), who mocks his coarse manners at every opportunity. Pip quickly falls in love with her. Once, he meets one of Miss Havisham’s relations, Herbert Pocket (John Forrest), a boy about his age. Pip also bumps into Mr. Jaggers (Francis L. Sullivan), Miss Havisham’s lawyer. The visits come to an end when Pip turns 14 and begins his apprenticeship as a blacksmith. Estella is leaving also, to learn to become a lady.

Six years later, Mr. Jaggers shows up and tells him that a mysterious benefactor has offered to turn Pip (played as an adult by John Mills) into a gentleman, one with “great expectations”. Pip naturally assumes that it is Miss Havisham. He is taken to London where Mr. Jaggers arranges for Pip to stay with a grownup Herbert Pocket (Alec Guinness), who will teach him how to behave like a gentleman. From Herbert, Pip learns that Miss Havisham is embittered and her mind warped at being left at the altar many years ago; she is determined to gain revenge against all men. Estella is her instrument of vengeance, a heartless creation to break men’s hearts. Pip refuses to believe it.

The happy ending differs greatly from both the published and unpublished conclusions to Dickens’ novel. It is revealed in the novel (but not in the film) that the man who betrayed Magwitch was Miss Havisham’s old fiancee, who jilted her at the altar and drove her mad.