The Man Who Would Be King

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: John Foreman
  • Writers: Rudyard Kipling, John Huston, Gladys Hill
  • Genres: Action, Adventure
  • Actors: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey

While working as a correspondent at the offices of the Northern Star newspaper, Kipling (Christopher Plummer) is approached by a ragged, seemingly crazed derelict, who reveals himself to be his old acquaintance Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine). Peachy tells Kipling the story of how he and his comrade-in-arms Danny Dravot (Sean Connery) traveled to remote Kafiristan (in modern-day Afghanistan), became gods, and ultimately lost everything.

A few years earlier, the pair of rogues had met Kipling at his office. After signing a contract pledging mutual loyalty and forswearing drink and women until they achieved their grandiose aims, Peachy and Danny set off on an epic overland journey north beyond the Khyber Pass, “travelling by night and avoiding villages”, fighting off bandits, blizzards and avalanches, into the unknown land of Kafiristan (literally “Land of the (Non-Muslim) Infidels”).

They chance upon a Gurkha soldier who goes by the name Billy Fish (Saeed Jaffrey), the sole survivor of a mapping expedition several years before. Billy speaks English as well as the local tongue, and it is he, acting as translator and interpreter of the customs and manners, who smooths the path of Peachy and Danny as they begin their rise, first offering their services as military advisors, trainers, and war leaders to the chief of a much-raided village.

The angry natives pursue him and Peachy. Billy tries to buy time by courageously charging the mob singlehandedly, but the pair are soon captured. Danny is forced to walk to the middle of a rope bridge over a deep gorge; he apologises to Peachy before the ropes are cut. Peachy is crucified between two pine trees, but is cut down the next day when he miraculously survives the ordeal. Eventually, he escapes, though his mind has become unhinged by his sufferings. As Peachy finishes his story, he presents Kipling with Danny’s head, still wearing its crown, thereby proving the tale is true.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Henry Blanke
  • Writers: B Traven, John Huston
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Western, Action
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett

This is the context in which the three gringos band together in a small Mexican town and set out to strike it rich in the remote Sierra Madre mountains. They ride a train into the hinterlands, surviving a bandit attack en route. Once out in the desert, Howard, the old-timer of the group, quickly proves to be by far the toughest and most knowledgeable; he is the one to discover the gold they are seeking. A mine is dug, and much gold is extracted. Greed soon sets in and Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) begins to lose both his trust and his sanity, lusting to possess the entire treasure. Dobbs is also paranoid that he will be killed by his partners. At this time a fourth American shows up, which sets up a moral debate about what to do with the new stranger. The bandits then reappear, pretending, very crudely, to be Federales, which leads to the now-iconic line about not needing to show any “stinking badges”. After a gunfight, and the fouth American is killed, a real troop of Federales appear and drive the bandits away.

But when Howard is called away to assist some local villagers, Dobbs and third partner Curtin have a final confrontation, which Dobbs wins, leaving Curtin lying shot and presumed dead. However, Curtin crawls to safety. Later, Dobbs is murdered (via decapitation) by some surviving bandits, who, in their ignorance, scatter the gold to the winds. Curtin is discovered and taken to Howard’s village, where he recovers. He and Howard miss witnessing the bandits’ execution by Federales by only a few minutes as they arrive back in town, and learn that the gold is gone. While checking the areas that the bandits dropped the gold, Howard realizes that the winds must have carried the gold away. They accept the loss with equanimity, and then part ways, Howard returning to his village, and Curtin returning home to America.

High Sierra

  • Directors: Raoul Walsh
  • Producers: Mark Hellinger
  • Writers: Story, W R Burnett, Screenplay, John Huston, W R Burnett
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Curtis, Arthur Kennedy

An aged gangster, Big Mac (Donald MacBride), is planning a robbery at a California resort casino, and he wants an experienced Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart), just released from an eastern prison by a governor’s pardon, to lead the heist and to take charge of the operation. Roy drives across the country to a camp in the mountains to meet up with the three men who will assist him in the heist: Louis Mendoza (Cornel Wilde), who is working in the resort, and Red (Arthur Kennedy) and Babe (Alan Curtis), who are already living at the camp. Babe has also brought along a young woman, Marie (Ida Lupino). Roy wants to send Marie back to Los Angeles, but after some argument she convinces Roy to let her stay. At the camp Roy also is adopted by a small dog called Pard.

Marie falls in love with Roy as he plans and executes the robbery, but he does not reciprocate. On the drive up to the mountains, Roy met the family of Velma (Joan Leslie), a young woman with a deformed foot who walks with a limp. Roy pays for corrective surgery to allow Velma to walk normally. While she is convalescing, Roy asks Velma to marry him, but she refuses, explaining that she is engaged to a man from back home. When Velma’s fiancé arrives, Roy then turns to Marie, and the two become lovers.

While Roy and Marie leave town, a dragnet is put out for him. The two separate in order to allow Marie time to escape, while Roy is pursued until he climbs one of the Sierra mountains, where he holes up overnight. Shortly after sunrise, Roy trades shots with the police down the mountain from him, he hears Pard barking and runs out calling Marie’s name and is shot dead from behind by a sharp shooter.

Jezebel

  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Producers: Executive Producer, Hal B Wallis, Producer, William Wyler
  • Writers: Clements Ripley, Abem Finkel, John Huston, Robert Buckner, Story, Owen Davis
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, George Brent

Spoiled, strong-willed New Orleans belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is engaged to banker Preston ‘Pres’ Dillard (Henry Fonda). In retaliation for Pres refusing to drop his work and accompany her while she shops for a dress, she orders a brazen red one for the most important ball of the year, one where white dresses for unmarried women are expected. All of Julie’s friends are shocked, but no one can convince her to give up her whim.

Pres escorts Julie to the Olympus Ball, where their entrance is met by the disdainful stares of all present. She finally realizes the magnitude of her social blunder and begs Pres to take her away, but by this time, he is implacable. He makes her dance with him. All the other couples gradually leave the floor, finally leaving them alone and isolated. When the orchestra conductor stops playing, Pres orders him to continue and they finish the dance.

Afterwards, Pres takes his leave of Julie, implicitly breaking their engagement. In a final bit of spite, Julie slaps him in the face by way of farewell. Aunt Belle Massey (Fay Bainter) urges her to go after Pres and beg his forgiveness, but she refuses, arrogantly confident that he will return to her. Instead, he goes north on business. Julie shuts herself up in her house and refuses to see visitors.

Then something happens that overshadows everything else. As Pres and Dr. Livingstone had feared, a deadly epidemic of yellow fever sweeps the city, as it had numerous times before. Pres comes down with it and, like all other victims, is to be quarantined on an island. Amy prepares to go along to care for him, risking her own life, but Julie stops her. She tells the Northerner that she doesn’t know how to deal with the slaves and Southerners on the island. She begs to go in her place, as an act of redemption. Amy agrees.

Fat City

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Ray Stark, John Huston
  • Writers: Leonard Gardner
  • Genres: Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark

Billy Tully (Keach), is a boxer who is alcoholic and way past his prime, and trying to make a comeback with the help of his manager and trainer Ruben (Nicholas Colasanto). He has a brief affair with a drunken barfly, Oma (Tyrrell), and moves in with her, working odd jobs to makes ends meet.

A young fighter, Ernie Munger (Bridges), takes Tully’s advice to join Ruben’s gym and make something of himself. He loses his first fight, but perseveres.

Learning the lesson that “winning is not as easy as it sounds,” Ernie is determined to get what he can out of boxing and, unlike Tully, not let setbacks get the best of him.

Tully narrowly wins a tough fight against a Mexican boxer, but is discouraged to learn that he gets almost no winnings.

The movie ends with Ernie accidentally running into Tully, who is now a panhandling derelict and apparently brain damaged from his fighting career.

The Killers

  • Directors: Robert Siodmak
  • Producers: Mark Hellinger
  • Writers: Story, Ernest Hemingway, Screenplay, Anthony Veiller, Richard Brooks, Uncredited, John Huston
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O Brien, Sam Levene

The story is about two hit men assigned to find and kill a man, Ole Anderson aka “the Swede” (Burt Lancaster), at a small-town diner. Impatient for his arrival, they kill him instead at a boarding house where, resigned to his fate, he awaits their arrival.

Because Anderson’s life was insured, Investigator Jim Reardon (Edmund O’Brien) is assigned to look into the murder for his company. Interviewing several people from Anderson’s past, Reardon develops the theory that Anderson’s murder stemmed from an unsolved payroll robbery years earlier.

Working with a police detective (Sam Levene), who was a boyhood friend of Anderson’s, Reardon sets a plan in motion to trap the hired killers, and the man who hired them.

The Asphalt Jungle

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Arthur Hornblow Jr
  • Writers: W R Burnett, Ben Maddow, John Huston
  • Genres: Crime, Film-Noir, Drama
  • Actors: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, Marilyn Monroe

Recently paroled from prison, legendary burglar “Doc” Riedenschneider (Jaffe), with funding from Alonzo Emmerich (Calhern), a crooked lawyer, gathers a small group of veteran criminals together in the Midwest for a big heist.

The film was shot in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, but the name of the city is never mentioned, giving the impression of an “urban jungle,” rather than of a real location. Doc’s gang consists of: Dix (Hayden), a hooligan from Kentucky with a gambling problem who sees the upcoming jewel heist as a means to finance his dream of buying back the horse farm that he lost during the Great Depression; Gus Minissi, a hunchbacked diner owner (Whitmore), who is hired as the getaway driver; Louis Ciavelli (Anthony Caruso), a professional safecracker, and Cobby, a bookie (Marc Lawrence) acting as the go-between.

In a tense scene during the well-planned crime (an 11-minute sequence in the film), the criminals confidently carry out the heist in a patient and calm manner. Ciavelli climbs down into a manhole, pounds his way through a brick wall, climbs the basement stairs to the jewelry store, deactivates the door’s alarm and lets in the other thieves, and then heads to the main safe. With care, he slides flat on his back under the electric-eye system, picks the gate’s lock, drills holes into the safe’s door, gingerly opens a corked bottle of nitroglycerin (called “the soup” by the characters), and sets off a charge on the jewelry store safe.

From this point on, the meticulously planned crime falls apart as the cops begin closing in on the gang one by one. That includes Emmerich, a double-crosser and an adulterer, who ends up cornered with his much-younger mistress, played by Monroe.

Sergeant York

  • Directors: Howard Hawks
  • Producers: Howard Hawks, Jesse L Lasky, Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Harry Chandlee, Abem Finkel, John Huston, Howard Koch
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan

Alvin York (Gary Cooper), a poor Tennessee hillbilly, is an exceptional marksman, but a ne’er-do-well prone to drinking and fighting, which doesn’t make things any easier for his patient mother (Margaret Wycherly). He undergoes a religious awakening and turns his life around, assisted by Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan).

When York is drafted into the army for World War I, he tries to avoid induction as a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs. His status as a true conscientious objector is rejected since his church has no official standing and he reluctantly reports for army basic training. During basic training, his superiors find out that he is a phenomenal marksman and promote him to corporal.

York still wants nothing to do with the army and killing. A sympathetic commanding officer lectures York about text from a U.S. history book. He gives York temporary leave to go home and think about fighting to save lives. York wants to read the U.S. history book and the officer gives it to him. He tells York that after his leave if he still doesn’t want to fight he will discharge him from the army. York reads the book, decides he will serve his country and reports back for duty. York decides to leave it in God’s hands, but still doubts he can kill someone because of his interpretation of the bible.

York later explains that he did what he did to hasten the end of the war and minimize the killing.

Key Largo

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Maxwell Anderson, Richard Brooks, John Huston
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Marc Lawrence

Frank McCloud (Bogart) visits a small backwater Key Largo hotel run by wheelchair-bound James Temple (Barrymore) and his daughter-in-law Nora (Bacall), the widow of Frank’s World War II friend. The hotel has been temporarily taken over by notorious fugitive gangster Johnny Rocco (Robinson) and his gang.

Frank at first appears indifferent to the situation, but Rocco’s treatment of his alcoholic mistress Gaye (Trevor) and his hand in the murder of two local Indians and a police officer convinces Frank that Rocco must be stopped. His chance comes when Rocco forces Frank to pilot the boat by which the gang intends to escape to Cuba. Once at sea, with no hostages to worry about, Frank is able to kill every member of the gang, one by one, Rocco last of all. Frank then returns to Nora.

The subplot turns on Temple’s grief over his dead son; he is under the impression that his son died a hero in Italy. McCloud resists relating any tales about the Temple boy, despite Mr. Temple’s urging. When McCloud relents, he tells exactly the story Mr. Temple and the widow want to hear, although it is apparent that McCloud was the hero that he’s allowing the Temple boy to be.

The African Queen

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Sam Spiegel, John Woolf
  • Writers: C S Forester, John Huston, James Agee
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Romance, War
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley

Robert Morley and Katharine Hepburn play Samuel and Rose Sayer, brother and sister British Methodist missionaries in a village in German East Africa in 1914. Their mail and supplies are delivered by the rough-and-ready Canadian boat captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart) of the African Queen, whose coarse behavior they tolerate in a rather stiff manner.

When Charlie warns them that German troops will soon invade, the Sayers choose to stay on, only to witness the Germans burning down the local village and herding the villagers away to serve in the war effort. When Samuel protests, he is beaten by a German soldier. After the Germans leave, Samuel becomes delirious with fever and dies.

Soon afterward, Charlie returns. He helps Rose bury her brother, and they set off in the African Queen. Charlie tells Rose that the Germans have a gunboat, the Empress Louisa, which patrols a large lake downriver, effectively blocking any British counter-attacks. Rose comes up with a plan to convert the Queen into a torpedo boat and sink the Louisa.

Charlie points out that navigating the river would be suicidal: to reach the lake they would have to pass a German fort and negotiate several dangerous rapids. But Rose is insistent and eventually persuades him to go along with the plan. Charlie is furious when the teetotaler Rose throws away all of his gin, but she insists that he needs to be sober for the task at hand.

Charlie is captured and taken aboard the Louisa, and after being questioned, Rose is captured and Charlie hollers her name, then pretends not to know her. The captain questions her, and Rose says they planned to sink the German boat and encourages Charlie to describe his torpedoes. The captain sentences them to be executed as spies. Charlie asks the German captain to marry them before executing them. After a brief marriage ceremony, the Germans prepare to hang them, when there is a sudden explosion and the Louisa starts to sink. The Louisa has struck the overturned hull of the African Queen and detonated the torpedoes. Rose’s plan has worked, if a little belatedly, and the newly-married couple swim to safety in Kenya.