Best Classic Movies for the Cabin
Why We Recommend This
Certain classic movies have an escapist element, that fits in perfect with the serenity of cabin living. The problem is, that by the time you settle into the cabin, you don’t always recollect what to watch. We have put together the perfect list of classic movies to keep on hand at your cabin. If you want to watch these movies on-demand, and you have a reliable Internet connection at your cabin, sign up for Amazon Prime.
The Big Sleep
The Big Sleep (1946) is one of Raymond Chandler’s best hard-boiled detective mysteries transformed into a film noir, private detective film classic. This successful adaptation of Chandler’s 1939 novel was from his first Philip Marlowe novel. [Chandler took segments of two of his own, previously-published stories that appeared in Black Mask magazine: “Killer in the Rain,” and “The Curtain.”] It was directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, scripted by Nobel laureate William Faulkner (with additional assistance from Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman), and scored by composer Max Steiner.
The Big Sleep is the best example of a classic Warner Bros. mystery. It is a very complex, confusing, logic-defying whodunit with a quintessential private detective (Marlowe), false leads, unforgettable dialogue and wisecracks, raw-edged characters, sexy women (including the two daughters of a dying millionaire, a bookseller, and others), tough action, gunplay, a series of electrifying scenes, and screen violence. Although a classic film noir, it has no flashbacks, no voice-over narration, and little evidence of expressionistic images. The film was not recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in any of its award categories.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941) is generally considered one of celebrated writer/director Preston Sturges’ greatest dramatic comedies – and a satirical statement of his own director’s creed. One of his more interesting and intelligent films from a repertoire of about twelve films in his entire career, Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels satirizes Hollywood pretension and excesses with his particular brand of sophisticated verbal wit and dialogue, satire and fast-paced slapstick.
Sturges was one of the first scriptwriters in the sound era to direct his own screenplays. He was assisted by future westerns film director Anthony Mann, and cinematographer John Seitz (who later filmed such notable film noirs as This Gun For Hire (1942), Double Indemnity (1944), The Big Clock (1948), and Sunset Boulevard (1950), as well as two other Sturges works, Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)).
This witty journey film from Paramount Studios skillfully mixes every conceivable cinematic genre type and tone of film possible – tragic melodrama, farce, prison film, serious drama, social documentary, slapstick, romance, comedy, action, and even musical, in about a dozen sequences. Due to confusion over the varying, inconsistent moods within the film, the marketing campaign decided to focus on Veronica Lake’s peekaboo hairdo instead, with the tagline:
1944 was a big year for film noir. Early film noirs Double Indemnity, Laura and Murder, My Sweet were all released near the end of ’44 and all were box office hits. Murder, My Sweet helped Dick Powell – known as a song and dance man in film up to this point – change his screen persona to a tough-talking film noir hero in many movies and television shows afterward. The film also features Claire Trevor as a convincing “black widow” and Mike Mazurki in his most memorable role as Moose Malloy.
The star of the film however is the tough-talk dialog taken directly from Raymond Chandler’s novel. The book Farewell, My Lovely,written in a first-person perspective, was actually filmed for the first time a few years before. The Falcon Takes Over from 1941 looks nothing like the Chandler novel – certainly the hero Gay Lawrence (George Sanders) was nothing like the L.A. Private detective Chandler wrote about. A few years after The Falcon’s release studio heads at RKO realized that they could make the story again but this time in the style of the 1941 hit The Maltese Falcon.
The plot of the book is almost impossible to explain and it must have been nearly impossible to create into a screenplay. Actually the novel was a combination of three early Chandler short stories weaved together by the writer into full-length book. This is one of those films where the trip is much more satisfying than the destination because the story is very muddled – at least in my head- even after multiple viewings. Credit goes to screenwriter John Paxton (Cornered, Crossfire) and director Edward Dmytryk for cleverly translating the cynical book and for retooling the ending at the beach house to make it more satisfying than the novel. Chandler never liked when his stories were rewritten for film – despite the fact that he did just that to James M. Cain’s book Double Indemnity a few years earlier. In this case the shootout at the beach house concludes much of the mystery while in the book the villain slips from Marlowe. The classic Hollywood ending that follows the beach house scene is a disappointment but not unexpected for the time.
“Frankenstein” is a film about a mad, obsessed scientist, Dr. Henry Frankenstein”, who creates a monster, by taking body parts from dead people. Upon placing a brain inside the head of the monster, Henry and his assistant Fritz are amazed that the experiment is alive. When the monster mistakenly kills Maria, a young girl he meets down by the river, the town is up in arms and aims to bring the monster to justice. They find the monster and his creator in an old windmill, where the monster is attempting to kill his maker.
In Fort de France, Martinique, in the summer of 1940, shortly after the fall of France to the Germans, an American named Johnson hires professional fisherman Harry Morgan to take him fishing on Morgan’s boat. Johnson complains about the cost of the expedition and the onboard presence of Eddie, a drunk, and Horatio, a native. Refusing to listen to Harry’s instructions, Johnson loses a rod and reel belonging to Harry. Fed up with Johnson, Harry cancels the rest of the trip and insists that Johnson pay him for the lost equipment as well as his fees for the past week. Johnson promises to pay what he owes after the banks open the next morning. Back in Fort de France, bartender Gerard, commonly known as Frenchy, asks Harry to rent him his boat for one night to transport some members of the resistance underground, but Harry refuses to become involved in Frenchy’s political activities. Later, in the hotel bar, Harry sees attractive young Marie Browning pick Johnson’s pocket, and when she leaves the bar, he follows her and demands that she return the wallet. Harry checks the wallet and is surprised to see that it contains enough money in traveler’s cheques to pay his fees and that Johnson’s plane leaves early the next morning before the banks open. After Marie, whom Harry has dubbed Slim, returns the wallet to the indignant Johnson, Harry insists that he sign some of the cheques, but before Johnson can complete this task, he is killed by gunshots from the street directed at Frenchy’s allies. The police detain some of the customers, including Frenchy, Marie and Harry, for questioning. Later that night, Marie tells Harry that she is tired of her footloose life and would like to settle down. In order to earn enough money to put himself back in business and help Marie, Harry agrees to pick up Frenchy’s friends. Before he leaves, he buys Marie a ticket on the plane leaving that afternoon for the United States.
After picking up Helene and Paul De Bursac, Harry is spotted by a patrol boat, and Paul is wounded before they escape. Harry is surprised to find that Marie stayed in Martinique to be with him. At Frenchy’s request, Harry removes the bullet from De Bursac’s shoulder and learns that the De Bursacs have been assigned to help a man escape from Devil’s Island. De Bursac asks for Harry’s assistance, but Harry turns him down. Later, the police, who recognized Harry’s boat the previous night, reveal that they have Eddie in custody and will coerce him to tell the truth about the boat’s cargo. At gunpoint, Harry forces the police to arrange for Eddie’s release and sign harbor passes, so that he can take the De Bursacs to Devil’s Island. After Eddie returns, he, Harry and Marie leave Martinique for a more committed life together.
The Third Man (1949) is a visually-stylish thriller – a paranoid story of social, economic, and moral corruption in a depressed, rotting and crumbling, 20th century Vienna following World War II. The striking film-noirish, shadowy thriller was filmed expressionistically within the decadent, shattered and poisoned city that has been sector-divided along geo-political lines.
The black and white, pessimistic film is one of the greatest British thrillers of the post-war era, in the best Alfred Hitchcock tradition, and beautifully produced and directed by Britisher Carol Reed. It was voted the #1 British Film of the 20th Century by the esteemed British Film Institute (BFI). It was co-produced by Hungarian-born Alexander Korda and American movie mogul David O. Selznick. Because Korda gave American distribution rights to Selznick (who cut eleven minutes from the original British version), the credits of the US version include Selznick references.
Stalag 17 is a 1953 war film which tells the story of a group of American airmen held in a German World War II prisoner of war camp, who come to suspect that one of their number is an informant. It was adapted from a Broadway play.
Produced and directed by Billy Wilder, it starred William Holden, Don Taylor, Robert Strauss, Neville Brand, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves, Sig Ruman and Otto Preminger in the role of the camp’s commandant. Strauss and Lembeck both appeared in the original Broadway production.
The film was adapted by Wilder and Edwin Blum from the Broadway play by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski which was based on their experiences as prisoners in Stalag 17B in Austria. (Trzcinski appears in the film as a prisoner.) The play was directed by José Ferrer and was the Broadway debut of John Ericson as Sefton. First presented at the Edwin Burke Memorial Theater of The Lambs, a theatrical club, on March 11, 1951 (staged by the authors). It began its Broadway run in May 1951 and continued for 472 performances. The character Sefton was loosely based on Joe Palazzo, a flier in Trzcinski’s prisoner-of-war barracks.
Some Like It Hot is a 1959 American romantic comedy film set in 1929, directed and produced by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee, and Nehemiah Persoff. The plot is based on a screenplay by Billy Wilder and Michael Logan from the French film Fanfare of Love. The film is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. The film was produced in black and white, even though color films were increasing in popularity.
Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall. The supporting cast features Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson’s 1939 play of the same name, which played on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.
Key Largo was the fourth and final film pairing of married actors Bogart and Bacall, after To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), and Dark Passage (1947). Claire Trevor won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as a drunken ex-singer, the moll of Robinson’s character.
An American in Paris (1951) is one of the greatest, most elegant, and most celebrated of MGM’s 50’s musicals, with Gershwin lyrics and musical score (lyrics by Ira and music by composer George from some of their compositions of the 20s and 30s), lavish sets and costumes, tremendous Technicolor cinematography, and a romantic love story set to music and dance. Gene Kelly served as the film’s principal star, singer, athletically-exuberant dancer and energetic choreographer – he even directed the sequence surrounding “Embraceable You.” The entire film glorifies the joie de vivre of Paris, but it was shot on MGM’s sound stages in California, except for a few opening, establishing shots of the scenic city. Nonetheless, it remains one of the most optimistic American films of the post-war period – with Paris at its center.
Dial M for Murder is a 1954 American-British crime mystery film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams. It was filmed in 3-D with the technology that was available at the time, and is often considered one of the greatest 3D films ever made. The screenplay and the successful stage play on which it was based were written by English playwright Frederick Knott. The play premiered in 1952 on BBC Television, before being performed on stage in the same year in London’s West End in June, and then New York’s Broadway in October. The movie was released by Warner Bros., though due to the then-waning popularity of 3D films, it was converted to 2D, and only showed in its native 3D format in a small handful of cinemas.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) is one of the most popular and best classic detective mysteries ever made, and many film historians consider it the first in the dark film noir genre in Hollywood. It leaves the audience with a distinctly down-beat conclusion and bitter taste. The low-budget film reflects the remarkable directorial debut of John Huston (previously a screenwriter) who efficiently and skillfully composed and filmed this American classic for Warner Bros. studios, with great dialogue, deceitful characters, and menacing scenes.
The precocious director Huston was very faithful to Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 novel The Maltese Falcon, that had originally appeared as a five-part serialized story in a pulp fiction, detective story magazine publication named Black Mask. However, for an early preview audience, the film took a different, short-lived title, The Gent From Frisco. There were two major differences between the book and film:(1) Gutman was killed by Wilmer, and (2) the last quotable line of dialogue, with a Shakespearean reference, was thought up by Bogart on the set.
On the Waterfront is a 1954 American crime drama film directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg. It stars Marlon Brando and features Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Pat Henning, and, in her film debut, Eva Marie Saint. The soundtrack score was composed by Leonard Bernstein. The film was suggested by “Crime on the Waterfront” by Malcolm Johnson, a series of articles published in November–December 1948 in the New York Sun which won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, but the screenplay by Budd Schulberg is directly based on his own original story. The film focuses on union violence and corruption amongst longshoremen while detailing widespread corruption, extortion, and racketeering on the waterfronts of Hoboken, New Jersey.
Legendary director Nicholas Ray began his career with this lyrical film noir, the first in a series of existential genre films overflowing with sympathy for America’s outcasts and underdogs. When the wide-eyed fugitive Bowie (Farley Granger), having broken out of prison with some bank robbers, meets the innocent Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell), each recognizes something in the other that no one else ever has. The young lovers envision a new, decent life together, but as they flee the cops and contend with Bowie’s fellow outlaws, who aren’t about to let him go straight, they realize there’s nowhere left to run. Ray brought an outsider’s sensibility honed in the theater to this debut, using revolutionary camera techniques and naturalistic performances to craft a profoundly romantic crime drama that paved the way for decades of lovers-on-the-run thrillers to come.
Wait Until Dark is a 1967 psychological horror thriller film directed by Terence Young and produced by Mel Ferrer. It stars Audrey Hepburn as a young blind woman, Alan Arkin as a violent criminal searching for some drugs, and Richard Crenna as another criminal, supported by Jack Weston, Julie Herrod, and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.. The screenplay by Robert Carrington and Jane-Howard Carrington is based on the 1966 play by Frederick Knott.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) is one of the best film noirs of all time – and one of the earliest prototypes of today’s ‘erotic thrillers.’ The screenplay (by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch) was based on the controversial first novel/pot-boiler (1934) of the same name by notorious writer James M. Cain. Cain was known for novels with forbidden lust, love triangles, brutal, raw sexiness, and adultery-motivated murder. Two previous, sexually-charged classic film noirs adapted from Cain’s novels had met with both critical and box-office success: MGM’s Double Indemnity (1944) and Warner Bros.’ Mildred Pierce (1945).