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All the Twos: 1902-62

All mentioned films in article
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Not released

Although New Year is about looking forward, Cinema Paradiso can't resist a last glance back before 2022 is consigned to history. After all, so many classic films have been released in years ending in a two...

There has long been a debate about cinema's greatest year. For many, this will always be 1939, but cases have been made for 1946, 1959, 1967, 1974, 1999 and 2007. However, we at Cinema Paradiso have noticed how many classics have been released in years ending in a two. Let us jog your memory, as we take a two-part tour through 120 years of screen history.

Thirty-Two Years of Silence

It's a movie myth that motion pictures were entirely silent for their first three decades. Experiments were made with synchronising sound systems from the moment the first images flickered into life from the new-fangled projectors. But the most notable films made between 1895-1927 came without audible dialogue.

Take the snapshots of everyday reality captured by the Blackburn-based duo of Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon. Some like to claim that cinema was born in northern England, as Frenchman Louis Le Prince (who is played by Finnegan Oldfield in Marie Kreutzer's Corsage, 2022) captured people in motion at Rounday in Leeds in October 1888. But it was Mitchell and Kenyon who followed the lead of Auguste and Louis Lumière by recording incidents from daily life in order to show audiences ordinary folks like themselves on the big screen. No wonder their advertising slogan was 'Local Films For Local People.'

A still from The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon (2004)
A still from The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon (2004)

Cinema Paraadiso has several Mitchell & Kenyon titles on offer, including The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon (2004), Mitchell & Kenyon in Ireland, and Mitchell & Kenyon: Edwardian Sports (both 2007). We're going to highlight, however, the 1902 entries in Electric Edwardians: The Films of Mitchell & Kenyon (2005), which include a couple of point-of-view novelties, Tram Ride into Halifax and Electric Tram Rides From Forster Square, Bradford. Sports fans will also want to catch the rugby league fixture, Dewsbury v Manningham, as well as the Association Football matches, Burnley v Manchester United and Sheffield United v Bury.

There's also a look at the summer game in The Great Local Derby: Accrington v Church Cricket Match and a celebratory gathering at the Leeds Athletic and Cycling Club Carnival. Perhaps the most significant entry, however, is Living Wigan, which reveals the reaction of passers-by being caught on film and the extent to which they were already prepared to play up to the camera in what feels a very modern manner.

This two-minute item was shown at Wigan Town Hall as part of the festivities surrounding King Edward VII's coronation on 9 August 1902. Across the Channel, Georges Méliès pre-staged the Westminster Abbey ceremonial in his Montreuil studio and premiered The Coronation of Edward VII in London just hours after the event itself. While this demonstrated the readiness of pioneering film-makers to cash-in on headline-making events, Méliès had ambitions to be an artist as well as a showman.

Watch the sequence in the epic documentary, From the Earth to the Moon (1998), that depicts Méliès (Tchéky Karyo) and Jean-Luc Despont (Tom Hanks) creating one of the most important films in cinema's first decade, A Trip to the Moon (1902). Such is the value of this encounter between some intrepid astronomers and the Selenite lunar dwellers that a great deal of trouble was taken over its restoration, as is revealed in Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange's The Extraordinary Voyage (2011).

Rivals like Ferdinand Zecca, Segundo De Chomón, Victorin Jasset, Walter R. Booth, and Edwin S. Porter proved equally innovative items during the early 1900s. But they lacked the imaginative spark that would prompt Jacques Mény to collect 15 of the Magician of Montreuil's mini-masterpieces in Méliès the Magician (1997) and persuade Martin Scorsese to cast Ben Kingsley as the elderly and virtually forgotten Méliès in Hugo (2011).

Most films in 1902 lasted for a couple of minutes, with only a handful being edited together from multiple shots. By 1912, however, cinema was on the verge of committing to feature-length films. Despite struggling to keep up with new methods of production, Méliès produced his last classic, The Conquest of the Pole. Compatriot Michel Antoine Carré also came up with the first colour feature, The Miracle. But the new driving force of cinematic ingenuity was D.W. Griffith, a struggling actor who had started directing films in 1908 and whose appropriation of the technical and stylistic inventions of others had helped him create landmark works like The Musketeers of Pig Alley, which is regarded as the first gangster movie.

Elsewhere, Canadian Mack Sennett started making slapstick shorts with Mabel Normand at Keystone, while Ashley Miller and Charles Brabin launched the serial in the United States with What Happened to Mary, starring Mary Fuller. The year also saw the release of such important pictures as Vasily Goncharov's 1812, Wladyslaw Starewicz's The Cameraman's Revenge, Sidney Olcott's From the Manger to the Cross, André Calmettes and James Keane's Richard III, Aristide Demetriade's The Independence of Romania, and Louis Mercanton and Henri Desfontaines's Queen Elizabeth, which starred the great Sarah Bernhardt at a time when stage stars shunned films, as they were regarded as a poor relation to the theatre. As none of these is currently available on disc in this country (shame on you, DVD labels), Cinema Paradiso will have to content itself with pointing users in the direction of George O. Nichols's Nicholas Nickleby, which can be found on the BFI's 2006 compilation, Dickens Before Sound.

Cinema was a very different medium by 1922. In just nine years, Hollywood had come to dominate global distribution by exploiting the lack of European competition and its grip remains strong a century later. But, while the US held sway over the mainstream and was redefining the nature of actuality with the likes of Robert Flaherty's Nanook of the North (1922), the avant-garde was primarily a continental concern.

A still from Phantom (1922)
A still from Phantom (1922)

In France, a form of filmic impressionism emerged with works like Louis Delluc's La Femme de nulle part and Germaine Dulac's The Smiling Madame Beudet, which can be rented from Cinema Paradiso on the BFI's Early Women Filmmakers, 1911-40 (2019). Frustratingly, no one has seen fit to release Jacques Feyder's exceptional Crainquebille. But Expressionism has been much better served, with 1922 alone producing Dane Benjamin Christensen's Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, F.W. Murnau's Phantom and Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, and Fritz Lang's Dr Mabuse, the Gambler.

Lang's fellow Wiener, Erich von Stroheim, had made his name in Hollywood as 'The Man You Love to Hate'. He certainly wound up his producers with his extravagance, but chic comedies of sexual manners like Foolish Wives also riled conservative pressure groups, who called on the studios to impose a form of self-censorship. Labelled 'The Latin Lover', Rudolph Valentino also came in for criticism for flaunting his smouldering appeal in dramas like Fred Niblo's bullfighting saga, Blood and Sand. However, he was also easy to parody, as Stan Laurel demonstrated in Gilbert Pratt's Mud and Sand, which is available in a double bill with Norman Taurog's Oliver Hardy vehicle, The Sawmill (1923), as part of The Stan and Ollie Collection.

Slapstick was in its heyday, with Buster Keaton being particularly prolific in 1922. Thanks to Eureka, Cinema Paradiso members can chortle to their hearts' content with The Paleface, Cops, My Wife's Relations, The Blacksmith, The Frozen North, Daydreams, and The Electric House all being available on Buster Keaton: The Complete Short Films, 1917-23. Harold Lloyd fans will similarly lap up the shorts on The Art of Harold Lloyd, which also contains his first feature, Grandma's Boy (1922).

By contrast, the usually productive Charlie Chaplin only made Pay Day in 1922, which turned out to be his last two-reeler for First National. Clearly, he needed to regroup before making A Woman of Paris (1923) after his exertions on The Kid (1921). This had made an overnight star of young Jackie Coogan, who earned the title role in Frank Lloyd's Oliver Twist, which is available to rent via Dickens Before Sound.

Three years earlier, Chaplin had joined forces with D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks in forming United Artists. Residing at their mansion, Pickfair, Fairbanks and Pickford were the biggest stars of their day, as is revealed in David Thompson's Silent Britain (2006). It's baffling, therefore, that not a single film featuring America's Sweetheart is currently available to rent, while Doug's distinctive brand of derring-do can be enjoyed in Allan Dwan's Robin Hood (1922), Raoul Walsh's The Thief of Bagdad (1924), Albert Parker's The Black Pirate (1926), and Dwan's The Man in the Iron Mask (1929).


Five years after Al Jolson had shaken Hollywood to its core with a few lines of dialogue in Alan Crosland's The Jazz Singer (1927), talking pictures had lost their novelty and become the new norm. As characters could now speak, however, America's moral guardians grew concerned about the impact that all these utterances and opinions might have on impressionable minds. Consequently, the Production Code was imposed upon the studio system in 1930, although it wouldn't be strictly enforced for another four years. This meant that the films released in 1932 came under the category of 'Pre-Code' that has since coined by scholars.

It's unlikely, therefore, that Howard Hawks's gangster classic, Scarface, would have been granted a release certificate in 1934, as its unflinching approach to the crimes committed by Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) would have been deemed too graphic for the Hays Office. Even in 1932, however, the antics of the carnival folk depicted in Tod Browning's Freaks were considered contentious and MGM production chief Irving G. Thalberg trimmed over 25 minutes of material before sanctioning its release.

A still from Vampyr (1932)
A still from Vampyr (1932)

Cinema Paradiso has a number of horror items available from this auspicious year, including Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr, James Whale's The Old Dark House, Karl Freund's The Mummy, Irving Pichel's The Most Dangerous Game, and Victor Halperin's White Zombie, a Bela Lugosi vehicle that was the first feature to refer to this form of the undead.

As the ramifications of the 1929 Wall Street Crash edged the United States deeper into the Great Depression, cinema offered empathy and escapism. Thus, while Joan Crawford could suffer in Lewis Milestone's Rain, she could rub shoulders with Greta Garbo in Edmund Goulding's Grand Hotel, the Best Picture winner in which the Swede uttered the immortal line, 'I want to be alone.' Rival Marlene Dietrich was also at the height of her powers in Josef von Sternberg's Blonde Venus and Shanghai Express, although the Oscar for Best Actress went to Helen Hayes, albeit not for her poignant performance opposite Gary Cooper in Frank Borzage's adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.

The Great War was also commemorated in Raymond Bernard's Wooden Crosses, an exceptional recreation of trench warfare that should be on every 'must see' list. The hardships facing the vanquished citizens of Weimar Germany are examined with equal dexterity in Slatan Dudow's Kuhle Wampe, although Jean Renoir put a comic slant on being down and out in Boudu Saved From Drowning.

Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller was more at home in the water in W.S. Van Dyke's Tarzan the Ape Man, while the lagoons of Venice provide the backdrop for the glorious chicanery between Herbert Marshall, Kay Francis, and Miriam Hopkins in Ernst Lubitsch's sublime comedy of criminous manners, Trouble in Paradise. Newly acquired wealth was also the subject of If I Had a Million, an all-star anthology that required seven directors.

Among the stars was W.C. Fields, who is on peak form in Edward F. Cline's Million Dollar Legs. Likewise, the Marx Brothers are in fine fettle in Norman Z. MacLeod's college football romp, Horse Feathers. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are also entrusted with shaping young minds when they take care of a fellow doughboy's daughter in George Marshall's Pack Up Your Troubles. However, they hit their comic peak while hauling a player-piano up a steep flight of steps in James Parrott's Oscar-winning short, The Music Box, which can be rented from Cinema Paradiso on the collection, A Job to Do.


Britain had been fighting the Axis for 27 months by the time the United States joined the fray. Consequently, it produced such sophisticated propaganda during 1942 as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, Noël Coward and David Lean's In Which We Serve, Charles Frend's The Foreman Went to France, Basil Dearden and Will Hay's The Goose Steps Out and The Black Sheep of Whitehall, Leslie Howard's The First of the Few. Humphrey Jennings's Listen to Britain, and Alberto Cavalcanti's Went the Day Well?. By contrast, Hollywood came up with unabashed flagwavers like David Miller's Flying Tigers before hitting its stride with a pair of Best Picture winners, William Wyler's Mrs Miniver and Michael Curtiz's Casablanca.

It's worth noting the change in mood between these impeccably made melodramas, as the former's depiction of Britain battling with its back to the wall is replaced by a sense of the global tide turning, as Humphrey Bogart packs Ingrid Bergman off on a plane so that they could put the war effort above personal happiness. The same aura of growing confidence in the eventual outcome can be detected in comparing Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur and Roy Boulting's Thunder Rock with the Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake duo of Frank Tuttle's This Gun For Hire and Stuart Heisler's The Glass Key, and with such lively B series entries as John Rawlins's Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror and Roy William Neill's Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.

A still from The Palm Beach Story (1942)
A still from The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Europe still had secrets to reveal, which explains why the humour was so scabrously audacious in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be, which mocked Nazi activity in Occupied Poland (see Cinema Paradiso's What to Watch Next article for more background). For the most part, however, Hollywood comedy stayed on the safe side, whether it was sending such dispatches from the Battle of the Sexes as George Stevens's Woman of the Year, Billy Wilder's The Major and the Minor, and Preston Sturges's The Palm Beach Story; dabbling in fantasy in the likes of René Clair's I Married a Witch; or tickling the nation's funnybone with such Bud Abbott and Lou Costello everyman farces as Arthur Lubin's Ride 'Em Cowboy, S. Sylvan Simon's Rio Rita, and Erle C. Kenton's Pardon My Sarong and Who Done It?

The emergence of John Wayne as a force outside the Old West became more apparent in 1942, as he followed William C. McGann's In Old California with two teamings with Marlene Dietrich, on Ray Enright's The Spoilers and Lewis Seiler's Pittsburgh. Duke also hooked up with Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland in Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind, which was joined on the high seas by Henry King's piratical classic, The Black Swan. A dash of exoticism informed Zoltan Korda's The Jungle Book and John Rawlins's Arabian Nights, while the jungle came to the Big Apple in Richard Thorpe's Tarzan's New York Adventure.

On the horror front, Universal monsters were roused into duty in Erle C. Kenton's The Ghost of Frankenstein and Harold Young's The Mummy's Tomb, while Bela Lugosi proved there was still life in an old stager in Wallace Fox's The Corpse Vanishes. However, the genre was ushered in a subtler new direction with Jacques Tourneur's Cat People, which was produced by the master of the insinuating chill, Val Lewton.

It may seem invidious nowadays to call a genre 'the woman's picture', but this is the label that historians have placed on dramas centring on female characters. Several of these features were tailored for Bette Davis, who is on imperious form in both John Huston's In This Our Life and Irving Rapper's Now, Voyager. Jean Arthur similarly impressed alongside Cary Grant and Ronald Colman in George Stevens's The Talk of the Town, while Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons showcased the talent of one of Hollywood unsung heroines, Agnes Moorehead. RKO decided that Welles's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was too unwiedly, however, and not only cut over an hour of footage, but also imposed a happy ending while he was filming in Latin America.

A storyline featuring W.C. Fields was cut from Julien Duvivier's all-star anthology, Tales of Manhattan, while Paul Robeson was outraged that his racially patronising vignette remain intact. Duviver was working in exile from his native France, but Henri-Georges Clouzot remained to make his directorial debut with The Murderer Lives At 21, a comedy whodunit that was produced for the Nazi-sponsored Continental Films. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels banned Hungarian István Szöts's People of the Mountains, as he considered this account of life in the Transylvanian forests to be 'too Catholic'. Acclaimed at the Venice Film Festival, this neglected gem unearthed by the good folks at Second Run had an influence on the emerging style of neo-realism.

Hollywood attempts to expose audiences to new cultures were largely restricted to comic odysseys like the 'Road' movies starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. David Butler's Road to Morocco followed on from Road to Singapore (1940) and Road to Zanzibar (1941), which had also featured Dorothy Lamour. Crosby would introduce one of his most iconic songs, 'White Christmas', in Mark Sandrich's Holiday Inn, which paired him with Fred Astaire, who was also seen dancing with Rita Hayworth in William A. Seiter's You Were Never Lovelier. However, vigorous hoofing competition made its bow in 1942, as Gene Kelly partnered Judy Garland in Busby Berkeley's For Me and My Gal. And, completing the year's musical entertainment, are a couple of Disney animations. Produced to reinforce diplomatic ties with South America, Wilfred Jackson's Saludos Amigos employed Donald Duck and Goofy as special ambassadors, while David Hand's Bambi charmingly brought Austrian Felix Salten's 1923 children's novel to adorable life.


One of Hollywood's watershed years, 1952 witnessed the dying down of the hysteria that had driven the Communist witch-hunt and the growing realisation that something had to be done to lure audiences away from their television sets and back into theatres. Cinerama was launched to great fanfare, while 20th Century-Fox announced the coming of CinemaScope. Arch Oboler's Bwana Devil started a 3-D craze, while stereo sound and colour stock were used on a more regular basis to heighten the cine-experience.

A still from Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
A still from Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

It was somewhat inevitable, therefore, that a spectacle like Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth should win the Academy Award for Best Picture. But this circus saga hasn't worn well and lacks the depth of other dramas like Henry King's adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Daniel Mann's Come Back, Little Sheba (which earned Shirley Booth the Best Actress award), Vincent Sherman's Affair in Trinidad, or the biopic trio of John Huston's Moulin Rouge, Charles Vidor's Hans Christian Andersen, and Harmon Jones's The Pride of St Louis, which respectively chronicled the lives of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the eponymous Danish fable spinner, and baseball pitcher, Dizzy Dean.

Although the moneymen preferred profitable escapism, there was always a hankering after cultural credibility around the studios and 1952 saw the release of such literary adaptations as Chester Erskine's Androcles and the Lion, Lewis Milestone's Les Miserables, Henry Koster's My Cousin Rachel, and William Wyler's Carrie. Based in a tome by Theodore Dreiser, the latter paired Laurence Olivier and Jennifer Jones and she also held her own against a scene-stealing Charlton Heston in King Vidor's melodrama, Ruby Gentry.

This tale of the soil was one of a number to centre on women standing up for themselves in a man's world. Maureen O'Hara accepted John Wayne's entreaties on her own terms, for example, in John Ford's The Quiet Man, while Marlene Dietrich ruled over Chuck-a-Luck with an iron fist in Fritz Lang's Rancho Notorious. Staying out West, Jane Russell took no nonsense from either the Dalton Gang in Allan Dwan's Montana Belle or from Bob Hope's tenderfoot in Frank Tashlin's Son of Paleface.

The Western was about to enter its psychological phase, with traditional frontier outings like Roy Huggins's Hangman's Knot, Howard Hawks's The Big Sky, and Felix E. Feist's The Big Trees being out-gunned by revisionist items like Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata!, Anthony Mann's Bend of the River, and Fred Zinnemann's High Noon, which infuriated John Wayne by reworking generic tropes to denounce those who has supported the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and its Red Scare tactics.

Such is the diversity of the Cinema Paradiso catalogue that users can compare these Westerns and see how a highly traditional form of entertainment was used to comment on the contemporary scene. The thriller was undergoing its own transformation, as slick, but conventional fare like Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 5 Fingers and Henry Hathaway's Diplomatic Courier was overshadowed by grittier takes on the seedier side of urban life like Samuel Fuller's Scandal Sheet, Phil Karlson's Kansas City Confidential, Joseph Pevney's Flesh and Fury, and Edward Dmytryk's The Sniper. And audiences in 1952 couldn't get enough of the femmes fatales inhabiting Otto Preminger's Angel Face, Roy Ward Baker's Don't Bother to Knock, Josef von Sternberg's Macao, Richard Fleischer's The Narrow Margin, and David Miller's Sudden Fear, who made film noir so deliciously dangerous.

Some things didn't change, however, as swashbuckling was as popular in 1952 - hence Robert Siodmak's The Crimson Pirate and Raoul Walsh's Blackbeard the Pirate - as it had been in the silent era. If you don't believe us, watch Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singin' in the Rain, which was released to mark the 25th anniversary of the talkies. Charlie Chaplin was also in nostalgic mood in Limelight, as he teamed up with Buster Keaton to pay homage to the golden age of slapstick (see Cinema Paradiso's What to Watch Next article for more).

Elsewhere on the comedy scene, old dogs were having to learn new tricks, as Groucho Marx demonstrated in Chester Erskine's A Girl in Every Port. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby opted to stick with a winning formula, however, in Hal Walker's Road to Bali, as did Abbott and Costello in Jean Yarbrough's Jack and the Beanstalk and Lost in Alaska. But the vaudeville influence on American film humour was waning and there was greater sophistication about the likes of George Cukor's Pat and Mike, Henry Levin's Belles on Their Toes, Edmund Goulding's We're Not Married!, and the multi-directored anthology, O. Henry's Full House.

A still from Pickwick Papers (1952)
A still from Pickwick Papers (1952)

Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers proved there was still room for screwball shenanigans in Howard Hawks's Monkey Business, which was one of several films in 1952 to feature the emerging Marilyn Monroe. Across the pond, Goons Spike Milligan, Michael Bentine, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe brought a uniquely anarchic edge to Maclean Rogers's Down Among the Z Men. But British wit largely remained on the dry and restrained side in situation comedies like John Eldridge's Brandy For the Parson and Muriel Box's The Happy Family, as well as in such literary interpretations as Anthony Asquith's The Importance of Being Earnest, Noel Langley's The Pickwick Papers, and Ronald Neame's The Card. There was also a droll wit about Herbert Wilcox's Derby Day and Trent's Last Case, with the former pairing Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding and the latter pitting Wilding against Orson Welles.

Anglo-American attitudes to the war movie remained poles apart, however, with the gung-ho derring-do of Budd Boetticher's The Red Ball Express contrasting with the unassuming pluck of George More O'Ferrall's Angels One Five. The same modest intrepidity informed David Lean's The Sound Barrier, which would make a curiously splendid Ralph Richardson double bill with More O'Ferrall's The Holly and the Ivy, which is as much a snapshot of shifting societal stances as a sentimental Christmas story. Variations on this theme can be detected in Ken Annakin's The Planter's Wife, Alexander Mackendrick's Mandy, and Lewis Gilbert's Emergency Call, which hint at the social realist shift that would transform British cinema at the end of the decade.

The nouvelle vague would have an even more seismic effect on French film, although titles such as Jacques Becker's Casque d'or, Jean Renoir's The Golden Coach, and Max Ophüls's Le Plaisir were already exhibiting the auteurial touches that would underpin the New Wave aesthetic. Whisper it quietly, but we at Cinema Paradiso are also quite fond of items that would later be dismissed as 'cinéma du papa', including Cristian-Jaque's swashbuckling favourite, Fanfan le Tulipe, and René Clément's deeply moving child's eye view of conflict, Forbidden Games.

Elsewhere on the continent, Vittorio De Sica sounded the last post for neo-realism's first phase with Umberto D, although its influence could still be seen in Ingmar Bergman's Waiting Women before he started establishing his own style in Summer Interlude. And speaking of distinctive signatures, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi cast their respective spells over The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice and The Life of Oharu. However, Akira Kurosawa demonstrated his burgeoning finesse with Ikiru, the story of a dying civil servant's involvement with a children's playground which was recently been remade by Oliver Hermanus as Living, which relocates the action to 1950s London.


It was action all the way in 1962, as David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia took the Academy Award for Best Picture and Terence Young's Dr No took the box-office by storm. Six decades later, the James Bond franchise remains as popular as ever, as it keeps managing to re-invent itself, while staying true to its founding principle of providing white-knuckle thrills.

A still from Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962)
A still from Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962)

Sean Connery also found himself in the all-star ensemble in 20th Century-Fox's adaptation of Cornelius Ryan's D-Day tome, The Longest Day, which was directed by Ken Annakin, Bernhard Wicki, and Andrew Marton. Steve McQueen headlined the year's other significant Second World War feature, Don Siegel's Hell Is For Heroes, but 1962's other action contenders were a mixed bunch that ran the gamut from Rudolph Maté's The 300 Spartans and J. Lee Thompson's Taras Bulba to Irwin Allen's Five Weeks in a Balloon and Nathan Juran's Jack the Giant Killer.

Somewhere in between was Howard Hawks's Hatari!, which sent John Wayne to Africa to catch big game. He was back on the frontier, however, for John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, while he and co-star James Stewart also cropped up in the Cinerama epic, How the West Was Won, which was co-directed by Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall. Yet, despite such solid entries as Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country, Arnold Laven's Geronimo, and David Miller's Lonely Are the Brave, the Hollywood Western was starting to drift out of fashion. The musical was also beginning to run out of steam, with Charles Walters's Billy Rose's Jumbo and Mervyn LeRoy's Gypsy being pale imitations of the MGM classics of yesteryear, while only fans were bothering with such cookie-cutter Elvis Presley vehicles as Norman Taurog's Girls! Girls! Girls! and It Happened at the World's Fair, Phil Karlson's Kid Galahad, and Gordon Douglas's Follow That Dream.

Hollywood comedy was also looking a little flat, as Bing and Bob hit the tarmac for the final time in Norman Panama's The Road to Hong Kong, while Delbert Mann's That Touch of Mink, Henry Koster's Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation, and Richard Quine's The Notorious Landlady all struggled to lure in punters, in spite of the respective pairing of Cary Grand and Doris Day, James Stewart and Maureen O'Hara, and Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak. Shirley Maclaine was better served by Jack Cardiff's My Geisha and Robert Wise's Two For the Seesaw, but nothing could touch the bleak wit of Robert Aldrich's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, which pitted Bette Davis against Joan Crawford in a grim tale of feuding showbiz sisters.

A cruder acerbity informed Jerald Intrator's Satan in High Heels, a sexploitation comment on the seedier side of American life that found an unsettling echo in Roger Corman's The Intruder. However, the prolific B-hiver's other horror offerings - The Premature Burial, Tales of Terror, and Tower of London - erred towards the genre's camper side, along with Joseph Green's The Brain That Wouldn't Die, Spaniard Jesús Franco's The Awful Dr Orloff, and Hammer stalwart Terence Fisher's The Phantom of the Opera. Nevertheless, there was something more disconcerting about Sidney Hayers's Night of the Eagle, Heck Harvey's Carnival of Souls, and Steve Sekely's The Day of the Triffids, which all hinted at the terrors lurking in a year that had witnessed the all-too-real peril of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate and Orson Welles's The Trial similarly reflected America's unease with itself, as did more visceral thrillers like J. Lee Thompson's Cape Fear and Blake Edwards's Experiment in Terror. Indeed, the sense that the nation was sleepwalking towards the precipice of a cavernous social crisis was also evident in such dramatic highlights of 1962 as Robert Mulligan's To Kill a Mockingbird, Sidney Lumet's Long Day's Journey into Night, Edward Dmytryk's Walk on the Wild Side, Blake Edwards's Days of Wine and Roses, John Huston's Freud, Arthur Penn's The Miracle Worker, and John Frankenheimer's Birdman of Alcatraz.

Disney provided some escapist innocence in Robert Stevenson's In Search of the Castaways, which was one of several films released in 1962 with a nautical theme. In Britain, Hammer's piratical duo, Peter Graham Scott's Captain Clegg and John Gilling's The Pirates of Blood River, were joined by Lewis Gilbert's HMS Defiant and Lewis Milestone's Mutiny on the Bounty, with the latter being lampooned in Gerald Thomas's Carry On Jack. The same director remained afloat in Carry On Cruising, while Kenneth More took to the waves in Wendy Toye's We Joined the Navy.

A still from Mix Me a Person (1962)
A still from Mix Me a Person (1962)

There were uniforms of a different kind on show in Michael Truman's Go to Blazes, Robert Asher's On the Beat, and John Guillermin's Waltz of the Toreadors. Peter Sellers emerged from the latter to play a womanising Welsh librarian in Sidney Gilliat's Only Two Can Play, while Hylda Baker essayed a working-class mother in Montgomery Tully's She Knows Y'Know. Despite their urban settings, this droll twosome could hardly be said to qualify as social realist, unlike such landmark kitchen sink sagas as John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving, Bryan Forbes's The L-Shaped Room, and Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner. Adapted from an Alan Sillitoe novel, the latter dealt with delinquency, along with Clive Donner's Some People, Sidney J. Furie's The Boys, and Leslie Norman's Mix Me a Person. But the grown-ups were the ones causing all the trouble with their unchecked passions in Stanley Kubrick's bold interpretation of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.

Jeanne Moreau brought a touch of continental mystique to Joseph Losey's Eva. But her finest performance of 1962 came opposite Henri Serre and Oskar Werner in François Truffaut's Jules et Jim. The nouvelle vague might have been starting to abate, but its auteuers were still producing work of the calibre of Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre sa vie, Agnès Varda's Cléo From 5 to 7, Serge Bourgignon's Sundays and Cybèle, and Chris Marker's seminal short, La Jetée. Some of their prime influencers were also proving enduringly inspirational, as can be seen in Robert Bresson's The Trial of Joan of Arc, Jean Renoir's The Vanishing Corporal, and Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Doulos.

Italian cinema was on its own upswing, with Pier Paolo Pasolini's Mamma Roma, Michelangelo Antonioni's The Eclipse, Bernardo Bertolucci's The Grim Reaper, and Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Guiliano all proclaiming the advent of a new screen renaissance. Fittingly, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli, and Luchino Visconti celebrated the buoyant mood with their contributions to the 1962 portmanteau, Boccaccio '70. Elsewhere in Europe, Andrei Tarkovsky's Ivan's Childhood and Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water announced the arrival of imposing talents from the Soviet Union and Poland, while Czech animator Karel Zeman indulged his whimisical side in The Fabulous Baron Munchausen.

The fantasy elements may have been more crudely achieved by putting actors in rubber suits in Ishiro Honda's King Kong vs Godzilla, but there was still a good deal of allegorical intelligence behind this creature feature. The same was true of the samurai duo of Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro and Masaki Kobayashi's Harakiri, while the concerns of an impoverished miner and a fretting father are explored with contrasting technical mastery in Hiroshi Teshigahara's Pitfall and Yasujiro Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon. And ending this overview of a year that could have culminated in an apocalyptic conflagration, it's perhaps fitting that we focus on humans reverting to their basest instincts during the dinner party descending into bestial chaos that's depicted in Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, which has lost none of its satirical savagery over the intervening 60 years.

A still from An Autumn Afternoon/A Hen in the Wind (1962)
A still from An Autumn Afternoon/A Hen in the Wind (1962)

So, we've done the easy bit in picking out the films from 1902-62 that are available to rent from Cinema Paradiso's extensive catalogue. Now. you have to do the tricky bit. Write and tell us your choice of the best films released in 1902, 1912, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1952, and 1962 - and we'll let you know how you all voted on our social media pages. Over to you...

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