Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Dashing Errol Flynn is the definitive Robin Hood in the most gloriously swashbuckling version of the legendary story. Warner Brothers reunited Michael Curtiz, their top-action director, with the winning team of Flynn and Olivia de Havilland (Maid Marian) and perennial villain Basil Rathbone as the aristocratic Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and pulled out all stops for the production. It became their costliest film to date, a grandly handsome, glowing Technicolor adventure set to a stirring, Oscar-winning score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The decadent Prince John (a smoothly conniving Claude Rains) takes advantage of King Richard's absence to tax the country into poverty but meets his match in the medieval guerrilla rebel Robin Hood and his Merry Men of Sherwood Forest, who rise up and, to quote a cliché coined by the film, "steal from the rich and give to the poor." Stocky Alan Hale Sr. plays Robin's loyal friend Little John (a part he played in Douglas Fairbanks's silent version), Eugene Palette the portly Friar Tuck, and Melville Cooper the bumbling Sheriff of Nottingham. Flynn's confidence and cocky charm makes for a perfect Robin Hood, and his easygoing manner is a marvelous counterpoint to Rathbone's regal bearing and courtly diction. The film climaxes in their rousing battle-to-the-finish sword fight, a magnificently choreographed scene highlighted by Curtiz's inventive use of shadows cast upon the castle walls. --Sean Axmaker Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) James Cagney thrills in a rare (and limber) song-and-dance performance as composer-entertainer George M. Cohan. This nostalgic biography is told in flashbacks, covering Cohan's formative years becoming Broadway's brightest star and touching upon his loves, musicals, and artistic triumphs. Director Michael Curtiz (The Adventures of Robin Hood) offers Cagney ample opportunities to invent an utterly charming performance in what is practically a one-man show. If you've never seen Cagney as a hoofer, you're in for a treat: his dancing is as dynamic as anything else he's ever done on screen. --Tom Keogh The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Ranked at No. 30 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 all-time greatest American films, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a genuine masterpiece that was, ironically, a box-office failure when released in 1948. At that time audiences didn't accept Humphrey Bogart in a role that was intentionally unappealing, but time has proven this to be one of Bogart's very best performances. It's a grand adventure and a superior character study built around the timeless themes of greed and moral corruption. As adapted by writer-director John Huston (from a novel by enigmatic author B. Traven) it became a definitive treatment of fate and futility in the obsessive pursuit of wealth. Bogart plays Fred C. Dobbs, a down-and-out wage-worker in Mexico who stakes his meager earnings on a gold-prospecting expedition to the Sierra mountains. He's joined by a grizzled old prospector (Walter Huston, the director's father) and a young, no-nonsense partner (Tim Holt), and when they strike a rich vein of gold, the movie becomes an observant study of wretched human behavior. Bogart is fiercely intense as his character grows increasingly paranoid and violent; Huston offers a compelling contrast as a weathered miner who's seen how gold can turn men into monsters. From its lively opening scenes (featuring young Robert Blake as a boy selling lottery tickets) to its final, devastating image of fateful irony, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre tells an unforgettable story of tragedy and truth. With dialogue that has been etched into the cultural consciousness (who can forget the Mexican bandit who snarls "I don't have to show you any stinking badges!") and well-earned Oscars for John and Walter Huston, this is an American classic that still packs a punch. --Jeff Shannon

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