Ten Best Christmas Movie Characters

Classic Christmas move characters include James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, Alastair Sim in Scrooge, Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street, Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story, Bing Crosby in White Christmas, Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut, Bob Hope in The Lemon Drop Kid, Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife and Jim Carrey in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The venerable Christmas movie is a longstanding tradition in Hollywood. The first holiday movie came in 1897 via the American Mutoscope Company's Night Before Christmas, an early, primitive silent effort set in an old country home where a mother and her young children hang their stockings over a huge fireplace in anticipation from a visit by St. Nick.

Here are ten classic Christmas movie characters and the actors who played them on the silver screen. We begin in Bedford Falls, New York...

James Stewart as George Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life (RKO, 1946)

James Stewart, making his first film in five years following his service with the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II, plays George Bailey. One Christmas Eve, the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan comes up $8,000 short, leading to a personal crisis for George, Bedford Falls' leading citizen. George's guardian angel-in-training Clarence (Henry Travers) shows up, giving the desperate, suicidal George a glimpse as to what life would be like in Bedford Falls had he, George, never been born. It's a Wonderful Life, which actually lost money during its initial release due to an inflated budget of over $3 million, is a slice of pure "Capracorn," with Stewart earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. "Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!" a jubilant George announces, racing through town near the end of the film.

Promotional still: James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge (United Artists, 1951)

Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol has been filmed numerous times through the years, both for the movies and television. In 1951, Alistair Sim delivered one of Hollywood's finest screen performances ever as the miserly Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. Scrooge's first encounter with the spirit of Jacob Marley (Michael Horden), his old business partner, is chilling, setting the spooky, supernatural stage for the entire picture. "Old Scrooge, played by Britain's distinguished and vastly beloved Alastair Sim, is precisely the dour and crabbed creature that he is in the memorable tale," opined Bosley Crowther of The New York Times (11/29/51).

Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street (20th Century-Fox, 1947)

Edmund Gwen plays Kris Kringle, a bearded, grandfatherly type who actually believes he's Santa Claus. Hired by Macy's as their department store Santa, Kris later runs into trouble with the mental health authorities, with lawyer Fred Gailey (John Payne) defending him in court. Gwen is a treasure as the irascible Mr. Kringle, earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his marvelous performance. "For the past 50 years or so I've been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we're all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle," Gwenn's Kringle tells a skeptical Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara).

Lobby card set: Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker, A Christmas Story (MGM, 1983)

Based on the 1966 short story collection In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by American humorist Jean Shepherd, A Christmas Story features Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker. Set in the early 1940s, all Ralphie wants for Christmas is "a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Lightning-Loader Range Model Air Rifle with a Shockproof High Adventure Combination Trail Compass and Sundial set right in the stock." Despite the usual caution from adults – "You'll shoot your eye out, kid," warns the department store Santa (Jeff Gillen) – Ralpie continues his quest to snare "the Holy Grail of Christmas Presents." Watch a fed-up Ralphie take on bully Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) in one of Hollywood's all-time kid fights.

Mini lobby card: Peter Billingsley as Ralphie Parker in A Christmas Story (1983)

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, White Christmas (Paramount, 1954)

Bing Crosby plays entertainer Bob Wallace in this Irving Berlin holiday spectacular. Along with fellow performers Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen), Bing and company head to a Vermont ski lodge for the holidays. The resort is owned by Bob and Phil's old commanding general (Dean Jagger), and has fallen on hard times due to lack of snow. Der Bingle has never been better in a musical, delivering with his cohorts a number of memorable tunes, including "Snow," "The Old Man," "What Can You Do with a General?", "Gee! I Wish I Was Back in the Army" and of course the monster holiday hit "White Christmas."

Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane, Christmas in Connecticut (Warner Bros., 1945)

Barbara Stanwyck gives a memorable performance as Elizabeth Lane, a magazine writer who paints a flattering picture of her "ideal" Connecticut home life in her columns. The trouble is Elizabeth is unmarried, lives alone in an apartment in New York City and garners her famous recipes from her chef friend Felix Bassenak (S.Z. Sakall), leading to problems when publisher Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) wants Elizabeth to host sailor Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) for the holidays. That leads to a mad dash to create the illusion of Miss Lane's domestic bliss, with Elizabeth using friend John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) as her husband, borrowing a neighbor's baby and setting up shop at Sloan's Connecticut farm.

One sheet movie poster: Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Henry F. Potter, It's a Wonderful Life (RKO, 1946)

Lionel Barrymore plays one of the meanest villains ever to grace a holiday picture. He's Mr. Henry F. Potter, the richest, most powerful man in the county who views tiny Bedford Falls as his personal fiefdom. Potter wants to own everything – whether by hook or crook – with only the struggling Bailey Bros. Building and Loan standing in his way. Old Man Potter is at his meanest when a desperate George Bailey (James Stewart), whose business is missing $8,000, comes to him for help. "Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me 'a warped, frustrated, old man!' What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds. Nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy. You're worth more dead than alive!" The evil Mr. Potter never did get his comeuppance in the movie, but in a hilarious Saturday Night Live skit the good citizens of Bedford Falls storm Potter's abode, meting out their own brand of justice with a vengeful George Bailey (Dana Carvey) leading the vigilantes.

Lobby card: Lionel Barrymore as Henry F. Potter, seated, with James Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Bob Hope as Sidney Melbourne, The Lemon Drop Kid (Paramount, 1951)

Bob Hope stars as Sidney Melbourne – a.k.a. "The Lemon Drop Kid" – in this charming remake of the original 1934 film. The Kid is a Florida racetrack tout who gives a bum tip to Stella (Andrea King), the girlfriend of mobster Moose Moran (Fred Clark). Moose now figures that the Kid owes him $10,000, but grudgingly gives him until Christmas – only 23 days away – to come up with the dough. The Kid returns to snowy New York where he embarks on various schemes to raise the cash, which includes the opening of the fraudulent Nellie Thursday Home for Old Dolls. This may well be one of Bob "Mr. USO" Hope's finest roles, with Marilyn Maxwell ably playing his dumb blonde gal pal Brainey Baxter. The holiday favorite "Silver Bells" made its debut in this picture.

Cary Grant as Dudley, The Bishop's Wife (RKO, 1947)

RKO once again employed the Christmas angel theme in 1947, one year after the release of It's a Wonderful Life. Suave, sophisticated Cary Gant plays Dudley, the heavenly messenger who assists Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) in the building of a new church. Dudley also engages the bishop's wife Julia (Loretta Young), who is feeling lonely and unappreciated during the holiday season. "Smoothly and with artful invention he [director Henry Koster] has induced Mr. Grant to give one of his most fluent and beguiling performances as the angel, 'Dudley,' who fixes things," reported Bosley Crowther of The New York Times (12/10/47).

One sheet movie poster style A: Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven in The Bishop's Wife (1947)

Jim Carrey as the Grinch, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal, 2000)  

Jim Carrey brings his unique talents to this $123 million holiday production, playing the evil Grinch in yet another screen version of the classic Dr. Seuss story. Carrey, all decked out in costume and elaborate green-tinted makeup, plays the role with vigor and manic expertise as the evildoer who tries to hijack Christmas. "Blast this Christmas music. It's joyful and triumphant," Carey's the Grinch remarks in one scene. Well, maybe the Grinch isn't all bad, after all?

Ten-Plus More Memorable Christmas Movie Characters

  • Tim Allen as Scott Calvin, The Santa Clause (1994) 
  • Thomas Mitchell as Uncle Billy Bailey, It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Monty Woolley as Professor Wutheridge, The Bishop's Wife (1947)
  • Bill Murray as Frank Cross, Scrooged (1988)
  • Darren McGavin as Mr. Parker a.k.a. The Old Man, A Christmas Story (1983)
  • John Call as Santa Claus, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
  • Harry Carey Sr. as George Melton, C. Aubrey Smith as Allan Chadwick and Charles Winninger as Michael O'Brien, Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
  • Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol (1938)
  • Bing Crosby as Jim Hardy and Fred Astaire as Ted Hanover, Holiday Inn (1942)
  • George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol (1984)

Lobby card: John Call as Santa Claus in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

Image Credits

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Lobby card: James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

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Ten Best Al Capone Movies

Al Capone movies are legendary in Hollywood. The Untouchables, Al Capone, Capone, Scarface, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, The Scarface Mob, Alcatraz Express, Frank Nitti: The Enforcer and Road to Perdition are the best Capone movies.

The notorious Al Capone (1899-1947) ruled the Chicago underworld during the Roaring Twenties. Big Al later ran afoul of the tax man in 1931, serving part of his seven-year prison stretch for income tax evasion at infamous Alcatraz Island. Capone died of complications from neurosyphilis at his Palm Island, Florida, home on January 25, 1947.

Here are ten movies featuring Al "Scarface" Capone that no film fan should ever miss. The screening room at the Lexington Hotel, Capone's old Chicago headquarters, is now open, with Geraldo Rivera as your genial host...

The Untouchables (Paramount, 1987)

Robert De Niro winningly plays Al Capone in this $20 million crime drama that also stars Kevin Costner as U.S. Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Set in 1930, the film is centered on Ness and his Untouchables, who work tirelessly to bring down the ruthless Capone and his criminal empire. One of the most memorable scenes – and certainly an extremely violent one at that – takes place at a gangster banquet where a baseball bat wielding Capone brutally eliminates one of his fellow mobsters who failed to protect a liquor warehouse from the police. The baseball loving Al didn't appreciate his own "players" exhibiting individualism over teamwork – as the bloody result so graphically illustrates.

Director: Brian De Palma

Review: "As Capone, De Niro's going for a broad, theatrical style of acting. He creates a satire on the idea of Capone. With his chest puffed out in front of him, he's a petty despot – Il Duce in spats. But because the crime boss is supposed to represent the force of evil in the film, the absence of any real violence in his characterization is a crucial miscalculation." - Hal Hinson, The Washington Post (6/3/87)

On DVD: The Untouchables Special Collector's Edition (Paramount, 2004)

One sheet movie poster: The Untouchables (1987)

Al Capone (Allied Artists, 1959)

Rod Steiger has the title role of Alphonse Gabriel Capone, charting his rise from New York City transplant to unchallenged czar of the Chicago underworld. Fay Spain plays Maureen Flannery, Capone's love interest and the widow of a man he murdered, with Nehemiah Persoff as Johnny Torrio, Murvyn Vie as George "Bugs" Moran, Robert Gist as Dion O'Banion and Joe De Santis as Big Jim Colosimo. Steiger excels in the "Scarface" role, effectively capturing the gangster's many moods, from violent hoodlum to charming benefactor. The final scene, in which the big shot Capone is attacked while an inmate at Alcatraz, serves as the movie's crowning sense of justice.

Director: Richard Wilson

Review: "A tough, ruthless and generally unsentimental account of the most notorious gangster of the prohibition-repeal era, Al Capone is also a very well-made picture. There isn't much 'motivation' given for Capone, at least not in the usual sense. But the screenplay does supply reasons and they are more logical than the usual once-over-lightly on the warped youth bit." - Variety (1959)

On DVD: Al Capone (Warner Bros., 2009)

Rod Steiger in Al Capone (1959)

Capone (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975)

Ben Gazzara enters the gangster cinematic sweepstakes, ably playing Al Capone in this somewhat forgotten entry from the Gerald Ford era. Susan Blakely plays Iris Crawford, Capone's main fictional squeeze. "There should be a law against women drinking," Capone tells Iris. "Well, I think there is," Iris smugly replies, correctly referring to the 18th Amendment that ushered in Prohibition. A parade of actors portray real-life gangsters, including Sylvester Stallone as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Harry Guardino as Johnny Torrio, John Cassavetes as Frankie Yale, Frank Campanella as Big Jim Colosimo, John Orchard as Dion O'Banion, Carmen Argenziano as Machine Gun Jack McGurn and John Davis Chandler as Hymie Weiss. Don't look to Capone for the historical facts – Frank Nitti, for example, is seen giving the eulogy at Big Al's funeral despite having died four years earlier. But for a good, violent gangster romp, Capone may just fit the bill, pallie.

Director: Steve Carver

Review: "Sad to say, 'Capone' isn't much fun. There's one good laugh and a lot of violence. And if you're ready for it, there is even a brief outdoor love scene in which Al Capone and his new girl friend run dreamily past soft-focus trees and flowers...But too much of the movie is devoted to a deadingly repetitious series of scenes in which men in overcoats drive up in cars and machine gun gangsters coming out of restaurants." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (4/18/75)

On DVD: Capone (Fox, 2006)

Lobby card: Ben Gazzara and Susan Blakely in Capone (1975)

Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (United Artists, 1932)

Paul Muni plays Antonio "Tony" Camonte, an extremely violent hood who claws his way to the top of the underworld. The principal character may be Antonio Camonte, but there's little doubt as to who producers had in mind when they filmed this baby during the Great Depression. Mr. Camonte shares the same initials with one Alphonse Capone, who was about to depart to the big house to serve an eleven-year sentence for income tax evasion upon the movie's release on April 9, 1932. Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins, C. Henry Gordon, George Raft and Boris Karloff appear in supporting roles. It's an over-the-top performance by Muni, featuring prominent use of the Thompson submachine gun – a.k.a. "tommy gun," "bean shooter" and "Chicago typewriter." Two of Capone's thugs visited the film's screenwriter Ben Hecht in Los Angeles, demanding to know if the movie was about their boss. When told that it wasn't, they were still curious as to why the picture was titled Scarface. "If you call the movie Scarface, people will think it's about Capone and come to see it. It's part of the racket we call show business," Hecht informed the two torpedoes. Satisfied, the bent noses left the hotel. 

Director: Howard Hawks

Review: "The slaughter in 'Scarface, the Shame of a Nation,' the Howard Hughes gangster production which was launched yesterday at the Rialto, is like that of a Shakespearean tragedy, for after the smoke of machine guns and pineapple bombs has blown away and the leading killer has gone to his death on the gallows, the only one of a group of principal characters left is a blonde with carefully plucked eyebrows—she who had been the mistress of two underworld giants." - Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times (5/20/32).

On DVD: Scarface (United Artists, 2007)

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1967)

The infamous February 14, 1929, St. Valentine's Day Massacre garners the Hollywood treatment in this heavy-handed film presented in docudrama fashion. Jason Robards Jr. plays a swaggering, Irish-looking Al Capone, who orders the bloody hit on Bugs Moran's North Side Gang. A fine supporting cast appears, with George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Jean Hale, Clint Ritchie, Frank Silvera, Joseph Campanella and Bruce Dern filling the ranks of gangsterhood. When a newspaper reporter suggests that maybe cops were responsible for the massacre, Bugs Moran (Meeker) replies, "You must be new to this town, mister. Only Al Capone kills like that." Look for bit player Jack Nicholson, who appears as a gangster named Gino.  

Director: Roger Corman

Review: "The only theatrical value and commercial purpose of this luridly publicized picture, which opened at the Warner and the 68th Street Playhouse yesterday, appear to me to be the callous horror and the morbid fascination of the terminal scene, in which those seven members of the Moran gang are trapped and mowed down by Capone machine-gunners in a North Side garage. For those who like blood and twitching bodies, there is plenty of that in this scene." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (7/27/67)

On DVD: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2006)

One sheet movie poster: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)

The Scarface Mob (Desilu, 1959)

The Scarface Mob is actually a compilation of ABC-TV's The Untouchables (1959-63) two-part pilot episode, which was first telecast via the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse on April 20 and 27, 1959, with host Desi Arnaz introducing each segment. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1960-62. Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his band of Untouchables move in on the Capone gang, hoping to crush Big Al's hold on the Chicago underworld. Neville Brand portrays a sneering Al "Scarface" Capone, with Bruce Gordon as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. Also appearing are Keenan Wynn, Pat Crowley, Barbara Nichols, Bill Williams, Joe Mantell, Peter Leeds, Robert Osterloh and Paul Picerni. One scene proved to be particularly racy, at least for 1950s television, whereby several Capone thugs pay a visit to Ness' innocent girlfriend Betty Anderson (Pat Crowley), breaking into her apartment, ripping open her blouse and leering at the "merchandise." I Love Lucy this wasn't.

Director: Phil Karlson

Review: "Originally the opening installments in the TV series, this crime drama of the Aspirin age still looks pretty good in feature form." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)

On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 1, Vol. 1, includes feature movie version of the pilot a.k.a. The Scarface Mob (Paramount, 2007)

One sheet movie poster: The Scarface Mob (1962)

Alcatraz Express (Desilu, 1961)

Alcatraz Express is the feature-length version of the two-part The Untouchables episode "The Big Train," first telecast over ABC-TV on January 5 and 12, 1961. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1962. With Walter Winchell providing the snappy narration, Alcatraz Express opens in 1931, with Al Capone (Neville Brand) having been convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to an eleven-year prison stretch at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Capone's cash bribes have made his stay in the Atlanta pen pretty comfortable, but when it becomes known that Big Al and other top name criminals are now headed to Alcatraz, the Chicago gangster and his mob conspire to spring him loose during the train journey. The old Untouchables gang is here, with Robert Stack as the tight-lipped Eliot Ness, Abel Fernandez as Agent William Longfellow, Nicholas Georgiade as Agent Enrico Rossi, Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman and Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson. Bruce Gordon plays Frank Nitti and Gavin MacLeod appears as gangster Three-Fingered Jack White. Watch Ness and his boys engage in a Wild West shootout with mobsters in a small desert town.

Director: John Peyser

Review: "It still looks like a TV show, but manages to whip up a good amount of suspense." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)

On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 2, Vol. 1, includes the original two-part episode "The Big Train" (Paramount, 2008)

Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (ABC-TV, 1988)

This made-for-TV movie stars Anthony LaPaglia as Frank Nitti (1881-1943), one of Al Capone's top lieutenants and the front man for the Chicago Outfit. Like his boss, Nitti was later found guilty of tax evasion and sent to infamous Alcatraz Island for a little 18-month government-sponsored "vacation." Vincent Guastaferro plays Capone, with Trini Alvarado, Michael Moriarty, Michael Russo, Hank Azaria and Bruce Kirby in support. LaPaglia as the feared "Enforcer", lights up the small screen, with Guastaferro's Scarface appearing as second banana.

Director: Michael Switzer

Review: "Al Capone may be the most famous Chicago mobster, but his successor, Frank 'The Enforcer' Nitti (Anthony LaPaglia), was just as ruthless. This biopic goes to great lengths to accurately trace Nitti's rise to the top of the Windy City's underworld, amid corruption, betrayal and violence. The result is an engrossing glimpse into mob life in the early 20th century." - TV Guide (2009)

On DVD: Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (Direct Source, 2006)

Road to Perdition (DreamWorks, 2002)

Good ol' Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan Sr., a hit man for the Chicago Irish mob seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and youngest son. Anthony LaPaglia plays Al Capone, whose single scene was axed in the final cut. In the subsequent DVD, however, the sequence was restored in the deleted scenes section. Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law and Stanley Tucci also appear in this classic gangster tale with plenty of bleak, film noir atmosphere.

Director: Sam Mendes  

Review: "Filmed in a harsh winter of rain, snow and chilling darkness, Road will be long remembered for the artistry of cinematographer Conrad Hall. There are breathtaking scenes of shootouts and bank robberies, complimented by Thomas Newman's evocative score." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (8/1/02)

On DVD: Road to Perdition Widescreen Edition (Universal, 2003)

One sheet movie poster: Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition (2002)

The Untouchables (Paramount Television, 1993-94)

This syndicated television series stars Tom Amandes as fabled Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Appearing in 15 episodes is William Forsythe, who plays the role of Al Capone with hot-headed, tommy gun relish. The series wrapped up its two-season, 42-episode run with the two-part segment "Death and Taxes," telecast on May 15 and 22, 1994, with Forsythe's Big Al eventually running afoul of both. Also look for Paul Regina as a sinister Frank Nitti in 15 episodes.  

Director: Tucker Gates, Vern Gillum, Charles Robert Carner, Steve De Jarnatt, Eric Laneuville, et al.

Review: "First installment in Paramount's latest attempt to mine the 'Untouchables' cash cow looks great, sounds trite. Figuratively speaking, at least, it's a return to black-and-white television. Problems may be that the story of Eliot Ness and Al Capone has been told so often, it's already part of the national consciousness." - Todd Everett, Variety (1/12/93)

On DVD: Not commercially available

The Untouchables: Capone Rising

  • The Untouchables: Capone Rising, a prequel to the 1987 Brian De Palma movie, is now in pre-production. Nicolas Cage, slated to play Capone, had earlier withdrawn from the film.

Images Credit

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: Rod Steiger as Al Capone (1959)

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Ten Best Big Band Movies

Big band movies are great entertainment. New York New York, The Glenn Miller Story, The Fabulous Dorseys, Orchestra Wives, The Benny Goodman Story, Hollywood Hotel, The Gene Krupa Story, Las Vegas Nights, Reveille with Beverly and Swing Kids are the top swing music films.

The heyday of the big band era of the 1930s and '40s was a special time in music history. Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Xavier Cugat and the Dorsey Brothers were just some of the big name swing artists leading the charge.

Here are ten big band movies that no fan of swing music should ever miss. Are you "In the Mood?"

New York, New York (United Artists, 1977)

Robert De Niro plays fictional bandleader Jimmy Doyle, who after V-J Day in 1945 forms his own orchestra. Joining the temperamental Jimmy in the band is his talented girlfriend/wife Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli), with the two carrying on their rocky romance amidst the constant travel, petty jealousies and artistic clashes of their entourage. Robert De Niro, the consummate method actor, learned to play the saxophone for his role as the egotistical, womanizing Jimmy.

Liza Minnelli as the perky girl singer Francine, of course, was already set in the music department from day one, with her rousing rendition of "New York, New York" one of the picture's true highlights. There are plenty of big band tunes in this one, including Tommy Dorsey's "Song of India," which kicks off the movie at a raucous New York nightclub where boozy, delirious patrons are celebrating the end of World War II.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Review: "The movie's a vast, rambling, nostalgic expedition back into the big band era, and a celebration of the considerable talents of Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (6/23/77)

On DVD: New York, New York Special Edition (MGM, 2005)

Insert movie poster: New York, New York (1977)

The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 1954)

James Stewart has the title role of Alton Glenn Miller (1904-1944), the fabled big band leader whose plane went missing over the English Channel in December 1944. There's more Hollywood hokum than actual Miller biography in this film, but the performances and especially the music will surely entertain both Glenn Miller and big band fans. June Allyson plays Helen Berger Miller, with a toothy Harry Morgan as Chummy MacGregor and Charles Drake as Don Haynes. Many of the Glenn Miller standards are here, including such gems as "String of Pearls," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "In the Mood," "Tuxedo Junction," "At Last" and of course the band's signature song "Moonlight Serenade."

Director: Anthony Mann

Review: "Sweet is the word the modern swingsters would apply to the type of music played in the Thirties and early Forties by the late Glenn Miller and his band. And that is the word, beyond question, for the picture that has been made by Universal-International about the bandsman, his wife, his music and career." - Bosley Crwother, The New York Times (2/11/54)

On DVD: The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 2003)

One sheet movie poster: The Glenn Miller Story (1954)

The Fabulous Dorseys (United Artists, 1947)

Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey suspended their sibling feud long enough to play themselves in this big band Hollywood biopic, with Janet Blair and William Lundegan in key supporting roles. Look for an impressive contingent of other big band artists, including Paul Whiteman, Charlie Barnet, Bob Eberly, Henry Busse, Helen O'Connell, Mike Pingatore, Stuart Foster, Art Tatum, Ray Bauduc and Ziggy Elman. The Fabulous Dorseys serves up such big band standards as "Tangerine," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Green Eyes," all of which make up for the movie's weak storyline and the Dorsey Bros', mediocre acting.

Director: Alfred E. Green 

Review: "Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey are topnotch popular band leaders. That much we knew before seeing the story of their battling career acted out yesterday on the screen at Loew's State in 'The Fabulous Dorseys.' The picture naturally stresses their musicianship, with the result that Tommy's trombone and Jimmy's saxophone stand out from the dialogue, which is just as well. Whether the film is a fairly accurate account of their rise from humble beginnings we don't pretend to know, but it seems they were always scrapping as kids and the passing of years did not cool their tempers any." Bosley Crowther and Thomas M. Pryor, The New York Times (5/30/47)

On DVD: The Fabulous Dorseys (Quantum Leap, 2004)

Lobby card: The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)

Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1942)

George Montgomery stars as Bill Abbot, a trumpeter for the fictional Gene Morrison Orchestra, with Ann Rutherford as his romantic interest. As the title implies, the plot centers on the musicians and their bickering wives, the latter of whom almost tear the band apart. Glenn Miller plays bandleader Gene Morrison, with the rest of the Miller orchestra plus the Modernaires (Tex Beneke, Johnny Best, Ray Eberle, Billy May, Al Klink, Marion Hutton, Skippy Martin, Paul Tanner, Bobby Hackett, Ralph Brewster, et al.) along for the Hollywood party.

Glenn Miller and his band had arrived by train in Hollywood on March 17, 1942, beginning work on Orchestra Wives six days later. Johnny Best performed the trumpet work for George Montgomery while Chummy MacGregor tickled the ivories for Cesar Romero. Later, Ray Eberle quit the band, saying that Glenn Miller had failed to pay him for his appearance in Orchestra Wives, with Miller claiming that Eberle's contract hadn't called for any extra compensation for doing the picture. Orchestra Wives opened on September 4, 1942, featuring such Miller hits as "At Last," "Serenade in Blue," "(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Moonlight Serenade."

Director: Archie Mayo

Review: "Hep cats and other such fauna who are 'sent' by Glenn Miller's honeyed swing will be the most likely recipients of Twentieth Century-Fox's 'Orchestra Wives,' which was wafted into the Roxy on wings of song and little else yesterday. For once more the Hollywood tailors have draped the shivering shoulders of a popular band with a trifling little story which is as ridiculous as a zoot suit and has no more shape or distinction than one of those forbidden garbs. Mr. Miller and his assorted virtuosos are killers when it comes to making jive, but it takes more than wind and willingness to support a ninety-seven-minute film." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (9/24/42)

On DVD: Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005)

Three sheet movie poster: Orchestra Wives (1942)

The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 1956)

Steve Allen has the title role of Benny Goodman (1909-1986) – a.k.a. the vaunted "King of Swing" – in this spirited Hollywood biopic. Donna Reed plays Alice Hammond and Berta Gersten appears as Mama Goodman, with cameos from musicians Harry James, Ben Pollack, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Ziggy Elman, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and vocalist Martha Tilton. Although Steve Allen was already an accomplished musician and songwriter, the comic/actor/television host had to take instruction from Sol Yaged in order to convincingly mime the clarinet for the cameras.

Universal paid Benny Goodman $25,000 for the movie rights to his story, with Goodman also collecting another $10,000 for his role as consultant and for his musical contributions to the soundtrack. The movie, which chronicles the life of Goodman from age nine up to his historic 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, features plenty of tunes, including "Let's Dance," "Goody, Goody," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "And the Angels Sing," "One O'Clock Jump," "Avalon," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Don't Be That Way" and "Moonglow."

Director: Valentine Davies

Review: "Benny Goodman's swing music is so much a part of the familiar sounds of our times that just to hear it as Benny and his bandsmen used to play—and still do—is an experience of multiple charms...It's this music, delivered in abundance and in the genuine Goodman style, that makes the movie, 'The Benny Goodman Story,' at all worth going to see...Steve Allen, the TV actor who makes his screen debut in the role of the fictitious Goodman...is so tense and taciturn—or so timid and temperate—that the only personality he projects is that of an amiable wallflower. It isn't Benny—and it isn't good. Mr. Allen has picked a fine way to crimp his popularity on TV." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (2/22/56)

On DVD: The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 2003)

Half sheet movie poster style B: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)

Hollywood Hotel (Warner Bros., 1937)

Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane and Lola Lane head the cast of this wacky musical comedy, with Powell playing Ronny Bowers, a saxophonist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra who wins a ten-week movie contract with Miracle Pictures in Hollywood. The big attraction in the film of course is Benny Goodman, whose clarinet wails as he leads his orchestra in such spirited tunes as "Hooray for Hollywood," "California Here I Come," "Let That Be a Lesson to You" and "Sing, Sing, Sing." Look for Goodman band members vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, drummer Gene Krupa and trumpeter Harry James. Raymond Paige and His Orchestra also appear, along with Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons, Hugh Herbert, Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell and Frances Langford.

Director: Busby Berkeley

Review: "Hollywood Hotel is a smash musical entertainment, with a lively and amusing story and some popular song numbers." - Variety (1937)

On DVD: Hollywood Hotel (Warner, 2008)

One sheet movie poster: Hollywood Hotel (1937)

The Gene Krupa Story (Columbia, 1959)

Sal Mineo has the title role of Gene Krupa (1909-1973), the popular jazz/swing drummer who plied his talents for such bandleaders as Red Nichols and Benny Goodman, later forming his own orchestra in 1938. Susan Kohner, James Darren and Susan Oliver also appear, with Red Nichols, singer Anita O'Day and comic Buddy Lester playing themselves. The movie candidly delves into Krupa's struggle with alcohol, drugs and fame, but on the whole Hollywood "artistic license" appears to be the order of the day. Gene Krupa himself provided the off-screen drumming, and one can't help but admire his immense talent playing the skins. Among the featured tunes are "Cherokee," "Memories of You" and "Royal Garden Blues."

Director: Don Weis

Review: "Columbia's film biography of the king of hot jazz drummers arrived yesterday at the Forum with Sal Mineo in the title role, some dandy musical sequences and a plot that, however authentic, plays like a familiar success story. As we meet the gifted Mr. Krupa here he is an out-of-town lad who conquers the jazz world, makes a bad mistake and finally comes back from oblivion to the right girl and the big tune." - Howard Thompson, The New York Times (12/26/59)

On DVD: The Gene Krupa Story (Sony, 2004)

Lobby card set: The Gene Krupa Story (1959)

Las Vegas Nights (Paramount, 1941)

Constance Moore, Bert Wheeler and Phil Regan head the cast of this musical, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Pied Pipers as the principal attractions. Frank Sinatra fans can view an uncredited Ol' Blue Eyes in his motion picture debut (earning $15 a day for the effort), singing his dreamy version of "I'll Never Smile Again" as a vocalist for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The Dorsey band also performs "Song of India," "The Trombone Man Is the Best in the Land" (with a manic drum solo by Buddy Rich), "Shadow Waltz," "On Miami Shore," "Dolores" and "Cocktails for Two." The movie's storyline involves an old vaudeville act who purchases a decrepit building and tries to turn it into a swinging nightclub, but watch this one for the big band music.

Director: Ralph Murphy

Review: "On account of Tommy Dorsey and his band being hopefully but vainly involved, there may be some mild jitterbug interest in Paramount's 'Las Vegas Nights,' which settled heavily upon the screen of the Paramount Theatre yesterday. But from every other possible source of friendship, its expectation of favor is virtually nil. For there is precious little humor, little life, little anything save an excess of dullness in this labored musical show about a troupe of indigent entertainers adrift in the Nevada gambling town." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, (3/20/41)

On DVD: Not commercially available

One sheet movie poster: Las Vegas Nights (1941)

Reveille with Beverly (Columbia, 1943)

Ann Miller stars as Beverly Ross, the spunky host of an AM radio show that caters to servicemen, with William Wright, Dick Purcell, Franklin Pangborn and Larry Parks also on board. Get set for big band/pop music in this baby, with appearances by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra ("Take the 'A' Train"), Bob Crosby and His Orchestra ("Big Noise from Winnetka"), Count Basie and His Orchestra ("One O'Clock Jump"), Frank Sinatra ("Night and Day"), the Mills Brothers ("Sweet Lucy Brown"), Freddie Slack and His Orchestra featuring Ella Mae Morse ("Cow-Cow Boogie") and the Radio Rogues ("Wabash Moon"). Made for $400,000, Reveille with Beverly was a big box office hit, particularly with the troops, raking in over $2 million. Look for Ann Miller's big, spectacular "Thumbs Up and V for Victory" number.

Director: Charles Barton

Review: "'Reveille With Beverly' opened with a thud yesterday at the Abbey. Dedicated to the hepcat element, which seemed to have stayed away in large numbers, it is a cheerless series of musical numbers strung together with a tired little story guaranteed to produce a severe case of ennui in record-breaking time. One by one, between smiles by Ann Miller, Duke Ellington, Bob Crosby, Count Basie and Freddie Slack stand up to wave their batons over some noisy demonstrations which resemble nothing so much as the left-over numbers from some old musical short subjects." - Theodore Strauss, The New York Times (4/24/43) 

On DVD: Reveille with Beverly (MarsRising, 2010)

One sheet movie poster: Reveille with Beverly (1943)

Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 1993)

The sleeper in the genre, Swing Kids stars Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale as teenagers in 1939 Nazi Germany who use banned American swing music as a form of rebellion. Also in the cast are Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey, Tushka Bergen, David Tom and Noah Wyle. Swing Kids' soundtrack is loaded with big band tunes, including "Bugle Call Rag" (Benny Goodman), "Taint What You Do (It's the Way That Cha Do It)" (Jimmie Lunceford), "Harlem" (Teddy Foster) and "Goodnight, My Love" (Benny Goodman). "No one who likes swing can become a Nazi," Frank Whaley's Arvid proclaims. What a wonderful thought...

Director: Thomas Carter

Review: "'Swing Kids' is a bad idea whose time has not come. It's 'Cabaret' as Col. Klink might have envisioned it, a nutty anti-Nazi a go-go for teenagers, set to American music... 'Swing Kids' is another daft idea from Disney on the order of 'Alive,' the movie about really bad airline food. It's a moralistic muddle with only one message: If Disney wants to make movies about Germans, it should restrict its efforts to German shepherds." - Rita Kempley, Washington Post (3/5/93)

On DVD: Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 2002)

Ten More Big Band Movie Favorites

  • Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
  • Dancing Co-Ed (1939)
  • That's Right - You're Wrong (1939)
  • Hi-De-Ho (1947)
  • Hollywood Canteen (1944)
  • Birth of the Blues (1941)
  • Beat the Band (1947)
  • Thousands Cheer (1943)
  • Hi, Good Lookin'! (1944)
  • Best Foot Forward (1943)

Movie herald: Sun Valley Serenade (1941)

Images Credit

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)

Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973): Movie Trivia & Fun Facts

Papillon (1973) is one of Hollywood's greatest adventure movies. Amazing Papillon movie trivia and fun facts encompass Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Zerbe, Henri Charriere, Franklin J. Schaffner, Devil's Island, French Guiana, Louis Dega and Ali MacGraw.

Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon thrilled movie audiences in 1973. Steve McQueen has the title role, playing a resourceful prisoner who mounts several escape attempts from the brutal French Guiana penal institution better known as Devil's Island. Here are 21 amazing Papillon movie trivia items and fun facts...

1. Papillon is based on the 1969 book of the same name by Henri Charriere (1906-1973). Known as Papillon ("the Butterfly") in the Parisian underworld, Charriere had been sent to French Guiana in 1931 following his conviction for the murder of a pimp. Charriere had always maintained his innocence, and later made his successful escape from French Guiana in 1945.

Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973) - Heritage Auctions

2. Henri Charriere had begun writing his memoirs in July 1967. By early 1968, he had completed his work, written in longhand and housed in 13 spiral notebooks. The manuscript was then typed by several volunteers in Venezuela, where Charriere was now a citizen, and mailed to Paris literary agent Jean-Pierre Castelnau. In June 1970, Papillon was published in France by Robert Laffont, eventually becoming an international bestseller.

3. Charriere's memoirs have always been suspect, with many charging his book is largely fiction. One doubter was Papillon director Franklin J. Schaffner, as quoted by actor Don Gordon: "Schaffner told me that he never believed half the things he (Papillon) said in the book, that Charriere was a lying son-of-a-bitch."

4. The movie rights to Papillon were purchased by European producer Robert Dorfmann for $600,000. Dorfmann had originally envisioned French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role.

5. Steve McQueen was very wary when approached to play Papillon, changing his mind several times. Finally, McQueen consented to do the movie at a salary of $1.75 million (later upped to an even $2 million) along with a hefty percentage of the movie's gross.

6. Franklin J. Schaffner, who had won an Academy Award for the World War II epic Patton (1970), collected a salary of $750,000 for his services on Papillon.

7. Dustin Hoffman had caught wind of Papillon and was looking for a serious role in the production. Since no significant role existed at the time for Hoffman, producers basically created the co-starring role of Louis Dega, the frail, bespectacled counterfeiter of National Defense Bonds Series 1928. The consummate professional, Hoffman immersed himself in the history of French Guiana's penal colonies, reading everything he could find in the New York Public Library. Hoffman earned $1.25 million for Papillon.

8. Papillon proved to be a bear to make, initially budgeted at $4 million but eventually escalating to $14 million. Raising additional cash proved to be a problem. Don Gordon, a friend of Steve McQueen who plays Julot in the film, later recalled: "From what I understand, the producer would take a couple of reels of film, get on an airplane, go back to France, show them the reels of film, get money, get back on an airplane, and bring it back on a lease."

9. Producers had originally wanted to film Papillon in French Guiana, where the infamous prison had once stood. That idea, however, was quickly abandoned when it was discovered that many of the original buildings were either in ruins or had been reclaimed by the jungle.

10. Honduras, Guatemala and the Cayman Islands were all considered as location shoots. Winning out in the end, however, were Spain and Jamaica. An actual replica of the original prison at French Guiana was constructed in Spain. Visiting the set one day was the real Papillon – Henri Charriere. Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen's girlfriend (and later wife), was present on that day, and later described Charriere as "quite a charming character, but with a huge ego." Charriere died in Madrid on July 29, 1973, and never viewed the final print of Papillon.

11. Steve McQueen shut down the production for five days when he learned that other cast and crew weren't receiving their per diem living expenses, like himself and Dustin Hoffman were. The shutdown cost producers $250,000.

12. That's Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman actually wrestling a crocodile in the movie, "shot" by Vic Tayback who plays a guard. The "wounded" 22-foot croc used in the scene had been temporarily drugged with its deadly jaws wired shut. McQueen jumps on first, followed by a wary Hoffman.

13. Steve McQueen's love for Red Stripe Jamaican beer proved to be a problem. In order to mask the actor's weight gain, costumer Kent James outfitted McQueen in bigger and baggier prison clothes.

14. Papillon begins in a French prison yard populated by naked convicts, where screenwriter Dalton Trumbo plays the stern commandant, launching into his speech: "As of this moment, you are the property of the Penal Administration, French Guiana. After serving your full terms in prison, those of you with sentences of eight years or more, will remain in Guiana as workers and colonists, for a period equal to that of your original sentences. As for France, the nation has disposed of you. France has rid herself of you altogether. Forget France, and put your clothes on." The scene was actually shot at a school yard in Las Matas near Madrid, Spain.

15. Memorable scene: The assembled convicts are marched through the cobbled streets (not in France, as depicted, but actually in Fuenterrabia, Guipuzcoa, just across the border in the Span­ish Basque country) in a long procession down to the harbor, guarded at all times – both front and back – by soldiers and policemen with drawn, bayoneted rifles. "You'll' be back, Papillon. Don't worry. You'll be back," a well-dressed woman calls out. "No, you won't," answers Julot softly as he marches to the right of Papillon.   

16. Newly arrived on French Guiana, Dega bribes a trustee 2,000 francs so that he and Papillon can remain on Saint Laurent and given easy jobs. A guard hears Dega's name mentioned, introduces himself and states that his family lost everything in Dega's National Defense Bonds forgery scheme. He then assigns both Dega and Papillon to Kilo 40, a brutal work camp where cons cut and move logs in crocodile-infested waters.

17. On his first escape attempt, Papillon is sent to Reclusion on Saint Joseph, where the policy is total silence. Here he endures two years in solitary confinement in cell #234.

18. Anthony Zerbe plays Toussaint the Leper Chieftain. On Pigeon Island, the hideously deformed Toussaint offers Papillon a puff on his cigar, which the escaped con accepts. "How did you know I have dry leprosy, that it isn't contagious?" an amused Toussaint queries. "I didn't," Papillon replies.

19. Papillon debuted on December 16, 1973. Reported Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice: "Schaffner has really made an exhilarating movie out of the most dangerously depressing material."

20. Papillon was a hit, grossing $22.5 million at the American box office, earning the #4 position on the list of the top moneymaking movies of 1973.

21. The film ends with the narration: "Papillon made it to freedom. And for the remaining years of his life, he lived a free man. This, the infamous penal system in French Guiana, did not survive him."

Additional Reading & Top Image 

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner

Himala (1982): Movie Review

Himala is one of the best Filipino films ever created. It was released during the period considered as the second golden age of Philippine movies. It was a tremendous critical and commercial success. The film premiered at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival where it swept 9 out of 11 awards including Best Actress for Nora Aunor, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. It also bagged awards in the 1982 Catholic Mass Media Award. In the international scene, the film was awarded with the Bronze Hugo prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival. It also became the first and to date, the only Filipino film to be included in the “Competition Section” of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.

Himala (“Miracle”) is a Filipino film directed by the late Philippine National Artist Ishmael Bernal in 1982. Written by multi-award winner screenwriter Ricky Lee, the movie is based on a true incident of a teenage girl in Cabra Island in the province of Occidental Mindoro between 1966 and 1967. The movie’s heroine is played by Philippine superstar Nora Aunor whose portrayal of Elsa is considered by most Filipino critics as the best of her career.

Plot. The movie is set in the small arid town of Cupang. The people believes that the drought they are experiencing is the product of a curse placed upon the town for driving away a leper years before.

During a solar eclipse, a local young woman named Elsa claims to see an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a barren hill. Elsa then begins healing local residents and creates her “Seven Apostles” which includes her friends Chayong and Sepa and entrepreneur Mrs. Alba. Her miracle healing spreads around and soon pilgrims and tourists start arriving in Cupang to visit Elsa. Elsa’s house bears a big sign “Elsa loves you”. Because of the influx of tourists and patients, business in the town booms as people sell religious articles and offer accommodation. Around the same time, Elsa’s childhood friend Nimia, now a prostitute, returns and establishes a nightclub for foreign tourists, which is later ordered closed by the Seven Apostles.

Orly, a filmmaker, also arrives in Cupang to make a documentary about Elsa. One day, Orly confesses to the town’s Catholic priest that he has seen two drugged youths rape Elsa and Chayong on the hill. He holds a heavy guilt because he just filmed the incident instead of helping the two victims. Later, Chayong hangs herself because of shame, though what happened to her and Elsa was never revealed to the townspeople.

A cholera epidemic soon inflicts the people of Cupang and many have died including the children of Sepa. Elsa blames herself and stops healing; the authorities also quarantine her house.

Elsa then stars to show signs of pregnancy. Mrs. Alba then concludes that it is “Immaculate Conception” and proclaims Elsa to be truly blessed. As the same moment, thunders roar and a heavy downpour wets the dry landscape of Cupang. The people rejoice and are convinced that the curse has been lifted and that Elsa’s miracles have come back. Mrs. Alba and the people rush to Elsa’s house and called her out. Elsa then commands her followers to call everyone to assemble on the hill.

The sick, tourists, foreigners, media men and businessmen gather on the hill. In front of her congregation, Elsa finally professes that everything has been a lie – that there are no miracles, no sightings of the Virgin Mary, and the miracles that happened are only products of their invention. In the middle of her speech, a gun fires and hit Elsa in the chest. A stampede ensues, throwing everyone into a mass hysteria and many are badly injured.

Elsa breathes her last while Orly and other reporters capture her dying moments. The crowd cries and gravitates toward her after her death is announced. Her followers lift her lifeless body overhead, in a crucifix position, and take her to a waiting ambulance. The crowd wails more as they touch her body. Sepa then proclaims to the crowd that Elsa is a saint, a martyr for the world’s suffering. She leads the congregation in praying the Hail Mary on their knees going up the hill as the ambulance carrying Elsa drives away.

Watch "Himala" movie trailer here.

Commentary. Himala, for me, is one of the best Filipino films ever created. It was released during the period considered as the second golden age of Philippine movies. It was a tremendous critical and commercial success. Its achievement can be attributed to three main factors – its technical aspects, the lead actress Nora Aunor, and the storyline.

French-trained director Ishmael Bernal masterfully produced Himala using long single-shots. Right from the start, Bernal has created a perfect setting for the film. He portrayed here a Third World rural life against a backdrop of superstitious and fanatic small sleepy community. The movie opens in a depressing darkness of an eclipse which sets the tone of the movie’s supernatural theme. Bernal then slowly infuses the harsh realities and ugliness of backward village life. The details are very rich and events were perfectly timed. Its subtlety and the unfolding of subplots, along with intriguing visuals, draw audience from beginning to end. And in the final scene, when Elsa was shot and the people still believed in her despite the lies, was enigmatic and awe-inspiring.

Nora Aunor as Elsa was very brilliant, an actress of legendary proportions. She gave a sensitive and polished low key performance. But more than her acting, she struck as someone ordinary but believable. She depicts the image of a common Filipina, and along with her impressive talent, she knows how to draw mass sympathy. While watching the film, you do not see an actress, but someone like a neighbor talking to you, like a common person who can engage you in a natural but powerful way. Ms. Aunor has done countless award-winning portrayals, but as Elsa is her best.

Lastly, Himala succeeds in the commonality of its storyline. The movie is far from being mind-boggling that pieces have to be fitted in order to understand it as a whole. The story is explicit from the very beginning. It is about a poor community and the hope that a lying lass has brought to it. Though the film is centered on the issues of religious faith and faithlessness, it actually speaks about desires and yearnings. Elsa longs for attention and respect, Orly the filmmaker for prestige, Nimia the prostitute for trust and happiness, the sick for healing, Mrs. Alba and the businessmen for wealth, and the townspeople for hope and redemption. The sad truth depicted in the film is how people grab even the smallest opportunity just to satisfy that desire, but then suddenly breaks upon a little failure. And in the end, we invent things to fill in every longing in our heart.

Reception.  The film premiered at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival where it swept 9 out of 11 awards including Best Actress for Nora Aunor, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture. It also bagged awards in the 1982 Catholic Mass Media Award.

In the international scene, the film was awarded with the Bronze Hugo prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival. It also became the first and to date, the only Filipino film to be included in the “Competition Section” of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.

In 2008, Himala won the Viewer’s Choice Award for the Best Film of all Time from the Asia-Pacific Region in the CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

Himala is best remembered for Elsa’s (and Aunor’s) most famous speech delivered on the hill:

 

"Walang himala!! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao, nasa puso nating lahat! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga himala! Tayo ang gumagawa ng mga sumpa at ng mga diyos..." ("There is no miracle!! The miracles are in people's hearts, in all our hearts! We make the miracles! We are the ones who make curses, gods...")

Ten Best Hollywood Movie Execution Scenes

The best Hollywood movie execution scenes include such grisly fare as Hang 'Em High, The Green Mile, Papillon, The Execution of Private Slovik, The Great Escape, In Cold Blood, Schindler's List, Murder in Coweta County, The Dirty Dozen and The Passion of the Christ.

Capital punishment is very much alive and well in the movies. Here are ten infamous movie execution scenes from the vast archives of Hollywood history. Warning: These are not for the squeamish.

Hang 'Em High (1968) - A Swinging Time in the Old West

As befitting the movie's title, United Artists' Hang 'Em High features a mass execution on the gallows in 1889 Oklahoma/Indian Territory. Pat Hingle as Judge Adam Fenton – a.k.a. the "Hanging Judge" – orders the execution of six men. Amidst a lighthearted, carnival atmosphere, the condemned are marched up the gallows, hooded and, with a nod from the judge looking on from an upstairs window, sent packing into eternity feet first by Schmidt the Hangman (Bert Freed). When asked if he has a final request, one impatient prisoner (Paul Sorensen), fed up with a long-winded speech by the condemned Francis Elroy Duffy (Michael O'Sullivian), spits out his cigar and answers, " Yeah, tell him to shut up and let's get this over with." And of course rancher Jed Cooper (Clint Eastwood) is nearly lynched by vigilantes in another scene, but survives the attack to become one of Judge Fenton's U.S. marshals.

Six condemned men on the gallows in Hang 'Em High (1968) - United Artists

The Green Mile (1999) - Delacroix's Wild Ride in the Chair

The Green Mile, the 1930s Stephen King prison flick starring Tom Hanks as guard Paul Edgecomb, features three execution scenes in the electric chair. The most gruesome one by far involves the hapless Eduard Delacroix (Michael Jeter), who literally fries in the chair after sadistic little runt Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) purposely fails to follow proper procedure. The botched execution is like something out of the supernatural, as the condemned cooks in the chair, emitting sparks and acrid smoke while the guards frantically try to up the voltage in order to hasten his death.

Eduard "Del" Delacroix literally fries in the electric chair in The Green Mile (1999) - Warner Bros.

Papillon (1973) - Execution in French Guiana

When it was first introduced in 1792, the guillotine was touted by its French backers as a more humane means of capital punishment. In the movie Papillon, prisoners Henri Charriere a.k.a. Papillon (Steve McQueen), Louis Dega (Dustin Hoffman) and other assembled guests are "treated" to a live demonstration of the guillotine at the infamous penal institution in French Guiana circa the 1930s. The struggling condemned man is brought out by the guards followed by a priest reading Scripture. His head is quickly placed in the wooden frame, the silent command is given with a nod and the razor-sharp blade comes barreling down, neatly separating the head from the torso.

The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) - Death by Firing Squad

In this NBC-TV movie Martin Sheen plays the real-life Private Eddie Slovik (1920-1945), who on January 31, 1945, was executed in France by the U.S. Army for desertion. Of the 49 American soldiers condemned to death for desertion during World War II, Slovik was the only one to actually be executed. The  execution scene is harrowing, with the scared, befuddled Slovik, repeatedly muttering the Hail Mary and Our Father, strapped to a post, read his death sentence, black hooded and then shot by an Army firing squad. When the attending doctor pronounces that the moaning Slovik is still alive, a disgusted Catholic chaplain Father Stafford (Ned Beatty) calls out, "Give it another volley if you like it so much."

Martin Sheen and Ned Beatty, right, prepare for the firing squad in The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) - NBC-TV

The Great Escape (1963) - Shot While Trying to Escape

After busting out of "escape-proof" Luft Stalag III, British POWs Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), MacDonald (Gordon Jackson), Cavendish (Nigel Stock), Haynes (Lawrence Montaigne) and 46 others are eventually recaptured and driven to a remote field. Ordered out of the truck in order to "stretch their legs," the men then hear the click of a heavy machine gun, which is mounted in the back of another vehicle. The order is given by a German SS officer, with all 50 prisoners summarily executed. Oberst von Luger (Hannes Messemer), the commandant of Luft Stalag III, later has the unpleasant task of informing the ranking British officer that the men were shot while trying to escape. The execution scene is a bloodless one, brilliantly staged with only the echo of the machine gun reverberating off the surrounding mountains, signaling the POWs' inglorious end.

In Cold Blood (1967) - The Kansas Gallows

Truman Capote's haunting "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood features real-life convicted killers Perry Smith (Robert Blake) and Dick Hickock (Scott Wilson) awaiting their turn on the gallows. Hickock goes first, followed by Smith, who sums up his miserable life while a hard rain beats outside his death row cell. The executions were filmed at the Kansas State Penitentiary, with an actor playing the state's official hangman. 

Robert Blake as Perry Smith awaits the hangman's noose in In Cold Blood (1967) - Columbia Pictures

Schindler's List (1993) - Dead Nazi Walking

SS Captain Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) – Nazi evil personified – acts as one of Hitler's "Final Solution" executioners in occupied Poland. Goeth's idea of "amusement" is grabbing a sniper's rifle and picking off concentration camp inmates from his balcony. The monster Goeth is later executed for war crimes during one post-war scene, with soldiers violently kicking away a stool as the noose tightens around his neck. In actuality, the real Amon Goeth, age 37, was hanged in Poland on September 13, 1946. The execution was botched twice – the rope wasn't long enough – with the third try finally accomplishing the grisly job.

Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List (1993) - Universal Pictures

Murder in Coweta County (1983) - Andy Griffith Gets the Chair

Based on a true story of the late 1940s, this CBS-TV movie features Andy Griffith as John Wallace, the most powerful man in Meriwether County, Georgia. When a tenant farmer named Wilson Turner (Robert Schenkkan) makes off with one of Wallace's prized dairy cows which he believes he was owed as compensation, Wallace and three of his cronies pursue the man into neighboring Coweta County, where Wallace savagely beats the man to death. Coweta County Sheriff Lamar Potts (Johnny Cash) takes up the case, eventually bringing Wallace to justice. The scene in which Andy Griffith's Wallace is executed in the electric chair is one of the most chilling sequences ever staged for television. Griffith, sporting a shaven head and a pseudo-Christian defiance right to the end, is strapped in the chair and fitted with a skull cap. Andy Griffith was a long way from Mayberry in this harrowing TV movie.

The Dirty Dozen (1967) - Lee Marvin Goes to a Hanging

Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) is invited to a hanging while stationed in England during World War II. U.S. Army MPs with a clergyman in tow escort the condemned soldier Private Arthur James Gardner (George Roubicek) to the gallows as he pleads that he didn't mean to kill the woman. The order is given and the trap door released, sending Pvt. Gardner into eternity. Later, Major General Sam Worden (Ernest Borgnine) asks Major Reisman how he liked the show. Reisman replies that it was a hell of a way to die, with General Worden commenting that more than a few souls he knows deserve the same fate.

The Passion of the Christ (2004) - The Crucifixion

Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ features one of the most brutal execution scenes ever filmed. The final hours of Jesus Christ (James Caviezel) are depicted in harrowing detail, including the actual nails being hammered into his wrists. There's perhaps no more gruesome a death than crucifixion as practiced by the Romans, with The Passion of the Christ horrifying many moviegoers. The production proved to be an especially difficult shoot for James Caviezel, who was accidentally whipped twice and struck by lightning during the Sermon on the Mount scene. The actor also suffered a separated shoulder when the 150-pound cross fell on him. 

James Caviezel as Jesus Christ in The Passion of the Christ (2004) - Icon Productions

Ten More Memorable Movie Execution Scenes

  • The Victors (1963). A U.S. Army soldier (James Chase) is executed for desertion – think Private Eddie Slovik – as Frank Sinatra sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in the background. 
  • Dead Man Walking (1995). Convicted murderer Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) is executed in Louisiana by lethal injection.
  • Billy Budd (1962). Billy Budd (Terence Stamp) is hanged for the murder of the sadistic John Claggart (Robert Ryan).
  • The Chamber (1996). Convicted killer Sam Cayhall (Gene Hackman) is executed in Mississippi's gas chamber.
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005). Anti-Nazi resistance leader Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) goes to the guillotine in 1943.
  • Cromwell (1970). England's Charles I (Alec Guinness) is publicly beheaded by a black masked executioner in 1649. "Behold, the head of a traitor!"
  • Let Him Have It (1991). Convicted murderer Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston) is hanged at London's Wandsworth Prison in 1953.
  • Paths of Glory (1957). Three French soldiers (Ralph Meeker, Timothy Carey, Joe Turkel) are executed for cowardice by firing squad in World War I.
  • The Hoodlum Priest (1961). Father Charles Dismas Clark (Don Murray) witnesses the execution of one of his young charges in the electric chair.
  • Pierrepoint: The Last Hangman (2005). Britain's most prolific hangman Albert Pierrepoint (Timothy Spall) executes a reported 608 people from 1933 to 1955. Among his victims as depicted in the movie are Nazi war criminals Irma Grese and Josef Kramer a.k.a. the Beast of Belsen.

Three French soldiers prepare for execution by firing squad in Paths of Glory (1957) - United Artists

Top Image

  • Half sheet movie poster: Hang 'Em High (1968) - Heritage Auctions

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Ten Best Burt Reynolds Movie Characters

Burt Reynolds' best movie characters include Lewis Medlock in Deliverance, Paul Crewe in The Longest Yard, Gator McKlusky in White Lightning, Sonny Hooper in Hooper, W.W. Bright in W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, Billy Clyde Puckett in Semi-Tough, Jack Horner in Boogie Nights and Detective Steve Carella in Fuzz.

Burt Reynolds was big box-office during the 1970s and '80s. Born in Waycross, Georgia, on February 11, 1936, Reynolds made his motion picture debut as Hoke Adams in Angel Baby (1960). Here are Burt Reynolds' ten best movie characters...

Burt Reynolds as Lewis Medlock, Deliverance (Warner Bros., 1972)

Reynolds appears as Lewis Medlock, a rugged, macho outdoorsman who embarks on a weekend canoe trip down the Cahulawassee River with three other city men (Jon Voight, Ronny Cox, Ned Beatty). The whitewater journey quickly turns into a nightmare, with two mountain men sexually assaulting Beatty and Voight. Witnessing the attack, Lewis grabs his bow and places an arrow dead center into one of the armed hillbillies, setting into motion a series of deadly events as the men bury the body and try to make their way downriver to Aintry. "Insurance? I never been insured in my life. There's no risk," Reynolds' Lewis declares in one scene.

One sheet movie poster: Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty in Deliverance (1972) - Heritage Auction Galleries

Burt Reynolds as Paul Crewe, The Longest Yard (Paramount, 1974)

Reynolds stars as Paul "Wrecking" Crewe, an ex-NFL quarterback who winds up doing an 18-month prison stretch following a wild police pursuit in his "stolen" girlfriend's car. Crewe was kicked out of pro ball for point shaving, a fact which doesn't sit well with his fellow cons. At the urging of Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert), Crewe organizes a football squad from the ranks of the prison population, eventually taking on the warden's prized team of guards. Reynolds shines as the cocky, big time Crewe, especially in one hilarious scene where he is asked to render a "personal service" to big-haired prison secretary Miss Toot (Bernadette Peters).

Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard (1974) - Paramount Pictures

Burt Reynolds as Gator McKlusky, White Lightning (United Artists, 1973)

Reynolds plays Gator McKlusky, a good ol' southern boy and ex-con who helps federal agents break up a moonshining ring. White Lightning has it all, with Reynolds and company (Jennifer Billingsley, Ned Beatty, Bo Hopkins, et al.,) lighting up the countryside via wild car chases, fights and other macho redneck action. "Only two things in the world I'm scared of...women and the police," Reynolds' Gator tells Sheriff J.C. Connors (Ned Beatty).

One sheet movie poster style B: Burt Reynolds in White Lightning (1973) - Heritage Auction Galleries

Burt Reynolds as Sonny Hooper, Hooper (Warner Bros., 1978)

Reynolds plays Sonny Hooper, an aging Hollywood stuntman who's beginning to receive stiff competition from young go-getter Ski Chinski (Jan Michael-Vincent). Hooper is a tribute film to stuntmen, with both Reynolds and director Hal Needham having once plied that rough craft in Hollywood. The barroom brawl scene is memorable, as are the various stunts performed throughout the picture. Sally Field, Brian Keith and ex-Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw also appear.

Burt Reynolds as Shamus McCoy, Shamus (Columbia, 1973)

Reynolds plays Shamus McCoy, a private eye in the Big Apple who takes on a wild diamond recovery case. Shamus likes his booze, women and gambling, living in a disheveled apartment whose pool table serves as his bed. Dyan Cannon and Joe Santos are along for the ride. Shamus was filmed on location in Brooklyn, New York, with Staten Island also in the scenery.

Burt Reynolds as W.W. Bright, W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975)

Reynolds plays W.W. Bright, a small-time criminal whose specialty is robbing Southeastern Oil Co. gas stations, his former place of employment circa 1957. W.W. eventually hooks up with the Dixie Dancekings, fronted by Dixie (Connie Van Dyke) and Wayne (Jerry Reed), who are looking for their big break in Nashville. "Reynolds moves through the movie with his usual ease, relaxed and ingratiating and flashing a con man's smile. He's an engaging actor..." reported Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times (1975).

Half sheet movie poster: Burt Reynolds in W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) - Heritage Auction Galleries

Burt Reynolds as Billy Clyde Puckett, Semi-Tough (United Artists, 1977)

Reynolds plays Billy Clyde Puckett, a professional football player in this hilarious screen version of the Dan Jenkins novel. Puckett, along with teammate Marvin "Shake" Tiller (Kris Kristofferson), both have eyes for the owner's daughter Barbara Jane Bookman (Jill Clayburgh). "It's The World's Greatest Game (And It Sure Ain't Football)," blared the movie's memorable tagline.

Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, Boogie Nights (New Line Cinema, 1997)

Reynolds plays Jack Horner, a porn film director who lands a "big" talent – if you catch my drift – in young Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), who begins starring in a string of successful action/porn movies under the name "Dirk Diggler." Set in the 1970s during the drug-fueled "golden age of porn," Boogie Nights also features Julianne Moore, Heather Graham and John C. Reilly. Reynolds earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights (1997) - New Line Cinema

Burt Reynolds as Detective Steve Carella, Fuzz (United Artists, 1972)

Reynolds plays Boston detective Steve Carella, who with fellow cops Meyer Meyer (Jack Weston) and Bert Kling (Tom Skerritt) are investigating a murder-extortion racket run by a shadowy deaf man (Yul Brynner) in this action comedy-drama. Reynolds and Jack Weston dress up as nuns in one stakeout scene, with Raquel Welch, James McEachin and Steve Ihnat also playing cops. "Jack Weston and Burt Reynolds, both of whom have been good comedians in the past, play in their roles as if performing on a Las Vegas stage to an audience of pals, including Don Rickles, who seems, unfortunately, to have presented Reynolds with his style of delivery," observed Vincent Canby of The New York Times (7/15/72).

Burt Reynolds as Bo Darville a.k.a. "Bandit," Smokey and the Bandit (Universal, 1977)

In the ultimate good ol' boy/road trip movie, Reynolds plays Bo Darville, who with fellow trucker Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) agree to run a shipment of beer cross-country for Big and Little Enos (Pat McCormick, Paul Williams). After the boys pick up hitchhiker/runaway bride Carrie (Sally Field), they run afoul of jilted groom Junior (Mike Henry) and his pappy Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). "I take my hat off for one thing, one thing only," a sly Bandit tells Carrie. "Take your hat off," comes the reply. 

One sheet movie poster: Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason and Sally Field in Smokey and the Bandit (1977) - Heritage Auction Galleries

Ten More Memorable Burt Reynolds Movie Roles  

  • As Mike Murphy, City Heat (1984)
  • As Gator McKlusky, Gator (1976)
  • As Yaqui Joe Herrera, 100 Rifles (1969)
  • As Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)
  • As Buck Greenway, Nickelodeon (1976)
  • As Lieutenant Phil Gaines, Hustle (1975)
  • As Phil Potter, Starting Over (1979)
  • As J.J. McClure, The Cannonball Run (1981)
  • As Stroker Ace, Stroker Ace (1983)
  • As Sergeant Tom Sharky, Sharky's Machine (1981)

Lobby card: Burt Reynolds in Sharky's Machine (1981) - Heritage Auction Galleries

Top Image

  •  Burt Reynolds, left, and Ronny Cox in Deliverance (1972) - Warner Bros.

Mara Clara Finale Review

A review on the last episode of Mara Clara

Mara Clara's finale is one of the most emotionally compelling last episodes on Philippine television. It features the conclusion of these storylines: 

  • Mara and Clara's exchange to prevent being hurt by Clara's crazed biological father known as Gary.
  • Susan (Mara's pseudo-mother) gives birth to twins that belonged to Gary, yet he did not believe them to be his twins.
  • The Amante-Alvira-Gary love triangle.

And since this is the finale, one person from the series would die and it would most likely be Gary.

As for the ending itself, it is summarized in these words: 

  1. Amante and Alvira visit Gary at an abandoned warehouse with no cops.
  2. Mara gets locked up in a water tank by Gary after arguing with the antagonist for a while.
  3. Alvira was forced to choose between Amante or Gary, because Gary can only tell Alvira where Mara is unless she shoots Amante.

The climax arrived when Amanthe fought Gary and ended up falling down a few storeys from the building where they fought; Amante falls towards the ground but is only hurt, not dead. Then, Alvira wants Gary to kill her out of pity since this has caused Gary's obsession towards the young woman. As she was about to be shot, Gary fires a shot, but Clara takes the shot in exchange of Alvira. Because of this action, Susan attacks Gary with a pipe until she eventually stabs the crazed man with a stick. Gary dies due to the said pipe impaling, Clara was shot in the arm and survived. Mara was eventually saved, right before Clara took a bullet for Alvira. 

After the climax, Clara was placed inside a mental institution for treatment because of her behavior disorder. 

Time passed, the epilogue sets in: 

  • Susan gives birth to twins.
  • Mara and Clara are in total friendship once more.

And eventually, they all lived happily ever after. It is a wonderful ending that can compel even the hardest of hearts. The actors have placed a lot of effort (especially for Kathryn Bernardo/Mara) replicating a dramatic scene with their own artistic flavour. The action scenes weren't much, even for the finale; in the words of some directors in an art class: "It's good, but not good enough", they could've hired trainers to do some fight scenes with basic grappling arts, given Amanthe is a "Privileged" man who can afford classes instead of a pistol, but we have to understand also that budget plays a role towards the finale. Overall, it's above average. The series ended with a bang, but the writers and producers could've developed the ending more to be an explosive and heartwarming closure to one of Philippine TV's best drama series'.

Ten Best Hollywood Tornado Movies

The ten best Hollywood tornado movies include Twister, The Day After Tomorrow, The Wizard of Oz, Night of the Twisters, Tornado!, Storm Cell, Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister, NYC: Tornado Terror, Devil Winds and Atomic Twister.

Hollywood tornado movies, a sub-component of the larger Hollywood disaster film genre, number but a handful of entries. But what is here is deadly – or in some cases, deadly humorous – with tornadoes playing a major or supporting role in several films. Here are Hollywood's ten best tornado movies. Look to the skies!

Twister (Warner Bros., 1996)

Twister – not to be confused with the classic party game of the same name – stars Helen Hunt as scientist Dr. Jo Harding and Bill Paxton as TV meteorologist Bill Harding, a married couple who are about to divorce. Bill is smitten with Dr. Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz), whom he wants to marry after his divorce to Jo is finalized. The three soon find themselves thrown together in Tornado Alley, chasing storms as they try to implant a new scientific device into the hearts of deadly twisters. Made for $92 million, Twister was directed by Jan de Bont and earned two Oscar nominations for, not surprisingly, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound. Twister was filmed on location in Oklahoma and Iowa. 

Twister (1996) advance one sheet movie poster - Warner Bros.

The Day After Tomorrow (Twentieth Century Fox, 2004)

The deadly effects of global warming roar to life in this $125 million disaster movie spectacular. Dennis Quaid has the starring role of climatologist Jack Hall, with Jake Gyllenhaal (Sam Hall), Emmy Rossum (Laura Chapman), Dash Mihok (Jason Evans), Jay O. Sanders (Frank Harris) and Sela Ward (Dr. Lucy Hall) also along for the ride into global warming hell. The Day After Tomorrow begins with a series of monster tornadoes forming near Los Angeles, where they proceed to destroy the City of Angels. That is followed by torrential rains in New York and other meteorological disasters across the globe, all of which signal the beginning of a new Ice Age. Tornadoes in Los Angeles? Well, they come out in spades in this film, smashing skyscrapers, hurling buses and cars and even destroying the iconic Hollywood sign!

Tornadoes destroy Los Angeles in The Day After Tomorrow (2004) - Twentieth Century Fox

The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939)

A deadly Kansas twister plays a major role in this classic film, hitting the Gale farm and lifting the old house up from its foundation. Inside is Judy Garland as Dorothy, who is whisked away to the fantasy land of Oz where she meets up with some old buds sporting new monikers, namely The Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), The Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) and The Tin Man (Jack Haley). The tornado doesn't prove to be all bad, as it sets the Gale farmhouse down in Oz where the latter crushes the life out of the evil Wicked Witch of the East. The tornado scene in Oz is really quite well done, ably conveying the power and fury generated by what is probably an F3 or maybe F4 tornado. But we can only hope that those two guys in the rowboat – seen in the tornado debris field – made it safely through the inferno!

Judy Garland and the tornado in The Wizard of Oz (1939) - MGM

Night of the Twisters (The Family Channel, 1996)

Devon Sawa (Dan Hatch), Amos Crawley (Arthur Jones), John Schneider (Jack Hatch), Lori Hallier (Laura Hatch) and Laura Bertram (Stacey Jones) head the cast of this made-for-TV disaster flick, which premiered on The Family Channel on February 14, 1996. The setting is rural Nebraska, where a series of bizarre tornadoes wreak havoc among the God-fearing locals. Directed by Timothy Bond, Night of the Twisters features passable special effects, but nothing on the order of its more famous big-screen cousin Twister (1996).

Tornado! (Fox, 1996)

With the release of Twister in 1996 came a series of made-for-TV knockoffs. One was Tornado!, starring Bruce Campbell as storm chaser Jake Thorne, Shannon Sturges as Samantha Callen and Ernie Hudson as Dr. Joe Branson. Like Twister, our brave meteorological gang is out there in Tornado Alley, trying to gauge the effectiveness of a new device which can detect the formation of tornadoes and provide earlier warnings. Directed by Noel Nosseck, Tornado! debuted on May 7, 1996. "Hell has no fury like a twister," the movie promised TV viewers.

Storm Cell (Lifetime, 2008)

The aptly named Storm Cell was first telecast in the United States on the Lifetime Movie Network on April 26, 2008. Mimi Rogers, Robert Moloney, Andrew Airlie and Ryan Kennedy head the cast in an all-too-familiar yarn involving an estranged parent/storm chaser, a teenager and monster tornadoes which, amazingly, follow Ms. Rogers from Oklahoma to Seattle.

Storm Chasers: Revenge of the Twister (The Family Channel, 1998)

Kelly McGillis, Wolf Larson, Liz Torres, Adrian Zmed and James MacArthur come out smokin' in this made-for-cable movie, with McGillis playing kick-ass storm chaser Jamie Marshall. Jamie, who had lost her husband while out storm chasing, is sent to Colorado to investigate the possible sighting of a tornado. Do tornadoes really hold grudges?  They apparently do in the movies.

NYC: Tornado Terror (Kaleidoscope Entertainment, 2008)

New York City, the hapless site of a number of disaster films, gets pasted with a series of unconventional tornadoes following a split in the atmosphere. Nicole de Boer plays the requisite concerned meteorologist Dr. Cassie Lawrence, with Sebastian Spence (Deputy Major Jim Lawrence), Jerry Wasserman (Mayor Leonardo), Winston Rekert (Dr. Lars Liggenhorn), Colby Johannson (Brian Flynn) and Tegan Moss (Lori Lawrence) also knee deep in swirling debris.

Devil Winds (Lion's Gate, 2003)

Joe Lando plays Peter Jensen, an ex-meteorologist now working in law enforcement in Portland, Oregon, who lost his wife in a Tulsa twister. Peter returns to Oklahoma in order to attend the college graduation of his estranged daughter Kara (Erica Parker). Just in time, too, as it's the tenth anniversary of his wife's death and another killer tornado may be on the way. "This lame thriller opens with its best special effects — a spectacular twister — and goes downhill fast," reports TV Guide.

Atomic Twister (TBS, 2002)

Atomic Twister debuted over superstation TBS on June 9, 2002. Sharon Lawrence, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Carl Lewis, Corbin Bernsen and Jonathan Blick head the cast. The plot: a monster tornado hits a nuclear power plant, setting off a fatal countdown as the people inside – all four of them apparently – struggle to halt the impending meltdown. This one's full of basic nuclear power goofs and Hollywood embellishments, but those type of things never get in the way of a good/bad Tinseltown disaster film. "They only give you a tornado warning when your house is 50 feet from where you built it!" opines Mark-Paul Gosselaar as Deputy Sheriff Jake Hannah in a dig at TV meteorologists. 

Top Image

  • Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in Twister (1996) - Warner Bros.

Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

Ten Best John Dillinger Movies

The ten best John Dillinger movies include Johnny Depp in Public Enemies, Warren Oates in Dillinger, Nick Adams in Young Dillinger, Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger, Robert Conrad in The Lady in Red, Martin Sheen in Dillinger and Capone, Leo Gordon in Baby Face Nelson, Mark Harmon in Dillinger, Ralph Meeker in Dillinger and Martin Kove in Baby Face Nelson.

John Herbert Dillinger Jr. (1903-1934) was one of America's most notorious gangsters during the Depression-era 1930s. The scowling, flamboyant Dillinger, who met his bloody end outside Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934, at the hands of the FBI, has been featured in a number of movie and television productions through the years. Here are the ten best John Dillinger movies...

Public Enemies (Universal, 2009)

Johnny Depp stars as John Dillinger in Public Enemies, director Michael Mann's $100 million ode to the gangster era. Public Enemies focuses on Dillinger's final years of the early 1930s, where he is living in Chicago. G-man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) tracks down Public Enemy Number One, where the latter finally meets his bloody end outside the Biograph Theater after being betrayed by the infamous woman in red. James Russo (Walter Dietrich), David Wenham (Harry Pierpont), Christian Stolte (Charles Makley), Stephen Dorff (Homer Van Meter), Channing Tatum (Pretty Boy Floyd) and Marion Cotillard (Billie Frechette) also appear. Johnny Depp garnered a Satellite Award nomination for Best Actor.

Dillinger (American International Pictures, 1973)

Warren Oates plays John Dillinger in this bloody, violent gangster flick written and directed by John Milius. Oates' Dillinger hooks up with Baby Face Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss), Pretty Boy Floyd (Steve Kanaly) and other hoods, trying to stay a step ahead of dogged pursuer Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson). Michelle Phillips plays Billie Frechette, Dillinger's beautiful gal pal, with Cloris Leachman as Anna Sage and Harry Dean Stanton as Homer Van Meter. "I rob banks for a living, what do you do?" Oates' John Dillinger declares in one scene.

Warren Oates in Dillinger (1973) - Heritage Auctions

Young Dillinger (Allied Artists, 1965)

Nick Adams comes out smokin' as John Dillinger in yet another extremely violent account of the gangster's bloody exploits. Directed by Terry D. Morse, the movie charts the first incarceration of Dillinger after he is convicted of robbing the father of his girlfriend Elaine Johnsyn (Mary Ann Mobley). While in prison, young Dillinger falls in the orbit of Pretty Boy Floyd (Robert Conrad) and Baby Face Nelson (John Ashley). There's plenty of action in this one, featuring bank robberies, shootouts and prison breaks. In one scene an angry Dillinger straps a quack doctor (John Hoyt) into a wheelchair and pushes him off a ramp into a lake. The doc had screwed up, botching Dillinger's plastic surgery. The movie's soundtrack is wild and brooding, ably capturing the bloody life and times of young Dillinger.

Dillinger (Monogram, 1945)

Lawrence Tierney has the distinction of first playing John Dillinger on the silver screen. Dillinger chronicles the rise and fall of Public Enemy Number One, with Anne Jeffreys (Helen Rogers), Edmund Lowe (Specs Green), Eduardo Ciannelli (Marco Minelli), Marc Lawrence (Doc Madison) and Elisha Cook Jr. (Kirk Otto) along for the violent ride into gangsterdom. Directed by Max Nosseck and made for $193,000, Dillinger went on to gross over $4 million, proving that crime does pay, at least at the box office. 

Lawrence Tierney in Dillinger (1945) - Heritage Auctions

The Lady in Red (New World, 1979)

Robert Conrad – Pretty Boy Floyd in Young Dillinger (1965) – returns to the gangster era, this time as John Dillinger in The Lady in Red. In this outing written by John Sayles and directed by Lewis Teague, Dillinger acquires Polly Franklin (Pamela Sue Martin) as his gun moll, with the pair engaging in a life of crime. The Lady in Red is told through Polly's eyes, making for a different version of the John Dillinger story. Tough-guy actor Conrad carries the Dillinger role nicely, with Pamela Sue Martin making for a darned cute gun-toting accomplice.

Robert Conrad and Pamela Sue Martin in The Lady in Red (1979) - Heritage Auctions

Dillinger and Capone (New Concorde, 1995)

Martin Sheen plays John Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham appears as Al Capone in this wild gangster conspiracy film directed by Jon Purdy. As the story goes, the FBI gun down the wrong man outside the Biograph Theater in 1934, with the real Dillinger slipping away to a new life. Chicago underworld czar Al Capone, however, knows the true story, and forces Dillinger to pull one of the biggest bank heists in American history, hoping to retrieve the millions in cash which he, Scarface Capone, has hidden away. Roger Corman served as executive producer, with Stephen Davies (Cecil), Catherine Hicks (Abigail), Don Stroud (George) and Sasha Jenson (Billy) in support.

Baby Face Nelson (United Artists, 1957)

Mickey Rooney has the title role of Lester "Baby Face" Nelson in this low-budget gangster flick made for $175,000 and directed by Don Siegel. Playing the role of John Dillinger is tough-guy character actor Leo Gordon, who does a credible job as Public Enemy Number One and the "brains" of his own criminal enterprise. Carolyn Jones (Sue Nelson), Cedric Hardwicke (Doc Saunders), Anthony Caruso (John Hamilton), Jack Elam (Fatso Nagel) and John Hoyt (Samuel F. Parker) round out the supporting cast. The Mick and Gordon deliver the gangster goods big time in this mobster shoot-'em-up.

Dillinger (ABC-TV, 1991)

Mark Harmon of NCIS TV fame stars as John Dillinger in this made-for-television movie directed by Rupert Wainwright and first telecast on January 6, 1991. Sherilyn Fenn (Billy Frechette), Will Patton (Melvin Purvis), Bruce Abbott (Harry Pierpont), Tom Bower (Captain Leach) and Patricia Arquette (Polly) also appear. Dillinger recounts the life and death of the one-time Public Enemy Number One, including his famous demise outside Chicago's Biograph Theater. Dillinger was filmed in Wisconsin (Milwaukee, East Troy, Mequon) and features actor Lawrence Tierney, who starred as Dillinger in 1945, in the role of Sheriff Sarber. Also look for Vince Edwards of TV's Ben Casey fame in the role of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

Mark Harmon in Dillinger (1991) - ABC-TV

Dillinger (CBS-TV, 1960)

Ralph Meeker stars as John Dillinger in this made-for-TV flick directed by David Davidson and first telecast on June 24, 1960. Philip Abbott (Harry Pierpont), Steven Hill (Melvin Purvis) and Jane Rose (Anna Sage) round out the sparse cast.

Baby Face Nelson (Concorde-New Horizons, 1996)

C. Thomas Howell has the title role of Depression-era gangster Baby Face Nelson in this Roger Corman produced-flick directed by Scott P. Levy. Martin Kove appears as John Dillinger, with Lisa Zane (Helen Womack), Doug Wert (Paul Chance), F. Murray Abraham (Al Capone) and David Parry (Artie Folsom) along for the ride into gangster hell. As history it's pure Hollywood hokum, but for mindless entertainment Baby Face Nelson just may fit the bill. Watch an FBI agent fire 13 shots from a six-shot revolver without reloading!

More Best John Dillinger Movie & TV Favorites 

  • Crime Wave: 18 Months of Mayhem (TV, 2008), Lynn Bumgardner as John Dillinger
  • The Kansas City Massacre (TV, 1975), William Jordan as John Dillinger
  • The FBI Story (1959), Scott Peters as John Dillinger
  • The Real Untouchables (TV, 2001), Michael Dailey as John Dillinger
  • Guns Don't Argue (1957), Myron Healey as John Dillinger

John Dillinger on Episodic Television

  • Gang Busters (NBC-TV, 1952): "Alvin Karpis" (4/17/52),  "Homer Van Meter" (10/16/52), "Dillinger" (10/23/52), Myron Healey as John Dillinger in all three segments
  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (ABC-TV, 1993-97): "That Old Gang of Mine" (11/13/94), Robert Clohessy as John Dillinger
  • Night Man (Syndicated, 1997-99): "That Ol' Gang of Mine" (11/24/97), Brian Fitzpatrick as John Dillinger

Top Image

  • Johnny Depp as John Dillinger cradling a Thompson submachine gun in Public Enemies (2009) - Universal Pictures

Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner

Ten Best Billy The Kid Movies

Billy the Kid movies are a Hollywood western favorite. The Left Handed Gun, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Billy the Kid, Young Guns, Billy the Kid Returns, The Kid from Texas, Young Guns II, Chisum and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula are among the top films.

Henry McCarty (1859-1881) – a.k.a. William H. Bonney, Henry Antrim and Billy the Kid – remains one of the Old West's mythic outlaws. In 1911, the first movie based on his life was released by the General Film Company. Titled Billy the Kid, this early, silent effort was directed by Laurence Trimble and starred Tefft Johnson in the title role.

Here are ten interesting Billy the Kid movies that no western film fan should ever miss. Draw, pardner...

The Left Handed Gun (Warner Bros., 1958)

Handsome, blue-eyed Paul Newman stars as Billy the Kid in this well-received western. Also on hand are John Dehner (Pat Garrett), Lita Milan (Celsa), Hurd Hatfield (Moultrie), James Congdon (Charlie Boudre), James Best (Tom Folliard), Colin Keith-Johnston (Tunstall) and John Dierkes (McSween). The movie, centered in New Mexico Territory during the Lincoln County War, provides a sympathetic portrayal of Billy the Kid, who after his mentor is murdered vows revenge against the killers. Originally set to star was the ill-fated James Dean, who was killed in an automobile crash on September 30, 1955. Newman had earlier played Billy the Kid on TV in "The Death of Billy the Kid," telecast on The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse (7/24/55).

Director: Arthur Penn

Review: "The Left Handed Gun is another look at Billy the Kid, probably America's most constantly celebrated juvenile delinquent. In this version he's Billy, the crazy, mixed-up Kid. The picture is a smart and exciting western paced by Paul Newman's intense portrayal." - Variety (1958)

On DVD: The Paul Newman Collection (Warner, 2006)

Promotional still: Paul Newman as Billy the Kid in The Left Handed Gun (1958)

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (MGM, 1973)

Kris Kristofferson plays Billy the Kid opposite James Coburn's Sheriff Pat Garrett in this violent oater. Set in New Mexico Territory in 1881, the movie centers on Pat Garrett's attempt to bring in the escaped Billy, who was once the lawman's saddle buddy. The final confrontation comes at Fort Sumner, where Billy falls to Garrett's gun. Richard Jaeckel (Sheriff Kip McKinney), Katy Jurado (Mrs. Baker), Chill Wills (Lemuel), Barry Sullivan (Chisum), Jason Robards (Governor Wallace) and Bob Dylan (Alias) also grace the production. "How's Jesus look to you now, Bob?" the Kid asks, aiming a loaded shotgun at R.G. Armstrong's Ollinger character. 

Director: San Peckinpah

Review: "Sam Peckinpah attempted to have his name removed from 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.' I sympathized with him. If this wasn't entirely his work, he shouldn't have had to take the blame. And even if it was, the less said the better. It's a movie that exists almost entirely on one note – a low, melancholy one – and achieves what I thought would have been impossible for him Peckinpah: he's boring." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (5/23/73)

On DVD: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid Two-Disc Special Edition (Warner, 2006)

Billy the Kid (MGM, 1941)

A rather mature-looking Robert Taylor stars as Billy Bonney, a budding gunslinger who seeks revenge when his beloved employer is killed in New Mexico Territory. Also on hand are Ian Hunter (Eric Keating), Brian Donlevy (Jim Sherwood), Mary Howard (Edith Keating), Gene Lockhart (Dan Hickey) and Lon Chaney Jr. (Spike Hudson). Billy the Kid earned an Oscar nomination for Best Color Cinematography. The movie ends with the epilogue: "Thus, as the ways of law came to the last frontier, the last of the men of violence found his peace." Translation: Crime doesn't pay.  

Director: David Miller, Frank Borzage (uncredited)

Review: "The magnificence of Robert Taylor, which is always something special to behold, falls into pale inconsequence alongside the glories of the great outdoors in Metro's flashy Technicolored Western, "Billy the Kid," which hit the Capitol yesterday. Apparently, this is not exactly as it was intended to be, for a great deal more is seen of Mr. Taylor than of anything else in this film—Mr. Taylor in a forbiddingly black and shiny cowboy suit; Mr. Taylor at medium distance flashing a roguish smile; Mr. Taylor's face in intimate closeup with his power-blue jaw set firm and his steely eyes looking about sharply for any movements at all untoward. But somehow a lot of Mr. Taylor is scarcely able to compare with even a moderate amount of stunning outdoor scenery—with the coral and copper-colored monoliths of Monument Valley, their tops wreathed in billowing mists; with deserts stretching off into pink distance and red cattle grazing on the rolling plains. And the scenery is by far the most spectacular part of this bulging film." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (6/20/41)

On DVD: Billy the Kid (MGM, 2009)

Reissue one sheet movie poster from 1955: Billy the Kid (1941)

Young Guns (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1988)

Emilio Estevez plays Billy the Kid, the leader of a band of "young guns" who are out to avenge the murder of their benefactor in New Mexico Territory. Riding with Billy are Kiefer Sutherland (Doc Scurlock), Lou Diamond Phillips (Jose Chavez), Charlie Sheen (Dick Brewer), Dermot Mulroney (Dirty Steve Stephens) and Casey Siemaszko (Charley Bowdre). Also on hand are Terence Stamp (John Tunstall), Terry O'Quinn (Alex McSween), Jack Palance (Lawrence G. Murphy) and Patrick Wayne (Pat Garrett). Western movie fans will love the shootouts in this picture, along with the great New Mexico scenery. Young Guns won a Bronze Wrangler from Western Heritage Awards for Best Theatrical Motion Picture.  

Director: Christopher Cain

Review: "The clubby atmosphere of 'Young Guns,' the new Brat Pack western, is so thick as to be almost suffocating. Directed by Christopher Cain, it's like a Western-style dress-up party for Hollywood kiddies, horses and guns included." - Hal Hinson, Washington Post (8/16/88) 

On DVD: Young Guns Special Edition (Lions Gate, 2003)

Billy the Kid Returns (Republic, 1938)

Roy Rogers has a dual role in this one, playing himself and the reincarnated double of Billy the Kid. The storyline has Wade Boteler's Sheriff Pat Garrett, who just disposed of the real Kid, asking Roy to take the deceased's place in a range war pitting homesteaders against fat cat ranchers. Roy's sidekick Smiley Burnette as Frog Millhouse is along for the ride, with the two singing a few western tunes, including "Trail Blazin'," "Sing a Little Song About Anything," "Born to the Saddle" and "When the Sun Is Setting on the Prairie." Billy the Kid Returns premiered at Los Angeles' Orpheum Theater on September 5, 1938, with Roy Rogers himself in attendance.

Director: Joseph Kane

Review: "Roy plays himself and the famous "kid" with whom he is confused. Lots of songs in this one." Ed Stephan, fullmoviereview.com (2010)

On DVD: Roy Rogers 20 Movie Pack (Mill Creek Entertainment, 2006)

The Kid from Texas (Universal, 1950)

Audie Murphy, America's most decorated soldier of World War II, plays Billy the Kid in this fictionalized version of the Old West legend. Gale Storm (Irene Kain), Albert Dekker (Alexander Kain), Shepperd Strudwick (Roger Jameson), Will Geer (O'Fallon), William Talman (Minninger) and Frank Wilcox (Sheriff Pat Garrett) are also in the mix. The baby-faced Murphy's a bit uncomfortable before the cameras, but he carries off the role as well as could be expected.

Director: Kurt Neumann

Review: "An excellent but none-too-accurate story, given strong production, and featuring Audie Murphy, in his first starring role. Murphy's a bit wooden, but he delivers. Entertaining." - Wrangler, The Internet Movie Database (10/10/98)

On DVD: Not commercially available

Young Guns II (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990)

In this sequel to Young Guns (1988), Emilio Estevez reprises his role as Billy the Kid, with Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips also returning. In this outing, Billy sets his two cohorts free and they head to Mexico with the law hot on their trail. "Just remember, Pat. You'll never be me. You'll always be the man who shot Billy the Kid!" Estevez tells William Petersen's Pat Garrett.

Director: Geoff Murphy

Review: "'Young Guns II' is yet another revisionist version of the Billy the Kid legend, which has taken on mythic qualities in such films as 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,' 'The Left-Handed Gun' and 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,' not to mention an opera by Aaron Copland... As played by Emilio Estevez, Billy is a fresh-faced innocent who looks youthful even in the company of his fellow gang members, who include Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips and Christian Slater." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (8/1/90) 

On DVD: Young Guns II (Warner, 2009)

One sheet movie poster: Young Guns II (1990)

Billy the Kid (MGM, 1930)

Former University of Alabama football star-turned-actor Johnny Mack Brown stars as Billy the Kid in this early sound western, with Wallace Beery (Pat Garrett), Kay Johnson (Claire Randall), Karl Dane (Swenson), Wyndham Standing (Jack Tunston) and Russell Simpson (Angus McSween) also in the cast. Filmed in New Mexico, Arizona and California, this version once again has the Kid avenging the murder of his boss, with Pat Garrett on his trail. Of special note are the pistols used by Brown in the movie, which were the actual guns owned by the real Billy the Kid. They were on loan from the private collection of legendary western film star William S. Hart.

Director: King Vidor

Review: "This early version of the violent legend includes some comic characters and bears only occasional resemblance to the controversial life of the young man who killed men in revenge for the murder of his employers Tunston and later McSween." - Sanderson Beck, Movie Mirrors (2000

On DVD: Not commercially available

Chisum (Warner Bros., 1970)

Geoffrey Deuel – in his motion picture debut – plays Billy the Kid in this big western starring John Wayne in the title role. Wayne as John Chisum gets caught up in New Mexico's Lincoln County War, hooking up with both the Kid and Glenn Corbett's Pat Garrett. Also on hand are Forrest Tucker (Lawrence Murphy), Christopher George (Dan Nodeen), Ben Johnson (James Pepper), Andrew Prine (Alex McSween), Bruce Cabot (Sheriff Brady) and Patric Knowles (Henry Tunstall). "I made you a promise, Mr. Tunstall. Now I'm making myself a promise. It says in the Bible, 'The candle of the wicked shall be put out.'" a vengeful Billy the Kid declares. And that means gunplay, pardners.

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Review: "Young Geoffrey Deuel cuts a personable swath as Billy the kid, and several other hardies such as Ben Johnson, Glenn Corbett and Richard Jaeckel pitch in accordingly, with Pamela McMyler and Lynda Day as fetching ornaments." - Howard Thompson, The New York Times (7/30/70)

On DVD: Chisum (Warner, 2007)

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (Embassy, 1966)

Chuck Courtney plays Billy the Kid opposite John Carradine's Count Dracula in this camp classic filmed at the Ray Corrigan Ranch in Simi Valley, California. Also on board for the Old West/Gothic bloodbath are Melinda Plowman (Betty Bentley), Virginia Christine (Eva Oster), Harry Carey Jr. (Ben Dooley), Bing Russell (Red Thorpe) and Roy Barcroft (Sheriff Griffin). This one was double-billed with another far-out Embassy Pictures entry, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966), starring John Lupton and Narda Onyx. Gunslingers, vampires, lawmen – can't we all just get along?

Director: William Beaudine

Review: "Neither this movie or its companion piece (Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter) are considered classic, but this one is generally considered something of a camp classic and the other is considered a tiresome bore. Actually, this one would probably be considered a tiresome bore as well if it weren't for the presence of John Carradine, who had last assayed the role of Dracula in two Universal movies from the forties." - Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (3/7/06)

On DVD: Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (Cheezy Flicks, 2005)

One sheet movie poster: Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Five More Billy the Kid Movie Favorites

  • Billy the Kid in Texas (1940)
  • I Shot Billy the Kid (1950)
  • The Law vs. Billy the Kid (1954)
  • Billy the Kid Outlawed (1940)
  • Billy the Kid Wanted (1941)

Images Credit

  • All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
  • Top image: Lobby card: Kris Kristofferson, center, as Billy the Kid in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973)