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Watch Great Classic Movies Free on Popflick

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At Popflick, we love classic movies. And by “classic,” we don’t mean “movies made in the eighties.” Or “things I used to watch when I was a kid.” We mean bonafide classics from the early days of silent cinema forward. Our curators-in-residence has tracked a sample of titles for your viewing pleasure.

Black & White Movies...In Color?

Now, a little home-video history lesson. In the 80s, media mogul Ted Turner championed a controversial process to colorize black & white movies. He had recently bought the Warner Bros.- RKO library and wanted to milk some money off his investment. The rationale was that people adverse to black and white would buy them if only they had color. He sold some home video units and drove up syndication sales for a while. However, he paid a reputational price.

Ted Turner and family at a TCM event. / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.

Ted Turner and family at a TCM event. / Photo courtesy of Dreamstime.

Actors, filmmakers, and film critics denounced colorization as a crime against art. Eventually, the novelty wore off. Turner saw a promising niche market that appreciated classic movies and launched the cable channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which promoted film preservation and access to movies in their original, unaltered form. It became a cultural institution, currently the subject of much concern in cinephile circles after the merger of Discovery Networks and Warner Bros merger. By checking the news cycle unleashed by new CEO David Zaslav, we are worried, too!

The versions we have in our library went through the colorization process. If you want to see them closer to their original form, adjust the color settings on your TV or monitor.

Film Noir For All

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Lewis Milestone, 1946)

Barbara Stanwyck was one of the best actresses of the Golden Age, and it is easy to see why in this noir-tinged melodrama. She plays a heiress in a marriage built on a murderous lie. When her true love (Van Heflin) comes back into town after an absence of decades, the past comes back with a vengeance. Kirk Douglas shines in his debut performance as the no-good, villainous husband. Screenwriter John Patrick received an Oscar nomination.

Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1945)

This signature film noir made it to the National Film Registry. Tom Neal plays Al McNeal, an unemployed musician hitchhiking to California following his showbiz-crazy girlfriend. A bookie picks him up and accidentally dies, giving him an unexpected break. He assumes his identity and takes his car and money. It's a lifeline for broke Al, but when he picks up Vera (Ann Savage), it will turn into a trap. Edgar G. Ulmer directs this sun-baked, unapologetic noir. Conceived as a low-budget B-movie, it packs a punch more expensive films wish they had. It's just 67 minutes long! As far as crime movies go, this one is a doozy.

The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino, 1953)

British actress Ida Lupino was one of the few female directors who broke gender barriers in Golden Age Hollywood, strategically developing her projects, sticking to genre movies and low budgets. The modesty of the production did not diminish her masterful exercises of filmmaking. In this nifty noir, Edmond O'Brien and William Talman play a couple of friends who get into trouble when they pick up a hitchhiker who moonlights as a serial killer. There is no relation between the 80's cult movie and the TV series.

The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)

Cornel Wilde plays a police lieutenant obsessed with bringing down ruthless mob boss Mr. Brown (Richard Conte). He gets into trouble when he cracks down on his girlfriend, Susan (Jean Wallace), and falls in love with her. The movie came up towards the end of the film noir craze. John Alton's cinematography and Dave Raskin's jazzy score elevate this lean, mean thriller even further.

Timeless Laughs

Beat the Devil (John Huston, 1953)

This movie is a criminally fun caper. Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Peter Lorre, Gina Lollobrigida, and Robert Morley are just a few of the questionable characters plotting to get their paws on a uranium-rich piece of land in Africa. John Huston is the best director to work with Bogart, and he has a lot of fun reuniting him with Lorre, two of the stars of the classic "The Maltese Falcon" (1941).

My Man Godfrey (Gregory LaCava, 1936)

It's a classic screwball comedy. William Powell is a homeless man, a casualty of the Great Depression, stumbling into high society when a madcap debutante (Carole Lombard) recruits him to help her win a Scavenger Hunt. He goes on to serve as a butler at her home, where wacky adventures and romantic shenanigans ensue. Powell and Lombard display beautiful chemistry. The social commentary and bon-mots have not aged a bit. The movie received six Academy Awards nominations, including Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director. Think of an early XX-Century "Arrested Development."

Thrilling Vintage Drama

The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1932)

Joel McCrea plays a big-game hunter traveling to Africa who becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck. He arrives at a lonely island where an eccentric aristocrat entertains himself, hunting for "the most dangerous game," human beings. The movie is the first adaptation of Richard Connell's short story. It was adapted several times. You can find echoes of it in contemporary titles like "Battle Royale" (Kenji Fukusaku, 2000) and the recent Trump-times social satire "The Hunt" (Craig Zobel, 2020). But then again, it's easier to stream this lean and mean classic immediately.

Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, 1941)

Frank Capra (It’s a Beautiful Life) directs this socially conscious dramatic comedy. Barbara Stanwyck plays a newspaper columnist who invents out of whole cloth the story of an unemployed man threatening to kill himself in protest of society’s ills. The article gets a phenomenal reception, so the newspaper owners conspired to pass a homeless man (Gary Cooper) as the now wildly popular fictional hero. Richard Connell and Robert Presnell Jr. earned a nomination for a Best Screenplay Oscar.

A Star Is Born (William Wellman, 1937)

Janet Gaynor and Frederick March star in the first version of this Hollywood staple, about parallel stories in the entertainment industry. An ingenue comes to Hollywood and enjoys a meteoric rise as her spouse falls from stardom to has-been status. Four different versions have graced the big screen, including the masterful take directed by George Cukor with Judy Garland and James Mason in the lead roles, an early-seventies rock-scene take with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and the recent Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper vehicle. How do they compare?

Penny Serenade (George Stevens, 1941)

George Stevens directed this heartrending melodrama featuring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a married couple enduring life’s biggest blows as popular songs track the passage of time - hence the “serenade” of the title -. The action takes them from California to Tokyo and back. It was the third and last movie the actors did together, after “The Awful Truth” (Leo McCarey, 1937) and “My Favorite Wife” (Garson Kanin, 1940). Grant got a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role, and we are here to tell you Dunne should have, too. See the evidence for yourself!

Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945)

Jean Renoir adapted the novel “La Chienne” in 1931, and Hollywood did its version in 1945. Expat director Fritz Lang, who had recently arrived scaling from Nazi Germany, brought expressionism to American crime thrillers. Edgar G. Robinson is Chris Cross, a modest store worker with artistic ambitions. His predictable life takes a turn when he falls for wily temptress Kitty (Joan Bennet). The woman and her pimp boyfriend, Johnny (Dan Duryea), set him up in a devilish plot, but the results are unpredictable. The three leads and Lang reunite one year after “The Woman in the Window” (1944). Maybe we must be kinder with Hollywood remakes of great foreign films because this is exhibit A of how good they can be.

The Man With The Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955)

A scandalous success, Otto Premiger's hard-hitting drama was one of the first Hollywood films to depict the ravages of drug addiction with unprecedented frankness. It also forced the industry to take Frank Sinatra seriously as a dramatic actor. He scored an Oscar nomination for his role as Frankie Machine, a card shark sinking back into heroin addiction. Kim Novak is the girl who stands by his side. Also, check out the masterful credit design by the legendary Saul Bass and Elmer Bernstein's jazz-infused original score. All that seedy, awful beauty, ready for you to stream.

Lush Literary Adaptations

A Farewell To Arms (Frank Borzage, 1932)

Ernest Hemingway's classic WWI novel gets stellar treatment from Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes, and director Frank Borzage. They play an American ambulance driver and a British nurse falling in love in the theater of war in Italy. The machinations of jealous Colonel Rinaldi (Adolphe Meanjou) are as deadly as the vagaries of war. Winner of Best Cinematography and Best Sound Oscars. Also nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Picture. It lost the top prize to "Cavalcade" (Frank Lloyd, 1933).

And Then There Were None (Rene Clair, 1945)

French director René Clair made it to Hollywood and directed this adaptation of one of the most popular novels by Agatha Christie. Ten strangers travel to an island retreat, invited by a mysterious millionaire. Each is guilty of a secret crime, and their unseen host is out to mettle justice. As one by one falls prey to the unseen hand of a justice-mad killer, the survivors race to find out who is responsible before they get their turn. Walter Huston heads the cast. The novel has been adapted many, many times in every medium possible. We are sure Kenneth Branagh saw this movie before tackling his adaptations of Christie's novels.

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