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Cinema's Best Year? '62 ... Perhaps

September 09, 2002|Robert W. Welkos

You'll excuse Mike McClellan if he puts an asterisk beside the year 1939, which many film historians and movie buffs proclaim to be the greatest year in the history of American cinema.

Sure, McClellan concedes, 1939 was the best year for Hollywood movies--with "Gone With the Wind," "Stagecoach," "The Wizard of Oz," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Wuthering Heights" among others--but he casts his vote for 1962.

"Everyone thinks 1939 is the greatest year, and you can make a case for that in Hollywood, but I am talking internationally," said McClellan, vice president and film buyer for Landmark Theatres. "If you put those two together, then you come up with, arguably, a very strong case for 1962."

To that end, McClellan has assembled some of 1962's more memorable movies in a 40th anniversary retrospective titled "1962: The Greatest Year in Motion Picture History," which will screen Friday through Sept. 19 at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.

Among the selections: "The Manchurian Candidate," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Sweet Bird of Youth," "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Sundays and Cybele," "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "Lolita."

He said the screenings coincide with the reissuing of "Lawrence of Arabia," starring Peter O'Toole, at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. But he laments that he was unable to obtain prints of some of 1962's other unforgettable films, such as "Advise & Consent," "Ride the High Country" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night."

What criteria did he use to crown 1962 as the greatest year in movies? "I think the criteria were that these were films about serious subjects, intelligently made," McClellan said. "They had depth and they had breadth and some, like 'Lawrence of Arabia,' had them all."

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