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The Fifty MGM Films That Transformed Hollywood 

Triumphs, Blockbusters, and Fiascos 

 

By Steven Bingen 

(Lyons Press, 2022)

Movies don’t exist in a vacuum. Each MGM movie is a tiny piece of a large, colorful (although often black-and-white) quilt, with threads tying it into all of the rest of that studio’s product, going forward, yes, but also backward, and horizontally, and three-dimensionally across its entire landscape. Not necessarily a “best of” compilation, this book discusses the films that for one reason or another (and not all of them good ones) changed the trajectory of MGM and the film industry in general, from the revolutionary use of “Cinerama” in 1962’s How the West Was Won to Director Alfred Hitchcock’s near-extortion of the profits from the 1959 hit thriller North by Northwest. And there are the studio’s on-screen self-shoutouts to its own past or stars, in films like Party Girl (1958), the That’s Entertainment series, Garbo Talks (1984), Rain Man (1955), and De-Lovely (2004), or the studio’s acquisition of other successful franchises such as James Bond. But fear not—what we consider MGM’s classic films all get their due here, often with a touch of irony or fascinating anecdote. Singin' in the Rain (1952), for example, was in its day neither a financial blockbuster nor critically acclaimed but rather an excuse for the studio to reuse some old songs it already owned. The Wizard of Oz (1939) cost almost as much to make as Gone With the Wind (also 1939) and took ten years to recoup its costs. But still, the MGM mystique endures. Like the popular Netflix series The Movies that Made Us, this is a fascinating look behind the scenes of the greatest—and at times notorious—films ever made.

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THE FIFTY!

  1. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

  2. Greed (1924)

  3. The Big Parade (1925)

  4. Putting Pants on Philip (1927)

  5. White Shadows in the South Seas (1928)

  6. The Broadway Melody (1929)

  7. Hallelujah (1929)

  8. Freaks (1932)

  9. Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

  10. Grand Hotel (1932)

  11. Dancing Lady (1933)

  12. The Good Earth (1937)

  13. Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938)

  14. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

  15. Gone with the Wind (1939)

  16. Puss Gets the Boot (1940)

  17. Mrs. Miniver (1942)

  18. Song of Russia (1944)

  19. Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

  20. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

  21. On the Town (1949)

  22.  Battleground (1949) and 23. The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

24. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

25. The Blackboard Jungle (1955)

26. Forbidden Planet (1956)

27. Jailhouse Rock (1957)

28. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

29. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925) and 30. Ben-Hur (1959)

31. North by Northwest (1959)

32. How the West was Won (1962)

33. Dr. No (1963)

34. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968)

35. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

36. Blow-Up (1966)

37. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

38. The Dirty Dozen (1967)

39. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

40. Shaft (1971)

41. Hollywood: The Dream Factory (1972)

42. The Phantom of Hollywood (1974)

43. That’s Entertainment! (1974) 

44. Rocky (1976)

45. Coma (1978)

46. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

47. Hero at Large (1980), or Being There (1979), or The Formula (1980)

48. Pennies from Heaven (1981)

49. Running Scared (1986)

50. Get Shorty (1995)

What would you have included?

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