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Adding ‘New’ Old Movies to My Classic Movie Guide

Classic Movie Guide 3rd Edition-2015

People seem surprised, or amused, when I tell them that we’ve added more than 300 new movies to my book, TCM Presents Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide. It wasn’t hard to do: my colleagues and I took note of what was playing on cable movie channels and what was being released for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray. I tend not to list films that only survive in archives and aren’t accessible to the public: this is first and foremost a user’s guide. 
The new inclusions are incredibly diverse, ranging from European silent films to Hollywood B movies of the 1930s and ‘40s, from a Mary Pickford vehicle to an early Milos Forman feature from the 1960s. “New” titles featuring Clara Bow, Joe E. Brown, Mary Pickford, Conrad Veidt, and Wheeler and Woolsey share pages with features directed by Fritz Lang, Jules Dassin, Julien Duvivier, Frank Borzage, Paul Fejos, Victor Fleming, and even John Ford.
Upstream Poster-680Some of those titles didn’t make the cut in our first two editions because there simply wasn’t room for everything (which is still the case). Others have only become accessible in the past five years. A prime example is John Ford’s entertaining silent comedy Upstream (1927), which was thought lost until a nearly-perfect 35mm print was discovered in New Zealand. It’s now available on DVD, along with other recently-unearthed material, on a disc called Lost and Found: American Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, produced by the National Film Preservation Foundation. (Full disclosure: I am on the NFPF board. Fuller disclosure: I didn’t include another great discovery, an early credit for Alfred Hitchcock called The White Shadow, because only three reels of that 1924 feature survive.)
Since our last Classic Movie Guide came out I’ve been keeping a list of additions and corrections, but until my cohort Spencer Green and I began work in earnest we didn’t realize how much there would be to do. 
The Philo Vance mystery isn’t called Bishop Murder Case, but The Bishop Murder Case. The Olsen and Johnson comedy isn’t Fifty Million Frenchmen but 50 Million Frenchmen. For his early Hollywood effort Danger—Love at Work, the director was credited as Otto L. Preminger; he later dropped the middle initial. We always listed Thank You, Mr. Moto as a 1938 movie but it turns out it debuted in December of 1937. 

Our primary source for credits is always the film itself. We generally trust whatever it says onscreen, although even here there are exceptions, as when a studio carelessly misspells someone’s name. For further corroboration we attempt to find source material from the time of the film’s release.
Naughty Maria-300One can easily drown in such details, but detective work can be  satisfying when one finds a definitive answer. For my rewrite of Naughty Marietta (1935) I wanted to refer to Victor Herbert’s famous song (known to a later generation from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein), “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life.” Or is it “Ah! Sweet Mystery of Life”? Check online and you’ll find contradictory references from supposedly reliable sources. In frustration, I turned to eBay and located a piece of sheet music from the song’s initial publication in 1910—with an exclamation point, not a comma. And that’s that.

Naughty Marietta
is also a better movie than I indicated in my earlier write-up. It is just one of many films my colleagues and I have revisited and rerated for this edition. We don’t take these changes of heart lightly, be they positive or negative, but when a film looks better than it did the first time around, or hasn’t aged well, it seems foolish to stand by an outdated opinion.

It’s been great fun to dive into this material, as vintage movies remain my first love. I’m honored that Turner Classic Movies is “branding” the new edition of the Guide and hope that diehard film buffs will find it useful—and enjoyable.
 

14 comments

  1. Ken Blose says:

    I just wish it was on an app or some searchable format so we could weed out the new 300 films…

  2. Carson Lorey says:

    I always enjoy these editions, especially since no major critic has tackled a lot of these obscure titles. That being said, I quite disagreed with Maltin on Harry Langdon’s "Three’s A Crowd" and "The Chaser," both of which got the infamous BOMB rating. I’m not sure if Maltin has seen them recently, but his review reads like he did them from recollection from 30 years ago.

  3. RAFAEL CASTRO says:

    I wondered by 1934 movies i saw recently, one was CHANGE OF HEART with ginger Rogers, a cute romantic comedy that was much better than your older reviews implied and THE RETURN OF BULLDOG DRUMMOND,an amusing whodunnit played delightfully by Ronald Colman and Loretta Young. This new guide would be my birthday gift for this month. BYE.

  4. CC says:

    Still mourning the loss of the Movie Guide…
    The new one would have been out about now…
    R.I.P.

  5. Rob Ray says:

    My copy arrived from Amazon on Tuesday as well. I can’t imagine not having a classic movie guide at my fingertips and hope there will be many more editions in the future!

    I have one suggestion: Please watch the beautifully restored bluray of WINGS and reconsider the **1/2 review. It’s very rare that I think a review is completely off the mark (you’re batting .999999 with me!) but I do think the 2012 restoration deserves an updated entry. I showed the film to a friend who doesn’t like silent movies and he was stunned, saying he had no idea silents could have such an impact.

  6. Dave Kirwan says:

    Can’t wait to get my copy. Glad to hear you have re-worked many of the old listings. Not only do some films look different to us than they might have 20 or 30 years ago, but the rational behind some ratings might have changed. It may have made sense to rate the work of some film makers on a bit of a curve (say Buster Keaton or Alfred Hitchcock) a few decades ago, but now that these oldies are in danger of becoming museum pieces it might be time to give them their full due!

  7. Robert Sanderson says:

    I agree with Marcos above, Mr Maltin. These guides should go on!!!!! They are an invaluable resource for movie buffs. Also the now discontinued Movie Guide should go on in some way. How about publishing a list of your five star movies at the end of each year on Indiewire?

  8. HAROLD KOHN says:

    what criteria did you use to decide which movies that are not in the third edition but were in the second?

  9. HAROLD KOHN says:

    What criteria did you use to decide which movies to eliminate from the third edition that were in the second?

  10. Justin Knox says:

    I bought my copy at Barnes & Noble yesterday. I’m still browsing through it and it’s awesome!

  11. Lawrence H. Bulk says:

    Leonard, I just read this post and I immediately ordered the book from Amazon. It is scheduled to arrive on Friday. I am really looking forward to it and I’m VERY glad that you have decided to continue this book.

  12. John says:

    My copy arrived from Amazon yesterday. With more and more vintage material available on TCM, DVD, Blu-ray and streaming it’s essential in this household for sorting out the good, the bad and the ugly and making good use of the limited time we have for movie viewing. Not that I agree with Leonard 100 per cent of the time but for the most part I think he’s spot on! Thousands and thousands of hours of great film viewing gained, thousands of hours of lost time saved by not watching the duds!

  13. Marcos says:

    Congratulations Mr. Maltin! Please! Don’t make this third edition the last! I understand why you decided to discontinue the Movie Guide, but the Classic Movie Guide (now with the sponsorship of TCM) is a one-every-five year event!

  14. Maurice Horowitz says:

    Just purchased the new edition. Can’t wait to check it out. I love the old movies, especially those from the 30’s and 40’s.

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