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Use the silver screen to escape the pandemic

UPDATED: Thu., March 19, 2020

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It’s no accident that Hollywood’s Golden Age heavily coincided with the Great Depression. People wanted to go into a dark theater and escape. For the COVID-19 version of that, we have home video. If you need to renew your faith in humanity, then check out these films made during, and perhaps in spite of, some trying times of the past.

‘How Green Was My Valley’

Directed by John Ford; starring Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp and Roddy McDowall. 1941. 118 minutes.

Follow the Morgans, a working class family in a Welsh mining village as economic pressures divide their household. Explore the gray areas of humanity as you find compassion for all this film’s characters and their conflicting values. This story taps into the miracle of human empathy, reminding us of its universality and strength.

‘12 Angry Men’

Directed by Sidney Lumet; starring Henry Fonda. 1957. 96 minutes.

On a hot summer day, a jury of 12 men swelter in a small room as they argue about a seemingly simple case. The evidence seems clear, but one juror stands in their way of rash decision. This film puts humanity to the test as the jurors work through the heat, their prejudices and, most of all, their indifference.

‘Sullivan’s Travels’

Directed by Preston Sturges; starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. 1941. 90 minutes.

In an experiment to get realistic perspective for an upcoming movie, a young, successful director throws on some raggedy clothes and sets off into the world of the poor and struggling. He finds out more than he ever wanted to and along the way learns how people find hope and laughter in some of the darkest, most chilling places.

‘The Nutty Professor’

Directed by and starring Jerry Lewis. 1963. 107 minutes.

It is advisable to throw in a comedy with all this drama, and there’s no better person to turn to than Jerry Lewis. In this film, Lewis plays hopelessly nerdy and clumsy Professor Julius Kelp who, through a series of colorful and explosive chemistry experiments, discovers a way to unlock his inner sexy alter ego, Buddy Love. This movie is a ton of fun with its combination of surrealistic slapstick and huge heart.

‘A Matter of Life and Death’

Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and starring David Niven and Kim Hunter. 1946. 104 minutes.

This isn’t a Hollywood film, but it stars Kim Hunter as an American radio operator, so it gets to sneak on the list. A British pilot survives a crash he wasn’t meant to, and soon enough an angel informs him that heaven made a mistake, and it is time to report to the afterlife. With epic scope, this film asks what it means to be alive and if any of it is fair. Tough to ask, but its answers offer nothing but hope and love for the human experience.

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