Recommend a book for Mom that lists old movies
December 16, 2007 5:18 PM   Subscribe

For a Friend: Recommend a book that will list all the movies my mother would have seen back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s if she'd had the time.

My friend writes:

My mother's often said that, due to dating, socializing, working, attending school, getting married, having kids, and not having cable until 2004, she missed an awful lot of movies that she would liked to have seen. When we got a VCR in the eighties, she saw some of them: I
remember that we rented a lot of Hitchcock, for example. But to this day, whenever a TV show is running down a list of great movies or a newscaster is giving the obituary for a famous actor from a bygone era, she invariably checks off more than half the titles with "I never got to see that" or "that was during the time when I just didn't get to go to the movies." Of course I've volunteered to requisition some of those old movies through Netflix, but it's tough for her to generate a list of specific titles. She always says "There were so many," and "there were so many years where I didn't even know what was out."

For Christmas, I'd like to give her a book that would list all of the movies from her era so that she can
(a) recall the ones she's seen,
(b) identify the ones she hasn't and (c) read little about all of them.

My Amazon searches have not filled me with hope and confidence. I'd really like to get some recommendations from you guys.

[Oh, and I ask for a book rather than internet resources because my mother just won't spend that much time in front of a computer. However if you have internet based resources (or maybe just some IMDB or Netflix search tricks) you'd like to recomend, please do; I might be able to use them myself or print out selected pages to supplement the book.]

Ideally, this book will:

1. List most or all of the popular and critically well recieved
mainstream American movies released between 1950 and 1980. The book should provide a pretty accurate idea of what people were watching and talking about during those time periods. It shouldn't restrict itself to only Academy Award winners or some sort of "Best Of" list.

2. Focus on the whos, whats, whens, and wheres rather than on critical evaluation. My mother wants to know that Famous Actress slept with her co-star in Movie XYZ or that said movie made 10 million at the box office in 1970. She doesn't care whether Roger Ebert liked the movie or not.

3. Not try to list everything that played in theaters. Mom won't be interested in the grade B, exploitation, cult, or Japanese monster movies. Mom won't sift through a list of 7000
titles . Obviously there'll be some chaff, but if there's too much, the book will sit and collect dust.

4. Include enough pictures, background and gossip magazine type info, story synopses, etc. to jog her memory, especially when it comes to titles she may not have thought about in decades.

5. Be fun to peruse.

When she opens the gift, I'll let her know you guys helped. Thanks.
posted by username68 to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This might be helpful.
posted by nola at 5:21 PM on December 16, 2007

Man, I know the perfect book IF you were interested in books, not movies. This book details the NY Times Bestseller list throughout the years in just the ways you want.

For movies, Taschen has a series called "The Best Movies of (X Decade)", but I'm not familiar with it. Here's the 1970s one.
posted by GaelFC at 5:45 PM on December 16, 2007

I have the Taschen series. They're beautiful books with lots of great photos.
posted by sharkfu at 5:46 PM on December 16, 2007

How about The Guinness Book of Film? It covers more decades than you ask for, but I think it might do ok. Plus it's super-cheap used, apparently. It's organized by year, with each year having about 15 films listed. Lots of photos too. It's definitely focused on the big box-office hits of each given year.

It does give a little color in many of the descriptions. The one for Cleopatra (1963) says "The film is notorious for its production setbacks, including life-threatening illnesses (Taylor developed double pneumonia, and had to have a tracheotomy). Allowing for inflation, it remains the most expensive movie ever made."

On preview: That Taschen book looks good too.
posted by slenderloris at 6:09 PM on December 16, 2007

I wrote about 15 or 20 of the entries in the book nola linked to. But even if I hadn't, I'd still recommend it for your friend's mother.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:38 PM on December 16, 2007

In The Great Movies, Roger Ebert selects 100 of his favorite movies and presents short essays on them. I haven't read the book, but many of the essays are available on his web site.
posted by concrete at 12:39 AM on December 17, 2007

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