Are we getting fed up with the scarcity of original stories coming from Hollywood? Do we crave a different sort of escapism? Or is it just that we want to watch the films our parents always talk about? More and more of us seem to be seeking out the classics; this month, I’ve selected films around a number of seasoned actors whose performances consistently made the films they starred in complete classics.

Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, Classic Films, Clint Eastwood, Wild West, Black and White Films

Classic Films: Why Watch Them

In the golden age of cinema, memorable performances made the masterpiece. Acting and narration were the most critical elements of a movie. You could not edit away a bad performance or cover it up with special effects. Only the actors could breath life into their characters so that they might live on in the collective memory of the audience long after the lights went up. Success and star power were synonymous. Now here’s the actors to watch:

#1 Clint Eastwood

Classic Films, Clint Eastwood, Wild West, Black and White Films

{All films are being shown at the Prince Charles Theatre, London}

Fistful of Dollars – 7th September 2014

For A Few Dollars More – 21st September 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – 5th October 2014

Critically dismissed at the time, the Dollars movies are now justly regarded as classics having single-handedly revolutionised the western genre. They popularised the ‘spaghetti western’ sub-genre and catapulted the careers of Sergei Leone, Clint Eastwood, and composer Ennio Morricone, into international stardom.

Eastwood’s iconic (and laconic) performance as The Man with No Name, the supreme gunslinging badass, is now legendary. He re-invented the archetypical American cowboy, established a new template for the classic cinema anti-hero and created one of the most iconographic characters of cinema history in the process. Eastwood may have amassed a staggeringly impressive body of work but this groundbreaking trilogy is by far his best in my opinion. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is close to being a piece of pure cinematic perfection Simplicity, made epic.

The gifted Ennio Morricone also deserves a special mention. His daring scores for all three films are simply unforgettable. Brilliantly emotive, mesmerising and beautiful, the music is reason enough to see these films.

#2 Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart, Classic Films, Clint Eastwood, Wild West, Black and White Films

The Maltese Falcon – 11 and 19th September 2014 at BFI Southbank

Casablanca – 10th and 23rd September 2014 at the Rooftop Cinema Club

Humphrey Bogart was a cinema giant. He was one of the industry’s most distinctive leading men of the 40’s and 50’s, and a visual and cultural icon for the noir side of Hollywood.

Undoubtedly, The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca are the movies that defined his career. They turned him from a B-movie player into a Hollywood legend. The Maltese Falcon, a twisting tale of deception and delusion, is considered to be one of the best films of all time by the legendary critic Robert Ebert. Bogart’s flawless performance as the arrogant detective Sam Spade showcased the actor at his finest and paved the way for his role in Casablanca. This is a film that needs no introduction. Yet, it is one of the best loved films of all time because of its remarkable cast including the wonderful Bogart, who plays the embittered cafe owner, Rick Blaine.

#3 Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, Classic Films, Clint Eastwood, Wild West, Black and White Films

{Both at BFI Southbank. The restoration of M is not to be missed!}

M 5th-7th September 2014
The Man Who Knew Too Much 3rd and 6th September 2014

Peter Lorre – you may not recognise the name but you’d instantly know his face. The “Master of the Unusual” and the softly spoken villain. 

Therefore, the BFI have unsurprisingly decided to celebrate his incredibly versatile career this month. The first major film to make use of Lorre’s talents was Fritz Lang’s disturbing psychological thriller, M. Lorre played the role of Lang’s compulsive child killer who is hunted down by both the police and criminal underworld of Berlin. In his first major screen role. Lorre was frighteningly unforgettable and gained international attention for his creepily credible portrayal.of countless Hollywood tales of terror, crime and espionage, Lorre was one of Hollywood’s most talented and successful character actors.

This led to his appearance in Alfred Hitchcock’s cosmopolitan thriller, The Man Who Knew Too Much. As the head of the terrorist gang, Lorre sketches out the character beautifully and helps make this a Hitchcock classic (albeit not his best). Like M, it helped cement his place in Hollywood.

#4 Conrad Veidt

Peter Lorre, Humphrey Bogart, Classic Films, Clint Eastwood, Wild West, Black and White Films

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari – 29th September 2014 BFI Southbank

Like Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt may not be familiar but you’d recognise him in an instant. For a number of decades, Veidt was one of Germany’s best known actors, a shining star of Old Hollywood and a household name. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari was the film that put him on the map. Strange, surreal and extremely stylised, Caligari was one of the first true horror films and first examples in cinema of German expressionism. Veidt stars as Cesare, the murderous somnambulist. The role was a turning point in his career. Veidt would go on become a mainstay in the horror film industry, the quintessential Nazi villain in American films related to the war (for example, as Major Heinrich Strasser in Casablanca!) and the primary influence for Batman’s iconic nemesis The Joker.