What Was the Greatest Movie Year?

What Was the Greatest Movie Year?

A new book, Cinema ’62, written by film critic Stephen Farber and film producer and buyer Michael McClellan, poses this question and offers a convincing answer.

Early on, I was concerned that the book would simply be a catalogue of films and film descriptions—and in a way that’s what it was. But as it progressed, I realized that that very quality was the intent and the strength of the book.

What made that year in movies so special was not just the astonishing number of great films, but the fact that 1962 was a nexus of people, styles, and film industry forces that crossed briefly and dramatically, then dissipated.

Stars appeared from past and future generations, such as Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, and the young Peter O’Toole (shown here), along with older directors such as Orson Welles and John Huston and new ones such as Sidney Lumet and John Frankenheimer. Foreign films were just starting to be recognized.

I couldn’t believe the page-turning list of fine films. The sheer number and quality was what I found most impressive and enjoyable. Then, in the book’s final chapter, the crown jewel of that year, Lawrence of Arabia, is brilliantly described and analyzed. It’s great to remember the qualities that made Lawrence a masterpiece.

If you’re looking for movies to watch, you could do worse than to screen a 1962 film festival.