It often happens that, when I watch a film I think “hum, this film made me think of another one. Therefore, they would make a good double feature.” I have several ideas of interesting movie matches and I thought it was about time to write a blog post about it. However, I might do it in more than one part as I have a lot of ideas and if I don’t want my article to be too long! My friend Carol did a similar thing on her blog The Old Hollywood Garden with her “double bill” posts, which were a series of 20 articles about films that would make a good double bill. You can check her various articles here.
To kick off things, I’ve decided to present you 10 matches. I’ve decided not to include remakes or sequels (at least, not official ones) because that would be too obvious.
The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938) and Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed, 1940)
Night Train to Munich could very much look like a sequel or a remake of The Lady Vanishes but it really isn’t one. Funny enough, at the time Night Train to Munich was released, publicity mistakenly claimed it was a remake of the Hitchcock’s thriller. Even if it wasn’t the case, both films share strong similitudes which makes us understand how they’ll make a good double bill. Both The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich take place in a World War II context, although The Lady Vanishes take place just before it was really declared. In Night Train to Munich, war is declared at one point in the film. The particularity of The Lady Vanishes is that the enemies are from a fictionalized country, Bandrika. Night Train to Munich starts in Prague and then takes place in Germany, with a lot of Nazis. If most of the story of The Lady Vanishes takes place on a train, it’s the case for around 30 minutes of Night Train. However, key scenes happen aboard this train.
The casts of The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich also share some similitudes. Margaret Lockwood plays the leading female roles in both films and Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford are back as well. Although Margaret Lockwood plays different characters in both films, Wayne and Radford are back as cricket addicts comic duo: Charters and Caldicott! This is the narrative element that truly connects both films.
The leading male characters are played respectively by Michael Redgrave and Rex Harrison and they are both sophisticated and somehow eccentric gentlemen. Paul Lukas and Paul Henreid play the villains and characters whom, at first, completely fool us until we discover their true colours.
Finally, the screenplays of The Lady Vanishes and Night Train To Munich were both written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder.
BONUS: Sleeping Car to Trieste (John Paddy Carstairs, 1948)
Another film that could easily be joined to The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich is Sleeping Car to Trieste, a remake of Rome Express (Walter Forde, 1932). Sets in a post-war Europe, Sleeping Car is another British where a major part of the action takes place on a train, and a story involving a bunch of interesting characters. This time, the train travels between Paris, France and Trieste, Italy. However, if the previous films are considered masterpieces, it’s not really the case for Sleeping Car. But this must not prevent you to see it as it is a truly entertaining film. Very underrated.
Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcok, 1940) and Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1948)
Here we have a similar situation in the fact that Secret Beyond the Door could be considered an unofficial remake of Rebecca. Indeed, even if the characters are different, both films present a lot of similar narrative and aesthetical elements. Two Gothic Noirs, Rebecca and Secret Beyond the Door take place in a big mansion surrounded by a foggy and mysterious forest. Both the female and male character meet and connect in similar circumstances. Indeed, both I (Joan Fontaine) and Celia (Joan Bennett) marry a man they barely know and met while traveling (to Monte Carlo for the first case, to Mexico for the second). They are later pushed to wonder if it was the right decision. Indeed, Max De Winter (Laurence Olivier) and Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) play mysterious and troubled husbands. Both Max and Mark were previously married to women who died in mysterious circumstances and their memories are kept alive in the house: via Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) in Rebecca’s case and via David (Mark Dennis), Mark’s son in Secret Beyond the Door. There’s also Miss Robey (Barbara O’Neil), Mark’s secretary, who present the jealous rival like just like it was the case for Mrs. Danver in Hitchcock film.
[SPOILER] The ending is similar, as both Mrs. Danvers and Miss Robey set fire to the mansion. The leading characters are luckily saved and love finally dominates the situation. [END OF SPOILER]
Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t happy with Obsession being made as he thought it was too similar to Vertigo. Poor Hitch, everybody wants to copy his films… Well, this gives you the clue that both films indeed fit well together. Vertigo and Obsession present both a case of double identity and “dual” female characters played by the same actress: Kim Novak is Madeleine/Judy in Vertigo and Genevieve Bujold is Elizabeth/ Sandra in Obsession. The whole idea of “obsession” for something that belongs to the past is also at the center of both Hitchcock and DePalma films.
Vertigo and Obsession, at some point, both present a blurry and almost phantomatic aesthetic.
Bernard Herrmann scored both films. His composition for Obsession is one of my all time favourites.
I think Obsession, although it didn’t mark Cinema History as much as Vertigo did, is great in its own rights and was obviously a tribute to the 1958’s film rather than just a pale copy.
This isn’t a mystery to those who are familiar with these two screwball comedies: My Man Godfrey and Merrily We Live are VERY similar but still, one is not a remake of the other. My Man Godfrey and Merrily We Live both present a situation where a tramp is hired to work for a wealthy family. William Powell becomes the butler in My Man Godfrey and Brian Aherne becomes the chauffeur in Merrily We Live. Carole Lombard and Constance Bennett respectively play the female leads: Irene Bullock (Lombard) and Jerry Kilbourne (Bennett). Two queens of screwball comedies, Lombard and Bennett knew perfectly how to play comedy and be both sophisticated and silly at the same time. As a matter of fact, Constance Bennett has always reminded me a bit of Carole Lombard and vice-versa. Actually, Constance Bennett was the initial choice to play Irene in My Man Godfrey (Miriam Hopkins and Marion Davies were also considered). The previous year, Constance Bennett starred in the delightful comedy Topper (Norman Z. McLeod, 1937) alongside Cary Grant in a role that could have fit Carole Lombard as well.
Without revealing it, the endings of both films also share a strong similitude but, even if both storie are chaotic and similar we must not be fooled by the chronology in which My Man Godfrey and Merrily We Live were released. Godfrey was the first one to be released, in 1936, and was based on the novel 1101 Park Avenue by Eric Hatch. But, even if it was released after, Merrily We Live was based on The Dark Chapter; a Comedy of Class Distinctions written by E. J. Rath and published in 1924 and on his Broadway adaptation, They All Want Something by Courtenay Savage which premiered in 1926. So, even if Godfrey, the film, came first, the story on which Merrily We Live was based was the first one to be published. We have an interesting situation here.
Please tell me in the comments if you are more Team My Man Godfrey or Team Merrily We Live! Honestly, as much as I love both films, I think I have a preference for the one starring Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne.
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938) and What’s Up, Doc? (Peter Bogdanovich, 1972)
Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is a beautiful tribute to the 1930s screwball comedies (that’s probably why I loved it so much). I watched it for the first time, not a long time ago, without any expectations but it turned out to be a wonderful surprise to me. You know, that kind of film that you just don’t want it to end. If we’ll choose to compare it with a classic screwball, our first choice would be, without hesitation, Bringing Up Baby. The story of both films is pretty different but both are presented in a chaotic atmosphere full of peripeties and improbable situations, faithful to the screwball comedy genre. However, it’s in the personality of the characters that we find strong similitudes between Hawks and Bogdanovich films. Cary Grant and Ryan O’Neal both portray scientists (who are so adorable with there glasses). Dr. David Huxley (Grant) is a zoologist and Dr. Howard Bannister (Neal) is a musicologist. Huxley precious object is the intercostal clavicle of a brontosaur and Bannister’s one is a suitcase pack with rocks (yes, this has something to do with the science of music). Both men are engaged and try to be serious citizens but this won’t last after they’ll meet the girl that will change their life: Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) in Bringing Up Baby and Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) in What Up, Doc? Two eccentric ladies falling in love, they’ll do everything not to let the man they met out of their sights. And the fun starts with them as they’ll provoke unforgettable adventures, on a farm in Connecticut in Bringing Up Baby and in San Francisco in What Up, Doc?
Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand are both unforgettable in their respective roles. Yes, the personality of their character is very similar but their interpretation is different which allows them to stand out and make each film a worth watching one.
Fun fact: as Ryan O’Neal’s role was inspired by Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby, the two actors met and the only advise Grant gave to Ryan was to wear silk underpants. I wonder if it had an impact!
Quiet Wedding (Anthony Asquith, 941) and Father of the Bride (Vincente Minnelli, 1950)
Quiet Wedding and Father of the Bride are two similar films in the idea that they are both about the preparation of a young girl’s wedding. Minnelli film focuses on the father’s point of view on this wedding but Quiet Wedding focuses on the couple and their families. In both situations, we aren’t sure what will happen with that wedding or if they’ll really be one as the couples face various obstacles. But this is even more present in Quiet Wedding where Margaret Lockwood (the bride) and Derek Farrar (the groom), in quest of quiet moments before the wedding, find themselves in some crazy situations. Interestingly, Margaret Lockwood was a friend of Joan Bennett who plays Elizabeth Taylor’s mother in Father of the Bride.
Father of the Bride might be the one people remember the most but I believe Quiet Wedding has the most colourful and varied characters, which is very typical to British comedies. Both films are marked by the direction of qualified movie directors. We all know Vincente Minnelli for some acclaimed classics such as Meet Me in St. Louis, An American In Paris, or Some Came Running. Anthony Asquith also was a reputed British movie director thanks to The Browning Version, The Importance of Being Earnest or The Way to the Stars. Both films received favourable reviews on their release. The New York Time said of Anthony Asquith’s work on Quiet Wedding that he has directed “with tender appreciation of his material this completely unpretentious and charming film.”
Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985) and The Linguini Incident (Richard Shepard, 1991)
Two crime comedies sets in New York with tons of peripeties, a memorable ending and free-spirited ladies, Desperately Seeking Susan and The Linguini Incident both have this retro aesthetic proper to the films of the late 20th century. Desperately Seeking Susan might be the best one but The Linguini Incident would make a good companion to Seidelman film. These are films we watch mainly for pure entertainment rather than for deep analysis or scholar studies. No, The Linguini Incident is not a masterpiece but it’s a lot of fun.
Not only Rosanna Arquette stars in both films but major singers also play a leading role: Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan (she plays the Susan in question) and David Bowie in The Linguini Incident. Both embody the definition of “cool” and, on her side, Arquette plays this endearing but, somewhat, clumsy woman. However, she isn’t afraid to take risks and merges herself into various adventures (or misadventures) and that’s how these films become hard not to like.
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952) and The Plunderers (Joseph Pevney, 1960)
Some of you may know it, High Noon is my favourite western. Why? Because it’s so different from the typical “John Ford” type of Westerns. It’s unique in its own kind (it even was qualified as a Noir Western). When I watched The Plunderers for the first time, I didn’t expect to necessarily love it probably due to the fact that it’s not the most talked about western. Well, I actually liked it much more than some more “famous” westerns and that’s probably due to the fact that it reminded me a lot of High Noon.
First of all, the bad guys are white men cowboys and, just like in High Noon, they are the first characters to be introduced to us. Both gangs go in to town in order to disturb its quietness. The town of High Noon and The Plunderers are small and we are rapidly introduced to their inhabitants. However, the gang from High Noon is here to seek revenge and the gang from The Plunderers is just here to make trouble and nothing more. The black and white aesthetics of both films share similitudes and gives a certain humility to the films. High Noon also has the particularity not to show any big landscapes, something proper to the western genre, and this is also the case with The Plunderers.
One of the major differences, however, between both stories, resides in the fact that the main male characters: Will Kane (Gary Cooper) in High Noon and Sam Christy (Jeff Chandler) in The Plunderers have a different perception of things, of the danger that is menacing the town. As the newlywed sheriff who is about to leave with his new wife Amy (Grace Kelly), he decides instead to stay in order to protect the town and pretty much nobody is willing to help. In Christy’s case, he is a rancher who has lost the function of an arm but still probably the person the aptest to help. However, tired of fighting, he has to be pushed to do so.
Grace Kelly and Dolores Hart do share similitudes. Indeed, Dolores Hart was often compared to Grace Kelly for her look and, later, for her very short acting career. Both Amy Kane (Kelly) and Ellie Walters (Hart) come to the rescue of the male hero in a similar and risky way, also making them heroines of the picture.
High Noon is often described to be a “noir western” but I believe it could also be the case with The Plunderers.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) and The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
We’ve finally reach the last comparison of this first part of films that match well together!
I only became aware of the similitudes between Buth Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Wild Bunch when I saw Butch Cassidy on the big screen at the TCM Classic Film Festival last April.
As a matter of fact, Butch Cassidy’s gang was called the Wild Bunch.
Not only these are two westerns released in 1969 but they also are sort of “buddy” movies. Just like the characters portrayed by William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Edmond O’Brien, Warren Oates, Jaime Sánchez and Ben Johnson in The Wild Bunch, Butch and the Kid are part of an outlaws gang robbing trains and banks. However, they soon form a duo in opposition to The Wild Bunch where the gang stays together to face the dangers.
George Roy Hill’s film, however, gives a more interesting place to the women with Katharine Ross character in opposition to The Wild Bunch where the women seen are pretty much only extras.
I was also agreeably surprised to notice similar visual aspects in both films. “Agreeably” because I’ve always thought that it was one of the strong points of The Wild Bunch. Riding horses in similar types of landscapes, our characters appear majestic on them thanks to a rewarding camera. We also find in Butch Cassidy and The Wild Bunch those slow motion shots during when men are being shot, where the dust slowly gets off the ground while the victims fall on this one. These slow-motions shots are more often present in The Wild Bunch but there’s a particular moment in Buth Cassidy where we can clearly think of The Wild Bunch, aesthetically speaking.
Finally, the ending of both films also creates a connection in similitudes and gives us another good reason to make a double feature with these westerns. [SPOILER] Butch and the Kid find themselves trapped in Bolivia, not able to do much against the army and this is what happens to Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his gang in Mexico, where their days will end as well. They’ve often managed to escape the danger but not this time. [END OF SPOILER]
I am not the only one who observed strong similarities between both films. Indeed, during the production of The Wild Bunch, resemblances with Butch Cassidy, which was produced by 20th Century Fox, were noticed and it was decided that The Wild Bunch‘s screenplay would be produced in order to be released first. Produced by Warner Brothers, The Wild Bunch premiered on June 18, 1969, while Butch Cassidy was released on October 24, 1969. Despite Warner Bros’s urge to release its film first, Butch Cassidy became the #1 financial success of the year. While The Wild Bunch is of great quality and can easily be qualified a masterpiece of the western genre, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid might be a more accessible film due to its humour, the memorable chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and Burt Bacharach’s score. All these elements can explain its popularity at the box office over The Wild Bunch. The later film is also remembered for its graphic depiction of violence which doesn’t make it necessarily accessible for everybody.
These are obviously not the only films that we could compare and, as a matter of fact, I have a ton of other ideas for a part 2 and maybe a part 3! But we’ll stop here for now as this article is already long enough.
I claimed that these films fit well together but and gave many reasons why but, I must admit, I’ve never watched them one after the other just like we do with double features in a movie theatre. Oh wait, I think I did it with The Lady Vanishes and Night Train to Munich when I was working on my article about Charters and Caldicott but I’m not sure it was on the same day, or one right after the other. Anyway, I would love to try the experience with the examples I’ve cited in this text.
Please don’t hesitate to tell me in the comment section which films you think would make a good double bill!