Melodrama Screening and Discussion, 3rd April, Jarman 7, 5-7pm

Posted by Sarah

All are welcome to attend the sixth and last of this term’s melodrama screening and discussion sessions which will take place on the 3rd of April in Jarman 7, from 5pm to 7pm.

We will be showing Gaslight (Thorold Dickinson, 1940) 84 mins

Gaslight UK

At the last session we watched the 1944 Hollywood remake of this film. As well as a broad consideration of melodrama, and the two film versions’  similarities and differences, we hope to discuss Guy Barefoot’s “East Lynne to Gas Light: Hollywood, Melodrama and Twentieth-Century Notions of the Victorian” in Jacky Bratton, Jim Cook and Christine Gledhill (eds), Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen (BFI, 1994): 94-105. Email me on if you would like access to the chapter.

Do join us for the screening of this British classic.

Melodrama Screening, 20th March, Jarman 7, 5-7 pm

Posted by Sarah

All are welcome to attend the fifth of this term’s melodrama screening sessions which will take place on the 20th of March in Jarman 7, from 5pm to 7pm.

We will be showing Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944) 114 mins

1 Welcome Gaslight

This is the Hollywood remake, with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman (see above!), of the British film of the same title produced in 1940. The earlier film (which we will be watching at the next session on the 3rd of April) was directed by Thorold Dickinson and starred Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard. The British film was itself based on Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gas Light (known as Angel Street in the US).

It is especially apt that our first screening of a direct adaptation of a stage play should be of a theatrical production which was so influential it gave rise to the term ‘Gaslighting’. This meant  “a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making him/her doubt his/her own memory and perception”. Set in 1880 fog-bound London Gas Light  tells the story of a married couple: a husband with a secret, and a terrified wife…

Watching the two film versions of the same stage play will hopefully enlighten us as to some similarities and differences between British and Hollywood film as well as some insights into melodrama more generally.

Do come along to watch this Hollywood classic. Due to the film’s length discussion will take place after watching the (much shorter- 84 mins) British version at the next session – the 3rd of April. We will begin the film promptly at 5 (technology permitting!)

A Summary of Discussion on Snow White

Posted by Sarah

Discussion prompted by the screening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938) touched on several areas:  the definition of melodrama (especially the use of music and the theme of suffering); early film melodrama; stage melodrama; the relationship between animation, realism and melodrama. Do leave comments or email me at to add your thoughts.


snow white 1

Music played a more significant role in Snow White than the other films the group has watched so far.It also worked in an especially interesting way, given the fact that the term ‘melodrama’ means drama with music. While there were instances of dramatic music accompanying moments of increased tension, at times the music was upbeat even though the themes were dark. This is evident especially at the film’s beginning when the cheerful music belies the tale of ‘Once Upon a Time’ woe the open book is relating to us. It was generally thought that this was likely to be related to Disney’s need to reassure the audience that all would end happily.

This constant presence of light amidst the darkness was seen to relate to the theme of suffering, which often plays a central part in melodramas. In Snow White the suffering is largely restricted to the arguably less central characters: the dwarfs and the woodland creatures who are distraught when it is thought Snow White has died. Snow White herself is chirpy throughout. Although she enters dressed in rags she is happy with her lot. It is only the threat on her life and her subsequent terrifying walk through the woods which stirs up emotions of fear. This was perhaps partly due to the animation style for the different characters. While the dwarfs and the Evil Queen/Old Pedlar Woman were shown to be remarkably expressive, Snow White’s face appeared less animated.

It was also remarked upon that Snow White’s dark hair might oppose the usual representation of virginal purity associated with blondness. The scene in which the dwarfs and woodland creatures ride to Snow White’s rescue especially highlighted this. It was noted that there were similarities between this and D.W. Griffiths’ Birth of a Nation   (1915) in which the rescuers race to save the blond and virginal Lillian Gish.

However late Victorian stage melodrama focused on blond villains and dark-haired heroes and heroines so it is possible that Snow White was drawing on earlier stage productions. The links to stage melodrama were found to be especially interesting.  While Snow White is an unusual heroine for a film melodrama (and probably even stage melodrama), her evil stepmother, the villainous queen, contains the traits often associated with melodrama, especially its archetypes. Her theatrical gestures and swishing of her cloak or cape seemed very in keeping with general ideas of the villain in melodrama. As is her ability to dupe the hero (in this case heroine) with ease. Such archetypes formed the basis of such traditions as pantomime, fairy tales and melodramas but it was thought that the particular way in which they were used was important. Although pantomime and melodrama can share a use of comic relief characters (such as the dwarfs in Snow White) its focus on the sensational sets it apart. In Snow White the sensational was emphasised particularly in terms of atmosphere – thunder and lightning etc.

A broader point that the very nature of animation and that of staging had important similarities was also raised. Arguably both are less able to work in several dimensions, with characters generally populating the foreground. The dramatic closing of curtains and the Old Pedlar Woman’s appearance framed by a window in which she appears to almost address the audience (see the picture advertising the screening) also linked the film to theatrical productions.

The importance of the fact Snow White is an animated film was also related to the notion that melodrama is anti-realism in nature (see Christine Gledhill in Home is Where the Heart Is (1987)). The distancing from reality arguably achieved by animation would seem to suggest that animation with its ability for exaggeration is well suited to depicting melodrama. This might be an interesting area to explore further, perhaps especially in relation to Disney.

Many thanks to Ann-Marie for selecting a wonderful film which led to so much fruitful discussion.

Introduction to Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

Posted by Sarah

Here is Ann-Marie’s introduction to the screening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:


Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Hand, 1938) 83 mins.

snow white 2


Disney’s first feature, based on the Grimm’s fairytale, took an enormous four years and a half to complete, and even then Walt was not happy, later re-touching the shimmering problem of the Prince. Known in the trade press as his ‘folly’  it became one of the biggest success stories of 1938 and redefined animation. Disney encountered many problems regarding how to bring realism to the screen, and later resolved this by adding depth to two-dimension with the multiplane camera. However, his real concern  was how to give a character a real personality and appear alive on the screen. A gag a minute would no longer work for a feature film like it had his shorts.  Disney’s solution was to use popular film elements such as menace, love and comedy to invoke emotional investment. Terri Martin Wright in her article ‘Romancing the Tale: Walt Disney’s Adaptation of the Grimm’s “Snow White”’ claims this film is really a romantic comedy, and whilst this claim has some merit, the film appears to be closer to a melodrama by definition.

This film is reminiscent of Victorian stage melodrama due to its focus on love and murder, after all ‘trouble was the proper business of the melodrama.’[1]. However, what seems most notable is the use of archetypes similar to that of both fairytale and stage. The Queen, voiced by stage actress Lucille LaVerne, is the best example of a villain. She swings her cape; enlarges her eyes in moments of distaste; dramatically closes curtains; skulks in the shadows; has a pet crow which she terrorizes, and most of all is vain and sadistic. In contrast Snow White is the epitome of the virginal girl, and the Prince (although he lacks any real personality) could be said to represent all the basic elements one would expect in the heroine’s love interest.

In the Victorian melodramas, (and perhaps melodramas in general) when ‘the play [was] getting too sad, […] it had to be relieved.’ [2] This is where the dwarfs play a role. The suffering of Snow White is contrasted with the gags supplied by them, specifically Dopey. The dwarfs are sturdy characters, and as we witness their affection for Snow White, our own grows. There are no complications, hidden meanings or disguises, they are the audiences’ comfort.

According to Harper’s Monthly Magazine Victorians would applaud at the sentiment of a woman standing by her man. Although this idea continued throughout the following century it is interesting that Disney feature films would focus on this need for true love through adversity, usually caused by a villain rather than purely circumstance. The last act in Victorian stage melodrama  would wind-up in a way to make everyone happy, not unlike this particular Grimm fairytale. However, unlike the rushed Grimm ending, Disney’s Snow White seeks to show us not only her happiness, but also allows us to see all the happy dwarfs one last time to secure our need for total happiness.

Weak animation at the beginning and the end makes it seem more like a fairytale as it is ‘artificial and removed from reality.’[3] Snow White and the Queen’s features both seem less defined than that of the animals and dwarfs. This adds to the fantastical nature of the film, but also that of intense emotions shown by body language, for example, the Queen’s dramatic closing of the curtains.

Disney has been blasted for its mixed messages, for instance, ‘all people are valued, but really only lively, fun people are valued.’ [4]Whilst Disney films do mix messages the attempt at moral guidance remains inherent. Thus, from its archetypes; its plot; comic relief; heightened music; song to express heightened emotion; emotional (arguably Victorian)sentiment;  exaggerated body movements; pathos; menace and comedy we can see clear traits of melodrama. However, above all, let us bask in the ‘moral glow of melodrama.’[5]


Further reading on Disney:

Barrier, Micheal, Hollywood Cartoons, American Animation in its Golden Age, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Gabler, Neal, Walt Disney, The Biography, (London: Aurum Press, 2008)

Ward, Annalee R., Mouse Morality, The Rhetoric of Disney Animated Film, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002)

Wells, Paul, Animation and America, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002)


Disney and the Romantic Comedy:

Terri Martin Wright (1997), ‘Romancing the Tale: Walt Disney’s Adaptation of the Grimms’ “Snow White”’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, 25:3, 98-108


Victorian Melodrama:

Stephen Leacock, ‘The Drama as I see it’, Harper’s Monthly Magazine, 290-306



[1] Stephen Leacock, ‘The drama as I see it’, Harper’s Monthly Magazine p.292

[2] Stephen Leacock, ‘The drama as I see it’,p.294

[3] Michael Barrier, Hollywood Cartoons, American Animation it its Golden Age, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999) p. 233

[4] Annalee R. Ward, Mouse Morality, The Rhetoric of Disney Animated Film, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002) p.122

[5] Stephen Leacock, ‘The Drama as I see it’ p.306


Steve Neale and the Male Melodrama

Posted by Sarah, on Ann-Marie’s behalf


Steve Neale’s article ‘Melo Talk’ attempts to look at how the term melodrama was used in the trade press. Neale’s sources include Film Daily, Hollywood Reporter, Motion Picture Herald and Variety, yet it seems his use is selective. He states that the term melodrama is ‘rather rare in reviews of women’s films,’[1] for instance, films such as Dark Victory. The analysis is often limited by his reliance on review pages in trade papers, whereas he could have benefited to look at the categorizing pages such as the release chart. This is the case with Dark Victory. Neale informs us that Variety reviews it as an “intense drama,”[2] and thus leads us to infer that woman’s pictures, and this in particular, was not categorized as a melodrama. However, Motion Picture Herald does in fact claim it to be a melodrama (CLICK HERE FOR PDF:Motion Picture Herald 25th February 1939). Thus, is Neale being selective by relying on reviews, or selecting what suits his analysis?

He concludes that ‘the trade press clearly recognized [melodramas as] the adventure film, the thriller, the horror film, the war film and the western.’[3] This is questionable due to the status and categorizing of Dark Victory as a melodrama. Thus, further research is needed to clarify whether the majority were treated in the same manner as Dark Victory.


[1] Steve Neale, ‘Melo Talk: On the Meaning and Use of the Term “Melodrama” in the American Trade Press’, The Velvet Light Trap, Number 32, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993) p.74

[2] Neale, ‘Melo Talk’, The Velvet Light Trap p. 74

[3] Neale, ‘Melo Talk’, The Velvet Light Trap p.76



Unmissable Melodramas -The Long List

Posted by Sarah

This is the longer list of suggested unmissable melodramas. Do email me on or log in to leave your comments. Are there any here that should have made the top 50 and didn’t? Or perhaps you think some of the films listed below should not be considered melodramas at all…..


  1. A Free Soul (Clarence Brown, 1931)
  2. A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1946)
  3. A Place In The Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
  4. A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)
  5. A Summer Place (Delmer Daves, 1959)
  6. All I Desire (Douglas Sirk, 1953)
  7. All that Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
  8. All This and Heaven Too (Anatole Litvak, 1940)
  9. Angela’s Ashes (Alan Parker, 1999)
  10. Anna Karenina (Clarence Brown, 1935)
  11. Asoka (Santosh Sivan, 2001)
  12. Autumn Leaves (Robert Aldrich, 1956)
  13. Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman, 1978)
  14. Baby Doll (Elia Kazan, 1956)
  15. Baby Face (Alfred E Green, 1933)
  16. Back Street (John M Stahl, 1932)
  17. Beaches (Garry Marshall, 1988)
  18. Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
  19. Beyond the Forest (King Vidor, 1949)
  20. Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922)
  21. Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956)
  22. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
  23. Blanche Fury (Marc Allegret, 1948)
  24. Blonde Venus (Josef von Sternberg, 1932)
  25. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)
  26. Broken Blossoms (D. W. Griffiths, 1919)
  27. By Love Possessed (John Sturgess, 1961)
  28. Camille (George Cukor, 1936)
  29. Caravan (Arthur Crabtree, 1946)
  30. Carousel (Henry King, 1956)
  31. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks, 1958)
  32. Caught (Max Ophuls, 1948)
  33. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
  34. Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (Robert Altman, 1983)
  35. Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)
  36. Dance with a Stranger (Mike Newell, 1985
  37. Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000)
  38. Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988)
  39. Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939)
  40. David Copperfield (George Cukor, 1935)
  41. Dead Poets’ Society (Peter Weir, 1989)
  42. Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)
  43. Deception (Irving Rapper, 1947)
  44. Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985)
  45. Devdas (Bimal Roy, 1955)
  46. Devdas (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002)
  47. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)
  48. Dr. Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)
  49. Drums Along the Mohawk (John Ford, 1939)
  50. Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946)
  51. East of Eden (Elia Kazan, 1955)
  52. Él (This Strange Passion) (Luis Bunuel, 1953)
  53. El Amor Brujo (Carlos Saura, 1986)
  54. Fanny by Gaslight (Anthony Asquith, 1944)
  55. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
  56. Farewell My Concubine (Kaige Chen, 1993)
  57. Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)
  58. Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998)
  59. Flame in the Streets (Roy Ward Baker, 1961)
  60. Flesh and the Devil (Clarence Brown, 1926)
  61. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe (Jon Avnet, 1991)
  62. Gaslight (Thorold Dickinson, 1940)
  63. Giant (George Stevens, 1956)
  64. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)
  65. Gone to Earth (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1950)
  66. Gone With the Wind (Victor Flemming, 1939)
  67. Good Time Girl (David MacDonald, 1948)
  68. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1923)
  69. Guilt is My Shadow (Roy Kellino, 1950)
  70. Happy Together (Wong Kar Wai, 1997)
  71. Hindle Wakes (Victor Saville, 1930)
  72. Hold Your Man (Sam Wood, 1933)
  73. Home From the Hill (Vincente Minnelli, 1960)
  74. Humoresque (Jean Negulesco, 1947)
  75. I See a Dark Stranger (Frank Launder, 1946)
  76. I Want to Live! (Robert Mann, 1958)
  77. I’ll Cry Tomorrow (Daniel Mann, 1955)
  78. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
  79. In Which We Serve (Noel Coward & David Lean, 1942)
  80. Interlude (Douglas Sirk, 1957)
  81. Io sono l’amore/I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)
  82. It Always Rains on Sunday (Robert Hamer, 1947)
  83. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1947)
  84. Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1943)
  85. Jassy (Bernard Knowles, 1947)
  86. Jezebel (William Wyler, 1938)
  87. Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco, 1948)
  88. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1953)
  89. Julia (Fred Zinnemann, 1977)
  90. Juno and the Peacock (Alfred Hitchcock, 1930)
  91. Kabhi Kabhie (Yash Chopra, 1976)
  92. King’s Row (Sam Wood, 1941)
  93. Kiss of the Spider Woman (Hector Babenco, 1985)
  94. L’Innocente (Luchino Visconti, 1976)
  95. Lady of the Night (Monta Bell, 1925)
  96. Leave Her To Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945)
  97. London Belongs to Me (Sidney Gilliat, 1948)
  98. Longtime Companion (Norman Rene, 1990)
  99. Love is a Many Splendoured Thing (Henry King, 1955)
  100. Love Story (Leslie Arliss, 1944)
  101. Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970)
  102. Madame Bovary (Vincente Minelli, 1949)
  103. Madame X (David Lowell Rich, 1965)
  104. Madonna of the Seven Moons (Arthur Crabtree, 1944)
  105. Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954)
  106. Mandy (Alexander Mackendrick, 1952)
  107. María Candelaria (Emilio Fernández, 1943)
  108. Marjorie Morningstar (Irving Rapper, 1957)
  109. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
  110. Mater Doloroso (Abel Gance, 1917,)
  111. Maurice (James Ivory, 1987)
  112. Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)
  113. Mere Mehboob (Harnam Singh Rawail, 1963)
  114. Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945)
  115. Millions Like Us (Launder & Gilliat, 1943)
  116. Mommie Dearest (Frank Perry, 1981)
  117. Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957)
  118. Mrs Miniver (William Wyler, 1942)
  119. No Regrets for Our Youth (Akira Kurosawa, 1946)
  120. Now Voyager (Irving Rapper 1942)
  121. Nuts (Martin Ritt, 1987)
  122. Oliver Twist (Frank LLoyd, 1922)
  123. On Golden Pond (Mark Rydall, 1981)
  124. Only Yesterday (John Stahl, 1933)
  125. Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980)
  126. Orphans of the Storm (D. W. Griffiths, 1921)
  127. Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943)
  128. Pakeezah (Kamal Amrohi, 1971)
  129. Parrish (Delmer Daves, 1961)
  130. Partir/Leaving (Catherine Corsini, 2009)
  131. Penthouse (W.S. Van Dyke, 1933)
  132. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  133. Peyton Place (Mark Robson, 1957)
  134. Piccadilly (Ewald André Dupont, 1929)
  135. Picnic (Joshua Logan, 1955)
  136. Places in the Heart (Robert Benton, 1984)
  137. Polyester (John Waters, 1981)
  138. Possessed (Curtis Bernhardt, 1947)
  139. Quai Des Brumes (Marcel Carné, 1938)
  140. Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou Zhang, 1991)
  141. Rancho Notorious (Fritz Lang, 1952)
  142. Random Harvest (Mervyn Le Roy, 1942)
  143. Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)
  144. Remains of the Day (James Ivory, 1993)
  145. River of No Return (Otto Preminger, 1954)
  146. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)
  147. Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock, 1936)
  148. Safe In Hell (William A Wellman, 1931)
  149. Salmonberries (Percy Adlon, 1991)
  150. Scarlet Pages (Ray Enright, 1930)
  151. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
  152. Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Bryan Forbes, 1964)
  153. Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)
  154. Senso (Luchino Visconti, 1954)
  155. Shane (George Stevens, 1953)
  156. Shanghai Triad (Yimou Zhang, 1995)
  157. Sholay (Ramesh Sippy, 1975)
  158. Since You Went Away (John Cromwell, 1944)
  159. Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)
  160. Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945)
  161. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
  162. Stella Dallas (King Vidor, 1936)
  163. Suddenly Last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959)
  164. Sunrise (F. W. Murnau, 1927)
  165. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
  166. Tea and Sympathy (Vincente Minnelli, 1956)
  167. Temptress Moon (Kaige Chen, 1996)
  168. Tender Comrade (Edward Dmytryk, 1943)
  169. Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks, 1983)
  170. That Hamilton Woman (Alexander Korda, 1941)
  171. The Best of Everything (Jean Negulesco, 1959)
  172. The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)
  173. The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Frank Capra, 1933)
  174. The Blue Lamp (Basil Dearden, 1950)
  175. The Bridges of Madison County (Clint Eastwood, 1995)
  176. The Champ (Franco Zeffirelli, 1979)
  177. The Cobweb (Vincente Minnelli, 1955)
  178. The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg)
  179. The Crowd (King Vidor, 1928)
  180. The Damned Don’t Cry! (Vincent Sherman, 1950)
  181. The Divorceé (Robert Z Leonard, 1930)
  182. The Flower of my Secret (Pedro Almodovar, 1995)
  183. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rex Ingram, 1921)
  184. The Go-Between (Joseph Losey, 1971)
  185. The Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934)
  186. The Hours (Stephen Daldry, 2002)
  187. The House of Trent (Norman Walker, 1933)
  188. The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961)
  189. The Killing of Sister George (Robert Aldrich, 1968)
  190. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (Jack Clayton, 1987)
  191. The Man in Grey (Leslie Arliss, 1943)
  192. The Men (Fred Zinneman, 1950)
  193. The Merchant of Four Seasons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)
  194. The Old Maid (Edmund Goudling, 1939)
  195. The Passion of Anna (Ingmar Bergman, 1969)
  196. The Passionate Friends (David Lean, 1949)
  197. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (Michael Curtiz, 1939)
  198. The Reckless Moment (Max Ophuls, 1949)
  199. The Return of Carol Deane (Arthur B Woods, 1938)
  200. The Sheik (George Melford, 1921)
  201. The Singer Not The Song (Roy Ward Baker, 1961)
  202. The Spanish Gardener (Philip Leacock, 1956)
  203. The Stray Bullet (Yu Hyun-mok, 1960)
  204. The Tarnished Angels (Douglas Sirk, 1958)
  205. The Way We Were (Sydney Pollack, 1973)
  206. The Wicked Lady (Leslie Arliss, 1945)
  207. The Wind (Victor Sjorstrom, 1928)
  208. There’s Always Tomorrow (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
  209. They Were Sisters (Arthur Crabtree, 1945)
  210. Thirteen Women (George Archainbaud, 1932)
  211. To Each His Own (Mitchell Leisen, 1946)
  212. To Live (Yimou Zhang, 1994)
  213. Torch Song Trilogy (Paul Bogart, 1988)
  214. Tormento (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1950)
  215. Umrao Jaan (Muzaffar Ali, 1981)
  216. Victim (Basil Dearden, 1961)
  217. Watch on the Rhine (Herman Shulmin, 1943)
  218. Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy, 1940)
  219. Way Down East (D. W. Griffiths, 1920)
  220. West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961)
  221. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966)
  222. Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
  223. Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939)
  224. Yanks (John Schlesinger, 1979)
  225. Yield to the Night (J. Lee Thompson, 1956)

The BFI and 50 Unmissable Melodramas

Posted by Sarah

Recently the British Film Institute contacted the group regarding an exciting event about melodrama which they are currently organising. Screenings will take place at the National Film Theatre and talks at the BFI from April-June 2014. The BFI’s Jo Botting came to discuss the BFI’s plans and attended our most recent screening and discussion session.

Questions the BFI’s melodrama event are raising chime very well with the group’s research concerns. As well as the thorny, and varied, matter of definitions the relation between different mediums is one central to a medium which in its earliest days relied heavily on adaptations. The group is also interested in the similarities and differences between melodramas across the world, and throughout history.

In order to come up with our own list of top 50 unmissable melodramas the research group split into four different sections and each was allocated a geographic area: Europe, Rest of World, UK, US. This resulted in 225 titles.

Below is the streamlined version which includes 26 from the US, 8 from the UK, 9 from Europe (Denmark, France, Italy, Spain) and the remaining 7 from the rest of the world (China,India, Korea, Mexico). They range from 1920 to 2009.

See the next post for the long (225 films!) list, and leave any thoughts (in either place or email me on about those that have been included and excluded.


  1. A Place In The Sun (George Stevens, 1951) US
  2. All that Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1956) US
  3. Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922) US
  4. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) US
  5. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947)  UK
  6. Camille (George Cukor, 1936) US
  7. Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939) US
  8. Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)   Italy
  9. Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946) US
  10. Él (This Strange Passion) (Luis Bunuel, 1953)   Mexico
  11. El Amor Brujo (Carlos Saura, 1986)  Spain
  12. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002) US
  13. Farewell My Concubine (Kaige Chen, 1993) China
  14. Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998)  Denmark
  15. The Flower of my Secret (Pedro Almodovar, 1995) Spain
  16. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000) US
  17. The Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934)  China
  18. Humoresque (Jean Negulesco, 1947) US
  19. Io sono l’amore/I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009)  Italy
  20. It Always Rains on Sunday (Robert Hamer, 1947)  UK
  21. Jezebel (William Wyler, 1938) US
  22. Leave Her To Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945) US
  23. Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970) US
  24. The Man in Grey (Leslie Arliss, 1943) UK
  25. Marjorie Morningstar (Irving Rapper, 1957) US
  26. The Men (Fred Zinneman, 1950) US
  27. Mere Mehboob (Harnam Singh Rawail, 1963)   India
  28. Millions Like Us (Frank Launder & Sidney Gilliat, 1943)   UK
  29. Mommie Dearest (Frank Perry, 1981) US
  30. Now Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) US
  31. Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943)   Italy
  32. Pakeezah (Kamal Amrohi, 1971) India
  33. Piccadilly (Ewald André Dupont, 1929)  UK
  34. Polyester (John Waters, 1981) US
  35. Quai Des Brumes (Marcel Carné, 1938)  France
  36. Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou Zhang, 1991)  China
  37. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976) US
  38. Senso (Luchino Visconti, 1954)  Italy
  39. The Singer Not The Song (Roy Ward Baker, 1961) UK
  40. Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958) US
  41.  A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954) US
  42. The Stray Bullet (Yu Hyun-mok, 1960)  Korea
  43. A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan, 1951) US
  44. Tea and Sympathy (Vincente Minnelli, 1956) US
  45. They were Sisters (Arthur Crabtree, 1945) UK
  46. Tormento (Raffaello Matarazzo, 1950) Italy
  47. Victim (Basil Dearden, 1961) UK
  48. Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy, 1940) US
  49. Way Down East (D. W. Griffiths, 1920) US
  50. Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956) US

Melodrama Screening and Discussion 6th March, Jarman 7, 5-7pm

Posted by Sarah

All are welcome to attend the fourth of this term’s melodrama discussion and screening sessions which will take place on the 6th of March in Jarman 7, from 5pm to 7pm.

We will be showing Ann-Marie’s film choice:Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1938), 83 mins

snow white

Ann-Marie says: Walt Disney’s first feature film would redefine animation. Ridiculed as his ‘folly’ in the trade press, Disney would go on to make one of the most successful films of 1938. Technical innovations, such as the multi-plane camera, would be only one hurdle for the film. Disney’s biggest concern became how to show realism, gags and emotional investment in animation.  The story is of an adolescent girl faced with an envious stepmother who seeks her death. This is the first of many fairy tales with a Disney twist, where archetypes meet true love’s kiss.