St. Martin’s Lane, also known as Sidewalks of London, stars Charles Laughton as a busker who teams up with a pretty, young pickpocket (Vivien Leigh). Rex Harrison plays a theater patron who is impressed by the pickpocket’s dancing and brings her into their theatrical troupe, launching her career.
In Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, he calls out 26 memorable performances from A to Z, and the V is Vivien Leigh’s work in Sidewalks of London. It was her last movie before she starred in Gone With the Wind, and it’s worthy of inclusion in the Internet Archive Top 100.
In this period spy drama, British Captain Terence Stevenson (Robert Donat) is parachuted into Romania and pretends to work for the enemy so he can steal the formula of a new Nazi poison gas and blow up the chemical plant where it is being manufactured.
This film, called Sabotage Agent in the UK, was the first MGM-British production in two years, with an American director but an all-British cast, and it featured a captured bomber with Luftwaffe markings. Donat’s riveting performance propels The Adventures of Tartu into the Internet Archive Top 100.
Another staple of the old movie repackagers was the Sherlock Holmes movies set in the present-day 1940s and starring Basil Rathbone. It turns out that only a handful slipped into the public domain, and the best-reviewed of those is Dressed to Kill. Holmes has to discover why thieves are desperate for a particular set of music boxes.
I confess that watching these on TV as a child, I came to believe that Doctor Watson (as played by Nigel Bruce) was a bumbling sidekick. Upon reading the stories, I discovered that the original Watson was a very competent assistant, all the better to illustrate Holmes’ superiority. Every other adaptation recognizes this, but I guess Hollywood in the 40s still demanded comic relief and Bruce was the only one available to supply it. At any rate, I’m happy to help nudge this fast-paced movie into the Internet Archive Top 100.
There are plenty of martial arts films in the Internet Archive, but most of them don’t get very high ratings on IMDb or from Leonard Maltin. I don’t know why this genre gets less love than, say, Gene Autry westerns or Bowery Boys movies.
In any event, The Street Fighter (embedded here with the following two entries in its trilogy) is the best-rated of the bunch, which is why it’s the lone representative in the IA Top 100. Its star, Sonny Chiba, later appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. If you want action, this is a movie that will take care of you.
We start the list (or finish it, if you’re reading 1 to 100) with a longtime staple of public domain movie sellers. Gulliver’s Travels, produced by Fleischer Studios, was just the second full-length animated film and was clearly inspired by the first, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The animation, music, and all the technical aspects are competent enough, but there aren’t any characters to root for. Gabby is too annoying to be sympathetic, and Gulliver is too wooden to be interesting. In short, this sneaks onto the IA Top 100 for its Technicolor dazzle (especially for 1939!) but there are easily 99 movies in the Internet Archive that are better.