Inspired by MovieFanFare’s recent guest post about sad movies, reader Marian Cullen wrote in to discuss the saddest films that she has ever seen:
1 -Days of Wine and Roses (1962), starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. There’s something unforgettable about the pathos upon Lemmon’s face as he watches wife Remick–who simply cannot give up drinking and take care of their daughter–walking into the night, passing a neon sign blinking “BAR.” Like the entire movie, this scene is powerful to watch and completely riveting.
2 - Sybil (1976), starring Sally Field. This biographical made-for-TV film traumatized me since the subject matter hit a little too close to home for me. Even though it has been at least 35 years since I watched it for the first and only time, I still think about certain very specific scenes at least once per week.
3 - The Misfits (1961), starring Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift. A lot of sad stuff here, especially the scene in which a naive Monroe, as she herself certainly was, goes with Gable to a horse round-up only to be completely devastated and traumatized to the point of a nervous collapse when she finds out that they are there to kill these magnificent animals.
4 -Vertigo (1958), starring James Stewart and Kim Novak. When, in the last scene–after finally confronting his acrophobia, filled with rage and betrayal at the fact that (Spoiler Alert!) his ” new Madeleine” Judy is in reality the original woman who his involvement with has caused so much heartache and psychological pain–Scottie watches as she falls to her death from the window of the bell tower of The Mission San Juan Batista. And he watches her demise, this time from above, just as he watched who he thought was his “real Madeleine” seemingly fall to her death a year earlier, from below, since his fear of heights prevented him from following her up the steep steps to the top of the bellfrey, such that he could not SAVE her. One of Hitchcock’s greatest films in my humble opinion.
5 - From Here to Eternity (1953), starring Burt Lancaster, Ernest Borgnine, Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Clift. As after the completely tragic–yet understandable–killing of Clift’s Private Prewitt, Alma (Donna Reed), holding the tip of Prew’s bugle, tells the unknowing Karen (Kerr), she too the victim of her own devices and those of her husband’s, that she was the wife of an “officer ” concocting a complete fabrication, out of love and respect for the only man she ever really loved, and finally watches the Hawaiian lei float away on the sea from their vantage point against the railing of the ship that will take them back to the U.S…both women’s lives inexorably, yet completely, unknowingly intertwined and changed forever. It is a very powerful fim!
6 - Frankenstein (1931), starring Boris Karloff as The Monster and Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein. He collapses to death in a conflagration of flames, the completely innocent victim of Dr. Frankenstein’s insane desire to breathe life back into a corpse, with all the ignorant townspeople cheering and celebrating ” The Monster’s” demise.
7 - King Kong (1933), starring Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong. When, at the very end of the film, the camera zooms in on the character Carl Denham (Armstrong), as he must finally admit to his own concience, knowing that his avarice has resulted in the death of Kong, ” the eighth wonder of the world.” This follows the giant ape’s desperate attempt to climb the highest ”mountain” he can find in Manhattan, The Empire State Building, to keep the only thing he has ever loved, Ann Darrow (Wray) with him forever. Although Wray’s character was 100% terrified out of her mind at the first sight of him, she knows that she owes her very life to him and has, in her own way, grown to love him. When a policeman standing next to the dead Kong’s body tells Denham ”the airplanes got him,” the moviemaker replies matter of factly, but with a knowing tone of abject remorse in his voice, ” It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”
Marian Cullen is a MovieFanFare reader who submitted this article via e-mail. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.