Scarecrow Academy – 1959: The Best Movie Year

The inaugural edition of the Scarecrow Academy presents a yearlong series devoted to a single idea: That the greatest year in film history was … 1959! That year marked a high point of Hollywood studio filmmaking, the rise of new independent cinema, the great flowering of international movies, and the beginning of the French New Wave. We have the mastery of cinematic masters bred in the silent era, but the stirring of the tumult that would arrive in the 1960s. Join Seattle Weekly film critic Robert Horton for a deep-dive look at the greatest films of a pivotal moment, each session including an introduction, screening, and post-film discussion.

Attendance is free, although RSVP is encouraged, you can do that right here.

The first installment on Saturday, January 26, at 1pm is The 400 Blows. 

Francois Truffaut’s heartbreaking first feature is the classic story of a lost boy (indelibly played by Jean-Pierre Léaud), and the first great herald of the stylistically adventurous French New Wave. 109 minutes.

Here’s the rest of the schedule so far, with more dates to come:

February 9th: North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (USA)

Cary Grant stars in Hitchcock’s wrong-man comedy-suspense masterpiece, which includes thrilling visits to a cornfield and Mount Rushmore—and Bernard Herrmann’s unbeatable music. 136 min.

February 23rd: Nazarin, directed by Luis Buñuel (Mexico)

One of film history’s most important directors, Buñuel spent a decade working in Mexican cinema; this tale of a priest’s tribulations in a subtly ironic account of the price of good intentions. 94 min.

March 9th: Some Like It Hot, directed by Billy Wilder (USA)

Two jazz musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) go in drag to join a female band, where Marilyn Monroe is the lead singer. Wilder’s witty classic is a consensus choice for the comedy pantheon. 121 min.

March 23rdFires on the Plain (Nobi), directed by Kon Ichikawa (Japan)

This WWII film depicts the existential madness of war seen from the Japanese side, vividly captured in Ichikawa’s startling widescreen compositions. 108 min.

April 13th: Ride Lonesome, directed by Budd Boetticher (USA)

Part of the cycle of Westerns from Boetticher and craggy star Randolph Scott, Ride Lonesome may be the best of the lot, a beautifully lean examination of moral choices and CinemaScope landscapes. 73 min.

April 27th: Hiroshima Mon Amour, directed by Alain Resnais (France)

In one of the most talked-about films of its era (written by Marguerite Duras), a love affair between a French woman and a Japanese man sparks painful memories of the war. 90 min.

May 11th: A Bucket of Blood, directed by Roger Corman, and Pull My Daisy, directed                                              by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie (USA)

The Beat movement comes to life: Daisy is a whimsical doodle about beatnik friends hanging out, written by Jack Kerouac and starring Allen Ginsburg; Bucket is a low-budget horror-comedy that parodies the Beats yet captures their spirit better than big Hollywood attempts at the subject. 30 min./66 min.


Robert Horton is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the longtime film critic for the Everett Herald and Seattle Weekly. He is a regular contributor to Film Comment magazine, and the author of Frankenstein (Columbia University Press) and Billy Wilder: Interviews (U. Press of Mississippi). He has been a Fulbright Specialist, an adjunct professor at Seattle University, the curator of the “Magic Lantern” film program at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, and a speaker with Smithsonian Journeys. His work is linked at the website The Crop Duster.

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