The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#101 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:50 pm

I taught the source short story and Joyce’s “Araby” so often that I could recite them both word for word at this point. Always opened my English classes with close readings of those two, I probably know them better and deeper than any other works of literature. Never saw the movie, though

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#102 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:18 pm

swo17 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:06 pm
I linked my prior list earlier, but I was surprised to check and see that 12(!) of my top 50 were from 1949. Only 3 American films though:

Bad Luck Blackie
The Black Book/Reign of Terror
The Window
You've got several '49 shorts on your list. Pattes Blanches is definitely on my revisiting list, I remember liking it, and Kind Hearts and Coronets is likely to make my top 5, if not 3. The Window I own but haven't seen yet. Reign of Terror is one of the few Mann's I haven't seen. Has it come out yet in a decent version?

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#103 Post by swo17 » Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:22 pm


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tarpilot
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#104 Post by tarpilot » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:09 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:50 pm
I taught the source short story and Joyce’s “Araby” so often that I could recite them both word for word at this point. Always opened my English classes with close readings of those two, I probably know them better and deeper than any other works of literature. Never saw the movie, though
I know you've admired Michael Almereyda's work in the past, so I'd be curious about your thoughts on the Pixelvision adaptation he made with Eric Stoltz as the uncle... (it's only twenty minutes long!)

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#105 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:30 pm

I think that was an extra on the Another Girl, Another Planet DVD, but I have no memory of it (if I saw it). I’ll have to give it a (re?)watch soon

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#106 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:41 pm

swo17 wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:22 pm
It just came out on Blu-ray!
Missed that. Thanks!

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#107 Post by schellenbergk » Thu Apr 18, 2019 10:43 am

knives wrote:
Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:19 pm
Especially with posts like that one. The Rocking Horse Winner does sound interesting.
I found the process of trying to sort through films interesting. The most obvious choices float to the top - the quandary there is how rank them relative to each other.

Then comes the second tier where things get interesting. Some directors had a really strong decade (Welles, Sturges, Hitchcock, Hawks, Carol Reed, Powell/Pressburger) so the question becomes how many slots should an individual director get? That becomes a real quandary with someone like Curtiz, who made five films I could easily add to the list.

So in my list (let's call it List 1.0, because I can see revising) - I left off three Curtiz films that I think are great but I didn't want to over represent him. I left off Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Sea Wolf, and The Sea Hawk but kept Mildred Pierce and Casablanca.

Then there are the "one offs" - really interesting films by a director that I like but the films couldn't all squeeze onto the top 50. . .

At "51" in my ranking (and I may still juggle things to squeeze it in) is a really interesting film by Dmytryk called Christ in Concrete (AKA Give Us This Day) - an under-looked little film that I personally thing very highly of - though I generally have problems with Dmytryk's HUAC actions.

Germany Year Zero by Rossellini is another great film that I want to squeeze in - but what to lose?!? I really want Rene Clair to be on the list, and I enjoy I Married a Witch and The Flame of New Orleans and And Then There Were None very much, but I can't quite squeeze any one of them in.

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#108 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 11:56 am

You are not alone in considering a director’s representation on your list when compiling, but I never understood this methodology. If the list is to represent the fifty best films of the decade according to the submitter, to me that’s what it should contain, even if ten of those are by the same director

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#109 Post by swo17 » Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:13 pm

Well at least the thought process described here isn't as bad as limiting yourself to strictly one film per director. Also, what else are you supposed to do if you feel like 80 films belong in your top 50?

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#110 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:23 pm

Don’t several members end up posting their 51-whatever lists after submitting their top fifty? So do that, I guess! But yes, especially in the next couple decades, it’s harder and harder to winnow down one’s choices, but I still don’t “get” self-imposed restrictions that might leave off a film you like better for one you don’t. But again, schellen is in good company with this methodology, as many other members use variations of it, so I don’t want my comments to discourage them from participating or contributing

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#111 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:43 pm

I ultimately agree with you on listing your favorites, proportionality be damned, but I also sympathize with the impulse to make one's list feel representative of the totality of the films they value from a period, which is hard to do if 10% or more of your list is made up of work by one prolific master. My 1940s list right now would have at least five or six Hitchcock films, which is going to crowd out some other major works and filmmakers I love from being represented, even if the Hitchcocks are more deserving of their spots.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#112 Post by swo17 » Thu Apr 18, 2019 12:52 pm

I just meant that sometimes you go "these 6 Hitchcock films should make my top 50" and "these 5 Hawks films," etc. and then when they add up to more than 50 you have to reevaluate where you draw the line

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#113 Post by dustybooks » Thu Apr 18, 2019 2:47 pm

I seem to remember that my last '50s list had something like five Hitchcocks in the top twenty, several of them consecutively. It feels a little odd, especially because I've known those movies so well for so long, but if accuracy to our own tastes is the goal, it's quite fair -- I do think they're that great! I think the object is to let the final polls sort out these kinds of quirks and indulgences; your personal list shouldn't have to be that carefully curated beyond just what you like. But that's just my opinion, and it probably says something that I haven't historically shared my full lists publicly.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#114 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:03 pm

I've fallen in love with Jean Arthur in the course of the 30s and 40s project (fairly quickly)––for the longest time, I'd liked her but found her, not surprisingly, a bit squeaky. Well, in the course of revisiting Easy Living, and watching The Devil and Miss Jones and George Stevens's two films with her (who with Ted Tetzlaff's help photographed her best––she looks at times absolutely divine in The Talk of the Town and The More the Merrier), I've just fallen head over heels, and much of that has to do with her insanely understated and fluid transitions.

That being said, I didn't find The More the Merrier quite as funny as others on here (although I did find it very funny, although not for much of the screwball hijinks early on), but I did find it incredibly sexy. Joel McCrea is one of my favorite leading men from this period, sort of perfectly dopey, stuck in a sort of unintentional yoke of earnestness, and his chemistry with Jean Arthur is palpable. There's an elevation of minor things that old studio lighting practices and black&white film lend, and the way the him rubbing her shoulder registers on screen just has this enormous energy. In fitting fashion, I also didn't find The Talk of the Town nearly as unpleasant as others. It's sort of the wild mishmash product that sometimes comes along in the 30s and 40s, but that usually invests it with a crazy energy and this is no exception. Add to it the certainly preachy politics and I'm a sucker––I'm one of the people who wished they left more of the political content into the film version of Born Yesterday, if that gives you an idea, and I almost always fall sucker for Capra.

I'd also just like to make a plug for I See a Dark Stranger, now available again on the Criterion Channel. I kind of like to think of it as to The Spy in Black as Night Train to Munich is to The Lady Vanishes. Not quite as good as the other masterpiece, but that sort of pleasant blend of tones, with a good amount of atmosphere, and with Deborah Kerr as an Irish lass!

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#115 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 7:43 pm

Something to look for the next time you watch one of her movies from her prime, ie when she could demand such things: she’s only filmed to give prominence to the preferred side of her face, ala Mariah Carey. I believe part of Wilder’s alleged cruelty to her on A Foreign Affair was him not going along with her demand, though whether out of spite or artistic reasons, I don’t know. She does look rough in it, though!

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#116 Post by tarpilot » Thu Apr 18, 2019 9:00 pm

I'll be voting for at least The More the Merrier and hope to find room for The Devil and Miss Jones and A Lady Takes a Chance. Regarding the latter, John Wayne as her leading man might seem an odd prospect, but I was shocked how much I liked him in it, and William Seiter uses his musical experience to great effect in some crazy set-pieces and sharp bits of physical comedy. There are also some pretty dirty (and funny) gags--I'm thinking of one insert of a hot dog in particular. My old DVD looks terrible but Kino put out a Blu recently. What better time to upgrade!

I read John Oller's biography of her a few years ago, and it's heartbreaking how much her anxiety and neuroses affected her career (the best-side requirement was the least of it). But there are some really wonderful stories, too: when she was 74, she was arrested for trespassing and abuse of a police officer after her asshole neighbour finked on her for feeding his dog and urging him not to leave it chained up all night. She even offered to put up a fenced rut herself! The abuse charge resulted from her calling the responding officer "damn stupid".

During the trial, her lawyer told her to play it like she was in a Capra movie again. When the judge asked her why she didn't leave immediately after being told to, she shouted "I love the dog and the dog loves me!" But she was convicted anyway and sentenced to three years suspended with probation. She also used an alias during booking and when she made bail told 'em "you wouldn't be doing this to me if I were Katharine Hepburn!"

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#117 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 9:07 pm

The More the Merrier is likewise a lock for my list, and the Devil and Miss Jones will likely also make an appearance. Haven’t seen A Lady Takes a Chance, but it couldn’t be a stranger/less-likely romantic pairing than that movie where Wayne and Claudette Colbert’s Ayn Rand stand-in fall for each other

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#118 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Apr 18, 2019 9:13 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 11:56 am
You are not alone in considering a director’s representation on your list when compiling, but I never understood this methodology. If the list is to represent the fifty best films of the decade according to the submitter, to me that’s what it should contain, even if ten of those are by the same director
That's completely my thinking as well. I'm strictly going by how much I enjoy the films and ranking them accordingly. I like doing revisits because all of the films in my list will have been films that I've seen over a relatively short, say 2-year-or-so time period (counting other recent list projects that included some 40s contenders), and I rank them as I progressively go through the viewings, not at the end thinking back in an abstracted way; the memory of the viewing is fresh enough to feel like my ranking will constitute a very accurate representation of my personal esteem of the films relative to one another in one snapshot of time.

That means I'm pretty ruthless when it comes to directors making the cut or not. If my top Ozu for the period winds up being no. 51, say, so be it. Ford ended up being relatively poorly represented in my 30s list, but stands to be a star in this one. And so forth.

I'm certainly not asserting that everyone should vote/rank this way, but I feel if everyone did, the pooling together of the individual lists at the end would risk being representative of the different directors, countries, etc., anyway (?). (Which is what dustybooks said.)

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#119 Post by domino harvey » Thu Apr 18, 2019 9:17 pm

As one addendum to that methodology, which is also broadly mine: I do just for fun traditionally give my fiftieth slot to something a little odd or strange or in some other way set apart from the rest of my choices

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#120 Post by tarpilot » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:16 am

domino harvey wrote:
Thu Apr 18, 2019 9:07 pm
Haven’t seen A Lady Takes a Chance, but it couldn’t be a stranger/less-likely romantic pairing than that movie where Wayne and Claudette Colbert’s Ayn Rand stand-in fall for each other
Ha! I think I have to let this one horsewhip me in the face...

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#121 Post by HinkyDinkyTruesmith » Fri Apr 19, 2019 10:00 am

While I agree with the non-equitable thinking regarding director placement, if your top Ozu for this decade ends up being 51, there's an issue, because Late Spring is awesome.

I watched The Set-Up and Dead of Night last night.

The Set-Up should be exhibit A for any defense of Wise as a director. In 70 minutes he tells a full story without resorting to flashbacks, and while spending a good chunk of those minutes just observing a boxing match, and yet it doesn't feel monotonous. I truly didn't know at times what the outcome would be, and it's comparable to Raging Bull in terms of brutality (if not explicitness). Despite the rather one-note nature of boxing matches, through deft uses of audience members he manages to give the match a beautiful flow and change of mood, with grotesque characters (the blind man), dark humor (the woman who before the match pretended to not be interested), light face (the man who always is eating something new), and then the character of Little Boy and his gal, who adds just another layer to the tension as she bets recklessly with other patrons. I enjoyed seeing Audrey Totter play someone other than a femme fatale, which I believe is all I've seen her do. To be frank, she's clearly not the strongest of actresses, but she's got that dour disposition to her that sells what she has to do, and the scene of her hanging over the bridge watching the cars run by beneath, well, that's aces.

Dead of Night I watched inspired by a kick of 40s British films, and with the names attached, I was hoping for a lot. I was a bit underwhelmed. It was fine, and the ending was quite striking, but rarely was it particularly affecting in the way I was hoping, and Cavalcanti's contribution didn't pop as much as his other films from the decade did for me. If anyone has spirited defenses, do share them. (On another note, the Charters and Caldicott episode was an amusing variation on their other appearances together.)

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#122 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:01 pm

HinkyDinkyTruesmith wrote:
Fri Apr 19, 2019 10:00 am
While I agree with the non-equitable thinking regarding director placement, if your top Ozu for this decade ends up being 51, there's an issue, because Late Spring is awesome.
;-)

And I also second your comments on The Set Up.

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#123 Post by swo17 » Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:19 pm

"Awesome" in its modern connotation isn't one of the first words I would use to describe Late Spring but it did make my last list, as did Record of a Tenement Gentleman, which I cheekily titled The Tenement Directory as I'm trying to make that a thing

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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#124 Post by knives » Fri Apr 19, 2019 2:56 pm

What's the pulse here on Bresson's Angels of Sin? It's particular Catholicism where everyone is terrible to everyone and far to upright with their own ego was deeply grating to me, but I'm not sure how much the film is being critical of all of that. The confusion is especially heightened by the overwhelming similarities to Diary of a Country Priest where it is much more clear where Bresson is being critical of his protagonist.

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1940s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#125 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 19, 2019 3:14 pm

I didn't read it that way at all, and I think it's far more complex in its religious vantage than your summary allots. The protagonist's vanity and selfishness in using external salvation of a third party as some kind of proof of self-righteousness is unsettling and pathetic, but I don't think ascribing these actions to the larger Catholic Church is fair, especially since her behaviors are shown as apart from those of her sisters and superiors and she is punished severely for her insolence

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