1940s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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1940s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

#1 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:19 pm

VOTING CLOSED. RESULTS CAN BE FOUND HERE.

If you are reading this sentence, you are eligible to participate in our forum’s latest decades lists project exploring the films of the 1940s. If you know anyone adventurous enough--on or off the forum--that you think would also enjoy participating, feel free to invite them as well.

Please PM me your list of what you believe are the top 50 films from the decade toward the end of the project. You may feel that you could compile a list of 50 favorite films from this period much earlier than the deadline, but it’s still highly recommended that you engage in the discussions here. Don’t keep your favorites a secret, and always be open to suggestions from others!


THE RULES

1) Each individual list is to comprise no more or less than 50 films, ranked in your order of preference (with no ties). If you haven't yet seen 50 films from the decade that you think are genuinely great, please take advantage of the resources listed below and participate in the ongoing discussions to find films that you can be proud to put on your list.
2) Any feature film, documentary, experimental film, or short film released in the 1940s is eligible.
3) The date given on IMDb is the relevant date for determining eligibility, even when it's clearly wrong (unless a special case is made below). If the film is not on IMDb and you say it was released during the 1940s, I'll take your word for it.
4) Two-part films released separately (e.g. Eisenstein's Ivans) count as one film. Each entry in a trilogy (e.g. Ray's Apus) counts as a separate film.

We might occasionally need to make an exception to rules 3 and 4. If you are seriously considering including a film on your list that you have a question about in this regard, bring it up in this thread and we’ll iron it out.

For more details about rules and procedures, please refer here.


ELIGIBILITY – REMINDERS / SPECIAL CASES

Boris Barnet's The Old Jockey (1940) is eligible. IMDb's release date of 1959 is incorrect.

Harry Smith's A Strange Dream (aka Number 1) is eligible. IMDb's release date of 1939 appears to be incorrect. See here for details.

The following multi-part films count as one film and are eligible for this list (this is just a reminder, not an exhaustive list): Ivan the Terrible, Why We Fight, 47 Ronin

The following films are cited as 1949 releases in some places, but 1950 on the IMDb, and so are not eligible for this list: Gun Crazy, Orpheus, The Flowers of St. Francis, Stage Fright, The Gunfighter, To Joy

The following films are cited as 1939 releases in some places, but 1940 on the IMDb, and so are eligible for this list: Sans lendemain


RESOURCES

Past Forum Discussions
Discussion from the Forum's Prior 1940s Project
Defending of Sad Pandas from the Forum's Prior 1940s Project
Discussion from the Forum's Noir List Project
Discussion from the Forum's Western List Project
Discussion from the Forum's Musicals List Project
The Alternate Oscars: Best Picture 1927-1968
German Films on DVD

Forum Discussions of Filmmakers Active During the 1940s
Ingmar Bergman / Budd Boetticher / Frank Borzage / Robert Bresson / Frank Capra / Marcel Carné / Charles Chaplin / Henri-Georges Clouzot / George Cukor / Jules Dassin / Vittorio De Sica / André de Toth / Carl Theodor Dreyer / Julien Duvivier / Jean Epstein / Robert Flaherty / John Ford / Georges Franju / Jean Grémillon / Howard Hawks / Alfred Hitchcock / John Huston / Henry King / John Krish / Akira Kurosawa / Fritz Lang / David Lean / Alexander Mackendrick / Joseph L. Mankiewicz / Anthony Mann / Jean-Pierre Melville / Lewis Milestone / Vincente Minnelli / Kenji Mizoguchi / Mikio Naruse / Max Ophuls / Yasujiro Ozu / Michael Powell / Otto Preminger / Nicholas Ray / Jean Renoir / Roberto Rossellini / Don Siegel / Robert Siodmak / Douglas Sirk / Josef von Sternberg / George Stevens / Preston Sturges / Jacques Tati / Jacques Tourneur / Gustav Ucicky / King Vidor / Luchino Visconti / Raoul Walsh / Orson Welles / William A. Wellman / Billy Wilder / Fred Zinnemann

Guides Within This Thread
domino harvey on Mankiewicz and Preminger, Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock, Lang, and Wyler, Huston, Lubitsch, Ray, Sturges, and Walters, Bergman, Siegel, Welles, and Wilder, Minnelli, Montgomery, and Rossen
Michael Kerpan on Japan
Saturnome on animation
Shrew on China
Mr. Sausage on Universal horror, Karloff, Invisible Man Series
swo17 on Tex Avery DVD availability
lubitsch on Germany, Japan and China, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe

External Resources
A list of films from the 1940s appearing on They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They’s Top 1000 or Doubling the Canon lists

Recommended Reading
The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era, Thomas Schatz
City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s, Otto Friedrich


FORUM MEMBER SPOTLIGHTS
Is there a film you love that you fear is under most people's radar? Try shining a light on it! To inaugurate a film into the spotlight section, just follow these simple steps:

1. Make a post about the film discussing why you find it so wonderful.
2. Clearly indicate that you wish the film to be one of your spotlight titles.
3. Direct others to where the film can be found. If the film is commercially unavailable, feel free to host a copy of it somewhere and then share the link.

I’ll keep track of all the spotlight titles here so they can be easily referenced. You’re welcome to have more than one spotlight title, but try not to have too many more, so it's manageable for everyone to be able to see them all.

Everyone is strongly encouraged to give each of these films the same chance that you would hope others would give your own spotlight titles.

The Devil and Miss Jones (Sam Wood) (domino harvey)
Juke Girl (Curtis Bernhardt) (domino harvey)
The Chase (Arthur Ripley) (Murdoch)
The Amazing Mr. X/The Spiritualist (Bernard Vorhaus) (Murdoch)
The Bribe (Robert Leonard) (tarpilot)
When Strangers Marry/Betrayed (William Castle) (tarpilot)
I Walked with a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur) (Siddon)
The Uninvited (Lewis Allen) (Siddon)
Hangover Square (John Brahm) (Mr. Sausage)
They Made Me a Fugitive (Alberto Cavalcanti) (Cold Bishop)
Ohara Shosuke-san (Hiroshi Shimizu) (Steven H)
The Murderers Are Among Us (Wolfgang Staudte) (matrixschmatrix)
The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks (Edgar Neville) (the preacher)
The Gay Parisian (Jean Negulesco) (knives)
Le main du diable (Maurice Tourneur) (Cold Bishop)
Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren) (swo17)
Children of the Beehive (Hiroshi Shimizu) (knives)
Hideko the Bus Conductor (Mikio Naruse) (knives)
The Accused (William Dieterle) (gcgiles1dollarbin)
Hold Back the Dawn (Mitchell Leisen) (gcgiles1dollarbin)
The Strange Woman (Edgar Ulmer) (gcgiles1dollarbin)
Christ in Concrete/Give Us This Day (Edward Dmytryk) (Gregory)
The More the Merrier (George Stevens) (swo17)
Krakatit (Otakar Vávra) (swo17)

AWAITING FURTHER SUGGESTIONS


DESPERATELY SEEKING SO AND SO
Is there a film you’re dying to see but you’ve exhausted all possible avenues for finding it and still come up short? List it here and perhaps some kind soul will be able to direct you to a copy by PM. Please limit listings here to only a few films that you’re most desperate to see.

domino harvey is seeking:
Rangers of Fortune (Sam Wood)

AWAITING FURTHER SUGGESTIONS


Resources compiled by swo17, domino harvey, cysiam

***Please PM me if you have any suggestions for additions to/deletions from this first post.***
Last edited by swo17 on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:31 am, edited 49 times in total.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#2 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:21 pm

As a studio system aficionado, this is where the lists get good from my perspective, because once The War starts up, Hollywood has a glory period of roughly twenty years or so when movies were the best they ever were and ever will be, in consistency if nothing else. I'm sure those unsympathetic to the genius of the system will find plenty of lovely foreign films to occupy their lists, and I can't deny the cream will rise amongst their Hollywood contemporaries on my list as well, but the next two decades' lists will be almost exclusively studio product for me.

My provisional Top Ten
01 Whirlpool (Otto Preminger 1949)
02 Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges 1944)
03 Air Force (Howard Hawks 1943)
04 Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock 1940)
05 Red River (Howard Hawks 1948)
06 Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch 1943)
07 Mrs Miniver (William Wyler 1942)
08 It Had to Be You (Don Hartman and Rudolph Mate 1947)
09 Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur 1947)
10 the Song of Bernadette (Henry King 1943)

Spotlight titles
the Devil and Miss Jones (Sam Wood 1941) The studio system is rife with supporting actors and actresses who make anything better just by showing up, but few make me quite as giddy as Charles Coburn. Coburn has a great run this decade, but this is probably his finest hour. In a rare starring role (though his subsequent and well-earned Oscar nom was in the Supporting Actor category for political reasons), Coburn shines as a stuffy capitalist who slums in his own department store to get a leg up on his workers. Besides being a wonderfully keen star vehicle for Coburn, it's yet another winner from Sam Wood, a completely overlooked auteur who has an unfathomably successful string of films in the early 1940s. [Commercially unavailable, TCM rip available through back-channels]

Juke Girl (Curtis Bernhardt 1942) This is a spotlight title with a catch-- If you simply must vote for Thieves' Highway, please at least watch this film first, which does everything Dassin's film thinks it's doing better, with a more compelling Socialist appeal and the added novelty of seeing Ronald Reagan in an unabashedly progressive social problem film (surely the only reason it was left out of his Signature Collection). [Warner Archives MOD]

Also, if you're looking for It Had To Be You, which is unavailable in R1, there's a good quality (and cheap cheap cheap) R2 disc from Sony
Last edited by domino harvey on Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#3 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:22 pm

Everyone, please make note of the minor changes I've made to the spotlight section. I'm hoping this will improve the whole process, putting the emphasis on discussion of the spotlighted films.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#4 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:41 pm

It's a bit funny that I'm starting out with nearly two hundred more titles for this list than the last one, yet I'm more unsatisfied with it. With the exception of my top two it just feels like I haven't seen anything uniquely me so I'll gladly try to double the number of films I've seen (I've got roughly 15 in my kevyip already). I doubt I'll keep more than 20 of my present list by the end of things. By that note my provisional top ten.

A Hen in the Wind
The Shanghai Gesture
Ivan the Terrible
Germany, Year Zero
The Red Shoes
La Terra Trema
Paisan
Force of Evil
Day of Wrath
Scarlet Street

It probably won't make it to the end of my list so I won't nominate it as spotlight, but McLaren's A Little Phantasy on a 19th-century Painting really deserves some attention all the same. By the way Dom, beyond the wonderful I Married a Witch do you have any Veronica Lake suggestions?

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#5 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:49 pm

knives wrote: By the way Dom, beyond the wonderful I Married a Witch do you have any Veronica Lake suggestions?
Just the obvious ones: Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, natch, and the cycle of noirs she did with Alan Ladd: (in order of quality) the Blue Dahlia, This Gun For Hire, and the Glass Key. I Married a Witch is just out of my Top 10, and I didn't make an extreme appeal because I assume between now and the deadline we'll get a Criterion release (knock on wood, cross fingers, say a prayer and spit, &c) and thus more visibility. But yes, it's phenomenal and a great "comfort" movie.

And I feel ya on the long list of possibilities!

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#6 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:55 pm

Thanks for the suggestions, This Gun for Hire sure sounds interesting. Just in case criterion does the other Castle Hill titles first though I do want to urge people to check out I Married a Witch which is easily the best English language Claire title and might actually even beat the French ones for me.

As an aside since von Sternberg made such a splash last round I want to really hype Shanghai Gesture which is my favorite of all of his films and simply the strangest thing you could manage with such a cast.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#7 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:57 pm

The case for Gun Crazy, from the Encyclopedia of Film Noir (p.205)
Gun Crazy is generally acknowledged to be one of the finest, if not the finest, B films produced in Hollywood. This, however, is a retrospective judgment, and at the time of its rerelease in 1950 (the film was produced under the title Deadly is the Female, and it was released in July 1949 before United Artists rereleased the film in August 1950 as Gun Crazy)-- it received little attention from critics.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#8 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:00 pm

Not eligible. Speaking of Lewis though Invisible Ghost is a great deal of fun even if it's about as good as you'd expect from Sam Katzman. In general this is a really bad decade for horror as the real life problems of the world ended a lot of the wide spread popularity leaving only the Z-grade films left.
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#9 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:02 pm

Ridiculous. I can prove the opening dates from Hollywood Reporter. Isn't this why swo added the "special case" clause in the first place?

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#10 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:04 pm

He actually names it in the first post.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#11 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:07 pm

Image

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#12 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:08 pm

Re: Gun Crazy, if you feel that passionately that it should be a '40s film, submit a change to the IMDb, or request that someone do so here. If it changes to 1949 on IMDb, it will become eligible.

I'm generally open to making exceptions when IMDb is clearly wrong, but when it's only by one year I'm hesitant to do so, because that will surely affect a lot more than just this film, and will get to be a headache for everyone to keep straight what's eligible. Remember domino, we want to keep this fun. :wink:

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#13 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:12 pm

Just to be clear, Season One of Deadwood is still eligible, correct?

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#14 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:15 pm

I jumped the gun a little, and watched a couple of movies specifically for this list early.

White Heat feels like the movie that was hiding in a bunch of the early 30s gangster films, pushing to get out- and while Cagney is a totally remorseless psychopath here, I didn't feel any less affection for him than I did in The Public Enemy. As often happens with these kind of movies, I was rooting for him to succeed throughout, and my disgust was aimed far less towards his callousness and his crimes- it's difficult to hold something against a man who clearly has no notion of a conscience- and far more towards the public officials who pursue him without any interest in the ethics of their means of doing so.

In other movies, this might feel like a mistake, or an endorsement of fascism, but it's hard to believe it wasn't totally intentional here. Cagney's character may be a raving dog, but he cares about at least one person- we never see any of the cops show any real feeling towards anybody. Tellingly,
SpoilerShow
Edmond O'Brien's character seems to have far more of a conscience in his guise as a crook than he does as his 'real' self- scared though he is, there's a real-feeling humanity in his feelings towards Cagney's character. Those feelings drop like a disguise when he's back over the line, remorselessly firing at a man who was legally not responsible for his actions.

That point, too, darkens the T-men so much it's hard to believe it was allowed on screen. Their naked greed for the collar is totally apparent- they're happy when a multiple murderer busts out of prison, happy that a madman is not being given treatment, happy that their own man is in incredible danger, because it might lead them to a collar.
The prison drama parts drag a little- Cody is such a live wire when on his own that seems like a shame whenever he's chained down, and in prison he's not much distinguishable from Cagney's other gangsters
SpoilerShow
until the scene when he learns of his mother's death. Though that scene was killer- and motivated most of the rest of the movie- it seemed a shame that we didn't get more scenes with the two of them, as their rapport was a highlight.
This felt like a movie that wanted to be a jittery crime spree, weighed down a bit by the need for a conventional structure and ending- but in applying such things to a movie where they don't fit, the heroes of those conventions are attacked far more savagely than they are in any social problem movie of the era that attempted to address it. I absolutely understand and second the praise for this one.


The other movie I started with is Kurosawa's Drunken Angel. I have both Kurosawa boxes (and intend to look through them for this list) but I haven't gotten to watch any of them yet, so this is the earliest Kurosawa I've seen- and while it's well made and entertaining movie, it felt as much like a curiosity in his canon as it did a great film in its own right.

It's interesting to see Mifune so young, hiding his skinny body in giant shoulderpads and slouching around like a character from a Nick Ray movie- though his character in, say, The Seven Samurai (or his Musashi Miyamoto, when he starts out) isn't too dissimilar, the different setting makes him connect differently- in the samurai movies, he feels like the untried newcomer who has to prove his bravery. Here, he feels like a juvenile delinquent out of The Blackboard Jungle, too naive and too foolish to understand that none of his gang are really his friends. It's funny that Kurosawa was so much a pedant and an old crank as such a young man- his didacticism here is fairly naked, as his desperation to get his message across occasionally overwhelms his investment in the story.

It's still a pretty great movie, though, and if I didn't know what heights Kurosawa would be reaching five years later I might rate it more highly still.

(Is it annoying for me to write up every movie I see like this? I realize a lot of the movies I'm writing about and the points I'm making are often already familiar to everyone, and writing things up is as much for my sake as the threads- I can just put everything in a movie journal if I'm clogging things up.)

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#15 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:17 pm

By the way is there a good DVD in print of Maya Deren's stuff? Also put down Epstein's The Storm Tamer as my desperately seeking.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#16 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:24 pm

Provisional Top Ten (in no particular order)

Beauty and the Beast
Scarlet Street
The Big Sleep
The Third Man
Sullivan's Travels
The Magnificent Ambersons
Children of Paradise
The Red Shoes
Double Indemnity
The Fallen Idol

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#17 Post by Murdoch » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:26 pm

My list will probably be a near mirror image of my noir list, my number one is either going to be Ray's They Live By Night or Rossellini's Germany Year Zero, or it may be something completely different. As of now my top five:

1. They Live By Night - Nicholas Ray
2. Germany Year Zero - Roberto Rossellini
3. Christmas in July - Preston Sturges
4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith - Alfred Hitchcock
5. Bicycle Thieves - Vittorio de Sica

My spotlight films:

The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946) - A Lynchian noir with Robert Cummings as an out-of-work veteran who starts working for a mobster, only to run away with his wife. That's the plot for the run-of-the-mill first half, but after they flee to Cuba everything takes a twisted turn and reality and fantasy blur in a final act twist that leaves the viewer doubting whether the film is the tale of a veteran succumbing to or overcoming his damaged psyche. Cold Bishop had a fantastic write-up of it (third post down) which I hope he'll be alright with me referencing. [R1 Alpha or VCI DVD]

The Amazing Mr. X, aka The Spiritualist (Bernard Vorhaus, 1948) - A delightful mystery/noir about a phony spiritualist and, um, some crime happens I think. Really just see this because it has John Alton's amazing cinematography, by which he becomes the true auteur of the picture and the film ranks among his best work - a dazzling phantasmagoria displaying the beauty of what a camera's lens can achieve. [Public domain, Image release is the best]
Last edited by Murdoch on Thu Oct 27, 2011 10:41 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#18 Post by tarpilot » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:26 pm

X-|
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#19 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:26 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Is it annoying for me to write up every movie I see like this?
This is a discussion thread after all, so all discussion of '40s films is welcome. Some of us may have already seen the films you mention but it might have been years ago, and it could end up being your comments that prompt someone to reappraise a given film.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#20 Post by Murdoch » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:33 pm

tarpilot wrote:5. The Chase (Arthur Ripley, 1946)
Yay, my spotlight already has a vote!

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#21 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 09, 2011 8:42 pm

I plan to contribute several walking tour director thumbnails for auteurs whose '40s output I've seen in total. First two out of the gate:

JOSEPH L MANKIEWICZ For all his verbosity, his first films show a real keenness for visuals. Dragonwyck (1946) is a gothic treat with Gene Tierney playing victim to Vincent Price's afflicted patroon. Followup Somewhere in the Night (1946) is a fantastic (literally) film noir mixtape, with escalating obstructions and a sense of the novel. For a real taste of novelty, though, seek out Backfire (1946), as there is no evidence that it ever existed (but there it sits on IMDB...). Brits rule Mankiewicz's next couple flicks: the Late George Apley (1947), while primarily a star vehicle for Ronald Coleman, has a very lovable performance by a young Peggy Cummins, and some interesting social commentary. The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) features the unforgettable Rex Harrison-brand of braggarty bluster configured to a lovely ghost story. One of my favorite romances. Combine the best elements of Mankiewicz's last three films and you get less than the sum of their parts, Escape (1948), a mildly diverting and brief noir with Harrison and Cummins again. A Letter to Three Wives (1949) is his first, but not last, fully disappointing film, though it earned him a couple Oscars. Go figure. Rounding out the decade is House of Strangers (1949). a fine immigrant-themed family thriller with Edward G Robinson and Richard Conte. It's a competent film, but is one of the few times you can say the remake is better (Dmytryk's western take, Broken Lance, in 1954).

OTTO PREMINGER Fresh from a sabbatical from film, Preminger rights an early wrong step in Margin For Error (1943), a rotten wartime thriller that thrills none, with a more cautiously acidic take on the war, In the Meantime, Darling (1944). Whereas the "we're all in it together"ness of the first is not enough to overcome a convoluted murder plot and sleepwalking supporting role by the director himself, Preminger allows skepticism of the homefront efforts to seep into Meantime's military wife (Jeanne Crain). Laura (1944), the face in the misty light, needs no defense from me, I imagine, while I once thought A Royal Scandal (1944) did-- but lately the fans of this Lubitsch-organized comic riot have come out of the cinematic closet. While in stiff competition from actual Lubitsch masterpieces like Cluny Brown and Heaven Can Wait, it still might be the funniest Lubitsch comedy of the decade. Fallen Angel (1945), the first of a series of films he made with new Fox contract star Linda Darnell is my least favorite of his noirs, but I am in the minority there and I can't deny it's a good film-- it's more that Preminger made so damn many good noirs! On the genre tip, though, Preminger, for all his virtuosity, never seems comfortable with musicals, and Centennial Summer (1945) is no exception, though it fares better than his other stabs at the genre. Forever Amber (1947) is an overlong melodramatic parody of Gone With the Wind's excesses, and those with the patience to endure will be rewarded by sly performances from Darnell and George Sanders. More melodramatic but played straight is Daisy Kenyon (1947), a Joan Crawford-starring women's picture completely stolen by Henry Fonda in one of his most unsung performances. That Lady in Ermine (1948), another Lubitsch rescue job, fails to live up to either director's pedigree (and the screenwriter's, for that matter). Preminger's films tend to glide off the screen, but The Fan (1949) is greased and shoots through the celluloid. Unbelievably sharp and witty script (thnx Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker, et al) meet catty, sniping performances from Preminger regulars Crain and Sanders, and the end result is Mamet before Mamet. If you pick only two Premingers from this decade, make it the Fan and, my number one pick for the 1940s, Whirlpool (1949), a deceptively simple noir that takes poor Gene Tierney's psychoanalyst's wife and mercilessly wrings her of everything-- everything. Great supporting cast, with Charles Bickford lending his usual Bickfordian charm, and Jose Ferrer hamming it up as the deliciously implausible Dr Korvo. My favorite Preminger, my favorite film of the 1940s, and just one of my favorite films period.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#22 Post by Gropius » Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:42 pm

That's a useful rundown, Domino, but...
domino harvey wrote:A Letter to Three Wives (1949) is his first, but not last, fully disappointing film, though it earned him a couple Oscars. Go figure.
I can't agree with this at all: I thoroughly enjoyed A Letter to Three Wives (right down to the early vocoder effects on the soundtrack), and it is provisionally guaranteed a place on my list. Mankiewicz is one of the puzzling absences from the last iteration of the poll.

Two other early recommendations, neither of which made the cut last time around: Carné's Les Visiteurs du soir (1942), which will appeal to those with a taste for the fantastical, and Humphrey Jennings's near-wordless documentary masterpiece, Listen to Britain (also 1942), which ought to be familiar by now from the BFI's Land of Promise set, but just in case it isn't....

Many would champion the 40s as a greater decade artistically than the 30s, and yet I find myself feeling less excited at the outset, maybe because fewer of the masterpieces are hidden (or are they?).
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#23 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Aug 09, 2011 9:45 pm

Japanese highlights -- this was Japan's least prolific decade by far -- as film stock was in short supply both during and after the war, still there were a number of fine films.

Mikio Naruse -- supposedly in the midst of a prolonged slump that encompassed the entire decade (and then some) -- was actually quite productive. Some highlights : Traveling Actors (1940) -- sort of a fantasia on the kabuki "horse" from Ozu's Story of Floating Weeds -- and a comic masterpiece. Hideko the Bus Conductor (1941) -- Hideko Takamine is grown up and working as a ticket taker on a far from thriving rural bus route; a seemingly light comedy with a discioncerting ending. Song Lantern (1943) -- possibly Naruse's most visually beautiful film -- the overly proud scion of a family of Noh performers embarrasses an amateur singer and is banished from the clan, but tries to make amends by helping the dead man's orphaned daughter. Spring Awakens (1949) -- Yoshiko Kuga (in her first starring role -- at 16) and her high school friends need to know about sex, but adults aren't talking. Possibly one of the first teen viewpoint films ever.

Ozu was not very active during the war years -- and both his films of the early 40s are a bit problematic. Fans of Make Way for Tomorrow might like Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, though I don't much care for this (as it draws inspiration -- and some details -- from McCarey's film, despite a different set-up). There Was a Father is deliberately ambiguous -- does it really support Chishu Ryu's fanatic devotion to duty (at the expense of neglecting a son who very much needs him) as it seems to do on the surface (for sake of the censors) or does it undermine its ostensible message (I'd like to think it does). After the war, he made two important films that audiences stayed away from in droves --First, Nagaya shinshiroku (really "A Who's Who of the Tenement Block") which chastised the Japanese for neglect of its war orphans (featuring a brilliant comic lead performance by Choko Iida as a reluctant adopter of an unprepossessing little boy). Next, A Hen in the Wind, Ozu's harshest film to date (and freest in performance with longest takes). Finally, at the end of the decade, Ozu got back in the good graces of critics and the public both with his Late Spring (hopefully familiarity will not breed contempt for this at list making time).

Hiroshi Shimizu's post war films aren't all that easy to find -- as he managed to get disowned by Shochiku during the course of the war. One of his best films, Ornamental Hairpin, IS available -- but that's about it. Memoirs of a Song Girl (Utajo oboegaki) is a mostly wonderful inverted Cinderella story -- a poor girl protects the children and business of a kindly benefactor who goes bankrupt and dies -- and falls in love with the oldest son when he returns from college. After the war, there is Children if the Beehive, a film about war orphans and a displaced soldier who cares for them (all amateurs) shot on location as the group travels across Japan (including scenes shot -- illicitly? -- in the rubble of Hiroshima). Finally, there is Ohara Shosuke-san, about a kind-hearted and forward-thinking (but not necessarily financially prudent) rural benefactor.

Tomu Uchida was pretty much out of action during this decade and Yasujiro Shimazu died in mid-decade (alas, I've never tracked down any of his 40s films). Gosho made a decent war-time family drama at the end of the war -- The Girls of Izu and a very fine tearjerker Ima hitotabi no (two lovers being parted by the war make a deal to try to meet at a certain place on a certain day each year -- for as long as may be necessary). Tadashi Imai, after a string of propaganda films -- first for the Japanese government and then for the Occupation authorities -- had a huge hit with The Blue Mountains (adapting a brand-new bestseller about teachers and students in rural Japan coping with post-war change and tradition).

Some people love Mizoguchi's 47 Ronin (based on a series of almost totally action-less philosophical plays about this famed incident) and some don't, I admire it -- but much prefer his little movie about Musashi Miyamoto. After the war, he had a string of fascinating (if not always perfect) films -- my favorites are Utamaro and Loves of Sumako the Actress.

Post-war Kurosawa is now mostly available -- though (perhaps) my personal favorite, The Quiet Duel, seems to have disappeared from circulation.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#24 Post by knives » Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:23 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote: After the war, he made two important films that audiences stayed away from in droves --First, Nagaya shinshiroku (really "A Who's Who of the Tenement Block") which chastised the Japanese for neglect of its war orphans (featuring a brilliant comic lead performance by Choko Iida as a reluctant adopter of an unprepossessing little boy). Next, A Hen in the Wind, Ozu's harshest film to date (and freest in performance with longest takes). Finally, at the end of the decade, Ozu got back in the good graces of critics and the public both with his Late Spring (hopefully familiarity will not breed contempt for this at list making time).
I've always seen that one called Record of a Tenement Gentleman so you had me confused there. Of the three I've seen Hen in the Wind is (as evidenced by the ten I posted) my favorite. Any film that shocks me to that degree is going to earn a place on my list. I'll probably only see the missing two if the BFI puts them out in time. Sad news on Shimizu, but I already have a copy of Bus Conductress lying around so my list won't be missing Naruse. It is funny though that Kurosawa made his most laid back Mifune film the same year as Hen in the Wind though. Though if I were to vote for Kurosawa this round it would only be for One Wonderful Sunday which I love absolutely to death. Speaking of has anyone seen Those Who Make Tomorrow and Horse? Those seem to be the only completely MIA films he directed.

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Steven H
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#25 Post by Steven H » Tue Aug 09, 2011 10:31 pm

I second most of your recommendations Michael but I would like to put a little more emphasis on Ohara Shosuke-san. It is difficult for me to think of a film from the 40s that does better Japanese-polite (as Lubitsch so characterized in the 30s thread), so if one is interested in that sort of thing, search this film out. Fluid tracking shots, unforgettable use of music, and a perfect lead, Okochi Denjirou, basically playing "the Dude" as country patriarch past-his-prime, all feature in this character based story played loosely as a liberalizing / progressive postwar occupation film. It's one of those films that I watched again immediately after the first time. In a similarly themed vein, Yoshimura's Ball at the Anjo House and Kinoshita's Broken Drum (the latter I give good odds for making my list).

I am really looking forward to diving into all the uknown (non-noir) Hollywood films of this decade, by the way. Excited to start getting to these unseen recommendations.

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