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.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#51 Post by knives » Wed Aug 10, 2011 12:12 pm

Thanks, I didn't know they had that option.

User avatar
otis
Joined: Mon Aug 08, 2005 11:43 am

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#52 Post by otis » Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:01 pm

A few Italian suggestions (in chronological order):
Maddalena... zero in condotta (De Sica, 1940)
Teresa Venerdì (De Sica, 1941)
Avanti c'è posto! (Bonnard, 1942)
La nave bianca (Rossellini, 1942)
Un pilota ritorna (Rossellini, 1942)
4 passi fra le nuvole (Blasetti, 1942)
Ossessione (Visconti, 1943)
L'uomo dalla croce (Rossellini, 1943)
I bambini ci guardano (De Sica, 1944)
Roma, città aperta (Rossellini, 1945)
Il bandito (Lattuada, 1946)
Campo de’ Fiori (Bonnard, 1946)
Desiderio (Rossellini, 1946)
Paisà (Rossellini, 1946)
Sciuscià (De Sica, 1946)
Il Sole sorge ancora (Vergano, 1946)
Vivere in pace (Zampa, 1946)
Caccia tragica (De Santis, 1947)
L'onorevole Angelina (Zampa 1947)
Anni difficili (Zampa, 1948)
Ladri di biciclette (De Sica, 1948)
La Terra trema (Visconti, 1948)
L’amore (Rossellini, 1948)
Germania anno zero (Rossellini, 1948)
Senza pietà (Lattuada, 1948)
Riso amaro (De Santis, 1949)

User avatar
cysiam
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2004 8:43 pm
Location: Texas

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#53 Post by cysiam » Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:20 pm

I'm firmly in the pro-40's camp
Provisional 10, looking forward to shaking this up

Sullivan's Travels
Citizen Kane
His Girl Friday
To Be or Not to Be
Notorious
Christmas In July
Out of the Past
Le Corbeau
Pursued
A Canterbury Tale

Recommended reading: The Genius of the System

serdar002
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 1:13 pm
Location: Germany

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#54 Post by serdar002 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:48 pm

Re: Soviet films of the 40s

As Lubitsch said, not very rewarding, but if you feel like watching them, here are some historical films or bio-pics which can be enjoyed even without subs (though they won't make my list):

Kutusov AKA 1812 (Кутузов), dir. Vladimir Petrov, 1943, about Napoleon's invasion, great battle scenes

two Arabian Nights style adventure films, filmed on location in Central Asia:

Nasreddin v Bukhare (Nasreddin in Bukhara - Насреддин в Бухаре), (Protazanov - 1943, his last film)
Pokhozhdeniya Nasreddina (The Adventures of Nasreddin - Похожаения Насреддина) Nabi Ganiyev - 1947

David Bek (Давид-Бек) Amo Bek-Nazaryan - 1944 - an opulent Armenian saga

Salavat Yulayev (The eagle of the steppe - Салават Юлaев) Yakov Protazanov - 1941 (The Bashkir peasant uprising at the times of Catherine the Great)

and two contemporary films I liked:

Mashenka (Машенька) Yuli Raizman - 1942 (a love story involving a soldier girl in WW II)

Staryy naezdnik (The Old Jockey - Старыи наездник) Boris Barnet 1940 (IMDB wrongly says 1959) nice atmospheric film set on a race track

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#55 Post by swo17 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 2:55 pm

serdar002 wrote:Staryy naezdnik (The Old Jockey - Старыи наездник) Boris Barnet 1940 (IMDB wrongly says 1959) nice atmospheric film set on a race track
I've made an exception for this in the first post, so it is now eligible for the 1940s list.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#56 Post by knives » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:15 pm

You know with everyone getting down with the idea that this will be an American centric list I did some thinking and I bet the majority of the films on my list won't be. Not too large a majority, but probably on the level of the '30s list. I mean right away you have the Archers who have a guaranteed three for me right now and a stunning 13 total (though out of that maybe only eight or nine have a serious chance). Seriously for the first time since Sjostrom I think we can safely say there was a best film maker(s) in the world for a noticeable length of time. Then of course we have at least three Ozus and an untold number of Naruses and Shimizus (I have two ready to view on him already). Just for the others we also have a large amount of Reed films, Italian films, Aniki-Bobo (which is unseen by me), the British docs, The Storm-Tamer, a massive amount of Ealing titles, Vida en Sombras (unseen by me), a few Dreyers (he did more than those two features after all), the early Clouzot's, the Sjoberg and Molander films, at least one Gremillon, not to mention all of the films I haven't mentioned or don't know. This is just unseen territory is all.

User avatar
Murdoch
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:59 pm
Location: Upstate NY

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#57 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:22 pm

I've recently become infatuated with the Italians of the decade so my list will probably be American dominated with the few foreign spots filled by the Neorealists. But the Archers are also a lock for my list (is it even possible to exclude them?) and I look forward to diving into their lesser known earlier stuff from the decade.

User avatar
Wu.Qinghua
Joined: Sat Aug 15, 2009 4:31 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#58 Post by Wu.Qinghua » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:47 pm

serdar002 wrote:Re: Soviet films of the 40s

As Lubitsch said, not very rewarding, but if you feel like watching them, here are some historical films or bio-pics which can be enjoyed even without subs (though they won't make my list)
Oh, I don't doubt that at all, but I'll nevertheless have a look at them in the next months. As social and labor history are among my major fields of interest, it won't be a waste of my time. Thank you very much for your recommendations, serdar. Same goes to Swo17 for making an exception in case of Barnet's Old Jockey.
Last edited by Wu.Qinghua on Wed Aug 10, 2011 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#59 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:57 pm

Between the Archers, Carol Reed, David Lean, Olivier, and the Ealing stuff, my list could easily be seriously Brit heavy. I don't know how to place something like A Matter of Life and Death, though- it's a great movie in any number of ways, but for me it doesn't have anything like the magnitude of The Red Shoes or Colonel Blimp.

User avatar
Saturnome
Joined: Sun Aug 12, 2007 5:22 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#60 Post by Saturnome » Wed Aug 10, 2011 5:10 pm

ANIMATED FILMS!

USA
- Disney
· There are, obviously, the early 40s classics : Pinocchio Fantasia Dumbo and Bambi. This is, without a doubt, the peak of Disney animation and each of them is different from the other. I don't need to say much here. Choose your favorite!
· Then the rest, such as the package films (which are package films, so it's too bad. I wish the ending of The Three Caballeros was a short by itself, it must be among the most surreal things Disney ever made.) and curiosities such as The Reluctant Dragon, a nice tour of the studios guided by Robert Benchley, featuring some nice early stylized animation, and Victory Through Air Power, part-animated wartime documentary, more relevant to the historian than for enjoyment, despite a great intro on the history of aviation. These two were only released on the mostly OOP "Walt Disney Treasures" DVD series.
· In the shorts department, with the Silly Symphonies gone, there's not much to look for. Mickey's shorts are nice at best. Goofy makes "How to..." comedic shorts where, in about half of them, he doesn't utter a word since his original voiceman (Pinto Colvig) is gone away! Donald's pre-war shorts are great, they're mostly just nice after the war. But the wartime cartoons are fun and fast-paced. There is, of course, the very popular Der Fuehrer's Face (on both "Donald Duck Vol.2" and "Disney at War" Treasures DVD), but I find all of them to be pretty great.

- Fleischer/Famous Studios
· Mr. Bug Goes to Town is the only non-Disney american feature length animated film released in America in the 40s. Unless I'm mistaken it's also the very first feature length animated film with an original story and set in contemporary times. Worth a look for animation fans, but it's not exactly memorable in my opinion. It can be found on R1 DVD under the title of Bugville, and probably anywhere really, since it's public domain. There's a nice restored DVD of the film in Japan by Ghibli and Disney.
· Fleischer's Superman cartoons are a legendary series featuring high quality animation and great golden age Superman action. Not much plot, it's all about Superman saving the day. There's a great Warner DVD of the restored films, but as I understand the films are in public domain, and all are on Archive.org
· Famous Studios continues the Popeye cartoons, and makes Little Lucy and Herman and Katnip shorts, but I never bothered much with them. Is there a gem to look out for?

- Warner
This is where the studio start to rise as the great master of the golden age. Despite less polished animation and smaller budgets, they have the best directors:
· Bob Clampett : So you guys forgot to vote for Porky in Wackyland (1938) this time. This won't do. Nope, this won't do at all. Now that we are right into Clampett's peak years, it's the occasion to redeem yourself! Ain't that great! And there is so much to choose from : from Fantasia parody A Corny Concerto(Golden Collection Vol.2) to the controversial Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (probably better prints elsewhere), the amazingly fast and crazy animation of Draftee Daffy(Golden Collection Vol.3), the humor of his first Tweety Bird shorts... and his last Warner films are his masterpieces : The Great Piggy Bank Robbery(Golden Collection Vol.2) and The Big Snooze(Golden Collection Vol.2). What are you waiting for?
· Frank Tashlin : Porky Pig's Feat (Golden Collection Vol.3), is probably his best known cartoon, with a bunch of great visual tricks and making a great funny duo with Porky Pig and Daffy Duck. Puss N' Booty (Golden Collection Vol.4) is also a good one with very cinematic angles, great "acting" and a fun ending.
· Chuck Jones : He will peak later in the 50s, but meanwhile we have a great classic with "The Dover Boys at Pimento University" or "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (Golden Collection Vol.2, also coming up on the platinum blu-ray)featuring early stylized animation, and a great number of Bugs Bunny shorts.
· Friz Freleng : You Ought to Be in Pictures (Golden Collection Vol.2) let Daffy Duck and Porky Pig walk around real-life Hollywood!

- MGM
· Hanna-Barbara : I must admit, I never cared much for Tom & Jerry. They're beautiful to look at since it's middle ground between Disney perfection and Warner fun, but I can't name a single short that's truly worthy of attention. Even the best known one, The Cat Concerto, is in a weird situation where nobody seems to know if it stole from Friz Freleng's Rhapsody Rabbit or vice-versa or incredible coincidence.
· Tex Avery : Did I say Warner had the best directors? Because the simple fact that Tex Avery is at MGM make my statement doubtful. The 1940s are Avery's peak years, and we have here a lot of incredible shorts such as Red Hot Riding Hood (and all of the Wolf+Red shorts), The Shooting of Dan McGoo, Northwest Hounded Police, King-Size Canary and Bad Luck Blackie, the Screwy Squirrel shorts...
By the way, as you can see, I like Tex Avery very much.
Also, before I forget, he also made A Wild Hare (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Academy Awards Animation Collection features the only release of the restored, unedited version) while at Warner in 1940, the official debut of Bugs Bunny.

- Other
· I'm fond of Screen Gems' Fox and Crow series, created by Frank Tashlin though I believe he only directed the first short.
· George Pal is now in the United States, making Puppetoons. Tullips Shall Grow, made in 1942, is the great anti-war short and a real must-see, and you can find a bunch of other classics on the Puppetoons DVD, though some of them are edited.
· Finally there is also Woody Woodpecker at Lantz studio, I haven't watched much of them yet, sadly.
· Outside of the studio system, Oskar Fischinger is still making great films, obviously with Motion Painting No. 1 but even American March is very enjoyable. Harry Smith's abstract films are also a treat.
· Of course, I just mentioned the most well known. This is the golden age and there is a lot of entertaining shorts here. A bit too much of generic cat and mouse sometimes and that's all.

Germany
· Are you missing the Silly Symphonies? I believe Germany's Hans Fischerkoesen is closest you will find to this in the 40s. Verwitterte Melodie (just look at the amazing first shot, or the 360 around the record player!) and Der Schneemann are both great cartoons, featuring great technical achievements with fluid animation, complex camera movements and 3D backgrounds.

Italy
· La Rosa di Bagdad is a very late-30s-Fleischer-like feature-length film set in the ever popular Arabian Nights world. Less beautiful than Disney, less fun than Warner, less surrealist than Fleischer, it's not really doing anything to be distinctive. It's noteworthy simply because there isn't a lot of feature-length animation of the old-school kind. It was released in the US at some point during the 60s featuring the voice of Julie Andrews, making it a bit more known, but not really acclaimed. At some point the evil magician cast a spell on the protagonist that makes him black, and spend a third of the film that way. I wonder how it was handled in the american dub. The film was released on Blu-Ray in Italy, in original 4:3 ratio, no subs but it seems to have an English dub.

Japan
· Japan's animation is getting better and better, and probably that the master of this decade is Kenzo Masaoka. Is best known classic is in terrible, terrible condition, Kumo to Chuurippu. But I'd like to mention another film which is in far better condition which shows clearly the great animation. It's Sute Neko Tora-Chan, and I have uploaded my (hard-subbed, sorry) copy right here. It's cute, sad, and ... kittens !!
· It's also when Japan made their first feature-length animated films. Momotarō no Umiwashi at 37 minutes is sometimes called the first one, but there is little doubt for it's sequel Momotarō: Umi no Shinpei, at 74 minutes. They're both rather incredible propaganda where cute little bunnies, dogs and cats fly planes and do Pearl Harbor in the case of the first film and the attack on Sulawesi island for the sequel. The first film is available with English subtitles on the "Roots of Japanese Anime" DVD by Zakka films, and despite this and featuring such things as Bluto (Popeye's enemy, complete with stolen voice clips) being the stereotypical american being bombarded on his boat, the second film is the best one. Sadly without subtitles as far as I know, but the pacing, visuals (complete with very cinematographic shots and camera movements that are unusual in a animated film of this kind) and weirdness is better. The beginning is so calm, with the cute little animals enjoying nature, pillow shots showing the beauty of rain, pollen in the wind, flowers... and then the animals sings while building stuff, isn't it great? Though they're building military bases here. Oh. And later, they go to war, complete with graphic shots like a human enemy getting stabbed with a bayonet right in the heart. It's something to see.

China
· Princess Iron Fan, China's first feature-length animated film (1941, right before Japan), made by the Wan brothers, is I believe a fascinating mess featuring weird rotoscoping and surreal events, probably made even more surreal when you have next to no knowledge of the original Journey to the West story like I do (Though I understand way better their other feature film based on this story, Havoc in Heaven(1964)). Amazingly enough Cinema Epoch released a R1 DVD of Princess Iron Fan in 2007.

Czechoslovakia
· Jiri Trnka, the first great name of Czechoslovakia's stop-motion tradition, have started making his first notable films, among them Roman S Basou(Story of the Bass Cello) based on Anton Chekhov's story and feature film Cisaruv slavík (shorter version with Boris Karloff naration known as The Emperor's Nightingale)
· Karel Zeman's Inspirace is one of the great short stop-motion film of it's time. Featuring animation made with glass sculptures.

USSR
· Konyok Gorbunok (The Humpbacked Horse) by the father of soviet animation Ivan Ivanov-Vano is the best-known film here, a classic tale where everybody speaks in rhymes. I haven't seen it in ages so I can't comment for now, but it's certainly very well loved. The Soviets made a bunch of feature films in the 40s, the first of them being The Lost Letter (English Subtitles!)
· The propaganda animation is well known because of the box set, but don't let it fool you into thinking that's all that was going on. Here's some amazing looking animation with Polkan and Shavka (english subtitles) and there's a lot more to look. Just go to this page.

Canada
· Canada's animation is just starting and is dominated by Norman McLaren. His and Evelyn Lambart's Begone Dull Care is one of my favorite animated short of all time. It just goes so well with Oscar Peterson's music. You can also watch Boogie-Doodle and a bunch of 1940s animated films (and more) on ONF's Website.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#61 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:24 pm

Thanks for the animated guide. Mr Bug Goes to Town is of personal interest to me as I did a lot of research looking at how American children received films during wartime, and this was one of the many cases of kids, even the very young, rejecting ostensibly "kids" entertainment in favor of more adult fare. Even though this was one of my specific case examples, I don't remember anything about it either, haha

User avatar
Shrew
The Untamed One
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:22 am

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#62 Post by Shrew » Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:40 pm

China
Here's a quick overview, though I'm not as familiar with this decade as with others. China had a bit of a resurgence after the war until the Communists took power in 1949, but access and subtitles are big problems here. Mentioned already are Springtime in a Small Town, which is often considered the greatest Chinese film in China itself, but while it's quite good I think that's a hefty exaggeration. Also Myriad of Lights and Along the Sungari River which together on another poor but at least available Cinema Epoch disc. Also on Epoch discs are the animated Princess Iron Fan and Dream of the Red Chamber, an adaptation of the big Chinese novel, which I haven't seen or heard much about.

But worthy of special extra effort is Crows and Sparrows, my favorite Chinese film of the decade. It's a bedraggled world-weary black comedy set in a crowded Shanghai tenement right before the Nationalists fell to the Communists. It's ardently anti-Nationalist, but avoids being a pure propaganda piece by not glorifying the Communists, instead portraying them as some vague alternative everyone hopes is just better than the awful Nationalists. What makes it fun is the interplay between the various levels of the household, all from different backgrounds but now quashed together by war. It is in many ways a communist film--the tenement isn't far removed from a commune--but there's little unearned optimism here. Rather everyone is dead tired of everything, and only that sense learn to appreciate each other (aside from evil landlords).

There's a Chinese DVD through amazon, but it lacks English subs. It's also on various Chinese sites, but again, no subtitles as I've seen. There is an old subtitled VHS, so if you somehow have access to it through a school or library, watch it.
Last edited by Shrew on Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#63 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 10, 2011 6:41 pm

Round two of my auteur walking tour for directors whose entire 1940s output I've seen:

JOHN FORD Ford dominates the cinematic landscape, no doubt, but this is to my eyes one of his weakest decades, and only one of his films will be making my list. But even a weak decade for Ford outpaces a great decade for 90% of other directors. Starting off strong with the austere Steinbeck-adaptation the Grapes of Wrath (1940), Ford paints socioeconomic hardships with the brush of a horror film, to great effect, while his longshoreman piffle the Long Voyage Home (1940) is nightmarish for other, unintended reasons, by yimminy. Ford reaches his nadir with Tobacco Road (1941), a film so misguided that some feel compelled to defend the indefensible. If you ever wanted to see Cracker Barrel-level character portrayals and Gene Tierney as a feral girl smeared in dirt, than good news! Better news comes with How Green Was My Valley (1941), a minor but enjoyable nostalgic portrait of a small mining town. No, it didn't deserve the Best Pic Oscar, but it could've been worse. After making wartime docs for a couple years, Ford returns with his best film of the decade, They Were Expendable (1945), a dark, somber wartime tale with John Wayne and Robert Montgomery giving some of the best performances of their careers. Makes a great double-feature with Hawks' Air Force if you want to do a "by land and by sea" ticket. Many claim My Darling Clementine (1946) to be not only among Ford's best films, but the best of the western genre. I can't co-sign the sentiment, though it is a very fine film featuring some of Fox's more visible contract players. One of those poor players gets put through the aesthetic wringer in the Fugitive (1947), and while misguided and often on the nose, Henry Fonda does his best at navigating the rocky terrain Ford's led him into. Such perseverance is rewarded with Fort Apache (1948), one of Ford's occasional sloppy "sit back and let it play out" films that often bewilderingly get hoisted up as his finest (see: Wagon Master, et al). The film has a stunning finish, driven by Fonda's interminable asshole, that I think causes viewers to overrate it on the whole. With a premise as wince-inducing as this, 3 Godfathers (1948) might arguably be one of Ford's greatest achievements if just because it never turns into a proto-Three Men and a Baby cutefest. It is, indeed, one of Ford's most unrelentingly violent and fatalistic films. Rounding out the decade comes She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), the second in Ford's Cavalry trilogy, which get better as they go along. Yellow and red and other gorgeous colors highlight the action in this more subdued western, and while it never plays out as beautifully as it looks, Ford ends the decade on a respectable note.

HOWARD HAWKS Well, since all of the films he officially directed this decade are readily available on DVD (more on Corvette K-225 later), perhaps some of Hawks' lesser-seen films will figure more prominently this decade. I can't say I'm worried about the chances of His Girl Friday (1940) placing, as its whipsmart dialog and narrative pacing are still whiplash-inducing seventy-plus years later. I am worried about Sgt. York (1941)'s chances, especially since it wears Hawks' conservative bonafides even more on his sleeve than usual. But it's a near-perfect example of the biopic and the wartime adventure, coupled with great performances and a compelling underlying narrative. Embrace it, ya buncha liberals! Ball of Fire (1941) likewise features great performances and wonderful, noir-styled cinematography, but these are the only attributes that are not bettered by Hawks' own remake seven years later. Air Force (1943), Hawks' best film of the decade and, well, best film, is an unsung action film that stands as perhaps the wartime entertainment picture. I know the pair of Bogart/Bacall pics, To Have and Have Not (1944) and the Big Sleep (1946), have their staunch defenders, but both have always ranked for me as two of the slightest Hawks films, especially when sandwiched between so many masterpieces in either direction. Even with a hotly contested ending, Red River (1948) seems generally agreed upon as one of the greatest westerns ever, and I can't disagree. It's definitely my favorite of Hawks' westerns. A Song is Born (1948), the aforementioned musical remake of Ball of Fire, improves on what was already a great film by transplanting the script to a more logical backdrop (music, not language) and imbuing it with a sense of wonder at performance. And finally, a real overlooked gem in Hawks' oeuvre, I Was a Male War Bride (1949), which takes the post-war male fears of strong women and smartly transplants them to a military base setting. It is one of the few films (maybe the only film) to pull of a sequence of transvestism without devolving into a lowest-common denominator dredge.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK There's no getting around it. Once Hitchcock came to Hollywood, he overpowered the competition to the point that it's easy to take for granted how good his films were and remain. Things certainly start out right for Hitchcock with Rebecca (1940), which features the single greatest performance in all of cinema, that of Joan Fontaine, whose childlike naiveté filters everything through the eyes of a girl's first step into a new and foreign world. Though she was robbed of the Oscar (by Ginger Rogers, whose Kitty Foyle is not a bad film or performance, but c'monnnn), the film earned the highest honor. Foreign Correspondent (1940) was also nommed for Best Pic, and while this is an exciting action film executed with the grace we know well, it never strikes one as awardsbait. Hitchcock has his share of unfairly maligned films, and as Mr and Mrs Smith (1941) proves, these are not always justified. A moderately funny screwball comedy pairing Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery, the pic has surprisingly progressive sexual politics if nothing else. Suspicion (1941) reteams Fontaine with Hithccock, and the Academy is so embarrassed about not giving her an Oscar that they reward her for this, which is a little like jailing Al Capone for tax evasion. The film is admittedly a good one, though, with a hotly-contested ending that has staunch defenders for every interpretation. I wish Saboteur (1942) had more staunch defenders, though! One of the best road movies ever made, this thriller throws fascinating obstacle after obstacle in front of our fugitive hero and sidekick and the pair navigate a landscape that stretches from one side of the country to the other. One of my favorite Hitchcock films. Hitchcock would of course argue for Shadow of a Doubt (1943) as his own personal favorite. Godard famously referred to it as "the least good" Hitchcock film (which is a brilliant turn of phrase). I'm somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Certainly Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten give good performances and there's nothing I strongly object to in the proceedings… it just doesn't come to mind when I think of career highlights for the man. Neither does Lifeboat (1944), but it really is a fascinating examination of how many constraints one can take on and still conjure up the purely cinematic. You'd have to strap me into constraints to sit all the way through Spellbound (1945) again, though. One of the many thrillers exploiting fears of psychoanalysis et al that popped up in the second half of the decade, it's watered down and strangely lethargic for a Hitchcock film. Notorious (1946) is anything but lethargic, though, as it cycles through many of Hitchcock's favorite ideas to great effect. There are many compelling essays out there arguing that Grant and Bergman come off as the villains, not Rains, by the end, and I'm sympathetic to this reading. I'm anything but understanding of the Paradine Case (1947), though, easily the worst Hitchcock film of the decade (and second only to Topaz as his worst film, period). How he could waste a great cast on this nonsense remains the real mystery. More than just the sum of its brash stylistic experimentation, Rope (1948) is a grand, claustrophobic achievement, one that glides by on audacity but remains compelling once the novelty has worn off. Less successful at the long-take approach is Under Capricorn (1949), although Cahiers du Cinema proclaimed it to be the greatest Hitchcock film ever (and more than once), so as always with Hitchcock, YMMV.

FRITZ LANG I seem to hold a lot of minority opinions on Fritz Lang. For starters, his Hollywood output far outpaces his German work to my eyes. And since this is his truly studio decade, there's a lot of peaks amongst the valleys. Lang's first western, the Return of Frank James (1940), is a delightful sequel that bitingly skewers its source material. Much less successful is Western Union (1941), the least of Lang's westerns, which contains none of the intelligence found in his other work of the genre. Man Hunt (1941) is the first of many Nazi-accented pictures Lang will produce this decade, and while there is a nice sense of tragedy and a wonderful (if protracted) action sequence finale, it's minor Lang. Hangmen Also Die! (1943) is anything but, though. Perhaps Lang's greatest spy film, here played mostly straight amongst several layers of conspiracy and danger. The fatalistic tone prevails above all, and even with the cuts for content this remains one of the strongest wartime thrillers to come out of the studios in this era. Ministry of Fear (1944) is a transitional film between thriller and wartime picture, and it has a very Hitchcockian stacking of circumstances against an innocent man. It falls apart in the last thirty minutes, but remains a fun enough ride. The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945) are sister films, sharing much of the same cast and telling variations on the same story. I can hardly blame anyone for voting for Scarlet Street, as it is a dark (even for noir) film worth praising, but I've always held the Woman in the Window in higher esteem, as I think it is hinting at larger and more complicated issues. It also successfully pulls off a kind of ending that no work of art before or since has managed, which is reason enough to heap praise-- my favorite Lang from the decade. Cloak and Dagger (1946), yet another spy flick, has a real "been there" feel to it, and certainly it ranks among the weakest of Lang's films. Similarly unsuccessful (though more interesting) is the Secret Beyond the Door (1948), another of the many films released in this period exploiting public fears of psychoanalysis. It's certainly one of the stranger entries, but I can't reconcile its more outlandish moments with the sluggish pacing and frequent narrative missteps.

WILLIAM WYLER Proof that awardsbait directors aren't all bad, Wyler had his share of swings and misses this decade. He rides tall into the 40s with the Westerner (1940), a crackerjack western propelled by Walter Brennan's career-best performance as Judge Roy Bean. I know Brennan's wins are seen as an embarrassment of overly-visible flaws in the Oscar voting system, but this is one Oscar the man earned. Unearned to my eyes are the back to back Best Pic noms for Wyler's next two Bette Davis star vehicles, the Letter (1940) and the Little Foxes (1941). The former is a moderately involving protonoir in which Davis is the weakest link, the latter a histrionic Southern screechfest of terrible people doing terrible things at each other (and not in an entertaining way). As unbearable as that is, watch what happens when terrible things happen to good people in Wyler's masterpiece Mrs Miniver (1942), which is not just one of the greatest films to win Best Picture but a sterling example of everything the studio system could do for cinema. More sobering but no less impressive is his followup, the Best Years of Our Lives (1946), which now tackled the war from the tailend, and also walked away with a well-earned Best Pic Oscar. These two films could by themselves win any argument against anti-award agitators, and both will feature prominently on my list. Get yr hankies and get comfortable! But not too comfortable, as Wyler's sleepwalking period piece the Heiress (1948), filled with actors like Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift doing pretty much what you'd expect, is a weak note to end the decade on (though he starts back swinging in the 50s with his career-best Detective Story).
Last edited by domino harvey on Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#64 Post by Gregory » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:06 pm

domino harvey wrote:I am worried about Sgt. York (1941)'s chances, especially since it wears Hawks' conservative bonafides even more on his sleeve than usual. But it's a near-perfect example of the biopic and the wartime adventure, coupled with great performances and a compelling underlying narrative. Embrace it, ya buncha liberals!
I'm not sure what you mean by Hawks's usual "conservative" bonafides here. Pinning a contentious (and in my view consistently vague and misused) political term on a director--especially one of another era who virtually never discussed his personal politics--calls for some definition or at least fleshing out.
I know the pair of Bogart/Bacall pics, To Have and Have Not (1944) and the Big Sleep (1946), have their staunch defenders, but both have always ranked as two of the slightest Hawks films, especially when sandwiched between so many masterpieces in either direction.
By "have always ranked," are you speaking personally? Critics generally consider these among Hawks best films. Both rank within the top third of the TSPDT top 1000, with critics only significantly preferring four other Hawks films (Rio Bravo, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and Red River). Should be irrelevant anyway, I guess.
I personally find The Big Sleep and especially To Have and Have Not much better than Red River and His Girl Friday, both of which are tripped up by their endings.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#65 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:16 pm

domino harvey wrote: ALFRED HITCHCOCK There's no getting around it. Once Hitchcock came to Hollywood, he overpowered the competition to the point that it's easy to take for granted how good his films were and remain. Things certainly start out right for Hitchcock with Rebecca (1940), which features the single greatest performance in all of cinema, that of Joan Fontaine, whose childlike naiveté filters everything through the eyes of a girl's first step into a new and foreign world. Though she was robbed of the Oscar (by Ginger Rogers, whose Kitty Foyle is not a bad film or performance, but c'monnnn), the film earned the highest honor.
I've always thought Joan Fontaine's performances, particularly in the 40s, were almost indistinguishable- she's brilliantly cast in Rebecca, but I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between what she does there and what she does in, say, Jane Eyre, where it's wildly inappropriate. I suppose it's unfair to hold it against Rebecca that she recycled what she did there over and over, and generally with less success, but it's difficult not to.
FRITZ LANG The Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945) are sister films, sharing much of the same cast and telling variations on the same story. I can hardly blame anyone for voting for Scarlet Street, as it is a dark (even for noir) film worth praising, but I've always held the Woman in the Window in higher esteem, as I think it is hinting at larger and more complicated issues. It also successfully pulls off a kind of ending that no work of art before or since has managed, which is reason enough to heap praise-- my favorite Lang from the decade.
I can't agree that Woman in the Window is superior to Scarlet Street- I feel as though the latter is more daring, and more willing to embrace how much of the things-going-wrong noir plot comes from within Robinson's character- but absolutely Woman in the Window is a tragically underrated movie, and if Scarlet Street's on my top ten Woman will almost certainly be in my top 20. I certainly agree that dismissing the ending as a craven backing-down from closing on note the arc of the plot seemed to imply is missing the point, in this case.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#66 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:18 pm

Gregory, it should have said "ranks for me," I've edited accordingly. I was in fact just trying to be upfront that a lot of people disagree with my opinion on these two films especially, so I don't exactly think I've warranted a nagging finger there. As for my use of "conservative," I don't understand the objection, especially since Sgt York fits so well either of the meanings often employed when discussing films-- conservative in the political sense and conservative in the sense of its construction.

As for Fontaine, I agree she never recaptured the heights of her performance in Rebecca, and indeed that film seems to exploit her own persona for the good of the picture in a way a more guarded, experienced actress wouldn't allow, which is probably why there are diminishing returns as her career continues (though I don't have any problems with her later work, really, it's just not this).
Last edited by domino harvey on Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#67 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:22 pm

Gregory wrote:I personally find The Big Sleep and especially To Have and Have Not much better than Red River and His Girl Friday, both of which are tripped up by their endings.
The Big Sleep is one of the most entertaining movies I've ever seen, particularly for the dry, wry sense of humor that Altman picked up on for The Long Goodbye- it's hands down my favorite amongst the Hawks I've seen. To Have and Have Not is good, but felt somewhat less inspired to me, sticking out from Hawks formula it almost settles into largely due to Bacall's angular presence, which never quite resolves into an easily-defined type. I enjoyed Hawks' shamelessness in giving it the mega-happy ending, though.
Last edited by matrixschmatrix on Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Steven H
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:30 pm
Location: NC

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#68 Post by Steven H » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:22 pm

For what it's worth, I will spotlight Shimizu's Ohara Shosuke-san despite it maybe being tough to track down (subs on the back channels, but the unsubbed Kinokunya DVD is gorgeous). I made a few quick points as to its qualities on the bottom of page 1.

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#69 Post by Gregory » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:35 pm

Domino, my questions weren't meant to be a "nagging finger," just asking for a little clarity on that point, which I think was needed. I hope my tone didn't imply otherwise.
On "conservative," I wasn't addressing Sergeant York but rather your observation about Hawks's usual qualities. But regarding Sergeant York, I find it hard to appreciate in a post-World War II context, and its more problematic moments seem like one of many ill-considered examples of wartime propaganda we'll be encountering this round. Perhaps even worse, I don't find nearly enough else in the film to redeem it. I just don't see as much of the subtlety and complexity that's found in his best work. Anyway, I bought the damned DVD anyway in a good sale on the Warner set and will be revisiting it one more time sometime soon.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#70 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 10, 2011 7:48 pm

Gregory wrote:Domino, my questions weren't meant to be a "nagging finger," just asking for a little clarity on that point, which I think was needed. I hope my tone didn't imply otherwise.
On "conservative," I wasn't addressing Sergeant York but rather your observation about Hawks's usual qualities. But regarding Sergeant York, I find it hard to appreciate in a post-World War II context, and its more problematic moments seem like one of many ill-considered examples of wartime propaganda we'll be encountering this round. Perhaps even worse, I don't find nearly enough else in the film to redeem it. I just don't see as much of the subtlety and complexity that's found in his best work. Anyway, I bought the damned DVD anyway in a good sale on the Warner set and will be revisiting it one more time sometime soon.
Ah, apologies on the first point. Perhaps my statement re: the conservatism should be a little clearer-- while Hawks' films are almost always narratively conservative, they are rarely as unguarded in their political conservatism as here.

I should also admit that I don't have any problem with and indeed am sympathetic (within reason) to films that are often seen as "wartime propaganda". Wartime American cinema is one of my areas of expertise and it does kinda bother me when people dismiss these movies for being what they are (or worse, aren't). Admittedly I am coming from a place of white American privilege to a lot of these pictures, and obviously this colors reactions to many of the studio films I champion, just like Since You Went Away is going to play differently for someone of Japanese heritage.

User avatar
MaxCastle
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 1:37 pm
Location: Manchester, UK

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#71 Post by MaxCastle » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:40 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Post-war Kurosawa is now mostly available -- though (perhaps) my personal favorite, The Quiet Duel, seems to have disappeared from circulation.
Yume's R2 disc is still available (albeit as The Silent Duel).

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#72 Post by Gregory » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:41 pm

I'm in agreement with domino about The Best Years of Our Lives. This is a film every participant should see, and it's OOP, with just a handful of copies left on Amazon Marketplace priced below SRP that are in reasonably good shape, so folks may not want to hesitate on this one. The old HBO DVD was better, but that's long OOP. Netflix (or your local library) is another option, needless to say.

User avatar
Murdoch
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:59 pm
Location: Upstate NY

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#73 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:48 pm

I know this is heresy to say, but I'm making my way through the Val Lewton box and outside of I Walked With a Zombie the films have been letdowns, especially Cat People. Despite the gorgeous productions and some brilliant isolated sequences - the chanting figures walking while the murderer is apprehended in Leopard Man, the silent sequence in Isle of the Dead - the films as wholes have failed to captivate me and they feel more like a series of beautifully filmed sequences whose parts are greater than what they add up to. I'm not saying this to incite backlash or to bait its ardent admirers, because I really want to like these films, but mainly to read Lewton's admirers on the board wax poetic on him (I read Cold Bishop's post on The Seventh Victim in the noir thread, which was very insightful even though I have yet to watch the film). Although after watching half of his oeuvre I think I just have to settle with he's not for me.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#74 Post by knives » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:52 pm

The entire box is half his oeuvre, just in case you were being literal.

User avatar
Murdoch
Joined: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:59 pm
Location: Upstate NY

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#75 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:56 pm

Well, the box includes 9 of his 14 films, so it's a little more than half.

Post Reply