Category Archives: 40's movies

40′s movies marathon – the most memorable movies of the decade

Before we leave the 1940’s for good, here are not the best movies of the decade, but the ones that stick most in my mind, for some reason:

Jud Süß (1940), for making me feel what it’s like to hate the Jews

Santa Fe Trail (1940), for its shocking defense of slavery

Fantasia (1940), for making me cry

The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan’s Travels (1941), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), Unfaithfully Yours (1948), really anything by Preston Sturges

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), for that motorcycle scene at the beginning, also A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), really anything by Powell & Pressburger

Day of Wrath (1943), for being the most metal movie of the decade

Mission to Moscow (1943), for showing that there really were some genuine Communists in Hollywood

Victory Through Air Power (1943), for Walt Disney’s insane ambition of changing the course of the war

Henry V (1944), for delivering the St. Crispin’s Day speech at the exact right moment in history

Dead of Night (1945), for being the only genuinely scary movie of the entire decade

The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), and A Walk in the Sun (1945), for setting the standard in war movie realism

Good News (1947), for that musical number that just makes me really happy

Railroaded! (1947), T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948), really anything by Anthony Mann

Rope (1948), for being maybe my favorite movie of all time

The Fall of Berlin (1949), for taking the Jerry Bruckheimer approach to Stalin worship

Passport to Pimlico (1949) and The Fountainhead (1949), for being unfashionably libertarian, then and now.

40′s movies marathon – best of 1949

What an awful year in movies that was, especially for Hollywood, but the ‘49 movies that are good, are real good, and unique in a way earlier movies weren’t.  The end of the “golden age” was the end of one size fits all movies, and the beginning of “let’s try anything that could possibly draw some viewers away from television”.

Working class heroes

Thieves’ Highway

Give Us This Day

Libertarian rabblerousers

The Fountainhead

Passport to Pimlico

Old violence with a new edge

White Heat

Reign of Terror

Lust for Gold


Neo-realists can make okay movies too

Gategutter / Boys From the Streets

War, death and other humorous subjects

I Was a Male War Bride

The Barkleys of Broadway

Kind Hearts and Coronets

The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend

Mr Belvedere Goes to College

Stalin extravaganza

The Fall of Berlin

Quiet intensity

Stray Dog

A Letter to Three Wives

The Small Back Room

The Third Man

The Quiet Duel


40′s movies marathon – part 134 (of 134!)

The Quiet Duel (1949, Kurosawa) - Toshirô Mifune

The Quiet Duel (1949, Japan, Kurosawa)

Again Kurosawa uses disease as a theme.  This time it’s syphilis, which the men carry home from the war, and are unable to cure.  And the women suffer their own permanent consequences from wartime accidents.  There’s no easy return to normalcy.  Something good that once existed is irrevocably lost.   But it’s still up to everyone how to deal with this loss: As honorable or dishonorable people.  Watched it all.

Intruder in the Dust (1949, USA, Brown)

Hollywood continues to discover racial discrimination.  Once again the main characters are all white, because, come on, you have to draw the line somewhere.  Watched: 10 minutes.  Btw, I think Rich Hall mentioned this movie in his excellent BBC documentary The Dirty South, which you should go and watch now.

.. and, dear god, that was it for the 1940′s. I can’t believe I actually did it.  As far as I know I’m the first person ever to do this – at least on this scale, and in this particular way, with several thousand movies unfiltered by critics, watching everything until I get bored, and writing about it afterwards.  And this really is a fantastic way to watch movies.  I don’t think I can go back to the old way now.  In fact, I think I’ll continue right on to ..

40′s movies marathon – part 133

Tension (1949, USA, Berry)

I love how they’re beginning to push the noir formula to its extreme: Here, the unfaithful wife is practically a prostitute, and the cuckolded husband is particularly pathetic – until the tension tears him apart, like the rubber band in the brilliant intro (above).  Watched it all.

Batman and Robin (1949 serial, USA)

Worst. Batmobile. Ever.  And worst Robin.  Batman’s not too bad, just very very dull.  I’m beginning to see what they were parodying in the 1960′s.  Watched: Half an episode, then fast-forwarded to see the hilarious cliffhangers, and to look for interesting villains.  There aren’t any, just some stupid guy in a mask.

The Third Man (1949) - Orson Welles

The Third Man (1949, UK, Reed)

However it may seem to naive American authors, with their pulp stories about gunfights at noon, real life isn’t like a western story.  Real life is more like film-noir, with shadows and desperate women and the kind of cafés Peter Lorre might hang out in, even though he isn’t actually in this movie.  Watched it all.  Even movies I’ve seen several times before appear in a new light as part of this marathon.  For instance, the plot here always was a little hazy to me, but after a decade’s worth of this sort of thing, it now seems quite straightforward.

The Great Madcap (1949, Mexico, Bunuel)

Luis Bunuel, isn’t he the Spanish surrealist who made incomprehensible movies with Salvador Dali in the early 1930′s?  This is decidedly unsurreal and comprehensible.  I guess everyone has a mortgage to pay.  Watched: 5 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 132

White Heat (1949, USA, Walsh)

Here’s how it goes with movie tropes: They go out of favor, then return self-aware, building on everything that came before.  That’s why you don’t need a big intro here, you just throw viewers into the middle of a James Cagney gangster story, with the dials turned to Nightmare, and they’ll know their way around.  It was the same with Key Largo.  The result is maybe the greatest gangster movie ever made.  Watched it all.

Madame Bovary (1949, USA, Minnelli)

Once in a while during a movie intro I start thinking about Ben-Hur, for no apparent reason.  And then I notice that the music is by Miklos Rozsa.  Anyway, when it concerns literary classics like this, known primarily for being a great novel, maybe I’ll read it one day, or maybe I won’t, but there’s not much bloody point watching the movie version, now is there?  Watched: 6 minutes.

The Small Back Room (1949, UK, Powell & Pressburger)

This reminds of that 1979-81 series The Sandbaggers, where we followed the manouverings and infights of the bureaucrats who stay at home while James Bonds go out into the world.  Here it’s a research center during the war.  There’s the same tone, and the same basic story: Smart people working with and against the whims of their politically apt superiors.  Watched it all.

Thirst / Törst (1949, Sweden, Bergman)

I think it’s very wicked of this young upstart “Ingmar Bergman” to make all these parodies of the works of his famous namesake.  Watched: 17 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 131

The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend (1949, USA, Sturges)

Betty Grable rampaging across the West, shooting bullets and Preston Sturges’ dialogue.  Yes!  Watched it all.  An unpolished, but otherwise worthy forerunner to  Blazing Saddles.

City Across the River (1949, USA, Shane)

Did you know that Poor People often live in Slums and suffer terribly from Juvenile Delinquency?  Watching a movie that pretends to know what that is like is the least you can do about it.  Watched: 8 minutes.

Mr Belvedere Goes to College (1949, USA, Nugent)

I feel like Shirley Temple is the nemesis of this movie marathon.  She’s been there since the mid-30′s, and even now she’s still playing teenage roles.  I’d be depressed if I didn’t know  she would retire a year later.  (And btw, she’s still alive!) To be fair, though, this is quite good, with Temple playing only an ignorable minor role.  It’s the old “successful grown-up returns to college to get a formal education” ploy, featuring Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.  I’m particularly impressed with Mr Belvedere’s familiarity with Norwegian, demonstrated in the clip above.  Watched: 7 minutes.

The Inspector General (1949, USA, Koster)

Through accidental circumstances, Danny Kaye is thought to be someone he isn’t.  Hilarity ensues.  He’s maybe the only funny comedian of the 1940′s, but I’m getting tired of Kaye.  He’s like Jim Carrey: Once you’ve seen him make one or two odd faces, you’ve seen it all.  Watched: 25 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 130

The Fall of Berlin (1949, USSR, Chiaureli)

I can learn to like Communist war epics, if they’re all like this, the original Der Untergang.  The emotions are all heightened: All joy, all love, all rage.  The first scene with Stalin is shot with an angelic choir humming in the background.  And the scenes of the actual battle of Berlin are like nothing that actually happened – mythical, crossing over to delirious when Stalin himself shows up, and all the nations on Earth join hands to sing his praise.  Watched it all.  I guess I’m able to watch this with moral detachment because it crosses over into fantasy.  Fantasy was the element that held Communism together.  Which is why I look forward to more of these movies.

Battleground (1949, USA, Wellman)

Another step towards insincerity in war movies.  I don’t mean that The Fall of Berlin (above) is particularly sincere.  But at least it doesn’t pretend to be.  Watched: 4 minutes.

A Letter to Three Wives (1949, USA, Mankiewicz)

We never see Addie’s face, only the effect she has on her desperate housewife friends, all of whom are less beautiful, less interesting, less cultured, less alive, less perfect than she is.  They know it, and their husbands know it too.  Watched it all.

Who Done It (1949, USA)

The Three Stooges – another of the massively unfunny comedy teams of the 1940′s.  I know they won a war and all, but the World War II generation should be ashamed of themselves for having such a terrible taste in humor.  Watched: 3 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 129

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949, USA, Walters)

Here it’s way past the prime of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but they’re more alive than ever.  It’s the Comden & Green magic.  Featuring Oscar Levant, the gnome-faced mascot of Hollywood musicals.  Watched it all.

The Adventures of Jane (1949, UK, Whiting)

Jane was a comic strip character who had the habit of “accidentally” losing most of her clothes, thus pioneering fanservice. Wikipedia earnestly speculates that Jane’s last name Gay did not necessarily imply that she was a lesbian, as “gay” may possibly[original research?] have had a different meaning[citation required] in 1949.  Watched: 10 minutes.

I Was a Male War Bride (1949, USA, Hawks)

I’m becoming familiar with post-war Berlin as a movie backdrop. Everyone was making a Berlin movie at this time. It seems to work well with everything, from sentimental neo-realist movies to screwball comedies such as this.  Berlin really is the most promising new actor to emerge in the late 1940′s.  Oh, and that airhead Cary Grant is unusually interesting here as well.  Watched it all.

Christopher Columbus (1949, UK, MacDonald)

Columbus was a 15th century visionary who dared to believe – against all “common sense” – that the world was round.  Watched: 6 minutes.  Actually any educated person at the time knew the world was round.  Columbus just thought it was small enough that he could sail around to Asia.  It’s not, and he would have died if there hadn’t just happened to be another continent in the way.  Which, when you think about is, is to be extremely lucky.

40′s movies marathon – part 128

Give Us This Day (1949, UK, Dmytryk)

An Italian-American bricklayer has big dreams and works hard, but circumstances go against him, and we watch his hope die, slowly, over the course of decades.  Watched it all.  I don’t know if it is because the other movies of this year were unusually terrible, or because there was something in the air, but the ones that are good, they’re good.  They’re alive – and honest.  Like this one.

She Shoulda Said ‘No’! (1949, USA, Newfield)

The ‘teen-agers refer to it as “tea” or “tomatoes”, but the technical name for this latest threat the police defends our kids against is “marihuana”.   If we were only to scale up to a full-out war, maybe we could eradicate this killer drug once and for all.  Watched: 7 minutes.  I question the use of the theremin in the soundtrack, though.  It makes this horrible, evil, deadliest of drugs sound kind of intriguing.  As does the scenes of frantic dancing.

Pinky (1949) - Jeanne Crain

Pinky (1949, USA, Kazan)

I don’t know.  The concept here, a white girl who’s legally considered colored because of her black grandmother, and comes home to the Dirty South and starts confronting everyone and everything, ending up in one of those righteous courtroom scenes – it’s a little convenient.  The message seems to be that even in a movie about racism, the main character still has to be white.  Then again, it’s only been 9 years since Santa Fe Trail, a movie that openly celebrated slavery(!), so I guess it’s progress.  Watched it all.

40′s movies marathon – part 127

Thieves’ Highway (1949, USA, Dassin)

I love how this movie makes the apple trucking business appear dangerous and exciting. Even the honest guys are hard-nosed entrepeneurs, living right on the edge of broke and always looking for a good deal. This is really a drama about capitalism (for or against according to your bias). Railroad Tycoon the movie – with lots of crooks but no guns, because why would apple truckers carry guns? Watched it all. I also love how everybody’s an immigrant or has immigrant parents, and break into some European language whenever they get angry.

The Winter of Three Hairs (1949, China)

A beggar boy walks hungry in the streets, visions of food dancing before him.  Oh, if only there were some sort of movement or army that could liberate the people and (after a brief transition period) make sure that nobody in China would ever starve again!  Watched: 11 minutes.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr Toad (1949, USA)

At last – a Disney movie I don’t like at all!  In fact, it’s awful!  This is wonderful!  I’ve seen so many less-than-classic 40’s Disney movies in this marathon, and sort of liked them all, that I was beginning to wonder what was wrong with me.  And it’s quite fitting that it would arrive in the worst movie year of the decade.  Watched: 9 minutes.

Adam’s Rib (1949, USA, Cukor)

One way a marathon like this warps your perspective is that suddenly you start thinking things like: Another Tracy and Hepburn comedy? That’s so thirties! Watched: 10 minutes.