The Boy With Green Hair (1948, USA, Losey) – When Dean Stockwell’s parents die in the war, his hair turns green over night. In a vision he learns that he has been marked, set apart from other people. He must go out in the world and spread the word of pacifism, to prevent the world from ending in a nuclear apocalypse. Watched it all. Yes this is actually what happens in this movie. Amazing.
Without Pity (1948, Italy, Lattuada) – A young woman finds herself alone in Levorno with a bunch of shady characters and really badly played American soldiers. Another movie I might possibly enjoy if I didn’t know English. Watched: 23 minutes.
Daughter of Darkness (1948, UK, Comfort) – If we can accept Buffy the Vampire Slayer as historical fact, (and why not?), then Drusilla clearly made a visit to Britain in 1948 under the name “Siobhan McKenna”, to play the servant girl who is hated by other women because her strange, otherwordly beauty brings out the beast in every man she meets. Watched it all.
Fighting Father Dunne (1948, USA, Tetzlaff) – With all these movies to get through, I have to make quick decisions based on first impressions. For instance, any movie where the main character is a priest, and which opens with uplifting music? Next! Watched: 3 minutes.
Here’s to 1947, a year inbetween other years. 1947 also happened to be the last year of the so-called Hollywood “golden age”, by which movie historians mean the period when the major studios could do whatever the hell they pleased, because they owned the stars and the movie theaters, and had no real competitors. In 1948 the studios lost an anti-trust suit and had to sell off their theaters, and then television took off, which eventually gave us MacGyver, the culmination of all entertainment history, but that’s all in the future. Here are my favorite movies from 1947, by category:
Wtf was that?!
Fun and dancing
It Happened in Brooklyn
English (and Irish) gangsters
Hue and Cry
Odd Man Out
Ride the Pink Horse
Out of the Past
Lady in the Lake
The funny humor
The Senator was Indiscreet
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
Domo arigato, mr Kurosawa
One Wonderful Sunday
An Ideal Husband
A Double Life
Dreams that Money Can Buy
One Wonderful Sunday (1947, Japan, Kurosawa) – A young couple tries to find a place to live, but they have no money, and are too proud to bend the rules. They feel like they’re the last honest people in Japan. Watched it all. This is a really bleak movie, but what separates it from many bleak movies is that these people actually have a lot to be depressed about. No phony existential dread like in the Bergman movie earlier.
Dear Ruth (1947, USA, Russell) – Look at that eager young girl who’s interested in politics and believes in equal rights for women. She’s so stupid! Ha ha! Watched: 6 minutes.
Boomerang (1947, USA, Kazan) – A priest is murdered on Main Street, and the city goes mad. Won’t somebody please just arrest someone wearing vaguely similar clothes, and torture him until he confesses, so we can all put this behind us?! Watched it all.
Song of Love (1947, USA, Brown) – “In this story of Clara and Robert Schumann, of Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt, certain necessary liberties have been taken with incident and chronology.” Oh dear God no! Watched: 2 minutes.
Dark Passage (1947, USA, Daves) – The citizens of San Francisco are inexplicably eager to help escaped convict Humphrey Bogart avoid the police. They direct him straight to the nearest plastic surgeon, who change his face so that he looks like Humphrey Bogart. Watched it all. Another 1947 use of the first-person gimmick.
Fear in the Night (1947, USA, Shane) – This is crap, but – wait, the crazed killer is DeForest Kelley? OMG! Watched: 7 minutes.
Nightmare Alley (1947, USA, Goulding) – Carnival crook Tyrone Power discovers the power of cold reading, and decides to become a fake psychic for the social elite. Watched it all. I think Bob Dylan sang this movie once. Ignore the last few minutes. The movie properly ends with the line, “mister, I was born for it”.
The Paradine Case (1947, USA, Hitchcock) – Hm, I was looking forward to the yearly Hitchcock, but here I am feeling bored. Courtroom drama blah blah. Watched: 12 minutes.
Skepp till India land (1947, Sweden, Bergman) – A sailor returns to his old home town, where he finds nothing but existential dread and memories of his evil father. Watched it all. It’s refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t follow the usual tropes of the time, but this movie has its own clichés. Basically everyone suffers because they behave like complete idiots, and we’re supposed to empathize. I don’t.
Down to Earth (1947, USA, Hall) – Everybody loves those movies were the dead are sent down from Heaven to do good deeds. And let’s throw in some musical numbers! Watched: 6 minutes.
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947, USA, Sturges) – Fired after 20 years as an accountant, Harold Lloyd has his first taste of alcohol, which brings out the old go-getter in him. He becomes a wild and crazy guy who buys circuses and wears loud clothes. Watched it all. Whatever happened to Preston Sturges? Nothing for years, and then “California Productions”? Did the major studios kick him out? But it doesn’t matter: This is hilarious.
It Happened in Brooklyn (1947, USA, Whorf) – Frank Sinatra is growing up. Now, at 31, he looks maybe 21-ish. And then he starts singing, and suddenly he’s ageless. Watched it all. Favorite scene: The kids who hang at the music store, where you can sense this whole new youth culture waiting to explode, with hysterical fans and everything.
The Voice of the Turtle (1947, USA, Rapper) – Think how weird it would have been if Ronald Reagan was just some guy who starred in a couple of 40′s dramas. Watched: 11 minutes.
Odd Man Out (1947, USA, Reed) – James Mason performs robberies to support Irish nationalism in Belfast, but his heart’s not in it any more, and his men are incompetent, and he ends up wounded, staggering around the city, looking for help. Watched it all. Favorite scene: The mad painter who wants to portray the face of a dying man.
The Unsuspected (1947, USA, Curtiz) – The least you can do when you’re being murdered while on the telephone is to give some information about the killer before you perform your final bloodcurling scream. Watched: 11 minutes.
A Double Life (1947, USA, Cukor) – Ronald Colman is an empty shell who takes his personality from the characters he play. When he’s the butler in a farce, he’s lovable and friendly. When he’s Othello, well .. Watched it all. It’s a mirror of Laurence Olivier’s Henry V, where we start in real life but are gradually sucked into the play. Here, the characters from the play gradually walk out into real life.
Railroaded! (1947, USA, Mann) – Another tight, mean Anthony Mann noir. When he made bad movies (which was long ago, the previous year), he was still pretty interesting – and now he’s making good ones. Watched it all. Favorite scene: The good guy’s sister beating up the femme fatale.
Unconquered (1947, USA, DeMille) – Didn’t Gary Cooper promise to stay away from costume dramas? The opening scene could have been a Monty Python sketch, but it’s meant seriously: A woman defends herself in a 1763 court for killing a press gang officer that tried to press her brother. It’s the way she adds “but, my brother was killed too!” at the end that is just hilarious. Watched: 12 minutes.
Good News (1947, USA, Walters) – There’s something that’s been missing from most of the musicals so far. Now I know what it is: It’s whatever this movie has. It’s ridiculously artificial, but with a hard satirical edge. Watched it all. Actually, what this movie has that earlier musicals didn’t was the writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who a few years later made Singin’ in the Rain. Favorite scene: Pass That Peace Pipe, seen above, which just makes me really happy.
Variety Girl (1947, USA, Marshall) – I wonder if the studios would sometimes notice that a bunch of their stars were hanging around without anything to do, and say “Hey, let’s put them all together in an all-star movie! Script? Ah, just throw something together.” Watched: 12 minutes.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947, USA, McLeod) – Danny Kaye is a pulp magazine proofreader who gets pushed around by his mother, fiancee, and other ghastly women, and finds escape in the ASTOUNDING world of his EXOTIC and RACY fantasies. Watched it all. This movie’s up for a 2012 remake, possibly featuring Sacha Baron Cohen. Hm ..
Kiss of Death (1947, USA, Hathaway) – Victor Mature (a case of real name = porn name) leads a life of crime, but he’s probably not such a bad sort underneath, if only circumstances would force him to change, and leave him absolutely no option but to become a good guy. Watched: 21 minutes, then fast forwarded to see the wheelchair scene. Also contains the most nervewrecking elevator ride I’ve ever seen.
Hi-De-Ho (1947, USA, Binney) – Cab Calloway hi-de-hi’s and hi-de-ho’s his way into showbusiness. I’ve only found a few of these all-black musicals, made when Hollywood was still segregated. They’re cheap and bad, but they have all the best music by far. Watched the musical numbers, skipped the dialogue.
New Orleans (1947, USA, Lubin) – Hey, what’s this – a relatively non-segregated musical, featuring Louis Armstrong as a 1917 jazz musician. Too bad I don’t like Louis Armstrong. And it’s still cheap and bad. Watched: 8 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where an all-white orchestra introduce this new “jazz” thing at a classical concert. Eventually the audience start nodding their heads sideways(?!) and grinning sheepishly.
Dreams that Money Can Buy (1947, USA) – A dream detective looks into the subconscious of his clients. I think this is the earliest surrealist American movie I’ve seen. Surrealism doesn’t interest me much, but most of the segments here are quite good. They deal with conformity and being true to your inner weirdness, and they don’t stray so far into symbolism that you don’t get the point. Watched it all.
Last of the Redmen (1947, USA, Sherman) – I remember Last of the Mohicans as being pretty boring, and so is this movie version. Watched: 4 minutes. Shot in Cinecolor, the poor man’s color system, which did red and blue well but struggled with green, which means the redcoats and the redmen are particularly vibrantly red, and the forest is a sort of ugly brownish green.
The Fugitive (1947, USA, Ford) – In an alternate, mythical Mexico where the communists/fascists have killed all the priests, and persecute the faithful, the last surviving priest returns to his village. Watched it all. It’s nice to see some good science fiction at last – and religious SF is even rarer. Lots of people hate this movie, and I can’t figure out why.
Monsieur Verdoux (1947, USA, Chaplin) – I don’t think I’ve really liked anything Chaplin has ever made. At most I react with a detached “yes, I clearly recognize that as a humorous gag”. Here he’s a cheerful little serial monogamist / serial killer. With slapstick. Which I clearly recognize as being a concept that falls in the humorous category. Watched: 22 minutes.
Fun and Fancy Free (1947, USA) – I’m finally doing something to find out what was going on with Disney in the 40′s: I’m reading his biography. This is another collection of shorts. In Bongo, a wage slave finds that life in freedom isn’t all that great, but ends up in a loving relationship based on mutual physical violence. In Mickey and the Beanstalk, three starving peasants break into the castle of their local aristocrat, a stupid giant who likes to dress up in pink, to retrieve their stolen fertility goddess. Well, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Watched it all.
Sinbad the Sailor (1947, USA, Wallace) – Is this the worst of the technicolor Arabian Nights movies, a.k.a. Baghdad-and-boobs? It’s hard to say, there are so many. Watched: 8 minutes.
An Ideal Husband (1947, UK, Korda) – The Victorians had a curious concept they called “character”. It’s hard to explain, but it meant that your beliefs and actions reflected a sort of inner moral essence. People who did bad things, even just once, were thus said to be of “bad character”, which was socially undesirable. This is a look at what that meant. Watched it all.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947, USA, Reis) – Shirley Temple is a wild teen who speaks on the telephone and sometimes disobeys her elders. She falls in love with Cary Grant, for some reason. I guess they couldn’t get Frank Sinatra, the real bobby-soxer heartthrob. Watched: 24 minutes.
Lady in the Lake (1947, USA, Montgomery) – I can’t decide if this is the Philip Marlowe Christmas Special or a brilliant gimmick: Everything is shot in first person, from Marlowe’s point of view. It looks like a video game, I feel like clicking on things. The only other movie I’ve seen do that was The Message, about Muhammed. This implies that there is no god but Raymond Chandler, and that Philip Marlowe is his prophet. Sounds okay with me. Watched it all.
It Had to be You (1947, USA) – Ginger Rogers keeps saying no at the altar, but this time she really intends to go through with it. Maybe. I’m getting chick flick vibes here. Whatever happened to screwball? Watched: 9 minutes.
T-Men (1947, USA, Mann) – There are plenty of 40′s docudramas where a corny voiceover introduces us to the heroic work of secret agents, federal agents, etc. This is the first that’s any good. It makes anti-counterfeit police work look exciting. And it’s still got that corny voiceover. Watched it all.
Frieda (1947, UK, Dearden) – An English pilot marries a German girl, and takes her home to introduce her to some good old-fashioned English prejudices. Watched: 19 minutes. Based on a play by Ronald Millar, who later became Margaret Thatcher’s speechwriter, and wrote all of her best jokes.
Road to Rio (1947, USA, McLeod) – I’m trying to give Bob Hope a chance. Honestly, I am. I’m not prejudiced, I just really hate every single one of his movies. Watched: 9 minutes.