Hi. To start off on my “…getting to hope you like me” tour, I’m going to list my favorite films for each year of the 1940’s so you can get an idea where I’m coming from. I know my lists will differ from yours and that’s okay. These lists are very subjective and fluid; a film can be here today and gone tomorrow. I’ve included my guilty pleasures ( which’ll make no sense to some of you ) but I’ll have the “A” list movies as well. Look, I’ll tell you my list and you can tell me yours. It’s a wacky list I know, but mine own. My mini reviews will be short, sweet and painless. I’ll start with the 1940’s and then later I’ll tackle the 50’s and later still, part of the 60’s. ( When DOES the classic film era end, anyway? ) The 30’s? Oh. Uhhh…that’s a long story. ( Click on any of the photos to see the films’ full plot summary on IMDB. )
MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 1940
There are lots of films I liked from this year. Yes there were more prestigious movies I could have picked, and roles that were better acted. But the ones on my list are films I could watch over and over again.
“BLACK FRIDAY” – ( Arthur Lubin )
Surgeon Boris Karloff operates on his dear friend’s brain, replacing it with the brain of a recently killed gangster. What could go wrong?
“BROKEN STRINGS” – ( Bernard B. Ray )
With his bearing and voice, you think Hollywood would showcase him as a professional man ( doctor, lawyer. ) But 1940 would not be that America. In “race” movies, Muse would get a chance to show his stuff. Here he’s a classical concert violinist whose been in a car accident. His son can raise the money for an operation, but it involves swing, a genre of music Muse disapproves of. “Broken Strings” may not have the panache of an “A” budget picture, but it has heart.
“CASTLE ON THE HUDSON” – ( Anatole Litvak )
A remake of Tracy’s “20,000 Years in Sing Sing.” Smart-ass Garfield thinks prison’ll be a cinch. But Warden Pat O’Brien has other ideas. And one of them is trust.
“CITY FOR CONQUEST” – ( Anatole Litvak )
Cagney boxes his way up the ranks to secure a future in music for his kid brother. Of course along the way he faces sacrifice, crooked promoters and an oily dancer trying to move in on his Oomph Girl. You know…Warner Brothers. Cagney’s surrounded by the best in the business: Frank McHugh, Donald Crisp, George Tobias and Allen Jenkins.
“FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT” – ( Alfred Hitchcock )
Ahhh, this is the first of many Hitchcocks on my list. It’s all there: suspense, suspense and suspense. The leads are easy-breezy, but it’s Herbert Marshall to deliciously look out for; and Albert Basserman does a heartwrenching job as kidnap and torture victim. Forgive my curiosity, but how do you think Evelyn Ankers would have done in the Laraine Day role? She’d be an actual ‘Hitchcock’ blonde, she might be more believe as Herbert Marshall’s British daughter…
“HIS GIRL FRIDAY” – ( Howard Hawks )
A raucous, hilarious, wild ride. A battle between two people who want different things…until they realize, they really want the same thing…each other and a good story. Not necessarily in that order.
“THE LETTER” – ( William Wyler )
I like Bette Davis in this. From the top of the movie when she pulls the trigger ( and empties the entire chamber ) she lies and lies and lies and lies. She lies to her husband. She lies to her lawyer. She lies to everyone. But her lover’s wife knows the truth. “With all my heart, I STILL love the man I killed.” Only Bette.
“THE MUMMY’S HAND” – ( Christy Cabanne )
I have absolutely no scholarly reason in the world for having this film on my list other than it’s comfort food. I love ’em all: “…Ghost”, “…Tomb”, “…Curse.”
“THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT” – ( Raoul Walsh )
I love when Warner Bros. does what they do. Tough dramas. You know what I mean when I say this is an all-round good movie. Good story, strong cast. Raft is very good; chemistry with Sheridan, camaraderie with Bogie. But he’s burned to a crisp by Ida Lupino. She’s fire-breathng: “I commited murder to get you.” Yup, hell hath no fury like a Lupino scorned…
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