MY TIP TOP TOP TEN FAVORITE FILMS OF THE 1940’S

As I review my list of top ten favorites of each year, and compile my top ten favorites of the decade, I have to face the fact that as much as I want to tell myself I am a cock-eyed romantic, ( I am…I am ) my lists show me I am thoroughly and comfortably ensconced in the dark, where dark forces drive us: greed, obsession, murder. Luckily for me, I can live vicariously through motion pictures and not have to duck and dodge, lie cheat and steal in the real world. What’s my favorite film of the 1940’s…have a heart, will ya?

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( 1940 ) “THE LETTER” – ( William Wyler )

( 1940 ) THE LETTER

This movie is a menage-a-trois of talent: Wyler’s direction, Steiner’s score and Bette Davis as the lead. The movie starts with Bette blasting a man full o’ holes and then she spends the rest of the movie lying about it. Of course it stands to reason that’s what makes this movie number one in my book. Wyler’s shot of Gale Sondergaard’s foot is an indictment on a whole Imperialist society.

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( 1941 ) “THE GREAT LIE” – ( Edmund Goulding )

( 1941 ) THE GREAT LIE

Two strong women square off for the love of a man. Awww who am I kidding…plain and simple it’s a catfight. I love seeing Mary Astor being cold, hard and bad. Bette was sweet and cute and more natural than we’ll see her for the rest of the forties. Awww heck, CATFIGHT!!!

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( 1942 ) “NOW, VOYAGER” – ( Irving Rapper )

( 1942 ) NOW, VOYAGER

I struggled between this and the mighty “Casablanca” which has really risen in my estimation. But the bittersweet ending which makes “Casablanca” legendary can’t quite compete with my romantic sensibility for a slightly more hopeful future that Henreid and Davis seal with a cigarette.

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( 1943 ) “SHADOW OF A DOUBT” – ( Alfred Hitchcock )

( 1943 ) SHADOW OF A DOUBT

1943 is a year of fixes for me. I can get my monster fix ( “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” ) and my feminist fix ( “Cry, ‘Havoc’” ) …and my out and out cathartic sobfest that “The Constant Nymph” offers me. But I have to put Hitchcock in first place. No one can weave a tale like him. ( Make your own case for your favorite directors. ) I’m just astounded by the bravery of Teresa Wright to save her family from the enemy within.

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( 1944 ) “DOUBLE INDEMNITY” – ( Billy Wilder )

( TOP 40's ) 1944 - DOUBLE INDEMNITY

Come on…how can I deny Barbara Stanwyck. She gets a man to murder her husband. Yeah, the plan’s unravelled by the end, and the murderous lovers turn on each other. But that’s what makes this movie perfect.

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( 1945 ) “LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN” – ( John M. Stahl )

( TOP 40's ) 1945 - LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN

I almost tore my hair out deciding the top film for 1945. How gloriously unseemly the mother / daughter relationship is in “Mildred Pierce.” I can not imagine what a 1945 audience made of what they were seeing between Veda and Mildred. But something even more twisted gets my attention. A woman’s whose jealousy is so obsessive, so possessive that it consumes everyone in her path…including her. There’s an argument for those who can’t stand Ellen Berent. I’ll give you that. But there is no denying Gene Tierney played the hell out of that role.

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( 1946 ) “THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS” – ( Lewis Milestone )

( TOP 40's ) 1946 - MARTHA IVERS

I know…I know there were movies about a mountaintop shoot-out, a war-time homecoming, a woman who wears only white, a man doing something wrong…once, and Rita. I can’t really articulate why I like “…Martha Ivers” above all others this year. I’ve definitely seen it more times, though I wish I could see it again for the first time. It’s small and quiet and kind of closes in on itself. Do you want to see why you can’t go home again? This is why.

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( 1947 ) “OUT OF THE PAST” – Jacques Tourneur

( TOP 40's ) 1947 - OUT OF THE PAST

The best. Jane Greer. My favorite film noir.

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( 1948 ) “I WALK ALONE” – ( Byron Haskin )

( TOP 40'S ) 1948A - I WALK ALONE

The romance of Jennifer Jones, the devastating realization of Joan Fontaine, the pain of Mary Astor and the delicacy of Gail Russell are draws that can’t be beat. But it’s up against a movie that IS the 40’s. Betrayal, double cross and love.

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( 1949 ) “A LETTER TO THREE WIVES” – ( Joseph L. Mankiewicz )

( TOP 40's ) 1949 - LETTER 3 WIVES

It’s a smartly written motion picture.

( HOME )

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9 thoughts on “MY TIP TOP TOP TEN FAVORITE FILMS OF THE 1940’S

  1. I’ve just finished the quick review of 1940, and you’ve listed my favorites, too, and so typically, you steal ALL of my reasons as well! You bring up the great supporting actors and, for me, these folks bring “re-watchability” to films – after seeing so many of these dozens/hundreds of times (ahem), it’s the supporting cast that draws my attention. And your love of the MUMMY films is my Perfect Reason: “I have no idea why I love ’em, but I do…” That slow, unstoppable force is also why I prefer 1968’s Romero entry, too. A perfect nightmare scenario – “They’re coming, and there’s nothing I can do about it!!”

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    • Hellooooooh Ollie – how are you? “Re-watchability” – you’ve coined the perfect phrase. Now, I’m no stealer of reasons. I’m merely thinking like the pack; I’m just one of the pack of fans who like these great ‘old movies.’ My favorite for 1940 is “The Letter” but “They Drive By Night” gets me every time. And you’re so right about the supporting casts. While the Gables, Garbos and Grants might be the face ( and what glorious faces they were ) of classic films, we all know that the supporting casts are the backbone.
      ( Just check out “His Girl Friday” for a cast of characters like no other. Pros all. ) Thanx for the comment and stopping by. Hope you stick around to see what else is up my sleeeve. Muaaah!

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  2. I did not know that you were such a big ‘Mummy’ fan and “Abbott and Costello” as well. “Hold That Ghost” is one of my favorites too as well as “Who Done It?”. As for ‘Mummy’ movies my #1 remains “The Mummy” (1933) with Karloff. The 1940’s movies are not as good in my opinion. I love your lists of your year by year 1940’s faves and they’re all great choices however …. and bearing in mind that you’re not big on this genre, you have omitted some great ‘Westerns”! I’m not complaining mind you and of course this Your list (n0t mine) but what about “Red River”, “The Westerner”, “They Died With Their Boots On”, “Dodge City”, “Tall In The Saddle”, “The Gunfighter”, just to name a few? Yes, yes you did list “Duel In The Sun”, thank you very much!
    We have to talk … yes we do.

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    • I enjoy Abbott and Costello albeit if really just these three 40’s films and their tv show ( “Mr. Bacajalupe!!!” ) As for westerns? Ahhhh…they hold a special place in a young boy’s heart. I did list “Tall in the Saddle” and the devastating “The Ox-Bow Incident.” You’ve named some great ones that I’ve enjoyed. Doing this list is a tough exercise. I’d make a list of all the films I’ve seen for a particular year, and then pick ten that I just couldn’t live without. So even though some films don’t appear on my list of “favorites” won’t mean I don’t love ’em and respect them. But there are some good ones that make future lists: “Duel At Diablo” “Warlock”, a Mann and a Boetticher or two. Hey, I invite you ( and anyone else ) to share your list of favorites. Well here is my blog that I’ve been working on day and night. Thanks for commenting on my inaugural “issue.” Talk? Yes we do.

      The Mummy

      Well of course, there is only one “Mummy.”

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      • Aha! You do know your Westerns after all! Yes you did list “Ox-Bow Incident” and “Tall In The Saddle” (my bad) and there are others in the 1940’s as well and some real goodies in the 1950’s when and if you go there in a decade or two. Which leads us to the great Hammer Films of horror in the 1950’s and 1960’s (which we have touched upon) that are well worth revisiting! See you in the funny papers or better yet, the balcony.

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      • No doubt there were other Westerns in the 40’s that I have seen: “Jesse James” “The Return of Jesse James” “Sante Fe Trail” “Virginia City” “Belle Starr” “They Died With Their Boots On” “The Outlaw” “San Antonio” “My Darling Clementine” “Angel and the Badman” “Sea of Grass” ( w/Tracy & Hepburn ) “Three Godfathers” ( wonderful wonderful ), “The Paleface” “Rachel and the Stranger” and “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.” The one western I really need to re-visit from beginning to end is “Blood on the Moon.” The Western is a genre where many a writer can hang his hat on and work out the human drama. Horror and sci-fi may be more my ‘genre cuppa tea’. ( I love the world of the Fantastic. ) As for the balcony, okay…but I don’t share my Twizzlers or Raisinets. You know on second thought, I’d better meet you in the lobby…since I like to be up close and personal with a movie in the second, third row.

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  3. Pingback: MY TIP TOP TOP TEN FAVORITE FILMS OF THE 1930’s | CineMaven's: ESSAYS from the COUCH

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