Sunday, 16 September 2018

Top 10 Favorite Films of the 1940s

Continuing with my top 10 (or top 20, if I cannot narrow it down to just 10) of my favorite films of each decade, today I am presenting you my top 10 favorite films of the 1940s. Please bear in mind that this my own personal opinion, which of course is limited to the films that I have seen thus far.

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Directed by William Wyler | Starring Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell, Myrna Loy and Teresa Wright | MGM

Fredric March won an Oscar with this film, but I say they should have given it to Dana Andrews instead. The man was simply perfect as Fred Derry and I find it outrageous that the Academy completely ignored his contribution to the film. A moviegoer in 1946 actually put an advertisement in Variety, saying: «I would surely like you to watch The Best Years of Our Lives one more time and tell me what Dana Andrews has to do to win an Academy Award.» Unlike director William Wyler and co-star Harold Russell, Dana did not serve in World War II, so he did not have any kind of previous experience on which he could base his performance. Still, he played Fred as if he had gone through the same thing and struggled with the same kind of self-doubt. Therefore, he should have gotten that damn Oscar. But anyway, Academy errors aside, The Best Years of Our Lives is a wonderful film and the perfect portrayal of the struggles veterans and their families had to face after the war.


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#9: Casablanca (1942)
Directed by Michael Curtiz | Starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains and Peter Lorre | Warner Bros.

Believe it or not, I did not like Casablanca the first time I watched it. I did not understand what all the hype was about and I actually found it a little bit boring. Or maybe I was just not paying much attention to it... Anyway, I decided to give it another go and guess what? I ended up loving it. In fact, Humphrey Bogart's classic «Here's looking at you, kid» has become my favorite movie quote of all time. This line sums up the whole film for me and the way Bogie delivers it gets me every time.


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#8Kings Row (1942)
Directed by Sam Wood | Starring Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan, Charles Coburn and Claude Rains | Warner Bros.

Before Sam Wood cast him in Kings Row, Ronald Reagan had been «the Errol Flynn of B movies», as he amusingly called himself. Eager to prove himself as a serious actor, he completely immersed himself in the role of Drake McHugh, who has both legs amputated by a sadistic surgeon (played by Charles Coburn). He was widely applauded for his moving performance, but his military service unfortunately deprived him of the opportunity to capitalize on his new-found success. If any of you have any doubts about Ronald Reagan's acting abilities, I strongly suggest you watch Kings Row.


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#7: Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Directed by George Sidney | Starring Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Stockwell and José Iturbi | MGM

In Achors Aweigh, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra play two sailors on leave. With his athletic good looks, Gene is just right for the part, but poor old Frankie, with his his lanky body structure, is the most awkward thing ever. (In fairness, this was his first «real» acting job.) He is awfully cute, though. Anchors Aweigh was not the first Gene Kelly film I saw  it was actually Singin' in the Rain (1952)  but it was the film that made me fall completely in love with him.


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#6Johnny Belinda (1948)
Directed by Jean Negulesco | Starring Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford and Agnes Moorhead | Warner Bros.

Jane Wyman plays a deaf-mute in Johnny Belinda, so she does not speak a single word in the film. Yet she delivers one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking performances I have ever seen from any actor in any film in any decade. Fun fact: Jane Wyman was the first person in the sound era to win an acting Academy Award without speaking a line of dialogue. Damn well-deserved, too.


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Directed by Frank Capra | Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Thomas Mitchell | Liberty Films

It's A Wonderful Life is my absolute favorite Christmas movie. I saw it for the first time on Christmas Eve 2014 and I completely fell in love with it. Then I saw it again the following year and I loved it even more. It is one of those films that will warm your heart and make you realize that life truly is wonderful. Also, someone should definitely make a George Bailey statue or something.


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#4The Clock (1945)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli | Starring Judy Garland, Robert Walker, James Gleason and Keenan Wynn | MGM

Robert Walker and Judy Garland are two of my favorite actors of the Classic Hollywood era and pairing them in this film was, in my opinion, one of the best casting decisions MGM has ever made. The Clock is a very simple story of boy-meets-girl in the midst of World War II, but Robert and Judy were able to bring a kind of depth and emotion and sincerity to it that is absolutely mesmerizing to watch. Honestly, trust me on this — The Clock is one of the sweetest, most tender love stories you will ever see.


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#3Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy | Starring Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Virginia Field, Maria Ouspenskaya and Lucile Watson | MGM

Much like The Clock, Waterloo Bridge is another classic story of boy-meets-girl in the midst of war, this time the First World War. Vivien Leigh is remarkable as always, but I was most impressed with Robert Taylor's performance. Although terribly handsome to look at, he was not the greatest actor in the world, but he was rather good in Waterloo Bridge and he and Vivien make a really nice pair. Actually, both of them have said that this is their personal favorite of all the films they made.


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Directed by Irving Rapper | Starring Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Parker, Eve Arden, Wayne Morris and Kent Smith | Warner Bros.

I love me a good comedy and The Voice of the Turtle is, in my opinion, one of best comedies out there. You all know how much I love Ronald Reagan and he is just wonderful in this film. He and Eleanor Parker have great chemistry and their scenes together are a delight to watch. Also, Eve Arden, with her quick-witted, sometimes sarcastic remarks, is a most excellent addition to the final product.


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Directed by George Cukor | Starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey and John Howard | MGM

And my number one favorite film of the 1940s is The Philadelphia Story. Although it was not the first black-and-white film I ever saw — it was actually A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), which I had to watch for an English Literature class I had in my third year at university — it was really the film that cured me of my aversion to black-and-white cinema. And all because of a lanky dork that went by the name of James Stewart. The Philadelphia Story was the first time I ever saw Jimmy in anything and I fell madly in love with him. The scene that got me was the one that starts with Jimmy shouting «OH C. K. DEXTER HAAAAVEEENNNN!» which, believe it or not, was partially ad-libbed. In that scene, Jimmy's character is drunk and suddenly he starts hiccuping. Since the hiccup was not scripted (Jimmy thought of that all by himself), you can see that Cary Grant was surprised and on the verge of breaking out laughing, but he quickly composed himself and played along beautifully by turning to Jimmy and saying, «Excuse me.» You can clearly see that they are both amused by their own little improvisation, which makes it even more fun to watch. That scene required only one take and was kept exactly as they filmed it the first time around. It is basically a masterclass in acting, that's what it is.


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And there you have it, my top 10 favorite films of the 1940s. Some of them might not be the greatest films ever made, but they all hold a very special place in my heart.

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