1940s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#426 Post by swo17 » Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:58 pm

SPOTLIGHT: The More the Merrier (George Stevens, 1943)
A terribly smart comedy that may just have the most belly laughs of any '40s film I've seen (and that's saying something in the decade of Sturges!). Most of these are derived from Charles Coburn wandering around aimlessly working his eccentric billionaire pixie magic to pair up two strangers (both strangers to him and to each other) for reasons known only to himself. Arthur and McCrea's romantic scenes are incredibly (one might say comedically) erotic, and though they've gone a bit off the deep end by the film's conclusion, I can't help but remain won over by the film's bounteous charms.

EDIT: This film is available on an R1 DVD from Sony.

It Had to Be You (Hartman & Maté, 1947) - available on an R2 Sony disc
A brilliant premise that works wonders during the film's first act while you're still wondering where they'll go with it. The film loses a little steam once the more conventional romantic element sticks its foot in the gears, but the winning chemistry between the leads takes over from there, and there's a great payoff in the end related to the beau's profession.

Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
It's to my eternal dismay that Raymond Massey has the Karloff role in this (Karloff was playing the role on Broadway at the time of shooting) but thankfully the film has enough else going on to distract me from this, not the least of which is Cary Grant's hammiest ever performance--like a character in a Tex Avery cartoon--which he naturally disowned as one of his worst. He's wrong of course.

The Upturned Glass (Lawrence Huntington, 1947) - available on the Classic British Thrillers DVD, along with two '30s films from Michael Powell
Thanks to zedz for turning me onto this one. As advertised, it's a superbly constructed noirish thriller (and perhaps it's worth mentioning that it's not a comedy, as the pattern of my post might otherwise suggest). It's a common occurrence in films about the "perfect murder" for there to be an unforeseen kink in the plan that tests the protagonist's commitment to his/her philosophy. The one that happens in this film is so preposterous, and yet so perfectly fitting, as to render all future instances of this plot device irrelevant.
Last edited by swo17 on Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#427 Post by knives » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:56 pm

Is the British Thrillers DVD R1 or R2?

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#428 Post by swo17 » Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:58 pm

It's an R1 release by MPI in the U.S. Some discussion here and here.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#429 Post by knives » Wed Jan 11, 2012 3:08 pm

Thanks, probably won't get to this one in time, but I have wanted to see more early Powell.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#430 Post by swo17 » Thu Jan 12, 2012 4:58 pm

This is just a reminder to everyone that lists are due a month from today. Feel free to PM me your top 50 at any time. Now would be a good time to review the first post to remind yourself, as necessary, about the rules and any special cases that may apply this decade, as well as to see if there are any spotlight titles you might have missed.

Also remember that prevention is the best medicine--as you're preparing your lists, if you see any films on there that you fear may end up as orphans, spare them from the fate worse than death by telling us all about them now. Speaking only for myself, I have a top 50 I'm quite happy with at the moment, though some of it feels a little safe/boring, and I would love nothing more than to be introduced to another handful of films that might shake things up a little.

Happy viewing!

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Tommaso
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#431 Post by Tommaso » Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:37 pm

swo17 wrote: Speaking only for myself, I have a top 50 I'm quite happy with at the moment, though some of it feels a little safe/boring, and I would love nothing more than to be introduced to another handful of films that might shake things up a little.
Though I do have the feeling that you've seen it already, here's my first suggestion for a film that should really shake up everyone's boring lists. I mentioned it in passing but don't think I've said more about it. So here you are:

Der verzauberte Tag (Peter Pewas, 1943). No one has ever heard about this director, right? That also included me before the German label absolut medien released a 2-disc-set of most of his works last year, a set which has provoked enthusiastic reactions by many people who have seen it and who didn't need subs (which the set unfortunately does not provide). Here is a master film director that was easily the equal of the best of his peers at the time, but who was totally neglected due to the man's uncompromising nature in an environment not exactly friendly to artistic films.

Anyway, this is Pewas' debut feature, and it's an astonishingly assured and lyrical work completely at odds with what was going on in the very last phase of the Third Reich, and it was banned immediately. I find it somewhat difficult to describe what makes this film so special, as the story itself about two young women trying to find love may not be so unusual (though it's very well written indeed), but it's the way that it's handled that counts. The film's greatness lies in its sensitivity, its small gestures, its realism which is poetic but still so far removed from any 'poetic realism' in the sense of following a pre-established concept of what films should be or look like. There's an uncanny sensitivity in Pewas' directing of the two actresses, and most of all in the visuals which often are simply breathtakingly beautiful but always serve the story. It's a complete mood piece in places, wonderful outdoor photography, light and shade and superimpositions reminding me of Ophuls occasionally, but actually the film has a style that is completely personal. If you like Käutner's "Unter den Brücken", you will like this one, too, only that it's different, even more individual and even better.

As the backchannels have it with English subs now, everyone: do yourself a favour and watch this truly outstanding work which, like the other two feature films that Pewas was allowed to direct, should really be introduced into the canon of not only German film history. His second film, Strassenbekanntschaft from 1947 is equally good but yet unsubbed, so I suggest that people first have a look at Der verzauberte Tag, which will be among my Top Ten. This great director simply deserves to get some acknowledgement.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#432 Post by swo17 » Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:28 pm

Haven't seen it yet, but I will before the deadline. I still have about 60 films on my to-watch list, most of them foreign.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#433 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:04 pm

swo17 wrote:though some of it feels a little safe/boring, and I would love nothing more than to be introduced to another handful of films that might shake things up a little.
That's very much where I am- I had a lot more favorites going into this one, and I got a bit lazy. My list at this point isn't going to be all that different than it would have six months ago, and I have nobody to blame but me. Though at least I've got Ivan the Terrible as a new entry that will certainly land in my top 10.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#434 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:39 pm

You got a full month... and a whole list of Spotlight titles :wink:

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#435 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:37 am

Haha, I know, I mean to really knuckle down and get watching. But I've had that intention for months now, and things are continually coming up. I have at least to watch bloody Late Spring, though.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#436 Post by knives » Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:56 am

A Hen in the Wind is the must see Ozu of the decade if you haven't gotten to any yet.

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the preacher
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#437 Post by the preacher » Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:19 am

Tommaso wrote:Der verzauberte Tag (Peter Pewas, 1943). No one has ever heard about this director, right?
Well, the film has even got Spanish fansubs now. :wink: Even so I think it has no chance to enter in my list, in fact the number of German films will be very very low because my three favorite movies are directed by Käutner and I will limit myself to one film per director.

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TMDaines
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#438 Post by TMDaines » Fri Jan 13, 2012 10:36 am

Tommaso wrote:As the backchannels have it with English subs now, everyone: do yourself a favour and watch this truly outstanding work which, like the other two feature films that Pewas was allowed to direct, should really be introduced into the canon of not only German film history. His second film, Strassenbekanntschaft from 1947 is equally good but yet unsubbed, so I suggest that people first have a look at Der verzauberte Tag, which will be among my Top Ten. This great director simply deserves to get some acknowledgement.
Just buy the whole set for about €17.50 shipped with a discount code on Grooves Inc and then download the fansubs. My set is enroute now.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#439 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Jan 13, 2012 12:20 pm

Gosh, I've still plenty to see but reckon at best I can get through another 20 in time. Oh well. I won't have time to revisit films I know I've seen, best to stick to those totally new to me.

Last film I saw was I Married A Witch - it's short, quite slight but very, very entertaining. And Veronica Lake makes a terrifically sassy and adorable contrast to Frederic March's straight act.

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#440 Post by zedz » Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:54 pm

swo17 wrote:Also remember that prevention is the best medicine--as you're preparing your lists, if you see any films on there that you fear may end up as orphans, spare them from the fate worse than death by telling us all about them now. Speaking only for myself, I have a top 50 I'm quite happy with at the moment, though some of it feels a little safe/boring, and I would love nothing more than to be introduced to another handful of films that might shake things up a little.

Happy viewing!
You're probably well aware of all of these already, but some people might not be, so here's a random selection of stuff I'll probably be voting for that's either relatively obscure or which I don't recall being mentioned much:

Cavalcanti: Went the Day Well? (Basically, if you're including any Powell / Pressburger films on your list, you need to see this - it's quite different, but just as good)
Deren: Ritual in Transfigured Time, At Land (Brand new ways of conceiving cinematic space and cinematic time. I prefer both of these to Meshes of the Afternoon)
Epstein: La Tempestaire
Fischinger: Motion Painting No. 1 (And what a coincidence: that's also it's placing on my list)
Gremillon: Pattes Blanches, Le Ciel est a vous, Lumiere d'ete (I wrote about these in the Gremillon thread many years ago - they're all great, and all quite different from one another)
Hamer: It Always Rains on Sundays (Stunning kitchen-sink noir)
Jennings: Fires Were Started (This jumps the queue ahead of almost all of the canonical neo-realist titles)
Mankiewicz: Somewhere in the Night (The best David Lynch film of the decade)
McLaren: Begone Dull Care (Treat yourself)
Melville: Le Silence de la mer (My token Bresson film for the 40s list)
Preminger: Daisy Kenyon (Probably my favourite Preminger)
Reed: The Fallen Idol (Trumps The Third Man and Odd Man Out resoundingly, in my opinion - don't overlook it)
Sirk: Shockproof (On paper it sounds like little more than a historical curio, but somehow Fuller + Sirk works brilliantly on screen)
Tetzlaff: The Window (Very interesting small-scale noir with a killer hook. I haven't rewatched it since I got the Archive release, but I have very fond memories of it)
Visconti: La terra trema (As far as I'm concerned, this is Visconti's greatest film and - by far - the greatest Italian neo-realist film, but I haven't noticed that much mention of it in this thread. A must-see, obviously. Ossessione has a good chance of making my list too.)
Wellman: Yellow Sky (I saw this too late for my Western list, so I'll probably try to squeeze it in on this one)
Whitney & Whitney: Film Exercises 2 & 3 (I have no idea where you go to see these)

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#441 Post by knives » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:00 pm

And here I was thinking I was alone in thinking that way about the Derens. Agree absolutely on Visconti, Reed, and Wellman too. I'll definitely be able to fit one of those Gremillon's in time (though I guess it's important to give a shout out to Remorques too while I'm at it).

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#442 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:02 pm

I don't agree that The Fallen Idol trumps The Third Man, but it's absolutely going to have a place on my list, and very worth seeking out.

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zedz
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#443 Post by zedz » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:06 pm

I think The Third Man's veneer of charm has worn off for me through overexposure. Same with Citizen Kane: great film, but I no longer get much out of it when I see it.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#444 Post by knives » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:24 pm

I think I just find the core of The Fallen Idol more interesting to be honest. That sort of story is like cat nip for me. Here's some more reminders too by the way.
Aniki Bobo---Oliviera wasn't always making silent cinema and this wonderful communal lead up to The 400 Blows is great evidence of his talent.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing---A mostly forgotten Archers film that's sadly been sidelined. Not their best, but that's a rather meaningless designation don't you think?

Woody Woodpecker---I mentioned this one already, but seriously even if you're just thinking of voting for Avery you have to watch this short.

Nasty Quacks---My only regret is not having more Tashlin on my list, but this is the best of the lot. You'll never see a funnier Daffy Duck short.

Lady of Burlesque----An almost horror masterpiece with amazing characters and lurid direction. A giallo made thirty years too early. It's in the public domain and so can easily be found on the Internet Archive.

Lifeboat----I get the feeling this Hitchcock tends to be overlooked, but it's a great use of space and character types.

Ohara Shosuke-san and Children of the Beehive----Shimizu really deserves to be respected alongside Ozu and Naruse and these two powerful, funny, and touching films are as strong evidence as you'll ever get.

The Gay Parisian---This short was my spotlight for a reason. It's like the actual Red Shoes ballet in miniature.

Macbeth---Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. I get the sense that this film's budget was minuscule, but Welles makes every dollar count for one of the most abstract and weird Shakespeare adaptations ever.

Roxie Hart
---A film with all of the poison that the studio system would allow (should I be concerned that there's three Wellman's potentially on my list). Ginger Rogers gives a performance so powerful that even I have to stop in shock.

The Shanghai Gesture---Like a lost Dietrich collaboration this pseudo followup to Shanghai Express is just the weirdest movie I've seen from von Sternberg. It rolls like it has no plot and turns all of it's actors on their heads. Really a constant shock and reminder of what could be done back then.

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Tommaso
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#445 Post by Tommaso » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:30 pm

knives wrote:One of Our Aircraft is Missing---A mostly forgotten Archers film that's sadly been sidelined. Not their best, but that's a rather meaningless designation don't you think?
Agreed completely, but with already six Archers films on my list (+ The Thief of Bagdad) I simply can't justify to put this one on the list, too. But of course, it's a must see.

And I surely also agree with zedz on La terra trema, probably my favourite from the 'hard life among poor people on a lonely island'-genre. Entirely different from most of his later work, so even those who don't like Visconti should give it a try. Definitely go for the Italian disc (english friendly), as it's infinitely better than the BFI release.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#446 Post by knives » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:39 pm

That's my excuse for not including A Cantebury Tale actually. It's far too easy just to list all of their films of the decade.

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#447 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:51 pm

Oh shit that's right, Macbeth. That's one I'm so sure I'll love that I've been saving it for months, I need to get around to that.

I've also got a whole bunch of Fords to watch- anyone have a recommendation for his best of the decade?

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#448 Post by swo17 » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:53 pm

My Darling Clementine!

See also: domino's write-up.

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#449 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:56 pm

Oh, I'd forgotten that post, thanks.

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Gregory
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#450 Post by Gregory » Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:56 pm

Shanghai Gesture is a must-see for the list on its own merits -- an impressively imagined and executed surreal journey into an exotic world of brothels and drugs (was supposed to have been, anyway) or at least gambling joints -- but especially because it's the only Sternberg feature of the decade. The sad fact that he didn't make more films during this period attests to the huge turmoil that WWII threw so many creative lives into, although even before Pearl Harbor Sternberg seemed to lack a clear idea of where he was headed. After the war, he seemed to spend an incredible amount of time assisting on Duel in the Sun. His project The Seven Bad Years seemed compelling and promised great potential (at least to me, reading about it in retrospect) but he couldn't get any support for it.
Back to Shanghai Gesture: Sternberg seemed to have some personal hesitations about it, and he was not well when he was making it, but it's really an incredble post-Marlene opus. And the reason I started writing this post is that the R1 DVD has gone OOP, so anyone wanting to pick this up may want to pay a somewhat affordable price for a used copy now while they're still around.

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