September 1942: The Major and the Minor

What could be more appropriate after watching a movie with Fred Astaire than a movie with Ginger Rogers?

Had they stopped working together by this time? The computer says yes, almost.

This is directed by Billy Wilder, who’d worked in movies a lot before this, but it’s only his second directorial feature (and the one before this was in 1934). He’d go on to become one of the most well-regarded Hollywood directors, of course (doing all those Marilyn Monroe pictures)…

This is really funny and so out of left field. It’s so weird. And super, super, super creepy! Who on Earth OK’d this? But perhaps it’s more self-aware than the kooky madcap icky surface plot appears, but to explain that means that I have to something that I really hate to do, which is to give a plot recap:

Rogers’s character leaves New York because she’s fed up with being sexually harassed. To get a reduced-price train ticket, she poses as a 12 year girl (and in the process, she overhears a boy talking about a new hit book called “Why I Hate Women”). She’s basically trapped in that role by several characters for most of the movie, but that doesn’t mean that the sexual advances stop: Several cadets (and what age are they supposed to be? teenagers, I guess, but certainly older than 12? who can say?) at a military base maul her, and her protector’s fatherly seems to slip into a knowing zone at points.

So is this really a scathing critique of misogyny and sexual exploitation of children, or is it a…

Really creepy movie?

I don’t know, but it’s funnier if read the first way. I laughed a lot.

It was apparently written with Cary Grant in mind as the avuncular figure, but he wisely passed?

The Major and the Minor. Billy Wilder. 1942.

Popular movies in September 1942 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
4600 7.6 The Major and the Minor
3942 7.3 In Which We Serve
4165 7.1 The Glass Key
935 7.1 My Sister Eileen
676 7.0 Orchestra Wives
3354 6.9 Across the Pacific
1563 6.9 Desperate Journey
3060 6.8 Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
228 6.7 Counter-Espionage
232 6.6 The War Against Mrs. Hadley

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

August 1942: Holiday Inn

Yes! Fred Astaire! Bing Crosby! Irving Berlin! Bluray!

I wonder whether I have the release date wrong here… or did they really release an Xmas movie in August? Watching movies by month I wanted to experience the change of the seasons, but…

Anyway, it won the Oscar for best song: White Christmas, and no surprise.

The setting is the classic musical setting: In a theatre. That makes it a lot easier to drop some musical numbers in at random without having to work the pieces into the actual story line.

The director, Mark Sandrich, had done a series of extremely successful (both at the box office and otherwise) musicals in the 30s. I mean… The Gay Divorcee, Shall We Dance, Follow the Fleet… And this is very much in that mode.

Which is fine by me: This is non-stop amusement with the occasional hilarious moment. It’s just so well made; it’s just perfection. Really the thing to distract you from what’s going on in Europe (except for a brief moving collage in the last third).

Virginia Dale isn’t a name I’m familiar with, but watching her dance with Fred Astaire is a thrill. They really fit together wonderfully.

There’s a plot of sorts in between the various bits that doesn’t really amount to much of anything, but it’s much better put together than these things usually are. It’s a movie that’s obviously been put together as a simple showcase for Bing Crosby, but it ends up being kinda perfect.

(But it might be problematic because of the blackface scenes. It’s interesting that they intercut this scene with scenes of the black maid (who is called, yes, “Mamie” (played wonderfully by Louise Beavers (last seen in Reap The Wild Wind))) and the maid’s children singing along with the song.)

This movie could perhaps have been a bit tighter in the last third, where it gets more plot heavy.

FSVO plot and heavy.

The meta bits at the very end, where Bing enters the set where they’re recreating his inn (which is, of course, just the inn set) is whee.

Holiday Inn. Mark Sandrich. 1942.

Popular movies in August 1942 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
9299 7.6 Holiday Inn
1812 7.6 Pardon My Sarong
5515 7.6 The Talk of the Town
1333 7.4 Tales of Manhattan
99419 7.3 Bambi
422 7.0 Smart Alecks
1412 7.0 Wake Island
225 6.9 The Goose Steps Out
492 6.7 The Gay Sisters
944 6.5 The Big Street

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

July 1942: The Pride of the Yankees

Oh. This is about some sports guy? Who got a disease named after him? And it was nominated for all the Oscars? But only won for “Best Film Editing”? And it’s directed by schmaltzmeister Sam Wood, who we previously saw in Our Town and Kitty Foyle?

I fear the absolute worst!

And, yes, Wood lays it on with a trowel. There’s barely a scene without a sentimental bed playing beneath. Cooper does his best, especially playing the teenage Gehrig, but it’s an uphill struggle.

This is a well-received movie, getting a 93% tomato rating. Naturally, since I didn’t enjoy this film at all, I’m just going to quote with the one reviewer that didn’t like it either:

Nominated for 11 Oscars (it won one, for best editing), The Pride Of The Yankees has a vaunted reputation as a sports-movie classic, perhaps because the only scene anyone remembers is Gary Cooper humbly, affectingly delivering Gehrig’s famed farewell address at Yankee Stadium. The film that surrounds that speech, however, is surprisingly dreary and lifeless, a slapped-together piece of studio hackwork that’s thick with sentiment and short on illuminating details about Gehrig’s life and career.



Anyway, this does have some good melodramatic scenes (like when Cooper stands up to his mother on his wife’s behalf), but it’s surrounded my much tedium. I wonder whether the positive reception is more about the idea of a film about Lou Gehrig than the actual end result.

The Pride of the Yankees. Sam Wood. 1942.

Popular movies in July 1942 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
17470 7.9 The Magnificent Ambersons
7960 7.8 The Pride of the Yankees
320 7.2 The Pied Piper
313 6.9 The Magnificent Dope
789 6.7 Crossroads
206 6.2 Calling Dr. Gillespie
338 6.1 I Married an Angel
1041 6.1 Invisible Agent
388 6.0 Her Cardboard Lover

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

June 1942: Mrs. Miniver

This movie won all the Oscars. So I approached this with some scepticism.

But it’s irresistibly charming. The actors playing the Minivers are absolutely wonderful, but there are some variable performances otherwise. The plot’s not quite what I expected, either…

Still, I don’t think this is quite as good as Wyler’s previous movie The Little Foxes. It’s still plenty great and very touching.

Mrs. Miniver. William Wyler. 1942.

Popular movies in June 1942 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
11977 7.6 Mrs. Miniver
248 6.9 The Foreman Went to France
546 6.7 The Big Shot
214 6.6 The Affairs of Martha
279 6.5 The Night Has Eyes
261 6.4 Maisie Gets Her Man
450 5.8 They All Kissed the Bride

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

May 1942: Private Buckaroo

This is from that collection of cheap b movies and features the Andrews Sisters.

This also has the fabulous Mary Wickes. She can liven up a movie just by being in the general vicinity of it, and when she’s on the screen, she’s just everything. And Shemp Howard is a perfect foil for her.

This is barely a movie, though. It’s a series of songs with some screwball stuff happening in between the numbers.

Which is fine by me; the is very easy on the brain. The music’s nice and the screwball stuff is amusing throughout. And occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.

Everybody joins the army halfway through the film! This is very patriotic but structurally odd. It also means less Mary Wickes, which is never a good thing.

“I’ve sipped from many a cup, but never a mug like this.”

“That’s beautiful.”

Private Buckaroo. Edward F. Cline. 1942.

Popular movies in May 1942 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
11437 7.8 Yankee Doodle Dandy
3079 7.5 In This Our Life
880 7.2 Prelude to War
2601 7.0 Tarzan’s New York Adventure
352 7.0 Take a Letter, Darling
730 6.9 This Above All
1749 6.8 The Spoilers
435 6.7 Let’s Get Tough!
537 6.6 Grand Central Murder
589 6.5 The Falcon Takes Over

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

April 1942: This Gun For Hire

Yay! A real noir thriller!

Alan Ladd’s great as the taciturn assassin. I don’t think I’ve seen many movies with Veronica Lake, and she’s definitely of the “I’m standing here waiting until the other person finishes their line so that I can say my line” school of acting, but she’s fun. She’s certainly a better actor than some of the other characters in this movie.

The plot of the film is a literally literally in-credible series of koinkidinks, but hey, who cares. It’s kinda perfect anyway.

This Gun For Hire. Frank Tuttle. 1942.

Popular movies in April 1942 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
6387 7.5 This Gun for Hire
1763 7.4 Larceny, Inc.
928 7.2 My Favorite Blonde
18263 7.2 Saboteur
1425 7.1 One of Our Aircraft Is Missing
519 6.9 Kid Glove Killer
991 6.9 Moontide
295 6.7 The Man Who Wouldn’t Die
909 6.6 Rio Rita
310 6.6 Alias Boston Blackie

This blog post is part of the Decade series.