After watching movies kinda aimlessly for a while, I wanted to focus on a specific era, so I chose the 40s: One movie from every month of that decade.
I chose the 40s more by process of elimination than anything else: All the other possible decades had bits that seemed less exciting here and there. I did consider doing, like, 1936 to 1945, but that’s… so… random.
Keeping the same three digits at the start is way less random, right?
Also, I thought it might be interesting to do the second world war and the aftermath just to see whether you could notice that there was a war going on in the movies or not.
And boy, could you. Before Pearl Harbour, the American movies were pretty circumspect: You wouldn’t want to be accused of spreading pro-British propaganda, donchaknow. (Well, I didn’t, but that was a thing politicians at the time accused Hollywood of doing.)
So most of the American war movies are set in Czechoslovakia during 1939. You could show how nasty the Nazis were without getting involved with the entire WWII thing.
And also a few historical war movies that kinda hint at, you know, invading other countries being a bad thing and stuff.
But then Pearl Harbour happened, and finally the producers can let loose and show American soldiers, now, fighting the good fight.
But it’s not like the majority of movies during the war was about the war. Several of the bigger war movies were not box office smash, and Hollywood pulled back a bit and did lighter fare. It makes sense, I guess: When half the people you know are overseas getting shot at, you may want some movies to take your mind off things.
So the period is more dominated by comedies than anything else, which was surprising to me.
But I was totally unprepared for what happened immediately after the Japanese and the Germans surrendered:
It’s like Hollywood had this bottled-up stash of scripts about criminals and low-life and were just waiting to spring them all on the public: Now, finally, they’re allowed to make people about people in the US being bad!
So that was interesting. Well, to me, at least.
But were movies in the 40s good?
The Hollywood studio system was in full effect at the time, with directors and actors more or less employed by the studios and assigned to whatever project the producers wanted them to do. That sounds kinda soulless, and perhaps it was, but they were just really good craftsmen: They really knew what they were doing. While some of it’s Extruded Film Product, it’s well-made Extruded Film Product.
I did discover at least one director (that I didn’t know about before) that I think is a genius, Preston Sturges. He had an interesting career as he chafed under the studio system and tried to strike it out on his own.
Which brings me to:
Smaller studios (and outright independents) mostly went bankrupt, and nobody bothered to buy up the rights to their movies, as far as I can tell.
So a huge swathe of these movies are in the public domain, meaning that anybody can release them these days. That’s something that I would have thought was a good thing. I mean, free movies! Nice, right?
Well, yes but no. When everybody can download these movies, sourced from an NTSC broadcast recorded to VHS and then uploaded to Youtube, that means that it’s difficult to make any money off of restoring them. So I’ve been suffering through more than my share of films where I can barely tell what’s going on.
In the UK, the British Film Institute finances restoration of significant movies, but there’s apparently no such system in the US.
And now that the market for DVDs and Blurays is fading, I wonder whether the window of opportunity for saving this part of our history is closing.
But perhaps Netflix will save us all!
So this is
But here’s a list of all the movies:
- January 1940: His Girl Friday
- February 1940: Pinocchio
- March 1940: Too Many Husbands
- April 1940: The Doctor Takes A Wife
- May 1940: Our Town
- June 1940: The Mortal Storm
- July 1940: The Great McGinty
- August 1940: Night Train to Munich
- September 1940: Up in the Air
- October 1940: Christmas in July
- November 1940: Little Nellie Kelly
- December 1940: Kitty Foyle
- January 1941: Come Live With Me
- February 1941: Road Show
- March 1941: Meet John Doe
- April 1941: That Uncertain Feeling
- May 1941: Sunny
- June 1941: Man Hunt
- July 1941: Sergeant York
- August 1941: The Little Foxes
- September 1941: Let’s Go Collegiate
- October 1941: All-American Co-Ed
- November 1941: Secret of the Wastelands
- December 1941: Sullivan’s Travels
- January 1942: The Man Who Came To Dinner
- February 1942: To Be Or Not To Be
- March 1942: Reap the Wild Wind
- April 1942: This Gun For Hire
- May 1942: Private Buckaroo
- June 1942: Mrs. Miniver
- July 1942: The Pride of the Yankees
- August 1942: Holiday Inn
- September 1942: The Major and the Minor
- October 1942: Now, Voyager
- November 1942: Once Upon a Honeymoon
- December 1942: A Night To Remember
- January 1943: The Hard Way
- February 1943: Air Force
- March 1943: Hangmen Also Die
- April 1943: Clancy Street Boys
- May 1943: The Ox-Bow Incident
- June 1943: Hitler’s Madman
- July 1943: This is the Army
- August 1943: Hi Diddle Diddle
- September 1943: Le Corbeau
- October 1943: Guadalcanal Diary
- November 1943: Old Acquaintance
- December 1943: Ghost Ship
- January 1944: Career Girl
- February 1944: Passage to Marseille
- March 1944: The Curse of the Cat People
- April 1944: Trocadero
- May 1944: The White Cliffs of Dover
- June 1944: Since You Went Away
- July 1944: Summer Storm
- August 1944: Minstrel Man
- September 1944: Swing Hostess
- October 1944: To Have and Have Not
- November 1944: The Children Are Watching Us
- December 1944: Together Again
- January 1945: Objective Burma
- February 1945: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- March 1945: Delightfully Dangerous
- April 1945: Blithe Spirit
- May 1945: The Valley of Decision
- June 1945: Murder, He Says
- July 1945: Christmas in Connecticut
- August 1945: Love Letters
- September 1945: Mildred Pierce
- October 1945: And Then There Were None
- November 1945: The Lost Weekend
- December 1945: Doll Face
- January 1946: People are Funny
- February 1946: Breakfast in Hollywood
- March 1946: Strange Impersonation
- April 1946: The Blue Dahlia
- May 1946: The Postman Always Rings Twice
- June 1946: Anna and the King of Siam
- July 1946: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
- August 1946: Black Angel
- September 1946: La belle et la bête
- October 1946: My Darling Clementine
- November 1945: Brief Encounter
- December 1946: Humoresque
- January 1947: Calendar Girl
- February 1947: The Fabulous Dorseys
- March 1947: Green For Danger
- April 1947: Monsieur Verdoux
- May 1947: Possessed
- June 1947: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
- July 1947: Brute Force
- August 1947: Life With Father
- September 1947: Dark Passage
- October 1947: Green Dolphin Street
- November 1947: Out of the Past
- December 1947: The Lady From Shanghai
- January 1948: The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
- February 1948: Sleep, My Love
- March 1948: Fort Apache
- April 1948: Letter from an Unknown Woman
- May 1948: Hamlet
- June 1948: Easter Parade
- July 1948: The Amazing Mr. X
- August 1948: The Scar
- September 1948: Sorry, Wrong Number
- November 1948: Unfaithfully Yours
- October 1948: June Bride
- December 1948: Force of Evil
- January 1949: A Letter To Three Wives
- February 1949: Caught
- March 1949: Little Women
- April 1949: The Secret Garden
- May 1949: Africa Screams
- June 1949: Kind Hearts and Coronets
- July 1949: Too Late For Tears
- August 1949: I Was A Male War Bride
- September 1949: The Fighting Kentuckian
- October 1949: Love Happy
- November 1949: Port of New York
- December 1949: Twelve O’Clock High