Decade Redux

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?

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:

Film noir!

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!

Sooo bad.

So that was interesting. Well, to me, at least.

But were movies in the 40s good?

Yes.

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.

Largely.

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:

December 1949: Twelve O’Clock High



















Awrite! The final movie in this blog series! December 1949! A decade of movies! It’s over!

I think I started in… September? So it’s taken me about six months to watch 120 movies? That’s two thirds of a movie per day.

OK, I’ll do a summing-up post later…

So what’s this movie about? A high school called Twelve O’Clock?

No! It’s a war extravaganza produced by Darryl Zanuck starring Gregory Peck! It’s long, it’s serious, it’s got a huge budget, and … it’s war!

This is the only movie in this blog series after the end of the war that’s about the war. I think during the 50s you got a wave of these, but in the years just after the war, people didn’t want war movies (or at least the studios didn’t think so).

Instead there were a bunch of film noir crime movies, but now we’re back to heroes again.

It’s not as simple as back in the days. We’ve got (allusions to) body parts and soldiers throwing up and PTSD and stuff.

The solution? Tough love! Responsibility! Pride!

But despite all odds, it’s a gripping movie. Lots of great performances and sentimental scenes. It’s a kind of perfect movie: It does everything it sets out to do.

Twelve O’Clock High. Henry King. 1949.

Popular movies in December 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
10333 7.8 Twelve O’Clock High
12722 7.6 On the Town
7613 7.2 Sands of Iwo Jima
1782 7.1 Side Street
567 7.1 My Foolish Heart
1352 6.9 East Side, West Side
2472 6.9 The Inspector General
5017 6.8 Samson and Delilah
758 6.7 Malaya
525 6.6 The Threat

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

November 1949: Port of New York














Huh. This… looks like a B movie sourced from Youtube from VHS, but how did I buy this? It must be on a box set of some kind, but … which one? I sure can’t find it.

And it’s weird. It’s got a voiceover like an educational short. I’m guessing this is a public domain feature from a studio that’s now bankrupt?

This may be the weirdest movie ever. There are scenes of high stylised drama intercut with newsreel-like footage from the port. Of New York.

Is this a fixer-upper or was it meant to be like this?

And isn’t this weather supposed to be over by now?

A young Yul Brynner plays a totally gay super-evil villain, which is a plus, I guess?

Port of New York. Laslo Benedek. 1949.

Popular movies in November 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
10239 7.6 All the King’s Men
16225 7.6 Adam’s Rib
5390 7.5 Battleground
766 7.5 The Rocking Horse Winner
3005 7.2 Holiday Affair
1605 7.2 Tension
1082 7.1 Prince of Foxes
363 6.8 A Run for Your Money
910 6.7 That Forsyte Woman
315 6.7 The Great Lover

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

October 1949: Love Happy





















What! A Marx Brothers movie!? I thought I’d seen them all? How did I miss this one? It must have been part of that Marx Bros box set I bought some years back? But… huh.

This is not one of the classic Marx movies. There’s not a lot of Groucho in here (and his scenes have obviously been spliced in here as an afterthought? filmed by a different crew?), and there’s a lot of Harpo scenes. Hm…

Oh:

It was originally conceived as a vehicle for Harpo, so as a result we get lesser input from Chico and even less from Groucho (which is especially unfortunate).

And it’s the final Marx Bros movie!

It’s got the perfect plot: The Bros have to help some kids put up a show while thwarting some diamond smugglers. Impossible not to enjoy.

OK, this can’t really be called a “good movie”, but I laughed out loud several times, and was smiling the rest of the time, so I can’t be too critical.

But it’s weirdly paced, or just perhaps too long? When I though we were getting to the climax, we were only two thirds done.

It’s funny! What can I say.

Love Happy. David Miller. 1949.

Popular movies in October 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
10197 8.3 The Heiress
1499 7.7 Intruder in the Dust
216 7.4 Give Us This Day
2972 7.3 The Reckless Moment
1601 7.2 Beyond the Forest
9047 7.1 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
957 7.1 Reign of Terror
1509 7.0 Border Incident
212 6.9 Everybody Does It

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

September 1949: The Fighting Kentuckian















Hey, John Wayne. Oh, and er Laurel? I mean Hardy. Or do I?

This is a romantic western comedy, I guess. Wayne is a polarising actor, but I really like having him on the screen. He’s fun to watch.

This is very, very slight fare. It’s charming and easy on the headbone. But perhaps it could have been tightened up a bit? It feels like it should have been over sooner.

The stunts in the big showdown at the end are either really impressive or a lot of people got hurt.

The Fighting Kentuckian. George Waggner. 1949.

Popular movies in September 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
21432 8.2 White Heat
3828 7.7 Thieves’ Highway
926 7.4 The Hasty Heart
2042 7.2 Pinky
2897 7.1 Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
215 6.9 The Doctor and the Girl
222 6.8 Johnny Stool Pigeon
278 6.8 Strange Bargain
499 6.7 Miss Grant Takes Richmond
379 6.7 That Midnight Kiss

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

August 1949: I Was A Male War Bride





















Howard Hawks! Cary Grant! Ann Sheridan!

And this is the first post-war war movie I’ve seen in this blog series, I think?

Oh… it’s not really a war movie. It’s a post-war movie, set in present-day (i.e., 1949) Germany.

This is a screwball comedy of sorts: Lots of pratfalls for Grant to excel at. But the snappiness of the dialogue leaves something to be desired.

Once things get properly underway (the main plot point is that all the bureaucracy surrounding soldiers bringing back spouses is geared towards men bringing back wives), most of the jokes are about Cary Grant’s character being made to suffer female indignities.

That could be funny and it could be awful, but here it’s mostly the latter. The thing that saves it is Grant’s charm. Because the jokes are pretty lame.

It feels like it should have been snappier.

I Was A Male War Bride. Howard Hawks. 1949.

Popular movies in August 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
119390 8.3 The Third Man
6065 7.1 I Was a Male War Bride
1918 7.1 Madame Bovary
470 6.9 Jolson Sings Again
815 6.8 Rope of Sand
326 6.7 Slattery’s Hurricane
743 6.7 Task Force
321 6.5 Mr. Soft Touch
583 6.5 Black Magic
1049 6.1 It’s a Great Feeling

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

July 1949: Too Late For Tears












Based on the title I thought this was gonna be a Douglas Sirk weepie. But instead it’s a very noir film noir!

This movie started off simply fabulous. Ly. Great random set-up and perfect noir performances. But things get more involved and the actors start chewing the scenery and instead of ever-increasing tension, we just get ever-increasing “er… uhm…” But the plot does have some wonderful twists.

The bluray has that over-restored look: In a quest to make the shadows #000000, they’ve dropped all the details down to black. It’s like they’ve just turned the contrast button up to 300%. It kinda suits the movie, but it’s too much.

Too Late For Tears. Byron Haskin. 1949.

Popular movies in July 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
12390 7.4 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
2091 7.3 Too Late for Tears
846 7.3 Come to the Stable
2632 7.2 In the Good Old Summertime
3234 7.1 The Big Steal
7515 7.1 The Fountainhead
3505 7.0 Mighty Joe Young
514 6.7 The Great Gatsby
973 6.6 Follow Me Quietly
655 6.6 Scene of the Crime

This blog post is part of the Decade series.