November 1944: The Children Are Watching Us

Oo. Those are purdy fonts.

Huh? An Italian movie from 1944?

Oh, it’s from the director of Bicycle Thieves, which is a wonderful movie. And this is pretty great, too.

According to this, it was filmed in 1942, before Italy started losing. There’s no mention of the war in this film, although we do see some soldiers in crowd scenes.

Throughout the movie, I was trying to puzzle out whether there’s some sort of ideological component being subtly pushed, but if so I’m not quite sure what it would be. Could be a Kinder, Kuche, Kirche thing… But in Italian. But it doesn’t really seem that way for most of the movie. The ending can definitely be taken that way.

This movie is brimming with emotion, but unusually for an Italian movie, most of them are conveyed subtly, by surreptitious looks and avoidances. The actors are really fabulous here.

The Children Are Watching Us. Vittorio De Sica. 1944.

Popular movies in November 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
15758 7.7 Meet Me in St. Louis
354 7.7 Bowery Champs
4277 7.5 Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
3789 7.4 The Thin Man Goes Home
929 7.0 Lost in a Harem
1401 7.0 The Princess and the Pirate
228 7.0 And Now Tomorrow
290 6.7 Two Thousand Women
574 6.6 Dark Waters
424 6.1 Dead Man’s Eyes

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

October 1944: To Have and Have Not

After a couple of cheapies, this is a proper, expensive A movie. I mean, Bogart? Bacall? Howard Hawks? Hemingway? Doesn’t get more A than that.

The movie has been beautifully restored for this bluray release.

I must have seen this movie a few times before (who hasn’t?) because some of the scenes seem awfully familiar. But I did not remember that there were this much music in the movie. You can see the filmmakers trying to make another Casablanca, complete with hit theme music and all, and they almost make it.

I don’t think these people could make a movie that wasn’t pleasurable to watch, but I did find something to be annoyed with: That old coot just gets on my tits.

But it’s just not a good movie. The plot doesn’t go anywhere and nothing much of interest happens. It all rests on the performances. They are, admittedly, wonderful, but it still needs like a script.

To Have and Have Not. Howard Hawks. 1944.

Popular movies in October 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
33055 8.1 Laura
24369 8.0 To Have and Have Not
9965 7.8 The Woman in the Window
5201 7.2 Ministry of Fear
327 7.2 The Very Thought of You
1009 7.0 Mrs. Parkington
282 6.8 An American Romance
206 6.6 Love Story
1733 6.6 None But the Lonely Heart
710 6.5 The Conspirators

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

September 1944: Swing Hostess

Oh, another cheapie B-movie from PRC from that box set. The previous movie, Minstrel Man, wasn’t er good, but you never know…

This one seems more promising… for one, there’s no blackface. And the lead’s a better actor.

It’s a real movie, sort of: It’s not just an excuse to string a bunch of songs together. Not just. It’s that, too, but the plot is rather fun and lively.

And very nerdy, involving many convoluted shenanigans with electronic transmission, cutting platters, and related hi-jinx.

It’s swimming in charm and nonsense. Most amiable.

Swing Hostess. Sam Newfield. 1944.

Popular movies in September 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
56061 8.1 Arsenic and Old Lace
2171 7.1 Tall in the Saddle
205 6.6 The Impatient Years
290 6.5 Strangers in the Night
744 6.4 The Big Noise
510 6.3 Frenchman’s Creek
294 6.2 Crime by Night
242 6.2 Greenwich Village

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

August 1944: Minstrel Man

This is another B movie from that DVD box set. The transfer is pretty good here — while some of these have been sourced from torrents, this looks like a straight from film to DVD transfer. Hm… it might have been done via high quality video tape… There’s some typical tape ghosting going on.

It was nominated for a couple of music-related Oscars, and the music is indeed pretty good.

There isn’t much of a story here. It’s basically just a filmed “minstrel show” (i.e., white performers in blackface) with some not-very-developed drama to pad the movie out some.

The singing’s OK, but the “minstrel” comedy bits are offensively boring. All the jokes seem to be basically “aren’t those black people stupid, eh?”

But it’s not… horribly bad? I was entertained. Perhaps the biggest problem is the lead, Benny Fields, who is as expressive as a two by four. And probably as smart.

Plenty of good supporting performances keep the movie somewhat afloat. For instance, Judy Clark is so effervescently bubbling that you have to see it to believe it.

Minstrel Man. Joseph H. Lewis. 1944.

Popular movies in August 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
3338 7.8 Hail the Conquering Hero
2941 7.5 The Pearl of Death
1597 7.5 In Society
1048 7.0 Black Magic
490 6.8 When Strangers Marry
706 6.4 Casanova Brown
366 6.4 The Doughgirls
725 6.3 The Great Moment
382 6.2 The Falcon in Mexico
272 6.2 Maisie Goes to Reno

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

July 1944: Summer Storm

Yay! Douglas Sirk! Mah favourite. I was a bit in the mood for a comedy after the last movie, but whatevs.

I’m such a fan that I apparently bought two copies:

Wow. This has Edward Everett Horton in a kinda-sorta serious role. I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

I mean, it’s Anton Chekhov (it’s The Shooting Party, which you’ve probably read), so there’s a limit to how serious it can be.

Unfortunately, this DVD isn’t particularly restored. The video looks fine, but the audio is awfully hissy. I can sometimes be difficult to pick out the witty Russian repartee.

I have to say that this seems like an extremely weird movie to make in 1944. It’s a very straightforward adaptation without any wartime allusions that I can see… I mean, it’s not that all movies during this period were “relevant” or anything, but this is supremely incongruous.

And it’s just so ordinary. I would not have guessed that this was Sirk if I didn’t know. I can’t really see anything much of interest here. It’s so cookie cutter.

Chekhov’s sensibilities don’t quite line up with Sirk’s. Sirk would be on Olga’s side, but Chekhov doesn’t really allow that.

Summer Storm. Douglas Sirk. 1944.

Popular movies in July 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
332 7.9 Block Busters
1816 7.4 The Seventh Cross
1037 6.9 Wilson
1938 6.9 The Canterville Ghost
303 6.9 Summer Storm
1099 6.9 Wing and a Prayer
312 6.8 Mr. Winkle Goes to War
281 6.3 The Hairy Ape
878 6.2 Dragon Seed
353 6.2 Step Lively

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

June 1944: Since You Went Away

Can any powder-box really be too gay?

How odd. This DVD starts with a five minute overture (i.e., some swelling orchestral music playing while we’re shown some stills). I wonder whether this was part of the original movie theatre experience… I guess it could have been, because it’s long enough that it may have been shown with an intermission? So it’s an all night extravaganza?

It was nominated for all the Oscar awards, but only the score won.

From the initial scenes (and the score), I thought this was going to be three hours of women looking pensively out the window while waiting for their soldier husbands to come back from the war.

And there’s certainly a bit of that, but this is such a delightful surprise of a movie. It’s funny and it’s more than a bit cynical.

And that cast. Claudette Colbert, Monty Woolley (resplendent in his whiskers as always) and… Shirley Temple! (And a cast of thousands, including Agnes Moorehead and Lionel Barrymore.)

But the real star here is Hattie McDaniel. Any time she’s on the screen it’s showtime.

But I found it hard to stay interested. While there’s a lot of fun scenes, it sort of lost me around the one hour mark.

I can well imagine that this is a well-loved movie, but I don’t think there’s enough dynamics here. It’s very much steady state throughout most of the nine hours this movie goes on.

I mean, if they’d cut the middle fifteen hours, and just compressed the total thirtynine hours into a more reasonable two hours, then there’s definitely enough wonderful scenes to have carried a film.

But, like I said, I lost interest at the seventythree hour mark, and then the remaining two hundred and seventy two hours just kinda seemed a drag.

But I feel really bad about not enjoying this movie more than this, because there’s a lot to like.

Since You Went Away. John Cromwell. 1944.

Popular movies in June 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
281 8.0 Follow the Leader
3421 7.6 Since You Went Away
2231 7.2 The Mask of Dimitrios
1259 7.1 The Way Ahead
271 6.7 Home in Indiana
880 6.7 Christmas Holiday
1139 6.5 Bathing Beauty
431 6.3 Hotel Reserve
816 6.2 Days of Glory
242 5.9 Meet the People

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

May 1944: The White Cliffs of Dover

Ah, finally! Back to the 40s! I only have the TV on on weekends, and the past few weekends have been busy with concerts and parties and other boring stuff.

This is a proper grandiose, romantic war movie, with stoic British women pining (and nursing) away at home while brave British soldiers bravely fight against the forces of evil.

This is the most patriotic movie in the history of patriotic movies. The flashbacks are all about how our romantic American protagonist is introduced to England, oh England, and we get a run-through of all British cool things ever. You can still hear the sound of British hearts swelling in the theatres this played at the time.

Or was the intended audience here Americans? And they didactically go through British history to tell them what they’re defending when they go off to Europe?

The scene where the guy basically kidnaps her (to marry her) is a bit grating. It’s meant to be all romantic, of course, but it’s a bit Baby it’s cold outside. If that one had gone “I’ll keep you forcibly on this train” instead of “Listen to the fireplace roar”.


The best line is when Nanny tells Our Heroine “You should go visit him in France. It’s time you put a baby in my arms.”

It’s a brilliantly manipulative movie. Almost perfect.

The White Cliffs of Dover. Clarence Brown. 1944.

Popular movies in May 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
17663 7.9 Gaslight
4267 7.8 Mr. Skeffington
3855 7.7 A Canterbury Tale
3658 7.5 The Scarlet Claw
1278 7.3 Between Two Worlds
746 7.2 The Adventures of Mark Twain
7905 7.2 Going My Way
1111 7.1 The White Cliffs of Dover
1071 7.1 Charlie Chan in The Chinese Cat
372 6.7 Andy Hardy’s Blonde Trouble

This blog post is part of the Decade series.