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LawrenceA

What I've Seen - 1943

145 posts in this topic

3 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

#9 Favorite Movie of 1939

Destry Rides Again -

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Destry Rides Again, while a noteworthy notch in James Stewart's early career belt, demonstrating how well he could play comedy as well as be heroic, was, even more so, an important film in the career of Marlene Dietrich. After being branded box office poison in a list of stars failing to make money for the studios anymore, her gutsy Frenchy, unlike anything she had ever done before, proved to be an impressive popular comeback for the lady. Of course, this performance would lead to a new stereotype for Dietrich, being cast in similar tough broad roles in a number of other films over the next few years, none of them as good as Destry.

I particularly appreciate the physicality of that bar cat fight between Dietrich and Una Merkel. The two ladies really get into it here, culminating with both being drenched with a bucket of water. Inconceivable that the mysterious, exotic Dietrich of Von Sternberg melodramas would ever have been submitted to such an indignity.

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#7 Favorite Movie of 1939

Only Angels Have Wings - Aviation drama from Columbia Pictures and director Howard Hawks. American entertainer Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) is passing through the South American port city of Barranca when she meets a group of expatriate Americans running a small airline company. The chief is Geoff Carter (Cary Grant), and he and Bonnie hit it off so well she decides to stay, much to the annoyance of Geoff's right-hand man Kid Dabb (Thomas Mitchell). The deadly job of flying the mail and other cargo in tropical weather and across treacherous mountains gets even more tumultuous when new pilot MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) shows up with his young bride Judy (Rita Hayworth), both of whom have pasts entangled with Geoff and Dabb. Also featuring Sig Rumann, Noah Beery Jr., Don "Red" Barry, Allyn Joslyn, Victor Kilian, John Carroll, and Pat Flaherty.

Hawks' expertise at depicting men working in high-stress, close proximity conditions is on fine display here. The characters are all real characters, three-dimensional and interesting. The small bit of actual aerial footage is very good, although most of it is miniature work. I have to applaud the production design too for creating a very evocative set that often feels authentic rather than studio artifice. Grant and Arthur are terrific. Mitchell was having the greatest year of his career, and this is arguably his best performance of that year. I liked seeing silent film great Barthelmess again, although he looks so small. Hayworth has her first major role, and while she's a little green in the acting department, she looks dynamite. The movie earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Cinematography (Joseph Walker) and Best Special Effects.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion Blu-ray. Besides the outstanding high definition picture, the disc includes interviews with Howard Hawks conducted by Peter Bogdanovich (audio only), interview with critic David Thomson, a featurette on Hawks and his various aviation films, and the Lux Radio version of the film.

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#6 Favorite Movie of 1939

Gunga Din - Action-adventure loosely based on the works of Rudyard Kipling, from RKO and director George Stevens. Set in British-controlled India near the Khyber Pass, the story follows three British Army sergeants, Cutter (Cary Grant), MacChesney (Victor McLaglen), and Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) who get into all kinds of scrapes, big and small, and who battle against an army of Thugee killers, with the help of native water-bearer Ginga Din (Sam Jaffe). Also featuring Joan Fontaine, Eduardo Ciannelli, Montagu Love, Robert Coote, Abner Biberman, Lumsden Hare, and Cecil Kellaway.

Comrades-in-arms films have rarely been better, with all three leads giving great performances, and each given a moment to shine. The editing and camerawork done in the action scenes is remarkable, especially during a city siege sequence fairly early on, with our heroes leaping from rooftop to rooftop to escape an army of bad guys. This is the sort of film that wouldn't fly anymore, and even this version will most likely get diminished in critical circles due to its numerous un-PC elements, such as the casting of non-natives in the lead native roles, or the depiction of the occupying British forces as heroic. Along those lines I'm a bit surprised that the screenwriters decided to change the Thugees from a band of killers and robbers, like they actually were in the historical record, and instead depict them as Indian independence fighters. Either way, it's best not to dwell on the political implications, and just sit back and enjoy one of the screen's great adventure movies. The movie earned a single Oscar nomination, for Best Cinematography (Joseph H. August).   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD. Bonus features include a making-of documentary, an audio commentary track, and a Porky Pig cartoon. There is also a small pamphlet inside the DVD case promoting the TCM website!

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#5 Favorite Movie of 1939

Stagecoach - Iconic and iconographic western from United Artists, producer Walter Wanger, and director John Ford. A stagecoach full of passengers tries to make it through dangerous territory where Geronimo and his Apache warriors are on the prowl. Buck (Andy Devine) drives the wagon, while Marshal Wilcox (George Bancroft) rides shotgun. The travelers include Mrs. Mallory (Louise Platt) looking to meet up with her cavalryman husband; Dallas (Claire Trevor), a "disreputable" woman being thrown out of town; alcoholic Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell); shady gambler Hatfield (John Carradine); traveling salesman Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek); and crooked banker Gatewood (Berton Churchill). They are eventually joined by an infamous outlaw known as the Ringo Kid (John Wayne), who sticks with them to the end. Also featuring Francis Ford, Tom Tyler, Tim Holt, Chief John Big Tree, William Hopper, Jack Pennick, Hank Worden, and Yakima Canutt.

John Ford hadn't made a western since the silent era, as the genre had drifted into the B-level of the film business. This film, and a handful of others from the same year, helped rehabilitate the western into one of the leading film genres for the next 30 years. This simple, straightforward tale features characters and situations from the whole previous history of the genre, presented in a direct but still stylish manner, with perfect casting, including John Wayne in his biggest role to date. The whole cast is terrific, but I especially liked Devine as the cowardly comic relief, Trevor as the "fallen woman", and Mitchell as the drunk. I also count this as one Carradine finest roles. The film won two Oscars, for Best Supporting Actor (Mitchell) and for Best Score (Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken).  (9/10)

Source: Warner DVD. A two-disc "special edition", the first disc contains the film, with audio commentary from a John Ford historian. I have to complain about the picture, which is very scratched and dirty. I wonder if the Criterion edition looks better. The second disc has a feature-length documentary on John Ford and his collaborations with John Wayne, a featurette on this film, and a radio version of the film featuring Trevor and Randolph Scott.

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#4 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Roaring Twenties - Gangster epic from Warner Brothers and director Raoul Walsh. Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) is a WW1 veteran who can't find work when he returns home, so he becomes a bootlegger during Prohibition. He falls in love with innocent singer Jean (Priscilla Lane), while been-around-the-block club hostess Panama Smith (Gladys George) loves Eddie from afar. Eddie also has to deal with his two war vet buddies, Lloyd (Jeffrey Lynn) who's become an upright lawyer, and George (Humphrey Bogart), who has also become a vicious gangster. Featuring Frank McHugh, Paul Hurst, Joe Sawyer, Edward Keane, Joseph Crehan, George Meeker, and Abner Biberman.

Coming at the end of the 1930's, Walsh's gangster tale acts as a summation and a farewell to the gangster genre that kicked off with the decade's beginning. One aspect that I appreciate in this film is the humanistic, nuanced depiction of Eddie. He's a basically good person who gets forced by circumstance into a life of crime, neglected by a society that he fought to defend overseas, and left with little recourse but to turn to crime. At the same time, his fellow veteran friends are shown at opposite moral poles: Lloyd is good and stays good, while George was born bad and destined to be a hood. Bogart is great playing another weasel, with a few good one-liners. Cagney is also very good, and I love his intense dive into self-destruction and redemption at the end. George is outstanding as the weather-beaten woman who knows she'll always be second choice. On the technical side, I like the many montage sequences scattered throughout the film, with breathless narration by John Deering, while Walsh's direction keeps things moving at a fast pace.   (9/10)

Source: Warner DVD. It features the "Warner Night at the Movies" set-up, with a Leonard Maltin intro, a newsreel, a trailer for another movie from that time, a live action short or two, a cartoon short, and then the feature. There's also an audio commentary, and a featurette on the movie's production.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

#4 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Roaring Twenties -

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While I don't think that The Roaring Twenties is quite in the same league as the previous year's Angels With Dirty Faces for dramatic power, it is still a handsome, prestige production, which started off Raoul Walsh's directorial career at Warners with a bang (in more ways than one).

Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn are dramatic weaknesses in shallow roles, in my opinion. Far more fun to watch the likes of Cagney, Bogart and Gladys George. While this is clearly a Cagney vehicle, this film has one of Bogart's more effective hood portrayals prior to becoming a star, demonstrating a deliciously invective delivery with some sardonic humour.

The cold bloodedness of Bogie's character is amusingly established in his first scene in a WWI fox hole that he shares with Cagney and Lynn. Lynn puts his gun sights on a German soldier but is reluctant to take a shot at him, saying he looks like a 16-year-old kid. Bogart then takes careful aim at the German and pulls his trigger. "He won't live to be 17," he says with a self satisfied look on his face.

I always enjoyed Raoul Walsh's response when he was asked by a movie buff why it took Cagney so long to die in this film. "He's an actor," the director replied.

Gladys George seems to put a lifetime of anguish into her delivery of the film's final line, "He used to be a big shot."

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7 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

#6 Favorite Movie of 1939

Gunga Din -

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Politically incorrect or not, Gunga Din is one of my favourite adventure films, chockfull of wonderful action sequences (that attack in the deserted village early in the film to which you made reference, Lawrence, being a particular highlight) and, of course, the great, rowdy humour to be found in this film.

All three stars are a delight in their roles, but Cary Grant is a particular joy to watch. I love Grant in this early part of his career when he was such a physical actor, as opposed to later when he specialized in playing a smooth sophisticate. Grant has the infectious charm of an enthusiastic little boy in this film at times, leaping up and down in excitement when he finds an Indian temple he believes is filed with riches.

And there are few moments in the movies that are quite as much fun as when Annie, the elephant, steps on that swaying bridge over a valley, with closeups of Grant, caught on that same bridge, mugging as he comically yells in anguish.

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Annie about to help Grant make an unexpected break from jail

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1 minute ago, TomJH said:

Politically incorrect or not, Gunga Din is one of my favourite adventure films, chockfull of wonderful action sequences (that attack in the deserted village early in the film to which you made reference, Lawrence, being a particular highlight) and, of course, the great, rowdy humour to be found in this film.

All three stars are a delight in their roles, but Cary Grant is a particular joy to watch. I love Grant in this early part of his career when he was such a physical actor, as opposed to later when he specialized in playing a smooth, sophisticate. Grant has the infectious charm of an enthusiastic little boy in this film at times, leaping up and down in excitement when he finds an Indian temple he hopes is filed with riches.

I was reading that while McLaglen was always set to play his role, the other two roles were more uncertain. Some sources say that Grant was originally to play the Ballantine role, the romantic lead who is going to leave the service and marry Joan Fontaine. Grant wanted to play something a bit different from his usual part, and switched to the Cutter role, which Fairbanks Jr. was originally going to play. However it happened, I think they all ended up in the right parts, and I too really enjoyed Grant's more working-class characterization. I also liked seeing Doug Fairbanks Jr. leaping from rooftops like his dad did a decade earlier, and also with the sad knowledge that his father passed earlier that year and didn't get to see his son in this.

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#3 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Wizard of Oz - Classic children's musical fantasy based on the works of L. Frank Baum, from MGM and director Victor Fleming (and George Cukor and Mervyn LeRoy and Norman Taurog and King Vidor). Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is transported to the magical land of Oz, where she teams up with the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the Tin Woodsman (Jack Haley) and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) on a journey to find the Wizard (Frank Morgan) who can help get her home. They also have to evade the sinister Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) who wants Dorothy's ruby slippers. Also featuring Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick, Billy Curtis, Harry Earles, and Terry as Toto the dog.

There's not much to say about this ubiquitous family favorite which some have called the most-watched classic film of all time. The candy-colored sets, the innovative makeup and elaborate costumes, the memorable songs and a serendipitous cast all combine to make something more than the typical fantasy. The troubled production, involving 5 directors and nearly 20 (!!!) screenwriters, somehow came together to make an all-time classic. I still enjoy watching it, even if it's as much nostalgia as appreciation. It had been well over a decade since I last watched it, so this was a nice treat seeing it again.  (9/10)

Source: Warner Blu-ray. It includes a feature-length documentary on the movie's production and cultural impact. The copy that I have also contains the 3-D conversion that was done somewhat recently, although I lack the devices or the desire to watch it.

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10 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

I was reading that while McLaglen was always set to play his role, the other two roles were more uncertain. Some sources say that Grant was originally to play the Ballantine role, the romantic lead who is going to leave the service and marry Joan Fontaine. Grant wanted to play something a bit different from his usual part, and switched to the Cutter role, which Fairbanks Jr. was originally going to play. However it happened, I think they all ended up in the right parts, and I too really enjoyed Grant's more working-class characterization. I also liked seeing Doug Fairbanks Jr. leaping from rooftops like his dad did a decade earlier, and also with the sad knowledge that his father passed earlier that year and didn't get to see his son in this.

Fairbanks wrote in his autobiography, Salad Days, that Grant gave him the choice of which role to play (unusual generosity from an actor), either the romantic Ballantine or the funny Cockney Cutter, and it was finally decided by the toss of a coin. I'm really pleased that the coin landed the way it did because, otherwise, we would have been deprived of seeing Grant's hilarious working man portrayal. I find Grant such an enduring pleasure to watch in this film.

By the way, I suspect that Douglas Fairbanks did see Gunga Din since the film is listed as a February release and he passed away (unexpectedly quickly) in December of that year.

Speaking of Doug Jr. years ago he was in correspondence with a friend of mine and let it be known that he was looking for video tapes of his old movies, missing from his collection, in particular, a jungle adventure called Green Hell. I had that film on tape (not a particularly good looking image off a local TV station) so we sent him a second generation copy of it. In Salad Days Fairbanks would refer to Green Hell as just about his worst film. I certainly hope he didn't come to that conclusion based upon the quality of the tape we sent him. It's really not that bad a film, in my opinion (it sure has an outstanding cast).

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10 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

#3 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Wizard of Oz -

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I wonder how many kids had nightmares because of those flying blue monkeys. I can't be the only one.

W. C. Fields was the original choice to play the wizard but, due to difficult negotiations, I believe, he was replaced by Frank Morgan. Fields would have been an interesting choice, but Morgan is a marvel in his multiple roles in this film. I agree with those who think The Wizard of Oz is the most viewed film of all time. All of the cast in this cast have a touch of immortality because of that.

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#2 Favorite Movie of 1939

Gone with the Wind - The epic to end all epics, from producer David O. Selznick, MGM, and director Victor Fleming (and George Cukor and Sam Wood). It's the end of the antebellum South as the Civil War erupts and destroys the old way of life. Young, spoiled and fierce Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) is determined to marry Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) but he wants to marry his cousin Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) because that's how southerners did it back then. Big-city rake Rhett Butler (Clark Cable) falls for Scarlett, much to his future regret. Also featuring Thomas Mitchell, Harry Davenport, George Reeves, Ann Rutherford, Ona Munson, Jane Darwell, Butterfly McQueen, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Victor Jory, and Hattie McDaniel.

What's to say about this one that hasn't been said a hundred times? In my mind, it's the epitome of the studio system, even if it was largely done by a single person (Selznick). It has a great cast of studio players, and the production design is wonderful if still mainly studio-bound artifice. The score by Max Steiner is one of the best in movie history. For decades this was largely undisputed as the greatest Hollywood film of all time, only battling it out with Citizen Kane. Within the last decade or two, though, as the political climate changes and the demographics change, Gone with the Wind looks more and more archaic. The benevolent depiction of slavery just rubs too many people the wrong way, although I tend to view the film as a person's "rose-tinted" view of the South rather than the harsh reality of it. Leigh and Gable are both fantastic. Howard is miscast. The movie earned a lot of Oscar love, including nominations for Best Actor (Gable), Best Supporting Actress (de Havilland), Best Sound, Best Special Effects, and Best Score (Steiner), while it won for Best Actress (Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (McDaniel), Best Cinematography (Ernest Haller, Ray Rennahan), Best Art Direction (Lyle Wheeler), Best Editing (Hal C. Kern, James E. Newcom), Best Screenplay (Sidney Howard), Best Director (Fleming), and Best Picture. It was also awarded a special Oscar for William Cameron Menzies' production design work.  (9/10)

Source: Warner Blu-ray. There are many editions of this on disc, and while the one I have isn't the biggest, it's big enough. It's a 3-disc set: the first disc is the film with optional audio commentary; the second disc contains feature length documentaries about the making of the film and the movies of the year 1939, as well as an entire TV movie starring Tony Curtis about the casting search for Scarlett O'Hara; and the third disc, a double-sided DVD, is a 6-hour documentary on the history of MGM studios.

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#1 Favorite Movie of 1939

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - (9/10)

 

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I thought I would repurpose this old thread and change it to a listing of what movies I have already seen from a given year before I start watching my backlog of titles from that year. I'll list them in alphabetical order.

1943

  1. Air Force
  2. The Ape Man
  3. Batman (serial)
  4. The Black Raven
  5. Captive Wild Woman
  6. Carnival of Sinners
  7. Clancy Street Boys
  8. The Constant Nymph
  9. Cry "Havoc"
  10. Dancing Masters
  11. Day of Wrath
  12. Dead Men Walk
  13. Destination Tokyo
  14. Destroyer
  15. Find the Blackmailer
  16. Fires Were Started
  17. Food and Magic (short)
  18. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  19. Forever and a Day
  20. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
  21. The Ghost and the Guest
  22. The Ghost Ship
  23. Ghosts On the Loose
  24. Guadalcanal Diary
  25. Gung Ho!
  26. A Guy Named Joe
  27. Hangmen Also Die!
  28. Heaven Can Wait
  29. The Human Comedy
  30. I Walked with a Zombie
  31. Immortal Sergeant
  32. Isle of Forgotten Sins
  33. It Happened at the Inn
  34. Jack London
  35. Jane Eyre
  36. The Kansan
  37. Keeper of the Flame
  38. Lady of Burlesque
  39. Le Corbeau
  40. The Leopard Man
  41. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
  42. Madame Curie
  43. Meshes of the Afternoon (short)
  44. Mr. Lucky
  45. The More the Merrier
  46. The Mysterious Doctor
  47. The North Star
  48. Ossessione
  49. The Outlaw
  50. The Ox-Bow Incident
  51. The Phantom of the Opera
  52. Sahara
  53. Sanshiro Sugata
  54. The Seventh Victim
  55. Shadow of a Doubt
  56. So Proudly We Hail!
  57. Son of Dracula
  58. The Song of Bernadette
  59. Stage Door Canteen
  60. Submarine Alert
  61. Thank Your Lucky Stars
  62. This Is the Army
  63. Three Cheers for the Girls (short)
  64. The United States Army Band (short)
  65. The United States Navy Band (short)
  66. Watch On the Rhine

Feel free to suggest any titles that I haven't seen that you'd recommend. I may not have it in my "to watch" stacks yet.

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About: GONE WITH THE WIND---it is a film of women's liberation, and always will be.

Can you understand Scarlett's journey to consciousness and self-reliance? It's epic.

If it bores you, read the BOOK---period details, personalities (including the Slaves) and battles.

----->Thanks for these gorgeous posts and the photos and video---especially of A NOUS LA LIBERTE!

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How is it possible not to get hold of THE LETTER?

Do you mean the JEANNE EAGLES version, or the Bette Davis one?

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2 minutes ago, papyrusbeetle said:

How is it possible not to get hold of THE LETTER?

Do you mean the JEANNE EAGLES version, or the Bette Davis one?

I meant the 1929 version. I have the 1941 version on DVD. I know the '29 version is available via Warner Archive, but I didn't feel like shelling out that much for a copy.

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When you get in the "mood", you won't be disappointed in THE LETTER (1929)

A role that Eagles was born to play.

She was a babe. And her VOICE!!!!--weird, abused, lovely.

The later version is "correct", but the 1929 one is thrilling!

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1 hour ago, papyrusbeetle said:

When you get in the "mood", you won't be disappointed in THE LETTER (1929)

A role that Eagles was born to play.

She was a babe. And her VOICE!!!!--weird, abused, lovely.

The later version is "correct", but the 1929 one is thrilling!

The later version is not 'correct' as it relates to the ending.   The pre-code version is true to the book while the 41 version has an imposed Production code ending.      

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1 hour ago, papyrusbeetle said:

About: GONE WITH THE WIND---it is a film of women's liberation, and always will be.

Yea,  even the women slaves are freed.    

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as to the "correctness" of THE LETTER (Bette Davis version)---

I meant that this is a "movie" movie---lots of entertainment, great camera angles,

hard work by all the cast members. It is easier to watch than the pre-code version.

The Pre-code version (Jeanne Eagles) is more like an "indie" film.

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