TopBilled

How well do you know classic MGM films of the 40s?

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Such fun to read all those entries, TB. Just curious, did you get this list from that giant compendium of supposedly all films put out by MGM through the years? I can't think of the name of it right now, but my shelf is weighted down by that giant book and others on WB, Universal, RKO and Fox I think. A friend gave me the entire series of such books and they are a joy to read with the year by year listings. Thanks for posting such a fine list to reflect upon being that I doubt we have so many great films produced now by all entities!

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2 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

Such fun to read all those entries, TB. Just curious, did you get this list from that giant compendium of supposedly all films put out by MGM through the years? I can't think of the name of it right now, but my shelf is weighted down by that giant book and others on WB, Universal, RKO and Fox I think. A friend gave me the entire series of such books and they are a joy to read with the year by year listings. Thanks for posting such a fine list to reflect upon being that I doubt we have so many great films produced now by all entities!

I cheated but I also did it the hard way too. There's a list on wiki, but sometimes those lists are not complete. So the more painstaking part was to compare the wiki list with all the MGM entries on the IMDb, because those tend to be much more complete. Plus the release dates seem to be more accurate on the IMDb. I'm sure I still have a few tiny errors.

Then from there, I started looking up the individual pages for each film on wiki and on the IMDb. Sometimes the TCM database has more accurate cast information, so occasionally I double-check or verify things over there. A lot of the comments are my own thoughts, based on my having seen these films on TCM. However, I have not seen every single MGM film so this helps me learn about ones that previously escaped my attention.

I just wanted to celebrate classic MGM films from the 40s with this thread. I started with MGM, because I think it's a studio that is easy to generalize. Like I didn't realize there had been three B westerns the studio put out in 1942. Little things like this surprise me. It isn't always the big stars like Clark Gable and Esther Williams. Plus there are a lot of contract players that don't seem to get their due, people like Connie Gilchrist or Virginia Grey and Van Heflin. And when was the last time you saw a thread about Rags Ragland? That's right...never!

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Love Rags Ragland and he does deserve more attention, as does Connie Gilchrist TB.

Do you want me to compare the official list in the book from the hardcover version from 1979 called "MGM: The Complete History" with your list and see if anything is missing?

Probably isn't but this book seems pretty complete. You sure did a lot of checking to be sure but what if a film with Rags Ragland slipped through the cracks???

images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Zpcy9%2BYSL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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3 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Thanks for this informative post, Jlewis. Glad someone's keeping an eye on MGM's Technicolor releases, since I'd been overlooking some of that.

We are entering an interesting period for MGM with the Arthur Freed unit operating full blast. There were a handful of color musicals going back to SWEETHEARTS in 1938 and, of course, including THE WIZARD OF OZ. Yet only a few black and whites after 1943's GIRL CRAZY made the THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! series cut, IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN with Frankie & Durante being a stand out notable post-war.

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21 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

Love Rags Ragland and he does deserve more attention, as does Connie Gilchrist TB.

Do you want me to compare the official list in the book from the hardcover version from 1979 called "MGM: The Complete History" with your list and see if anything is missing?

Probably isn't but this book seems pretty complete. You sure did a lot of checking to be sure but what if a film with Rags Ragland slipped through the cracks???

images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Zpcy9%2BYSL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

LOL, yes we cannot have any of Rags' films slipping through the cracks! If you could just spot-check me when I post and let us know if I'm in error on anything, that will be a great help. Thank you.

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The Internet Archive scans for Film Daily and Motion Picture Herald, as well as BoxOffice.com (although that site is harder to access), have a lot of charts you can check, complete with short subject listings. What these old magazines reveal are a lot of reissues during the 1940s, often as double bills. If you see gaps with no new releases in a certain month, this was compensated by a reissue of OZ, GONE WITH THE WIND or a popular duo of Red Skelton comedies shown a few years earlier. A brand new Tom & Jerry or Pete Smith Specialty would be included even if the feature was a re-release, since they tried to release one or two new shorts per week to go along with the Hearst "News of the Day" newsreel.

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40 minutes ago, Jlewis said:

The Internet Archive scans for Film Daily and Motion Picture Herald, as well as BoxOffice.com (although that site is harder to access), have a lot of charts you can check, complete with short subject listings. What these old magazines reveal are a lot of reissues during the 1940s, often as double bills. If you see gaps with no new releases in a certain month, this was compensated by a reissue of OZ, GONE WITH THE WIND or a popular duo of Red Skelton comedies shown a few years earlier. A brand new Tom & Jerry or Pete Smith Specialty would be included even if the feature was a re-release, since they tried to release one or two new shorts per week to go along with the Hearst "News of the Day" newsreel.

That's interesting. I had assumed the gaps meant they were busy working on upcoming releases, or doing continued publicity for films currently in release. Or if something did well with audiences and was held-over for another week.

I would imagine when TWO-FACED WOMAN was recalled (re-edited and then redistributed) it threw their schedule off during that period of time.

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 Screen shot 2017-12-18 at 3.03.35 PM.png

1943

The studio released 35 feature films.

The greatest number of releases occurred in April (5).

Popular series— Maisie, Andy Hardy, Dr. Gillespie, Lassie and the Whistling series.

This was the year Vincente Minnelli directed his first feature film. Also several notable contract players made their last MGM films—Margaret Sullavan, Franchot Tone and Virginia Weidler.

These contract players were in four or more films in 1943: Van Johnson (5); Reginald Owen (5); Fay Bainter (4); Gene Kelly (4); Richard Carlson (4); Marsha Hunt (4). 

JANUARY

TENNESSEE JOHNSON with Van Heflin, Lionel Barrymore and Ruth Hussey. This was Van Heflin’s first lead in an A film.  It was an expensive failure for the studio and caused controversy. Some objected to the way the lead character was depicted, insisting the story was politically misinformed.

FEBRUARY

THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION with Virginia Weidler, Edward Arnold, John Carroll and Agnes Moorehead. Many MGM stars make cameos as themselves. This was Moorehead’s first picture at Metro.

MARCH

THE HUMAN COMEDY with Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, Jackie Jenkins, Fay Bainter, James Craig, Marsha Hunt, Ann Ayers, Van Johnson, Donna Reed, Darryl Hickman and Robert Mitchum. William Saroyan wrote the screenplay. Best picture nominee.

ASSIGNMENT IN BRITTANY with Jean-Pierre Aumont, Susan Peters, Reginald Owen, Signe Hasso and Darryl Hickman.

HARRIGAN’S KID with Bobby Readick, Frank Craven and William Gargan. Seldom airs on TCM.

APRIL

SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS with Robert Young, Lana Turner, May Whitty, Walter Brennan and Eugene Pallette. Buster Keaton directed some scenes but was not credited. Young and Turner had previously costarred in RICH MAN, POOR GIRL.

AIR RAID WARDENS with Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Edgar Kennedy.  The first of two that Laurel & Hardy made at the studio.

CABIN IN THE SKY with Ethel Walters, Eddie Anderson, Lena Horne, Rex Ingram and Louis Armstrong. Vincente Minnelli’s feature directing debut.

PRESENTING LILY MARS with Judy Garland, Van Heflin, Fay Bainter, Spring Byington, Connie Gilchrist and Richard Carlson. Based on Booth Tarkington’s novel. Bainter and Byington previously costarred in THE WAR AGAINST MRS. HADLEY.

A STRANGER IN TOWN with Frank Morgan, Richard Carlson and Jean Rogers. Political comedy-drama was never copyrighted by the studio.

MAY

DU BARRY WAS A LADY with Lucille Ball, Red Skelton and Gene Kelly. Lucy adopted her trademark red hairstyle for this role and kept it for the rest of her career.

DR. GILLESPIE’S CRIMINAL CASE with Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Keye Luke, Donna Reed and Margaret O’Brien. The third Gillespie picture.

THREE HEARTS FOR JULIA with Ann Sothern, Melvyn Douglas, Lee Bowman and Reginald Owen.

JUNE

BATAAN with Robert Taylor, George Murphy, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Nolan, Robert Walker, Desi Arnaz and Lee Bowman. Noted for presenting a racially integrated fighting force.

HITLER’S MADMAN with Patricia Morison, John Carradine and Alan Curtis. Director Douglas Sirk’s first Hollywood film. Made at poverty row studio PRC but bought by Mayer and released by the studio after a few reshoots were done.

PILOT NO. 5 with Franchot Tone, Marsha Hunt, Van Johnson and Gene Kelly. Tone’s last film at MGM.

JULY

YOUNG IDEAS with Susan Peters, Herbert Marshall, Mary Astor and Richard Carlson.

THE MAN FROM DOWN UNDER with Charles Laughton, Binnie Barnes, Richard Carlson and Donna Reed. Originally intended for Wallace Beery.

ABOVE SUSPICION with Joan Crawford, Fred MacMurray, Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone and Reginald Owen. Crawford would not make another MGM film until 1953; she moved over to Warners. Veidt’s last film; he died shortly after production finished. MacMurray was borrowed from Paramount.

SALUTE TO THE MARINES with Wallace Beery, Fay Bainter, Reginald Owen, Keye Luke, Marilyn Maxwell and William Lundigan. One of Beery’s few Technicolor films.

AUGUST

THOUSANDS CHEER with Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor and John Boles. Successful morale booster was filmed in Technicolor. Boles would only make one more picture after this, nine years later.

THE ADVENTURES OF TARTU with Robert Donat, Valerie Hobson and Glynis Johns. Made in England.

SEPTEMBER

I DOOD IT with Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell and Lena Horne. Powell’s last starring role at MGM. Powell and Skelton previously appeared in SHIP AHOY. The final dance number was lifted from Powell’s earlier 1936 film BORN TO DANCE.

OCTOBER

SWING SHIFT MAISIE with Ann Sothern, James Craig and Connie Gilchrist. Number seven in the series.

LASSIE COME HOME with Pal, Elizabeth Taylor, Roddy McDowall, May Whitty, Elsa Lanchester and Edmund Gwenn. The first of seven Lassie films at MGM. A huge hit.

BEST FOOT FORWARD with Lucille Ball, Virginia Weidler, Gloria DeHaven, June Allyson and Nancy Walker. Walker’s movie debut; and Allyson’s first at MGM. Weidler’s last film.

NOVEMBER

SWING FEVER with Kay Kyser, Marilyn Maxwell, William Gargan and Lena Horne.

THE CROSS OF LORRAINE with Jean-Pierre Aumont, Gene Kelly, Cedric Hardwick and Peter Lorre.

CRY HAVOC with Margaret Sullavan, Ann Sothern, Joan Blondell, Ella Raines, Fay Bainter, Marsha Hunt, Connie Gilchrist and Frances Gifford. MGM’s answer to Paramount’s SO PROUDLY WE HAIL, with a mostly female cast. Sullavan’s last film at MGM. She would only make one more picture, seven years later.

GIRL CRAZY with Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Rags Ragland, Nancy Walker, June Allyson and Guy Kibbee. Previously filmed by RKO in 1932.

DECEMBER

MADAME CURIE with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Robert Walker, Van Johnson and Margaret O’Brien. Garson and Pidgeon were both nominated for Oscars and so was the film for Best Picture. Originally intended for Irene Dunne.

LOST ANGEL with James Craig, Margaret O’Brien, Marsha Hunt and Keenan Wynn.

A GUY NAMED JOE with Irene Dunne, Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson and Esther Williams. Remade in 1989 as ALWAYS.

WHISTLING IN BROOKLYN with Red Skelton, Ann Rutherford and Rags Ragland. The third and final Whistling film. Rutherford had left MGM and moved over to Fox (which is why she was written out of the Andy Hardy series); but MGM borrowed her back for this film. She would not make another MGM film until 1972.

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6 hours ago, TopBilled said:

That's interesting. I had assumed the gaps meant they were busy working on upcoming releases, or doing continued publicity for films currently in release. Or if something did well with audiences and was held-over for another week.

I would imagine when TWO-FACED WOMAN was recalled (re-edited and then redistributed) it threw their schedule off during that period of time.

I am sure that was true too. Multiple reasons.

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I've only seen 4 of the 1943 releases: The Human ComedyCry HavocMadame Curie, and A Guy Named Joe.

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30 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I've only seen 4 of the 1943 releases: The Human ComedyCry HavocMadame Curie, and A Guy Named Joe.

Interesting, Larry. BATAAN is a great war film. SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS has some very good slapstick. ABOVE SUSPICION is a nail-biting thriller. And I would also recommend CABIN IN THE SKY.

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You're moving too quickly for me! Been away from the site for a while after spending about eight hours Christmas shopping today (yes, I'm a procrastinator), and I see you've posted both 1942 and 1943. I'll tackle just the first year in this post. Boy, 1942 is a a year from which I've seen very few MGM films: for sure, I can only definitely say I've seen Woman of the YearTortilla FlatMrs. MiniverA Yank at EatonFor Me and My Gal and Random Harvest, all of those except maybe the Mickey Rooney film more prestigious, Oscar-bait material that TCM probably shows more frequently, and Yank I probably saw on a Mickey Rooney night. Maybe some of the serial films I've seen, but I'm not including them since I'm not sure. Anyway, while I've seen roughly a quarter of MGM's output for '40 and '41, I can only say for sure that I've seen about 11 per cent of MGM's 1942 films! So maybe I should complain less when something from MGM pops up on TCM ...

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1943 I can only definitively say I've seen seven of the 35 MGM releases: Hitler's MadmanThousands CheerI Dood ItLassie Come HomeGirl Crazy (which I just saw for the first time ever when it aired last week), Madame Curie and A Guy Named Joe. That's 20 per cent, closer to what seems to be my norm than the deviant year of 1942. Somehow, I've yet to see the Mickey Rooney Oscar-nominated performance in The Human Comedy or Vicente Minelli's debut Cabin in the Sky, though I've certainly had the opportunity with both. One of these days ... 

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Seen from 1942: Woman of the Year, The Vanishing Virginian, We Were Dancing, Tortilla Flat, Mrs Miniver, Journey for Margaret, Andy Hardy's Double Life, the massively underrated Keeper of the Flame, and Random Harvest, a truly luminous film. Also part of Crossroads.

From 1943, The Human Comedy, Slightly Dangerous, Presenting Lily Mars, Du Berry Was a Lady, Lassie Come Home, Girl Crazy, Whistling in Brooklyn, A Guy Named Joe, and Madame Curie were ones I saw.

Its really something though. I've seen a little less than 3,000 films in my life, but more than 400 hail from MGM alone. No wonder why its my favorite studio. And I have the coffee-table books to show for it! :)

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8 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

Seen from 1942: Woman of the Year, The Vanishing Virginian, We Were Dancing, Tortilla Flat, Mrs Miniver, Journey for Margaret, Andy Hardy's Double Life, the massively underrated Keeper of the Flame, and Random Harvest, a truly luminous film. Also part of Crossroads.

From 1943, The Human Comedy, Slightly Dangerous, Presenting Lily Mars, Du Berry Was a Lady, Lassie Come Home, Girl Crazy, Whistling in Brooklyn, A Guy Named Joe, and Madame Curie were ones I saw.

Its really something though. I've seen a little less than 3,000 films in my life, but more than 400 hail from MGM alone. No wonder why its my favorite studio. And I have the coffee-table books to show for it! :)

Yeah, I'm starting to think I need some of these books for my coffee table!

I'll post the 1944 group soon, when I've finished writing it.

MGM had less releases in '44, the least amount of any year in this decade (as the country was in the throes of war).

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1944

The studio released 28 feature films. Six of them were in Technicolor.

The greatest number of releases occurred in December (4). No new feature films were released in April.

Popular series—Maisie, Andy Hardy and Dr. Gillespie.

This was the year Esther Williams had her first lead role. Gracie Allen appeared in her last film. And Katharine Hepburn played a Chinese woman.

These MGM contract players were in four or more films in 1944: Van Johnson (4); John Hodiak (4).

JANUARY

BROADWAY RHYTHM with George Murphy, Ginny Simms, Charles Winninger and Nancy Walker. A follow-up to the earlier Broadway Melody musicals. Originally intended for Gene Kelly and Eleanor Powell. Murphy and Winninger previously costarred in LITTLE NELLIE KELLY.

FEBRUARY

SONG OF RUSSIA with Robert Taylor, Susan Peters, John Hodiak and Darryl Hickman. Taylor’s last film before military service; his next assignment at Metro wouldn’t be for another two years. Picture was cited as being pro-Soviet.

MARCH

SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE with Robert Walker, Donna Reed and Keenan Wynn. Based on Marion Hargrove’s autobiographical writings. A sequel was made the following year.

THE HEAVENLY BODY with William Powell, Hedy Lamarr, James Craig, Fay Bainter, Connie Gilchrist and Spring Byington. The leads had costarred previously in CROSSROADS. Craig was voted a Star of Tomorrow by exhibitors, largely because of his work in this film. Mayer rewarded him with a seven-year contract and Craig ended up staying eleven years at the studio, making $2500 per week at the end. Not bad for someone who was supposed to just temporarily replace Clark Gable.

RATIONING with Wallace Beery, Marjorie Main, Gloria Dickson and Connie Gilchrist. The least known (seldom broadcast) Beery-Main pairing. Dickson died in a house fire a short time later at the age of 27; this was her last film.

APRIL

There were no new features released.

MAY

GASLIGHT with Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, May Whitty and Angela Lansbury. Remake of 1940 British film starring Diana Wynyard and Anton Walbrook. Best picture nominee; Bergman awarded her first Oscar as Best Actress. It was Lansbury’s movie debut and she earned a nomination as Best Supporting Actress.

ANDY HARDY’S BLONDE TROUBLE with Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Herbert Marshall and Keye Luke. At 107 minutes, it’s one of the longer Hardy pictures. Number 14 in the series. Filmed in 1943 before Rooney went into the army.

THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER with Irene Dunne, Alan Marshal, Roddy McDowall, Frank Morgan, Van Johnson and May Whitty. One of the studio’s biggest hits this year. Dunne and Johnson previously costarred in A GUY NAMED JOE.

3 MEN IN WHITE with Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Marilyn Maxwell, Keye Luke and Ava Gardner. A significant supporting role for Gardner. The first Kildare/Gillespie picture that did not include the lead character’s name in the title.

JUNE

MEET THE PEOPLE with Dick Powell, Lucille Ball, Bert Lahr, Rags Ragland and June Allyson. Failed at the box office, causing Lucy to be used in supporting roles for her next few pictures. Powell and Allyson would marry and make two other Metro pictures together.

TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR with June Allyson, Van Johnson, Gloria DeHaven, Tom Drake and Grace Allen. A big hit that turned Allyson into a star and led to many more pairings with Johnson. Allen has a specialty number and this was her last film. Drake’s first picture at the studio.

BATHING BEAUTY with Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Basil Rathbone and Ethel Smith. Williams’ first lead and a big hit. She and Skelton did more pictures together. Rathbone was not known for appearing in musicals.

JULY

DRAGON SEED with Katharine Hepburn, Walter Huston, Aline MacMahon, Turhan Bey and Hurd Hatfield. Based on the book by Pearl S. Buck. MacMahon earned a nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Bey was borrowed from Universal in exchange for Universal borrowing Gene Kelly to do a Deanna Durbin picture.

THE SEVENTH CROSS with Spencer Tracy, Signe Hasso, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Agnes Moorehead and Ray Collins. Cronyn and Tandy did another MGM picture a short time later. Moorehead and Collins previously appeared in CITIZEN KANE at RKO.

THE CANTERVILLE GHOST with Charles Laughton, Robert Young, Margaret O’Brien, Rags Ragland and Reginald Owen. Young and O’Brien previously costarred in JOURNEY FOR MARGARET.

AUGUST

KISMET with Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Edward Arnold and James Craig. Remade as a musical in the 50s with Howard Keel.

MARRIAGE IS A PRIVATE AFFAIR with Lana Turner, John Hodiak, James Craig, Tom Drake and Keenan Wynn.

SEPTEMBER

BARBARY COAST GENT with Wallace Beery, Binnie Barnes and John Carradine. More Beery shtick.

MAISIE GOES TO RENO with Ann Sothern, John Hodiak, Tom Drake and Ava Gardner. Number eight in the series.

OCTOBER

AN AMERICAN ROMANCE with Brian Donlevy, Ann Richards and Walter Abel. An expensive flop for the studio. Mayer had to re-edit this epic King Vidor drama when theater owners complained about its two-and-a-half hour running time. Thirty minutes of footage was cut. Due to this experience Vidor vowed never to work for the studio again, and he didn’t!

MRS. PARKINGTON with Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Agnes Moorehead, Tom Drake, Peter Lawford and Edward Arnold. A big hit. Moorehead was nominated as Best Supporting Actress.

NOVEMBER

LOST IN A HAREM with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and Marlyn Maxwell. The second of three Abbott and Costello pictures at MGM.

THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO with Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Robert Mitchum and Phyllis Thaxter. The second of four Tracy-Johnson collaborations. Thaxter’s movie debut; her husband Jim Aubrey would later become the studio’s boss.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS with Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Tom Drake, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer, Marjorie Main, June Lockhart and Leon Ames. One of Vincente Minnelli’s most highly regarded films; he and Garland married a short time later. Bremer’s first feature at Metro. Astor would play O’Brien’s mother again in the remake of LITTLE WOMEN.

DECEMBER

BLONDE FEVER with Philip Dorn, Mary Astor, Gloria Grahame and Marshal Thompson. Grahame’s movie debut and Thompson’s first MGM assignment. It was actor Richard Whorf's first shot at directing; he'd go on to direct other films for the studio.

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE with Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Mary Boland and Connie Gilchrist. The second of two films that Laurel & Hardy did for the studio. Buster Keaton made uncredited contributions as a gagman.

NATIONAL VELVET with Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Anne Revere, Donald Crisp, Angela Lansbury and Jackie Jenkins. The film that made Elizabeth Taylor a household name. The studio made a sequel in the 1970s with Tatum O’Neal called INTERNATIONAL VELVET.

MUSIC FOR MILLIONS with June Allyson, Margaret O’Brien, Jose Iturbi, Marsha Hunt, Jimmy Durante and Marie Wilson. Director Henry Koster’s first film at MGM with producer Joe Pasternak (the duo previously made Deanna Durbin musicals at Universal). Allyson and O’Brien played sisters again in the remake of LITTLE WOMEN.

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I've done slightly better with the '44 releases - I've seen 7 of them:

  • Gaslight
  • Dragon Seed
  • The Seventh Cross
  • Mrs. Parkington
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • National Velvet

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3 hours ago, CinemaInternational said:

Seen from the 1944 lineup: Gaslight, White Cliffs of Dover, Mrs. Parkington, Meet Me in St. Louis, Music for Millions, and National Velvet

Yes, those are some of the more iconic titles from this batch.

RATIONING is perhaps the most unique film Metro made in 1944. Very much a product of its time, it would probably require explanation to today's younger generation about why people had to ration and what it meant in communities. So despite the usual Beery-Main hijinks, there's a fair amount of historical value with this picture.

TWO GIRLS AND A SAILOR is also indicative of the times. And it's a lot of fun. It's easy to see why June Allyson and Van Johnson would be paired up again.

BROADWAY RHYTHM is overlong. Sumptuously produced, some of the numbers are fun, but the plot connecting the musical sequences is not very original. It would have been better with Kelly and Powell livening it up.

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16 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

I've only seen 4 of the 1943 releases: The Human ComedyCry HavocMadame Curie, and A Guy Named Joe.

Light year for me also but in addition to the 4 you name I also have seen Girl Crazy (on TCM just this week) and Above Suspicion (which has a great cast but is only a so-so film lacking the necessary tension for such a project).   

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I know it might seem we're moving fast but I had some free time this afternoon. So I went ahead and wrote about 1945. This was a very interesting year, because Germany surrendered in May, but the war did not technically end until September. 

In terms of Hollywood feature film production, most studios had significantly less output. Probably a variety of reasons for this. Materials needed for production were harder to come by. A lot of the leading men were still off at war. And movie attendance was not what it had been, since so many were overseas fighting. Plus some pictures that did not directly help the war effort had their releases delayed. As you can see the total output climbs back up in 1946.

The forties in pictures*

1940..489 feature films were released in the United States.

1941..508 feature films were released

1942..503 feature films

1943..416 feature films

1944..403 feature films

1945..372 feature films

1946..392 feature films

1947..379 feature films

1948..401 feature films

1949..392 feature films

*Does not include foreign films released in the U.S. during these years.

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 Screen shot 2017-12-18 at 3.03.35 PM.png

1945

The studio released 30 feature films. Five of them were in Technicolor.

The greatest number of releases occurred in May (5). No new feature films were released in February.

Popular series— Dr. Gillespie and Lassie.

This was the year Myrna Loy returned to screens after a lengthy absence. Lucille Bremer experienced a meteoric rise and fall. Lucille Ball played a second banana. And Frank Sinatra made his first MGM movie.

These MGM contract players were in four or more films in 1945: Leon Ames (7); James Craig (4); Robert Walker (4); Reginald Owen (4); Keenan Wynn (4).

JANUARY

THIS MAN’S NAVY with Wallace Beery, Tom Drake and James Gleason. Beery had served in the Navy and was eager to make this military-themed picture.

MAIN STREET AFTER DARK with Edward Arnold, Audrey Totter and Dan Duryea. Totter’s movie debut. This B film never airs on TCM.

THE THIN MAN GOES HOME with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Gloria DeHaven, Helen Vinson and Leon Ames. More than three years had passed since the previous Thin Man picture. Loy hadn’t made any other films during that time; she spent the war years helping with the Red Cross. Vinson’s last film.

FEBRUARY

There were no new features released.

MARCH

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY with Hurd Hatfield, George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed and Peter Lawford. Based on Oscar Wilde’s celebrated 1890 novel. Lansbury made several more pictures with Sanders.

KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY with Lana Turner, Laraine Day, Susan Peters, June Lockhart and Agnes Moorehead. Turner and Day did not get along on camera or behind the scenes. This was Day’s last MGM film; she left the company to rejoin her former studio RKO. It was also Peters’ last film; she was paralyzed in a shooting accident.

WITHOUT LOVE with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball and Keenan Wynn. The third Tracy-Hepburn collaboration. Lucy’s first film at Metro as a supporting player; she and Wynn would also be second bananas in an Esther Williams picture.

BETWEEN TWO WOMEN with Lionel Barrymore, Van Johnson, Keye Luke, Marilyn Maxwell and Gloria DeHaven. Van Johnson’s last outing in the Dr. Gillespie series. It was the highest grossing of all the Kildare/Gillespie movies because of Johnson’s rising popularity with moviegoers.

APRIL

SON OF LASSIE with Pal, Peter Lawford, Donald Crisp and June Lockhart. The first Lassie sequel. June Lockhart replaced Elsa Lanchester who had appeared in the previous picture. In the 50s, Lockhart would have a role on the long-running Lassie TV series.

MAY

THE VALLEY OF DECISION with Greer Garson, Gregory Peck, Donald Crisp, Lionel Barrymore, Marsha Hunt, Reginald Owen, Jessica Tandy and Marshal Thompson. Made back four times its cost, one of the studio’s most successful films of the year.

GENTLE ANNIE with James Craig, Donna Reed and Marjorie Main. Film was a “do over.” It had started with Robert Taylor as the lead before his military service. But the director took ill and died, so MGM shelved the project. By the time the studio tried again, Taylor was off in the war, so his part was given to James Craig who played a supporting role in the first production.

THRILL OF A ROMANCE with Esther Williams, Van Johnson, Frances Gifford, Spring Byington and Lauritz Melchior. A huge hit. Williams and Johnson made three more Technicolor musicals together. Future star Jeff Chandler has a small role as a singer; later he and Williams would headline Universal’s RAW WIND IN EDEN.

THE CLOCK with Judy Garland, Robert Walker, James Gleason and Keenan Wynn. Garland again directed by Minnelli. A rare non-musical film for her at the studio.

TWICE BLESSED with Lee Wilde, Lyn Wilde, Preston Foster, Gail Patrick and Marshal Thompson. Same plot was used for Disney’s THE PARENT TRAP.

JUNE

DANGEROUS PARTNERS with James Craig, Signe Hasso, Edmund Gwenn and Audrey Totter. Never airs on TCM.

JULY

BEWITCHED with Phyllis Thaxter, Edmund Gwenn and Addison Richards. Shocking story of a woman (Thaxter) that commits murder because she is suffering from a split personality disorder. Seldom airs on TCM.

ANCHORS AWEIGH with Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Frank Sinatra, Jose Iturbi, Dean Stockwell and Rags Ragland. Popular Technicolor musical was Best Picture nominee; Kelly also nominated as Best Actor. Kelly and Sinatra made two more musicals at the studio. Sinatra had been loaned from RKO but would soon sign with MGM.

AUGUST

ZIEGFELD FOLLIES with Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, William Powell, Fanny Brice and various MGM contract players. Another follow-up to THE GREAT ZIEGFELD with Powell reprising his earlier role as the title character. Brice played herself in both productions, and this was her last film.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO IN HOLLYWOOD with Bud Abbott, Lou Costello and Frances Rafferty. Several studio contract players have cameos as themselves: Lucille Ball, Preston Foster, Rags Ragland and Dean Stockwell. This was the third of three Abbott and Costello movies at MGM. They were also simultaneously making THE NAUGHTY NINETIES at their home studio Universal (released before this film).

THE HIDDEN EYE with Edward Arnold, Frances Rafferty and Ray Collins. Arnold reprises his blind detective character from 1942’s EYES IN THE NIGHT. The last film MGM released during World War II.

SEPTEMBER

OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES with Edward G. Robinson, Agnes Moorehead, James Craig, Frances Gifford, Margaret O’Brien and Jackie Jenkins. Written by Dalton Trumbo.

HER HIGHNESS AND THE BELLBOY with Hedy Lamarr, Robert Walker, June Allyson, Agnes Moorehead and Rags Ragland.  Walker and Allyson would team up again later this year.

OCTOBER

WEEK-END AT THE WALDORF with Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Edward Arnold, Keenan Wynn, Van Johnson, Phyllis Thaxter and Leon Ames. Hit remake of GRAND HOTEL.

NOVEMBER

VACATION FROM MARRIAGE with Robert Donat, Deborah Kerr, Glynis Johns and Ann Todd. Made in England. Donat’s last MGM film and Kerr’s first with the studio. Mayer was a big fan of hers and bought half her contract from British producers.

SHE WENT TO THE RACES with James Craig, Frances Gifford, Ava Gardner, Edmund Gwenn and Reginald Owen. Buster Keaton has an uncredited role.

YOLANDA AND THE THIEF with Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan and Leon Ames. Though Astaire and Bremer had done well dancing in a segment of ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, audiences did not embrace a full movie with them as the leads. It was one of the few flops that director Vincente Minnelli and producer Arthur Freed had during this period. Astaire (temporarily) retired from pictures and MGM put Bremer in a Dr. Gillespie movie then finished her contract on loan out to Eagle-Lion. Bremer’s meteoric rise and fall at the studio was unlike anyone else’s. After her contract ended, she left acting and married the son of a former Mexican president.

WHAT NEXT, CORPORAL HARGROVE? with Robert Walker, Keenan Wynn and Jean Porter. Hit follow-up to SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE. Production on this WWII comedy started in July before the war had ended, and it finished shooting in September when the war was over.

DECEMBER

THEY WERE EXPENDABLE with Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Ward Bond, Marshal Thompson and Leon Ames. Montgomery took over on some scenes when director John Ford broke his leg during production. Wayne and Reed, who bonded because they were both native Iowans, paired up again for a later film at Warners.

THE SAILOR TAKES A WIFE with Robert Walker, June Allyson, Hume Cronyn, Audrey Totter and Reginald Owen.

ADVENTURE with Greer Garson, Clark Gable, Joan Blondell and Thomas Mitchell. Gable’s first post-war film. The studio launched a huge campaign publicizing his return to the movies.

Plus:

THE GREAT MORGAN with Frank Morgan, Eleanor Powell and Virginia O’Brien. Not released in the United States but shown to American military personnel overseas in 1945. Basically a collage of MGM shorts and outtakes including a discarded musical number performed by Eleanor Powell in one of her movies. Segments are glued together by a plot that involves actor Frank Morgan who is making his own film in the MGM editing room. There are cameos from some of MGM's top behind-the-scenes people. It was later released on home video and airs occasionally on TCM.

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From 1945 I've seen 8 :

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Without Love
  • The Valley of Decision
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • Abbott & Costello in Hollywood
  • Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
  • They Were Expendable
  • Adventure

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6 hours ago, TopBilled said:

In terms of Hollywood feature film production, most studios had significantly less output. Probably a variety of reasons for this. Materials needed for production were harder to come by. A lot of the leading men were still off at war. And movie attendance was not what it had been, since so many were overseas fighting. Plus some pictures that did not directly help the war effort had their releases delayed.

Well... actually business was booming. Also a reduction in production meant that each film made more money over all than in earlier periods when more features were glutting the screens.

Box Office revenue in millions $ per Joel W. Finler's The Hollywood Story.

1940: 735 (MGM was number 1 that year with a 22% share of the market. Gone With The Wind obviously helped.)

1941: 809 (MGM had the biggest profits at $11 million. Paramount was #2 at $9 million. Warner Bros. had the highest grossing individual title, Sergeant York. MGM's Mickey Rooney was at the top of the Quigley Polls.)

1942: 1022 (Mrs. Miniver grossed $5 million and was also the top grossing feature of the calendar year.)

1943: 1275 (Warner's This Is The Army grossed $8.5 million. Paramount starts to pass MGM in over all profits thanks to For Whom The Bells Toll with Gary Cooper. MGM's Random Harvest was a crossover '42-43 hit.)

1944: 1341 (Paramount's Going My Way grosses $6.5 million. MGM's biggest this year was A Guy Named Joe, released late '43.)

1945: 1450 (Meet Me In St. Louis grossed $5.2 million that year as the top individual title for the calendar year, although a late '44 release. Anchors Aweigh was more expensive to produce and merely broke even at $4.5 million.)

1946: 1692 (MGM's profit margin was $18 million, but the studio was less successful overall than three rivals: Paramount at $39 million, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. tied at $22 million. However MGM spent more money than the other studios with a larger operating revenue. #1 film in the country for 1946 is the late '45 release for RKO The Bells Of St. Mary's. MGM's top money maker is The Green Years at $4.6 million.)

1947: 1594 (The Yearling, a late '46 release, and Green Dolphin Street each grossed over $5 million this year. This was roughly half the earnings of Goldwyn-RKO The Best Years Of Our Lives, another crossover release that made most of its money this year, and Selznick's Duel In The Sun.)

1948: 1506 (The Pirate was an expensive flop, although another with Judy Garland, Easter Parade, was the studio's top earner. Unfortunately MGM's overall profit margin had shrunk to $5.5 million from its 1946 high. Fittingly this was the year Dore Shary joined Louis B. Mayer running things since the New York offices were demanding a "new Irving Thalberg")

1949: 1451 (MGM/Loew's was still the biggest in overall revenue with a 22% share of the U.S. market, but 20th Century Fox was lining up with a very close 21% share. Columbia's Jolson Sings Again was arguably the top earner for the calendar year since Paramount's Samson And Delilah recorded most of its income in 1950 along with MGM's Battleground.)

The industry revenue would drop back down to 1941 levels by 1958 even though ticket prices went up.

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10 hours ago, Jlewis said:

Well... actually business was booming. Also a reduction in production meant that each film made more money over all than in earlier periods when more features were glutting the screens.

Box Office revenue in millions $ per Joel W. Finler's The Hollywood Story.

1940: 735 (MGM was number 1 that year with a 22% share of the market. Gone With The Wind obviously helped.)

1941: 809 (MGM had the biggest profits at $11 million. Paramount was #2 at $9 million. Warner Bros. had the highest grossing individual title, Sergeant York. MGM's Mickey Rooney was at the top of the Quigley Polls.)

1942: 1022 (Mrs. Miniver grossed $5 million and was also the top grossing feature of the calendar year.)

1943: 1275 (Warner's This Is The Army grossed $8.5 million. Paramount starts to pass MGM in over all profits thanks to For Whom The Bells Toll with Gary Cooper. MGM's Random Harvest was a crossover '42-43 hit.)

1944: 1341 (Paramount's Going My Way grosses $6.5 million. MGM's biggest this year was A Guy Named Joe, released late '43.)

1945: 1450 (Meet Me In St. Louis grossed $5.2 million that year as the top individual title for the calendar year, although a late '44 release. Anchors Aweigh was more expensive to produce and merely broke even at $4.5 million.)

1946: 1692 (MGM's profit margin was $18 million, but the studio was less successful overall than three rivals: Paramount at $39 million, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. tied at $22 million. However MGM spent more money than the other studios with a larger operating revenue. #1 film in the country for 1946 is the late '45 release for RKO The Bells Of St. Mary's. MGM's top money maker is The Green Years at $4.6 million.)

1947: 1594 (The Yearling, a late '46 release, and Green Dolphin Street each grossed over $5 million this year. This was roughly half the earnings of Goldwyn-RKO The Best Years Of Our Lives, another crossover release that made most of its money this year, and Selznick's Duel In The Sun.)

1948: 1506 (The Pirate was an expensive flop, although another with Judy Garland, Easter Parade, was the studio's top earner. Unfortunately MGM's overall profit margin had shrunk to $5.5 million from its 1946 high. Fittingly this was the year Dore Shary joined Louis B. Mayer running things since the New York offices were demanding a "new Irving Thalberg")

1949: 1451 (MGM/Loew's was still the biggest in overall revenue with a 22% share of the U.S. market, but 20th Century Fox was lining up with a very close 21% share. Columbia's Jolson Sings Again was arguably the top earner for the calendar year since Paramount's Samson And Delilah recorded most of its income in 1950 along with MGM's Battleground.)

The industry revenue would drop back down to 1941 levels by 1958 even though ticket prices went up.

Most interesting. Thanks for sharing this info. I'd say the top moneymakers for the studio in the 40s were probably:

1. Clark Gable

2. Mickey Rooney

3. Lana Turner

4. Wallace Beery

5. Judy Garland

6. Van Johnson

7. Esther Williams

8. Robert Taylor

9. Greer Garson

10. Red Skelton

Gable had a lengthy absence for military service. So did Taylor and Rooney. Rooney had a few low-performers later in the decade. Johnson didn't hit his stride until 1944. Same with Williams. Garson was a consistently strong performer but awards didn't always translate into box office success. She had a big flop with DESIRE ME. 

Beery appeared in "A" films each year of the decade-- sixteen of them. Almost all of them made a $1 million or more (the last one was just under a million). A DATE WITH JUDY earned over $4.5 million. Even bad reviews and rehashed stories didn't keep fans away. He was so important to the studio that BAD BASCOMB, another hugely profitable picture, was filmed on location in Wyoming because his ranch was there. I guess it was the only way they could get him to sign on to do more movies!

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