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1944 - thoughts


dagoldenage
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I spent about a year, watching films from 1944 and thought it was a really strong year, with about eight movies that I could easily watch over and over.

My top 10:

 

1. Seventh Cross, The

2. Arsenic and Old Lace

3. Since You Went Away

4. Gaslight

5. Laura

6. Double Indemnity

7. Hail the Conquering Hero

8. Going My Way

9. Murder, My Sweet

10. Purple Heart, The

 

Best of the Rest: Adventures of Mark Twain, The; To Have and Have Not; Phantom Lady; Tomorrow the World.

 

Best Actor: Spencer Tracy (Seventh Cross, The)

Best Actress: Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight)

Supporting Actor: Hume Cronyn (Seventh Cross, The)

Supporting Actress: Claire Trevor (Murder, My Sweet)

 

Should have been nominated (actor): Tracy and Fredric March (The Adventures of Mark Twain); not Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way) and Alexander Knox (Wilson).

 

Titles watched: 91

 

Note: I did not include Keys of the Kingdom and National Velvet because of their eligibility for 1945 Oscars.

Note: kingrat and Andym voted 1944 in a long-ago previous thread of mine; topbilled voted for top 10 but not individual awards; Speedracer listed 9 movies but not in order.

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TOP TEN OF 1944  (65 films seen)

 

1)  Double Indemnity

2)  Laura

3)  The Uninvited

4)  To Have and Have Not

5)  Gaslight

6)  Ministry of Fear

7)  Murder, My Sweet

8)  Lifeboat

9)  Arsenic and Old Lace

10)  The Woman in the Window

 

Runner-ups:  Henry V, Since You Went Away, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Hail the Conquering Hero, and The Seventh Cross

 

Best Actor:  Claude Rains  Mr. Skeffington

Best Actress:  Ingrid Bergman  Gaslight

Best Supporting Actor:  Clifton Webb  Laura

Best Supporting Actress:  Angela Lansbury  Gaslight

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I spent about a year, watching films from 1944 and thought it was a really strong year, with about eight movies that I could easily watch over and over.

My top 10:

 

1. Seventh Cross, The

2. Arsenic and Old Lace

3. Since You Went Away

4. Gaslight

5. Laura

6. Double Indemnity

7. Hail the Conquering Hero

8. Going My Way

9. Murder, My Sweet

10. Purple Heart, The

 

Best of the Rest: Adventures of Mark Twain, The; To Have and Have Not; Phantom Lady; Tomorrow the World.

 

Best Actor: Spencer Tracy (Seventh Cross, The)

Best Actress: Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight)

Supporting Actor: Hume Cronyn (Seventh Cross, The)

Supporting Actress: Claire Trevor (Murder, My Sweet)

 

Should have been nominated (actor): Tracy and Fredric March (The Adventures of Mark Twain); not Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way) and Alexander Knox (Wilson).

 

Titles watched: 91

 

Note: I did not include Keys of the Kingdom and National Velvet because of their eligibility for 1945 Oscars.

Note: kingrat and Andym voted 1944 in a long-ago previous thread of mine; topbilled voted for top 10 but not individual awards; Speedracer listed 9 movies but not in order.

 

I think Wilson is one of the best biopics of all time, and Alexander Knox's performance should have won the Oscar. Bing Crosby's win was one of the worst choices of all time.

 

I don't like too many 1944 films. I don't like Arsenic and Old Lace much, despite my love for all the actors and my love for black comedy. I'm not a big noir fan -- I think Double Indemnity is overrated. I do like The Adventures of Mark Twain, Gaslight, Between Two Worlds, Curse of the Cat People, House of Frankenstein, The Lady and the Monster, The Mask of Dimitrios, The Mummy's Curse, The Mummy's Ghost, The Return of the Vampire, Since You Went Away, Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman, To Have and Have Not, Fanny by Gaslight, Henry V, and a few others. 

 

And I like Mrs. Parkington and Mr. Skeffington. And Laura's ok.

 

And the best musical number of 1944 is Ann Codee singing "Hey You," at the opening of The Mummy's Curse.

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If Henry V belongs here, as imdb says it does, then 1944 becomes an even stronger year.

 

Top 10:

 

Meet Me in St. Louis

Henry V

Double Indemnity

Laura

The Mask of Dimitrios

Murder My Sweet

Between Two Worlds

Mrs. Parkington

The Uninvited

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

 

Alternates: None But the Lonely Heart, Frenchman's Creek, Lifeboat, Phantom Lady, The Seventh Cross, The Very Thought of You, Gaslight, To Have and Have Not, Since You Went Away, A Canterbury Tale

 

Best Actor: Laurence Olivier, Henry V

Best Actress: Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity

Best Supporting Actor: Clifton Webb, Laura

Best Supporting Actress: Agnes Moorehead, Mrs. Parkington, although on another day it might be Faye Emerson for The Mask of Dimitrios or Cornelia Otis Skinner for The Uninvited

 

As I've said too many times, Going My Way and Braveheart are the two Oscar-winning films I actively dislike.

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I always think of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE as a 1941 film.  That's when it was finished and what the original copyright on the film was.  When they delayed the release, they had to replace the copyright card in the negative (you can see the change in materials).  Same with ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN..

 

1944 is the year of one of my most UNfavorite films - NOTHING BUT TROUBLE.  A ghastly mis-step by the great Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

 

1944 also saw Lou Costello's return to films after the death of his son and his bout with rheumatic fever.  IN SOCIETY was also A&C's first association with longtime director Jean Yarbrough.

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I had to go back and look at my top ten list of films for 1944.

 

A quick explanation here...I no longer say 'best actor' or 'best actress' because sometimes a person in a secondary role is actually the best performer during a given year. Also, I don't say 'supporting actor' or 'supporting actress' because I feel the leads should be supporting the whole film and the rest of the cast. Therefore, I now say 'lead' and 'secondary.'

 

For 1944, I shall single out for praise this select group of performers:

 

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Lead Actor: Charles Laughton for THE SUSPECT. A true gem of a performance. Captures the quandary of a henpecked husband striking back and killing his tormentor. The situation is horrible but pitiable.

 

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Lead Actress: Irene Dunne for THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER. Why wasn't she ever given an Oscar? She's simply grand in this film.

 

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Secondary Actor: Edward G. Robinson for DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Another one that should've had a competitive Oscar. Without him, this far-fetched murder yarn would not have one shred of sanity or realness.

 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-12-30%2Bat%2B3.31.1

Secondary Actress: Charlotte Greenwood for UP IN MABEL'S ROOM. A versatile actress should be given her due. She is a riot in this film. Vastly entertaining. 

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Rosalind Ivan, as Laughton's wife in THE SUSPECT, is a delicious shrew.  If ever a soul mate was deserving of dispatching to her reward!!! Another film co-starring the wonderful and unjustly forgotten Ella Raines.

 

Ms. Ivan has a nice bit in Three Strangers (1946) as well.

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Since this thread came up, I've gone back and looked over my lists from 1945 up to 1970. 

 

Probably 10% (maybe only 5%) of the time do I agree with the Academy's choices. I think a lot of Oscar winners were chosen because they were in trendy films, or they were given consolation prizes for films where they should have won the previous year. 

 

Also, while I believe some performers are certainly worthy of nominations because they worked hard, they seem to lack what I call technical virtuosity and as such, I have to disqualify them from being one of my selections. There are some actors who lack technical skill early in their film career but then they evolve into highly proficient craftsmen and craftswomen. That's probably another discussion.

 

And I have to add that when I look over these lists, of course I am benefitting from hindsight and history. In some cases I cannot single Marlon Brando out for praise in his earlier film roles because I can see that ten years later or fifteen years later, he is even better. So in my mind, his younger self is competing with his older self. Does that make sense? I try to look at all the given performances of the year for lead and secondary roles then I try to form the best judgment about it. 

 

Another thing I ask is this-- did the performer have a "tricky" role? Were there concepts the script required them to explore, possibly outside their own individual comfort zones, and were they convincing as they attempted to explore the idiosyncrasies of a more challenging character (or characters, plural, if they had a dual role).

 

Some years it's very hard to find good performances from the women. This is because they may be used ornamentally in most plots and the year's films were driven by performances from the men. I think 1959 is the worst year when it comes to roles for women in Hollywood (during the studio era). Anyone else notice that?

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I thought THE SUSPECT came out in 1945....(could be wrong)

 

the first word that comes to my mind when I hear "1944 in film" is darkness.

 

1943, one of my favorite years for films, was dark- but not relentlessly so. The darkness in 1944 seems relentless.

 

THE SUSPECT has a 1944 copyright, since it premiered in late December. It "went wide" in January '45.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Suspect_(1944_film)

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TB, I would see 1959 as a fine year for actresses, such as almost the entire cast of The Nun's Story, Lee Remick in both Anatomy of a Murder and These Thousand Hills, Deborah Kerr and several supporting players in The Journey, Marilyn Monroe's best work in Some Like It Hot, Eva Marie Saint and Jessie Royce Landis in North by Northwest, Maria Schell in The Hanging Tree, Maureen O'Hara in Our Man in Havana, Joan Copeland in Middle of the Night, and Sybil Thorndike in Shake Hands with the Devil, to name some favorites.

 

1966, perhaps the last year of the studio era, has slim pickings for actresses. 1944 was a very good year, with many women in central or at least major roles.

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1944 was a very good year, with many women in central or at least major roles.

 

In central roles, yes, and yet, if we're talking real Oscar-caliber in terms of writing and performance, I can really only think of two performances that year- although both are win worthy- Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY and BERGMAN in GASLIGHT....Outside of that every other lead performance i've seen by actresses that year, while fine, just weren't the caliber found in other years of the forties.

 

ETA- there's a lot, especially foreign performances, i haven't seen from 1944.

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Swithin:

 

Interested in why you don't care for Arsenic and Old Lace, especially if you like dark humor and the cast.

 

I understand many Grant fans don't like his performance, and he didn't himself. But I think the over-the-top sanity is a good balance for the under-the-top insanity.

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TB, I would see 1959 as a fine year for actresses, such as almost the entire cast of The Nun's Story, Lee Remick in both Anatomy of a Murder and These Thousand Hills, Deborah Kerr and several supporting players in The Journey, Marilyn Monroe's best work in Some Like It Hot, Eva Marie Saint and Jessie Royce Landis in North by Northwest, Maria Schell in The Hanging Tree, Maureen O'Hara in Our Man in Havana, Joan Copeland in Middle of the Night, and Sybil Thorndike in Shake Hands with the Devil, to name some favorites.

 

Thanks kingrat for the comment. I considered all of those. I feel like THE JOURNEY is a bit dull and Kerr can't quite overcome the problems with the script. I looked at Audrey's work in THE NUN'S STORY, but ultimately I think she's just placing her personality on screen more than she's actually fleshing out a character (and this is the problem I have with much of her screen work). Remick seems overshadowed by the men in ANATOMY OF A MURDER and though she plays a central character she almost comes out as a secondary presence next to Stewart and Gazzara. I think it's a case of a woman's story being handed over to the men which throws it all off-balance. Monroe is fine in SOME LIKE IT HOT but she is too upstaged by the two boys for me to feel like she's a lead. The women in NORTH BY NORTHWEST do a fine job but as is the case in most Hitchcock films, they are at the mercy of direction and editing meaning they cannot really achieve any type of technical virtuosity on their own. I haven't seen SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL. It's been awhile since I've seen MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT and I remember Glenda Farrell as being particularly effective but it's all so geared towards Novak that the rest of the female roles suffer by comparison. I don't think OUR MAN IN HAVANA is the best showcase for Maureen O'Hara's talents; she seems largely wasted in it. I like Maria Schell in THE HANGING TREE but it's not an earth-shattering performance. 

 

I think there's a reason they gave the award to Simone Signoret that year-- because they knew the roles for women in Hollywood films were just not too substantial. But after going through different lists for films from 1959 and recalling performances I have seen for that year, I have decided there is a comedy performance by a British actress in a lesser known film that demonstrates true mastery and I will mention it later when we cover 1959. 

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Top Billed:

 

I can't compare an early-career performance from someone to a later-career performance in regards to competition (such as Academy Award). The competition is everyone eligible in that category for that year. Some years there are several qualified and some probably no one deserves it, but there has to be a winner.

 

It's the difference of voting for the Most Valuable Player award for that year as opposed to the Hall of Fame, where the entire career is taken into consideration.

 

That's one reason why I like to watch as many films from the same year before moving on to another year.

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Top Billed:

 

I can't compare an early-career performance from someone to a later-career performance in regards to competition (such as Academy Award). The competition is everyone eligible in that category for that year. Some years there are several qualified and some probably no one deserves it, but there has to be a winner.

 

It's the difference of voting for the Most Valuable Player award for that year as opposed to the Hall of Fame, where the entire career is taken into consideration.

 

I like the sports analogy. That actually makes sense. Thanks for your perspective.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Very late in responding to this. Apologies. 1944 wasn't the most super-awesome of movie years, IMO. After my top few and one foreign film I could think of, I pretty much rounded it out with some of the year's big hits. No hidden gems on this list. Caveat: I could have included Henry V (and would have), which was released in the UK in 1944 but not in the US until 1946, so I'm jingoistically calling it a 1946 movie. It's a coin flip for the top two spots for two very different movies. Could have easily reversed the order, but I'll let sentimentality win out over "cool" this time.

 

My 10 favorite films of 1944:

#1 Meet Me in St. Louis

#2 Double Indemnity

#3 To Have and Have Not

#4 Ivan the Terrible

#5 Murder, My Sweet

#6 Laura

#7 Gaslight

#8 Wilson

#9 Going My Way

#10 Destination Tokyo

 

Best Director: Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity

Best Actor: Bob Hope, The Princess and the Pirate

Best Actress: Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity

 

I'll give the award to Hope to prevent Indemnity from having a clean sweep, though Fred MacMurray probably gave the best dramatic performance in a year not terribly strong for leading men performances. It's always a revelation to watch him in this for anyone only familiar with My Three Sons or his Disney films, but obviously Stanwyck is the best thing about the movie. I didn't put Pirate in my Top 10, but man, Hope makes me laugh a lot.

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I haven't seen Laura in a looooong time.  I sure would like to see that again.

 

My two favorites were:

 

Double Indemnity.  Barbara Stanwyck was the ultimate femme fatale.  Edward G Robinson turned in a great performance and Fred MacMurray tries his best to seem disaffected and cold (unfortunately his niceness was impossible to disguise and the role might have been better with a crustier actor).

 

 

and To Have and Have Not.  I LOVE the characters/actors.  Especially Dan Seymour as Renard.  The Walter Brennan character was interesting but hard to figure out (did he have a homosexual attraction to Bogey's character?  Seemed like it to me).  And I loved seeing Hoagy Charmichael play such a prominent role.  Was you ever bit by a dead bee?

 

Gaslight was great too.

 

These are all very well known films.  I'll have to think about any sleepers that I liked from 1944.

 

Edit:  Ooh, I forgot about The Mask of Demitrios.  I love Eric Ambler's books and I love seeing Lorre and Greenstreet together.

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TOP TEN OF 1944 (65 films seen)

 

1) Double Indemnity

2) Laura

3) The Uninvited

4) To Have and Have Not

5) Gaslight

6) Ministry of Fear

7) Murder, My Sweet

8) Lifeboat

9) Arsenic and Old Lace

10) The Woman in the Window

 

Runner-ups: Henry V, Since You Went Away, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Hail the Conquering Hero, and The Seventh Cross

 

Best Actor: Claude Rains Mr. Skeffington

Best Actress: Ingrid Bergman Gaslight

Best Supporting Actor: Clifton Webb Laura

Best Supporting Actress: Angela Lansbury Gaslight

NICE!!!!!!!

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