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LawrenceA

Top Ten Films of...

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Frank...GOODBYE MR. CHIPS all the way at the bottom? You disliked it that much? Also, I don't know FRONTIER MARSHALL; one more to look for.

 

 

 

 

Andy, welcome! Great list, and I like the commentary. I haven't heard of HEROES FOR SALE, and if it's comparable to I AM A FUGITIVE...I should like it.

 

Thanks for the kind words, and if you like the Muni film, you'll also like Heroes For Sale.  I should have added that Heroes For Sale also features  fine supporting performances by Loretta Young, Aline MacMahon, and Robert Barrat as the Communist agitator turned capitalist exploiter.

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My list:

 

1. REBECCA* (literary adaptation)
2. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY* (romantic comedy)
3. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER* (romantic comedy)
4. GASLIGHT (British psychological drama)

5. THE BANK DICK (comedy)
6. THE GRAPES OF WRATH (literary adaptation)
7. DARK COMMAND (biographical western)
8. WATERLOO BRIDGE (romance drama)
9. THE MORTAL STORM (drama)
10. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (spy thriller) and THE GREAT DICTATOR (satirical political comedy drama)


Honorable Mentions:

THE SEA HAWK (swashbuckler)

THE LITTLE FOXES (drama)

ESCAPE (drama)

MY FAVORITE WIFE (screwball comedy)

BROTHER ORCHID (crime comedy)

JOHNNY APOLLO (prison drama)

MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (comedy western)

FANTASIA (animated musical fantasy)

 

Notable Performers: W.C. Fields; Margaret Sullavan; Charlie Chaplin; Jane Darwell; and Judith Anderson.

 

*On my Top-20 classics of all time.

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1940 - 86 films seen

 

 

1. THE GRAPES OF WRATH

2. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY

3. THE MARK OF ZORRO

4. THE WESTERNER

5. THE GREAT DICTATOR

6. THE LETTER

7. HIS GIRL FRIDAY

8. REBECCA

9. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT

10. THE BANK DICK

 

Runner-ups: THE SEA HAWK, THE GREAT MCGINTY, THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, BOOM TOWN, and THE LONG VOYAGE HOME.

 

 

1940 has the most films I've seen until the 50's. In the John Wayne bio I'm reading at the moment, during the section covering the HUAC communist witch hunts, GRAPES OF WRATH was frequently used at the time as an example of the communist takeover of Hollywood.

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For 1940 - 74 films seen

 

1.  The Grapes of Wrath

2.  The Long Voyage Home

3.  His Girl Friday

4.  The Philadelphia Story

5.  The Great Dictator

6.  Pinocchio

7.  Rebecca

8.  Gaslight aka Angel Street

9.  The Shop Around the Corner

10. Foreign Correspondent

 

Here are just some from my runner up list: The Bank Dick, The Westerner, Pride and Prejudice, The Letter, Fantasia, The Great McGinty and The Biscuit Eater.

 

This time I've seen all of the films on your list, Lawrence.  

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My current choices for performances for 1940 are:

 

Best Actor

 

Charles Chaplin, The Great Dictator

 

Best Actress

 

Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story

 

Best Supporting Actor

 

Walter Brennan, The Westerner

 

Best Supporting Actress

 

Jane Darwell, The Grapes of Wrath

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We're all pretty similar in our choices for this year.

 

Top, I've seen all but ESCAPE and JOHNNY APOLLO.

 

 

Bogie, I haven't seen THE BISCUIT EATER.

 

I'm glad you both liked the original GASLIGHT. I like both versions. It's disturbing to hear the remake studio tried to have all prints of the original destroyed. Good thing they failed. I thought the casts were good in both, but prefer Walbrook to Boyer, although I like Boyer too.

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We're all pretty similar in our choices for this year.

 

Top, I've seen all but ESCAPE and JOHNNY APOLLO.

 

 

Bogie, I haven't seen THE BISCUIT EATER.

 

I'm glad you both liked the original GASLIGHT. I like both versions. It's disturbing to hear the remake studio tried to have all prints of the original destroyed. Good thing they failed. I thought the casts were good in both, but prefer Walbrook to Boyer, although I like Boyer too.

Yes, I am glad they failed too. MGM (the studio in question) also tried to destroy the negative for SHOW BOAT, starring Irene Dunne. What were they thinking?!

 

ESCAPE is one of Norma Shearer's last films-- it's nice to see her in a war-time intrigue, instead of the usual melodrama. And JOHNNY APOLLO, while a paint-by-numbers prison film, does have a few moments of originality-- with Edward Arnold, as Tyrone Power's father, giving a good performance. 

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We're all pretty similar in our choices for this year.

 

Top, I've seen all but ESCAPE and JOHNNY APOLLO.

 

 

Bogie, I haven't seen THE BISCUIT EATER.

 

I'm glad you both liked the original GASLIGHT. I like both versions. It's disturbing to hear the remake studio tried to have all prints of the original destroyed. Good thing they failed. I thought the casts were good in both, but prefer Walbrook to Boyer, although I like Boyer too.

 

I've watched the Gaslights back-to-back several times and the last time being about 3 weeks ago.  They are both excellent films with good performances all round.  Walbrook is sensational and Boyer is too in a slightly different way.  

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I've been looking ahead at my lists for the late 40s, 50s and early 60s. I think Andy is correct when suggesting, that after the war, there are some very noteworthy foreign films to mention. In some years, I have listed maybe three or four Hollywood releases, and the rest come from other countries. 

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It occurs to me that we have 75 more days until we reach 2015. By then, two and a half months from now, it will be March, and there will have been some 2016 releases...

 

:)

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I think we should savor it more, this is becoming like Amundsen's rush to the South Pole!

 

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It's fine with me if we slow down. One year every three days sound good? 1941 on Wednesday or Thursday?

And it will slow down when we take a day in between 1949 and 1950 for the next end-of-the-decade review. 

 

Andy mentioned the other threads that were done in 2013-2014...a lot of my choices in those threads have changed, especially the years of the golden age, because originally I had not seen so many foreign films.

 

One thing I noticed when looking over the previous lists is that when the production code ends, studio output decreases somewhat. So in the 70s and 80s there aren't as many titles to consider. It makes those years a bit easier to write about, plus the business trends and movie-making styles are much more transparent.

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1940 Favorites -- in alphabetical order (11 films)

 

All This, and Heaven Too

I generally prefer the nice Bette Davis to the bitchy one -- and this film features one of her most engaging characters. Plus Charles Boyer at his peak and a great supporting cast. You want bitchy -- this film has Barbara O'Neil in one of the bitchiest roles ever. 
 
City for Conquest
Great depiction of a rough, vanished New York City. Cagney and Sheridan at their peak.
 
Down Argentine Way
Keep your bananas and strawberries. I love this film -- "Ay Ay..."
 
Fantasia
The best of all music videos.
 
Foreign Correspondent
I prefer this to Hitchcock's other 1940 film.
 
The Grapes of Wrath
Should have won the Oscar for Best Film, of 1940 or any year. I took the DVD to the Sony store when I bought my television. Best movie to test the blacks and the whites.
 
His Girl Friday
A symphony -- Hawks knew how to create music out of the similar voices of Grant and Russell.
 
The Mortal Storm
Hitler hated this film and banned all MGM films because of it.
 
The Mummy’s Hand
The movie that gave us Kharis, Princess Ananka, and tana leaves. Has to be on this list because of those important contributions to cinema.
 
Pride and Prejudice
"Oh, if you want to be really refined, you have to be dead. There's no one as dignified as a mummy."
 
Waterloo Bridge
I saw the earlier version recently and found it curiously disappointing. The remake is best.
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1940 Favorites

 

All This, and Heaven Too

I generally prefer the nice Bette Davis to the bitchy one -- and this film features one of her most engaging characters. Plus Charles Boyer at his peak and a great supporting cast. You want bitchy -- this film has Barbara O'Neil in one of the bitchiest roles ever. 
 
City for Conquest
Great depiction of a rough, vanished New York City. Cagney and Sheridan at their peak.
 
Down Argentine Way
Keep your bananas and strawberries. I love this film -- "Ay Ay..."
 
Fantasia
The best of all music videos.
 
Foreign Correspondent
I prefer this to Hitchcock's other 1940 film.
 
The Grapes of Wrath
Should have won the Oscar for Best Film, of 1940 or any year. I took the DVD to the Sony store when I bought my television. Best movie to test the blacks and the whites.
 
His Girl Friday
A symphony -- Hawks knew how to create music out of the similar voices of Grant and Russell.
 
The Mortal Storm
Hitler hated this film and banned all MGM films because of it.
 
The Mummy’s Hand
The movie that gave us Kharis, Princess Ananka, and tana leaves. Has to be on this list because of those important contributions to cinema.
 
Pride and Prejudice
"Oh, if you want to be really refined, you have to be dead. There's no one as dignified as a mummy."

 

Those are all fine choices. I can't believe I forgot FANTASIA...glad you mentioned it. I feel HIS GIRL FRIDAY is overrated, and since I know it has many fans, I will just leave it at that. 

 

Very few Bette Davis films make my lists (and there is a reason for it)...not going to get into that here. LOL

 

I like PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but I feel Olivier is a bit off in it. He's better when he's the star, not when they bring him in to support a studio contract player. 

 

I like your description of the Cagney-Sheridan picture. As for THE MORTAL STORM, how did Hitler have time to watch movies?? :)

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Swithin, great choices again, and great commentary. I like the shout out to THE MUMMY'S HAND.

 

I thought I'd also mention, after reading your eloquent thoughts on ANTHONY ADVERSE, I saw it on sale on Amazon and bought it. I've seen it before, and liked it, and after reading your words and it going on sale the same day, I thought it serendipitous.

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Swithin, great choices again, and great commentary. I like the shout out to THE MUMMY'S HAND.

 

I thought I'd also mention, after reading your eloquent thoughts on ANTHONY ADVERSE, I saw it on sale on Amazon and bought it. I've seen it before, and liked it, and after reading your words and it going on sale the same day, I thought it serendipitous.

 

Lawrence, another bit of serendipity:  In All This, and Heaven Too, Bette Davis (as the governess) takes the kids to the Paris Opera, to hear Mlle. Georges sing. Well, Mlle. Georges is the Olivia de Havilland character in Anthony Adverse, after she grows up and becomes a famous opera singer. (The real Mlle. Georges did indeed have an affair with Napoleon.)

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The Grapes of Wrath
Should have won the Oscar for Best Film, of 1940 or any year. I took the DVD to the Sony store when I bought my television. Best movie to test the blacks and the whites.

 

I ranked this one at #6 on my list for 1940. I desperately wanted to rate it higher, because I love Steinbeck's novel and John Ford does a stupendous job with the filmic translation. But the truncated ending, where the studio tried to keep it upbeat rings false to me. The Joads are not supposed to have a happy ending. That's the whole point of the story.

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Okay, 1940.  Not my favorite year for movies, but the four at the top are sublime, and the rest aren't exactly shabby.

 

1. His Girl Friday.  Simply a perfect movie from start to finish.  Grant and Russell are the equal of any comic team of motormouths ever set before a camera.  I don't think that even Hepburn herself could have carried off the Hildy role as well as Roz did.

 

2. The Letter.  If this isn't the best Gothic film ever, someone remind me of one that tops it.  Davis had two roles in her career that stood out against all the others, and it's hard to choose between The Letter and All About Eve to say which one was better.  Overall I'd go with All About Eve, because of its far superior backup cast and the quality of the screenplay, but for Davis I'd almost have to give it to her performance in The Letter.

 

3. The Philadelphia Story. Razor-sharp repartee, multiple plots, four terrific leads, and with Virginia Weidler at her best.   Why couldn't Kate have stayed with Grant for at least another 20 years worth of films?

 

4. The Great McGinty.  Well below the first three, as it doesn't really sustain the energy of its opening scenes, but brother, those first scenes with Donlevy, Demarest and Tamiroff keep cracking me up no matter how many times I watch them

 

 

"Whattya mean, he voted 37 times????"

 

5. They Drive By Night.  Fairly standard fare in many ways, but it's a great showcase for Bogart, Raft and especially Ida Lupino, and the atmosphere of the independent trucking grind is enough by itself to keep you interested.

 

6. Christmas in July.  One of the sweetest screwballs ever, and every time I think of it, I'm reminded of the first time I heard "Penthouse Serenade", even if it was in a Betty Boop cartoon.

 

 

7. Babies For Sale.  I think TCM played this only once, a few years ago in a Glenn Ford tribute.  Not a great movie, but it's an interesting look at the baby adoption racket, presented in the usual Hollywood melodramatic fashion.

 

8. Girls of the Road.  An unusual late role for Ann Dvorak, a governor's daughter who joins a band of roving girls in a mission of reforming society's treatment of them.   The Breen brigade stuck on a typically unrealistic ending, but before that the movie is well worth watching.

 

9. Remember the Night.  I admit it.  I'm in love with Stanwyck, and her talent is given full expression here, as she goes from hardened shoplifter to Fred McMurray's sweetheart, via a car trip to McMurray's Indiana farm.  But no need to relate the plot here, as it shows on TCM about 80 times a year.

 

10.  Foreign Correspondent.  I don't particularly like Joel McCrea, but there are always exceptions, and of all the Hollywood spy movies this may be my favorite.  Of course having George "Where's My SOTM?" Sanders in the cast guarantees that it's going to be worth watching.

 

Best Actor: Brian Donlevy (The Great McGinty)
Best Actress: Bette Davis (The Letter)

Best Comic Team:  Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell (His Girl Friday)
Supporting Actor: Akim Tamaroff (The Great McGinty)
Supporting Actress: Ida Lupino (They Drive By Night)

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I ranked this one at #6 on my list for 1940. I desperately wanted to rate it higher, because I love Steinbeck's novel and John Ford does a stupendous job with the filmic translation. But the truncated ending, where the studio tried to keep it upbeat rings false to me. The Joads are not supposed to have a happy ending. That's the whole point of the story.

 

I actually prefer the film to the novel.  I read a very interesting comparison between the two -- can't remember where, if I do, I'll post the source.

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I actually prefer the film to the novel.  I read a very interesting comparison between the two -- can't remember where, if I do, I'll post the source.

 

It would have been impossible to do the novel's ending on film in those days.   Not sure it would even fly today.

The film version is John Ford at his very best.  Just fantastic.

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Andy, interesting choices. I'm glad to see your love for THE LETTER; you're not alone on that. Also another shout out to THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT.

 

I haven't seen CHRISTMAS IN JULY, BABIES FOR SALE, REMEMBER THE NIGHT, or GIRLS OF THE ROAD. More for me to look for.

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It would have been impossible to do the novel's ending on film in those days.   Not sure it would even fly today.

The film version is John Ford at his very best.  Just fantastic.

 

[bogie, There's an echo of the scene you're referring to in Two Women.]

 

I did find the quote I was thinking of, about The Grapes of Wrath novel/film. It's from Andrew Sarris' The American Cinema. He writes, "Where Steinbeck depicts oppression by dehumanizing his characters into creatures of abject necessity, Ford evoked nostalgia by humanizing Steinbeck's economic instincts into heroic champions of an agrarian order of family and community."

 

Of course the above makes sense -- if there's one thing that comes across in all of Ford's films, it's the centrality of community and family.

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1940

 

1. His Girl Friday

2. The Shop Around the Corner

3. Foreign Correspondent

4. Waterloo Bridge

5. Christmas in July

6. The Thief of Bagdad

7. Remember the Night

8. The Westerner

9. The Philadelphia Story

10. The Grapes of Wrath

11. Contraband

12. I Love You Again

13. City for Conquest

14. The Bank Dick

15. Strange Cargo

16. The Letter

17. The Mark of Zorro

18. Night Train to Munich

19. Rebecca

20. Charlie Chan's Murder Cruise

21. Brother Orchid

22. Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum

23. The Sea Hawk

24. Black Friday

25. Seven Sinners

26. Kitty Foyle

27. It All Came True

28. Go West

29. British Intelligence

30. One Night in the Tropics

31. You'll Find Out

32. When the Daltons Rode

33. Chad Hanna

34. The Texas Rangers Ride Again

35. My Favorite Wife

36. They Drive by Night

37. The Invisible Woman

38. The Doctor Takes a Wife

39. Murder Over New York

40. The Invisible Man Returns

41. The Devil Bat

42. Johnny Apollo

43. Boom Town

44. Virginia City

45. Charlie Chan in Panama

46. All This, and Heaven Too

47. Stranger on the Third Floor

48. The Ghost Breakers

49. Green Hell

50. The Great McGinty

51. Dark Command

52. The Long Voyage Home

53. Babies for Sale

54. Torrid Zone

55. The Return of Frank James

56. Before I Hang

57. The House Across the Bay

58. Haunted Honeymoon

59. Gold Rush Maisie

60. The Lady in Question

61. The Mummy's Hand

62. Vigil in the Night

63. Third Finger, Left Hand

64. Road to Singapore

65. Arizona

66. I Take This Woman

67. Too Many Husbands

68. My Little Chickadee

69. Pride and Prejudice

70. North West Mounted Police

71. The Earl of Chicago

72. Congo Maisie

73. Half a Sinner

74. Brigham Young

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Frank, there's a few high up on your list I haven't seen: CONTRABAND, and I LOVE YOU AGAIN.

 

 

We're going to wait a couple of days before we do 1941. Wednesday evening or Thursday, whichever is better for you.

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