The best of 1948

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This year: Jane Wyman was speechless; a Pennsylvania coal town witnessed a miracle; John Wayne & Montgomery Clift were caught up in a stampede; Fredric March ‘murdered’ wife Florence Eldridge; Dane Clark was on the run; Charles Laughton was in a hurry to get into an elevator; and little Dean Stockwell was having a bad hair day. 

***

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My list:
1. THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS* (spiritual melodrama)
2. BLANCHE FURY* (British psychological drama)
3. MOONRISE* (noir)
4. THE BOY WITH GREEN HAIR* (social message drama)
5. HAMLET (British Shakespearean adaptation)
6. THE RED SHOES (British art film—ballet musical)
7. EASTER PARADE (musical)
8. JOHNNY BELINDA (psychological drama)
9. RED RIVER (western)
10. THE FALLEN IDOL (British children’s psychological drama) and ANNA KARENINA (British literary adaptation)

Honorable Mentions:
AN ACT OF MURDER (social message drama)
ACT OF VIOLENCE (social message noir)
ALL MY SONS (drama)
ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST (drama)
APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (comedy drama)
THE BICYCLE THIEF (Italian neorealist drama)
THE BIG CLOCK (noir)
CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (biographical crime drama)
CANON CITY (noir prison drama)
A DATE WITH JUDY (musical)
THE EMPEROR WALTZ (musical comedy)
ENCHANTMENT (romance drama)
A FOREIGN AFFAIR (romantic comedy)
FORT APACHE (historical western)
GERMANY YEAR ZERO (Italian neorealist war film)
HE WALKED BY NIGHT (police procedural noir)
I REMEMBER MAMA (comedy drama)
I WALK ALONE (noir)
JOAN OF ARC (biographical religious drama)
JULIA MISBEHAVES (screwball romantic comedy)
KEY LARGO (gangster noir)
LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN (romance drama)
MACBETH (Shakespearean adaptation)
MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (comedy)
THE NAKED CITY (police procedural noir)
NIGHT SONG (romance drama)
NOOSE (British crime drama)
OLIVER TWIST (British literary adaptation)
RAW DEAL (noir)
ROAD HOUSE (noir)
ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS (musical comedy)
RUTHLESS (noir melodrama)
SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS (British historical drama)
THE SEARCH (social message drama)
SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (psychological thriller)
SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC (British biographical adventure)
THE SIGN OF THE RAM (social message noir)
SITTING PRETTY (literary adaptation)
THE SNAKE PIT (social message drama)
SO EVIL MY LOVE (British-American gothic thriller)
STATION WEST (noir western)
TAP ROOTS (literary adaptation)
THE THREE MUSKETEERS (literary adaptation)
THE VELVET TOUCH (show biz crime drama)
WHISPERING SMITH (western)
YELLOW SKY (western)

Notable Performers: Dean Stockwell; Florence Eldridge; Laurence Olivier; Moira Shearer; and Jane Wyman.

*On my Top-20 classics of all time.

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The best of 1947

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A lot happened this year: William Powell was baptised; Robert Ryan was anti-semitic; Ronald Colman was mad; Danny Kaye was having fantasies about Virginia Mayo; Cary Grant was an angel; little Natalie Wood spent time at Macy’s Department Store; and Deborah Kerr became familiar with her surroundings at a Himalayan convent.

***

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My list:
1. CROSSFIRE* (social message noir)
2. BLACK NARCISSUS* (literary adaptation)
3. MONSIEUR VERDOUX (satirical comedy)
4. LIFE WITH FATHER (comedy drama)
5. ODD MAN OUT (British noir)
6. A DOUBLE LIFE (noir)
7. OUT OF THE PAST (noir)
8. THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (fantasy comedy)
9. THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (comedy drama)
10. THE EGG AND I (literary adaptation) and THE FARMER’S DAUGHTER (political satire)

Honorable Mentions:
ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (western)
THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (comedy)
THE BISHOP’S WIFE (spiritual comedy drama)
BOOMERANG! (courtroom drama)
BRIGHTON ROCK (British noir)
BRUTE FORCE (prison drama)
CAPTAIN FROM CASTILE (swashbuckler)
DEEP VALLEY (literary adaptation)
DRIFTWOOD (coming of age drama)
THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (romance fantasy)
GOLDEN EARRINGS (romantic spy drama)
GOOD NEWS (musical)
GREEN DOLPHIN STREET (literary adaptation)
IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE (comedy drama)
IVY (noir)
JOHNNY O’CLOCK (noir)
KISS OF DEATH (noir)
THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (noir)
THE LOST MOMENT (psychological thriller)
THE MACOMBER AFFAIR (literary adaptation)
LES MAUDITS (French drama)
THE OCTOBER MAN (British noir)
THE PARADINE CASE (noir courtroom drama)
THE PERILS OF PAULINE (biographical musical)
POSSESSED (melodrama)
THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI (literary adaptation)
THE RED HOUSE (psychological drama)
THIS TIME FOR KEEPS (musical)
UNCLE SILAS (British literary adaptation)
THE UPTURNED GLASS (British noir)
WELCOME STRANGER (comedy drama)
WYOMING (western)

Notable Performers: Loretta Young; Richard Widmark; Martha Raye; Edmund Gwenn; Natalie Wood; and William Powell.

*On my Top-20 classics of all time.

Looking back on TOMORROW

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In 1946 Orson Welles starred with Claudette Colbert in the wartime melodrama TOMORROW IS FOREVER. Welles plays Colbert’s first husband who went off to serve in the First World War and was presumed to have been killed in battle. Of course, he did not actually die, and now twenty years later, he has come back to their hometown with a new face and a new name. In the meantime, Colbert has remarried, and her husband (George Brent) is a wealthy industrialist. The son they raised, who is really Welles’ son and played by Richard Long, has ironically chosen to go off and serve in the Second World War.

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Colbert is given scenes where her hysteria gets the better of her. She experiences fears about losing a son the same way she lost a husband to war. And as this occurs, she gradually comes to suspect that the man in their midst (Welles) may in fact be her long-lost husband. Though Welles’ character lingers around and becomes enmeshed in the lives of Colbert and Brent and their family, he avoids acknowledging his real identity.

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TOMORROW IS FOREVER is a dramatic reworking of the old Enoch Arden theme. And that story is considered a variation on Homer’s The Odyssey. In this offering, our ‘dead hero’ comes home after a lengthy absence and his own happiness remains basically unfulfilled. This is because he never reveals to his wife and son that he survived. He loves his family too much to turn their lives upside down. It’s a supreme sacrifice that serves to heighten the melodrama.

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At the end of TOMORROW IS FOREVER, we find Welles’ character dying of what is probably a broken heart. A young refugee girl he has brought back to America with him (played by Natalie Wood) will now be cared for by Colbert and Brent. So because the girl has been brought safely to a home where she can be loved and given security, our hero’s life, struggles and death are not in vain. It’s a bittersweet resolution. Of course, Welles, Colbert and Brent– the entire cast– play it perfectly.

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The best of 1946

Cecil Kellaway was clubbed with a bottle by John Garfield; Dana Andrews suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder; Tyrone Power went off to find himself in the Himalayas; and Orson Welles terrorised Loretta Young in a sleepy New England town.

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My list:
1. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES* (post-war drama)
2. THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (noir)
3. GREAT EXPECTATIONS (British literary adaptation)
4. NOTORIOUS (suspense thriller)
5. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (French romantic fantasy)
6. HUMORESQUE (romance drama)
7. THE RAZOR’S EDGE (literary adaptation)
8. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (fantasy drama)
9. THE JOLSON STORY (biographical musical)
10. THE KILLERS (noir) and THE BLUE DAHLIA (noir)

Honorable Mentions:
CANYON PASSAGE (noir western)
CENTENNIAL SUMMER (musical)
CLUNY BROWN (literary adaptation)
GILDA (noir)
GREEN FOR DANGER (British thriller)
THE GREEN YEARS (literary adaptation)
THE HARVEY GIRLS (musical western)
I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU (musical drama)
I SEE A DARK STRANGER (British spy drama)
MARGIE (coming of age romantic comedy drama)
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (British romance fantasy)
O.S.S. (spy thriller)
PAISA’ (Italian neorealist war film)
SISTER KENNY (biographical medical drama)
SMOKY (equestrian drama)
SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (psychological thriller)
SONG OF THE SOUTH (literary adaptation)
SPECTER OF THE ROSE (art film—ballet musical-noir)
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (noir)
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (noir)
THE STRANGER (noir)
TO EACH HIS OWN (melodrama)
TOMORROW IS FOREVER (melodrama)
TWO SISTERS FROM BOSTON (musical comedy)
THE YEARLING (literary adaptation)

Notable Performers: John Garfield; Harold Russell; James Baskett; Larry Parks; Rita Hayworth; James Stewart; and of course, Smoky.

*On my Top-20 classics of all time.

 

The best of 1945

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My list:
1. BRIEF ENCOUNTER* (romance drama)
2. LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS (French epic drama)
3. THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S (comedy drama)
4. ROME, OPEN CITY (Italian neorealist war film)
5. A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (literary adaptation)
6. I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! (British romance drama)
7. STATE FAIR (musical)
8. THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (war film)
9. MILDRED PIERCE (noir melodrama)
10. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (literary adaptation) and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (literary adaptation)

Honorable Mentions:
A BELL FOR ADANO (war film)
BLITHE SPIRIT (fantasy comedy)
THE CLOCK (romantic comedy drama)
THE CORN IS GREEN (drama)
THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (romance drama fantasy)
FALLEN ANGEL (noir)
HANGOVER SQUARE (horror)
THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (spy docudrama)
KITTY (romantic comedy)
LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (noir melodrama)
THE LOST WEEKEND (social message drama)
MOLLY AND ME (comedy)
SALOME, WHERE SHE DANCED (romance adventure)
SCARLET STREET (noir)
THE SEVENTH VEIL (British melodrama)
THE SOUTHERNER (drama)
SPELLBOUND (psychological thriller)
THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY (noir)
VACATION FROM MARRIAGE (British drama)
A WALK IN THE SUN (war film)

Notable Performers: Celia Johnson; Ingrid Bergman; James Dunn; Wendy Hiller; Margaret Rutherford; and Yvonne de Carlo.

*On my Top-20 classics of all time.

 

The best of 1944

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My list:
1. GOING MY WAY (musical comedy drama)
2. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (musical)
3. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (noir)
4.THE WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER (feminist war film)
5. HENRY V (British Shakespearean adaptation)
6. LAURA (noir)
7. LIFEBOAT (adventure drama)
8. HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO! (satirical comedy)
9. NATIONAL VELVET (literary adaptation)
10. MURDER, MY SWEET (noir) and THE LODGER (biographical horror)

Honorable Mentions:
BRAZIL (musical comedy)
A CANTERBURY TALE (British-American comedy drama)
THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING US (Italian drama)
THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (children’s fantasy)
FOLLOW THE BOYS (morale booster)
FOUR JILLS IN A JEEP (morale booster)
THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM (literary adaptation)
LADY IN THE DARK (musical)
MINISTRY OF FEAR (literary adaptation)
MR. WINKLE GOES TO WAR (literary adaptation)
ON APPROVAL (British comedy)
THE PURPLE HEART (military courtroom drama)
ROSIE THE RIVETER (feminist musical)
SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (drama)
THE STORY OF DR. WASSELL (biographical drama)
THE SUSPECT (noir)
TWO THOUSAND WOMEN (British feminist war film)
THE UNINVITED (supernatural mystery romance)
UP IN MABEL’S ROOM (screwball comedy)
WILSON (biographical drama)
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (noir)

Notable Performers: Dick Powell; Barbara Stanwyck; Tallulah Bankhead; Irene Dunne; Laird Cregar; and Edward G. Robinson.

The best of 1943

This was the year of what I call the ‘feminist war film’ (not feminist like the term is defined today, but these films showed women in new positions of power).

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My list:
1. SO PROUDLY WE HAIL! (feminist war film)
2. THE HUMAN COMEDY (drama)
3. WATCH ON THE RHINE (drama)
4. THE MORE THE MERRIER (romantic comedy)
5. HEAVEN CAN WAIT (romantic comedy)
6. THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (literary adaptation)
7. MADAME CURIE (biographical drama)
8. SHADOW OF A DOUBT (psychological thriller)
9. STAGE DOOR CANTEEN (morale booster)
10. BATAAN (war film) and SAHARA (war film)

Honorable Mentions:
THE CONSTANT NYMPH (literary adaptation)
CRY ‘HAVOC’ (feminist war film)
FLESH AND FANTASY (anthology)
FOREVER AND A DAY (British anthology)
THE GENTLE SEX (British feminist war film)
HANGMEN ALSO DIE! (political thriller)
HOLY MATRIMONY (comedy)
I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (horror)
JANE EYRE (literary adaptation)
LASSIE COME HOME (literary adaptation)
MILLIONS LIKE US (British feminist war film)
OLD ACQUAINTANCE (comedy drama)
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (musical horror)
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (biographical religious drama)
STORMY WEATHER (musical)
SWEET ROSIE O’GRADY (musical)
TENDER COMRADE (feminist war film)

Notable Performers: Charles Coburn; Jean Arthur; Mickey Rooney; Joan Fontaine; Paul Lukas; and of course, Lassie.