Thursday, December 22, 2011


I need to re-watch:
Pinocchio (lots of people)
Pinocchio was one of my favorite films as a youngster. I don't think I've seen it in 15+ years.

I still haven't seen:
The Mark of Zorro (Rouben Mamoulian), When the Daltons Rode (George Marshall), Dark Command (Raoul Walsh), The Return of Frank James (Fritz Lang), Virginia City (Michael Curtiz), Another Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke), Go West (Edward Buzzell), The Doctor Takes a Wife (Alexander Hall), The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor), The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford), Rebecca (Alred Hitchcock), Fantasia (Lots of People), My Little Chickadee (Edward F. Cline), Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy), They Drive by Night (Raoul Walsh), The Long Voyage Home (John Ford), Stranger on the Third Floor (Boris Ingster), You're Missing the Point (Juan Bustillo Oro), The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage), Strange Cargo (Frank Borzage), Edison, the Man (Clarence Brown), Remember the Night (Mitchell Leisen), The Stars Look Down (Carol Reed), Murder Over New York (Harry Lachman), Contraband (Michael Powell), Pride and Prejudice (Robert Z. Leonard), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (John Cromwell), Santa Fe Trail (Michael Curtiz), Northwest Passage (King Vidor), Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor), Escape (Mervyn LeRoy), Primrose Path (Gregory La Cava), From Mayerling to Sarajevo (Max Ophüls)

I'm sure that there are plenty of others worth hunting down.

My problem doing these lists is that I'm obsessive. I really think that my list is inadequate at best because I haven't seen any of the above films. Damned negligent at worst to be saying anything about a year's films when I've only seen a tiny fraction of them pre-selected for me as "the best." So many films get forgotten. It's the nature of these things. It's not going to stop me making lists, but it gives me pause whenever I'm tempted to think of myself as even half knowledgeable about films past or present.

My favorite recent example is Ed Harris' Appaloosa. After several repeat viewings, I'm convinced that it's a masterpiece and easily one of the five best Westerns of the past forty years. Hardly anyone has seen it. Those who have gave it no critical attention. I submit as evidence the 2008 Indiewire critics poll. Appaloosa doesn't even rank 69th. It doesn't get a single mention.

So, how many unknown Appaloosas were there in 1940 that are completely forgotten now? I know that most films achieve canonical status for very good reasons. I'm not concerned about those. I get all worked up about those gems that no one has bothered to polish or maybe not even bothered to pick up and look at in decades.

So, with more waffling and disclaiming than my 2011 list will receive, I present my very imperfect list of favorite films from 1940:


1. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch)
2. Christmas in July (Preston Sturges)
3. I Love You Again (W. S. Van Dyke)
4. Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock)
5. The Great Dictator
6. City for Conquest (Anatole Litvak)
7. The Man From Tumbleweeds (Joseph H. Lewis)
8. The Westerner (William Wyler)
9. The Ghost Breakers (George Marshall)
10. The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges)

HM: The Bank Dick (Edward F. Cline), A Chump at Oxford (Alfred J. Goulding), His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks), The Torrid Zone (William Keighley), The Thief of Baghdad (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell and Tim Whelan), The Sea Hawk (Michael Curtiz)

The Shop Around the Corner is perfect. We're all agreed, it seems, that Christmas in July is delightful. I Love You Again is one of those gems that I'm glad I found. Foreign Correspondent is Hitchcock doing everything right as usual. If nations and peoples had been more mature (mature enough to laugh at themselves) at the time, the Great Dictator alone would have brought an end to WWII in 1940 (I just daydreamed of Ol' Adolf seeing this movie, laughing uproariously, then breaking down in tears of repentance). City for Conquest has already been raved about sufficiently here. The Man From Tumbleweeds is a bit of a guilty pleasure. The Westerner is so morally ambiguous that it should have been remade in the 70s (and probably was). The Ghost Breakers is good fun. The Great McGinty is carried by Donlevy despite the film's weak framing device.

There's my quick attempt to deal with 1940. I'm not done with this year at all.

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