What should we do with the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production? As the coming economic apocalypse threatens to engulf us all, it may be tempting to march them to the gallows for getting us into this mess. Here at Last Movie Outpost we put them to work writing Top 25 movie lists. Here is Bourgeoisie Scum with another run down.
The Top 25 Films Of The 1940s
Howdy folks, I’m back for another Top 25 list, this time the best films of the 1940’s. This was the start of the “we figured out how to make the sound cameras move” era and it produced a ton of excellent films. Buckle up, and remember no foreign language films are included.
25 – The Lady From Shanghai (1947)
Orson Welles famously wrote and directed this, his 5th film, for no fee so as to procure funds from Columbia Pictures to finish a stage play he was directing. It’s a lush looking film who’s plot of a rich man hiring a “nobody” to “murder” him for money was grifted for Fletch years later. It’s classic Welles but a more mature director less prone to showing off and more interested in the characters, and hubba-hubba Rita Hayworth in this movie!
24 – All the King’s Men (1949)
Directed by the great Robert Rossen, this film depicts the inevitable corrupting influence of politics as lowly rural lawyer Willie Stark rises from his local city council, where he fights the establishment, to the Governor’s Mansion where he becomes an even bigger establishment. Great performances abound, especially Broderick Crawford as Stark, but the real star is Rossen. This film drips sleaze one moment, then honesty the next. It’s a great picture.
23 – A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
The first film, and not the last, by the writing and directing duo from the UK known as The Archers – Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A Matter of Life and Death is a simple concept. David Niven is the last man left in a bomber heading back from a mission over Germany. His plane is damaged, his parachute broken and he expects to die. Yet, the lovely voice of a radio operator (Kim Hunter) reassures him. I won’t give any more away, but this film tackles the issues of love, death and more importantly, destiny. It sounds sappy, and it is in parts, but it’s a visual feast for the era.
22 – The Great Dictator (1940)
Often considered Chaplin’s magnum opus, this film sees him play both a lowly barber and a grand dictator in a scathing criticism of Nazism. This is from back when farce was a thing, so inevitably things lead to misidentification and the barber becomes ruler. It’s a great film, even if I find the end speech a bit heavy handed which is why I prefer Modern Times. The images of Herr Hinkler kicking an inflatable globe around his room is prime Chaplin.
21 – Cat People (1942)
Directed by the horribly underrated Jacques Tournier, Cat People is a dark and lusty horror for now much less the early 40’s. An illustrator (Simone Simon) becomes involved with a hunky engineer (very young Oliver Reed) and as her lust builds she fears she is becoming… something else. Magnificent atmosphere, haunting score and shocking events make this a must see for all movie fans.
20 – Notorious (1946)
Alfred Hitchcock makes his first appearance on this list with a tale of seduction, spies and Nazis hiding in South America. Cary Grant is Devlin, a US spy who tries to convince Ingrid Bergman’s Alicia to seduce one of her father’s friends who he believes is the key to cracking the secret Nazi organization. It has all the trademark Hitchcock tricks, of suspense, red herring’s, turning the game on the heroes and bad guys alike. It’s not one of his absolute best films, but even 2nd tier Hitch is better than most.
19 – Pinocchio (1940)
The Disney classic cracks the list here at 19 and I almost put it higher. There’s so much here The magic of his creation and his desire to become a real boy. The joy of When you Wish Upon a Star and the sheer terror of Pleasure Island. Not much to add, you know it, you love it!
18 – The Lost Weekend (1945)
This Billy Wilder tour-de-force is a harsh examination of what the cliche of “the drunken genius writer” would be like in the real world. Ray Milland plays author Don Bimam. He writes drunk, he edits drunk, he brushes his teeth drunk. He’s so convinced that he needs the booze to be good at life that he misses how sad that life itself is treating him. It won Oscars galore and the Grand Prix at Cannes. Not something you see to often.
17 – White Heat (1949)
Raoul Walsh’s White Heat is a rare combination in Hollywood, it’s both a star vehicle for James Cagney AND a great picture. Cagney is Cody Jarrett, gang leader, mama’s boy and all around dirtbag. When his gang kill four during a train robbery, he decided to confess to a small-time crime he knows another man did at the same time so as to create himself an alibi for the murders. While in prison, his cohorts move on without him, plotting his death on the inside. Jarrett gets out and… you’ll see “Made it Ma, top of the world!!!”
16 – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
John Ford’s epic about the struggling Joad family in the depths of the Dust Bowl during the 20’s is probably the most familiar film to the laymen on this list outside of Pinocchio. We all read the novel in school and it makes an impression. Let us hope the present economic climate doesn’t worsen lest we know the perils in person.
15 – Fantasia (1940)
The other Disney film on this list might be my favorite of all their classic era films. It’s grandiose mix of music and images from dancing hippos to marching brooms is a delight for children of all ages. If you haven’t seen it, change that and bring your kids along.
14 – His Girl Friday (1940)
1940, what a year huh? Howard Hawks directed this screwball comedy about Cary Grant’s hard boiled editor Walter Burns sending his ex wife and star reporter Hildy (Rosalind Russell) to cover the story of a murder. This is an attempt to woo her away from an upcoming marriage while they travel together. They find Williams to be an innocent man and attempt to hide him from corrupt officials as they prove it. Along the way, they rekindle their romance. It’s a good double feature with Bringing Up Baby and features all the Hawksian dialogue flourishes. Highly recommend.
13 – The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Orson Welles’ sophomore effort is another study in style. It’s a simple tale about the decline of a wealthy midwestern family, but Welles doesn’t care about that as much as he is trying to one up himself from Kane. He doesn’t quite pull it off, but the result is still an amazing achievement, even though he demanded his name be removed due to studio edits. The score by Bernard Herrmann is one of his best.
12 – Suspicion (1941)
The last Hitchcock film on this list is one of his all-time best. Cary Grant (man was he on it in the 40s, or what?) is Johnnie. He seems to be a fine upstanding man of the world who woos an “ugly duckling” Joan Fontaine in hopes of leeching off her money. She suspects he’s up to no good but his charm seduces her and they marry. Soon after, heirlooms begin to disappear and she discovers Johnnie is a degenerate gambler and worthless deadbeat. The heartbreak Fontaine portrays sells the film. Though it’s definitely a Hitch film, it’s much more of a straight romantic drama than his typical suspense fare. This makes it’s effectiveness even more appealing. Fontaine won the only Oscar for a Hitchcock film for this.
11 – The Maltese Falcon (1941)
It’s probably a bit of a surprise to see this here, outside the top ten. Don’t get me wrong, I like this noirish tale of different factions chasing the stuff that dreams are made of, I just found 10 other films I like more. What can I say? It’s Bogart at his most Bogartish and such a classic it hardly needs words from me.
10 – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The 2nd film by the Archers on this list is The life story of Clive Candy, Roger Livesy in a magnificent performance, tells of a career military man and English gentleman. He begins as a Junior officer during the Boer War and during some leave in Germany he accidentally insults some local military men which results in a sword duel. The two scar each other, but form a lifelong friendship. The story winds through World War 1 and World War 2 with Candy’s increasing age making him feel more and more out of touch. It’s kind of the No Country for Old Men of it’s day. It’s a personal favorite and it took a lot for me not to rank it higher.
9 – The Bank Dick (1940)
WC Fields is hard drinking lout Edward Souse, who stumbles his way into a job as a bank security officer and hilarity ensues. Seriously, this is one of the funniest movies ever made. Make sure you see a copy with good sound or you’ll miss Fields’ subtle wordplay. It contains one of my favorite jokes from a film. Souse’ asks a bartender, played by Shemp Howard, “Was I in here last night?” tender nods. “Did I spend a $20 bill?” he nods again. “Thank goodness, I thought I’d lost it!”
8 – Black Narcissus (1947)
The third film by the Archers on this list, but still not the last. This is a very complicated film. Not due to intricate plot, or the story. It’s all about the inner struggle of the female mind. A studly English agent for a local Indian general takes up residency near a convent of English nuns who tend to the very poor local villagers. He begins to stir emotions in these women of the cloth and their behaviors become erratic and strange, leading to tragedy. It’s a hard film to describe. You need to see it. Most notable for it’s absolutely stunning color cinematography by the great Jack Cardiff.
7 – Double Indemnity (1944)
Once again directed by Billy Wilder Double Indemnity is a noir that teaches men not to trust a pretty face. Phyllis, Barbara Stanwyck at her smokiest, woos Fred Macmurray’s insurance agent Walter Neff, to not only help her take out insurance on her husband without her knowledge, but help her kill him. He agrees and we’re off to the races. It’s a tough talking, rough film that is about as well made as movies can get. Edward G Robinson shines as the boss of the insurance company who smells a rat.
6 – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
The finest film by the great John Huston is a study in greed. It’s almost a compendium to There Will be Blood, which makes me wonder if that’s why DD Lewis emulated Huston so much in that film? Bogart plays Roy C Dobbs, a broke roughneck working in Mexico. He uses winnings in a small lottery to buy supplies and heads into the wilderness with two friends to prospect for gold. Jealousy, isolation, greed and fear ensue. A great adventure but an even greater psychological study of man. Badges? We ain’t got no badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!
5 – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Frank Capra’s Christmas masterpiece stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a local bank manager who accidentally loses $8,000 of the bank’s money. That is found by his evil boss Mr Potter. Knowing how that will ruin his life, he contemplates suicide. However a guardian angel appears and shows Bailey how much good he’s done in the world. You know it, you watch it every Christmas. It’s a feel good film of the type that we don’t get enough of anymore.
4 – Casablanca (1942)
Made by the underrated Mike Curtiz, Casablanca is what movies are about. Bogart, in his signature role, plays nightclub owner Rick. The club is in Casablanca during World War 2. One day an old flame, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) walks in his door accompanied by her husband, a notorious member of the Czech Resistance trying to get to neutral territory. Rick at first ignores her pleas but, eventually, he agrees to smuggle them out of the country. Claude Rains shines as the local chief of the constabulary and the chemistry between Bogie and Bergman is off the charts. You played it for her, you can play it for me… Play it!
3 – The Third Man (1949)
Often listed as the greatest British film ever made, Carol Reed’s The Third Man is so subtle, so unique, so almost weird and French at times with it’s strange score, Dutch angles, jaunty dialogue and noirish style that it’s hard to pin it down. But one thing is for sure. It is really really good. Joseph Cotton plays Holly Martins who is in Vienna to visit his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). He discovers Lime was recently killed in an accident while crossing the street. The problem is the facts don’t add up to Martins. Who was the 3rd man?
2 – The Red Shoes (1948)
The final film by the Archers on the list, and IMO one of the 20 greatest films ever made, The Red Shoes is about drive, determination and greed. It follows three main characters as they push for success – Ballet dancer Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), aspiring music composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and established musical impresario Boris Lemontov (Anton Walbrook). Vicky Page wants to be the best, the queen of all ballet divas. Her dancing impresses Lemontov, who sees greatness in her and pushes her harder and harder to succeed. Craster loves her and pushes her more and more to be with him and dance for his music some day. Page is caught in the middle of art, life, life and art. Once again shot by Jack Cardiff, it looks amazing. Even if you find the ballet a snooze, the title performance will knock your socks off.
1- Citizen Kane (1941)
The debut of Orson Welles onto the film scene is, frankly, a technical marvel. Coming from a decade where heavy sound cameras and limited sound equipment meant locking down the camera, his moves, slides, zooms and everything is in focus. He took a young man’s chances and it paid off. Of course the story is excellent as well, the tale of an idealistic, wealthy newspaperman falling to greed, corruption and ego are hardly new. But nobody did it better than Welles, not for a long time after 1941. Rosebud!
Well, waddya think? Make sure to call me various names in the Disqus below.