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DISCLAIMER: All film criticism is extremely subjective and there is no such thing as the definitive list of the Greatest (English-language) Films. Great Films can't be measured scientifically because greatness is extremely subjective. Just because we like a film doesn't mean that you will like it as well. Please feel free to leave us a comment with the films that you think are the greatest which we have not included on our list.

Not only was 1944 a big year for movies but it was also a big year for actors making their film debuts and the deaths of some truly great talent. Here is a snap shot of the American film industry.


Making Their Film Debuts:

Lauren BacallTo Have and Have Not; Angela LansburyGaslight; Gregory Peck – Days of Glory; Jean Simmons – Give Us the Moon


Top-grossing Films

1.Going My WayParamount
2.Wilson20th Century-Fox
3.Since You Went AwayUnited Artists
4.Lady in the DarkParamount
5.Meet Me in St. LouisMGM
6.Mrs. ParkingtonMGM
7.Here Come the WavesParamount
8.The Story of Dr. WassellParamount
9.Winged Victory20th Century-Fox
10.Hollywood CanteenWarner Bros.
11.The Princess and the PirateRKO
12.National VelvetMGM
14.Thirty Seconds Over TokyoMGM
15.Arsenic and Old LaceWarner Bros.
16.Mr. SkeffingtonWarner Bros.
17.The White Cliffs of DoverMGM
18.Dragon SeedMGM
19.Cover GirlColumbia
20.Frenchman’s CreekParamount


Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: Going My Way – Paramount

Best Actor: Bing Crosby – Going My Way

Best Actress: Ingrid BergmanGaslight

Best Supporting Actor: Barry FitzgeraldGoing My Way

Best Supporting Actress: Ethel Barrymore – None but the Lonely Heart

Best Director: Leo McCarey – Going My Way


Top Ten Money Making Stars

1.Bing Crosby
2.Gary Cooper
3.Bob Hope
4.Betty Grable
5.Spencer Tracy
6.Greer Garson
7.Humphrey Bogart
8. (tie)Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
9.Cary Grant
10.Bette Davis


Among Those Who Died In 1944:

  • Mildred Harris, 42, The Magic Cloak (1914), Movie Maniacs (1936) and The Power of the Press (1928);
  • Laird Cregar, 40, The Black Swan (1942), The Lodger (1944) and Hangover Square (1945).
  • Lupe Vélez, Mexican actress (36) The Gaucho (1927), Laughing Boy (1934), Mexican Spitfire (1940);
  • Glenn Miller, American musician, actor, (40), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Orchestra Wives (1945)


The Greatest Films of 1944




Arsenic and Old LaceArsenic and Old Lace

D: Frank Capra

A hilariously-funny, frantic farce and black comedy – a frenzied adaptation of the smash Broadway comedy from 1941 to 1944, with three of the stage performers reprising their roles. Set around Halloween night in Brooklyn, two sweet old spinster ladies, Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha Brewster (Jean Adair) poison lonely gentlemen male callers in their Brooklyn home as mercy killings. They serve them homemade elderberry wine and then bury them (with Christian burials) in their cellar. Their hapless nephew Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), a mild-mannered drama critic with a frustrated new wife Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), discovers what is going on when he finds a dead body in the window seat – and there were twelve more in the basement. He mistakenly believes that his crazy eccentric brother “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster (John Alexander), who is digging cellar graves for Panama Canal yellow fever victims, is responsible and wants to get him safely committed, never even suspecting his two aunts. Teddy regularly charges up the stairs with a bugle in hand. Mr. Witherspoon (Edward Everett Horton), the director of the Happy Dale Sanitorium rest home is reluctant to accept Teddy, because he already had too many “Roosevelts.” Mortimer is also confronted by the unexpected arrival of his sinister, psychotic murderous brother on the lam, Jonathan Brewster (Raymond Massey) who has a body of his own. Jonathan is accompanied by another villainous companion, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre). At the film’s end, Mortimer’s final words about his real heritage were censored from ” I’m a bastard!” to “I’m the son of a sea cook!”

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "A Canterbury Tale"

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A Canterbury Tale (UK)

D: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

This eccentric UK film was advertised with the tagline: “Four modern pilgrims in a story of today – yet away from war.” The story, set in the summer of 1943 during the early years of WWII, begins with three individuals (or pilgrims) arriving, during a blackout, in the small Kent village of Chillingbourne in Southern England, enroute to Canterbury: (1) Alison Smith (Sheila Sim) a London department store salesgirl about to become a “Land Girl” in the Women’s Land Army, (2) US Army Sgt. Bob Johnson (John Sweet), a GI serviceman on leave, and (3) cynical Peter Gibbs (Dennis Price), a drafted Englishman and former cinema-organist who gave up his music school dreams. As they depart the train and enter town after dark, a strange nocturnal “Glue Man” pours glue into Alison’s hair – she is his 11th victim. As they investigate the incident, they become suspicious of the eccentric local magistrate, Thomas Colpeper JP (Eric Portman), also a farmer whom Alison is to begin working with. They also study the history of the area and tales of The Pilgrim’s Way, and attend Colpeper’s lantern-slide lecture. By the film’s conclusion once they reached Canterbury, about a ten-minute journey away by train, Colpeper has admitted to being the Glue Man – with good intentions – to assure that local girls wouldn’t go out at night with GIs and forsake their husbands and boyfriends, and to hopefully guarantee that they would learn about the area’s history. Each of the three pilgrims also miraculously receives a blessing in Canterbury and are changed forever. Both Alison and Bob, who fear that their missing fiancee/girlfriend is dead, locates their loved ones. And Peter Gibbs plays the organ in Canterbury’s mystical cathedral.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Double Indemnity"

© 1944 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

Double Indemnity

D: Billy Wilder

One of the greatest, darkest film noirs of all time and one of the best suspense, thriller s of the 1940s, with a brilliant script based on the 1943 crime novel by James M. Cain, written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder. Told in a flashback by the wounded protagonist, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) falls hard for a blonde-wigged, sexy housewife named Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) with a sexy ankle bracelet. The femme fatale entices him into a scheme to murder her husband, in order to fraudulently collect a double indemnity accident policy pay-off. Claims agent Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), a perceptive, dogged co-worker in Walter’s insurance company, become suspicious and unravels the case. In the uncompromising ending, the two lovers plot against each other.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.



Poster for the movie "Gaslight"

© 1944 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.


D: George Cukor

A lavishly glossy, pseudo-Victorian thriller from MGM. In London, Paula Alquist (Best Actress Oscar-winner Ingrid Bergman), a wealthy, vulnerably-innocent socialite marries a charming ne’er-do-well, urbane, worldly Londoner Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). She is convinced to move into her murdered Aunt’s ancestral home. (Anton killed the Aunt years earlier). He is determined to drive his wife mad to get the inheritance – obsessed with finding her Aunt’s hidden jewelry in their house. The menacing Anton methodically victimizes and terrorizes his wife by playing upon her memory lapses and by tricking her with dimming gaslights and unsettling sounds from the attic, until savvy Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten) enters the case and realizes Paula is deliberately being tormented. The saucy, teenage maid Nancy Oliver is 17-year-old Angela Lansbury in a supporting role – her film debut.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Going My Way"

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Going My Way

D: Leo McCarey

A classic Bing Crosby film and a major box-office hit (the top-grossing film of the year) – and a Best Picture winner. It was followed by the sequel, The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945). A heartwarming, sentimental story of a young, personable, progressive, down-to-earth priest Father Chuck O’Malley (Bing Crosby) who works in a poor New York City slum Catholic parish – the financially-struggling St. Dominic’s Church. He seeks to win over his strict, loveable, but crusty, conservative old parish priest Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald, uniquely nominated for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, winning the latter) and to teach a group of street kids responsibility and respect by organizing a boys choir. Crosby’s songs included the incomparable “Swinging on a Star” (Oscar-winning), “Ave Maria,” “Three Blind Mice” (sung with the boys’ choir) and the Irish lullaby “Too-ra-Loo-ra-Loo-ra.”

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Hail the Conquering Hero"

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Hail the Conquering Hero

D: Preston Sturges

A fast paced, zany satire on war-time patriotism and hysteria, human nature, motherhood, and hero-worship from writer/producer/director Preston Sturges. With a memorable screen performance for Eddie Bracken, in a Paramount Studios film that was daring for its time. World War II Marine Corps 4-F reject (due to chronic hay fever) Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken), ashamed and embarrassed to admit his lack of fitness for duty, masquerades as a soldier – he works in a shipyard but writes deceptive letters home telling of his military exploits. He allows a group of sympathetic soldiers on board a train to pass him off as a true war hero, to deceive his hometown folks when he returns home in a great homecoming sequence, complete with brass bands. In the small town of Oakridge, Woodrow is “hailed as the conquering hero” and lauded for his bravery at Guadalcanal. Woodrow’s former girlfriend Libby (Ella Raines) is now engaged to Forrest Noble (Bill Edwards) (also discharged for hay fever). Woodrow is ashamed to renew their love (he tells her that he has met someone else). After a sleepless night, Woodrow confesses to all the falsehoods, and to his surprise, he is commended for his courage, and he wins back his girlfriend. The townsfolk even nominated him for mayor to replace the current corrupt Mayor Noble (Raymond Walburn).

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Henry V"

© 1944 Two Cities Films − All right reserved.

(King) Henry V (UK) (aka The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battel Fought at Agincourt in France), 136 minutes, D: Laurence Olivier

A triumphant, colorful, costume drama of the 15th century monarch – the first screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic, timeless and immortal epic play. Olivier was given an Honorary Oscar as actor, producer and director in bringing Henry V to the silver screen. The film is the story of the young, 15th century, 28-year-old Plantagenet Prince of Wales (Laurence Olivier) who decides to act on his claim to the French throne by invading France, and wins a victory at the crucial Battle of Agincourt against a larger, vastly superior French force. Innovatively staged, it is intimate and theatrical (the film opened on a bare Elizabethan stage, the Globe Theater, in the style of a play in the 1600s, and then expanded outward from there). The narrative then shifts to an epic film format shot on-location with sweeping, technicolor battle scenes. The film is chiefly about royal responsibility, war and its effects. The film is deeply affected by the historical context in which it was created — Olivier had intended Henry V to be a rallying morale booster for Britain at the height of WWII. Highlights included Henry V’s pre-battle speech to his troops at the siege of Harfleur, from Act III, Scene 1, beginning with the stirring line: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead,” and his St. Crispin’s Day address to his battle-weary men, from Act IV, Scene 3, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Laura"

© 1944 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.


D: Rouben Mamoulian, Otto Preminger

A gripping, moody, stylish murder mystery, complex film noir and tale of romance with sharp and witty dialogue, with a great ensemble group of character actors. Based on the 1943 novel by Vera Caspary. Winner of the Best Black/White Cinematography Academy Award, and with the haunting melody of the title theme song, David Raskin’s “Laura.” The film contains unsettling, obsessive undertones of voyeurism and ghoulish necrophilia. It opens with the voice of a prissy, acerbic, cynical newspaper columnist named Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) (purportedly based upon columnist, broadcaster, and The New Yorker theater critic Alexander Woollcott) who unfolds the story in flashbacks. Street-wise police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigates the shotgun murder of a beautiful young socialite Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) whose face had been blown away. During his interviews and work on the case, he becomes personally absorbed in the details of the young woman’s life and finds himself irresistibly falling in love with a large portrait of the mysterious victim and his pieced-together image of her. The detective’s earthy directness and toughness is in contrasted to the smug, pseudo-intellectualism of the victim’s upper crust, socially-prominent friends in Manhattan, including Laura’s mentor Lydecker, and Laura’s fiancee – a gigolo named Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price). It is revealed that the murdered girl was not Laura, but Diana Redfern, after Laura returns from a long weekend. In the exciting conclusion, enraged and jealous Lydecker (who had killed Diana) threatens Laura with a shotgun (originally hidden in a clock) in her apartment with a murder/suicide, but is felled by police. He expired with the words: “Goodbye, Laura. Goodbye, my love.”

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Lifeboat"

© 1944 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.


D: Alfred Hitchcock

Novelist John Steinbeck co-scripted the screenplay with Jo Swerling for this World War II melodrama/thriller – an interesting, visually-arresting, penetrating study of human nature and class distinctions under pressure. This was the only film that Hitchcock made for Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Hitchcock’s famed cameo was ingenious – he appeared in before and after photos in a newspaper ad for a dieting product.

The action is contained entirely aboard one small cramped lifeboat in the North Atlantic, as a group of survivors of a torpedoed freighter struggle together. All came from the same Allied boat, sunk by a German submarine/U-boat, except for one rescued German (the captain of the sunken submarine). Sharp characterizations are developed between the surviving characters from various backgrounds who suspensefully clash and conspire with each other: a chic, spoiled, fashion journalist named Constance ‘Connie’ Porter (Tallulah Bankhead), a proletarian seaman John Kovak (John Hodiak), and the devious German captain of the U-boat Willy (Walter Slezak) who cleverly manipulates them to his own advantage as helmsman of the lifeboat. When the survivors finally discover Willy’s deceptions and cruelty (he killed injured, amputee seaman Gus Smith (William Bendix) and was hoarding water), they beat him to death and throw him overboard – while lamenting: “What do you do with people like that?” When the group is awaiting rescue by an distant allied warship, they had to make a decision about saving another young, wounded German survivor.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis"

© 1944 Loew’s − All right reserved.

Meet Me in St. Louis

D: Vincente Minnelli

One of MGM’s greatest, most elegant, and most popular musicals of all-time – and MGM’s second most-successful film after Gone With the Wind (1939) in its 20 year history. The nostalgic, romantic, heartwarming film is the story of the Smith family in turn-of-the-century St. Louis in the year before the 1904 World’s Fair. The Technicolor film reestablished star Judy Garland’s career – and set her up to become director Minnelli’s future wife. The action surrounds the emotions which erupt in the happy Smith family, a typical idealized Americana family group, with the news of the family’s impending move to New York due to father Alonzo Smith’s (Leon Ames) job transfer. Mrs. Anna Smith (Mary Astor) and son and four daughters, including eldest daughter Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Judy Garland), Agnes (Joan Carroll) and the precocious, morbid youngest daughter “Tootie” (Margaret O’Brien), and Lon Jr. (Henry H. Daniels, Jr.) want to remain, especially because of the females’ possible romantic futures with boyfriends. Esther was in love with boy next door John Truett (Tom Drake), and she sings most of the film’s sentimental songs, including “The Boy Next Door,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “The Trolley Song.” In the film’s upbeat ending, Mr. Smith announces that because of the devastating upset he has caused by proposing a move, he decides that the family will not leave St. Louis.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"

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The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

D: Preston Sturges

One of director/writer Preston Sturges’ top war-time screwball comedies. It was considered a defiant, controversial, bold, irreverent farce at the time due to its scandalous content skewering marriage, parenthood, motherhood and the family, while also containing Sturges’ characteristic touches – fast-delivered dialogue and slapstick.

A hapless, small-town girl from Morgan’s Creek, flirty blonde Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) attends a rollicking, all-night farewell party with servicemen from the local army base, gets drunk, and marries a soldier. She soon find herself pregnant, but can’t remember which soldier she married – was his name something like “Ignatz Ratzkiwatzki…or was it Zitzkiwitzki”? And she fears her strict, exasperated and overprotective father Constable Kockenlocker (William Demarest). With the conniving advice of her shrewd 14-year-old sister Emmy (Diana Lynn), the mother-to-be convinces average guy – bank-clerk/4-F reject Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), Trudy’s childhood boyfriend, to marry her and pretend to be the father. Norval makes a crucial error when he signs his real name on the marriage certificate, and he faces arrest on 19 counts (forgery, false impersonation, corrupting the morals of a minor, even bank robbery and kidnapping). Before the frantic film ends, Trudy ‘miraculously’ gives birth to sextuplets (all boys) on Christmas Day, and Norval is given assistance by Governor McGinty (Brian Donlevy) and The Boss (Akim Tamiroff). McGinty orders Norval release from jail, declares him and Trudy married, promotes Norval into the National Guard and makes Trudy’s father police chief. The young couple become national celebrities, but Norval faints when he learns he is the father of six offspring (“But Norval recovers and becomes increasingly happy for, as Shakespeare said: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.'”)

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "Murder, My Sweet"

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Murder, My Sweet

D: Edward Dmytryk

Originally released with the title Farewell, My Lovely, although changed so that fans of 1930s song-and-dance star Dick Powell, portraying the main character, wouldn’t think the film was a musical comedy. This film marked the earliest screen depiction of detective Philip Marlowe. The tales are adapted from Raymond Chandler’s 1940 hard-boiled novel – a superb, complex, shadowy film noir of murder, corruption, blackmail, double-cross and double identity, with witty dialogue and cynical, descriptive voice-over narration. The film opens in wartime Los Angeles, where tough yet vulnerable, blindfolded gumshoe detective Philip Marlowe is grilled under a bright light by police interrogators. In flashback, he tells a disorienting and bewildering tale. He had been hired by recently-released, brutish, urgent ex-con Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to search for his missing girlfriend Velma Valento (Claire Trevor). And then he is also commissioned as a bodyguard, for $100 to accompany Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton) (associated with shady underworld figure Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger) during a ransom payoff of $8,000 for stolen jewels. When the man is killed, Marlowe is knocked unconscious. The owner of the jewels, a mysterious, flirtatious Mrs. Helen Grayle (Trevor again) hires him to locate an allegedly stolen jade necklace worth $100,000, originally given to her by her older wealthy husband Mr. Grayle (Miles Mander). Marlowe also meets Ann (Anne Shirley in her final film), Mrs. Grayle’s pretty red-haired stepdaughter. Marlowe continues to navigate through a perilous world, becoming further entangled with and threatened by despicable high- and low-class criminals. During a meeting with Amthor, Marlowe is blackjacked unconscious. He is drugged and experiences drug-induced hallucinations and nightmares (“a crazy, coked-up dream”) when pursued through a series of identical doors by a man with a giant hypodermic needle, during imprisonment in a strange sanitarium run by Dr. Sonderborg (Ralf Harolde). After escaping, he becomes the prime suspect for Marriott’s murder while continuing to conduct his investigation. What follows are two scenes in the Grayle beachhouse, the first when Moose apparently strangles Amthor to death, and Helen tries to seduce Marlowe. There is also a final standoff and violent shoot-out, when it is revealed that mysterious, flirtatious, gold-digging double-identity Mrs. Helen Grayle – also known as Moose’s missing Velma, has set up numerous individuals over the theft of her jade jewelry. She is indeed a murderous femme fatale – she is the one who murdered Marriott. The jealous Mr. Grayle shoots Helen dead (with Marlowe’s gun), and Moose in anger retaliates – and both Moose and Mr. Grayle end up dead. Marlowe is temporarily blinded by gunshot powder close to his face. In the film’s ending after Marlowe’s tale ends, he is reunited with cute love interest Ann in the back of a taxi-cab.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "National Velvet "

© − All right reserved.

National Velvet

D: Clarence Brown

One of MGM’s greatest children’s/family films – an all-time, loveable, dramatic film favorite in Technicolor. This film launched Elizabeth Taylor‘s career, in her first starring role. The screenplay by American screenwriter Helen Deutsch is based on the 1935 novel by Enid Bagnold. It is the poignant and uplifting story of a plucky young daughter in Sussex, England, the middle child in the Brown family, headed by a pragmatic butcher Mr. Brown (Donald Crisp) and his strong, plain-spoken, and observant wife (Ann Revere). In the 1920s, young horsewoman Velvet Brown (12 year-old Elizabeth Taylor) wins a neighbor’s unruly, spirited and wild horse named “The Pie” in a village raffle-lottery. Determined, she trains the horse with the coaching help of a homeless, embittered, ex-jockey Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney) to enter the famed Grand National Steeplechase Race. (Mi continues to feel responsible for an accident that had killed a jockey.) Against everyone’s wishes and impossible odds, Velvet replaces her jockey Taski (Eugene Loring) and, in disguise as a male rider, she takes charge of her own horse and wins the race in the exciting, beautifully-edited conclusion. However, she is disqualified after crossing the winning line. Upon their return to the village, they were honored and greeted ceremoniously. One of many offers for appearances and interviews is to have Velvet and Pie travel to Hollywood to star in a motion picture – but she rejects the idea.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


None But The Lonely HeartNone But The Lonely Heart

D: Clifford Odets

Playwright Clifford Odets wrote and directed this unusual, daring melodrama of Richard Llewelyn’s 1943 novel – it was Odets’ directorial and scripting debut. Cary Grant’s indomitable performance in the depressing drama earned him his sole Oscar nomination – his straightest dramatic role in his entire career, although he believed he was miscast. The film turned out to be a flop for RKO Studios.

In London’s East End slums of the 1930s, a young, witty, but lazy and irresponsible Cockney drifter Ernest “Ernie” Verdun Mott (Cary Grant) lacks conscience and is solely interested in self-satisfaction. He is carefree and restless, basically a wandering, shiftless, no-good young man. He joins a band of thieves committing petty crimes, briefly associating himself with fellow cello-playing musician and neighbor Aggie Hunter (Jane Wyatt) who cares for him, and instead takes a romantic interest in gangster friend Jim Mordinoy’s (George Coulouris) fickle ex-wife Ada Brantline (June Duprez). When Ernie learns that his poverty-stricken, widowed mother Ma Mott (Ethel Barrymore), the proprietor of a second-hand furniture shop/pawn shop, is terminally ill and dying of cancer – he returns home. He becomes a devoted son and his spirit is semi-transformed when he helps run the shop and care for Ma. However, his mother begins to get involved with Ernie’s wayward crime friends, including shoplifter Mrs. Jane Snowden (Queenie Vassar). After being tempted, she agrees to fence stolen goods for the shoplifter, to help raise money for her poor family. At the same time, Ernie continues to engage in criminal activities with his companions – mostly car-theft. During one altercation with police following a crime, they search him and find a platinum cigarette case – he claims it was given to him by his mother as a birthday gift. The item is traced and found to be stolen goods. In the film’s tragic conclusion, the dying Ma is arrested and jailed. Before dying in prison,  she begs Ernie’s forgiveness for disgracing the Mott family name. Ernie is forlorn after Ada decides to return to her ex-husband, so he ventures out to find Aggie.


Since You Went AwaySince You Went Away

D: John Cromwell

A big-budget, sentimental melodrama of a genteel, idealized Midwestern family left on the home front in 1943 during World War II. At the time, it was the longest and most expensive Hollywood film since producer David O. Selznick’s own Gone with the Wind (1939). Selznick also wrote the screenplay, based upon Margaret Buell Wilder’s 1943 novel “Since You Went Away: Letters to a Soldier from His Wife” – a collection of letters to her husband while he was away at war, overseas. The touching film epitomized Hollywood’s effort to boost morale during the war, with vignettes showing the effects of rationing, personal sacrifices, and the many reunions and departures. The family’s individual tragedies and problems are presented in this weeper, with a great Oscar-winning score from Max Steiner.

In the all-star cast are matriarchal Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) who holds together her family of two teenaged daughters – Jane (Jennifer Jones) and Bridget (or Brig) (teenaged Shirley Temple) – when their beloved businessman father, who volunteered to serve, is reported lost and missing in action. Jane romances shy sailor Cpl. William G. ‘Bill’ Smollett II (Robert Walker, Jennifer Jones‘ real-life husband at the time) – the sweethearts’ railroad station parting scene is one of the most unforgettable, tear-jerking sequences of all-time. To help with increasing economic hardships, the Hilton family takes on a boarder – family friend Navy Lieutenant Commander Anthony “Tony” Willett (Joseph Cotten), who becomes the focus of the anxious emotional feelings and tribulations of the family during war-time. Harsh war-time realities come into focus with the death of Jane’s young boyfriend during combat.


Poster for the movie "To Have and Have Not"

© 1944 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

To Have and Have Not

D: Howard Hawks

A film loosely based on Hemingway’s 1937 novel, with a screenplay co-written by William Faulkner. The film’s story was overshadowed by the on-screen and off-screen romance of stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, the first of four films they made together. Their most famous scene was in this romantic drama – the “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?” scene.

During World War II in 1940 on the French island of Martinique in Fort-de-France, governed by the Vichy government, ex-patriate Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), charter boat owner of the Queen Conch, prefers to remain uncommitted and refuses to take sides in the war, accompanied by his alcoholic sidekick (Walter Brennan) (known for saying: “Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”) The most remembered feature of the film is the sultry, electrically-sizzling romance that is generated between Harry and stranded American Marie “Slim” Browning (19 year old Lauren Bacall in her film debut), a sexy lounge singer who often was accompanied by piano player Cricket (Hoagey Carmichael). Against his own better judgment, Harry is convinced to change his mind and fight the Nazis, and in the process secure enough money to pay for Marie’s ticket back to the US. He helps transport Free French Resistance leader Paul De Bursac (Walter Szurovy) and his beautiful wife Mme. Hellene de Bursac (Dolores Moran) to Martinique. The transport isn’t entirely successful – De Bursac is wounded, and Harry’s boat is identified by Vichy authorities. Harry, Marie, and Eddie are forced to leave Martinique, and take the De Bursacs to Devil’s Island, to help rescue another freedom fighter.

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


Poster for the movie "The Uninvited"

© 1944 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

The Uninvited

D: Lewis Allen

This was a spooky, eerie, unusual, and suspenseful ghost story from Paramount Studios, advertised with the tagline: “From the Most Popular Mystery Romance since “Rebecca“! The tale is based on Irish writer Dorothy Macardle’s 1941 novel The Easy Freehold (aka Uneasy Freehold). This film was followed by the murder mystery sequel, The Unseen (1945).

In 1937, music critic/composer Roderick (“Rick”) (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela Fitzgerald (Ruth Hussey) purchase an empty Gothic house on the English Cornish coast in Devonshire for an unusually low price from Cmdr. Beech (Donald Crisp). Soon after moving in, they experience strange phenomena and disturbances in the house, dubbed the Windward House: unexplainable cold spots, the smell of mimosas, flickering candles, the sound of a woman crying, pages turning by themselves, wilting flowers, and creaking doors which close by themselves. They meet a local young woman, 20 year-old Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), with long deceased parents, who is impulsively drawn to the house. She is the grand-daughter of Cmdr. Beech, but he has forbidden her to visit due to unpleasant memories. The house is supposedly haunted by Stella’s dead mother Mary Meredith (Lynda Grey as ghost), Cmdr. Beech’s daughter. Mary was mysteriously killed many years earlier in a fall from the cliffs. The couple try to help Stella discover the answer to the mystery of the house’s haunting, while Rick falls in love with her.

[Note: In the twisting plot, it was learned that Stella’s artistic father Llewellyn, although married to Mary, was in a loveless relationship. He was having an extra-marital affair with a gypsy girl, Carmel. The secret to the mystery is that Carmel is Stella’s birth mother. A pregnant Carmel was sent to Paris and the pregnancy was kept quiet, and she was to remain there permanently. The Meredith’s presumably planned to adopt the child back in England, because the saintly Mary objected to motherhood. However, Carmel couldn’t stay away from her child. When Stella was 3-years-old, Mary and Carmel fought at the side of the cliff when Mary attempted to murder Carmel’s child, and Mary fell to her death. Carmel died shortly later of pneumonia. Stella’s father Llewellyn died when Stella was 17.]

In the film’s conclusion, Cmdr. Beech is shocked to see the ghost of Mary and suffers a fatal heart attack. The mystery is solved when it is found that there are two ghosts that have reappeared, mimosa-scented Carmel’s ghost (Betty Farrington as ghost voice) and Mary’s angry and malevolent ghost. The ghost of Carmel is there to warn Stella and shield her from harm, and Mary is there to seek vengeance. The power of the ghost of Mary is neutralized when Rick confronts her: “We’re not frightened of you anymore,” and the ghost disappears (and with the threat gone, Carmel also vanishes). A shaken but relieved Rick gives Stella the humorous closing line regarding Mary: “Well, I’ve had a narrow escape. She might have been my mother-in-law.”

Learn more and watch the trailer here.


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