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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 1947 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:
Anouk Aimée – La maison sous la mer
Janet Leigh – The Romance of Rosy Ridge
Toshiro Mifune – Snow Trail
Marilyn Monroe – The Shocking Miss Pilgrim
Sidney Poitier – Sepia Cinderella
Richard Widmark – Kiss of Death
|2.||The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer|
The Egg and I
|3.||Mother Wore Tights||20th Century Fox||$5,250,000|
|4.||Life with Father||Warner Bros.||$5,057,000|
|5.||Green Dolphin Street||MGM||$5,000,000|
|6.||Road to Rio||Paramount||$4,500,000|
|7.||Forever Amber||20th Century Fox||$4,384,000|
|8.||Gentleman’s Agreement||20th Century Fox||$4,100,000|
|10.||The Ghost and Mrs. Muir||20th Century Fox||$3,750,000|
|11.||The Bishop’s Wife||RKO||$3,527,000|
|12.||Body and Soul||United Artists||$3,305,000|
|13.||Miracle on 34th Street||20th Century Fox||$3,150,000|
|15.||The Farmer’s Daughter||RKO||$3,100,000|
|16.||The Shocking Miss Pilgrim||20th Century Fox||$3,000,000|
|18.||Dark Passage||Warner Bros.||$2,430,000|
|19.||Down to Earth||Columbia||$2,390,000|
|20.||Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman||Universal||$2,101,000|
Academy Award Winners
Top Ten Money Making Stars
Among Those Who Died In 1947:
Grace Moore, 48, American opera singer and actress, One Night of Love, The King Steps Out, When You’re in Love;
Sidney Toler, 72, American actor, Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, The Chinese Cat, Black Magic, The Jade Mask;
Adrienne Ames, 39, American actress, The Death Kiss, You’re Telling Me!, Slander House, Gigolette
Olive Borden, 41, American actress, 3 Bad Men, Half Marriage, Leave It to Me
John Halliday, 67, American actor, The Philadelphia Story, Intermezzo
Mark Hellinger, 47, American producer, High Sierra, They Drive By Night, The Two Mrs. Carrolls
The Greatest Films of 1947
***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL***
The Bishop’s Wife
D: Henry Koster
RKO’s perennial Christmas holiday fantasy, a sentimental and heart-warming favorite with a screenplay by Robert Sherwood, from novelist Robert Nathan’s work. A Best Picture Oscar nominee and beautifully photographed by Gregg Toland.
After praying for “guidance,” harried Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) receives divine help in the form of a handsome, suave guardian angel sent from heaven named Dudley (Cary Grant). But the charming Dudley is not there to assist with the obsessed Bishop’s building and funding of a new cathedral, but to show Henry what he had been neglecting in life — the poor and needy, the boys’ choir, his parishioners and most noticeably, his lovely wife Julia Brougham (Loretta Young), who has the incredible gift, according to Dudley of “making heaven here on Earth.” The debonair Dudley is there to remind the Bishop about all his greater priorities in his life – and in the meantime, find that Julia is attracted to him. Dudley rewrites Henry’s Christmas sermon, dictating while the typewriter takes down his words. When Henry finally publicly announces the importance of Julia in his life to Dudley (“Julia means more to me than my life, I’m not going to lose her”), the angel promptly announces his departure. The angel tells Henry that he and everyone else will have no memory of his visit or existence (“When I’m gone, you will never know that an angel visited your house”). At St. Timothy’s Church, the Bishop delivered Dudley’s sermon on Christmas Eve at midnight, while Julia beams at him from the pews. From the street outside under a light falling snow, Dudley listens to the poignant and touching words, satisfied that his work was complete as he turns and slowly walks away – bringing the film to a heartfelt close.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
Black Narcissus (UK)
D: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
The provocative and richly-Technicolored spiritual melodrama (with Oscar-winning cinematography by Jack Cardiff) is based on the novel by Rumer Godden. The dazzling cinematographic masterpiece tell about a convent (with a school and hospital infirmary) and group of British Anglican nuns in the far remote Himalayans, with breath-taking imagery of the donated exotic sultan’s palace (once a bordello) with a bell tower on the edge of a precipice. The convent is led by devout and pious Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), the Sister Superior. One of the unstable and spurned Anglican nuns, Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), is driven mad by repressed and starved sexuality and jealousy after turning mad with lust for British government intermediary, sexy yet cynical officer Mr. Dean (David Farrar). In a side plot, Jean Simmons portrayed a sexually-intriguing native girl named Kanchi. In the unnerving, climactic conclusion, Sister Ruth renounced her vows, adorns herself in a bright-red forbidden dress, applies matching lipstick (symbolizing her break with the nunnery), and seeks to attack her rival Sister Clodagh. The cathartic scene ends when intended victim Sister Clodagh is saved from death as she grabs hold of the bell tower rope after being pushed toward the precipice by jealous and vengeful Ruth, who loses her balance and falls to her death.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
Body and Soul
D: Robert Rossen
One of the best, most compelling, starkly-realistic boxing sports films ever produced before a rash of imitators and parodies. From a powerful screenplay by Abraham Polonsky, with impressive fight sequences (winning an Oscar for Best Film Editing) shot with roller-skating cameramen to enhance the realism. In this definitive film that also serves as a cautionary morality tale (told in flashback), John Garfield (in his best film role) stars as tough, naive, dim-witted but decent Charley Davis from a poor Jewish family in the slums of the Lower East Side, who chooses boxing as a means to escape his life of poverty. The pugilist successfully works his way to the top, the middleweight championship, by both fair and unethical means (his association with crooked racketeers and fight promoters) to the disapproval of his mother Anna (Anne Revere), his free-spirited Greenwich Village artist-girlfriend Peg Born (Lilli Palmer), and his loyal lifetime friend Shorty Polaski (Joseph Pevney). He blindly believes he can become independent once he makes it as the champ, but then is disillusioned when his threatening, unethical, corrupt handler Roberts (Lloyd Gough) demands 50% of the take to help him win the championship. Charley makes more wrong decisions, resulting in Shorty’s accidental death, a broken engagement with his girlfriend, reckless gambling, and a harmful relationship with gold-digging nightclub vamp Alice (Hazel Brooks). He ends up indebted – and is ordered to take part in a fixed fight (he is told to fight all fifteen rounds and lose the fight by a decision) – something that would cause him to also lose his soul and self-respect. At the last minute in the sensational final sequence, he rebels against his operators, knocks out his challenging newcomer opponent Jack Marlowe (Artie Dorrell), returns to Peg, and rejects Roberts. When Roberts threatens Charley as he leaves the ring, Charley mocks him with an ironically-quipped line used earlier in the film: “What are you gonna do, kill me? Everybody dies.”
D: Elia Kazan
This semi-documentary crime film is based on the true story of the 1924 unsolved murder of an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. The elderly, beloved and kindly priest Father George Lambert (Wryley Birch) of Bridgeport, CT is murdered (by gunshot) during his regular evening walk at a street-corner by an unidentified killer. Police Chief Harold F. ‘Robbie’ Robinson (Lee J. Cobb) faces tremendous political pressure to quickly find the suspect. There are seven witnesses to the shooting, but the killer’s face isn’t seen, and there are no other clues. The Morning Record (and its ace political reporter Dave Woods (Sam Levene)) stirs up trouble by blaming the current administration for being soft on crime. Out-of-town WWII veteran and unemployed drifter John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy) is soon targeted as the suspected murderer, although he vehemently denies being involved. Forensics evidence shows that the bullet came from his gun. He is exhaustively questioned by the police chief and lead detective Lieutenant White (Karl Malden) for two days, and gives in by signing a confession – under duress. State’s District Attorney Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews), a potential candidate for governor, is assigned to try and prove Waldron’s innocence – obviously, the suspect is a victim of prejudgment. During the court hearing, Harvey destroys the prosecution’s case and exonerated Waldron. He reenacts the crime seven times – proving that none of the unreliable eyewitnesses could have seen the killer from where they were positioned on the street. He also demonstrates that the intense grilling from police was unfairly brutal and that the confession was coerced. He also submits five expert ballistics reports that disprove the bullet came from Waldron’s gun. In a dramatic Russian Roulette-styled challenge, Harvey dares Waldron’s loaded gun to be fired into the back of his own head – the gun wouldn’t fire (revealing that it had a broken malfunctioning pin and couldn’t be fired). Waldron is freed, and although the case is reopened, the real killer is never caught.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
D: Edward Dmytryk
RKO’s and Edward Dmytryk’s noir message drama (filmed mostly at night with low-key lighting), a taut, intelligent and exciting melodrama and murder mystery, is a rare Hollywood social issue film – a landmark film and one of the first to indict anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry, along with this year’s Best Picture-winning Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). The blunt, honest, and engrossing box-office hit is based on Richard Brooks’ 1945 novel The Brick Foxhole, although in the book, the victim was homosexual. It has the notable distinction of being the first B-picture to receive a Best Picture nomination.
The catalyst of the film is an incident (told in various flashbacks) that occurred one drunken evening, when a group of recently-discharged soldiers on leave were partying in a Washington DC hotel nightclub with Miss Lewis (Marlo Dwyer) and her Jewish boyfriend, war hero civilian Joseph “Sammy” Samuels (Sam Levene). After some of them go to the man’s apartment, there appears to have been an argument – and later, Miss Lewis find Sammy’s body. Subsequently, an investigation into the mysterious murder is conducted by a lead civilian cop, crusading district attorney Capt. Finlay (Robert Young), with help from laconic military cop Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum). When questioned as a suspect, ex-cop and GI veteran-soldier “Monty” Montgomery (Robert Ryan) claims that he and another friend, civilian redneck Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie), were with ex-WPA artist and Corp. Arthur “Mitch” Mitchell (George Cooper) in Samuels’ apartment. The night’s comings and goings are relayed by the suspects, in flashback, to the officers. In an abrupt move to throw off the police and silence one of the potential witnesses against him, “Monty” beat and hanged Bowers with a necktie, leaving him presumably dead. The evidence seems to be pointing, however, towards Mitch who is suffering from post-war depression and drunkenness. Although he cannot provide a convincing alibi – Keeley firmly believes in Mitch’s innocence. It is soon revealed, under interrogation, that the bigoted and unhinged “Monty,” who openly despises Jews, had the proper motive to murder the Jewish boyfriend with his bare hands – but his hate crime needs to be proven. After piecing together the puzzling events, Finlay sets a trap for “Monty,” who is also suspected of murdering Bowers, with the help of Monty’s other friend Leroy (William Phipps). Leroy tells “Monty” that Bowers is alive and wants to meet with him at a specific address (deliberately incorrect). When “Monty” arrives at the right address for best buddy Floyd, he reveals his obvious guilt. “Monty” flees from police and is shot dead by Finlay on the street as the film concluded.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
D: Delmer Daves
Director Delmar Daves adapted David Goodis’ 1946 novel of the same name for this film. It is another drama teaming Bogart and Bacall (their third of four films together, following To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946)), although one of their lesser ones. Unique in that Bogart’s complete face is not viewed for over an hour (obscured by shadows or bandages), when he finally removes facial bandages.
In this thriller-noir, con Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) – a lifer in prison for murdering his wife Gert, escapes from San Quentin by hiding in a barrel. He conveniently joins up with attractive and wealthy artist Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), sympathetic to his plight to prove his innocence, because her recently-executed father was also falsely accused for a similar crime. Her evil friend Madge Rapf’s (Agnes Moorehead) testimony had helped to frame Parry in the first place. To deter attention and mask his identity, Parry undergoes plastic surgery on his face from Walter Coley (Houseley Stevenson), and changes his name to Alan Linell. Then with faithful Irene’s help, he attempts to clear his name and prove that he didn’t kill his wife. He is pursued by small-time, blackmailing hood Baker (Clifton Young), who argues with Parry near the edge of a cliff at Fort Point and falls to his death. To make matters worse, Parry was also framed for the death of his close friend George Fellsinger (Rory Mallinson). In the conclusion, it is revealed that Madge killed both Parry’s wife and George. When Parry confronts Madge to force her to sign a confession, she struggles with him, stumbles and fall from a window. In the unusual happy ending (for a film noir), Parry flees with Irene to Paita, Peru where they dance in an ocean-side nightclub to the song Too Marvelous for Words.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
A Double Life
D: George Cukor
Cukor’s psycho-melodrama, with an excellent script of sharp dialogue by the husband-wife team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, also had an Oscar-winning score by Miklos Rosza. It tells about famous Broadway matinee-idol actor Anthony John (Oscar-winning Ronald Colman in a career-topping role) whose stage roles are taking over his obsessed, off-stage personal life. The veteran actor knows that there will be disastrous consequences during his performance of different roles – for example, he had divorced his ex-wife Brita (Signe Hasso) two years earlier while acting in a Chekov play. He feared what would happen in real life if he took the role of Shakespeare’s jealous Moor named Othello, with Brita as his leading lady Desdemona. It is a torturous role for him, as every night on stage, he is forced to strangle his wife due to jealousy. During these pressurized performances, his jealousies overtake him. When he fears that Brita is in love with somebody else, their publicist Bill Friend (Edmond O’Brien), he is compelled to act as Othello. He strangles his lover-mistress Pat Kroll (Shelley Winters in a star-making role), a pathetically-lonely, mid-20s slutty waitress he had met in an Italian restaurant. The curtain-falling conclusion of Othello blurred the boundary between art and life when the delirious actor stabs himself to death on-stage.
The Farmer’s Daughter
D: H.C. Potter
Not to be confused with the 1940 film of the same name starring Martha Raye. It is based on the Finnish play Juurakon Hulda by Hella Wuolijoki that was purchased by David O. Selznick, potentially for Ingrid Bergman. In this delightful and smart romantic comedy (with a Cinderella theme), Loretta Young (in an Oscar-winning signature role) stars as Katrin Holstrom, the Swedish daughter of stalwart Minnesota farmer (Harry Shannon). In the big city of Washington DC where she is planning to attend nursing school, lecherous painter-acquaintance Adolph Petree (Rhys Williams) swindles her out of her savings. With nowhere to turn, she becomes the housekeeper (and lover) of US Congressman Glenn Morley (Joseph Cotten) and his powerful politico mother Agatha (Ethel Barrymore). Learning how the political game is played by her association with him and crusty butler Joseph Clancey (Charles Bickford), the feisty, independent-minded, and common-sensed Katrin decides to improve politics. She runs as a Reform candidate in an opposition party against the corrupt political machine (and its replacement candidate for a deceased officeholder). As a result, although there is a smear campaign to discredit her, she wins the election and goes to Congress with Glenn.
D: Elia Kazan
The compelling and controversial film, at the time, was adapted by Moss Hart from Laura Z. Hobson’s best-selling novel (originally serialized in Cosmopolitan), although now somewhat dated in its impact. It was the top grossing picture for 20th Century Fox in 1948, and one of the first Hollywood films to confront the problem of anti-Semitism, bigotry, and religious prejudice. This morality tale was one of a number of films that explored serious social issues in the 1940s. The film’s title refers to the “gentleman’s agreement” practice of Gentiles (non-Jews) discriminating against Jews. Kazan’s startling, Best Picture-winning sober drama is a powerful, sentimental and melodramatic story about a non-Jewish magazine reporter-journalist Philip Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck), a recently-divorced single father. He has writer’s block about a new assignment – an expose-article on the subject of anti-Semitism for his liberal Smith Weekly magazine publisher John Minify (Albert Dekker) – until he decides to go undercover and pose as a Jew (with the name Phil Greenberg) to have a first-hand experience. Predictably, he encounters prejudice, scorn and hatred. His son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) is bullied in school and called names and his complacent, close-minded socialite girlfriend Kathy Lucy (Dorothy McGuire), niece of Smith Weekly’s editor, is snubbed by her Darien, Connecticut friends. Green experiences religious abuse and bias when rejected for a hotel room. The magazine’s sharp-tongued fashion editor, a counterpoint to Green, is Anne Dettrey (Oscar-winning Celeste Holm), and his childhood Jewish friend is Dave Goldman (John Garfield). Deeply-rooted prejudice and underlying anti-Semitism are revealed in his friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph Mankiewicz’ charming, turn-of-the-century romantic fantasy, is based on the 1945 R.A. Dick (Josephine Leslie) novel with a script by Philip Dunne. It tells about a young, independent, strong-willed but lonely widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) with a young daughter Anna (Natalie Wood) in Victorian England. She discovers a salty, hot-tempered naval sea captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) as a ghostly presence in her English seaside Gull Cottage, in the town of Whitecliff-by-the-Sea. Windows and doors open on their own, candles blow out and disembodied laughter. The source of the spookiness is undoubtedly Gull Cottage’s former owner who is haunting the bedroom and thoughts of Lucy in his non-flesh-and-blood form. The film’s tagline asked: “Is Lucy Muir’s love really a ghost, or is it a man of flesh and blood she yearns for?” She refuses to be scared by the ghostly denizen of the spiritual world. When she acquires debts, he helps her to be a “ghostwriter” – composing a successful, best-selling novel of autobiographical memoirs about his own life, titled Blood and Swash, that she transcribes from his dictations. In the meantime, she is charmed by smooth-talking cad Miles Fairley (George Sanders), an author of children’s books. Gregg’s jealousy is sparked, and she becomes uncertain of the captain’s motivations when he warns her about the adulterous suitor. The ghostly sea captain decides to bid good-bye to Lucy while she sleeps. He tells her that she must find her own way in life – and that she is only dreaming of a sea-captain haunting the house. In the transcendent, tear-jerking final scene many years later, white-haired, elderly widow Lucy dies in her British seaside cottage’s armchair. Captain Gregg reappears and greets her with outstretched hands: “And now, you’ll never be tired again, come Lucia, come my dear.” Rejuvenated and young again, she walks off, hand-in-hand with him downstairs and through the front door into the afterlife with him.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
Miracle on 34th Street
D: George Seaton
A popular, perennial favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday film adapted from Valentine Davies’ original story. A sentimental and appealing morality fantasy tale about the struggle between faith and doubting cynicism, as well as between the holiday spirit of generosity and materialistic commercialism. When a Macy’s New York City Thanksgiving Day parade Santa Claus is discovered to be intoxicated by a white-whiskered, kindly old man calling himself Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), Kringle was hired by special-events parade organizer and divorced, workaholic single mother Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) to be the store’s new Saint Nick. The emergency in-house replacement – the new, grandfatherly jolly fellow from the North Pole, proves to be a smash hit following the parade. The most touching moment is Kringle reassuringly singing a song to a frightened, refugee Dutch girl in her native language. But some doubts are raised when he endorses and sends customers to rival department stores, such as Gimbels, when Macy’s didn’t have the desired merchandise. Problems also arise when Kringle claims he is the real Santa Claus, although Doris is reassured by the store’s psychologist Mr. Sawyer (Porter Hall) that Kringle’s ‘insane’ fantasy is harmless. Doris’ doubting, equally cynical, wide-eyed, and precocious second grade daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) also thinks Kringle is only a fairy-tale. After further investigation, Kringle’s work application reveals he is a nursing home resident in Great Neck, Long Island, where the resident Dr. Pierce (James Seay) also claims that ‘Santa’ is delusional but not dangerous. Psychiatrists from Bellevue Hospital threaten to have him committed and put away in a mental institution, but Kringle’s twinkly-eyed earnestness and wholesomeness remove the doubts of even the skeptical Doris and Susan. The film climaxes with the famous court hearing on Kringle’s insanity between the two department stores — Macy’s (legally represented by Doris’ handsome bachelor lawyer-friend Fred Gaily (John Payne), her love interest) and Gimbels. Before Kringle is committed to Bellevue, Fred convinced Judge Henry Harper (Gene Lockhart) to hold a hearing. State’s District Attorney Thomas Mara (Jerome Cowan) is sure that he has won the case when Kris decisively declares that he was Santa Claus. Fred needs to prove his case that it is wrong to vilify Santa Claus, and at the same time acceptable to have faith in the red-suited character and believe in the power of imagination (and the Christmas spirit). On his side is the idea that it would cause a backlash to rule against Kris Kringle. Fred produces sacks of thousands of post office letters addressed to Santa Claus. His argument is that the US government agency’s recognition of these letters is “positive proof” of Santa Claus’ existence. The judge agrees, dismisses the case, and Kringle is released.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
D: Charles Chaplin
Chaplin’s ahead-of-its-time Bluebeard crime drama and black comedy, based upon the notorious French killer named Henri Landru, was subtitled: “A Comedy of Murders.” The subversive and satirical film, taken from an idea by Orson Welles, was considered controversial and unsettling in its post-war time period, and became a box-office failure – although has now attained the status of a cult-classic. It was Chaplin’s first film in seven years (after The Great Dictator (1940)), and very different from his popular “Little Tramp” character. The film tells about a straight-laced Parisian bank clerk-teller named Henri Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin), who has an invalid, wheelchair-bound crippled wife Mona (Mady Correll) and young son Peter (Allison Roddan) to support. Just before the Great Depression he loses his job of 35 years, so the suave, dapper, cynical, middle-aged and unemployed Verdoux becomes a notorious serial killer and bigamist whose preferred modus operandi is to marry middle-aged wealthy women, murder them, and appropriate their money. He uses several aliases (e.g., Varnay, Bonheur, and Floray, etc.) in order to marry almost a dozen women simultaneously. The comedic highlight of the film is that one of the would-be victims, widowed Annabella Bonheur (scene-stealing, big-mouthed comedienne Martha Raye) keeps winning lotteries, and proves challenging to eliminate for Verdoux. His murder attempts continually fail due to her fortunate good luck. When the stock market crashes and the banks fail, Verdoux finds that he does not have money. He turns himself into the police after being suspected by a victim’s relative. He is put on trial – and before being convicted, he delivers a courtroom speech about how society is hypocritical. He argues that world wars, dictators, and mass genocidal killings are sanctioned by society and other countries, but his own crime of killing only a few out of necessity (in order to survive) brought about a sentence of death by guillotine.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
Odd Man Out (UK)
D: Carol Reed
Carol Reed’s searing, exciting and suspenseful drama is a rich character study about a doomed man-on-the-run – it is a great example of a post-war British film thriller. It begins with the following crawl: “This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland. It is not concerned with the conflict between the law and an illegal organization, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved.” An Irish rebel, an IRA nationalist gunman named Johnny McQueen (James Mason in one of his best performances), is badly wounded and dying after a daring, unsuccessful payroll holdup attempt at a mill-factory, presumably in Belfast (Northern Ireland). The failed robbery, including McQueen’s killing of a man, was originally designed to fund his underground operations. When accidentally left behind by the getaway driver, he desperately struggles to avoid capture. When he can’t make it back to his hideout – the house of Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan in her debut film) and her Grannie (Kitty Kirwan), he seeks shelter in the city’s ghettos, deserted buildings, pubs, and back alleys (and even in a junkyard bathtub). As the British dragnet around him closes in, for eight tense hours, he is pursued in a manhunt by the police and others – all with their own motives of either helping him or turning him in to the authorities for profit. They include his IRA buddy-partners Pat and Nolan (Cyril Cusack and Dan O’Herlihy) who want to rescue him, cabdriver “Gin” Jimmy (Joseph Tomelty), a crazed and eccentric painter Lukey (Robert Newton), his loving girlfriend Kathleen, and Catholic priest Father Tom (W. G. Fay) ready to deliver last rites. In the film’s visual religious symbolism of crucifixion, McQueen becomes a Christ-like figure as a condemned man slowly approaching death – he and Kathleen are shot dead by police in the film’s violent finale as he attempts to escape on a ship at the waterfront.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
Out of the Past
D: Jacques Tourneur
A beguiling, complex film noir about double-dealing and intrigue from the post WWII period, with a script by Daniel Mainwaring (aka Geoffrey Homes), and uncredited pulp novelist James M. Cain. The picture was also known as Build My Gallows High, and based on Geoffrey Homes’ novel. This enthralling film is laced with doom-laden flashbacks from the shady past. It tells about a laconic, former private detective who is again caught in a deathly web. Jeff (Robert Mitchum), who has moved to a small California town in the country to find solitude (and work as the owner of a gas station), is hired for one last assignment and brought out of retirement by underworld gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). On the way to another unsavory job as a worn-out investigator, he describes his past to his fiancee Ann (Virginia Huston), and his journey to Acapulco where he first came under the lethal, deceptive erotic spell of femme fatale Kathie (Jane Greer) in an ill-fated affair. When the present action resumes, Jeff is doomed and seduced once again by the same charming, but wicked woman he had once loved and lost. He is again hired to track down the woman to make up for his mistake in the past. That meant a return to his past in another complex web of intrigue, passion, betrayal, double and triple-crosses and death.
Learn more and watch the trailer here.
The Paradine Case
D: Alfred Hitchcock
Based upon the 1933 novel by Robert Smythe Hichens, and noted as Alfred Hitchcock’s final film for producer David Selznick. In the year 1946 in England, beautiful and exotic young wife Maddalena Anna Paradine (Italian actress Alida Valli) is accused of poisoning her blind, elderly and wealthy husband Colonel Richard Paradine, a retired WWI hero. However, it is unclear whether it was suicide or murder, or whether the hostile Canadian valet Andre Latour (Louis Jourdan) was involved. Is Mrs. Paradine being falsely accused? Successful married London barrister/counselor Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) is hired by the family’s solicitor Sir Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn) to take the case to defend the accused murderess (and possible femme fatale). Not long after, Keane falls in love with her, neglecting his 11-year-old marriage to his kind and loyal wife Gay (Ann Todd). Gay realizes her straying husband’s passionate relationship to his attractive yet enigmatic client, but supports him so that he wouldn’t be lost to her forever if she is convicted. The trial is presided over by sarcastic, bullying Judge Lord Thomas Horfield (Charles Laughton). Blinded and infatuated by love, defense lawyer Tony Keane tries to put the blame on a scapegoat – valet Latour, although he vehemently denies it. However, under cross-examination in a dramatic scene, Latour reveals that he is committing adultery with Mrs. Paradine, and that he may have assisted the Colonel in committing suicide. After testifying to his own guilt about the affair (but not about poisoning the Colonel), Latour kills himself. Then, Mrs. Paradine admits that she had initiated the affair, and that the valet remained loyal to the Colonel. When the Colonel learned of the sexual indiscretions of Latour, however, the valet was fired. Then, Mrs. Paradine reveals that she poisoned her husband. In the final scene, she denounces the disreputable Keane for falling in love with her, and for destroying her real love, Latour. Keane confesses his major limitations and his devastation over the revelations, and he withdraws from the court. He is soon reconciled with his conciliatory wife.
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D: Raoul Walsh
Raoul Walsh’s melodramatic psychological western is told mostly in flashback, and noted for cinematographer James Wong Howe’s film-noir chiaroscuro (black and white) photography and Max Steiner’s musical score. The western setting is the New Mexico Territory at the turn of the century. Robert Mitchum stars in an early role (his first lead role) as anti-hero, orphaned Jeb Rand, “pursued” by a haunted past (highlighted by nightmares of boots with jangling spurs and flashes of light, seen in flashbacks). As a young boy, he witnessed the murder of his entire family by a mysterious stranger, and suffers from repressed memories. [Note: There appeared to be a long-running feud between two families – the Rand family, and the Callum family.] Adopted by widowed “Ma” Callum (Judith Anderson), he grew up with two step-siblings – “Ma” Callum’s biological daughter Thorley (Thor) Callum (Teresa Wright), and son: the competitive, antagonistic Adam Callum (John Rodney). The main “pursuit” in the film is by villainous, one-armed county prosecutor Grant Callum (Dean Jagger), Ma Callum’s vengeful brother-in-law who despised the Rand family and sole survivor Jeb. Grant continually baits others to bring Jeb down. There were two coin tosses that decided Jeb’s fate – both of which were lost by Jeb. He is forced to volunteer to fight in the Spanish-American War, and he also is compelled to give up the Callum ranch to his step-brother Adam. Soon after, Jeb is forced to defend himself against Adam during an ambush, and he kills him in self-defense. He falls in love with Thor despite the fact that they are almost siblings. They marry on the hidden pretext that she will kill him on their wedding night. Instead, she can’t carry through on her promise and vows her love instead. Grant also prods local boy Prentice McComber (Harry Carey, Jr.) to challenge Jeb to a gunfight in a dark stable – when Jeb shoots and killes the boy. The climactic revelation is that Grant is responsible for killing all the members of the Rand family, including Jeb’s father, brother, and sister. The true nature of the precipitating bitter feud with the Rand family is revealed. Grant Callum had revenge obsessions because: (1) Jeb’s father had murdered his brother, and (2) “Ma” Callum, the former wife of Grant’s murdered brother, also had an incestuous affair with Jeb’s father. Finally, during a climactic violent shootout with Grant, Jeb is forced to surrender and is about to be hanged. However, in the therapeutic ending, he is saved when Ma shoots Grant. She atones for her actions in the past, tells Jeb about the true nature of the forces opposing him, assures him that his childhood trauma is over, and saves the young married couple.
Secret Beyond the Door…
D: Fritz Lang
A psychological mystery and Freudian drama-thriller told in flashback (punctuated with self-conscious, confused voice-over narration), with the tagline: “Some Men Destroy What They Love Most!” Sometimes noted with the year 1948. One of Fritz Lang’s lesser and least-successful works, derivative and similar to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941) and Spellbound (1945), and George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944). With great moody and shadowy black and white cinematography by Stanley Cortez and frenzied music score by Miklós Rózsa. The film opens with an engrossing dream sequence, and then an extended flashback occurring on the protagonist’s wedding day. In New York, after the heart-ailment death of her beloved older brother Rick Barrett (Paul Cavanagh), socialite sister and fashionable heiress Celia Lamphere (Joan Bennett in her fourth and final film with director Lang) has a brief love affair with Rick’s friend – family lawyer and dull financial administrator Bob Dwight (James Seay), and they plan to marry. Before marrying, during a vacation to Mexico with her best friend Edith Potter (Natalie Schafer), Celia meets handsome, enigmatic and refined British architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave in his first US film), when they both witness a stimulating knife-fight in the marketplace between two locals vying for a beautiful senorita. She impulsively and recklessly agrees to marry him, although is apprehensive because she knows little about the emotionally-complex man. Soon after he skips out on their wedding night, she learns that he is the mysterious owner of an architecture-themed journal-magazine, and the owner of a heavily-mortgaged suburban mansion in Levender Falls outside of NYC. Celia moves into his cavernous mansion, dubbed Blaze Creek, where she strangely discovers that Rick’s despotic yet friendly spinster sister Caroline “Carey” Lamphere (Anne Revere) administrates the manor. His creepy housekeeper-secretary Miss Robey (Barbara O’Neil), who has a scarf covering burn scars (fake) on the side of her disfigured face, also lives there. Most curious wis that Rick had been previously married to now-deceased Eleanor, and they have a weird, rebellious teenaged son named David (Mark Dennis) who has bitterly accused Mark of her suspicious murder. Mark explained his theory that a physical setting can influence and define psychological reactions. One of Mark’s strangest behaviors, as an admirer of famous historical murders, is that he is an eccentric collector and reproducer of “felicitous rooms,” designed as a macabre “museum” to showcase and bizarrely recreate a half-dozen notorious murder crime scenes. When the intrigued Celia investigates the secret and locked room # 7 – thinking it is the scene of Eleanor’s death, she is unsettled to learn that it might be prepared for her – it is an exact duplicate of her own boudoir. Bluebeard Mark might want to kill her for her inheritance. In the final scene when they are alone together, mentally-unstable Mark threatens to kill Celia. She forces him to recollect repressed and dark traumatic childhood events to ease his mind, and convince him he is not a murderer. [The source of his rage: his sister had locked him in his bedroom when he had hoped to bid his mother goodbye.] They discover that disturbed pyromaniac Miss Robey, fired from her job, had jealously and vengefully set fire to the house. Mark redeems himself by saving Celia’s life, as the film ends happily.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
D: Norman McLeod
A delightful comedy loosely adapted from James Thurber’s 1939 short story tale about a daydreaming escapist Everyman, clumsy Walter Mitty (Danny Kaye) – although extended with a spy-espionage caper plot. Employed as an assistant editor and proof-reader for a lurid pulp fiction publisher, Pierce Publications, owned by idea-stealing boss Bruce Pierce (Thurston Hall) in New York, Walter wildly fantasizes about how he is a hero in adventurous episodes, to escape his mundane world. He lives with his overbearing, nagging and overprotective mother Eunice (Fay Bainter), and is disrespected by his self-centered, irritating fiancée Gertrude Griswold (Ann Rutherford) and her loud-mouthed mother (Florence Bates), and by best friend Tubby Wadsworth (Gordon Jones) – a romantic rival for Gertrude’s love and the villain in Walter’s fantasies. During one of his fantasies while he is commuting on a train to work, he meets mysterious and gorgeous blonde Rosalind van Hoorn (Virginia Mayo). The glamorous femme fatale, the girl of his dreams, pretends that Mitty is her sweetheart, gives him a kiss, and hands him a black book to evade a dangerous international group of jewel thieves, led by The Boot, that are pursuing her. The book allegedly contains the location of various Dutch art treasures stolen by the Nazis, including crown jewels hidden since WWII. Rosalind is allied with her uncle Peter van Hoorn (Konstantin Shayne), the former curator of the Royal Netherlands Museum, to acquire the Dutch jewels by accessing the black book. Mitty is diagnosed by maniacal psychiatrist Dr. Hollingshead (Boris Karloff), one of The Boot’s henchmen, as suffering from crazed, non-stop daydreaming – including the entire plot about the black book. During the caper escapades, Mitty’s imaginative and grandiose dreams include him as a famous brain surgeon admired by a pretty love-sick nurse, an WWII British RAF flying ace engaged in aerial dogfights while wooing a French barmaid, a Mississippi riverboat gambler, a heroic gunslinger in a Western shoot-out, a sea captain with daring seafaring adventures during a storm, and as gay woman’s fashion hat designer Anatole of Paris. In the end, Mitty convinces his family and the authorities that he wasn’t daydreaming about the spies, the book or Rosalind, and thereby becomes a brave heroic figure in reality – by thwarting The Boot – who is revealed to be Peter van Hoorn.
They Won’t Believe Me
D: Irving Pichel
In this melodrama about adultery, philandering playboy Lawrence Ballentine (Robert Young) is on trial for the brutal murder of Verna Carlson (Susan Hayward). Almost the entire film consists of Ballentine’s uninterrupted flashback story. Although married for five years to rich and loving wife Greta (Rita Johnson), he planned to take a train to run off to Montreal with tempting mistress Janice Bell (Jane Greer), a New York City magazine writer and one of Greta’s friends. Greta tries to keep their marriage going by buying her husband’s loyalty. She rents a Beverly Hills, California house, and purchases an interest in a stock brokerage firm. After about six months there, he again leaves Greta for sexy, femme fatale LA secretary Verna Carlson, working in his own firm. Greta thinks she can still hold onto her husband by selling his interest in the partnership, and moving away with him to an isolated mountain ranch. Unhappy with the arrangement, Lawrence promises Verna that he will go to Reno to get a quickie divorce from his wife, and then they can begin their new life together. As they are driving to Reno, a truck collides with their car. Verna is killed and burned in the wreckage, while Ballentine survives with a serious concussion. Ballentine realizes that he could easily claim that it was Greta who died, so he concocted a complicated scheme to inherit his wife’s fortune. He carries out the deception by agreeing that Greta (not Verna) had died in the accident, then murder Greta, hide her body, and acquire her money. When he arrives at Greta’s remote ranch, he finds her dead, presumably distraught over the divorce-breakup, and at the bottom of a cliff where she had fallen accidentally after an equestrian accident – or committed suicide. (However, there is one other real possibility: Had he pushed her, and then subconsciously felt guilty for murdering her?) To avoid suspicion, Ballentine leaves Greta’s body to decompose in the river, and carries through with the rest of his scheme. Unfortunately for him, the police locate Greta’s remains, but think it is Verna’s body. Ballentine is charged with murder, after the police wrongly theorized that Larry killed Verna because she was blackmailing him over their affair. The story – told by Ballentine as the sole defense witness – returns to the courtroom where the jurors filed in with their verdict. Fearing the worst (was he guilty of a crime?), Ballentine attempts a desperate suicidal escape through an open courtroom window – when he is shot and killed. In the surprise ending, the jury’s foreman reads the verdict – not guilty!
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