All posts and pages may contain affiliate links. You can read our disclosure policy here.

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 1948 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:

  •     Pat Buttram – The Strawberry Roan

  •     Beau Bridges – No Minor Vices

  •     Montgomery CliftRed River

  •     Doris Day – Romance on the High Seas

  •     Laurence Harvey – House of Darkness

  •     Rock Hudson – Fighter Squadron

  •     Christopher Lee – Corridor of Mirrors

  •     Irene Papas – Fallen Angels

  •    Debbie Reynolds – June Bride

 

Top-grossing Films

RankTitleStudioGross
1.The Red ShoesEagle-Lion$5,000,000
2.The Three MusketeersMGM$4,507,000
3.Red RiverUnited Artists$4,500,000
4.The Treasure of the Sierra MadreWarner Bros.$4,307,000
5.When My Baby Smiles at Me20th Century Fox$4,200,000
6.Easter ParadeMGM$4,100,000
7.Johnny Belinda
The Snake Pit
Warner Bros.
20th Century Fox
$4,089,000
8.Joan of ArcRKO$4,000,000
9.Adventures of Don JuanWarner Bros.$3,700,000
10.HomecomingMGM$3,420,000
11.The Loves of CarmenColumbia$3,395,000
12.Key LargoWarner Bros.$3,289,000
13.That Lady in Ermine20th Century Fox$3,250,000
14.The Emperor WaltzParamount$3,209,000
15.The SearchMGM$3,191,000
16.Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream HouseRKO$3,140,000
17.HamletRank Film$3,075,000
18.State of the UnionMGM$2,745,000
19.A Foreign AffairParamount$2,450,000
20.Sorry, Wrong NumberParamount$2,200,000

(*) After theatrical re-issue(s)

 

Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: Hamlet – Two Cities Films – the first British film to win the American Academy Award for Best Picture

Best Director: John Huston – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Best Actor: Laurence Olivier – Hamlet

Best Actress: Jane Wyman – Johnny Belinda

Best Supporting Actor: Walter HustonThe Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Best Supporting Actress: Claire TrevorKey Largo

 

Top Ten Money Making Stars

RankActor/Actress
1.Bing Crosby
2.Betty Grable
3. (tie)Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
4.Gary Cooper
5.Bob Hope
6.Humphrey Bogart
7.Clark Gable
8.Cary Grant
9.Spencer Tracy
10.Ingrid Bergman

 

Among Those Who Died In 1948:

  • James Baskett, 44, American actor, Song of the South
  • Gideon Wahlberg, 58, Swedish actor, writer and film director
  • Carole Landis, 29, American actress, Topper Returns, I Wake Up Screaming, One Million B.C., Four Jills in a Jeep
  • William Selig, 84, American pioneer studio builder
  • David Wark Griffith, 73, American film director, The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Orphans of the Storm
  • Elaine Hammerstein, 51, American actress, Paint and Powder, The Midnight Express
  • Edwin Maxwell, 62, American actor, Duck Soup, Cleopatra, His Girl Friday
  • Warren William, 53, American actor, Gold Diggers of 1933, The Wolf Man, Lady for a Day, Imitation of Life
  • Gregg Toland, 44, American cinematographer, Citizen Kane, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Long Voyage Home, December 7th: The Movie, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, Song of the South, The Little Foxes
  • Mary Eaton, 47, American actress, Glorifying the American Girl, The Cocoanuts
  • Samuel S. Hinds, 73, American actor, It’s a Wonderful Life, Buck Privates
  • Nora Lane, 43, American actress, The Cisco Kid, Six-Gun Trail
  • Aubrey Smith, 85, English actor, A Bill of Divorcement, Madame Curie

The Greatest Films of 1948

 

***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT FOR ALL***

© – All right reserved.

An Act of Murder

D: Michael Gordon

The film’s screenplay was adapted from Ernst Lothar’s novel “The Mills of God” – it is a poignant, melodrama about a controversial topic. Strict and unyielding small-town Pennsylvania Judge Calvin Cooke (Fredric March) is known as “Old Man Maximum” for his reputation of following “the letter of the law” and delivering harsh sentences. He is devoted to wife Catherine (or “Cathy”) (Florence Eldridge) and their volatile law student daughter Ellie Cooke (Geraldine Brooks). However, he does not approve of the relationship Ellie is having with young defense attorney David Douglas (Edmond O’Brien), who interprets the law more liberally. Cooke’s wife has increasing symptoms of blurred vision and frequent severe headaches. The family physician Doctor Walter Morrison (Stanley Ridges) diagnoses a fatal brain tumor. He keep the news secret from Cathy but not from Calvin. During a weekend outing with Calvin, Cathy discovers her prescription for toxic Demarine pain pills and the doctor’s description of her illness hidden in her husband’s suitcase, but did not reveal what she has found. During the trip home by car, after stopping at a roadside gas station garage and cafe, Cathy collapses. The Cooke’s car crashes through an embankment on a mountainous road – and Cathy is killed, while Calvin was injured. Afterwards, he implores the DA to indict him for murdering his wife – he claims he intentionally drove off the road during the raging storm to cause the crash – and set up the mercy killing (or euthanasia) to relieve her suffering. Acting as his own lawyer, Calvin pleads guilty of murder before Judge Ogden (John McIntire), who appoints, under Cooke’s protest, David Douglas as Cooke’s lawyer at the sentencing hearing. Douglas orders an autopsy – the results revealed that Cathy died of a pain-killer drug overdose before the crash. Witnesses corroborate her story that she filled the prescription at the hotel with a pharmacist, and took the pills at the cafe before the crash. The judge dismisses the charges, ruling that Cooke is legally innocent, but his moral intentions are guilty. He is saved by the unforgiving legal code that declared she was already dead. Cooke had a change of heart about his judicial attitudes, promising to be more lenient, compassionate, and respectful of moral circumstances and personal situations during trials – he is finally in agreement with Douglas and his daughter.

 

Poster for the movie "Easter Parade"

© − All right reserved.

Easter Parade

D: Charles Walters

This memorable and happy MGM film, a perennial holiday favorite, was an Academy Award winner for Best Musical Score, and a Pygmalion-plot involving many romantic complications. It is set in 1912, with a story line about how vaudeville dancer Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) promised to turn an aspiring, naive chorus-girl protege Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), a bar waitress, into a star. He had recently been dropped by his long-time tap-dancing partner and romantic interest Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) who decided to go solo on Broadway in a Ziegfeld Follies show. Though Don regrets the loss of Nadine, he seeks jealous revenge against her. Hannah works hard to capture Don’s approval – and his heart. At the same time, Nadine is aggressively pursuing Don’s best friend Jonathan Harrow III (Peter Lawford), who is showing more interest in Hannah, while she is silently pining for Don. This is Astaire’s and Garland’s first and only teaming together, and producer Arthur Freed’s fifth collaboration with composer Irving Berlin. It is filled with seventeen Irving Berlin songs, including the dance number It Only Happens When I Dance With You between Astaire and partner Ann Miller, Miller’s flashy and strong song/dance rendition of Shakin’ the Blues Away, Astaire’s slow-motion version of Steppin’ Out With My Baby, the gleeful Astaire/Garland comic show-stopping duet (We’re) A Couple of Swells while dressed as lovable tramps, the opening rendition of Happy Easter, Astaire’s creative dance sequence Drum Crazy in a toy store, the marvelous vaudeville montage sequence with Astaire and Garland entitled When That Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam, and the closing performance of the title number Easter Parade, staged as a Fifth Avenue parade.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Force of Evil

© – All right reserved.

Force of Evil

D: Abraham Polonsky

Based on Ira Wolfert’s novel Tucker’s People. Director Abraham Polonsky’s debut film – an expressionistic, politically-subversive and dark work, an uncompromising post-war film noir that was narrated and told in documentary style. Shortly later, Polonsky was blacklisted for being an uncooperative witness before HUAC in 1951, and didn’t direct any more feature films for almost 21 years. The cynical film starred John Garfield, in his finest role, as young, successful, corrupt Wall Street mob attorney Joe Morse. Due to corrupt dealings with numbers racketeer-client and slimy crime boss Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts) who wants to control the numbers racket, Morse is on the verge of easy money – making millions through a race-track betting scam-fix by using winning lottery number 776 on July 4th. In this Cain and Abel tale, Joe’s honest, kindly yet estranged and stubborn older brother Leo Morse (Thomas Gomez) remains in the Lower East Side slum neighborhood where they had grown up, maintaining a local “small numbers bank,” and refusing to join his brother. Joe maintains a romance with Leo’s secretary-bookkeeper, working-class girl Doris Lowry (Beatrice Pearson), who is attracted to his fast and slick life-style. Leo is ultimately killed by the mob – Joe descends a great stone staircase from Riverside Drive to find his estranged, older brother Leo’s bullet-ridden body that was been dumped on the rocks by the Hudson River lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge. Although she has only a few minutes on-screen, mob boss Tucker’s sultry femme fatale wife Edna (Marie Windsor) was working behind-the-scenes to manipulate and torment Joe into supporting the downfall of his brother’s racket. As Joe walks in a deserted Wall Street, he realizes that he is indebted to the syndicated mob for life.

 

Poster for the movie "Hamlet"

© 1948 Two Cities Films − All right reserved.

Hamlet (UK)

D: Laurence Olivier

Director/star Laurence Olivier’s sweeping, well-paced and dramatic adaptation of the classic tale, and the first version of the play during the sound-talkie era. A Best Picture Academy Award-winner and the first British film to win the top honor. It marked the first time a director directed himself to a Best Actor Oscar. It was the second of three Shakespeare adaptations made by Olivier — also Henry V (1944), and Richard III (1955). The expressionistic, shadowy, black and white film opens with some lines from Shakespeare’s play and then Olivier’s explanatory voice-over: “This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.” Shakespeare’s tale is about a disconsolate and mad Danish prince (Best Actor-winning Olivier) who agonizes over his moral responsibilities to his murdered father, his subjects, and his loved ones. In haunted Elsinore Castle, the irresolute and brooding Hamlet seeks revenge for the secret and suspicious murder of his father King Hamlet by his own treacherous uncle, the new King Claudius (Basil Sydney), who hastily married Hamlet’s mother Queen Gertrude (Eileen Herlie). Jean Simmons stars in the role of Ophelia in a tragic and rejected love affair (“Get thee to a nunnery”) with Hamlet. She becomes suicidal after Hamlet’s accidental murder of her own father Polonius (Felix Aylmer). Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy “To be or not to be” defined his conflicted and depressed psychological state of mind. In the brutal, death-filled ending, all the major characters expire.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "I Remember Mama"

© 1948 RKO Radio Pictures − All right reserved.

I Remember Mama

D: George Stevens

A sentimental and nostalgic post-war favorite, with DeWitt Bodeen’s screenplay loosely based on Kathryn Forbes’ book Mama’s Bank Account. It was the winner of five Oscar nominations. The revered family classic was also based on the original 1944 Broadway play written by John Van Druten, and produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The film’s success led to a popular Lux Radio Theatre show in 1948, the best-loved early CBS-TV sitcom titled Mama (from 1949-1957) with Peggy Wood as Mama, and the “ITV Play of the Week” in 1961. The story is about a middle-class Norwegian immigrant family living on Larkin Street in San Francisco at the turn of the century. The family is held together by a stern, resourceful, protective and loving matriarch, Marta “Mama” Hanson (Irene Dunne), and her blustering husband Lars “Papa” Hanson (Philip Dorn). They have four children: Nels (Steve Brown), Katrin (or Katherine) (Barbara Bel Geddes), Christine (Peggy McIntyre) and Dagmar (June Hedin). Family life is recalled in flashback style from the diary of the oldest daughter Katrin, as she narrates and reads from her recently-written autobiographical novel. Katrin has just finished it, typing the words THE END. She stretched back and took the many pages in her hands, and began reading from the start. The famous quote: “But first and foremost, I remember Mama” is heard. As Katrin lovingly remembers, Mama struggled daily with the finances to seek a new and better life for the family members, living in an unfamiliar land. The family is surrounded by a colorful procession of relatives (e.g., bullying, overbearing and boisterous Uncle Chris Halverson (Oskar Homolka), and Marta’s sister – timid spinster fiancée Trina (Ellen Corby)), boarders (especially impoverished Mr. Jonathan Hyde (Cedric Hardwicke)) and friends. Incidents include preparing the weekly financial budget (with Mama’s familiar relief: “Is good – we do not have to go to the bank”), Dagmar’s operation, the sickness of the household’s cat Uncle Elizabeth, the death of Uncle Chris, and Marta’s encouragement of Katrin to become a writer.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Johnny Belinda"

© 1948 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Johnny Belinda

D: Jean Negulesco

An emotionally-charged psychological and social melodrama with sensitive acting and a Max Steiner score, based on the 1940 stage hit play by Elmer Blaney Harris, It was the first Hollywood film to address the problem of rape. It received twelve Academy Award nominations and only one win. Hearing-impaired/mute Belinda MacDonald (Best Actress-winning Jane Wyman) lives on a farm with her bullish father Black (Charles Bickford) and Aunt Aggie (Agnes Moorehead) in a small Nova Scotia fishing town on Cape Breton Island in the post-war period. Belinda, known as “The Dummy,” is befriended by kindly, compassionate and patient local country doctor Dr. Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres) who teaches her sign language and to read lips. In one scene, she senses something of what music must be and tries to dance when her hand is placed upon a vibrating violin. One night, she experiences the shadowy rape-attack by drunk villager Locky McCormick (Stephen McNally) – the scene quickly fades to black, and soon after, she finds herself pregnant. Everyone thinks that the doctor is the father and he is disgraced. Belinda’s father, who learns of the rapist’s identity, is murdered at cliff’s edge by him. Belinda recites the Lord’s Prayer in sign language at the bedside of her dead father. When the rapist tries to claim the baby from her in a violent scene, she fatally shoots him. Subsequently, she is put on trial and defended by an attorney (Alan Napier), when Locky’s jealous wife Stella (Jan Sterling), who wants the baby, makes an accusatory outburst against her dead husband: “It was him, Locky. He’s the baby’s father. It was his fault!” Belinda is acquitted because it is ruled that she was protecting her baby.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Key Largo"

© 1948 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

Key Largo

D: John Huston

An gangster melodrama, adapted from Maxwell Anderson’s stage play by director Huston and Richard Brooks. An intelligent, exciting, but moody, crime drama. Bogart and Bacall would never star together again on the big screen (this was their fourth and final film), after having previously worked together in the classic films: To Have and Have Not (1942) (which Key Largo resembled in its dark tone), The Big Sleep (1946) and Dark Passage (1947).

It tells about a bullying, fugitive gangster Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson in a trademark role). Rocco is first seen sweating profusely in a bathtub with a rotating fan, a cigar and an iced drink. He is on-the-run with fellow gang mobsters and his alcoholic lush moll and ex-nightclub singer, Gaye Dawn (Oscar-winning Claire Trevor). In the film’s most memorable scene, moll Gaye desperately sing “Moanin’ Low” to hopefully earn a drink from Rocco. In a Florida Keys hotel in the off-season during a violent, tropical hurricane, the snarling Rocco waits for counterfeit money, prepares to flee to Cuba, and holds the various residents hostage: Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart), a disillusioned, returning war-scarred veteran who is visiting the newly-widowed Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall) and her wheelchair-bound father-in-law, hotel manager James Temple (Lionel Barrymore). Nora’s late husband George (and James’ son) had died under his WWII command in Italy. During a final confrontation on a small fishing boat bound for Cuba, when a wounded Frank has finally had enough of the escaping gang, overtakes them – and shoots Rocco three times before alerting the authorities.

 Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Lady from Shanghai"

© − All right reserved.

The Lady From Shanghai

D: Orson Welles

Welles’ imaginative, complicated, unsettling film noir who-dun-it thriller was a tale of betrayal, lust, greed and murder. With fascinating visuals and tilting compositions, luminous and brilliant camerawork (by Charles Lawton, Jr.), and numerous sub-plots and confounding plot twists. Orson Welles serves as director, producer, screenplay writer, and actor, and based his screenplay upon Sherwood King’s 1938 novel If I Die Before I Wake. The moody film was made when major stars Orson Welles and sexy Rita Hayworth were still married although estranged and drifting apart. The numerous close-ups of Rita Hayworth in the film were later added by Welles in Hollywood upon orders of the studio, to lend strength to her ‘star’ power. Ultimately, the film’s length was severely cut down by one hour, creating an almost incomprehensible, discontinuous, cryptic patchwork from numerous retakes and substantial edits. Although it was filmed in late 1946 and finished in early 1947, it wasn’t released until late in 1948. The film was mostly ignored – it failed both at the box-office and as a critical success.

Poor Irish seaman Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles) rescues Mrs. Elsa ‘Rosalie’ Bannister (Rita Hayworth) and soon becomes mesmerized by her. She is the enigmatic wife of a crippled San Francisco trial lawyer named Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane). O’Hara joins her yachting cruise as a working crew member from New York to San Francisco (via the Panama Canal). He soon finds himself embroiled in a love affair and a mysterious plot to kill Bannister’s creepy business partner George Grisby (Glenn Anders). The film, told through O’Hara’s narration, was shot on locations including Acapulco, San Francisco, and at Columbia Studios sets, and featured numerous classic set-pieces including: the aquarium scene, and the funhouse and Hall of Mirrors shoot-out climax (shot in San Francisco’s Playland).

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Letter from an Unknown Woman"

© 1948 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

Letter from an Unknown Woman

D: Max Ophuls

German director Max Ophuls’ most successful Hollywood film (adapted from Stefan Zweig’s 1922 novella). An emotionally-complex, bittersweet, old-fashioned tearjerker romance, told via flashbacks. Both protagonists face an inextricable impasse and experience numerous missed opportunities over a span of twenty years – and ultimately fail to attain true romance. The lush and haunting film tells about Lisa Berndl (Joan Fontaine), a beautiful young woman with a childhood crush and doomed love for a charmingly suave, philandering concert pianist Stefan Brand (Louis Jourdan) in 19th century Vienna. The night before the cavalier, callow and self-absorbed pianist is due to fight a dawn duel with Lisa’s wealthy husband Johann Stauffer (Marcel Journet) for offending a lady’s honor, he receives a letter from a strange, unknown woman. He is, in fact, planning to avoid the duel and have his mute valet-servant John (Art Smith) pack his bags. Through the deathbed letter, he learns for the first time about the young teenaged girl, his next-door neighbor in his apartment building, and her undying love that she feels for him. Their acquaintance includes a pregnancy and son Stefan Jr. (Leo B. Pessin) – although he continually failed to recognize her at each new meeting. During the nighttime reading of the letter, Stefan looks at photos of his son and learns that Lisa is married, but the son that he fathered died of typhus – and 27-year-old Lisa has also died of the same disease (“By the time you read this letter, I may be dead”). Resolute after remembering her, Stefan decides to confront Lisa’s husband in a fateful duel.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Naked City"

© 1948 Universal Pictures − All right reserved.

The Naked City

D: Jules Dassin

A great semi-documentary film from Universal with raw energy, about a police murder investigation, with Oscar-winning cinematography by William Daniels. Director Jules Dassin’s hard-boiled urban docu-drama crime/noir film was the first studio feature shot on location in New York City. It was the film that inspired the 50’s ABC-TV series – with its famed ending quote delivered as an epitaph for the murdered woman: “There Are EIGHT MILLION Stories In The Naked City – This Has Been ONE Of Them.” The grim, fact-based story opened with aerial views of New York City accompanied by credits narration from the film’s producer, tabloid journalist Mark Hellinger who is also the voice of the final quote. It gives an account of the brutal robbery-murder of attractive, and promiscuous 26 year-old blonde fashion model Jean Dexter in her NYC apartment’s bathtub, and the subsequent manhunt for the killer by homicide detectives, including veteran cop Det. Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and younger partner Det. Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor). In an emotional sequence at the City Morgue, Jean’s estranged parents – the Batorys (Adelaide Klein and Grover Burgess), identified her body. One of the prime suspects is Jean’s fast-living boyfriend, deceitful Frank Niles (Howard Duff), although he has an alibi. In the film’s memorable, thrilling, and heart-pounding climax, ex-con murder suspect Willie Garzah (aka Willie the Harmonica) (Ted de Corsia) runs through the Lower East Side tenements until being cornered on the Williamsburg Bridge, where he climbs to the top of the bridge tower. He refuses to surrender, is shot several times, and falls to his death.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Oliver Twist"

© 1948 Cineguild − All right reserved.

Oliver Twist (UK)

D: David Lean

David Lean directed this dark, expressionistic, and shadowy British production after the success of his earlier Dickens’ hit Great Expectations (1946). An excellent and straight-forward screen portrayal of the classic 1839 Charles Dickens story of the title character among the downtrodden and abused classes of 19th-century England. The film’s opening was delayed in the US until 1951 due to protesting Jewish groups that claimed it was anti-Semitic, and some scenes were initially censored. In the powerful first scene, the title character’s exhausted Mother (Josephine Stuart), in labor, staggers over the moors and gives birth, before dying, at a work house. Orphan boy Oliver Twist (John Howard Davies) lives at the parish work house where he is systematically abused by the callous officials led by Mr. Bumble (Francis L. Sullivan). When 9-year-old Oliver brazenly asks for more porridge-gruel (“Please sir, I want some more”), his punishment by the harsh authorities is severe, and soon after he escapes from the institution and runs away to London. A company of thieves, including pickpocket the Artful Dodger (Anthony Newley), the hideous, unsavory, hook-nosed rogue Fagin (Alec Guinness), “the Jew,” and the murderously evil Bill Sykes (Robert Newton) with his prostitute girlfriend Nancy (Kay Walsh), recruits the innocent into a life of petty street crime. After the demise or arrest of most of the gang, Oliver is rescued and taken in by kindly gentleman and benefactor Mr. Brownlow (Henry Stephenson), who is revealed to be Oliver’s actual grandfather.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Paleface"

© 1948 Paramount Pictures − All right reserved.

The Paleface

D: Norman Z. McLeod

An early Technicolored spoof of western films and the highest grossing Western spoof until Blazing Saddles (1974). Also one of Bob Hope’s biggest box-office hits, with lots of one-liners, slapstick, and wisecracks. Scriptwriter Frank Tashlin made it a satirical version of Owen Wister’s novel The Virginian. It was followed by the sequel, Son of Paleface (1952) (again with scriptwriter Tashlin now as the director, and the two main stars. Noted for having Bob Hope’s musical rendering of “Buttons and Bows,” the Academy Award Oscar-winner for Best Song. Bob Hope is cast as a bumbling and inept frontier dentist (he learned his trade through a correspondence school) named Peter “Painless” Potter. The quack dentist helps the pistol-wielding, big-breasted Calamity Jane (Jane Russell), who is working undercover for the government (represented by Governor Johnson (Charles Trowbridge)) after her murdered male partner – fake husband and lawyer Jim Hunter, was killed while investigating the sale of smuggled guns to the Indians. In fact, the cowardly and nerdy Potter marries sharp-shooting Calamity Jane as part of her cover – she wants to dupe the outlaws into thinking that Potter is a federal agent so that she can catch the outlaws, and receive a pardon for a 10-year prison sentence. (A running joke is Hope’s many failed attempts to kiss co-star Jane Russell – he is repeatedly knocked out.) By film’s end, Jane gives all the heroic credit to Potter for saving their wagon train from a war party of Indians, although he also earned merit by rescuing Jane from being burned at the stake by scalp-hungry Indians, while disguised as a medicine man. They expose their true feelings for each other en route to their honeymoon.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Red River"

© 1948 United Artists − All right reserved.

Red River

D: Howard Hawks

A classic, tightly-structured 40s Western, one of the best American westerns, from action director Howard Hawks, with beautiful photography by Russell Harlan. A film of father/son rivalry and battle of wills between two opposites, in a rebellion spanning fifteen years. It also chronicles the first monumental, historic cattle drive north along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas. This was one of producer/director Howard Hawks’ most extravagant and ambitious films (and his first western), and it cost over $3 million (over budget) at the time – an exorbitant sum, but became a top-grossing film of the year. It authentically chronicled an epic, bleak and tough journey that was fraught with external dangers, threats, tests of strength, and internal contentious tensions between its two strong-willed, stubborn, and conflicting leaders: a hard-nosed, self-made, bitter, dictatorial, ruthless and tough commanding father, Texas rancher and cattle baron Tom Dunson (John Wayne in one of his best performances and his first film of five for Hawks) and his men, defiantly led by his less harsh, surrogate, adopted son Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift in his first film). Their vicious confrontations, capped by Dunson’s tyrannical, unbearably harsh treatment of deserters, lead to a mutinous revolt – a western Mutiny on the Bounty – when the cowpokes support the natural leader – Matt. Dunson vows to pursue and kill his son that climaxes in an inevitable, brutal fist-fight and show-down. The two men are reconciled after a brutal brawl, broken up by the tough woman in the film, Tess (Joanne Dru), who steps in and breaks up their final fight to the death.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Red Shoes"

© 1948 The Archers − All right reserved.

The Red Shoes (UK)

D: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

A beautiful and sensitive film from the masterful directing/producing team of Powell and Pressburger, and filmed in breathtaking, gorgeous Technicolor – a dramatic masterpiece often considered the best ballet film ever made. An exquisite musical tragedy with a realistic and close look at the backstage world of a ballerina. The tale was taken – metaphorically – from Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic fairy tale of the same name, about a ballerina who wore an enchanted pair of ballerina slippers that forced her to never stop dancing – and she danced herself to death. The film’s magical highlight is a 15-minute stylized “Red Shoes” ballet blended and integrated seamlessly within the storyline.

An ambitious young, red-headed English prima ballerina Victoria “Vicky” Page (Moira Shearer) is made a star by her Svengali-like mentor impresario and producer Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) of the Lermontov Ballet Company. But she is soon torn between her struggling conductor-composer husband Julian Craster (Marius Goring) who can offer nothing but his love, and the obsessed impresario who can further her dancing career. She painfully struggles with making a difficult choice between her career (ballet) and love. Her desire to dance conflicts with her need for love – and ultimately lead sto her death. The film ends with her melodramatic tragic death scene when she is propelled to her death just before an encore concert presentation of The Red Shoes ballet. The controlling red shoes willfully take her to a balcony overlook and forcefully pull her off into the path of an oncoming train on the tracks below. The ballet is performed as planned without her with a spotlight shining on the floor where she would have been dancing. After an announcement by Lermontov: “”Ladies and Gentlemen. I am sorry to tell you that Miss Page is unable to dance tonight, nor indeed… any other night. Nevertheless, we’ve decided to present The Red Shoes. It is the ballet that made her name, whose name she made. We present it because we think she would have wished it.” The film’s final images are a closeup of her bloody legs (and tights) and feet wearing the shoes. When she requests that Julian remove her red ballet shoes, she dies.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Rope"

© 1948 Transatlantic Pictures − All right reserved.

Rope

D: Alfred Hitchcock

Director Alfred Hitchcock’s first Technicolor feature film was this experimental thriller, the first of four films with James Stewart, and the famed director’s most controversial work. The stage bound film, based upon Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope’s End, was notable for its major experimental “stunt” – the seamless intercutting of 8 long 10-minute takes, creating the appearance of the film’s action occurring all in real-time in a single, continuous shot – however, there were clever splices between takes. The story was loosely based on the notorious 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case involving two University of Chicago students who murdered a 14-year-old. The film also featured two gay villains, both wealthy pseudo-intellectuals.

The two implicitly homosexual and psychopathic college buddies-lovers are — nervous and fearful Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), and the more caustic and arrogant Brandon Shaw (John Dall). The two thrill-killed (by rope strangulation) a third individual, Harvard undergraduate and friend David Kentley (Dick Hogan), and then hide his body in an antique wooden chest used as a buffet table while hosting a dinner party. The guests invited to the occasion are the victim’s father Mr. Henry Kentley (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and aunt Mrs. Anita Atwater (Constance Collier), David’s fiancée Janet Walker (Joan Chandler), Janet’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick), and the killers’ ex-prep-school housemaster/teacher Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), whose philosophical Nietzsche lectures about “superman” (the acceptability of the privileged and superior few to murder inferiors) inspired the impressionable pair. In one chilling, sexually-tinged scene, Shaw recounted his feelings about the murder to Morgan: “I don’t remember feeling very much of anything — until his body went limp and then I knew it was over…I felt tremendously exhilarated!” Shaw also dares the guests, particularly Cadell, to uncover why David is conspicuously absent and hints about their secret that a body is concealed in the trunk in the middle of the room. The thriller ends when guilt-ridden Cadell suspiciously realizes that his former students have carried out his mad theories. With gunshots, he signals for the police to apprehend the killers.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Snake Pit"

© 1948 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.

The Snake Pit

D: Anatole Litvak

Director Anatole Litvak’s still-disturbing psychological drama told about the horrors of mental institutions with shadowy images of inmate torture. It was based on the fictionalized account of hospitalization in squalid conditions by Mary Jane Ward’s 1946 semi-autobiographical best-selling novel. The drama is a representative social-problem film, and one of Hollywood’s first mainstream films to sympathetically deal with the issue. One of the film’s most famous images, providing the film with its title of “snake pit,” is the famous top-shot and pull-back view of inmate Virginia Stuart Cunningham (Oscar-nominated Olivia de Havilland), institutionalized (after a breakdown following severe depression) in the over-crowded Juniper Hill State Hospital. She is surrounded by insane and babbling patients as her voice-over explained: “It was strange – here I was among all those people, and at the same time, I felt as if I were looking at them from someplace far away. The whole place seemed to me like a deep hole, and the people down in it like strange animals, like, like snakes, and I’d been thrown into it, yes, as though, as though I were in a snake pit.” With insomnia, memory loss, and mood swings, a confused and frightened Virginia cannot remember the circumstances of her incarceration (“I can’t be sure of anything anymore.”) Chief psychiatrist Dr. Mark Kik (Leo Genn) uses psychotherapy techniques (narcosynthesis, shock therapy and hypnosis) to discover the repressed reasons for her mental illness, pain, distress and erratic behavior – seen in various flashbacks. Newlywed husband Robert Cunningham’s (Mark Stevens) efforts to get Virginia released fail when Virginia panicks and is traumatized before a panel of clinical interrogators, and she is then placed in Ward 12 for seriously-ill patients. Setbacks and relapses often followed instances of progress, before she is finally ‘cured’, and is released.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Sorry, Wrong Number"

© − All right reserved.

Sorry, Wrong Number

D: Anatole Litvak

This engrossing, expressionistically-filmed psychological thriller and film noir was adapted from a famous and popular 1943 CBS radio play with Agnes Moorehead by the play’s author Lucille Fletcher. The suspenseful film tells about bedridden, spoiled, manipulative hypochondriac heiress Leona Stevenson (Oscar-nominated Barbara Stanwyck), whose domineering father is wealthy drug company industrialist James “J.B.” Cotterell (Ed Begley). She lives alone in a Manhattan apartment where she is confined to her bed or wheelchair. One day, she accidentally overhears a crossed-wires telephone conversation between two thugs. The strangers are discussing the lurid details of a planned murder plot for that evening at 11:15 (the exact time of a loud, passing train). Then, the invalid, psychosomatic woman receives two other strange phone calls on her phone (PLaza 5-1098), and slowly realizes that she is to be the object of the homicide. When she reports her fears to the operator and to authorities, they don’t believe her. She makes phone calls to try and locate her missing, weak-minded, henpecked and greedy husband Henry J. Stevenson (Burt Lancaster). She recalls her first encounter with her husband and parts of her life with him and others through a series of well-constructed flashbacks. More calls are made to her husband’s secretary Elizabeth Jennings (Dorothy Neumann), to her former married acquaintance Sally Hunt Lord (Ann Richards) (Henry’s ex-girlfriend), to her own doctor Dr. Alexander (Wendell Corey), and to chemist Waldo Evans (Harold Vermilyea) at her father’s pharmaceutical company, the Cotterell drug company, where Henry worked as a VP. She is unaware that Henry has a number of dirty secrets – he is meeting – suspiciously – with Sally for lunch, and he is being swindled and blackmailed over a plan to steal drugs from the company and sell them to a fence named Morano. Coincidentally, Sally is married to city district attorney Fred Lord (Leif Erickson) who is investigating Henry. Is it possible that Henry is attempting to inherit his wife’s estate (and an insurance payout) to pay off a debt of $200,000 to a blackmailer, by hiring a hitman to kill Leona? Powerless and with time dwindling in the thrilling finale, Leona becomes increasingly desperate and frantically tries to call Henry for help before it is too late. When she finally contacts him, he tells her to go to her balcony and scream for help, as an intruder enters her room and strangles her to death. In the final line of dialogue when Henry calls back, he hears the film’s title spoken by an unknown man.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "State of the Union"

© 1948 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) − All right reserved.

State of the Union

D: Frank Capra

Adapted by scriptwriters Myles Connolly and Anthony Veiller, from the original Pulitzer Prize-winning 1945 Broadway play by Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay. Frank Capra’s and MGM’s politically-tinged romantic melodrama is about an estranged couple, Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy) and Mary Matthews (Katharine Hepburn), brought together during Grant’s Presidential campaign. The wealthy, self-made industrialist, an airplane manufacturer, is coerced by his new mistress to run – over-bearing, ruthless Republican newspaper publisher Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury). The power-hungry millionaireness/villainess of Thorndyke Press will bankroll his campaign as a dark horse Republican candidate for the highest office, to be managed by voracious political strategist Jim Conover (Adolphe Menjou) and journalist ‘Spike’ McManus (Van Johnson) serving as Grant’s press secretary. To avoid character issues in his marital background, and for appearance’s sake, separated wife Mary, an idealist, is required to pose as Grant’s devoted and faithful ‘wife by his side’ – and unavoidably, their romantic affections for each other are rekindled. Mary opposes Grant’s willingness to sacrifice and compromise his honesty and ideals for political expediency due to Kay Thorndyke’s manipulative urgings, in order to win influential backers, the primaries and delegate votes in the 1948 Republican National Convention. In the stirring conclusion after realizing how he has turned against his own values, the self-respecting Grant denounces both himself and his Washington-based power brokers-backers as fraudulent, dishonest and corrupt during a live, nationwide radio speech to 20 million people from his Long Island home (“I am no lamb led to the slaughter”). He withdraws himself as a candidate, and apologizes to Mary, asking for her forgiveness. He also urges all the candidates to be honest, and for the voters to participate in the election. He fires Spike – and refuses to be cut off, yelling out angrily as he seizes the microphone: “Don’t cut me off, I paid for this broadcast!” After the speech, the Matthews are reconciled, and powers-behind-the-throne Kay and Jim are forced to find a new candidate.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"

© 1948 Warner Bros. − All right reserved.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

D: John Huston

Director and screenwriter John Huston’s adventure film, an adaptation of B. Traven’s 1927 novel, is about three gold prospectors in the Mexican wilderness – it is essentially a tale of lustful greed, treachery, paranoia and suspicion. The three ill-matched men in the mid-1920s include an innocent, honest young American named Curtin (Tim Holt), a wise and experienced, fast-talking, grizzly, toothless old-timer named Howard (Walter Huston, the director’s father), and Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart), a greedy, deranged, selfish bastard who distrusted everyone. The two down-and-out drifters Curtin and Dobbs first met in Tampico, Mexico (where Dobbs won the lottery), before teaming up with Howard – whom they meet in a cheap flophouse. Their gold strike and fortune in the Sierra Madre Mountains breed violence and “gold fever,” the threat of Mexican bandits led by Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya) who pose as the Federales, an end to their gold-digging friendships, and the homicidal undoing of the avaricious Dobbs when he is killed for his boots and mule by Gold Hat’s bandits. They do not realize that the ‘dust’ in the saddle bags is gold. Ending with an ironic climactic scene where the wind blows the discarded gold dust away – back into the Sierra Madres.

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Poster for the movie "Unfaithfully Yours"

© 1948 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation − All right reserved.

Unfaithfully Yours

D: Preston Sturges

A wonderfully stylish and witty fantasy-screwball comedy, with a non-linear story line, from director-producer-writer Preston Sturges – it was the last of his Hollywood films. The black comedy was unsuccessful at the time of its release, possibly due to the scandalous circumstances surrounding the suicide of star Rex Harrison’s lover – troubled actress Carole Landis, when he refused to get a divorce and marry her. The splendid, fine farce is the tale of British, middle-aged symphony orchestra conductor Sir Alfred de Carter (Rex Harrison) who suspects his lovely younger wife Daphne (Linda Darnell) of infidelity. During a visit to England, his brother-in-law August Henshler (Rudy Vallee), due to a misunderstanding, hires private investigator Detective Sweeney (Edgar Kennedy) to follow Sir Alfred’s wife around in his absence. After reading the report upon his return, the jealous Sir Alfred suspects that Daphne is having an affair with his own young private secretary, Anthony Windborn (Kurt Kreuger). Then, while leading his orchestra in three different pieces, Sir Alfred elaborately daydreams three very different scenarios of how he would solve the problem of his wife’s alleged infidelity – each one accompanied by a classical music piece that matched the mood. During the conducting of Rossini’s overture to the opera Semiramide, Sir Alfred imagines himself, in a complex and ingenious revenge fantasy, murdering femme fatale Daphne by razor-slashing and plotting to frame and convict Windborn for the crime. While performing the second number, Richard Wagner’s reconciliation theme from Tannhauser, Sir Alfred fantasizes about nobly accepting the alleged infidelity by writing Daphne a large check, forgiving the young couple, and allowing his wife to run off with her young lover. And while conducting the third piece – the finale, Tchaikovsky’s tone poem Francesca da Rimini overture, he sees himself challenging Daphne and Tony to a fatal game of Russian roulette. While the plans work perfectly in his mind, he stumbles and bumbles his way through the preparations in real life to murder Daphne (the first scenario) with a complicated recording device. At last, realizing how deliriously silly and irrational he is being, he cheerfully embraces and kisses his loving wife, who has never been unfaithful, and is unaware of his plotting. (She reluctantly reveals that her sister Barbara Henshler (Barbara Lawrence) is suspected of having an affair with Tony.) Sir Alfred tells Daphne as he hugs her: “A thousand poets dreamed a thousand years. Then you were born, my love.”

Learn more and watch the preview here.

 

Did you favorite make our list of The Greatest Films of 1948?

Greatest Films from 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939

1940 | 1941 | 1942 | 1943 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946 |1947 | 1948 | 1949

1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 |1959