Mrs. Miniver (1942). 133 minutes. Directed by William Wyler. Starring Greer Garson (as Kay Miniver), Walter Pidgeon (as Clem Miniver), Teresa Wright (as Carol Beldon), Dame May Whitty (as Lady Beldon), Reginald Owen (as Foley), Henry Travers (as Mr. Ballard), Richard Ney (as Vin Miniver), Henry Wilcoxon (as the vicar), Christopher Severn (as Toby Miniver), Brenda Forbes (as Glenda), Clare Sandars (as Judy Miniver), Marie De Becker (as Ada), and Helmut Dantine (as German flyer).
Mrs. Miniver is an Academy Award-winning movie about the rural English experience during the early years of World War II. Especially in its first half, the movie can be overly sentimental, but I was moved by the dramatic transformation of the characters’ lives as the war progresses in the second half. I was also captivated by the way that the British countryside, which we might think of in the abstract as a tranquil and pacific place, morphs into a dangerous and battle-torn environment in this … Read the rest
The Red Shoes (1948). 133 minutes. Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Starring Moira Shearer (as Vicky Page), Marius Goring (as Julian Craster), Anton Walbrook (as Boris Lermontov), Léonide Massine (as Grischa Ljubov), Robert Helpmann (as Ivan Boleslawsky), Albert Bassermann (as Sergei Ratov), Ludmilla Tchérina (as Irina Boronskaya), Esmond Knight (as Livingstone Montague), and Austin Trevor (as Profesor Palmer).
The Red Shoes has been praised over the years by film titans such as Martin Scorsese and Gene Kelly for its striking images and dramatic ballet centerpiece. Scorsese has in particular touted its exquisite use of color, and Kelly used its lengthy and accomplished central dance sequence to convince executives that the extensive ballet at the end of An American in Paris (1951) would work. The movie’s art-minded directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (who together were known in the industry as The Archers) have long been recognized for their visually distinguished productions, and The Red Shoes was only one … Read the rest
Casablanca (1942). 102 minutes. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring Humphrey Bogart (as Rick Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (as Ilsa Lund), Paul Henreid (as Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (as Captain Louis Renault), Conrad Veidt (as Major Heinrich Strasser), Sydney Greenstreet (as Signor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (as Signor Ugarte), S. Z. Sakall (as Carl), and Dooley Wilson (as Sam).
I am constantly amused by how warmly and universally well-received by general audiences Casablanca is—not because I think it deserves otherwise, but rather because it is difficult for any film to endure for so long in the mind of the public at large as an unequivocal classic, and not just as a classic among many, but to many people the definitive classic film. And yet the same people go to such great lengths to diminish it while they praise it, asserting that it was merely a B movie (it was not), or that it was only one of hundreds of films produced that year … Read the rest
The Great Dictator (1940). 124 minutes. Directed by Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin (as Jewish barber/Adenoid Hynkel), Paulette Goddard (as Hannah), Maurice Moscovitch (as Mr. Jaeckel), Emma Dunn (as Mrs. Jaeckel), Bernard Gorcey (as Mr. Mann), Paul Weigel (as Mr. Agar), Jack Oakie (as Benzino Napaloni), Reginald Gardiner (as Commander Schultz), Henry Daniell (as Garbitsch), and Billy Gilbert (as Herring). Written, produced, and scored by Charlie Chaplin.
The Great Dictator was in its time and remains today a daring film. Through bizarre coincidence, the movie takes advantage of a unique opportunity for one titan to skewer another—that is, the English comedian with the famous toothbrush mustache lampoons the German dictator with the famous toothbrush mustache. As a comedy about the Nazi regime, and much like its contemporary To Be or Not to Be (1942), The Great Dictator may be hard for some to stomach now as it was then, in spite of its use of revered silent-era star Charlie … Read the rest
Tales of Manhattan (1942). 118 minutes. Directed by Julien Duvivier. Starring Charles Boyer (as Paul Orman), Rita Hayworth (as Ethel Halloway), Thomas Mitchell (as John Halloway), Eugene Pallette (as Luther), Ginger Rogers (as Diane), Henry Fonda (as George), Cesar Romero (as Harry Wilson), Charles Laughton (as Charles Smith), Victor Francen (as Arturo Bellini), Elsa Lanchester (as Elsa Smith), Edward G. Robinson (as Avery “Larry” Browne), George Sanders (as Williams), Harry Davenport (as Professor Lyons), Paul Robeson (as Luke), Ethel Waters (as Esther), and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (as Rev. Lazarus).
Tales of Manhattan is a compilation of five stories that follow the transference of a black tailcoat from one person to another in New York City. Over the course of the film, the tailcoat is bought new, sold used with a bullet hole in it to a man on his wedding day, torn apart through the exertions of a conductor who is too large for it, repaired for a charity case, … Read the rest
Reefer Madness (1936). 68 minutes. Directed by Louis J. Gasnier. Starring Dave O’Brien (as Ralph Wiley), Dorothy Short (as Mary Lane), Kenneth Craig (as Bill Harper), Carleton Young (as Jack Perry), Lillian Miles (as Blanche), Thelma White (as Mae Coleman), Warren McCollum (as Jimmy Lane), Ed LeSaint (as judge), Mary McLaren (as Mrs. Lane), and Josef Forte (as Dr. Alfred Carroll).
Reefer Madness has been called one of the best worst movies ever made, ranking alongside such legendary failures as Ed Wood’s dreadful Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) in terms of its ability to provide campy thrills. The 1936 propaganda film’s crazed vision of marijuana abuse, with wild, wide-eyed users who hallucinate, kill, commit suicide, run over pedestrians, attempt rape, and have illicit sex is clearly meant to be a lesson to us all, but it is so over the top as not to be believed. Filmmaker Louis J. Gasnier made Reefer Madness with funding from a religious organization … Read the rest
Red River (1948). 127 minutes. Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring John Wayne (as Thomas Dunson), Montgomery Clift (as Matthew Garth), Walter Brennan (as Groot Nadine), Joanne Dru (as Tess Millay), Coleen Gray (as Fen), Harry Carey, Sr. (as Mr. Melville), John Ireland (as Cherry Valance), Harry Carey, Jr. (as Dan Latimer), Ivan Parry (as Bunk Kenneally), and Chief Yowlachie (as Two Jaw Quo). Music by Dmitri Tiomkin.
Red River ranks among the greatest celebrations of the open-air American West. During its over two-hour running time, only two scenes take place indoors, and both seem contrived. The fact that they feel out of place thus only reinforces our sense that this movie belongs outdoors underneath a wide, expansive sky. Red River seeks to impart its spirit of hugeness not only in the mass movement of its central cattle drive but also with the mass enthusiasm of its men. Take a look at the scene where John Wayne as Thomas Dunson tells … Read the rest
The Curse of the Cat People (1944). 70 minutes. Directed by Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch. Starring Simone Simon (as Irena Reed), Kent Smith (as Oliver Reed), Jane Randolph (as Alice Reed), Ann Carter (as Amy Reed), Eve March (as Miss Callahan), Julia Dean (as Mrs. Julia Farren), Elizabeth Russell (as Barbara Farren), and Sir Lancelot (as Edward). Produced by Val Lewton.
You may see this movie because you have seen Cat People (1942), a wonderful horror movie about a woman who believes that she is descended from a race of humans who can transform into felines. But The Curse of the Cat People is not a horror film like its predecessor, even though it was given a horror-movie title, and it does not really have much to do with the metamorphosing characters of Cat People either. It chiefly focuses on a lonely young girl named Amy who may or may not be able to see the deceased … Read the rest
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). 126 minutes. Directed by John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart (as Fred C. Dobbs), Walter Huston (as Howard), Tim Holt (as Bob Curtin), Bruce Bennett (as James Cody), Barton MacLane (as Pat McCormick), Alfonso Bedoya (as Gold Hat), Arturo Soto Rangel (as El Presidente), Manuel Dondé (as El Jefe), José Torvay (as Pablo), Margarito Luna (as Pancho), Robert Blake (as boy selling lottery tickets), John Huston (as American in Tampico wearing white suit). Screenplay by John Huston. Music by Max Steiner.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of director John Huston’s masterpieces. It stars his father, Walter Huston, as a tough old miner who leads two aspiring prospectors into the mountains of Mexico in pursuit of gold. They do find gold, but they also discover a darker side to themselves that leads to betrayal and death. Its story about the corrupting power of wealth is in line with another movie that ends … Read the rest
Ziegfeld Girl (1941). 132 minutes. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard. Starring James Stewart (as Gilbert Young), Judy Garland (as Susan Gallagher), Hedy Lamarr (as Sandra Kolter), Lana Turner (as Sheila Regan), Tony Martin (as Frank Merton), Jackie Cooper (as Jerry Regan), Eve Arden (as Patsy Dixon), Philip Dorn (as Franz Kolter), Charles Winniger (as “Pop” Gallagher), Ian Hunter (as Geoffrey Collis), and Edward Everett Horton (as Noble Sage). Musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley.
Ziegfeld Girl is intended to be a follow-up to 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld, but whereas The Great Ziegfeld focuses on Florenz Ziegfeld (founder of the Ziegfeld Follies) and his rise to fame, Ziegfeld Girl charts the careers of three fictitious Follies showgirls. The similarities between the two movies are numerous, and towards its end, Ziegfeld Girl even recycles some of the footage from the earlier film, including The Great Ziegfeld’s famous rotating wedding cake set. While Ziegfeld Girl has many failings—including the fact that it … Read the rest