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A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1940 – The Grapes of Wrath

1940 can be a very simple or very difficult year depending on how much thought you want to put into it.

There are a bunch of choices you can rationalize as being the choice. The Great Dictator? Sure. Only I already did Chaplin and wouldn’t have much to add to that article. The Philadelphia Story? Sure. If you like. But I don’t think that represents 1940. Rebecca? Great movie. Won Best Picture. But doesn’t represent the year. Fantasia? Pinocchio? I guess you could. But we already did Disney, and Fantasia was a flop when it came out.

The film that manages to hit all the right notes for me is this one. The Grapes of Wrath is an American classic. Both as a film and a novel. It was one of the biggest moneymakers of 1940, and has remained as one of the greatest films ever made. Read the rest of this page »

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A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1939 – Gone With the Wind

I don’t have to say anything this year.

1939. Gone With the Wind.

Obviously this is the choice, no matter how many other iconic movies there were this year.

They called it “The Golden Year,” and few years have come close to the amount of amazing movies this year had. And even so… Gone With the Wind trumps them all. No matter how much you want to say Wizard of Oz. Gone With the Wind is still the answer. It just is. Read the rest of this page »

A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1938 – The Adventures of Robin Hood

This is a complete no-brainer. Hugely influential movie, big moneymaker for 1938, featuring two of the biggest stars in Hollywood and one of the most famous screen pairs of all time, and it’s during the beginning of the true Technicolor age.

Becky Sharp is the first fully-Technicolor film (three-strip. Full color), and then, after that, Hollywood starts figuring out, “All right… how do we harness this?” And the Technicolor corporation actually regulates the use of color and essentially tells the studios how to use color and what to use in each scene. That’s just the quick version.

Anyway, for the first three years or so, Hollywood is nervous about color. So they use it sparingly, and they really keep it muted. Lots of earth tones and nothing really garish. Like they thought people would freak out with an abundance of color, so they decided to keep it limited to what people thought would be realistic. And then 1938 and 1939 happened.

Between this and The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, Hollywood just said, “Fuck it,” and went for broke. And that’s why this movie looks as good as it does. Read the rest of this page »

A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Oh man, it’s Snow White.

This one is going to be a lot of fun. There’s such a great story behind this one.

But also… it’s Snow White. There is no possibility this wasn’t going to be the defining film of 1937. You can’t even make a case for anything else that better defines 1937 than this film without having to admit you’re deliberately trying not to pick this. It’s not possible.

I’m gonna spend this article talking about the story behind the film. Because we all know what it’s about and we’ve all seen it and we all know it’s a masterpiece of animation, that holds up even today. We don’t need to talk about that. I want everyone to know how the film was made.

There are few perfect choices out there for a list like this, and this is one of them. Read the rest of this page »

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