The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part VII)
I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.
This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.
I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:
I Love You Again (1940)
William Powell and Myrna Loy. That’s one. Two, this movie is perfect. Here’s what it’s about: William Powell is on a business trip and saves a dude from drowning. But as he does, he’s hit on the head by an oar. When he comes to he realizes he’s actually a con man. He was on a job and hit his head and got amnesia. And the guy he saves was actually a fellow con man. So he goes back home and finds that he’s actually married to Myrna Loy. She’s about to divorce him to marry someone else, because he’s really boring and neglects her. Powell decides to use his stature around town (or rather, his alter ego’s stature) to swindle the town out of money. However, complications ensue. Because now he’s actually falling in love with Myrna Loy. So he’s trying to win her back while at the same time completing his con.
There is a brilliant scene in this movie, where Powell is trying to win Loy over, and tells her about how male doves try to apologize to female doves. And it’s so well done, and also gets used again later in the movie in the best possible way. It’s so utterly perfect. If you’re a fan of Powell and Loy (and if you aren’t, why the hell aren’t you?), you must see this movie.
Kitty Foyle (1940)
Ginger Rogers won an Oscar for this. She’s a saleswoman who has to decide whether or not to marry the safe doctor or the married man she’s been in love with for a long time. The movie flashes back as she decides which one to choose. It’s worth seeing because of Ginger, and because she won an Oscar for it. It’s also really good. It’s a nice melodrama and a nice dramatic performance by Ginger.
Knute Rockne All American (1940)
This is the movie that brought us “Win one for the Gipper.” Old school sports movie. It’s good. Mostly it’s that line, though.
The Letter (1940)
This is the movie where Bette Davis gets shanked by a Chinese woman. Sorry to ruin the ending, but honestly, that’s the best thing about it. They made this a few times in early Hollywood. Basically, she kills a dude and says it was in self-defense, but then there’s a letter that exists that shows it may not have been. It’s a melodrama. Not a huge fan, but it got a bunch of Oscar nominations and she does get shanked by a Chinese woman. So there’s that.
My Favorite Wife (1940)
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. She goes missing and is presumed dead. Meanwhile, seven years later, he’s about to get remarried, and she shows up. And it becomes screwball. He tries to avoid telling the new wife about the old wife, the new wife keeps trying to “consummate” the marriage, and then there’s the issue of the other guy Dunne was trapped on the island with, who she may or may not have had relations with. It’s a fun movie.
Night Train to Munich (1940)
The daughter of an escaped scientist is arrested and thrown in a concentration camp. There, she meets a guy and they escape. However, the guy is actually Gestapo and is there to find her father. Looking for her father, she comes across Rex Harrison, an intelligence officer. And he concocts a scheme to get her and her father free. It’s pretty great. Escapes from the Nazis are always entertaining.
Our Town (1940)
This is based on the Thornton Wilder play. What I love about this movie is how there’s really no plot to it at all. It feels like life. I love when a movie breaks the standard narrative progression. The first two-thirds of this movie are basically just free-flowing, showing life around this small town. And then the third act becomes way different. The main character dies, and her spirit is going around, sort of like George Bailey, seeing life after her death. It’s really different from everything else, and for that, I recommend it.
The Return of Frank James (1940)
A sequel to Jesse James, where Frank (Henry Fonda) goes around, looking for Bob Ford (John Carradine) to exact revenge for killing Jesse. It’s great. It’s in color, and it was directed by Fritz Lang. Fritz Lang directing a western. If you liked Jesse James, you’ll like this.
They Drive By Night (1940)
I love these truck driver movies. This is one of those genres that you can just watch and always be engaged by. If you liked Wages of Fear, you’ll enjoy all of the others. This one is George Raft and Bogart. It’s a noir, to boot. They have a business together, and get mixed up in some shady stuff.
Third Finger, Left Hand (1940)
Myrna Loy is a magazine editor who pretends to be married so she doesn’t get hit on by guys. Only Melvyn Douglas figures out about this and then shows up pretending to be her husband. Pretty much anything with Myrna Loy is worth watching.
Til We Meet Again (1940)
This is a great movie. They made it in 1932, it was called One Way Passage. That one had William Powell in it. This one is George Brent and Merle Oberon. He’s a prisoner being transported back to America to go to jail for a very long time. She’s a dying girl on a trip to live out the remainder of her days as best she can. They fall in love. It’s a beautiful story.
Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Another romantic tragedy. This one is Vivien Leigh. She’s a ballerina who falls in love with a soldier. They plan to get married. Only he gets shipped off to war. And through a mixup, he is declared dead. Which disgraces her. She has to turn to prostitution. And then he comes back home. It’s… tragic. Vivien Leigh gives one of her best performances here. Also a Mervyn LeRoy movie.
The Westerner (1940)
Walter Brennan plays Judge Roy Bean. He won an Oscar for this. (His third in six years.) Gary Cooper shows up in the town, and the two are diametrically opposed in terms of viewpoints. But they strike up a friendship. Though they both know it’s gonna end in a shootout. But the movie is about their friendship leading up to that. It’s really engaging, and was directed by William Wyler, who always turns in a good movie.
All Through the Night (1941)
This movie is fun because it’s a thriller, but is also fun. It’s weird. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bogart plays a gangster whose local friends all become good guys when they find some Nazis hiding away in their neighborhood. Very fun movie.
Ball of Fire (1941)
Howard Hawks. Gary Cooper. Barbara Stanwyck. Written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. That should be enough to want to see it. Gary Cooper plays one of a group of professors who are studying the way real people talk, to create a dictionary. So they bring Barbara Stanwyck, a showgirl, in to live with them. (She’s also running from the mob.) Comedy and romance ensue. Just look at that cast. You know it’s worth it.
Blood and Sand (1941)
It’s a bullfighting movie. But it’s also an early example of gorgeously used color. That’s the real interest here. The color. As for plot — Tyrone Power is a peasant who becomes the most famous bullfighter in Spain. And it’s about his rise and fall. Seriously — gorgeously shot.
Blossoms in the Dust (1941)
Also Mervyn LeRoy. This is Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. One of their many pairings in the early 40s. They get married and have kids and everything seems to be going well. Until an unfortunate accident. And after that, she decides to take it upon herself to help all the orphans in the state, because the law prevents them from receiving adequate care. And she ends up in a fight with the state to get rid of the stigma of illegitimacy. It’s really good. And also in Technicolor. It looks great.
The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
James Cagney and Bette Davis in a comedy. Bette didn’t do too many comedies. He’s a charter pilot who takes an assignment by Davis’s father to prevent her from marrying some asshole. So he finds her to take her back to her father, and — well, comedy and romance ensue.
The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
Walter Huston plays the Devil. Which should have been enough to get you excited about it. It’s about a farmer who makes a deal with the Devil for prosperity. And then the Devil comes to collect, but the guy doesn’t want to pay up. So he gets Daniel Webster to defend him in a trial. So the last half of this movie is a trial with Daniel Webster going against Satan. Loaded with familiar faces, and just a great overall movie. Walter Huston is the man.
The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)
I only need two words to describe why you need to see this movie: Charles Coburn. Charles Coburn is like the Rodney Dangerfield of the 40s. In his 60s, and he always played millionaires in comedies, and was the best thing about the movies. Here, he plays a millionaire who finds out there are unionizers in his stores. So he goes undercover as an employee in one of his stores to ferret them out. And you can guess how it goes. It’s really fun, and also stars Jean Arthur.
– – – – – – – – – –