The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part IX)

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:

1940-1944

Larceny, Inc. (1942)

One of my favorite Woody Allen movies is Small Time Crooks. The one where they go to rob the bank and use the cookie store as a front, only the cookie store ends up making them way more money than they would have gotten from the bank. Well, I was surprised to find out that he basically lifted the plot of that part of the movie from this movie. Which is essentially the same thing. Edward G. Robinson buys a luggage shop as a front to rob a bank. Only it becomes successful. And there’s all the same type of comedy to it. Only whereas Woody’s movie becomes about them dealing with being famous, this movie becomes about guys Robinson was locked up with getting out and deciding to go through with robbing the bank. Also in this are Jane Wyman, Broderick Crawford, Jack Carson, Anthony Quinn, Edward Brophy, Harry Davenport and John Qualen. It’s hugely entertaining.

The Major and the Minor (1942)

Billy Wilder’s first directorial effort. Starring Ginger Rogers. Romantic comedy. More screwball than romance. She pretends to be a child to save money on a train ticket, and is taken in by a soldier who thinks she’s a frightened child. And he feels protective of her, and antics ensue. Ray Milland is the soldier. It’s a good film. Very funny. Not an absolute classic Wilder, but it’s a really good one.

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Best Picture winner. William Wyler. Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon. Middle class family deals with the comic of World War II. We see them not concerning themselves with world affairs until war is upon them. A bunch of great sequences throughout the film. The rose contest, the German who crash lands in town. Lot of great stuff. Teresa Wright won an Oscar for this, as did Greer Garson. Dame May Whitty and Henry Travers were also nominated. Very famous movie, and also really entertaining.

My Sister Eileen (1942)

Rosalind Russell and her sister move to New York in order to make it. She wants to be a writer, her sister wants to be an actress. Reality soon sets in. They’re living in a cramped basement apartment with a bunch of kooky people who keep crossing their paths. It’s a funny movie. Of course become a romance. But it’s good.

Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)

Leo McCarey. Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. She’s about to marry an Austrian, and he’s a reporter following them. He suspects her fiancé of being a Nazi sympathizer. This is a mix of adventure, comedy and romance. It’s a nice film. The cast is really the selling point here.

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Preston Sturges. Screwball. Joel McCrea has a million dollar idea. But he doesn’t have the money to make it happen. His wife, Claudette Colbert, has the perfect solution — she’s gonna divorce him and marry a millionaire to get him the money. Hilarity ensues. This movie always stuck with me because of a Grand Central scene about 40 minutes in where I could swear someone calls a cop a “dumb fuck.” I’m almost certain he says “dumb cluck,” but no matter how many times you hear it, even in passing, it sounds a lot like “dumb fuck.” And that’s hilarious to me.

The Pied Piper (1942)

Monty Woolley plays a curmudgeonly old man traveling through Europe who somehow ends up in charge of watching two refugee children. And at first he wants nothing to do with them, but they melt his heart and he warms to them. And eventually, he ends up trying to sneak like a dozen kids across the border to safety. It’s a really good film. I think it was remade a couple of times. Got a couple of Oscar nominations to boot.

Saboteur (1942)

Hitchcock. I really like this one. This is an underrated movie of his. Actually a remake of an earlier movie of his. This one’s the better version. A factory worker is accused of starting a fire that killed his best friend, and is on the run to prove his innocence. These innocent man films are a staple of Hitchcock, and this one is terrific. We follow the guy as he eludes police and searches for the guilty party. Very underrated, this one.

The Talk of the Town (1942)

This one is really famous for its final shot. Raiders actually owes a lot to this ending. The premise is that Cary Grant is an escaped convict hiding out in Jean Arthur’s attic. And he and Ronald Colman are both vying for her affections. He’s a law professor. And the two of them are cool with each other. That’s the interesting thing. There’s a very unique dynamic to the relationships in this movie, and it’s really well done. George Stevens directed this, by the way. You know it’s quality.

To Be or Not to Be (1942)

Classic comedy. I actually really like both versions of this. This one is the classic one. It’s Lubitsch. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny. It’s — I don’t even want to describe it. It’s hilarious. This is essential viewing. Actors, screwball, Nazis, pure comedy.

Wake Island (1942)

This is about the Battle of Wake Island. The U.S. troops stationed there have no hope of help or supplies, and they fight to the last man. The battle scenes in this movie are really well done for the era. You really feel like you’re there. It’s well done. It feels different than most war movies of the era. Also a Best Picture nominee.

Woman of the Year (1942)

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They’re reporters who write about completely different subjects and have completely different lifestyles, but they fall in love and get married and pretty soon realize they have little in common. A great movie. You watch this for the two of them. It’s not essential, but it’s close.

Edge of Darkness (1943)

This is Red Dawn done forty years earlier. It’s about a Norwegian fishing village that comes under control of the Nazis, and they decide to fight back. Errol Flynn stars in this. Walter Huston’s in it too. Really solid war movie. If you like Red Dawn, you’ll like this.

Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

Billy Wilder followed up a screwball comedy with a war thriller. There’s nothing funny about this movie. This was one of his movies I saw near the end of his filmography. And it’s great. I mean really, really great. It’s tense, it’s well made, and you’re riveted from start to finish. It’s about an undercover British agent hiding out in a hotel, trying to transmit important info to Allied troops. It’s really, really good. This is a forgotten great Billy Wilder movie. Everyone should see this.

The Gang’s All Here (1943)

Forget the plot. I don’t even know what this movie is about. It looks great, and Busby Berkeley directed this. This movie is all about how great the Technicolor looks, and what he did with the musical numbers. Carmen Miranda does a couple of great numbers, like “Brazil” (you know the song), “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.” And there’s the finale — man what a finale that is. Complete with creepy disembodied heads. If you’re into Technicolor and Busby Berkeley musical numbers, watch this movie. It looks great, and the musical numbers are terrific.

A Guy Named Joe (1943)

You know that Steven Spielberg movie Always? Nobody really does. Everyone forgets about it. It’s a remake of this movie. It’s about Spencer Tracy as a pilot who is madly in love with his girl. Only he ends up dying one day. And he soon learns that every pilot has their own guardian angel. So he goes back down to earth to be another pilot’s guardian angel. Only that pilot starts falling in love with his girl. It’s a really great film. It worked better in the 40s than it did in 1989, just because of the type of story and the sentimentality, but Spielberg gets more out of the emotion, if that makes sense. This one is great, though.

Heaven Can Wait (1943)

This always gets confused with Here Comes Mr. Jordan. Because Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade but called Heaven Can Wait. This is not that movie. But the plot sounds familiar to something like it. Don Ameche dies and goes to hell. And he meets with Satan to prove that he has done enough to warrant entry. So we go back over his life to see if he’s been a bad enough person to be able to enter hell. It’s a pretty great conceit. And the film is really well done. It’s a nice mix of comedy and drama. Also featuring a great cast of familiar faces, and gorgeous Technicolor.

The Human Comedy (1943)

Beautiful film. This is actually being remade, and is supposed to come out later this year. (We’ll see if it happens and if anyone actually sees it. Meg Ryan is directing the remake, FYI.) The film is about Mickey Rooney as a kid whose older brother goes off to war, so he stays home to support his family. He gets a job as a telegram delivery boy. It’s really great. A lot of slice of life stuff happening for a great deal of it, mostly little episodes about what life was like on the home front during the war, and ends with an emotional punch. Frank Morgan is also great as the telegram office operator. Highly recommended.

I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

Val Lewton. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. A woman goes to the West Indies to care for a woman who is now in a zombified state. If you like the Val Lewton stuff, like Cat People and The Seventh Victim, this is one of his more famous ones. A lot of creepy voodoo stuff here.

Lassie Come Home (1943)

Yes. A Lassie movie. Couple of reasons for this being here. One — didn’t think I was gonna like this movie when I saw it. Loved it. So that’s one. Second — it looks nice in color. Third — Elizabeth Taylor’s first movie. Well… second movie. But her first big movie. It’s also the first Lassie movie that was ever made. Which is worth mentioning. Lassie gets sold from one home to another and runs away to go back to her real home. I think it’s worth it for all of these reasons put together. Nice color, Elizabeth Taylor killing it as a child actor, and the first Lassie movie ever. Lot of cultural touchstones there.

 

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