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

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

Sahara (1943)

Did you see Fury? Did you like Fury? This is the original Fury. A bunch of guys in a tank during World War II. Bogart, Lloyd Bridges, Rex Ingram, J. Carrol Naish, Dan Duryea. It’s a badass war movie. Also, Humphrey Bogart in a tank fighting Nazis. What’s not to like?

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Another Val Lewton film. This one is recommended for a lot of reasons, most notably for its ending. It takes balls to end a movie the way this movie ends. Especially for 1943. Also, it does things really well. It creates the “person walking down a dark hallway” scene that would become a staple of later horror films, and it also predates Psycho by 17 years by featuring a very similar shower scene. I’ll just leave it at that. Good stuff here.

The Song of Bernadette (1943)

I think I’ve been pretty open about my feelings on religion and religious films. So if I were to tell you that I actually think one of them is pretty good, that should probably mean something. This one is pretty good. I don’t love it, but I can tolerate this one pretty well. Mostly because of the performances. Jennifer Jones won an Oscar for this, and pretty much rightfully so. She’s terrific here. It’s about an enthusiastic but not very bright girl who is playing near a toxic waste dump and sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. As we all have done. And then they decide she’s not lying, and take her into a convent, and people pray around the area, and eventually she dies of radiation poisoning. (This turned into Christopher Walken’s watch story.) But she’s great in it, and you get good supporting performances all around. It’s pretty good. I don’t love it, but as religious movies go, I can tolerate it, and this did win Best Actress, and Jennifer Jones is great here, so there’s that.

Between Two Worlds (1944)

This movie is pretty awesome. The whole movie takes place on a boat. All of the characters are on it and don’t know why. Turns out — they’re dead. And they’re in limbo, and they’re there to figure out where they’re gonna end up. It’s a really great concept and is a pretty fascinating film. John Garfield, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Eleanor Parker, Edmund Gwenn. Good cast, great concept. Definitely a gem to seek out.

Dragon Seed (1944)

Oh boy, do I have quite a bit to say about this one. First off, the obvious. It’s pretty racist. It’s about a family in China, and they’re all played by white people. Yes, that’s offensive. Katharine Hepburn plays an Asian woman. So for that alone, you should see it. Because yes, it’s highly offensive. But on the other hand… they’re not caricatures. They do play it straight and put on good performances. So you can’t be that offended. You get more offended at the time and the town than you do the actors. But also, it’s actually an engaging movie that I ended up liking quite a bit. Walter Huston is in it, Akim Tamiroff, J. Carrol Naish, Henry Travers, Aline MacMahon, and Agnes Moorehead. And I swear, Agnes Moorehead could play anything and be anybody and knock it out of the park. Seriously, in this one year she played Chinese, French, Italian and American. Great at all of them. She is one of my favorite character actors from this era. And of course Walter Huston. It’s a worthwhile film. Not essential. But good actors doing good parts. And in yellowface. Which is regretful, but hey, what are you gonna do?

The Fighting Sullivans (1944)

This is the reason Saving Private Ryan happened. Because of the Sullivans they passed a law that a family couldn’t lose all siblings to a war. Because all the Sullivan boys went off to fight and not one of them returned. This movie is really terrific. Mostly focusing on them and their family life. Thomas Mitchell plays their father, and he’s terrific here. I recommend this one highly. This feels like it could have been directed by John Ford, it’s so similar to his style.

The Great Moment (1944)

Preston Sturges. About a dentist who worked to get anesthesia used throughout the practice. Because before then they just operated. It’s actually pretty hilarious. William Demarest has a hilarious supporting part in this. (He’s great in all of Sturges’ movies. He was the dad in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.) This is one of my favorite Sturges movies. I really like this one.

Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)

Another Preston Sturges. Also Eddie Bracken. The idea is that he wants to be a big war hero, but ends up getting the measles or something minor and is sent home without ever seeing action. But on his way home, he meets a bunch of soldiers who are like, “Nah, just tell them you were wounded and are a hero.” So he does, but the problem is, everyone takes it way too far. They’re gonna build statues, give him medals, the whole nine. And he tries to tell them the truth, but of course it goes hilariously wrong.

Henry V (1944)

This movie was made twice, and both times, it’s great. This time by Laurence Olivier. (The other one will appear 45 years down the list.) It’s a terrific film. I don’t usually love Shakespeare films unless they’re really engaging and well made. And this is one of the best ones. They shot the whole thing on a ranch in Ireland. It looks great. And Olivier does a great job directing and starring.

Hollywood Canteen (1944)

I love this movie. Because it’s so different. It’s a fake story with real people playing themselves. You got that? Two actors playing soldiers are given a weekend off. They go to the Hollywood Canteen, which is a club for servicemen run by Hollywood stars. And it has loads of people playing themselves, and a bunch of musical numbers. The Andrews Sisters, Sons of the Pioneers, Jimmy Dorsey, Kitty Carlisle. Bette Davis and John Garfield run the place (because they did create it). Loads of cameos, and just a fun movie overall. Highly, highly recommended. It’s nice to see Hollywood having a good time for the boys.

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)

Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in a wartime romance. They meet on a train. He’s on a ten day leave to recover from shell shock, and she’s just been sentenced to prison and has been given a week to visit her family for Christmas. You get the idea. The doomed romance. It’s a nice movie.

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944)

Remember what I said about religious movies? This isn’t quite The Song of Bernadette, but it’s close. I like this one better. Gregory Peck is a priest in China. And we see him start his parish and over the years gain the respect of the community and become beloved. And then war breaks out — you know the drill. He wants to stay neutral, and — well… it’s good. I really like this. This is one of the movies that really broke Peck as a star. Got him his first Oscar nomination. This is probably the most tolerable of the religious movies.

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

This is an adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely. Dick Powell plays Philip Marlowe, and it’s really good. Gotta love these pulp detective films. You can never go wrong with one, and this one is right up most people’s alleys (Colin especially).

The Seventh Cross (1944)

Seven men escape from a concentration camp. The guy who runs it puts six crosses up inside, and as each man is caught, they are buried under them. The seventh one is there for the last man — Spencer Tracy. He’s on the run from the Gestapo. He’s hiding out, getting help from wherever he can. That includes Hume Cronyn and Agnes Moorehead (playing an Italian). It’s a good movie. These man on the run movies are always great, especially in the 40s. Plus — Nazis. Hume Cronyn actually got nominated for Supporting Actor for this.

Since You Went Away (1944)

This is the big war picture during the war. David O. Selznick. Claudette Colbert is a housewife whose husband is off fighting. And at first she’s ignorant of the whole thing and is just worried about him. But pretty soon she learns just how important the war effort is on every front. She gets a job in a factory, she befriends a Russian woman (which is a big deal for the era). It’s a big epic movie about the families at home waiting for their soldiers to return. The cast is stacked. Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Monty Woolley, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniel, Agnes Moorehead, Keenan Wynn. Hughely important film for film history and actually really entertaining to boot. As close to essential as can be on this list.

The Thin Man Goes Home (1944)

Admittedly, he does not drink in this movie. I think it had something to do with war rationing or something. Whatever. Still amazing.

To Have and Have Not (1944)

I know Colin’s already seen this, but he’ll agree with me — you need to see this one. The first Bogie and Bacall pairing. She’s 19 here and she is… wow. People always remember the “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve?” line, but to me, the sexiest thing she does is that shimmy at the very end of the movie. That is just oozing with sex. Oh, and Walter Brennan is amazing here. “Was you ever bit by a dead bee?” This is essentially a remake of Casablanca but with a female lead who really wants to fuck Bogie. I mean, sure, it’s based off a Hemingway novel (and William Faulkner worked on the script. Making that the only time two Nobel Prize winners were involved in the same movie), but check the progression. It’s Casablanca. Also directed by Howard Hawks. This needs to be seen.

Wilson (1944)

It’s a biopic of Woodrow Wilson. A pretty entertaining one, at that. Nominated for a bunch of Oscars (won five), and actually entertaining because it doesn’t focus on the presidency. It’s one of those kinds of 40s biopics that are enjoyable because they’re 40s movies. If you put any stock in the Oscars, this got nominated a bunch. These, I find, are always worthwhile just because you get an idea of something they really liked.

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1945-1949

Along Came Jones (1945)

Great movie. Comedy western. Gary Cooper. He rides into town with a buddy (William Demarest, who is always great), and they think he’s a notorious outlaw. Thing is — the actual outlaw is actually hiding out in the town. He’s played by Dan Duryea, who you are going to get to know from this list. He is great. He’s so good. I call him the B movie Marlon Brando. He’s gonna be one of those actors where you go, “Why haven’t I seen all of this guy’s movies before?” I discovered him last year during the annual noir festival they have out here. The movie will feature later on this list. He’s so good. But anyway, the film is really funny and really good. Highly recommended.

Anchors Aweigh (1945)

Musical. In glorious Technicolor. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Two sailors out on the town. Great stuff.

 

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