The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part XI)
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:
And Then There Were None (1945)
Based on Ten Little Indians (originally called Ten Little N-Words. Not making that up) by Agatha Christie. A bunch of people show up to a house and realize they’re all there because they committed some kind of crime. And just like the ten little Indians in the nursery rhyme, they start dying, one by one.
Ten little Indian Boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Indian Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight little Indian Boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven little Indian Boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six little Indian Boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five little Indian Boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.
Four little Indian Boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three little Indian Boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two little Indian Boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian Boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.
The cast is: Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Houston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydn and Queenie Leonard. Only the ten are on the island. They don’t know who’s doing it. It’s great.
The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
Did you enjoy Going My Way? Well this is the sequel. More of the same. But with Ingrid Bergman instead of Barry Fitzgerald. They’re trying to save the parish from being bought by a businessman who wants to turn it into a parking lot. It’s fun. You know what you’re getting here. (Plus, this is the movie Michael Corleone sees before he finds out his father’s been shot.)
The Clock (1945)
Another wartime romance. Soldier on leave bumps into a woman and they meet and fall in love. Robert Walker and Judy Garland. The idea is that they agree to have her show him around, and they’ll meet under the clock at Grand Central. And… well, you can guess where it goes from there and how it ends. It’s a good film. Vincente Minnelli directed it. A solid romance.
The House on 92nd Street (1945)
Nazi spies. That’s what this is. A German student is approached to be a spy. Only he’s an American. So he tells the FBI. They tell him to go along with it so he can get info on the spy ring. So we follow him as he infiltrates the spy ring and tries not to get caught. Great stuff here.
‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945)
Powell and Pressburger. It’s… strange. It’s a romance, but it’s good. Wendy Hiller is a woman who has her life mapped out. Until she gets stranded on this island for a while. Then she meets a guy and starts to fall in love. He’s a descendant of a family, and there’s a curse placed on this castle that he owns… it’s a whole romantic comedy kind of deal. But it’s good. You can never go wrong with Powell and Pressburger.
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Joan Crawford won an Oscar for this. They remade it with Kate Winslet. Though that was more drama than this. This is straight noir melodrama. It starts with a murder and us flashing back to how it happened. This is about Crawford as a woman who wants a better life for her daughters. She leaves her husband because she’s focused on the kids and not the family. And then she becomes a waitress. Her older daughter despises her for this. And the film is mostly about the contentious relationship between her and her daughter, who continues to hate her no matter how successful she becomes. It’s a terrific movie. Michael Curtiz directs. Ann Blyth is great as her daughter. She got nominated for that. Probably should have won. And Eve Arden got nominated too. You’ll remember her as the principal in Grease. But the movie is terrific and should be seen. It’s like 75% of the way essential on this list. Not essential for the first one. Not 100% essential here. But it’s close.
Mom and Dad (1945)
There’s something to be said about really campy movies from the 30s and 40s. This movie is hilarious. It’s referred to as a “sex hygiene” film, which is pretty great. A girl’s parents refuse to tell her about sex, and because of that, she gets knocked up. And then the film teaches us all about vaginas and venereal disease. It’s great. I love that we needed to have a film about this. It’s also great because they still don’t want to teach this stuff in schools!
My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)
It’s a noir. Woman answers an ad to work as a live-in nurse for an old rich woman. She goes there, is chloroformed, and taken to another house in another part of the country. When she wakes up, everyone tells her she’s someone else. And no matter what she does, she can’t reach anyone from the outside world, or leave. She tries to figure out what’s going on, but also wonders if she’s losing her mind… it’s pretty great. More of a psychological noir than anything. Pretty well done. It’s one of those that’s almost melodrama. It’s great how similar those two genres are.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
You know the story. I hope. What’s great about this movie is how it’s entirely black and white, and the portrait itself is in color. Which is really terrific. It’s a well-crafted film, with a great lead performance by George Sanders. Angela Lansbury is also great in this. For sure recommend this highly. One of the best of its year.
Scarlet Street (1945)
Noir. Edward G. Robinson. He’s an artist who is seduced by a younger woman and falls in love with her. Only she’s using him. We see him do terrible things for her, even though she’s with her boyfriend the whole time, conning him. (The boyfriend by the way — Dan Duryea. Trust me, you want to see movies with this guy in them.) It’s pretty fucked up what happens to this guy. Wait til you see how this ends. Typical noir. It’s a good one.
Hitchcock. Not my favorite of his, because it goes deep into psychoanalysis (which I think is pretty bullshit to begin with. So to hear them discuss it in depth as a major plot point is boring to me). But there are great moments. A really trippy psychological sequence that you’ll have seen a similar version of in Cat People. The idea is that Ingrid Bergman is a doctor and Gregory Peck is an amnesia patient, and he gets accused of murder but doesn’t know if he did it. She’s convinced he didn’t, so they go off together to try to get him to remember and clear his name. It’s a well-crafted thriller. Hitchcock. You know it’s good.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)
“Hey — hey Tony. Look at the fuckin’ tree. There it is, right over there. Look at the fuckin’ tree, comin’ out of the ground like that. Ain’t that the best lookin’ fuckin’ tree you ever saw?” “Ehh, I’ve seen better.” “Ehh, what the fuck do you know, you fuckin’ mook?”
But actually, it’s really great. Kazan’s first film. Incredible film. James Dunn won an Oscar for it. It’s so good. Highly, highly recommended. This is one of my favorite 40s movies. It’s wonderful.
Angel on My Shoulder (1946)
I love these vaguely supernatural movies, where people die and are sent back, or movies that are dealing with people bargaining for places in heaven or hell. This one is Paul Muni as a gangster who is sent back to Earth in the body of a judge. The reason is because the judge is too honest, and the devil (Claude Rains, because of course Claude Rains. Both on its own and because of Here Comes Mr. Jordan) wants Muni to make him do some bad shit so he can tarnish his soul. And the joke is that everything Muni does somehow makes the judge actually look better. It’s a fun movie. Highly recommended. There are three things you can count on with 40s movies: high concepts, strong genre connections, and strong directors and/or casts. If a movie has some combination of those things, you can be sure it’ll be pretty good.
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Yeah, yeah, the Disney version. But this version is perfect too. Great special effects for the time. This movie is its own brand of magical, and is essential.
The Big Sleep (1946)
Also 100% essential. This is badass. Howard Hawks, Bogie, Bacall. I’m not sure I can track what is actually going on in this movie, but I don’t care, because it’s so goddamn fun. Just see it.
Duel in the Sun (1946)
GLORIOUS Technicolor here. A big sexy western. Lust in the Dust, as it was known. Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck. David O. Selznick fired like eight directors off of this movie. Lillian Gish and Lionel Barrymore are also in this. Jone plays a half-Native girl who moves in with her white family. Lots of forbidden love and gunfights. Great stuff. This is essential.
Everyone’s seen that hair flip moment. It’s iconic. Remember Shawshank? Rita Hayworth? “Who, me?” That’s this movie.
Great Expectations (1946)
This is probably the best version of the story that’s ever been made. It looks good, for one. David Lean directed this, so you know you’re in for that treat. Plus, it’s just well done. You’ve seen this story done before. But this version you can recognize as being solid all around. I say see it for Lean.
The Killers (1946)
I knew about this movie before I really started getting into movies hardcore. Because I knew there was that double disc Criterion with this version of this movie and the 1964 John Sturges version. This is Burt Lancaster’s first movie. Also Ava Gardner and Edmond O’Brien are in this. Here’s the pitch: two men come into town to kill Burt Lancaster. They do it. Now we flash back to how we got there. It’s great. I’m not gonna tell you anymore. It’s essential. See this. Classic noir.
Night Editor (1946)
Noir. B movie noir, too. This movie is great because it’s one of those clearly B movie type of stories. A bunch of newspapermen are playing poker late at night and they’re telling stories. And one of them tells a story that becomes our film. About a police lieutenant cheating on his wife. And he and his mistress witness a murder. Problem is, if they say anything, the affair becomes public. And things only get worse from there. Because he’s the one investigating the killing. It’s only a 70 minute movie. Straight B movie noir all the way. These are the best.
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