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Apr 9, 2012

A Year On Film: 1941




So the movie 1941 (directed by Steven Spielberg) may have been released in 1979, but it's a good way to segue into a blog post about the films of 1941.

1941 was an historic year.  Most notably for that "day of infamy" - December 7th - when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States officially entered World War II.  Thankfully, neither Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett nor Michael Bay were involved




1941 is also known as a very important film release year, as a movie that would change the way films were made and viewed came out.  A movie so good, that it inspired newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst to try and stop the release as he felt it was an slam on him.  While Hearst failed to completely stop the release, his efforts damaged the filmmaker's career considerably.

The filmmaker is Orson Welles, and the film is of course....CITIZEN KANE.



CITIZEN KANE is a monumental achievement in filmmaking and story-telling technique, and has been the #1 film on the SIGHT AND SOUND list of most influential films of all-time for about 20 years now, and shows no signs of being dethroned any time soon.




1941 had some other great and very memorable releases as well, and the following, while not every title released, is a list of some of my favorites - some with comments and with notable directors highlighted.




49TH PARALLEL (Michael Powell)

A couple of Nazis find themselves trapped in Canada and are trying to make their way to the (then) neutral United States.  Love that Laurence Olivier plays a French Canadian trapper.

Available on DVD via THE CRITERION COLLECTION.




ANDY HARDY'S PRIVATE SECRETARY

This was movie #10 in the popular ANDY HARDY series starring Mickey Rooney made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  Definitely a product of their time, the Andy Hardy series are excellent snapshots at what Hollywood was selling as small-town American life in the 1930s and 40s.




BABES ON BROADWAY (Busby Berkeley)

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland team up for a third "Babes" movie proving their screen teaming to be irresistible for audiences.




BALL OF FIRE (Howard Hawks)

Barbara Stanwyck is a gangster's moll that ends up in a house full of socially awkward scientific well...the modern definition would be nerds, who are studying the art of slang.

Gary Cooper is the most handsome nerd imaginable, and his "aw shucks" all-American persona is on fine display here.  As good looking as he is, you completely buy the socially awkward character.

I once read an early draft of the pilot for the CBS sitcom THE BIG BANG THEORY which was very much like this - a party girl ends up moving in with a couple of geeks. Obviously while the show on the air still has elements of this, that original script was very much channeling BALL OF FIRE.




BLOOD AND SAND






THE BRIDE CAME C.O.D.

Great screwball comedy has James Cagney agreeing to kidnap Bette Davis to keep her from marrying and comedic mayhem ensues in the California desert.  Not exactly the type of movie you'd expect either of these actors to be in, but completely enjoyable.

I had the chance to see it for the first time recently on TCM and was instantly a fan.




BUCK PRIVATES

Abbott and Costello join the army.  Need I say more?

Being released on Blu-Ray on April 17th as part of Universal's 100th Anniversary Celebration.




CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles)

I mentioned it above, but so important a movie that I needed to mention it again.

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER








DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE






DUMBO

One of my favorite Disney animated features. Who can resist the crows singing "I've Seen an Elephant Fly".  Also some of the most endearing moments from an animated feature when Dumbo is separated from his mother who has been caged up.




HELLZAPOPPIN'






HERE COMES MR. JORDAN

This movie - about a man who has been snatched into heaven too early and comes back in another person's body - has been remade a few times.  Most notably the 1976 Warren Beatty vehicle HEAVEN CAN WAIT and the 2001 Chris Rock comedy DOWN TO EARTH.




HIGH SIERRA

Bogart doing what he does best - being the tough guy.  Co-star Ida Lupino later became a significant director in both film and television (including several episodes of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND).




HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (John Ford - Academy Award Winner for Best Picture)

In any year other than the year of CITIZEN KANE, I would have no problem with this movie winning Best Picture, but in 1941, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY - as good as it is - was not the best picture.  Still a fine movie, and cemented my imagined love affair with Maureen O'Hara.




I WAKE UP SCREAMING

Released on DVD within the Fox Film Noir collection, I WAKE UP SCREAMING is a solid movie with Victor Mature being railroaded into jail by an overly obsessed cop for supposedly killing a model.  A fine example of noir.  Love the opening scene of Mature being interrogated under the hot police lights.  Really sells the lighting style that was a trademark of Noir films.




IN THE NAVY

Not only did Abbott and Costello join the army on 1941 movie screens, but they joined the navy as well.  These guys sure got around.




KEEP 'EM FLYING

Oh yeah, Abbott and Costello took to the air as well in 1941.




THE LADY EVE (Preston Sturges)




LIFE BEGINS FOR ANDY HARDY

Andy Hardy #11.




THE LITTLE FOXES




THE MALTESE FALCON (John Huston)

Easily makes my list of top 10 movies of all time.  This movie was the one that introduced me to Bogart and the detective Noir in general.  And poor Elisha Cook, the guy never had a chance!




MAN HUNT (Fritz Lang)

Vacationing Walter Pidgeon has a chance to kill Hitler but gets captured and beaten instead, and the Nazis hunt him down in London.  Great thriller, and thankfully available via Fox Home Entertainment on DVD.




MANPOWER






MEET JOHN DOE (Frank Capra)

This was the first Frank Capra movie I ever saw (yes even before IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) and the Capra-esque qualities really caught my attention before I knew that "Capracorn" existed.




MOON OVER MIAMI





NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK




PENNY SERENADE (George Stevens)

Great tearjerker with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.




ROAD TO ZANZIBAR

The second in the Hope and Crosby ROAD TO series.




THE SEA WOLF








SERGEANT YORK

Pacifist Gary Cooper goes to war and wins an Oscar.




SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN

The fourth THIN MAN movie.




THE SHANGHAI GESTURE




SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (Preston Sturges)




SUN VALLEY SERENADE




SUSPICION (Alfred Hitchcock)

It's a Hitchcock film, so someone is guaranteed to be murdered at some point and Joan Fontaine has this notion that Cary Grant is trying to do her in and she wins an Oscar in the process.




THAT HAMILTON WOMAN






THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON

While perhaps not historically accurate (by a long shot), a great movie based on (George) Custer's last stand with Errol Flynn in the title role.




THE WOLF MAN

Lon Chaney, Jr. gets very hairy during a full moon.  Those gypsy curses can be murder!




A YANK IN THE RAF






YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH




ZIEGFELD GIRL