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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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)
Andy Hardy #11.
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!
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.
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.
Great tearjerker with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.
The second in the Hope and Crosby ROAD TO series.
Pacifist Gary Cooper goes to war and wins an Oscar.
SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN
The fourth THIN MAN movie.
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.
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.
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