What are Your Favorite Films from the 1940s and 50s?

 

With my local movie theater charging $12.50 per ticket, and with all of the expenses that come with planning my upcoming nuptials (as I commented below on C.J.’s post, I wish we had opted to elope), I’m determined to avoid the cinema this summer.  Instead, I’m raiding the public library for every 1940s and 50s film I can get my hands on and plan to write a series over at Acculturated on the selections I watch.  While plenty has changed in the sixty to seventy years since these films were produced, the basic human themes of love, truth, happiness, meaning, forgiveness, and mutual understanding are as relevant now as ever.

My first selection, which I write about here, was the 1947 film Gentleman’s Agreement, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Gregory Peck.  It’s a great movie, if at times a bit on the preachy side, that treats the subject of anti-Semitism.  Not the blatant, kill-the-Jews strain of anti-Semitism of Hitler’s Germany or Ahmadinejad’s Iran, but rather the passive and incredibly pernicious strain of anti-Semitism prevalent in postwar America. 

My next selection will be on the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson.   Member Adrian has already sold me on Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, which I plan on reviewing as part of my series, but I welcome your recommendations for other outstanding films from the 1940s and 50s that stand the test of time and remain relevant for today’s generation.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @EThompson
    Charles Rapp: All About Eve, The Great Dictator, 12 O’Clock High, Roman Holiday,Mister Roberts,Life with Father …

    Al Kennedy: Roman Holiday, Love Is A Many Splendid Thing, Double Indemnity, Winchester 73, Shadow of a Doubt, Laura, The Defiant Ones, Anatomy of a Murder, A Place In the Sun, High Noon, Strangers On a Train, Giant, The Paleface, Witness For the Prosecution, Written On the Wind, Dial M For Murder.

    Since you guys obviously have an Audrey thing- what about Sabrina?

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Mimi

    If you have not seen any Judy Holliday films, you must now.  

    Born Yesterday   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVtxrGOJzOs

    It Should Happen To You   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or6w-1qTCGA

    The Marrying Kind    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5jsS6rslzU

    The Solid Gold Cadillac   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FyRtt9r8Bw

    Adam’s Rib    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpKv943jwtM  

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CharlesRapp
    EThompson

    Charles Rapp: All About Eve, The Great Dictator, 12 O’Clock High,Roman Holiday,Mister Roberts,Life with Father …

    Al Kennedy: Roman Holiday,Love Is A Many Splendid Thing, Double Indemnity, Winchester 73, Shadow of a Doubt, Laura, The Defiant Ones, Anatomy of a Murder, A Place In the Sun, High Noon, Strangers On a Train, Giant, The Paleface, Witness For the Prosecution, Written On the Wind, Dial M For Murder.

    Since you guys obviously have an Audrey thing- what about Sabrina?· 4 minutes ago

    Edited 0 minutes ago

    I enjoy Sabrina but it not one of my favorites. Bogart and Audrey just didn’t click for me. Same with Charade and Cary/Audrey.

    • #3
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    @TonyMartyr

    Nathaniel (and others) you are sooo right.  Danny Peary probably wrote the definitive essay on Rio Bravo in Cult Movies, but I can’t resist!

    I once thought I was a John Wayne fan, but I don’t think I am – I’m just a Rio Bravo fan.  Loved it as a boy – I remember coming in half way through when I first saw it, just as Chance was diving into the barn in pursuit of Pat Wheeler’s killer… and it had me.

    And it’s one of the great leadership fables – “A game-legged old man and a drunk.  That’s all you got?”  “That’s WHAT I got.”   I go back again and again for Chance’s brilliance (and mistakes) shepherding his motley team through this difficult and dangerous situation.   Great script (“Hey, sheriff, you forgot your pants.”), great performances (“All right, quit. Nobody’s trying to stop you. You wanna quit, quit! Go back to the bottle, get drunk. One thing, though. The next time someone throws a dollar into a spittoon, don’t expect me to do anything about it. Just get down on your knees and get it.”).  It has everything.

    • #4
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    @MelFoil

    Maltese Falcon, and The Third Man.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @Alfaphile

    I second the Falcon and toss in Casablanca and Rear Window, if only for Grace Kelly in something long and flowing.

    • #6
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    @JohnGrier

    Don’t forget: “The Best Years of Our Lives”,  “Shane”, “Casablanca”, “The African Queen”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “The Lost Weekend”, “Marty”, “Splendor in the Grass”, “Rebel Without a Cause”, — and  (my favorite) “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

    • #7
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    @Percival

    Gilda.  Man, was Rita Hayworth hawt.

    The Big Sleep.  “You know how to whistle, don’t cha Steve?  You just put your lips together and blow.”

    We’re No Angels.  “Here we are…three desperate criminals who will stop at nothing to escape Devil’s Island…and we have to fall in amongst nice people.

    • #8
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    @FuneralGuy

    Marty still gets me every time.  I’m going to watch it again as a tribute to Ernest Borgnine. 

    • #9
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    @DavidFoster

    You might want to visit Robert Avrech’s blog for ideas. Robert is an Emmy-award-winning screenwriter as well as an excellent blogger, and he often comments on movies of various historical periods.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @flownover

    Preston Sturges ouevre. Great comedy , smart people, staccato screenplays , amazing ensemble.

    • #11
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    @BereketKelile

    Most of the films I’ve seen from that era were war films, but there were a couple others I liked that were musicals. “Singing In The Rain” and “Swing Time” come to mind. I saw a BBC remake of North by Northwest that makes me wanna see the original. 

    Stalag 17 – funny comedy about a WWII POW camp; interesting because it’s a comedy war film-an interesting combo.

    Anchors Aweigh and any other film with Sinatra and Gene Kelly. 

    • #12
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    @DianeEllis
    Percival: Gilda.  Man, was Rita Hayworth hawt.

    Speaking of good looks…Cary Grant.  The fellows on the big screen these days pale by comparison.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @ConservativeEpiscopalian

    Meet John Doe is another Capra classic. I’ve always liked How Green Was My Valley, Citizen Kane (Rosebud), Stagecoach, Bridge on the River Kwai, A Streetcar Named Desire (STELLA!!! STELLA!!!) The Caine Mutiny, The Ten Commandments (Moses, Moses) to name just a few.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @tabularasa
    Diane Ellis, Ed.

    Percival: Gilda.  Man, was Rita Hayworth hawt.

    Speaking of good looks…Cary Grant.  The fellows on the big screen these days pale by comparison. · 1 minute ago

    And he was a great comic actor. He was terrific in Arsenic and Old Lace. He has a great bug-eye look that’s hilarious.

    If you like epics, see any of the movies directed by David Lean.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @WhiskeySam

    Hitchcock put out a lot of great movies in that period, but Vertigo, for me, is still the best movie ever made by anyone.

    • #16
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    @PaulARahe

    Let me suggest something from 1981 that I just watched — the eleven-hour BBC series Brideshead Revisited.

    While recuperating further, I will join my wife in watching Foreign Correspondent, North by Northwest, and The Third Man.

    We recently watched To Have and Have Not (the movie where Lauren Bacall says to Bogart, “You know how to whistle, Steve, you just put your lips together and blow) and Key Large (the return of Bogart and Bacall).

    • #17
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    @JohnStanley

    A great Robert Mitchum movie is “Night of the Hunter”.  Was not very popular at the time of release, but it is a classic that has stood the test of time well.

    A great courtroom drama is “Anatomy of a Murder” with Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick, ect…..

    A very good western, with a non-typical storyline, is “The Ox-Bow Incident”

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Contributor
    @DianeEllis
    Whiskey Sam: Hitchcock put out a lot of great movies in that period, but Vertigo, for me, is still the best movie ever made by anyone. · 0 minutes ago

    I do really love old Hitchcock films.  I envy the person who still hasn’t seen them all because of all the hours of awesomeness they have in store there.  I watched Hitchcock’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith this weekend, which was a cute one on the theme of marriage (one of his only non-suspense flicks).  And one of my recent favorite Hitchcock discoveries is Foreign Correspondent.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Contributor
    @DianeEllis
    Paul A. Rahe: Let me suggest something from 1981 that I just watched — the eleven-hour BBC series Brideshead Revisited.

    After reading Brideshead Revisited the summer after graduating from college, I saw the recent remake in theaters.  It was awful and I do not recommend that anyone see it.  But I shall certainly watch the BBC series that you recommend here.

    • #20
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    @Schoolmarm

    You Can’t Take It With You is my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie, though I think it might actually be late 30’s, and Woman of the Year is my favorite Hepburn/Tracy film.

    • #21
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    @MattBlankenship

    Double Indemnity, Rope, Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train.

    A hearty second–or third–for The Third Man.  I just got the soundtrack on iTunes the other day.  Perfect.  I really can’t argue with any selections above.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Inactive
    @CrabbyAppleton

    Soooo many. Of westerns , My Darling Clementine, The Westerner, Destry Rides Again, Rio Grande. Of Cary Grant, Arsenic and Old Lace, People Will Talk, and Notorius. Of noir my three faves are The Big Sleep and Maltese Falcon, of course, but you should look for Murder My Sweet. ( Chandler’s ‘ Farewell My Lovely )

    • #23
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    @MollieHemingway

    Definitely To Have and Have Not. Lauren Bacall is uh-mazing..

    • #24
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    @LibertyDude

    The Fountainhead; film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel.

    “An uncompromising, visionary architect struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.”

    You can watch it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SsGpu1cXJc&feature=related

    • #25
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    @kgrant67

    A Place in the Sun has already been mentioned, but I second it and mention that it is very interesting for the way it deals, in 1951, with the issue of abortion.

    • #26
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    @ChristmasBeard

    Of course The Best Years of Our Lives. That’s my favorite.

    But Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat is a close second for me.

    And I always enjoy Roman Holiday.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @

    No vote for “12 Angry Men” yet? For shame! Great story with an all star cast. Sidney Lumet’s cinematography is brilliant – shots get tighter as the movie progresses

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @Arahant
    flownover: Preston Sturges ouevre. Great comedy , smart people, staccato screenplays , amazing ensemble. · 30 minutes ago

    I second, third and fourth Preston Sturges.  The Lady Eve, oh, my goodness!

    • #29
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    @AmySchley

    It’s a bit after the specified time period, but I love The Lion in Winter with Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn as Henry II and Elanor of Aquitaine.  The family discovered it at the library when my mom confused it for The Wind and the Lion, and it’s both moving and hilarious.  It was my first Katherine Hepburn movie, and I was in love.

    • #30

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