Greatest Films of the 1940s
Greatest Films of the 1940s


Greatest Films of the 1940s
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1947

Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

The Bishop's Wife (1947), 108 minutes, D: Henry Koster
RKO's perennial Christmas holiday fantasy classic was a sentimental and heart-warming favorite. Its screenplay by Robert Sherwood and Leonardo Bercovici was based on author-novelist Robert Nathan's 1928 novella. It was a Best Picture Oscar nominee and was beautifully photographed by Gregg Toland. The romantic comedy was poorly remade as The Preacher's Wife (1996) by director Penny Marshall, with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. The film opened by introducing a handsome, charming, and suave guardian angel sent from heaven named Dudley (Cary Grant). He became involved in the lives of a married couple: harried Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) and his lovely but often sad wife Julia Brougham (Loretta Young). Henry had become obsessed with building and funding a new cathedral, and was having difficulty raising money and receiving support from the wealthy and elderly Mrs. Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), the chair of the cathedral committee. Due to his preoccupations with the cathedral, the Bishop was clearly producing strains in his marriage. The very helpful and debonair Dudley was not there to assist with the cathedral's fund-raising, but to show Henry what he had been neglecting in life -- the poor and needy, the boys' choir, his parishioners and most noticeably his wife who had the incredible gift, according to Dudley of "making heaven here on Earth." When the Bishop prayed for "guidance" and divine help, Dudley showed up in his study. As time passed, Henry became increasingly annoyed with Dudley's intrusiveness, attention to Julia, and he was jealous of Julia's growing infatuation and attraction for him. All the while, Dudley kept trying to remind the Bishop about all his greater priorities in his life. On Christmas Eve, Dudley volunteered to rewrite Henry's Christmas sermon, and dictated while the typewriter took down his words. When Henry finally publically announced the importance of Julia in his life to Dudley ("Julia means more to me than my life, I'm not going to lose her"), the angel promptly announced his departure. Dudley was relieved to realize that Henry had finally straightened out his priorities - and his prayer for "guidance" (rather than for a cathedral!) had been answered. As he was summoned back to heaven after his mission was accomplished, the angel told Henry that he and everyone else would have no memory of his visit or existence: ("When I'm gone, you will never know that an angel visited your house"). At St. Timothy's Church, the Bishop delivered Dudley's sermon on Christmas Eve at midnight, while Julia beamed at him from the pews. From the street outside under a light falling snow, Dudley listened to the poignant and touching words, satisfied that his work was complete as he turned and slowly walked away - bringing the film to a heartfelt close.

Black Narcissus (1947, UK), 100 minutes, D: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
The provocative, engrossing and richly-Technicolored spiritual and erotic melodrama (with Oscar-winning cinematography by Jack Cardiff) from the UK was based on the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden. It acquired two wins for its two Oscar nominations: Best Color Cinematography (Jack Cardiff), and Best Color Art Direction-Set Decoration. The psychological drama's theme was the inevitable struggle between the spirit (or sacred realm) and the profane (or flesh). The dazzling, visual cinematographic masterpiece told about a convent (with a village school and hospital infirmary-dispensary) run by a group of five British Anglican nuns (from the Order of St. Mary) in the far remote Himalayans. There was breath-taking imagery of an exotic sultan's palace (once a bordello for concubines known as the House of Women, decorated with erotic wall paintings), with a bell tower on the edge of a 9,000 ft. precipice. The facility was donated to the convent by the local ruler General Todo Rai of Mopu (the "Old General") (Esmond Knight). The nuns were led by devout, serene and pious Sister Superior Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) who was privately being haunted and tormented by memories of a broken romance in Ireland with a past lover Con (Shaun Noble) who deserted her. Amidst the eerie atmosphere were violent and continuous winds, a half-mad elderly female caretaker Angu Ayah (May Hallatt), a 6 year-old servant boy named Joseph Anthony (Eddie Whaley Jr.) who served as a translator, mysterious drum-beats, a meditating Hindu holy man, and strange native rituals. The nuns were also aided with help and advice by a government intermediary - the sexy yet cynical and very macho British agent Mr. Dean (David Farrar), the Old General's or Prince's agent. In a sideplot, the 'Young General' or young Prince (Sabu), vain heir to the throne of the princely state, arrived at the convent to be educated. After the presence of a young village girl was also suggested by the Prince - a sexually-intriguing, lower-caste, 17 year-old native dancing girl Kanchi (Jean Simmons) arrived, and the young Prince became infatuated with her. A few major issues arose after the accidental death of a child given castor oil (that frightened the villagers away from the school or dispensary), and the young Prince's 'elopement' with Kanchi. The most disruptive problem was brought about by the unstable, troubled, sexually-conflicted, high-strung Anglican nun - the mentally insane Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron). She was driven mad by jealousy (toward the authoritative Sister Clodagh), and her repressed and starved sexuality consumed her due to her lust for Mr. Dean. In the unnerving, climactic conclusion one evening, Sister Ruth renounced her nunhood vows of celibacy and decided not to renew her vows. She adorned herself in a bright-red forbidden dress, and applied matching red lipstick (symbolizing her break with the nunnery). She trekked down the mountain to Mr. Dean's house where she attempted to seduce him. When he curtly spurned and rejected her, she returned to the convent and sought to attack her rival Sister Clodagh, who was at the edge of the cliff at the bell-tower ringing the prayer bell. The cathartic scene ended when intended victim Sister Clodagh was saved from death as she grabbed hold of the bell-tower rope after being pushed toward the precipice by the jealous and vengeful Sister Ruth, who lost her balance and fell to her death. In the film's denouement, the nuns packed up to leave after they had failed in their spiritual mission.

Body and Soul (1947), 104 minutes, D: Robert Rossen
One of the best, most compelling, starkly-realistic boxing sports films (and film-noirish dramas) ever produced before a rash of imitators and parodies. From a powerful screenplay by Abraham Polonsky, with impressive fight sequences (winning an Oscar for Best Film Editing) shot with roller-skating cameramen to enhance the realism. Uninspiringly remade as Body and Soul (1981), with a script updated to include African-American and Latino boxers, and notable female nudity. In this definitive film that also served as a cautionary morality tale (told in flashback), John Garfield (in his best film role) starred as tough, naive, dim-witted but decent Charley Davis from a poor Jewish family in the slums of the Lower East Side, who chose boxing as a means to escape his life of poverty. The pugilist successfully worked his way to the top, the middleweight championship, by both fair and unethical means (his association with crooked racketeers and fight promoters) to the disapproval of his mother Anna (Anne Revere), his free-spirited Greenwich Village artist-girlfriend Peg Born (Lilli Palmer), and his loyal lifetime friend Shorty Polaski (Joseph Pevney). He blindly believed he could become independent once he made it as the champ, but then was disillusioned when his threatening, unethical, corrupt hoodish handler Roberts (Lloyd Gough) demanded 50% of the take to help him win the championship. Charley made more wrong decisions, resulting in Shorty's accidental death, a broken engagement with his girlfriend, reckless gambling, and a harmful relationship with gold-digging nightclub vamp Alice (Hazel Brooks). He ended up indebted - and was ordered to take part in a fixed fight (he was told to fight all fifteen rounds and lose the fight by a decision) - something that would cause him to also lose his soul and self-respect. At the last minute in the sensational final sequence, he rebelled against his operators, knocked out his challenging newcomer opponent Jack Marlowe (Artie Dorrell), returned to Peg, and rejected Roberts ("Get yourself a new boy. I retire"). When Roberts threatened Charley as he left the ring, Charley mocked him with an ironically-quipped line used earlier in the film: "What are you gonna do, kill me? Everybody dies."

Boomerang! (1947), 88 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
This semi-documentary crime film was based upon the true story of the 1924 unsolved murder of an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. The elderly, beloved and kindly priest Father George Lambert (Wryley Birch) of Bridgeport, CT was murdered (by gunshot) during his regular evening walk at a street-corner by an unidentified killer. Police Chief Harold F. 'Robbie' Robinson (Lee J. Cobb) faced tremendous political pressure to quickly find the suspect. There were seven witnesses to the shooting, but the killer's face wasn't conclusively seen, and there were no other clues. The Morning Record (and its ace political reporter Dave Woods (Sam Levene)) stirred up trouble by blaming the current administration for being soft on crime. Out-of-town WWII veteran and unemployed drifter John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy) was soon targeted as the suspected murderer (he was arrested in Cleveland, Ohio), although he vehemently denied being involved. Forensics evidence showed that the bullet came from his gun. He was exhaustively questioned by the police chief and lead detective Lieutenant White (Karl Malden) for two days, and gave in by signing a confession - under duress. State's District Attorney Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews), a potential candidate for governor, was assigned to try and prove Waldron's innocence - obvious, the suspect was a victim of prejudgment.During the court hearing, Harvey destroyed the prosecution's case and exonerated Waldron. He reenacted the crime seven times - proving that none of the unreliable eyewitnesses could have seen the killer from where they were positioned on the street. He also demonstrated that the intense grilling from police was unfairly brutal and that the confession was coerced. He also submitted five expert ballistics reports that disproved the bullet came from Waldron's gun. In a dramatic Russian Roulette-styled challenge, Harvey dared Waldron's loaded gun to be fired into the back of his own head - the gun wouldn't fire (revealing that it had a broken malfunctioning pin and couldn't be fired). Waldron was freed, and although the case was reopened, the real killer was never caught. [In a scene much earlier in the film, it was surmised that Lambert's killer might have been his mentally-unstable assistant pastor.]

Brute Force (1947), 95 minutes, D: Jules Dassin
Director Jules Dassin's powerful, violent, claustrophobic, film-noirish crime-prison drama (with a musical score by Miklos Rozsa) told about the grim, overcrowded and dehumanizing conditions of life in the Westgate Penitentiary under the rule of the brutal chief guard - sadistic Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn). The prison's craven Warden A.J. Barnes (Roman Bohnen) and frustrated, alcoholic Doctor Walters (Art Smith) were both weak-willed and overshadowed by the harsh and fear-inducing, fascist treatment inflicted upon the prisoners in the isolated facility. [Note: With a flashback technique, a number of the inmates described the circumstances that brought them to prison - almost all involved a duplicitous, double-crossing or scheming female.] The dictatorial chief guard was abetted in his reign of terror by stoolie inmates who spied on other prisoners and reported to him. One spy named Wilson (James O'Rear) was discovered and forced by angry convicts with flame-throwers into a huge steel punch press in the prison's workshop-factory. In Cell R 17, single-minded prisoner Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster) had been incarcerated for the theft of money to support his wheelchair-bound, cancer-stricken wife Ruth (Ann Blyth). Collins became the leader of a movement, along with gambler Spencer (John Hoyt), embezzler Tom Lister (Whit Bissell) and Robert "Soldier" Becker (Howard Duff) to begin a plan of escape. After Lister committed suicide due to a devastating mental lie told to him by Munsey about his wife Cora (Ella Raines), Collins and other convicts were punished by being put on a prison drain pipe work detail. They began to execute their complex plan. Part of the strategy was to have top mobster-prisoner Gallagher (Charles Bickford) create a diversionary 'riot' in the prison yard, while the escape would occur out of the prison's drain-pipe. To learn more about their plan just before the prison break, the suspicious Munsey beat, interrogated and tortured one inmate Louie Miller (Sam Levene), and also forced a confession from 'Freshman' Stack (Jeff Corey). During the actual prison escape out of the mine and through the outer prison gates, informant 'Freshman' who was secured to the front of a mining car, was the first to be shot and killed. A gun battle erupted in the yard, where Joe was lethally-wounded. Unheeded, he climbed to the top of the central guard tower, in flames from fire-bombs, to engage in a brutal physical fight against Munsey. After hurling him to his death below, Joe collapsed dead. Getaway truck driver Gallagher was also killed and an arriving contingent of guards tear-gassed the remainder of the convicts to capture and control them. The film concluded with Dr. Walters' bewildered, existential words about the hopelessness of the situation - delivered behind bars: "Collins and Munsey are dead. And the others. All those others. Why do they do it? They never get away with it. Alcatraz, Atlanta, Leavenworth. It's been tried in a hundred ways from as many places - and always fails, but they keep trying. Why do they do it?....Nobody escapes. Nobody ever really escapes."

Crossfire (1947), 86 minutes, D: Edward Dmytryk
RKO's and Edward Dmytryk's noirish message drama (filmed mostly at night with low-key lighting), a taut, intelligent and exciting melodrama and murder mystery, was a rare Hollywood social issue film - a landmark film and one of the first to indict anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry, along with this year's Best Picture-winning Gentleman's Agreement (1947). The blunt, honest and engrossing box-office hit was based on Richard Brooks' 1945 novel The Brick Foxhole, although in the book, the victim was homosexual. It has the notable distinction of being the first B-picture to receive a Best Picture nomination. The catalyst of the film was an incident (told in various flashbacks) that occurred one drunken evening, when a group of recently-discharged soldiers on leave were partying in a Washington DC hotel nightclub with Miss Lewis (Marlo Dwyer) and her Jewish boyfriend, war hero civilian Joseph "Sammy" Samuels (Sam Levene). After some of them went to the man's apartment, there appeared to have been an argument - and later, Miss Lewis found Sammy's body. Subsequently, an investigation into the mysterious murder was conducted by a lead civilian cop, crusading district attorney Capt. Finlay (Robert Young), with help from laconic military cop Sgt. Peter Keeley (Robert Mitchum). When questioned as a suspect, ex-cop and GI veteran-soldier "Monty" Montgomery (Robert Ryan) claimed that he and another friend, civilian redneck Floyd Bowers (Steve Brodie), were with ex-WPA artist and Corp. Arthur "Mitch" Mitchell (George Cooper) in Samuels' apartment. The night's comings and goings were relayed by the suspects, in flashback, to the officers. In an abrupt move to throw off the police and silence one of the potential witnesses against him, "Monty" beat and hanged Bowers with a necktie, leaving him presumed dead. The evidence seemed to be pointing, however, towards Mitch who was suffering from post-war depression and drunkenness. Although he could not provide a convincing alibi - Keeley firmly believed in Mitch's innocence. It was soon revealed, under interrogation, that the bigoted and unhinged "Monty," who openly despised Jews, had the proper motive to murder the Jewish boyfriend with his bare hands - but his hate crime needed to be proven. After piecing together the puzzling events, Finlay set a trap for the violent, crazed and unstable "Monty," who was also suspected of murdering Bowers, with the help of Monty's other friend Leroy (William Phipps). Leroy told "Monty" that Bowers was alive and wanted to meet with him at a specific address (deliberately incorrect). When "Monty" arrived at the right address for best buddy Floyd, he revealed his obvious guilt. "Monty" fled from police and was shot dead by Finlay on the street as the film concluded.

Dark Passage (1947), 106 minutes, D: Delmer Daves
Director Delmar Daves adapted David Goodis' 1946 novel of the same name for this film. The noir was similar in plot to The Fugitive (1993) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). It was another drama teaming Bogart and Bacall (their third of four films together, following To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946)), although one of their lesser ones. Unique in that Bogart's complete face was not viewed for over an hour (obscured by shadows or bandages), when he finally removed facial bandages. The gimmicky, full-of-unlikely coincidences film was shot in an unorthodox way - from his subjective POV (looking through his eyes). In this thriller-noir, con Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart) - a lifer in prison for murdering his wife Gert, escaped from San Quentin by hiding in a barrel. He conveniently joined up with attractive and wealthy artist Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), sympathetic to his plight to prove his innocence, because her recently-executed father was also falsely accused for a similar crime. Her evil friend Madge Rapf's (Agnes Moorehead) testimony had helped to frame Parry in the first place. To deter attention and mask his identity, Parry underwent plastic surgery on his face from Walter Coley (Houseley Stevenson), and changed his name to Alan Linell. Then with faithful Irene's help, he attempted to clear his name and prove that he didn't kill his wife. He was doggedly pursued by small-time, blackmailing hood Baker (Clifton Young), who argued and gun-played with Parry at Fort Point and fell to his death from a cliff. To make matters worse, Parry was also framed for the death of his close friend George Fellsinger (Rory Mallinson). In the conclusion, it was revealed that Madge had killed both Parry's wife and George. When Parry confronted Madge to force her to sign a confession, she struggled with him, stumbled and fell from a window. In the unusual happy ending (for a film noir), Parry fled with Irene to Paita, Peru where they danced in an oceanside nightclub to the song Too Marvelous for Words.

A Double Life (1947), 103 minutes, D: George Cukor
Cukor's noirish psycho-melodrama, with an excellent script of sharp dialogue by the husband-wife team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, also had an Oscar-winning score by Miklos Rosza. It told about famous Broadway matinee-idol actor Anthony John (Oscar-winning Ronald Colman in a career-topping role) whose stage roles were taking over his obsessed, off-stage personal life. The veteran actor knew that there would be disastrous consequences during his performance of different roles - for example, he had divorced his ex-wife Brita (Signe Hasso) two years earlier while acting in a Chekov play. He feared what would happen in real life if he took the role of Shakespeare's jealous Moor named Othello, with Brita as his leading lady Desdemona. It was a torturous role for him, as every night on stage, he was forced to strangle his wife due to jealousy. During these pressurized performances, his jealousies overtook him. When he feared that Brita was in love with somebody else, their publicist Bill Friend (Edmond O'Brien), he was compelled to act as Othello. He strangled his lover-mistress Pat Kroll (Shelley Winters in a star-making role), a pathetically-lonely, mid-20s slutty waitress he had met in an Italian restaurant. The curtain-falling conclusion of Othello blurred the boundary between art and life when the delirious actor stabbed himself to death on-stage.

The Farmer's Daughter (1947), 96 minutes, D: H.C. Potter
Not to be confused with the 1940 film of the same name starring Martha Raye. It was based on the Finnish play Juurakon Hulda by Hella Wuolijoki that was purchased by David O. Selznick, potentially for Ingrid Bergman. Later created as a TV series in 1963 starring Inger Stevens. In this delightful and smart romantic comedy (with a Cinderella theme), Loretta Young (in an Oscar-winning signature role) starred as Katrin Holstrom, the Swedish daughter of stalwart Minnesota farmer (Harry Shannon). In the big city of Washington DC where she was planning to attend nursing school, lecherous painter-acquaintance Adolph Petree (Rhys Williams) swindled her out of her savings. With nowhere to turn, she became the maid-servant or housekeeper (and lover) of US Congressman Glenn Morley (Joseph Cotten) and his powerful politico mother Agatha (Ethel Barrymore). Learning how the political game was played by her association with him and crusty butler Joseph Clancey (Charles Bickford), the feisty, independent-minded, and common-sensed Katrin decided to improve politics. She ran as a Reform candidate in an opposition party against the corrupt political machine (and its replacement candidate for a deceased officeholder) - it was very similar to the conclusion of many Frank Capra films. As a result, although there was a smear campaign to discredit her, she won the election and went to Congress with Glenn.

Gentleman's Agreement (1947), 118 minutes, D: Elia Kazan
The compelling and controversial film (at the time) was adapted by Moss Hart from Laura Z. Hobson's best-selling novel (originally serialized in Cosmopolitan), although now somewhat dated in its impact. It was the top grossing picture for 20th Century Fox in 1948, and one of the first Hollywood films to confront the problem of anti-Semitism, bigotry and religious prejudice. This morality tale was one of a number of films that explored serious social issues in the 1940s. The film's title referred to the "gentleman's agreement" practice of Gentiles (non-Jews) discriminating against Jews. Kazan's startling, Best Picture-winning sober drama was a powerful, sentimental and melodramatic story about a non-Jewish magazine reporter-journalist Philip Schuyler Green (Gregory Peck), a recently-divorced single father. He had writer's block about a new assignment - an expose-article on the subject of anti-Semitism for his liberal Smith Weekly magazine publisher John Minify (Albert Dekker) - until he decided to go undercover and pose as a Jew (with the name Phil Greenberg) to have a first-hand experience. Predictably, he encountered prejudice, scorn and hatred. His son Tommy (Dean Stockwell) was bullied in school (and called names such as "dirty Jew and stinking kike"), and his complacent, close-minded socialite girlfriend Kathy Lucy (Dorothy McGuire), niece of Smith Weekly's editor, was snubbed by her Darien, Connecticut friends. Green experienced religious abuse and bias when rejected for a hotel room. The magazine's sharp-tongued fashion editor, a counterpoint to Green, was Anne Dettrey (Oscar-winning Celeste Holm), and his childhood Jewish friend was Dave Goldman (John Garfield). Deeply-rooted prejudice and underlying anti-Semitism were revealed in his friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), 104 minutes, D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Joseph Mankiewicz' charming, turn-of-the-century romantic fantasy, was based on the 1945 R.A. Dick (Josephine Leslie) novel with a script by Philip Dunne. It later became a TV series. It told about a young and independent, strong-willed but lonely widow Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) with a young daughter Anna (Natalie Wood) in Victorian England. She discovered a salty, hot-tempered naval sea captain Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison) as a ghostly presence in her English seaside Gull Cottage, in the town of Whitecliff-by-the-Sea. Windows and doors opened on their own, candles blew out and there was disembodied laughter. The source of the spookiness was undoubtedly Gull Cottage's former owner who was haunting the bedroom and thoughts of Lucy in his non-flesh-and-blood form. The film's tagline asked: "Is Lucy Muir's love really a ghost, or is it a man of flesh and blood she yearns for?" She refused to be scared by the ghostly denizen of the spiritual world, however, and struck up a strong bond with some romance. When she acquired debts, he helped her to be a "ghostwriter" - composing a successful, best-selling novel of autobiographical memoirs about his own life, titled Blood and Swash, that she transcribed from his dictations. In the meantime, she was charmed by smooth-talking cad Miles Fairley (George Sanders), an author of children's books. Gregg's jealousy was sparked, and she became uncertain of the captain's motivations when he warned her about the adulterous suitor. The ghostly sea captain decided to bid good-bye to Lucy while she slept. He told her that she must find her own way in life - and that she was only dreaming of a sea-captain haunting the house. In the transcendent, tearjerking final scene many years later, white-haired, elderly widow Lucy died in her British seaside cottage's armchair when Captain Gregg reappeared and greeted her with outstretched hands: "And now, you'll never be tired again, come Lucia, come my dear." Rejuvenated and young again, she walked off, hand-in-hand with him downstairs and through the front door into the afterlife with him.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947), 96 minutes, D: George Seaton
This popular, perennial Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday favorite that was adapted from Valentine Davies' original story, was a dramatic comedy-fantasy about the commercialization of Santa Claus and Christmas itself. The sentimental and appealing Frank Capra-esque morality fantasy tale (similar to Meet John Doe (1941)) was about the struggle between faith and doubting cynicism, as well as between the holiday spirit of generosity and materialistic commercialism. When a hired Macy's Santa Claus participating in NYC's Thanksgiving Day parade (up 5th Ave.) was discovered to be intoxicated by a white-whiskered, kindly old man calling himself Kris Kringle (Best Supporting Actor-winning Edmund Gwenn), Kringle was chosen by special-events parade director-organizer and divorced, workaholic single divorcee-mother Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara) to be an emergency replacement. The new, grandfatherly jolly fellow from the North Pole proved to be a smash hit following the parade and was appointed as the store's new Saint Nick. Some questions were raised when he endorsed and sent customers to other rival, competing department stores, such as Gimbels, when Macy's didn't have the desired merchandise. And when toy department boss Mr. Julian Shellhammer (Philip Tonge) urged Kringle to memorize and push a list of overstocked toys on undecided children, the 'Santa' expressed his disgust at X-mas commercialization. The store's psychologist Mr. Sawyer (Porter Hall) questioned Kringle's 'insane' fantasy that he actually was Santa. Doris' doubting, equally cynical, wide-eyed, and delightfully-precocious young second grade daughter Susan Walker (Natalie Wood) also thought Kringle was only a fairy-tale - she did not believe in childhood dreams. When Doris urged Kringle to tell Susan that Santa didn't exist, Kringle's insisted that he really was Saint Nick. Susan didn't believe that the actual, warm-hearted, white-haired Kris Kringle was real, and pulled his beard to test him. Kris Kringle also entered into a concerned conversation with Doris about the loss of the real meaning of Christmas: ("For the past 50 years or so, I've been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we're all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster, and look shinier, and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle"). The most touching moment in the film occurred when children were in line to see and speak to Santa. Susan watched from the side and was impressed as Kringle kind-heartedly and reassuringly sang to a frightened, non-English-speaking refugee and Dutch girl/orphan (Ida McGuire) in her native language. He performed a duet with her of a traditional Dutch carole. Eventually, Doris made the shocking discovery that Santa's address, revealed in his work application, was the Brooks' Memorial Home for the Aged in Great Neck, Long Island, NY, where he was a nursing home resident. The resident Dr. Pierce (James Seay) claimed that 'Santa' was delusional but not dangerous. However, psychiatrists from Bellevue Hospital threatened to have him committed and put away in a mental institution, although Kringle's twinkly-eyed earnestness and wholesomeness removed the doubts of even the skeptical Doris and Susan. Before Kringle was committed to Bellevue, Doris' handsome bachelor lawyer-friend Fred Gailey (John Payne) - her love interest and next-door neighbor, had convinced presiding NY superior court Judge Henry Harper (Gene Lockhart) to hold a hearing to determine Kringle's mental health (sanity or lunacy). A memorable court hearing battle, set in the NY Superior Court on Christmas Eve, pitted lawyers from the two department stores against each other -- Macy's (legally represented by Gailey to prove that Kris was truly Santa) vs. Gimbels (represented by the state's DA Thomas Mara (Jerome Cowan) to prove that Kringle was insane). During the stirring finale, Susan wrote a letter to Kris Kringle to cheer him up while in court for his insanity hearing (with her mother's added postscript: "I believe in you, too"). Gailey needed to prove his case that it was wrong to vilify Santa Claus, and at the same time acceptable to have faith in the red-suited character and believe in the power of imagination (and the Christmas spirit). On his side was the idea that it would cause a backlash to rule against Kris Kringle, and against the possible existence of Santa Claus. In a showstopping strategic move during the courtroom scene, Gaily asked questions of the District Attorney's young son Tommy (Bobby Hyatt) on the witness stand: "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" and "Why are you so sure there's a Santa Claus?" - and the boy answered affirmatively that his dad had told him so. It was a winning maneuver proving that Santa Claus actually existed. In a climactic display of US mail evidence, Gailey also cleverly produced 21 bags and stacks of thousands of post office letters addressed to Santa Claus from the 'dead letter' section of the Post Office. His argument was that the US government agency's recognition of these letters was "positive proof" of Santa Claus' existence. The judge agreed and dismissed the case, and Kringle was released. The concluding scene featured Susan in a car with Gailey and Doris (now in love), as they drove up to the house of her dreams - a house (with a "For Sale" sign). It was a special present that she had hoped would come from Santa. She repeatedly tried to keep persuading herself to have faith (and believe in Santa): "I believe" - and then expressed her overwhelming joy when Kris Kringle's red cane was found inside. Now a firm believer in Kris Kringle (or Santa), she told Fred and Doris after wildly running through the house: "But this is my house, Mommy, the one I asked Mr. Kringle for. It is! It is! I know it is!" Gailey kissed Doris and proposed to her in their future home, while Susan helped to persuade them to think about purchasing the house - but Fred was still expressing his doubts about brilliantly winning the case ("Maybe I didn't do such a wonderful thing after all").

Monsieur Verdoux (1947), 124 minutes, D: Charles Chaplin
Chaplin's ahead-of-its-time Bluebeard crime drama and black comedy, based upon the notorious French killer named Henri Landru, was subtitled: "A Comedy of Murders." The subversive and satirical film, taken from an idea by Orson Welles, was considered controversial and unsettling in its post-war time period, and became a box-office failure - although has now attained the status of a cult-classic. It was Chaplin's first film in seven years (after The Great Dictator (1940)), and very different from his popular "Little Tramp" character. The film told about a straight-laced Parisian bank clerk-teller named Henri Verdoux (Charlie Chaplin), who had an invalid, wheelchair-bound crippled wife Mona (Mady Correll) and young son Peter (Allison Roddan) to support. Around the time of the Great Depression after he lost his job of 35 years, the suave, dapper, cynical, middle-aged and unemployed Verdoux became a notorious serial killer murderer and bigamist whose preferred modus operandi was to marry middle-aged wealthy women, murder them, and appropriate their money. He used several aliases (e.g., Varnay, Bonheur, and Floray, etc.) in order to marry almost a dozen women simultaneously. The comedic highlight of the film was that one of the would-be victims, widowed Annabella Bonheur (scene-stealing, big-mouthed comedienne Martha Raye) kept winning lotteries, and also proved challenging to eliminate for Verdoux. His murder attempts continually failed due to her fortunate good luck. When the stock market crashed and the banks failed, Verdoux found that he was broke. He turned himself into the police after being suspected by a victim's relative. He was put on trial - and before being convicted, he delivered a courtroom speech about how society was hypocritical ("As a mass murderer, I'm an amateur by comparison"). He argued that world wars, dictators, and mass genocidal killings were sanctioned by society and other countries, but his own crime of killing only a few out of necessity (in order to survive) brought about a sentence of death by guillotine.

Odd Man Out (1947, UK), 116 minutes, D: Carol Reed
Carol Reed's searing, exciting and suspenseful (melo)-drama was a rich character study about a doomed man-on-the-run - it was a great example of a post-war British film thriller. It began with the following crawl: "This story is told against a background of political unrest in a city of Northern Ireland. It is not concerned with the struggle between the law and an illegal organisation, but only with the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved." An Irish rebel, an IRA-like nationalist gunman, and escaped prisoner named Johnny McQueen (James Mason in one of his best performances), was badly wounded and dying after a daring, unsuccessful payroll holdup attempt at a mill-factory, presumably in Belfast (Northern Ireland), that was originally designed to fund his underground operations. The failed robbery, including McQueen's killing of the cashier, was even more problematic when he was accidentally left behind by the getaway driver; he desperately struggled to avoid capture in the streets of Belfast. When he couldn't make it back to his hideout - the house of his loving girlfriend Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan in her debut film) and her Grannie (Kitty Kirwan), he sought shelter in the city's ghettos, deserted buildings, pubs, and back alleys (and even in a junkyard bathtub). As the British dragnet around him closed in tighter, for eight tense hours, he was pursued in a manhunt by the police and others - all with their own motives of either helping him or turning him in to the authorities for profit. They included his IRA buddy-partners Pat and Nolan (Cyril Cusack and Dan O'Herlihy) who wanted to rescue him, cabdriver "Gin" Jimmy (Joseph Tomelty), a crazed and eccentric homosexual painter Lukey (Robert Newton), Kathleen, Catholic priest Father Tom (W. G. Fay) ready to deliver last rites, and police Inspector (Denis O'Dea). In the film's visual religious symbolism of crucifixion, McQueen became a Christ-like figure as a condemned man slowly approaching death - he and Kathleen were both shot dead by police in the film's violent finale as he attempted to escape on a ship at the waterfront with her, and they expired in each other's arms.

Out of the Past (1947) (aka Build My Gallows High), 97 minutes, D: Jacques Tourneur
A beguiling, complex film noir about double-dealing and intrigue from the post WWII period, with a script by Daniel Mainwaring (aka Geoffrey Homes), and uncredited pulp novelist James M. Cain. The picture was AKA Build My Gallows High, and based on Geoffrey Homes' novel, and remade as Taylor Hackford's Against All Odds (1984), starring Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward. This enthralling classic film noir was laced with doom-laden flashbacks from the shady past. It told about a laconic, former private detective who was again caught in a deathly web. Jeff (Robert Mitchum), who had moved to a small California town in the country to find solitude (and work as the owner of a gas station), was hired for one last assignment and brought out of retirement by underworld gangster Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). On the way to another unsavory job as a worn-out investigator, he described his past to his fiancee Ann (Virginia Huston), and his journey to Acapulco where he first came under the lethal, deceptive erotic spell of femme fatale Kathie (Jane Greer) in an ill-fated affair. When the present action resumed, Jeff was doomed and seduced once again by the same charming, but wicked woman he had once loved and lost. He was again hired to track down the woman to make up for his mistake in the past. That meant a return to his past - which meant involvement in another complex web of intrigue, passion, betrayal, double and triple-crosses and death.

The Paradine Case (1947), 125 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Based upon the 1933 novel by Robert Smythe Hichens, and noted as Alfred Hitchcock's final film for producer David Selznick. In the year 1946 in England, beautiful and exotic young wife Maddalena Anna Paradine (Italian actress Alida Valli) was accused of poisoning her blind, elderly and wealthy husband Colonel Richard Paradine, a retired WWI hero. However, it was unclear whether it was suicide or murder, or whether the hostile Canadian valet Andre LaTour (Louis Jourdan) was involved. Was Mrs. Paradine being falsely accused? Successful married London barrister-counselor Anthony "Tony" Keane (Gregory Peck) was hired by the family's solicitor Sir Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn) to take the case to defend the accused murderess (and possible femme fatale). Not long after, Keane fell in love with her, neglecting his 11 year-old marriage to his kind and loyal wife Gay (Ann Todd). Gay realized her straying husband's passionate relationship to his attractive yet enigmatic client, but supported him so that he wouldn't be lost to her forever if she was convicted. The trial was presided over by sarcastic, bullying Judge Lord Thomas Horfield (Charles Laughton).
Blinded and infatuated by love, defense lawyer Tony Keane tried to put the blame on a scapegoat - the Colonel's valet LaTour, although he vehemently denied it. However, under cross-examination in a dramatic scene, LaTour revealed that he was committing adultery with Mrs. Paradine, and some of his conflicting testimoney raised doubts about whether he assisted the Colonel in committing suicide. After testifying to his own guilt about the affair with Anna (but not about poisoning the Colonel), LaTour killed himself. Then, Mrs. Paradine admitted that she had initiated the affair, although the valet remained loyal to the Colonel. When the Colonel learned of the sexual indiscretions of LaTour, however, the valet was discharged. Then, Mrs. Paradine revealed that she had poisoned her husband with a poisoned wine glass. In the final scene, she then denounced the disreputable Keane for falling in love with her, and for destroying her real love, LaTour due to his strategy to condemn and blame LaTour during the trial. Keane confessed his major limitations and his devastation over the revelations, and withdrew from the court. He was soon reconciled with his conciliatory and supportive wife Gay. For her crime, Mrs. Paradine was sentenced to execution (by hanging): ("The Paradine woman will be hanged after three clear Sundays").

Pursued (1947), 101 minutes, D: Raoul Walsh
Raoul Walsh's noirish, melodramatic psychological western was told mostly in flashback, and noted for cinematographer James Wong Howe's film-noir chiaroscuro (black and white) photography and Max Steiner's musical score. The western setting was the New Mexico Territory at the turn of the century. Robert Mitchum starred in an early role (his first lead role) as anti-hero, orphaned Jeb Rand, "pursued" by a haunted past (highlighted by nightmares of boots with jangling spurs and flashes of light, seen in flashbacks to the 1880s). He had witnessed the murder of his entire family as a young boy by a mysterious stranger, and suffered from repressed memories. [Note: There appeared to be a long-running feud between two families - the Rand family, and the Callum family.] Adopted by widowed "Ma" Callum (Judith Anderson), he grew up with two step-siblings - "Ma" Callum's biological daughter Thorley (Thor) Callum (Teresa Wright), and son: the competitive, antagonistic Adam Callum (John Rodney). The main "pursuit" in the film was by villainous, one-armed county prosecutor Grant Callum (Dean Jagger), Ma Callum's vengeful brother-in-law who despised the Rand family and sole survivor Jeb. Grant continually baited others to bring Jeb down. There were two coin tosses that decided Jeb's fate - both of which were lost by Jeb. He was forced to volunteer to fight in the Spanish-American War, and he also was compelled to give up the Callum ranch to his step-brother Adam. Soon after, Jeb was forced to defend himself against Adam during an ambush, and he killed him in self-defense. He fell in love with Thor despite the fact that they were almost siblings. They married on the hidden pretext that she would kill him on their wedding night. Instead, she couldn't carry through on her promise and vowed her love instead. Grant also prodded local boy Prentice McComber (Harry Carey, Jr.) to challenge Jeb to a gunfight in a dark stable - when Jeb shot and killed the boy. The climactic revelation was that Grant was responsible for killing all the members of the Rand family, including Jeb's father, brother, and sister. The true nature of the precipitating bitter feud with the Rand family was revealed. Grant Callum had revenge obsessions because: (1) Jeb's father had murdered his brother, and (2) "Ma" Callum, the former wife of Grant's murdered brother, also had an incestuous affair with Jeb's father. Finally, during a climactic violent shootout with Grant, Jeb was forced to surrender and was about to be hanged. However, in the therapeutic ending, he was saved when Ma shot Grant. She atoned for her actions in the past, told Jeb about the true nature of the forces opposing him, assured him that his childhood trauma was over, and saved the young married couple.

Secret Beyond the Door... (1947), 99 minutes, D: Fritz Lang
A psychological mystery and Freudian drama-thriller told in flashback (punctuated with self-conscious, confused voice-over narration), with the tagline: "Some Men Destroy What They Love Most!" Sometimes noted with the year 1948. One of Fritz Lang's lesser and least-successful works, derivative and similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941) and Spellbound (1945), and George Cukor's Gaslight (1944). With great moody and shadowy black and white cinematography by Stanley Cortez and frenzied music score by Miklós Rózsa. The film opened with an engrossing dream sequence, and then an extended flashback occurring on the protagonist's wedding day. In New York, after the heart-ailment death of her beloved older brother Rick Barrett (Paul Cavanagh), socialite sister and fashionable heiress Celia Lamphere (Joan Bennett in her fourth and final film with director Lang) had a brief love affair with Rick's friend - family lawyer and dull financial administrator Bob Dwight (James Seay), and they planned to marry each other. Before marrying, during a vacation to Mexico with her best friend Edith Potter (Natalie Schafer), Celia met handsome, enigmatic and refined British architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave in his first US film), when they both witnessed a stimulating knife-fight in the marketplace between two locals vying for a beautiful senorita. She impulsively and recklessly agreed to marry him, although was apprehensive because she knew little about the emotionally-complex man. Soon after he skipped out on their wedding night, she learned that he was the mysterious owner of an architecture-themed journal-magazine, and the owner of a heavily-mortgaged suburban mansion in Levender Falls outside of NYC. Celia moved into his cavernous mansion, dubbed Blaze Creek, where she strangely discovered that Rick's despotic yet friendly spinster sister Caroline "Carey" Lamphere (Anne Revere) administrated the manor. His creepy housekeeper-secretary Miss Robey (Barbara O'Neil), who had a scarf covering burn scars (fake) on the side of her disfigured face, also lived there. Most curious was that Rick had been previously married to now-deceased Eleanor, and they had a weird, rebellious teenaged son named David (Mark Dennis) who had bitterly accused Mark of her suspicious murder. Mark explained his theory that a physical setting can influence and define psychological reactions. One of Mark's strangest behaviors, as an admirer of famous historical murders, was that he was an eccentric collector and reproducer of "felicitous rooms," designed as a macabre "museum" to showcase and bizarrely recreate a half-dozen notorious murder crime scenes. When the intrigued Celia investigated the secret and locked room # 7 - thinking it was the scene of Eleanor's death, she was unsettled to learn that it might be prepared for her - it was an exact duplicate of her own boudoir. Bluebeard Mark might want to kill her for her inheritance. In the final revelatory scene when they were alone together, mentally-unstable Mark threatened to kill Celia. She forced him to recollect repressed and dark traumatic childhood events to ease his mind, and convince him he was not a murderer. [The source of his rage: his sister had locked him in his bedroom when he had hoped to bid his mother goodbye.] They discovered that disturbed pyromaniac Miss Robey, fired from her job, had jealously and vengefully set fire to the house. Mark redeemed himself by saving Celia's life, as the film ended happily.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), 110 minutes, D. Norman McLeod
A delightful comedy classic remade by Ben Stiller in 2013. It was loosely adapted from James Thurber's 1939 short story tale about a daydreaming escapist Everyman, clumsy Walter Mitty (Danny Kaye) - although extended with a spy-espionage caper plot. Employed as an assistant editor and proof-reader for a lurid pulp fiction publisher, Pierce Publications, owned by idea-stealing boss Bruce Pierce (Thurston Hall) in New York, Walter wildly fantasized about how he was a hero in adventurous episodes, to escape his mundane world. He lived with his overbearing, nagging and overprotective mother Eunice (Fay Bainter), and was disrespected by his self-centered, irritating fiancee Gertrude Griswold (Ann Rutherford) and her loud-mouthed mother (Florence Bates), and by best friend Tubby Wadsworth (Gordon Jones) - a romantic rival for Gertrude's love and the villain in Walter's fantasies. During one of his fantasies while he was commuting on a train to work, he met mysterious and gorgeous blonde Rosalind van Hoorn (Virginia Mayo). The glamorous femme fatale, the girl of his dreams, pretended that Mitty was her sweetheart, gave him a kiss, and handed him a black book to evade a dangerous international group of jewel thieves, led by The Boot, that were pursuing her. The book allegedly contained the location of various stolen Dutch art treasures by the Nazis, including crown jewels hidden since WWII. Rosalind was allied with her uncle Peter van Hoorn (Konstantin Shayne), the former curator of the Royal Netherlands Museum, to acquire the Dutch jewels by accessing the black book. Mitty was diagnosed by maniacal psychiarist Dr. Hollingshead (Boris Karloff), actually one of The Boot's henchmen, as suffering from crazed, non-stop daydreaming - including the entire plot about the black book. During the caper escapades, Mitty's imaginative and grandiose dreams included him as a famous brain surgeon admired by a pretty love-sick nurse, an WWII British RAF flying ace engaged in aerial dogfights while wooing a French barmaid, a Mississippi riverboat gambler, a heroic gunslinger in a Western shoot-out, a sea captain with daring seafaring adventures during a storm, and as gay woman's fashion hat designer Anatole of Paris. In the end, Mitty convinced his family and the authorities that he wasn't daydreaming about the spies, the book or Rosalind, and thereby became a brave heroic figure in reality - by thwarting The Boot - who was revealed to be Peter van Hoorn.

They Won't Believe Me (1947), 95/80 minutes, D: Irving Pichel
In this film noirish melodrama about adultery, philandering playboy Lawrence Ballentine (Robert Young) was on trial for the brutal murder of Verna Carlson (Susan Hayward). Before flashbacks to tell the defendant's unbelievable life-story (an 'unreliable witness' account), Ballentine's attorney Cahill (Frank Ferguson) claimed that his stockbroker client was innocent. Almost the entire film consisted of Ballentine's uninterrupted flashbacked story. Although married for five years to rich and loving wife Greta (Rita Johnson), he planned to take a train to run off to Montreal with tempting mistress Janice Bell (Jane Greer), a NYC magazine writer and one of Greta's friends. Greta tried to keep their marriage going by buying her husband's loyalty. She rented a Beverly Hills, California house, and purchased an interest in a stock brokerage firm. After about six months there, he again left Greta for sexy, femme fatale LA secretary Verna Carlson, working in his own firm. Greta thought she could still hold onto her husband by selling his interest in the partnership, and moving away with him to an isolated mountain ranch. Unhappy with the arrangement, Lawrence promised Verna that he would go to Reno to get a quickie divorce from his wife, and then they could begin their new life together. As they were driving to Reno, a truck collided with their car. Verna was horribly killed and burned in the wreckage, while Ballentine survived with a serious concussion. Ballentine realized that he could easily claim that it was Greta who died, so he concocted a complicated scheme to inherit his wife's fortune. He would carry out the deception by agreeing that Greta (not Verna) had died in the accident, then murder Greta, hide her body, and acquire her money. When he arrived at Greta's remote ranch, he found her already dead, presumably distraught over the divorce-breakup, and at the bottom of a cliff where she had fallen accidentally after an equestrian accident - or committed suicide. (However, there was one other real possibility: Had he pushed her, and then subconsciously felt guilty for murdering her?) To avoid suspicion, Ballentine left Greta's body to decompose in the river, and carried through with the rest of his scheme. Unfortunately for him, the police located Greta's remains, but thought it was Verna's body. Ballentine was charged with murder, after the police wrongly theorized that Larry killed Verna because she was blackmailing him over their affair. The story - told by Ballentine as the sole defense witness - returned to the courtroom where the jurors filed in with their verdict. Fearing the worst (was he actually guilty of a crime?), Ballentine attempted a desperate suicidal escape through an open courtroom window - when he was shot and killed. In the surprise ending, the jury's foreman read the verdict - not guilty!

The Woman on the Beach (1947, Fr.) (aka La Femme Sur La Plage, or Desirable Woman), 71 minutes D: Jean Renoir
Renoir's moody, nightmarish erotic melodrama was a psychological character study about a tormented love triangle. It was the director's final American film during wartime exile. The film was severely edited by RKO, leaving it as only a fragment of what it could have been. Shell-shocked Coast Guard veteran Lieutenant Scott Burnett (Robert Ryan) was stationed near a desolate California coastline during recuperation from post-traumatic stress. Although engaged to wholesome local girl Eve Geddes (Nan Leslie), he became distracted and smitten in an illicit affair with slutty and passionate femme fatale Peggy Butler (Joan Bennett). Peggy was married to renowned blind painter Tod (Charles Bickford) and lived in an isolated clifftop house with him. Peggy was obsessively guilt-ridden within her unhappy, imprisoning, embittered and dysfunctional love-hate marriage to the excessively-jealous, wife-beating man, believing she had to stay with him because she had caused her husband's blindness (by cutting his optic nerve) during a drunken brawl. Lieutenant Scott Burnett took it upon himself to prove that the blindness was faked ("If I could prove to you that Tod wasn't really blind, would you leave him?") and in one extraordinary scene led the painter along a cliffside to disprove his disability. In the ambiguous ending, when Peggy proved her love to Scott (although her past as a nymphomaniacal seductress was revealed - "Go ahead and say it, I'm no good"), her husband Tod freed her by burning down their house ("I am free"), consuming all of his paintings. The reconciled couple departed to go to New York to start a new life, leaving Scott free to return to Eve.


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