1940’s

[6.5] Broderick Crawford plays a small-town hick who attracts a populist following that takes him all the way to the governor’s mansion, even though his ascent is riddled with corruption and crime. All the King’s Men is really about Crawford’s support team and how they weather his immorality. John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge play the two key supporters. They begin the film bright-eyed and full …

[6.5] Paulette Goddard leads an ensemble cast in this telling of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Goddard plays the conniving Mrs. Cheveley, arriving in London from abroad, with the intent to blackmail a politician into publicly supporting a dubious financial venture for her benefit. The politician’s wife and playboy best friend rally behind him and together they each try to outwit the fiendish Cheveley. There’s …

[8.5] Of the nine films which paired Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Adam’s Rib is often considered the best. Writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin were friends of the famous couple and wrote the film specifically for them. Kate insisted the film be directed by her favorite screen director, George Cukor, who services the brilliant writing and on-screen chemistry with his trademark elegant staging and …

[6.5] Elia Kazan directs a trio of Oscar-nominated performances in this adaptation of the Cid Ricketts Sumner novel. Jeanne Crain (State Fair, A Letter to Three Wives) stars as Pinky, a light-skinned African American woman returning to her impoverished southern hometown after finishing nursing school in the north. Her pious grandmother (Ethel Waters) insists that Pinky take care of the dying rich white woman who …

[6.5] Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast is ripe with indelible images of pure fantasy. That it was achieved with a modest budget in post-war France makes it even more impressive. The sets are exquisite — you’ll find them echoed in Ridley Scott’s Legend and Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. I especially love the human arms that hold the candelabras out from the castle walls. Very …

[7.0] In this potpourri of Middle-Eastern folklore, a banished king (John Justin) and a street boy (Sabu) team up to stop an evil magician (Conrad Veidt) from marrying a beautiful princess (June Duprez). The Thief of Bagdad tries to combine everything you can imagine from “Arabian Nights”, including the Genie and the magic carpet. Disney certainly used this classic as a springboard for their own …

[6.0] Gregory Peck stars in William Wellman’s (The Ox-Bow Incident, The Story of G.I. Joe) eerie western about a band of thieves that wander into a Death Valley ghost town where a young woman (Anne Baxter) and her grandfather have struck gold. Yellow Sky is about the uneasy relationship between the two parties, a matter complicated by visiting Apache Indians and infighting within Peck’s crew. …

[7.0] This isn’t the romanticized WWII of modern cinema, it’s probably closer to the real thing. The Story of G.I. Joe is based on print journalist Ernie Pyle’s interviews with soldiers in the field. Pyle was in the foxholes with them, and he was in it for the long haul. His newspaper column became the public’s window into life on the battlefield. William Wellman’s (The …

[5.5] Henry Fonda barricades himself inside his motel room after murdering a fiendish magician played by Vincent Price. While the police and a impassioned Barbara Bel Geddes try to coax him out, the movie cuts back and forth to events leading up to the siege. The Long Night features some fancy outdoor sets and occassionally gorgeous cinematography, as well as some enjoyable performances from Fonda and …

[5.0] Jean Arthur finds herself with two husbands after her first, presumed dead at sea, turns out to be very much alive. The genders are reversed, but the story is very similar to My Favorite Wife, a better film released the same year. Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, and Melvyn Douglas are usually reliable, but I didn’t care for their chemistry. I also had a hard …

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