1940 in Movies

Movie reviews I’ve written for movies released theatrically in 1940.

1. Fantasia, directed by James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe Jr., Norman Ferguson, T. Hee, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Sattenfield, Ben Sharpsteen (10*/10)

When I was younger, I always trumpeted this as the truly great animated film of the first half of the century. I haven’t seen it in ages, and so I don’t really know whether I would agree with that sentiment today. I have not seen the remake.

2. His Girl Friday, directed by Howard Hawks (9/10)

This comedy is head and shoulders above most Hollywood comedies of its day (excluding Chaplin, obviously). In fact, it’s amazing to me that Hawks’ other really famous comedy, Bringing Up Baby, has anywhere near the rep this has. This is almost shockingly dark and cynical, given the cast and crew, and the time it was made in. Sure, it’s upbeat on the surface, but the jokes are about lying, death, and so forth. Really worth the time.

3. Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (9/10)

I think this is one of Hitchcock’s earliest really successful films (excluding The Lady Vanishes, which I watched when I was obsessed with this particular director). I cannot really remember what I disliked about it.

4. Foreign Correspondent, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (9/10)

The same comments apply to this effort by Hitch.

5. The Grapes of Wrath, directed by John Ford (8*/10)

Iconic. I watched it years ago and cannot say whether this is fair or unfair.

6. The Great Dictator, directed by Charlie Chaplin (7/10)

A very flawed film. But a brave one. Read the review of The Great Dictator.

7. The Bank Dick, directed by Edward F. Cline (7/10)

I did not record my thoughts, but my memory tells me that this rides on what you think of WC Fields’ character. If you find him funny, you find the movie funny. If you find him obnoxious, then you find the movie unfunny. And, I’m sure I thought about how much better Chaplin and Keaton were at these kinds of things than Fields was.

8. The Philadelphia Story, directed by George Cukor (7*/10)

As a teen, I was unimpressed by this. I can’t imagine what I might think now.

9. Pinocchio, directed by Norman Ferguson, T. Hee (7*/10)

Saw this as a child multiple times. Cannot really comment on the rating.

10. The Shop Around the Corner, directed by Ernst Lubitsch (6/10)

There is definitely a tendency to look at Golden Age films with a certain nostalgia and to forgive them because we like to feel it was a simpler time. Of course it wasn’t, WWII having just started.

And so I have a hard time bringing myself respect romantic comedies that are no longer funny. Slightly amusing perhaps, but that’s about it. It’s telegraphed too, but that’s probably because this story has become iconic. And that’s a tribute to the movie, not a fault.

Really, how much you like this depends on how much you can handle the “aw shucks” humour. It’s well made, it’s iconic, but it really isn’t funny to modern audiences who have been raised on a little more edge.


“NBC Valentine Greeting,” directed by Norman McLaren (9*/10)

I wish I had a review so I knew why I liked this. Seen as part of a compilation of American avan garde short films.

“Spook Sport,” directed by Norman McLaren, Ted Nemeth, Mary Ellen Bute (9*/10)


“Tarantella,” directed by Ted Nemeth, Mary Ellen Bute (9*/10)


“Themis,” directed by Dwinell Grant (9*/10)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.