Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1944.
1. Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder (10/10)
Though this film is horribly plagued by the ’30s- and ’40s-style dialogue that American filmmakers somehow decided was the way everybody should talk (apparently after reading too many pulp fiction novels) but which in no way reflects actual conversation, it is still one of the greatest film noirs of all-time. It is the definitive twist story, which has been copied ad infinitum to the present day. And the staging and cinematography are both note-perfect.
2. Henry V, directed by Laurence Olivier (9/10)
The production of this is astounding. Olivier really pulled out all the stops, especially given that there was a war on. He handles the meta-nature of the play as well as I’ve seen and he uses all sorts of then innovative tricks to make-up for a lack of on-location filming. However, some of staging comes off as over the top, particularly the duel between the Constable and Harry. It’s worth seeing if just to stare at.
3. Murder My Sweet, directed by Edward Dmytryk (9/10)
I have lost my review of this but it’s one of the great noirs of the period, just a little below classic level.
4. Gaslight, directed by George Cukor (8/10)
Very solid. I didn’t write down my thoughts and my memory is failing as to the specifics, but I remember really enjoying this for what it is.
5. Laura, directed by Otto Preminger (7/10)
I feel like Preminger missed something here but, since I haven’t seen the film in a long time, I can’t tell you what that was.
6. Hail the Conquering Hero, directed by Preston Sturges (7/10)
More daring than most of his films, still too safe for me.
7. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, directed by Preston Sturges (7/10)
I’m not a huge Sturges fan. This is funny, but like most (if not all) of his stuff, it’s pretty safe. The one part about it that isn’t so safe (the parentage) is never really dwelt upon. It’s definitely enjoyable, but I prefer my comedy to be edgier than this. Oh yeah, it’s well made. There’s this one amazing take early on in the movie, for example (it would be more amazing if it hadn’t been on a set).
8. The Scarlet Claw, directed by Roy William Neil (6/10)
When people disparage the first Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes, it’s this stuff they’re comparing it against. Now, I know Ritchie took some liberties in turning Holmes into an action hero, and I’m not disputing that (and I don’t defend those liberties, either). I’m disputing, rather, the idea that Robert Downey Jr. is somehow less of a Holmes than Basil Rathbone. Rathbone is your idea of Holmes if you grew up with him. But I insist that if you actually read the stories, Rathbone is nothing like Holmes. He is the ’40s Hollywood idea of what Holmes was which, as always, misses the mark. Downey appears to have actually read some of the stories and actually understands a little bit of the character. I think all these critics who think a movie like The Scarlet Claw gives us anywhere near a remotely accurate picture of Sherlock Holmes should read the stories again. Now.
9. The Fighting Seabees, directed by Edward Ludwig (6/10*)
Likely propaganda. Watched in my John Wayne phase.
10. To Have and Have Not, directed by Howard Hawks (6/10*)
I saw this a while ago and can’t find my review. So I will have to say I don’t know if the rating is fair.
11. National Velvet, directed by Clarence Brown (6/10)
There’s a lot not to like about this typical Hollywood film: the Americans making no effort at all at British accents (worse yet as they are surrounded by British actors), the sets, the exteriors that look like California rather than England. But the race is well done given the time and the ending could have been so much more fairytalish than it actually is. In that sense it’s certainly better than a lot of these types of films.
12. Meet Me in St. Louis, directed by Vincent Minnelli (4/10)
Paid for in part by the St. Louis Tourism Bureau…This is Hollywood at its escapist worst. It’s as if the production code and the musical genre made it okay to forget about plot. The jokes are almost all so dated that they fall flat. The musical numbers are typical of the era. One has become a standard, but I don’t think that makes the movie any better. It all heads toward a great climax where we learn that St. Louis (and by extension, any other American city that isn’t New York) is a pretty great place to live after all. So we can feel pretty gosh darn swell about living in another city that isn’t New York. Isn’t that great? Thanks Hollywood.