1949 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1949.

1. Kind Hearts and Coronets, directed by Robert Hamer (10/10)

Kind Hearts and Coronets is one of the best pre-1960s comedies I have ever seen. Don’t be put off by the title.

  • It’s funny – and dark – for its time,
  • it features one of the best multi-role performances ever – Alec Guiness plays something like 10 different characters,
  • and it possibly introduced that whole fast-cutting, quirky, voice-over method of revealing backstories – whatever the technical term may be – that is so common now. (You know what I mean, right? It’s in most movies that have a “When I was growing up…” or a “Now Mr. Smith was a guy who…”. I don’t think I’m being very clear, but in any event, it’s everywhere now.)

So: it is entertaining, well-made, and highly influential. It is a great film. Really worth seeing – if any of you bother with things from the ’40s. I highly recommend it.

1. The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed (10/10)

This is my favourite movie of the 1940s, and perhaps my favourite movie pre-1950. It is, as far as I’m concerned, nearly perfect: rarely has such a unique score matched a film so well, rarely has a sense of place been conveyed so well, etc. It is also notable for including Welles in what he defined as a “star part” (a character who is discussed constantly but who doesn’t appear until the third act), an idea more modern filmmakers could make use of. Also, of note is the fact that Graham Greene, one of my favourite authors, wanted to ruin the ending. Fortunately, Reed prevailed and we were saved from the typical Hollywood solution to such films.

3. Cris Cross, directed by Robert Siodmak (10/10)

This is one of those style-over-substance films where the style is just so incredible that you stop caring about whether the plot makes any sense at all. One of the great noirs, even if it lacks some of the gravitas of Out of the Past or Crossfire.

4. White Heat, directed by Raoul Walsh (8/10)

I didn’t write down my thoughts at the time, sorry to say. Cagney is definitely better suited to stuff like this than to crap like Yankee Doodle Dandy. I think I remember that this was too over-the-top to truly love, but that it was otherwise pretty great. It is also iconic.

5. The Heiress, directed by William Wyler (6/10)

I guess I get why this was a big deal but it didn’t quite work for me. Read the review of The Heiress.

6. All the King’s Men, directed by Robert Rossen (6/10)

Making one of the greatest novels of the 20th century into a movie is a tall order. And, as with the remake, the filmmakers here just don’t get it right. They get it closer than the remake, but that isn’t saying much.

7. Adam’s Rib, directed by George Cukor (6/10)

This is one of those “classic” Hollywood comedies that all the old movie critics thought were so much funnier than movies today because they were classy / witty / what have you. And like so many films of its era, it’s based on a ridiculous contrivance and hijinks and bon mots ensue.

I like both of these actors in other films and I understand why people like them here – I get it, they were married they have chemistry! – but this film is just typical classic Hollywood silly: the aforementioned contrivance, the rich white people and their first world problems, the bizarre casting – the accused is considered fat and she’s thin as a rail. Speaking of bizarre casting (and writing), there’s this stock gay dude who later turns into the most lascivious character in the movie, but earlier he is the butt of gay jokes and he clearly is gay. So it makes zero sense.

But, all that being said, it’s Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn and the exteriors are on location and the latter in particular is notable for the era. What I’m trying to say is that it’s more than competent. And I laughed a few times despite myself.

8. Sands of Iwo Jima, directed by Allan Dwan (6*/10)

This shockingly high rating for a propaganda film can only be attributed to the fact that teenage Riley rated it when he was trying to see every John Wayne movie ever.

9. Battleground, directed by William A. Wellman (6/10)

I saw this during my war movie phase (roughly equivalent in time to my John Wayne phase) before I knew who Wellman was or appreciated what he did differently from other ’40s Hollywood filmmakers.

10. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, directed by John Ford (5*/10)

Watched during my John Wayne phase.

11. On the Town, directed by Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly (5*/10)

The following review is probably unfair:
I was with this for about an hour and fifteen. It’s sporadically funny (though many of the jokes are very dated…Dinah Shore? Seriously?) and it’s meta, which is very impressive for a ’40s Hollywood film, let alone a musical. But the metaness is part of the problem. The only thing I could think of during the extended ballet-within-a-musical number is that the creators had flat run out of ideas. Part of this ballet is also clearly attempting to be professional, yet that totally clashes with the overall silliness. Some might also find this silliness offensive (the number in the museum). I’m sure the choreography is great, but it’s pretty boring.

12. The Red Pony, directed by Lewis Milestone (5/10)

This is an old “family” film. As such it has a very naive outlook, and features lots of bad child actors. There are some interesting production tricks in the first act, where the boy’s imagination literally comes to life. But theses are not enough to offset the boredom that comes from the story and the mostly staid acting. Mitchum is good, as he usually he is. The rest are all pretty mediocre. Not worth the time.

13. Tokyo Joe, directed by Stuart Heisler (4/10)

Don’t remember this at all, except that it was a little off-beat for Bogart.

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