Tuesday, September 15, 2015




I'm going to start a new series of posts with this one on the subject of what I think are the best films of each year beginning with the year 1939 (and hopefully I can narrow it down to just one per year).
Now, going back so far into film history, I have to admit that there will be years that are not going to be represented since I haven't seen any films from those particular years.
To begin, I'm going to take the 20 year period from 1939 to 1959 and discuss briefly the best movie for each year IMO.
So, without further ado...

Gone With the Wind
This is an obvious choice and I have blogged about this film extensively (see post here: http://mattstarr28.blogspot.com/2013/08/frankly-my-dear-youre-greatest-movie.html )
I believe it to be the best movie ever made with all of the facets of movie-making at the highest level.
I also recently blogged that I believe Viven Leigh's performance in this movie to be the best film performance of all time.
So, GWTW - obvious choice but before going on, lets talk about the other films of 1939 that are noteworthy.
1939 is widely considered to be the greatest year for film of all time.  More classic movies came out in 1939 than ever before or since.
As an example, just consider the male performances in 1939.  Not only did Clark Gable give his definitive performance in GWTW, but Laurence Olivier was also lauded for his portrayal of Heathcliff in the arch-romantic version of Wuthering Heights of 1939 (which also starred Merle Oberon in one of her finest roles as Cathy, the obsessive love of Heathcliff).  Charles Laughton gave a mesmerizing performance as Quasimodo in Hunchback of Notre Dame (along with Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda).  Jimmy Stewart starred in a little movie by Frank Capra called Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Henry Fonda brought President Lincoln to life in John Ford's classic Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford also directed Stagecoach with a young actor named John Wayne in 1939).
And also, lets not forget a little movie called The Wizard of Oz starring the effervescent Judy Garland.
1939 - The finest year for film ever.

And now we come to one of those difficult years because I've only seen two movies from 1940.
One of those movies is the Disney classic, Fantasia which is a wonderful experience but not a traditional movie in any sense due to its lack of narrative so I'm not going to say that Fantasia is the best movie of the year.
The other movie that I've seen is The Grapes of Wrath starring Henry Fonda.  Now Grapes is considered a classic movie with an iconic performance from Fonda but I've always found the movie a bit dull and not very satisfying.
So, 1940 is the first of those years that I can't commit to any film as the best since I don't have enough knowledge of those films to make a judgement.

Sergeant York
Sergeant York is the quintessential Gary Cooper film role (and he was rewarded with the Academy Award for Best Actor for this role) and a very good movie directed by Howard Hawks.
As a sidenote, 1941 was the year Orson Welles made Citizen Kane which regularly is regarded as the greatest movie of all time but to me, Kane is a very ordinary and dull movie that I've never connected with.

Obvious choice here as Casablanca is one of the greatest movies of all time (and could be argued as THE greatest movie of all time).
This seems like a good time to mention that many of these movies are in my Top 25 Movies of All Time which you can view here: http://mattstarr28.blogspot.com/2013/08/top-25-movies-of-all-time-recently_13.html 

And here we go again with my limited viewing of films from a certain year.
The only film I've seen from 1943 is Jane Eyre starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine and it is a fine film but, once again, its the only film I've seen from 1943.

I haven't seen any films from 1944.

And Then There Were None
This is the first adaption of Agatha Christie's classic novel (one of my all-time faves) with an all-star cast including Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston. 

It's A Wonderful Life
This is another obvious choice with the quintessential Jimmy Stewart performance and the shimmering Donna Reed.  Easily the best film of the year.

Let's move on.

I'm a huge Shakespeare fan and this is the only film of 1948 that I've seen.  Luckily it is Laurence Olivier in probably his best role that he also directed (the only actor ever to direct himself to a best actor Oscar in the Oscar winning Best Picture of the Year).

The only film of 1949 that I've seen is the musical On the Town which is a good musical (although many of the songs from the Broadway original were not included in this film version) but perhaps not a great film.  However, it does have Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and the blazing dancing of Ann Miller.
This is the first musical that is mentioned on this list and you probably should get used to them appearing because I'm a huge musical film and they will be coming hot and heavy.

Annie Get Your Gun
And here we go with the musicals.
Annie Get Your Gun is Irving Berlin's musical masterpiece (much like Kiss Me Kate is Cole Porter's) and this is a great film adaption of the Broadway hit starring Howard Keel and the absolutely superb Betty Hutton as the title character.  Wonderful music and a wonderful film

The African Queen
To me, this is an obvious choice.  I think it is Humphrey Bogart's finest role and he is more than complemented by Katherine Hepburn.  To me, this movie is magical as you watch these two very different people fall in love and you believe it every step of the way.
As a sidenote, 1951 also featured the musical Showboat starring Katheryn Grayson and Howard Keel and is a wonderful musical of one of the most iconic musicals in history.

Singing in the Rain
Did I mention that I like musicals?
The dancing.  Absolutely amazing.
Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.  Absolutely amazing.

Julius Caesar
Another great love of mine is William Shakespeare.  I've already mentioned Hamlet of 1948 and in 1953 Julius Caesar was adapted with an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, James Mason, and John Gielgud.  My only complaint with this movie is Louis Calhern as the title character seemed a bit out of his depth and not up to the other members of the cast.  Just to see Brando doing Shakespeare is the highlight of this movie.

Once more Gene Kelly and once more a musical.
This lush adaption of the Lerner and Loewe Broadway show is a delight and one of my all-time fave musicals.

A landmark Broadway musical is made into a beautiful movie with incredible dancing and singing.  Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones (in her first movie) are wonderful and you throw in Rod Steiger as the menacing villain and you have a great movie.

The Ten Commandments
Is there any other choice?
Charlton Heston in his most iconic role along with Yul Brynner and the legendary Cecil B Demille directing, you know you can't go wrong with this one.
As a sidenote, Yul Brynner also starred in his best role in the film adaption of the Broadway hit, The King and I and won an Oscar for his efforts.
Likewise, I think Gregory Peck also delivered his greatest performance in the film adaption of Moby Dick in 1956.
And don't forget, Laurence Olivier as Richard III was also in 1956.

12 Angry Men
An amazing cast highlights this great movie anchored by Henry Fonda in what is, IMO, his best performance with a supporting cast for the ages - Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, and most importantly Lee J. Cobb in a barnstorming performance.
South Pacific
One of Rogers and Hammerstein's best musicals is given the big-screen treatment and is a beauty to behold and a joy to watch.  Another great musical movie in the pantheon of musical films.
And in conclusion to this part of the survey is another obvious choice in William Wyler's epic starring Charlton Heston in one of the greatest performances of all-time (and Oscar rewarded).  Heston and the movie itself are a tour-de-force and an absolute treasure of filmmaking.
OK, that will do it for this part of the survey.
Coming soon - the 1960s.

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