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A-Ron’s The Greatest Films You Absolutely Must See: 1940-1944

Welcome To Episode 3: 1940-1944

A book I recently bought has inspired me to create my own list of “The Greatest Films You Must Absolutely See”. I’ve broken them down by years. Take a look and seek out these films that are absolutely essential to the art of cinema and must be seen.

•1940

Fantasia 

Directed By: Ben Sharpsteen 

Released in 1940, represented Disney’s boldest experiment to date. Bringing to life his vision of blending animated imagery with classical music. What had begun as a vehicle to enhance Mickey Mouse’s career blossomed into a full-blown feature that remains unique in the history of animation.

The Philadelphia Story

Directed By: George Cukor

This classic romantic comedy focuses on Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), a Philadelphia socialite who has split from her husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), due both to his drinking and to her overly demanding nature. As Tracy prepares to wed the wealthy George Kittredge (John Howard), she crosses paths with both Dexter and prying reporter Macaulay Connor (James Stewart). Unclear about her feelings for all three men, Tracy must decide whom she truly loves.

Grapes Of Wrath

Directed By: John Ford

The Joad clan, introduced to the world in John Steinbeck’s iconic novel, is looking for a better life in California. After their drought-ridden farm is seized by the bank, the family led by just-paroled son Tom (Henry Fonda) loads up a truck and heads West. On the road, beset by hardships, the Joads meet dozens of other families making the same trek and holding onto the same dream. Once in California, however, the Joads soon realize that the promised land isn’t quite what they hoped.

Pinocchio 

Directed By: Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen 

When the woodworker Geppetto (Christian Rub) sees a falling star, he wishes that the puppet he just finished, Pinocchio (Dickie Jones), could become a real boy. In the night, the Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) grants Geppetto’s wish and asks Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) to serve as the wooden boy’s conscience. But the naive and truth sting Pinocchio falls into the clutches of the wicked Honest John (Walter Catlett), who leads him astray to the sinful Pleasure Island.

•1941

Citizen Kane

Directed By: Orson Welles

When a reporter is assigned to decipher newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane’s (Orson Welles) dying words, his investigation gradually reveals the fascinating portrait of a complex man who rose from obscurity to staggering heights. Though Kane’s friend and colleague Jedediah Leland (Joseph Cotten), and his mistress, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore), shed fragments of light on Kane’s life, the reporter fears he may never penetrate the mystery of the elusive man’s final word, “Rosebud.”

The Wolfman

Directed By: George Waggner

When his brother dies, Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney) returns to Wales and reconciles with his father (Claude Rains). While there, he visits an antique shop and, hoping to impress Gwen (Evelyn Ankers), the attractive shopkeeper, buys a silver walking cane. That same night he kills a wolf with it, only to later learn that he actually killed a man (Bela Lugosi). A gypsy (Maria Ouspenskaya) explains that it was her son, a werewolf, that he killed, and that Larry is now one himself.

The Maltese Falcon

Directed By: John Huston

In this noir classic, detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) gets more than he bargained for when he takes a case brought to him by a beautiful but secretive woman (Mary Astor). As soon as Miss Wonderly shows up, trouble follows as Sam’s partner is murdered and Sam is accosted by a man (Peter Lorre) demanding he locate a valuable statuette. Sam, entangled in a dangerous web of crime and intrigue, soon realizes he must find the one thing they all seem to want: the bejeweled Maltese falcon.

•1942

Casablanca 

Directed By: Michael Curtiz

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns a nightclub in Casablanca, discovers his old flame Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in town with her husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Laszlo is a famed rebel, and with Germans on his tail, Ilsa knows Rick can help them get out of the country.

•1944

To Have and To Have Not

Directed By: Howard Hawks

In Vichy France, fishing boat captain Harry (Humphrey Bogart) avoids getting involved in politics, refusing to smuggle French Resistance fighters into Martinique. But when a Resistance client is shot before he can pay, Harry agrees to help hotel owner Gerard (Marcel Dalio) smuggle two fighters to the island. Harry is further swayed by Slim (Lauren Bacall), a wandering American girl, and when the police take his friend Eddie (Walter Brennan) hostage, he is forced to fight for the Resistance.

Henry V

Directed By: Laurence Olivier 

Olivier’s masterful, sweeping rendition of Shakespeare, filmed in rich colour and ingeniously including a typical performance at the Globe Theatre as it might have been seen 400 years ago. The film earned Olivier a special Oscar for outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director.

Double Indemity

Directed By: Billy Wilder

In this classic film noir, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) gets roped into a murderous scheme when he falls for the sensual Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), who is intent on killing her husband (Tom Powers) and living off the fraudulent accidental death claim. Prompted by the late Mr. Dietrichson’s daughter, Lola (Jean Heather), insurance investigator Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) looks into the case, and gradually begins to uncover the sinister truth.

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About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros lives on the beautiful island of Maui. He is a member of The Hawaii Film Critics Society, movie critic for Maui Watch, a commentator and cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, learning about movies from his Grandfather and being self taught.

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