Category Archives: 1940’s

Target for Today

Browsing through YouTube for something to watch I found this 1943 propaganda film made by the U.S. government about the preparations for bombing raids over East Prussia (North east Germany). Something different for a change.

Like any other propaganda film it of course did not show the human side of war, we did not see any of the suffering of those that were ultimately injured or killed in the raids, although there was some footage of injured aircrew as they were taken off the planes. It was all told in documentary style and made us feel proud of the job the airforce boys did in those days.

I was quite surprised at just how much prepration went into the bombing raids, and the amount of detail they went into to make sure everything went swimmingly. The aircrews had about four hours of briefings where they were told about the weather, where they were likely to encounter flak, what type of bombs to use and how the fuses will be set, and a whole bunch of other things.

All of the people involved in the film were actual airforce people, from the generals down to the tail gunners. A lot of it was obviously staged with some pretty wooden acting, but some of them were actually quite good.

There was plenty of footage from the bombing raids which looked pretty nasty for the people in the factories being bombed, some of the explosions were huge.

Fascinating stuff if you like a bit of WWII history.

Date watched: November 17th
Score: 8/10
Film count 2017: 129

The Upturned Glass

I watched this primarily because it starred James Mason, who is on the MBMS Page of Fame for good reason. He also co-produced this film, which when it came out in 1947 was a success, so he would have done very well for himself.

It is the story of a surgeon who falls in love with a married woman even though he too was married. She dies though in what seemed to be suicide, but he is convinced she was murdered and sets out to get revenge on the killer. The story is quite routine for the most part, but James’ acting is what makes the whole thing worth watching, he was most splendid. The ending was pretty good though, his character realises that he is a nutjob psycho, so he throws himself off the White Cliffs of Dover, which I must go and see some day.

Even though this film is seventy years old now the picture and sound were both very good, even on YouTube.

Reading up about James Mason I found some interesting facts:
– He was a conscientious objector in World War Two.
– He never had any formal acting classes.
– He was a mentor to Sam Neill in the 1970’s.
– He loved cats and had quite a few of them.
– In 1952 he bought a house that had previously been owned by Buster Keaton. In the house he found lots of old nitrate films which he had transferred to safety stock. One of these films was “The Boat”. Yay James Mason!
– He had a son named Morgan Mason who would go on to be “Special Assistant to the President of the United States” (Ronald Reagan), and is married to Belinda Carlyle (she was the drummer in The Germs as “Dottie Danger” for a short time don’t you know?).
– He and his wife allowed their daughter to smoke cigarettes at age three, and their son to drink beer at age five.

From Wikipedia: She (daughter) enjoyed a luxurious upbringing in her parent’s Hollywood mansion, being allowed to wear makeup, stiletto heels and owning her own Mink coat and diamonds by the age of nine. Her highly publicized life began with her father becoming violent towards a photographer at the little girl’s christening. When she attended high-school, Mason was dropped off every morning by a Rolls-Royce and picked up every evening by a white Cadillac. Reportedly, her father introduced her to smoking at the age of three in hope it would put her off it in later life.

He died in 1984 at the age of 75.

I wouldn’t say this is an essential watch as far as the story goes, but it is worth it for James alone.

Date watched: August 23rd
Score: 7/10
James-O-Mason score: 9/10
Film count 2017: 94

The Woman in the Window

Browsing through YouTube I found this 1944 film noir starring Edward G. Robinson (real name Emanuel Goldenberg), and directed by Fritz Lang.

In fact, this film was one of the first to be termed “film noir”. From Wikipedia:

The term “film noir” originated as a genre description, in part, because of this movie. The term first was applied to American films in French film magazines in 1946, the year when The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), Laura (1944), Murder, My Sweet (1944), and The Woman in the Window were released in France.

The story was pretty standard, and quite predictable for the most part, often spelling out key points for the audience very clearly. The acting was fine, Edward was doing his usual thing, and Joan Bennett as the femme fatale was worthy to play opposite Eddie.

The story got more and more suspenseful as it went on, even though it was clear where it was going. But, the ending was one of those “It was all a dream” endings so that was disappointing. The way the ending was going up until that point was pretty tense, and had it concluded normally it would have been a bittersweet ending, which is how the book this film was taken from ended. The ending though was changed by Fritz to conform to the Production Code.

This gets 95% on Rotten Tomatoes which is more than I would have expected, mostly because of the ending, and films like The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity (I must watch it again, fantastic film) are much better. Still, it was a good film.

Date watched: August 20th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 93

Six years ago – Convoy

The Dark Path

I have not managed to get back into watching films recently after a long break, so to break my drought I decided to watch this 1948 psychological thriller film noir last night.

This one is about a police psychologist played by Lee J. Cobb who is held hostage by a troubled crim played by William Holden who just busted out of the joint. It is all rather melodramatic, poorly written, and despite the good cast the acting is overdone. I cringed several times at the corny dialogue and silly situations, but mostly at the forced dramatic acting of Cobb and Holden who seemed to be trying for Oscar glory, but failing miserably.

One highlight though was recognising Ellen Corby of The Waltons fame, although her role mostly involved snivelling.

Skip this, unless you are an Ellen Corby fan.

And here is Ellen Corby with Will Geer. He was an interesting chap, read about him on Wikipedia.

Date watched: June 15th
Score:3/10
Film count 2017: 69

A Night in Casablanca

This was the second to last film the three Marx brothers made together, and unfortunately not one of their best.

The jokes were a bit old hat at times, and the story and supporting cast were quite mediocre.

Harpo and Chico were not as entertaining as they were in earlier films, but Groucho is funny in anything, so he saved the day somewhat. Harpo did his harp playing bit, and Chico tinkled away on the piano, both highlights of their parts.

The original idea was for this to be a parody of Casablanca, released four years prior (1942), but for reasons I cannot find on the interwebs, this was abandoned. There was some amusing controversy at the time though.

A Day at the Races is the best film by The Marx Brothers, and one of the weirdest and funniest films I have ever seen, so skip this one and watch that one.

Date watched: April 13th
Score: 4/10
Film count 2017: 58

Johnny Come Lately

Continuing on with my James Cagney-O-rama, I watched this 1943 film, which was the first film produced by his brother William.

The story is about Cagney who is a vagrant (but a smart and lovable one) who helps the owner of a small town newspaper fight a local businessman who wants to close the paper down. Nothing original there.

As usual Cagney is his usual enthusiastic self, always entertaining to watch. Even in this comedy drama he was able to show off his fisticuff skills, he was going all out in a couple of scenes, and it was pretty physical stuff. The other actors do a decent job, and include the actress who played “Ma Kettle”, she was fun to watch too.

In this film we learn that Cagney can draw a decent caricature…

cagney-drawing

This is pretty treacly stuff on the whole, the violins and flute music playing throughout made it even more so, but it was worth watching for Cagney and Ma Kettle alone.

Date watched: February 13th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2017: 35

johnny_come_lately

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome

I actually watched Blood On The Sun over two sessions, so after finishing that last night I watched this because it was only 65 minutes long, and it starred Boris Karloff.

This is the fourth of the Dick Tracy series, and had a different actor playing Dick. Morgan Conway played Dick in the first two, Ralph Byrd in the last two. Ralph Byrd had actually played Dick in dozens of serials starting in 1937.

Compared to the first Dick Tracy film, this one was heavier on the comedy and lighter on the sleuthing. The jokes were considerably cornier and sillier, especially with the overuse of double-takes by Pat Patton, Tracy’s bumbling sidekick.

Appearing in this was the fab Skelton Knaggs from Dick Tracy vs. Cueball, and Milton Parsons who was in the first film and Cueball.

The star of the show though was Boris Karloff (who got star billing) as a ruthless criminal. He was quite menacing, and was quite a big chap. His character, Gruesome, comes across a nerve agent that instantly paralyses people (the film makers just froze the frame to make them look frozen, including a cat in mid jump) and uses it to easily rob a bank. There was a line in the film where Pat Patton describes Gruesome looking a lot like Boris Karloff. Nice!

boris-skaggs
Skelton and Boris

Dick Tracy is of course on his tail, and with the help of Pat Patton, his bumbling sidekick, and Tess Truehart, his lovely gal, he saves the day. It all ends with Pat Patton knocking over the nerve agent, freezing the three of them.

Silly stuff, but worth watching just for Boris alone.

Date watched: January 28th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2017: 22

dick_tracy_meets_gruesome

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