Films 1940s

This page contains links to all the films I have reviewed from the first “golden age” of Hollywood. Film noir, melodramas, screwball comedies, lavish costume dramas and directors like Ford, Welles, Hawks, Hitchcock, Reed and Wilder ruled the roost.


All This and Heaven Too – slow scandal drama, as a count falls in love with a governess and murders his wifeDirector: Anatole Litvak
Cast: Bette Davis, Charles Boyer, Barbara O’Neil
Foreign Correspondent – spy thriller in the Blitz, as Hitchcock pleads for America to join the warDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, George Sanders
The Great Dictator – Chaplin takes on Hitler in this daring satire on the vileness of the Nazi regimeDirector: Charlie Chaplin
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
His Girl Friday – one of the most popular fast-talking comedies of all time. Secret confession: I’m not a huge fanDirector: Howard Hawks
Cast: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
The Letter – melodrama in which a fatal letter leads to life or deathDirector: William Wyler
Cast: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson
The Philadelphia Story – Hepburn saves her career in this brilliant remarriage comedyDirector: George Cukor
Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart
Pride and Prejudice – oddly costumed and strangely adapted Austen classicDirector: Robert Z Leonard
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Greer Garson, Mary Boland
Rebecca – superb Best Picture winning du Maurier adaptation of a second wife who can’t live up to the firstDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson
The Westerner – Ford western bromance between a cowboy and Judge Roy BeanDirector: William Wyler
Cast: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Doris Davenport


Citizen Kane – possibly the greatest film ever made; ignore the doubters, like the poster says “it’s terrific!”Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore
How Green Was My Valley – Best Picture winning coming-of-age tale in a ‘Welsh’ mining villageDirector: John Ford
Cast: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Donald Crisp
Here Comes Mr Jordan – after a mix-up in heaven, a boxer returns to life as an aged millionaireDirector: Alexander Hall
Cast: Robert Montgomery, Evelyn Keyes, Claude Rains
The Lady Eve – a confidence trickster seduces a snake obsessed heir to a fortune – brilliant screwball comedyDirector: Preston Sturges
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn
Sullivan’s Travels – film director hits the road to learn about ‘life’ in a sharp Hollywood satireDirector: Preston Sturges
Cast: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick
Suspicion – Cary Grant might be a murderer in this middle-of-the-road Hitchcock thrillerDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Cedric Hardwicke


In Which We Serve – British stiff-upper lip war film about the loss at sea of a destroyerDirector: Noel Coward, David Lean
Cast: Noel Coward, John Mills, Bernard Miles
The Magnificent Ambersons – Welles cruelly cut-to-ribbons Kane follow-up, an American family sagaDirector: Orson Welles
Cast: Joseph Cotton, Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead
Mrs Miniver – Best Picture winning homefront saga, as a woman hold house and home together in the BlitzDirector: William Wyler
Cast: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Theresa Wright
Now, Voyager – a woman escapes her domineering mother and falls in love with a married man during a cruiseDirector: Irving Rapper
Cast: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains
Yankee Doodle Dandy – all-singing, all-dancing Broadway legend biopicDirector: Michael Curtiz
Cast: James Cagney, Joan Leslie, Walter Huston


Casablanca – legendary Best Picture winner; a cynical cafe owner helps his lost love escape the NazisDirector: Michael Curtiz
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Hangmen Also Die! – Brecht and Lang write a gangster noir themed version of the assassination of HeydrichDirector: Fritz Lang
Cast: Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, Anna Lee
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp – an army officer is the epitome of British fair play and decencyDirector: Powell & Pressburger
Cast: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook
The Ox Bow Incident – Fonda struggles to swing the ‘jury’ in this brilliant lynching dramaDirector: William A. Wellman
Cast: Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, Harry Morgan
Shadow of a Doubt – a man corrupts a small town family in this small-scale thriller, Hitchcock’s favourite of his filmsDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotton, Macdonald Carey
Sherlock Holmes in Washington – modernised Holmes in a noir actionerDirector: Roy William Neill
Cast: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Marjorie Lord
The Song of Bernadette – Christian biopic of Saint Bernadette – but surprisingly goodDirector: Henry King
Cast: Jennifer Jones, Charles Bickford, Gladys Cooper
Watch on the Rhine – dated at the time anti-Nazi film, too wordy and not dramatic enoughDirector: Herman Shumlin
Cast: Bette Davis, Paul Lukas, Lucile Watson


Double Indemnity – quite simply one of the best film noir/femme fatale films ever madeDirector: Billy Wilder
Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
Gaslight – Hamilton play adaptation of a manipulated wife – improves the original playDirector: George Cukor
Cast: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton
Going My Way – sickly sweet Best Picture winner about a noble, singing priestDirector: Leo McCarey
Cast: Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh
Henry V – hugely influential Shakespeare adaptation, a technicolour triumphDirector: Laurence Olivier
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks
Ivan the Terrible Parts 1 & 2 – Eisenstein turns Stalin’s dream project into a criticism. Arty but brave.Director: Sergei Eisenstein
Cast: Nikolay Cherkasov, Serafima Birman, Pavel Kadochnikov
Laura – a detective falls in love with a murder victim in this influential noirDirector: Otto Preminger
Cast: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb
Lifeboat – one-location mini-masterpiece as survivors of a shipwreck drift on the seasDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak
Ministry of Fear – a man is framed for murder in this WW2 spy thrillerDirector: Fritz Lang
Cast: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, Carl Esmond
Wilson – Zanuck’s dream project, a very earnest biography of Woodrow WilsonDirector: Henry King
Cast: Alexander Knox, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Cedric Hardwicke


Brief Encounter – the classic romance-that-can-never-be, it’s a film it’s impossible not to loveDirector: David Lean
Cast: Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson, Stanley Holloway
Les Enfants du Paradis – perhaps the greatest film about theatre ever made, France’s Gone with the WindDirector: Marcel Carné
Cast: Arletty, Jean-Louis Barrault, Pierre Brasseur
I Know Where I’m Going – opposite attracts romance in the North of ScotlandDirector: Powell & Pressburger
Cast: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown
The Lost Weekend – Best Picture winning drama about alcohol addiction, still very effective and powerfulDirector: Billy Wilder
Cast: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman,. Phillip Terry
Mildred Pierce – superb murder mystery melodrama about a mother and her terminally ungrateful childDirector: Michael Curtiz
Cast: Joan Crawford, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – sentimental tear-jerker on the tough life of an Irish-American family Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Peggy Ann Garner, Dorothy McGuire, James Dunn


The Best Years of Our Lives – wonderful Best Picture winning veterans drama, one of the best winners of all timeDirector: William Wyler
Cast: Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Harold Russell
Great Expectations – the all-time classic Dickens adaptationDirector: David Lean
Cast: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Bernard Miles
It’s a Wonderful Life – the most beloved Christmas film of all time and rightly soDirector: Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
The Killers – femme fatales and murders in this masterful film noirDirector: Robert Siodmark
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien
A Matter of Life and Death – superb fantasy, as a pilot is stuck between Earth and “Heaven”Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: David Niven, Roger Livesey, Kim Hunter
My Darling Clementine – myth-making Wyatt Earp biopic, Ford’s romanticism at its bestDirector: John Ford
Cast: Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature


Black Narcissus – sex leads to madness in a secluded nunnery in this beautifully made filmDirector: Powell & Pressburger
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Sabu, David Farrar
Gentleman’s Agreement – Best Picture winning anti-semitism drama, heavy-handed and self-satisfiedDirector: Elia Kazan
Cast: Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield
The Lady from Shanghai – an Irish drifter is made a dangerous offer in Welles’ for-the-money thrillerDirector: Orson Welles
Cast: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane
Odd Man Out – Gripping man on the run drama, told with a dreamlike intensity Director: Carol Reed
Cast: James Mason, Kathleen Ryan, Robert Newton
They Made Me a Fugitive – don’t get confused with Odd Man Out… impressive man on the run dramaDirector: Alberto Calvalcanti
Cast: Trevor Howard, Sally Jones, Griffith Jones


Bicycle Thieves – hugely influential neo-realist film: one man goes to huge lengths to find his vital bikeDirector: Vittorio de Sica
Cast: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
Fort Apache – a martinet colonel leads his regiment to near disaster in this gripping WesternDirector: John Ford
Cast: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Ward Bond
Hamlet – one of the most influential Shakespeare films, the Best Picture winning Hamlet noirDirector: Laurence Olivier
Cast: Laurence Olivier, Basil Sydney, Eileen Herlie
Joan of Arc – flat and preachy Joan of Arc biopic, even its director apologised forDirector: Victor Fleming
Cast: Ingrid Bergman, José Ferrer, Francis L Sullivan
Macbeth – Welles first stab at film Shakespeare is a mix of genius and absolute mess.Director: Orson Welles
Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan, Dan O’Herlihy
Red River – legendary western cattle trail movie, that descends into obsession, rivalry and violenceDirector: Howard Hawks
Cast: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Joanna Dru
The Red Shoes – a ballet dancer is torn between art and romance in this visually stunning masterpieceDirector: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moria Shearer
Scott of the Antarctic – flag-waving biopic, with Scott as the ultimate boys own heroDirector: Charles Frend
Cast: John Mills, Diana Churchill, Harold Warrander
The Snake Pit – psychological drama about a woman struggling to understand reality in an asylumDirector: Anatole Litvak
Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – brilliant gold hunting drama of obsession, greed and mistrustDirector: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt


Adam’s Rib – battle of the sexes courtroom drama, as a married couple take opposite sides in a big caseDirector: George Cukor
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday
The Heiress – a young man woos a plain girl – is it just for her money? Superb Henry James adaptationDirector: William Wyler
Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson
All the King’s Men – Best Picture winning political corruption drama who definitely isn’t Huey P LongDirector: Robert Rossen
Cast: Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge
Kind Hearts and Coronets – a disowned relative bumps off his noble family in this brilliant black comedyDirector: Robert Hamer
Cast: Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson
A Letter to Three Wives – soapy small-town drama, written brilliantly, about a trouble-stirring letterDirector: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern
The Reckless Moment – a gangster does everything he can to help the woman he’s blackmailingDirector: Max Ophüls
Cast: James Mason, Joan Bennett, Geraldine Brooks
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon – beautifully shot but slightly dry “day in a life” of the cavalry westernDirector: John Ford
Cast: John Wayne, Joanna Dru, John Agar
The Third Man – one of the greatest films ever made, a naive American finds the truth about his dead friendDirector: Carol Reed
Cast: Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, Alida Valli
Twelve O’Clock High – a hot shot general tries not to buckle under pressure during WW2Director: Henry King
Cast: Gregory Peck, Dean Jagger, Hugh Marlowe
White Heat – Cagney makes it to the top of the world as the most psychotic gangster this side of GoodfellasDirector: Raoul Walsh
Cast: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien