1949: Movies Sorted By Tier
Submitted by jim on Wed, 07/21/2004 - 10:33
The Third Man... I thought I had seen this, but I hadn't. My wife and I both think we (separately) saw The Thirty-Nine Steps and thought that was this. This is a movie that will almost certainly grow on me with a rewatch, if for no other reasons than for the infectious zither (!) score and the gorgeous cinematography (which was quite advanced for its day, I hear). So who wins the award for best fish struggling in deep dark waters? Joseph Cotten here, or Cary Grant or James Stewart in their similarly archetypal roles? On the other side, what a revelatory monster in this movie: no guns, no knives, just baaaad medicine, but it's somehow more repugnant than the hands-on violence we expect from our villains.
Kind Hearts and Coronets... Alec Guinness does indeed disappear into each of his eight (!) different roles in this movie. A thespiantical tour de force to be sure. That said, what really made this movie work for me was Dennis Price's leading role as the ultimate cad. When was the last time such an evil, condescending, two-timing, murdering bastard was so sardonically likeable? "I was sorry about the girl, but found some relief in the reflection that she had presumably during the weekend already undergone a fate worse than death." Priceless.
A Letter to Three Wives... It amazes me how often I watch movies from this era and end up being shocked by some bit of sexual innuendo. Here they even manage to use the term "penetrated" and Kirk Douglas deadpans the whole gag perfectly. Didn't they have censors back then? Did they understand the mechanics of sex? Anyway, that was the jaw-dropper for this movie. The hook here is that just before leaving on a field trip of some sort (where there will be no phones) three women receive a letter from an ex-friend, saying that she has skipped town with one of their husbands (geez, with friends like that...). The bulk of the movie is composed of three flashbacks casting light onto each marriage, each more interesting than the last. As such, it starts a bit slow and I wasn't sure it was the movie for me, but it really scores points for the slow build and great finish. Thelma Ritter rocks (even if it did take me forever to figure out she was the harried Miracle on 34th Street shopper, and had made quite a career out of garnering Oscar nominations in films I haven't seen yet).
Stray Dog... Just as it was easy for me to pigeonhole Kurosawa as a maker of period samurai pieces, so too was it easy to do the same to Toshiro Mifune. Seeking out their other movies has certainly been enlightening. Kurosawa's skill is on display as his camera wanders through poorer sections of post-war Tokyo (it is Tokyo, right?), and the almost-unrecognizable Mifune is marvelous as the earnest, dogged, and guilt-stricken young detective whose search for his stolen gun consumes him. I would be remiss if I did not also single out Takashi Shimura for his touching turn as the elder beat cop who shepherds our hero.
Twelve O'Clock High... Gregory Peck is probably by favorite actor from this era. Loved him here, as the hard-nosed general that, out of necessity, drives his men to the limits of human endurance. Peck's portrayal of General Savage's necessarily-repressed affection for his men is wonderful.
Glad I Saw
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon... I suspect my enjoyment of this movie suffered greatly from fatigue. I couldn't keep my eyes open during the first half, but I quite enjoyed the second half, which I watched the following night. Except for the big Irish fellow, I didn't much care for the supporting cast, but John Wayne was brilliant as the crafty and paternal Captain Nathan Brittles. I particularly enjoyed how subtly Wayne projected Brittles' reluctance to retire, and the way his character orchestrated the final day of his command. I'll have to rewatch this someday to give the first half a fresh chance.
Mighty Joe Young
Could Have Missed
- None Yet
Should Have Missed
- None Yet
El Sucko Grande
- None Yet