The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Wednesday, December 31, 2014
ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II: So far we've covered my favorite movies of
2004, 1994, 1984, 1974, 1964, and 1954. Picking up where we left off...

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1944, it gave its Best Picture award to Going My Way. While I wouldn't call that trifle a bad film, it feels perverse to hand it the prize in a year that produced as many great movies as this one:

1. Double Indemnity
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, from a novel by James M. Cain

It's a bleak and ugly story about murder and betrayal, yet at times it's as funny as any of Wilder's comedies.

2. To Have and Have Not
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Jules Furthman and William Faulkner, from a novel by Ernest Hemingway

A lot like Casablanca, but better.

3. Laura
Directed by Otto Preminger
Written by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Betty Reinhardt, from a novel by Vera Caspary

Roger Ebert called this film's allure "a tribute to style over sanity." He didn't mean that as a put-down, and I don't either.

4. Curse of the Cat People
Directed by Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch
Written by DeWitt Bodeen and Val Lewton

Quite possibly the most misleading title in Hollywood history.

5. Hail the Conquering Hero
Written and directed by Preston Sturges

"You don't need reasons. Although they're probably there."

6. The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France
Directed by Laurence Olivier
Written by Olivier, Dallas Bower, and Alan Dent, from a play by William Shakespeare

It's a propaganda movie, but don't get hung up on that. It's also the most visually inventive Shakespeare picture I've seen, a film that feels like an illuminated manuscript come to life.

7. Miracle of Morgan's Creek
Written and directed by Preston Sturges

Between this and Conquering Hero, you'd never dream Sturges' career was about to crash.

8. A Canterbury Tale
Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

A tale of love, war, and a mysterious figure who assaults women by pouring glue in their hair. And it's actually even stranger than that description makes it sound.

9. It Happened Tomorrow
Directed by René Clair
Written by Clair, Dudley Nichols, and Helene Fraenkel, from a story by Hugh Wedlock and Howard Snyder and a play by Lord Dunsany

This one was nearly made by Frank Capra instead, and the story is certainly suited for the Capra treatment. But it works as one of Clair's American fantasies too. Indeed, it comes in a slot ahead of the bona fide Capra movie on this list.

10. Arsenic and Old Lace
Directed by Frank Capra
Written by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein, from a play by Joseph Kesselring

Surely the finest portrait of Teddy Roosevelt ever to grace the screen.

Honorable mentions:

11. The Old Grey Hare (Bob Clampett)
12. Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk)
13. At Land (Maya Deren)
14. Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock)
15. Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang)
16. The Suspect (Robert Siodmak)
17. Jammin' the Blues (Gjon Mili)
18. Little Red Riding Rabbit (Friz Freleng)
19. The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang)
20. The Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks (Edgar Neville)

Finally, a special shoutout to the Halloween sequence in Meet Me in St. Louis. The rest of the picture doesn't do much for me (aside from "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"), but if the Halloween segment were a standalone short it might make it into my top 10.

Of the films of 1944 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Torment.

posted by Jesse 9:12 AM
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