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

Thursday, January 03, 2019
HAMLET DEFEATS TRUMAN: We've sorted through my favorite movies of
2008, 1998, 1988, 1978, 1968, and 1958. Now it's time to hit the '40s.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1948, it gave its Best Picture award to the Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet. Which is actually rather good, despite the absence of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and it's in my top 10. But it isn't as impressive as the film at number one:

1. Red River
Directed by Howard Hawks with Arthur Rosson
Written by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee, from a story by Chase

Confession: I like the ending, which nearly everyone else (including one of the writers) dismisses as a copout. Why shouldn't those bullheaded rivals listen to the lady, recognize that they're being a pair of asses, drop all the macho posturing, and make up?

2. The Red Shoes
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Written by Powell, Pressburger, and Keith Winter, from a story by Hans Christian Andersen

In this film, on the other hand, I don't think there's any way to avoid a tragic ending.

3. They Live By Night
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Written by Ray and Charles Schnee, from a novel by Edward Anderson

This planted the seed for virtually every other film about a couple on the lam, from Bonnie and Clyde to True Romance. It's based on the same novel that spawned Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us, and the two adaptations would make an interesting double feature.

4. Fort Apache
Directed by John Ford
Written by Frank Nugent, from a story by James Warner Bellah

It's almost an Old West Paths of Glory, though it has an undercurrent of respect for the military that I don't see in the Kubrick picture.

5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Directed by John Huston
Written by Huston, from a novel by B. Traven

But read the book first. It's even better.

6. Brighton Rock
Directed by John Boulting
Written by Graham Greene and Terence Rattigan, from a novel by Greene

"I'm human. I've loved a boy or two in my time. It's natural, like breathing. Not one of them's worth it, let alone this fellow you've got hold of."

7. Germany, Year Zero
Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Written by Rossellini, Max Kolpé, and Carlo Lizzani

The third, best, and most relentlessly grim of Rossellini's antifascist War Trilogy.

8. Hamlet
Directed by Laurence Olivier
Written by Olivier, from a play by William Shakespeare

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Must Be Dead.

9. Key Largo
Directed by John Huston
Written by Huston and Richard Brooks, from a play by Maxwell Anderson

"Listen, hick, I was too much for any big city police force to handle. It took the United States government to pin a rap on me. And they won't make it stick. You hick, I'll be back pulling strings to get guys elected mayor and governor before you get a 10 buck raise."

10. The Snake Pit
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Written by Millen Brand, Frank Partos, and Arthur Laurents, from a novel by Mary Jane Ward

On one level, this is a despicable picture: Allegedly an exposé of the mistreatment of psychiatric patients, it winds up justifying even the most invasive coercive procedures as long as the doctor making the decisions seems kind and liberal. But it's a remarkably well-made movie nonetheless, and Olivia de Havilland is great in it.

Honorable mentions:

11. The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed)
12. Sorry, Wrong Number (Anatole Litvak)
13. Macbeth (Orson Welles)
14. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)
15. Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges)
16. Les Parents Terribles (Jean Cocteau)
17. Good Sam (Leo McCarey)
18. Raw Deal (Anthony Mann)
19. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton)
20. Buccaneer Bunny (Friz Freleng)

Of the films of 1948 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Paleface and Blood on the Moon.

posted by Jesse 8:50 AM
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