Category Archives: 1942 Movie reviews

Mrs. Miniver-1942

Mrs. Miniver-1942

Director-William Wyler

Starring-Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon

Scott’s Review #841

Reviewed December 13, 2018

Grade: A-

Released in 1942 amid the horrific World War II, Mrs. Miniver (1942) was a smash hit, winning over audiences concerned with the troubled and uncertain times. Decades later the film does not age as well as other similar themed films, but nonetheless still entertains and tells a good story with an important theme. The film is nestled in the war drama genre with a bit of romance thrown in. The film won numerous Oscars the year of its release including Best Picture and star Greer Garson winning for Best Actress.

The story is told from the perspective of an affluent British family and the struggles they face to keep things together during growing peril. The focus mostly remains squarely on unassuming housewife, Kay Miniver (Garson). The supporting players do much to flesh out the film with wonderful performances by Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, and Henry Travers as Clem Miniver, Carol Beldon, and Mr. Ballard, respectively. The direction by William Wyler is astounding and adds to the perfectly crafted ambiance and homey details.

The Miniver’s live a comfortable life in a whimsical village outside of London. Quite idealized, they own a large garden and a motorboat on the river Thames. Along with Kay and Clem, their three children of varying ages and their housekeeper and cook reside with them. Besides the parents, the central couple are son Vin (Richard Ney) and the prominent Carol (Wright), the pair initially disagreeing on politics, but finally falling madly in love. As the soap-opera style family situations continue to occur the war grows closer and closer to their house.

As Mrs. Miniver progresses, Vin enlists in the army to assist with war efforts, a German Nazi breaks into the Miniver house, a central character dies, and bombs and planes crash. Through it all, Kay remains stoic and takes the family through challenging situations adding much melodrama to the film. The woman’s journey and resolve to keep everything and everyone intact is the core of the film.

The film is mainly a family drama with both the Miniver’s and the townspeople experiencing trials and tribulations. In this way Mrs. Miniver risks being a one trick pony, albeit an emotional and teary-eyed one.  The rich characteristics and the polished nature make the film more than it ought to be and the superlative cast and production values as well as the timeliness of the film’s release undoubtedly made it what is was in 1942.

In present times, however, Mrs. Miniver seems diminished in importance and relevance with a sappy and overly sentimental feel, World War II in the distant past and several other wars come and gone. Apparent is that Wyler carefully packaged the film to hit every emotion from the bombastic musical score to the proper English characters, to the comic relief housekeeper. The film is a giant Hollywood production, but perhaps a bit too perfect to age with any zest or reason to watch more than once?

The film might be better remembered for its strong female lead. Told from Kay’s perspective, unusual in 1942 was for a film (especially with a war theme) not to have the story from the male point of view. Still refreshing in 2018, this quality was downright groundbreaking at the time. Kay stays strong and proud through the ravages of war that are closing in on her family with unbridled boldness and nary a simpering quality. An early champion for strong, female driven characters and in a smaller way, Wright’s Carol is also a muscled female role model.

Mrs. Miniver (1942) is a well-crafted film of its time that displays lavish production values and strong characters worthy of admiration. For a glimpse back into the 1940’s time-capsule, especially for those fans of good, solid drama, the film is a major win. There are no major flaws to harp on, but the overall piece has not aged especially well and other similar films (Casablanca, 1942) are more memorable affairs.

Casablanca-1942

Casablanca-1942

Director-Michael Curtiz

Starring-Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman

Scott’s Review #838

Reviewed December 7, 2018

Grade: A

Casablanca (1942) is a classic style Hollywood film made during a decade when big studio productions were all the rage. The film may very well be in the top ten creations of its day and a film that nearly everyone has either seen or is aware of. A grand romantic World War II drama released at the perfect time, the film contains legendary stars Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and is flawless in nearly every way as a lavish production ought to be.

Bogart stars as Rick Blaine, an expatriate who owns a lavish nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco. The time is December 1941, before the United States emerged into the vicious World War II. His clientele ranges from French and German officials to refugees attempting to flee the country, fearful of being stuck in a foreign land. Mixed in with the melee of varied characters is Ilsa (Bergman) a former flame of Rick’s, who appears with new husband Victor, a Czech leader. Ilsa begs Rick for help escaping the country and their ended romance begins to blossom once again.

Through scenes we see Rick and Ilsa together, living a perfect life in pre-war Paris. They happily co-exist, sharing a happy life unaware of the conflict and secrets that will emerge in Casablanca merely two years later. As Victor is initially presumed dead, this is cause for Ilsa’s initial freedom and romance with Rick.

Back in Casablanca, Rick is in possession of important letters that will allow the holder to escape the city and be bound for safety in another country.  While Ilsa is desperate for these letters, she is also madly in love with Rick, and vice versa, adding a strong romantic element to the film. Supporting characters are mixed into the plot as desperation and impending doom interplay.

Casablanca is a film with a myriad of things going on simultaneously which is a major part of its draw. From the obvious romance of Rick and Ilsa- the focal point of the story-part of the draw are the sub-plots weaved within. The nasty Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser encompasses the future Third Reich and the devastation this group would ultimately cause. A multitude of supporting characters and extras perfectly flesh out both the cast and the look and feel of the film.

The most interesting character is Rick. Once an idealistic and moral man he has changed becoming cynical and broken. In this way the film nearly becomes a character study. The audience sees the change in Rick and slowly realizes he has given, the war the culprit. The final sequence reveals the fate of Rick and Ilsa, their doomed romance assuredly coming as no surprise, true to the message of the film. An “unhappily ever after” result was quite rare in a big studio production in this day and this is a testament to the good written story.

The featured piano number and Casablanca’s “theme song” is the lovely yet melancholy “As Time Goes By”. Beautifully played by house pianist and close friend of Rick’s, Sam (Dooley Wilson), the number is instrumental to the plot and specifically to Rick and Ilsa’s romance. The song is a painful memory of the once idyllic life the pair shared.

Made in 1941 and released in 1942 the timing of the film is the key to its unrelenting success. American audiences undoubtedly found the film identifiable and the uncertainties of the impending war put their current freedoms at risk. In this way Casablanca was marketed wonderfully and the compelling nature of the film resonated. Especially in the case of Rick audiences undoubtedly shared his conflict and “for the greater good” perspective.

Casablanca (1942) is a film that educates, entertains, and romances without exhibiting a shred of pretension. From the crisp black and white filming and the unique use of light and shadows to reflect character’s thoughts, the film is lovely to look at and possesses a lofty budget. Immersed in the richness is a sadness and a timely message about a changed man, a failed romance, and the ravages of war that still resonate decades later.

Bambi-1942

Bambi-1942

Director-David Hand

Starring-Various voices

Top 100 Films-#88

Scott’s Review #556

Reviewed December 22, 2016

Grade: A

Simply lovely, endearing, and a heartbreaking tale, Bambi is one of my favorite classic Disney animated features of all time. Gorgeous and flawless, the film sends a definite message of animals longing for peace in a world filled with hunters attempting to disturb and kill the graceful deer. After all of these years, this message still resonates loud and clear, in sad, heartbreaking fashion. All deer hunters should watch this film and then have the audacity to hunt. Bambi was released among the Golden Age of Disney films, led by Snow White, Dumbo, Pinocchio, to name but a few.

We first meet baby Bambi as his dear mother nurtures and nestles him, fawning over him with pride and teaching him the joys of the forest.  Bambi’s father is the Great Prince of the Forest- protector of all the creatures of the land. Bambi’s mother (unnamed) warns an exuberant Bambi to be cautious of the gorgeous, yet dangerous, meadows, where the deer are vulnerable and unprotected.

During the film’s famous gut-wrenching scene, tragedy occurs, and violence disrupts the peaceful forest, leaving Bambi alone, lost, and devastated, forced into a cruel world of tragedy, realism, and responsibility. The scene gets to me every time as we see the pain and the harshness of what life is like for the sweet deer, to say nothing of the other animals in the forest- namely, Thumper (a rabbit), and Flower (a young Skunk). These characters are Bambi’s best friends. The dripping teardrop that oozes from Bambi’s eye is unable to be forgotten.

To counterbalance the dark tone of the film, Disney successfully adds cheerful scenes of the animals dancing and co-mingling with each other- as one community. This is nice as it shows the power and the bond between the creatures- they are united as a family and take care of one another. I love this message, especially as young people will watch the film for the first time.  There is also a sweet romance offered between Bambi and Faline.

To watch the film and listen to the musical score is to experience sheer beauty. The music makes the film powerful- its classical and operatic elements are gorgeous and will elicit emotions for sure. Visually, each frame is a drawing set against a still and is magical to watch and marvel at the amount of work that undoubtedly went into this preparation.

In the end, the circle of life takes place. Bambi becomes the Great Prince of the Forest, replacing his father as the protector. Now  all grown up with two tiny babies of his own, he must protect his family and friends. Life goes on. A sad yet realistic message. How brave of Disney to create a piece as wonderful as Bambi.

A personal satisfaction for me is observing my beloved female feline friend, Thora, become mesmerized and attentive to the film each time I watch it.

Disney’s Bambi is a wonderful, cherished treasure that evokes emotion and teaches a valuable, though painful message. It is a timeless masterpiece to be enjoyed for generations to come. One will not escape the film with dry eyes, which is a testament to the marvelous film making involved.

This Gun For Hire-1942

This Gun For Hire-1942

Director-Frank Tuttle

Starring-Veronica Lake, Robert Preston

Scott’s Review #285

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Reviewed November 3, 2015

Grade: B

This Gun for Hire is an early film noir that clearly influenced later films of a similar genre. Starring marque headliners of their day, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, this film is a surprisingly violent experience for its time period. Shot in black and white, the film is wonderfully lit, adding style as well as substance to it.

The film begins with a bang…literally, as hit-man Philip Raven (Ladd) murders a chemist and blackmailer in exchange for a hefty sum of loot. His wealthy boss double-crosses him and reports him to the Los Angeles Police department. Detective Michael Crane takes the case aided by his sexy girlfriend and nightclub singer Ellen Graham (Lake). Adding a wrench to the story is the tangled love affair that ensues between Ellen and Raven, who are the films main draw.

I loved the black and white shooting of this film, as many were in 1942, and found this only enhances the tone of the picture given that it is of crime/hit-man variety. The chemistry between Lake and Ladd smolders and Lake is great as a femme fatale with her long blonde locks and sultry pout. In fact, she was the inspiration for the character conceived for L.A. Confidential as Kim Basinger portrays a Veronica Lake look-alike. Ladd is brooding in his intensity as the hit-man with the damaged childhood and ultimately sympathetic personality.

The setting of San Francisco and L.A. is wonderfully perfect and adds depth as the warm and sunny locales are mixed in with murder, corruption, and shenanigans. Who wouldn’t make comparisons to Chinatown??

A flaw I found in the film and in which I found difficult to buy into is the implausibility of Ellen falling in love with Raven as he clearly tries to murder her-unsuccessfully so. This point seems  plot-driven and  a way to incorporate a mainstream love story amid the thrilling film noir. Surely, she would find satisfaction in a romantic sense with her detective boyfriend and since the duo has no conspicuous problems, the love between she and Raven is all the more inexplicable. Still- sparks do indeed fly on-screen.

An action packed crime affair, This Gun for Hire laid a crisp blueprint for film noir and hitmen, action types films for decades to come and I admire it for this reason.

Saboteur-1942

Saboteur-1942

Director-Alfred Hitchcock

Starring-Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lake

Scott’s Review #98

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Reviewed July 9, 2014

Grade: B+

Saboteur is a very early Alfred Hitchcock film that is a blueprint for his masterpieces in years to follow. The story follows a common theme among Hitchcock thrillers- the falsely accused man. Aircraft factory worker, Barry Kane, is falsely accused of an act of sabotage that kills his best friend. Only Kane, and the audience, know the true culprit and sets out on a quest for both his innocence, and to find and capture the real culprit. The film then sets off a tale of adventure, cross country hijinks, a romance, and political espionage, quite similar to a Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest, which followed years later. This film contains some excellent scenes- the traveling carnie train adventure, the blind man, and especially the climactic chase scene atop the statue of liberty are fantastic. This film is a bit raw and the chemistry between the leads Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane poor, but a very good early Hitchcock film to be appreciated.