Tag Archives: 1940s


The eyes have it: Stills from Village of the Damned, Passport to Pimlico and The First Movie

In order to stem the tide of my perpetual catch-up in this (often) ill-conceived attempt to write about every film I watch, I present this mass posting, where I write a brief something about some of the British titles I have caught over the last couple of months but have neither the time nor inclination to expand upon further.

Here goes nothing…

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Cat People
d. Jacques Tourneur / 1942 / USA / 73 mins

Still from Cat People

Cat People was Val Lewton’s first production at RKO, having previously worked under Selznick as a story editor. Lewton was tasked with producing films on spec, with only a title and a budget limit of $150,000 for guidance. In the end, the film would cost RKO approximately $140k, and proved a major success, helping to pull the studio back from the brink of financial disaster by producing close to $4m in box office coin over the next two years.

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Anchors Aweigh
d. George Sidney / 1945 / USA / 139 mins
NFT1 @ BFI Southbank (London, UK)

Still from Anchors Aweigh

2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the British Film Institute’s National Archive, one of the most outstanding national moving image collections in the world – and as part of their celebrations earlier this year, they screened a selection of films on their original nitrate cellulose release stock. These were the first screenings of nitrate in the UK for a number of years, in the only cinema in the country licensed to show nitrate to the general public.

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The Red Pony
d. Lewis Milestone / 1949 / USA / 89 mins

Production still from The Red Pony

Realistically, The Red Pony should have been an all-time classic. It’s based on a fondly-remembered (and still widely taught) collection of stories by John Steinbeck, it had a cast led by Robert Mitchum and Myrna Loy, a stirring score produced by Aaron Copland on the back of his most productive decade, and was shot in Technicolor by dual-Oscar winner Lewis Milestone. Having been in development for close to a decade, Milestone and Steinbeck took their project to Poverty Row studio Republic Pictures, who were attempting to break away from their reputation for Westerns and B-movies and into the long-flagging prestige picture business previously dominated by MGM and Selznick.

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The Barkleys of Broadway
d. Charles Walters / USA / 1949 / 109 mins
Viewed on: Turner Classic Movies (UK)

I said a wee while back that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, as a rule, don’t tend to get me thinking. I was obviously lying, however, since The Barkleys of Broadway did make me think. A lot. Although I wasn’t thinking so much about its crude song and dance representations of occupations or nationalities, or about how to best read its underlying ideological viewpoint. Nope, it was much less complicated than that: The Barkelys of Broadway simply got me to thinking about what happens when great entertainment double-acts go their separate ways.

Of course, this being the first Fred and Ginger outing for a whole ten years (and the only in colour), it’s more than a little ironic that such a reunion should have taken place on a picture that sees a song and dance duo fall apart. You might be forgiven for assuming that this was a knowing ploy by Arthur Freed and his band of MGM producers, a kind of nod-and-wink to Hollywood history and the turbulent relationship of Fred and Ginger, but in reality, it was something very different.

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