A Wonderful Time in Filmmaking History
The 1940s is truly the pinnacle of the Golden Age of filmmaking. Some of the greatest directors, writers, and actors came together within the studio system to make the greatest films. This list could be repeated over and over again with different titles – so consider this just a beginning!
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Dir. George Cukor – The greatest of all the screwball comedies, with exceptional acting, dialogue, and directing – perhaps a perfect romantic comedy. Starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart. When a rich woman’s ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Dir. Ernest Lubtisch – Another delightful romantic comedy starring Jimmy Stewart, two employees at a gift shop can barely stand one another, without realizing that they’re falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal. Remade in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Dir. Orson Welles – Often ranked as the greatest film of all time, a 25-year old Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in this dark, semi-biopic of newspaper magnate William Randolf Hearst. A film loved by filmmakers and film-buffs the world over for its extraordinary use of the medium of film.
Hail, the Conquering Hero (1944)
Dir. Preston Sturges – One of my favorite comedies. Screenwriter/director Sturges was at the top of his game with exceptionally sharp dialogue and crazy situations. Young Woodrow is discharged from the Marines for hay fever but is forced by fellow Marines to fabricate a heroic honorable discharge before returning home. Hilarious.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Dir. William Wyler – The greatest soldier-return film ever made. Three WWII veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed. Incredible acting, directing, and writing. An exceptionally-moving and inspiring film that every American should see.
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Dir. Frank Capra – One of the greatest films of all time. Most people watch it around Christmas, but it is a delight anytime. An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed. Starring Jimmy Stewart.
The Third Man (1949)
Dir. Carol Reed – Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles star in this extraordinary film noir classic set in post-war Vienna and written by novelist Graham Greene. Filmed on location in the remaining rubble, it is an oblique approach to a dark and mysterious story. (Recommended for ages 13+)