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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire

#1930to2020: Films from 1930-1949

Updated: May 5, 2023

I am always looking for new ways to accessing my film collection, and selecting what to choose online, so on 28 June 2020 I started a new viewing project: #1930to2020. Each day I’d watch at least one film from that day’s year. Some days only I managed to watch one film, others like the 1940 and 1948 day, I saw 5 films.

This blog focuses on the 59 films I watched from 1930 – 1949. 25 were re-visits, 34 new to me.

You can read my comments on all the films on my twitter @cheshellen on #1930to2020 hashtag or on my letterboxd. The full list is below.

For those interested in films directed by women, you’ll notice the names of three women directors popping up in these two decades: Dorothy Arzner, Maya Deren and Ida Lupino. But it’s also worth noting that although Mae West didn’t direct the films she starred in, they are certainly Mae West films, as she wrote the screenplays. Another is producer/screenwriter Virginia Van Upp, who wrote Honeymoon in Bali and The Crystal Ball and produced Gilda, amongst a number of projects that made her the ‘The Queen of Columbia’.

Top 5 new to me films

1932: Boudu Saved From Drowning d. Jean Renoir A bookshop owner (Charles Granval) saves a tramp, Boudu (Michel Simon) from drowning, takes him under his wing and attempts to gentrify him with comic/little success. Mix of striking realist shots of early 30s Paris and drawing room farce.

1941: Ladies in Retirement d. Charles Vidor

Ellen (Ida Lupino) is housekeeper to Leonora (Isobel Elsom) a former theatre star, but needs to find a home for her two odd sisters (Edith Barrett and Elsa Lanchester) and brings them to live with her. But tensions rise and there’s only one way out if you’re in a Gothic film!

1942: Tales of Manhattan d. Julien Duvivier Portmanteau of 5 films which see a tailcoat being passed from owner to owner, bringing them luck (both good/bad). Each tale a different genre but all feature ver starry cast: from suave Charles Boyer to Charles Laughton who'll break your heart.

1943: First Comes Courage d. Dorothy Arzner In 1942 Nazi occupied Norway, Nicole (Merle Oberon) is living a double life as mistress to Nazi Commander (Carl Esmond) and resistance spy. When he gets suspicious, her ex-boyfriend (Brian Aherne) is sent to extract her. Sacrifice/Duty vs love. Effective.

1945: The Great Flamarion d. Anthony Mann

Cracking Film Noir which sees Erich von Stroheim as a vaudeville stunt shooter manipulated by his assistant (Mary Beth Hughes) into killing her husband (#DanDuryea). A real gem and for me. Theatre + Film Noir = Fabulous!

And a bonus short film…

1947: The Private Life of a Cat d. Alexander Hammid/Maya Deren, who were way ahead of the world’s obsession with the cat videos. A He cat meets a She cat and soon we’re seeing 5 kittens being born and nurtured through their first few weeks until they have some kind of independence.

Top 5 revisits

1933: I'm No Angel d. Wesley Ruggles Working from her own screenplay Mae West sasses across the screen as Tira, a singer, with a sideline of relieving men of their money, that is, until she falls for the very wealthy Jack (Cary Grant). Fab dialogue, and the courtroom scene is a real treat.

1936: My Man Godfrey d. Gregory La Cava Carole Lombard sparkles as a socialite smitten with her butler, Godfrey (William Powell). Witty dialogue makes this one of the best screwball comedies (with a smidge of social commentary) of the 1930s. Fab performances by all. Love it.

1937: Stand-In d. Tay Garnett A New York banker (Leslie Howard) is sent to Hollywood to assess why a Studio is failing. Perhaps it’s their drunk Producer (Humphrey Bogart) or vain star (Marla Shelton). Homely secretary (Joan Blondell) acts as his guide in this fish-out-of water comedy.

1942: The Major and the Minor d. Billy Wilder You'll just have to go with the premise that Ginger Rogers has to spend most of the movie publicly pretending to be a 12 year old who's attracted to Major Kirby (Ray Milland), who's taken on an 'Uncle' role. Cleverly skirts any dubiousness.

1946: A Matter of Life and Death d. Powell and Pressburger When RAF Pilot (David Niven) misses his appointment in heaven, accidentally saying on Earth and falling love with June (Kim Hunter), he has to attend a celestial court hearing to stay with her. Stunning B&W (heaven) and colour (Earth) cinematography by Jack Cardiff. One of the best!

Complete list of films watched: 1930 - 1949

  1. 1930: Liliom d. Frank Borzage

  2. 1931: Frankenstein d. James Whale

  3. 1933: I'm No Angel d. Wesley Ruggles

  4. 1933: The Emperor Jones d. Dudley Murphy

  5. 1934: The Man Who Knew Too Much d. Alfred Hitchcock

  6. 1934: Maniac d. Dwain Esper

  7. 1935: The Bride of Frankenstein d. James Whale

  8. 1935: The Girl From Tenth Avenue d. Alfred E. Green

  9. 1936: My Man Godfrey d. Gregory La Cava

  10. 1936: Klondike Annie d. Raoul Walsh

  11. 1936: Born to Dance d. Roy Del Ruth

  12. 1936: Sabotage d. Alfred Hitchcock

  13. 1937: A Star is Born d. William A. Wellman

  14. 1937: The Bride Wore Red d. Dorothy Arzner

  15. 1937: Stand-In d. Tay Garnett

  16. 1937: Shall We Dance d. Mark Sandrich

  17. 1938: Jezebel d. William Wyler

  18. 1938: Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife

  19. 1938: Nancy Drew: Detective d. William Clemens

  20. 1939: The Spy in Black d. Powell and Pressburger

  21. 1939: Lying Lips w/d. Oscar Micheaux

  22. 1939: Eternally Yours d. Tay Garnett

  23. 1939: Honeymoon in Bali d. Edward H. Griffith

  24. 1940: His Girl Friday d. Howard Hawks

  25. 1940: Christmas in July d. Preston Sturges

  26. 1940: The Great McGinty d. Preston Sturges

  27. 1940: The Great Dictator d. Charlie Chaplin

  28. 1940: Dance, Girl Dance d. Dorothy Arzner

  29. 1941: Broadway Limited d. Gordon Douglas

  30. 1941: That Uncertain Feeling d. Ernest Lubitsch

  31. 1941: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde d. Victor Fleming

  32. 1941: Ladies in Retirement d. Charles Vidor

  33. 1942: Saboteur d. Alfred Hitchcock

  34. 1942: Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror d. John Rawlins

  35. 1942: Tales of Manhattan d. Julien Duvivier

  36. 1942: The Major and the Minor d. Billy Wilder

  37. 1943: Meshes of the Afternoon d. Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid

  38. 1943: First Comes Courage d. Dorothy Arzner

  39. 1943: The Crystal Ball d. Elliott Nugent

  40. 1943: Lady of Burlesque d. William A. Wellman

  41. 1943: Heaven Can Wait d. Ernst Lubitsch

  42. 1944: It Happened Tomorrow d. René Clair

  43. 1944: Laura d. Otto Preminger

  44. 1945: The Great Flamarion d. Anthony Mann

  45. 1945: The Frozen Ghost d. Harold Young

  46. 1946: Ritual in Transfigured Time d. Maya Deren

  47. 1946: Gilda d. Charles Vidor

  48. 1946: A Matter of Life and Death d. Powell and Pressburger

  49. 1947: Down to Earth d. Alexander Hall

  50. 1947: The Private Life of a Cat d. Alexander Hammid/Maya Deren

  51. 1947: Framed d. Richard Wallace

  52. 1947: Black Narcissus d. Powell and Pressburger

  53. 1948: Boarding House Blues d. Josh Binney

  54. 1948: One Touch of Venus d. William A. Seiter

  55. 1948: June Bride d. Bretaigne Windust

  56. 1948: Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House d. H.C. Potter

  57. 1948: Ladies of the Chorus d. Phil Karlson

  58. 1949: Not Wanted d. Elmer Clifton and Ida Lupino

  59. 1949: Never Fear d. Ida Lupino

Read about films from 1950 - 1969 here and follow me on letterboxd or twitter for daily updates.


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