Sunday, June 2, 2024

Pin It


1941: Remember 1940?

Well, when I said I had given my last word on 1940, I hadn't counted on the release strategies of 80+ years ago. There were no digital hard drives, no links to download, but physical reels of film that had to be transported place to place, sometimes held over at single-screen venues for a year or more, their general release separate from their "official" release date (for example, 1941 is the year Gone with the Wind finally entered general release after a year of being screened as a roadshow picture). And not every movie started with a Los Angeles release, either, even though you still needed to play there at least a week to qualify.

And so, the first three films of 1941 are from late 1940. I don't know when they finally got to LA, but  These three were:

Flight Command
release: December 27, 1940
nominations: Best Special Effects (A. Arnold Gillespie, photographic; Douglas Shearer, sound)
dir: Frank Borzage
pr: Frank Borzage / J. Walter Ruben
scr: Wells Root and Harvey S. Haislip, from a story by Harvey S. Haislip and John Sutherland
cin: Harold Rosson

Now, remember, the United States is not officially at war with anyone yet, but we have begun the draft (just in case or whatever!) and suddenly greenlit a lot of rah-rah, the Armed Forces! movies. This is, apparently, the one that started the trend, and it centers on young Robert Taylor joining the elite Hellcats VF-8 Squadron, only to make a muck of it time and again, sometimes as a result of his opinion, sometimes for circumstances out of his control. Walter Pidgeon is the squadron commander; hard to believe this is the same year as The Dark Command, where he seems so young and dangerous, as he is now suddenly and comfortably a reassuring paternal type. Ruth Hussey is Pidgeon's wife who Taylor entertains during Pidgeon's absence, especially after a flying accident kills one of her family friends. Naturally, it's this personal, private matter that becomes the greatest strain on Taylor's standing with the boys, and the center of the film's plot. Pulls it off pretty well, actually, hats off to them for making an adult story without villains or Big Scenes. 

The Invisible Woman
release: December 27, 1940
nominations: Best Special Effects (John P. Fulton, photographic; John D. Hall, sound)
dir: A. Edward Sutherland
scr: Robert Lees & Frederic I. Rinaldo & Gertrude Purcell, original story by Curt Siodmak & Joe May
cin: Elwood Bredell

Universal Studios includes this film as part of its Monsters series, obviously alongside its Invisible Man series. Other than invisibility, there's no relation. This is a dumb comedy - sometimes appealingly so, though not often enough - about a model who is turned invisible and winds up with a kooky scientist on an adventure involving the mob. Sweaty and somehow overlong at 72 minutes. Great scene where our invisible woman takes revenge on her boss: such scenes where they really let loose with the effects make the movie shine, executing more complex gags and effects-work than in The Invisible Man Returns. Not not recommended.

Night Train to Munich
release: December 29, 1940
nominations: Best Original Story
dir: Carol Reed
pr: Edward Black
scr: Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, original story by Gordon Wellesley
cin: Otto Kanturek

Obviously, the Brits could more directly address the War in Europe. Here's the story of a Czech scientist who escapes to Britain; his daughter breaks out of a Nazi prison and follows him, not realizing that the fellow prisoners helping her are actually Gestapo agents trying to get her to lead the Nazis to her father. Ah-ha, but British Intelligence has Rex Harrison on the job! If you dig Paul Henreid as Czech freedom fighter Victor Laszlo, you'll also dig him as the exact opposite, a Nazi asshole who'd hate Czech freedom fighters like Victor Laszlo. Oddly enough, becomes a sort-of spin-off of The Lady Vanishes, with that film's fey supporting players Charters and Caldicott (Happy Pride Month, by the way) winding up on the titular train with our heroes and villains. A great time.

Tomorrow, we get to 1941 proper, including not just Bogie's breakthrough, but Abbott & Costello's, too!

You May Also Enjoy:
Like us on Facebook

No comments: