My January Must Watch List

What’s on Tonight?

I had grand reading plans this Christmas vacation but the COVID fatigue has made me sluggish. Many films were watched in the course of this vacation. I love a good theme and with Christmas behind us, in the spirit of Oscar season, I thought going for the greats in January was in order. I do not actually watch the Oscars, but it once was fun to follow who won and who should have won.

So I used the world wide web to look up winners from the 1930s and 1940s. I chose from the winners and losers, which are still pretty good. The 1930s represent an adventurous time in movie-making. They had the hang of the technology; many of the best movies have been restored; and movie-makers pushed the envelope on what was allowed both in terms of moral story-telling and special effects.

A Note about Censorship

In 1939, the Hayes Code began to be enforced with strict guidelines of what could or could not be shown, what could or could not be rewarded, what must be punished in film and who could be criticized. The Hayes Code was a form of self-censorship Hollywood imposed on itself and the creativity required for film makers to tell the story they wanted to tell, while still adhering to the Code led to the brilliant films of 1939. The Leave-it-to-Beaver stereotype of old films is more a product of imagination than fact.

What are we watching?

First, Casablanca (1942)

Cynical Humphrey Bogart turns out to be a standup guy and a loving sentimentalist. With Nazis and the most quotable lines ever. The 1942 love story comes second to bigger things which is a perspective anyone falling in love could benefit from.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Cary Grant divorces and wants the divorcee back. Katherine Hepburn revives her career and shows how much fun she has acting with Cary Grant. Jimmy Stewart plays an average Joe. There is no cheetah in this one. That movie is “Bringing Up Baby.”

All About Eve

“Body with a voice” Betty Davis gets her thunder stolen by young Anne Baxter. All about the theater and modern relationships, modern ala 1951.

Going My Way (1944)

Present day movie critics ask how this movie could have won. It isn’t an absolute best but we’ll rediscover its charm this month. Bing Crosby plays a priest…who sings.

Lady for a Day (1933)

A group help Apple Annie move from the slums to the penthouse long enough to meet her daughter for the first time since her daughter’s early childhood. People helping people and a happy ending. We need this.

Gaslight (1944)

Ingrid Bergman falls in love with a bad man. He makes her think she’s crazy. Where the term “gaslighting” comes from and I always believe in the value f learning the source of relatively-common cultural sayings. And any movie with Joseph Cotton is probably worth watching.

The Women

It’s all about men. Do not watch the remake. Watch the 1939 version staring Norma Shearer learning that pride is no reason to get divorced and divorce has consequences.

It Happened One Night (1934)

Back to falling in love. One spoiled brat learns street smarts from Clark Gable. A classic “road film”. This is a great movie if you like romantic comedies but are sick and tired of the bedroom-centric comedy.

The Princess Bride (1987)

In color! It’s just a perfect movie and so I include it. Exaggerated characters, saccharine sentiment, and it’s all satire. Andre the Giant asks Cary Elwes why he wears a mask and Elwes responds, “It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable — I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.”

So we begin

You may prefer fantasy, sci-fi, horror, action or war films. These aren’t those. However, these are great character-driven movies with complex relationships, and actors who acted in roles that played to their strengths. Plots were simpler back then. Movies moved slower. Scenes were cut longer.

Give it a try. Most of these can be checked out from the library – once I return them, that is.