I'm really behind on posting these top 10 lists. All my lists are done and just sitting on our Golden Age Lists website, but I still want to get them on the blog, as well. Anyway, here's my favorite films list from 1949. After this, all that's left to post is all the even years from the 50s.
1. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu)
2. The Third Man (Carol Reed)
3. White Heat (Raoul Walsh)
4. Colorado Territory (Raoul Walsh)
5. They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray)
6. Stray Dog (Akira Kurosawa)
7. A Letter to Three Wives (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
8. The Set-Up (Robert Wise)
9. Whirlpool (Otto Preminger)
10. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford)
Honorable Mention: Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak), Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius), On the Town (Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen), Reign of Terror (Anthony Mann), Orpheus (Jean Cocteau), Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer), Adam's Rib (George Cukor), Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock), The Reckless Moment (Max Ophüls), Caught (Max Ophüls), All the King's Men (Robert Rossen)
Still need to see: Whiskey Galore! (which I have from John, but haven't watched yet), I Was a Male War Bride, Battleground, Border Incident, The Heiress, and more.
LATE SPRING is a masterpiece without question and an easy film to love. It might be Ozu's most moving film, along with THERE WAS A FATHER. It's a tender, poetic, and universal meditation on family, the movement into adulthood, and the passage of time.
THE THIRD MAN is a film bustling with energy, details, and Carol Reed's typically gorgeous chiaroscuro visual style. I'm sure it has been said before, but Welles himself would have been proud to make this one.
WHITE HEAT is a searing film with Cagney at his most diabolical and electric. A film that takes the anger and psychosis of THE PUBLIC ENEMY and makes it operatic.
This was a great year for Walsh. COLORADO TERRITORY is a western remake of his earlier noir film, the wonderful HIGH SIERRA. Both are masterpieces.
Nicholas Ray was a director teeming with poetry and that cup overflows into his first feature film, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. Among the softest and most humane noir films.
STRAY DOG is a sweltering noir film from the great Kurosawa. Easily one of the hottest looking films ever made. You can sweat just thinking about it.
Joseph Mankiewicz was a tremendous writer. He had one of the best ears for dialogue in all of Hollywood. A LETTER TO THREE WIVES is a very witty comedy, featuring a script that is only matched by some stand-out performances from Kirk Douglas and Linda Darnell. A real pleasure to watch.
I don't think I've ever properly expressed my appreciation for Robert Ryan on here, so I'll do it now. Ryan (who was a pacifist, civil rights activist, and one of the biggest political leftists in Hollywood) was usually stuck playing loathsome heels and racist stock villains in films, and he was always convincing in these roles. But it is truly great too see him play more sympathetic characters as in THE SET-UP because he really was an underrated actor and, by all accounts, a wonderful guy in real life. THE SET-UP features a strong Ryan performance and long, super gritty boxing scenes. It's a highly efficient piece of narrative fatalism.
I've enjoyed every Preminger film I've seen. WHIRLPOOL is more melodrama than noir, but it is an exciting picture that serves as a more critical send-up of psychoanalysis than another Ben Hecht scripted film, Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (though not as good). Still, a fun one.
SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON is the first and most beautiful of John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy. It's got one of the best fistfights in film history, which Brandon can certainly corroborate.
I'm a fan of all the honorable mentions listed, and would recommend seeing all of them. I wish THE RECKLESS MOMENT and CAUGHT had more of an Ophüls stamp on them, but they are still worth seeing. Hitchcock's UNDER CAPRICORN is a weak melodrama and is in desperate need of a restoration, but it deserves special mention for having some gorgeous cinematography and a few highly elaborate long takes that are simply stunning. ON THE TOWN is probably my favorite of the honorable mentions listed though. It's a vibrant musical about the joys of getting laid.
1950 should be up in the next few days.