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Top of the World: 35 Movies of the 40s

Hello readers!

I’m back with a “weekly” top list! This time, I’ll present you my top 35 of the movies of the 40s, one of my very favourite movie decades (actually, the second one after the 50s). Why 35? It’s a lot, I know, but there are so many movies I love from this decade!

At first, I listed all the movies I saw from 1940 to 1949. Then, I deleted those I didn’t like THAT much and then I kept  only those I REALLY loved. And the final number was 35 (on 118, which is not bad). I could have made a top 10, but then I would feel bad to left some movies behind.

Anyway, before you start reading this top list, remember that these are my personal choices. It’s a list of favourites and it’s purely subjective. I don’t say that one film is better than the other, but that I just personally prefer it.

Well, enjoy, and if your favourite ones are not on the list, just tell yourself it could be in a longer top.

Here we go! (PS: look for the links to read some of my movie reviews!)

35. Music in my Heart (Joseph Stanley, 1940)

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34. Partie de Campagne (Jean Renoir, 1946)

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33. Madness of the Heart (Charles Bennett, 1949)

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32. Secret Beyond the Door (Fritz Lang, 1947)

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31. Born to Kill (Robert Wise, 1947)

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30. Suspicion (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)

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29. Saboteur (Alfred Hitchcock, 1941)

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28. Dear Ruth (William D. Russell, 1947)

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27. City for Conquest (Anatole Litvak, 1940)

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26. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)

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25. The Wicked Lady (Leslie Arliss, 1945)

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24. The Snake Pit (Anatole Litvak, 1948)

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23. The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang, 1944)

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22. The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 1946)

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21. Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942)

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20. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)

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19. Pinocchio (Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen)

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18. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

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17. Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945 – note: also my favourite Fritz Lang’s film)

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16. Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944)

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15. Mrs. Miniver (William Wyler, 1942)

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14. The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)

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13. To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)

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12. The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin, 1940)

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11. Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948)

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1o. White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)

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9. Sullivan’s Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)

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8. Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945)

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7. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)

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6. Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

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5. Give Us the Moon (Val Guest, 1944)

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4. Romance on the High Seas (Michael Curtiz, 1949)

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3. The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940)

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2. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943)

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1. It’s a Wonderful Life! (Frank Capra, 1946)

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Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed the top!

I know there aren’t many foreign films, except for Partie de Campagne, but the thing is, I just haven’t seen many foreign films from the 40s. But I have to give an honourable mention to Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1948).:)

Well, see you next time!

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Portrait of Jennie and the Wisdom of Ethel Barrymore

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The Barrymore. Ah, that legendary family of actors! Ethel, John and Lionel, the three siblings were children of Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Emma Drew, themselves actors. Acting in the family kept going on as the years passed. John and his third wife, Dolores Costello, also an actress, had a son, John Drew Barrymore, who also became an actor, just like his daughter Diana he had from his previous marriage to Blanche Oelrichs. Drew Barrymore, today’s most well known Barrymore, is the daughter of John Drew Barrymore and the granddaughter of John Barrymore. Barrymore seems to be a synonym of talent.

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To honour this great family, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting, for the second time, the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon. If you remember, last year I wrote about Drew Barrymore in Ever After. This time, I’ve decided to go back in the old days and explore one of my favourite Barrymore roles, the one of Miss Spiney, played by Ethel Barrymore, in Portrait of Jennie.

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Portrait of Jennie was directed by William Dieterle and released in 1948. This film reunited Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones for the fourth and last time. It also was their third film together under the direction of William Dietrele (the two other ones being Since you Went Away and Love Letters). The fourth one, Duel in the Sun (1946) was directed by King Vidor. Portrait of Jennie also stars Ethel Barrymore (of course!), Cecil Kellaway, David Wayne, Lillian Gish (another legend from the beginning of movies), Florence Bates, Henry Hull, Albert Sharpe, Anne Francis and Nancy Davis (also known as Nancy Reagan).

David O’Selzick, future husband of Jennifer Jones (they married in 1949), produced the film. The screenplay was written by Paul Osborn, Ben Hetch (uncredited) and Selznick (uncredited). It was based on the novel by Robert Nathan. The costumes were by Lucinda Ballard. William Morgan was the editor. Dimitri Tiomkin and Bernard Hermann (although this one wasn’t credited) composed the music. This one was based on Claude Debussy’s musical themes. And, finally, the beautiful cinematography was the work of Joseph August and Lee Garmes (uncredited).

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Portrait of Jennie is known as a fantastic movie, but not in the way we first think about it. It’s not a movie with monsters or things that seems completely impossible, it’s much more complicated than that. It’s more a movie about life and death, the past, the present and the future. It certainly is a movie that makes you think about the meaning of life in general.

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Well, if you haven’t seen it, you might wonder what the story is about. Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) is an infamous painter, who like many other infamous painters, can’t sell his paintings and is broke. At the beginning of the film, he manages to send a painting to an art dealer, Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore). On his way back home, he meets a little girl in Central Park (oh yes, the story takes place in New-York). Her name is Jennie Appleton (Jennifer Jones). She is alone and wants to walk with him. Before she left him, she makes a wish: she wishes that he’ll wait for her to grow up so they’ll could always be together. This doesn’t make much sense for Eben as people can’t wait for other people to grow up. Then she mysteriously disappears. Eben thinks about how strange she was, wearing old fashion clothes and talking about things that happened a long time ago. He then decides to sketch her. Miss Spinney and her colleague Matthews (Cecil Kellaway) are amazed by the sketch and believe Eben might have found a successful painting subject. The painter coincidentally meets Jennie again on the ice rink in the park. Curiously, she seems to have grown up. Eben doesn’t understand it, but for Jennie, it’s obvious: her wish becomes real. Eben suggests her to paint her portrait and she’s delighted by the idea. Each time he sees her, she grows up and keeps talking about things of the past. This Jennie is a mystery to him. Who is she exactly? He’s he imagining her? He’ll do is own research to find the truth about the mysterious Jennie.

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I have to say that Portrait of Jennie is one of the most beautiful movies I ever saw. It’s a movie that has a kind of fluidity that makes it so easy to watch, even if it touches a complicated subject, which is the time. And this beauty is not only embodied by the story in general and the magical cinematography, but also by the characters and the personality the actors chose to give them.

Ethel Barrymore is the wise one in this film. You can picture her with her quiet smile and her doe eyes. She gives to her character a fairness that is amazing to watch. Miss Spinney is the one who believes in Eben Adams. She is like his the fairy godmother. She knows that he has found the perfect subject, a subject full of love (which is for her a most important thing). Yes, Jennie is the inspiration Eben have found, but Miss Spinney is his guide. I don’t think he would have gotten through it without her wise advises. Miss Spinney hasn’t seen Jennie, but for her, the most important is that she is real to Eben. She first seems to be someone quite down to Earth, but we discover she can sees over what is real and understand what is not, their meaning and their utility.

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It’s also interesting to see that, through the film, Miss Spinney sort of completes the idea of Jennie. Just like her, she knows how to make compromises with the world around her, she knows how to see its beauty. She is a friend and a confidant to Eben. If Jennie belongs to the past, Miss Spinney is somehow the present version of her.

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It’s funny, but I somehow thought Ethel Barrymore was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in this film. Well, I checked out to be sure and it seems that I was wrong. I probably believed that because she DID deserved a nomination. I mean, she sort of has the idealistic acting here. I’ll explain what it is to me the “idealistic acting”: it’s an actor who doesn’t exaggerate his emotions, who doesn’t overact. Who can transmit a ton of feelings to us and win our admiration by being subtle and thorough. Ethel Barrymore had all these skills in Portrait of Jennie. That only proves her immense talent and the fact that she knew perfectly how to make the difference between stage acting and movie acting, or silent movies acting and talkies acting. Because we know that silent actors had to be more theatrical, which was normal, because the power of the voice wasn’t already there.

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I also have to say a few words about the other actors of the film who, just like Ethel, all manage to have the idealistic acting.

Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones, we understood that, were meant to act in movies together. But it’s in Portrait of Jennie that they might have the best chemistry. They perfectly make us feel the love between their two characters. They are just magically beautiful together. Joseph Cotten seduces us with his well known low voice and his character he’s so full of sensibility so it completely makes us forgot Uncle Charlie from Shadow of a Doubt, This proves his great versatility as an actor. Jennifer Jones is lovely as ever and she knows perfectly how to switch from the attitude of a little girl to the one of a young woman. This is my favourite performance of hers.

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Cecil Kellaway plays a good man and makes a good team-work alongside Ethel Barrymore and Joseph Cotten. This actor always seems to be a very sympathetic fellow. He’s like the nice uncle everybody likes, isn’t he?

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David Wayne certainly had a great sense of comedy. He plays the friend of Eben and his presence is most appreciated.

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And I have to say, he’s kind of cute dressed like that❤

Finally, Lillian Gish also embodies a certain wisdom, just like Ethel Barrymore, but this one is kind of different. I love Lillian Gish and it’s too bad that she only makes a very small appearance in the film. But she’s wonderful as always in her few minutes of glory.

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About its screenplay, Portrait of Jennie uses words and dialogues that makes us perfectly understand what this story is about and what it wants to make us see. Those make us think and seemed to have been chosen very carefully. Here are some of my favourites:

1- Jennie: I know we were meant to be together. The strands of our lives are woven together and neither the world nor time can tear them apart.

2- Jennie: There is no life, my darling, until you love and have been loved. And then there is no death.

3- Jennie : [singing] Where I come from nobody knows and where I am going everything goes. The wind blows, the sea flows, nobody knows. And where I am going, nobody knows.

4- Jennie: I wish that you would wait for me to grow up so that we could always be together.

5- Miss Spinney :  Don’t be soft, Matthews. I’m an old maid, and nobody knows more about love than an old maid.

6- Jennie : How beautiful the world is Eben! The sun goes down in in the same lovely sky. Just as it did yesterday, and will tomorrow.

Eben: When is tomorrow, Jenny?

Jennie: Does it matter? It’s always. This was tomorrow once.

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This is how the film is introduced to us

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Before leaving you, I have to talk more in details about the stunning cinematography by Joseph August and Lee Garmes. The funny thing is that, the majority of the film is in black and white, but during the crucial ending scene, there is a green and a sepia filter. What was the purpose? I’m not sure exactly. As for the closing shot, this one is in colour, and that was perfectly justified. But the beauty resides in the black and white cinematography, which illustrates perfectly the magic and the mystery of the film. There’s sort of something unreal in what we see on our screen. The whole thing seems almost like a long dream, not only for the characters in the movie, but also for us.  Joseph August knew perfectly how to use the light of the sun to make Manhattan looks like heaven. The night scenes are also wonderfully filmed and the city is presented to us as a real masterpiece, which certainly was appropriated for a movie about a painter. My favourite scene of the film is the one when Jennie and Eben are ice skating together. When Jennie arrives, that is for me, visually, the most memorable moment of the film.

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Jennie’s majestic’s entrance

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I often mentioned the word beauty in the article, but that’s because this film is a synonym of beauty. Ethel Barrymore’s performance is too. I haven’t seen many of her movies, but this one was the first one I saw. If you’re not too familiar with her, I believe it’s a good one to start with as she shows us her full potential as an actress. She’s just great you know. And I think she’s one of the main reasons why I’ll never be tired to watch this film.

I wanted to write about Portrait of Jennie since a long time and The Second Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon was a perfect occasion for me. So, I want to thank Crystal very much for organizing this amazing event. Next time, I might talk about Lionel Barrymore, who is my favourite Barrymore among all the Barrymore😉.

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But wait, that’s not all! You can also read the other entries here:

The Second Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon

See you, wherever we go.

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My answers to The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2016 tag

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To accompany her Alfred Hitchcock blogathon (which ended yesterday), Eva from Coffee, Classics and Craziness created this little questionnaire to know better our Hitchcockian tastes! Here are my answers to it.

It’s always fun to discuss anything about Hitchcock! I have to say that it’s 2:15 am now, but I can’t go to bed because Hitchcock keeps me awake (in the good way)!😀

  • What was the first Hitchcock film you ever watched?

It was The Birds, and I can remember my first viewing like if it was yesterday. My father often talked to me about this film so, one day, I finally decided to watch it. And I LOVED it. It was like nothing I had seen before. In the final scene of the film, I understood for the first time the importance of a great editing. I liked it so much that I watched it twice in the same weekend. You can read my post about it here:

The Birds: Meeting Alfred Hitchcock 

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  • What’s your favorite Hitchcock film?

The Man Who Knew Too Much (the 1956’s version). This film, I just love it! I know, it’s quite an unusual choice! I once wrote a review for it at ClassicFlix. It’s a movie that convinced many people I know to watch more Hitchcock’s films.

Teen Scene: The Man Who Knew Too Much

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  • What’s your least favorite Hitchcock film?

Euhm, I saw many Hitchcock’s films and there aren’t many that I don’t like. Maybe Number 17? It wasn’t very good and, quite frankly, I don’t really remember what it was about (and the sound of my dvd had such a poor quality that I couldn’t understand half of it, which didn’t really help). However, I must admit, the train scene at the end was visually quite impressive.

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  • What’s your favorite Hitchcock cameo?

It’s the one in Young and Innocent! Hitchcock is just so funny in it. I also believe it’s one of his longest cameos. He tries to speak, but nobody lets him. Poor Hitch!

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  • Who’s your favorite Hitchcock villain?

That would be Uncle Charlie from Shadow of a Doubt! One of the most interesting and complex villains ever. Plus, I LOVE Joseph Cotten.

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  • Hero?

Ah! Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave) in The Lady Vanishes. He makes me laugh so much!

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  • Heroine?

D.r Constance Pertersen (Ingrid Bergman) in Spellbound. Because she is such a good person. I just love her.

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Honorable mentions to Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) in The Lady Vanishes.

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As a matter of fact, many many Hitchcock’s characters deserve an honourable mention (heroes and villains)

  • What’s your favorite Hitchcock quote?

I didn’t know about this one, but I just read it and find it pretty amusing : “[Walt Disney] has the best casting. If he doesn’t like an actor he just tears him up.”

As we would say in French, “sacré Hitchcock!”

And also this one:

” To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.”

I couldn’t agree more.

  • And, finally, how many Hitchcock films have you watched?

I saw 45 of them plus some Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes:)

Hitch is my idol you know!

Thanks again Eva for organizing this even!:)

You can read the other participant’s answers here:

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2016 Tag

We haven’t finish discussing about Hitch at The Wonderful World of Cinema!😉

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I Confess : Hitchcock in Quebec

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Today, except from the fact that I was working at 10:30 and really was about to slap someone in the face, today is really one of my most favourite days of the year? Why, because we celebrate what would have been Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. For the occasion, of course, we ought to watch some of his films, but we, movie bloggers, also have the chance to participate to the Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon hosted by Coffee, Classics, & Craziness.
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When I saw the announcement for this blogathon I didn’t hesitate a minute to participate. The hardest part was actually to choose what to write about. Not because there is nothing to say about Hitch (au contraire!), but because there are too many possible subjects. I had already written a tribute to him in my earlier articles, but if I only think of his films, there are so many I want and still have to write about.
Well, I finally decided to take you with me on a trip to the old, charming and very catholic Quebec City of the fifties. I Confess, one of Hitchcock’s most underrated American films, is the one I’m going to explore for the occasion. I’ll convince you that it’s, in a way, one of his best films and one of the most worthy for any Hitchcock’s fans.
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I Confess was released in 1953. Apart from Hitch, the movie team was composed of Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, Brian Aherne, Roger Dann, Charles Andre, O. E Hasse, Dolly Haas, Judson Pratt, Ovila Légaré and Gilles Pelletier: the actors, George  Tabori and William Archibald: the screenwriters who adapted the play by Paul Anthelme, Dimitri Tiomkin who composed the music, Rudi Fehr who took care of the editing, and Robert Burks, the cinematographer.
I Confess is set (and was filmed) in Quebec City. The main story goes like it: A man has been murdered and his murderer, Otto Keller (O. E Hasse) goes to the church to confess his sin to his “friend” Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift). Because of the “law of silence” Father Logan can’t reveal what he has heard in the confessional. That begins to be problematic when, due to two little girls’ testimony, Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) starts to suspect him to be the murderer. Ruth Grandfort, his ex-girlfriend, is convinced of his innocence and is ready to reveal a lot to save him.
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I Confess was described by film critic Sarah Ortiz as being the most Catholic films of Hitchcock’s films. That goes without saying as the religion indeed has a major part to play in the film. Without it, we wouldn’t have any story, and we wouldn’t have this very clever plot element. Think about it. Isn’t that a great idea: a priest who cannot reveal a murder due to the Law of Silence, being even ready to sacrifice his own life. Someone had to think about it. Hitchcock himself had a Catholic education and  understood perfectly how things worked in the world: he couldn’t choose a better place than Quebec City, then very religious and conservative, to set his story. As a matter of fact, most of French-Canadian movies shot during this period all have something very catholic, even if it’s not necessarily the central subject. On a bitter note concerning the Catholicism, the movie was, on its released, ban by the Irish Republic as it showed a priest having a relation with a woman (however, this one has his relation before he becomes a priest…).
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But this very Catholic period in Quebec is not often remembered as a good thing. It was indeed very conservative and the province of Quebec was then in a sinister period, being governed by Maurice Duplessis. This period was called in French “La Grande Noirceur” (The Big Darkness). No liberties, except for the church who had an immense power. Fortunately, we managed to run away from it in the 60s with the Révolution Tranquille (The Quiet Revolution). But we can feel this sinister atmosphere in the film. I Confess is indeed one of the less funny Hitchcock’s films, aside from father Benoît and his bicycle. However, in his interview with François Truffaut, Hitchcock admitted that this film should have contained more humour. Maybe it was one of the factors why it wasn’t  a Box Office success… Was it TOO serious?
In an interview with the New-York Time, Hitchcock also revealed that he chose to shoot this film in Quebec City because “in no American city do you find a priest walking down the street in a cassock.” That’s quite true, which, once again, proves the omnipresence of the Catholic Church in the Quebec of the pre-sixties.
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The cast for I Confess was quite interesting as it was not a typical Hitchcockian cast. Hitch, indeed, liked the re-use the same actors (James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, etc.). But none of the I Confess actors had starred in one of his films before and would after. Also, he used a “method” actor, Montgomery Clift, for the main character. And we know he wasn’t particularly fond of method actors. To answer your question, yes, he had a difficult time with Monty during the shooting. Anne Baxter, yes, is blond (well, in this film) like Hitchcock liked it, but she isn’t the same blond type as Grace Kelly or Tippi Hedren were. I think the most interesting and relevant part of this cast is the use of two French-Canadian actors: Ovila Légaré and Gilles Pelletier (by the way, the only member of the cast who is still alive today). But we’ll come back to them later.
Montgomery Clift, even if Hitchcock wasn’t too convinced by him, did a great job in the role of Father Logan. His acting game is honest and fine. It is not overshadowed by the other great actors of the cast and he is in perfect harmony with the film itself. The only problem: he’s much too much handsome to be a priest! Ahah! Not that I have any prejudice about priest, but, you know, one can be disappointed.😉
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It’s thanks to this film that Anne Baxter became a very favourite of mine. As a matter of fact, this film is my favourite of hers. She’s just fantastic. She touches you and reaches your heart. She embodies the strongest emotions of the film. I sometimes can’t believe I used, a long time ago, not to care about this actress. Her sad eyes are adorable and her low voice is spellbinding.
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It is always a pleasure to see Karl Malden in any films, even if, in this one, he doesn’t have a very sympathetic role. But, whatever the type of character he is, he is always great. We don’t have to wonder if he will be, we know he will. I have to say, he is one of the most convincing actors of the film. Monty Clift is great, but we know he’s acting, pretending. Karl Malden is more natural. He just is what he has to be.
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The presence of Brian Aherne, a most intriguing actor, is quite intriguing.  He plays someone who can change very easily due to the circumstances. As a crown prosecutor in court , he will terrify Ruth Grandford, but in his everyday life, he is a friend to her. Brian Aherne is an actor with no pretension who fitted perfectly in the role of Willy Robertson. François Truffaut himself admitted to Hitchcock that Robertson was one of the most interesting characters of the film. Interesting fact: his first wife, actress Joan Fontaine, starred in two Hitchcock’s films: Rebecca and Suspicion.
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O. E Hasse, a German actor, was well chosen as a German immigrant. His character is quite dumb and annoying, I have to say, and Hasse succeed to be this way brilliantly. We just really feel sorry for this guy, just like Father Logan does. Dolly Haas, who plays his wife was an American-German actress. The name of her character, Alma Keller, was chosen in remembrance of Alma Reville, due to her physical ressemblance to Hitchcock’s wife. Alma is the most sensible character of the film. She is a good person and, just like father Logan, is ready to sacrifice herself, but this time, really to save someone, not only because of a “law”. If Anne Baxter was very touching, she is too.
I won’t talk about all the actors, but I have to mention the presence of Ovila Légaré and Gilles Pelletier, the two French-Canadian actors who were chosen to star in the film. Imagine the privilege to star in a Hitchcock’s film! They both don’t have a very big part, but those are both important for different reasons. Olivia Légaré plays the role of Villette, the man who has been murdered. We only saw him in the flashback scene, but all the story turns around him. Gilles Pelletier plays the role of Father Benoît, who will make us laugh with his bicycle. He’s probably the most sympathetic character and actor of the lot. To give you some historical facts, Ovila Légaré also was a singer. In the 50s, he also starred in Le Père Chopin, Un homme et son pécher, Le Curé du Village and Le Rossignol et les cloches (as a restorer – my favourite role of his). As for Gilles Pelletier, he is the brother of Denis Pelletier, an important French-Canadian actress. I saw him recently in La grande séduction, which is known as one of the best French-Canadian films.
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I Confess‘ cinematography, conducted by Robert Burks, simply is a masterpiece. I have to say, among all black and white Hitchcock’s films, I think this one has the most beautiful cinematography. Curiously, Burks also took care of the cinematography of To Catch a Thief, which is, for me, visually, the most beautiful Hitchcock’s color film. He also was the cinematographer for Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds and Marnie. Hum, I think Hitch appreciated his work. And he was right! Robert Burks won an Oscar for his work in To Catch a Thief (very well deserved).
I Confess is visually stunning. The way Burks shows the old Quebec City to the spectators’ eye is mesmerizing. He creates a dark and mysterious atmosphere by making contrasts with the darkness and the light. He films the church and the crosses in very interesting angles. I Confess has a very “film noir” aesthetic, and it’s probably for this reason that it sometimes is considered to be a noir. The best example of it would be the opening scene. As for the opening credits, those shows us the Château Frontenac, an important symbol of the city, which was an idealistic way to introduce the film.
To add a sonorous ambiance to this mysterious illustrations of Quebec, Dimitri Tiomkin composed an effective musical score. It is not remembered has the most famous score from an Hitchcock’s film (Tiomkin wasn’t Bernard Hermann), but his music does the job and he understood what he had to do.
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It’s unfortunate that I Confess didn’t have a bigger success on it’s release. It’s a brilliant an entertaining story. It has an immense suspense like every Hitchcock’s films. Even today, it’s still snubbed by many. What do people need? On a better note, I Confess was a favourite among the directors of the New Wave (that includes François Truffaut, of course). So, it’s a proof that it can be appreciated by people with great tastes. This film, I like it more and more each time I watch it. It’s the kind of film you discover something new every time you watch it. When I saw it for the last time, yesterday, with my mother, this one thought it was an excellent film. And she’s not François Truffaut! So “normal” people can also like/love it.
I had the chance, last winter, to see it on big screen. One word: stunning. It’s thanks to this experience that I realized how it was visually beautiful. Also, the fact that it doesn’t only take place in Quebec, but that it was really filmed there is quite appreciable for someone like me, who has often been there (last time, I was waiting for my parents who were stuck in the traffic – er – not as thrilling as an Hitchcock’s film…). It’s always nice when you watch this film and you recognize the places. But it’s the fact that it was directed by Hitchcock that make the whole lot so special!
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Anyway, it’s a film that deserves many more chances! I was here today to honour Hitchcock, but also to honour one of his most underrated films, because it deserved to be.
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A big thanks to Coffee Classics and Craziness for hosting this wonderful blogathon.
Don’t forget to read the other entries as well!
Happy heavenly birthday Hitch!
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A chase melodrama, in which a film actress is murdered by her estranged husband who is jealous of her young lovers.  

The following day, writer, Robert Tisdall, one of her lovers, finds her body washed up on the beach.  However, as he runs off for help, he is seen by two witnesses who suspect he is the murderer.

Tisdall is arrested by the police for suspicion of murder, but owing to a mix up at the court, manages to escape and go on the run.   Now he must attempt to prove himself innocent of a charge of murder based on circumstantial evidence.
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Young and Innocent, a Typical Hitchcock’s British Film Indeed!

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For those who have read this blog since I created it, you probably know that I’m fond of British films (REAL British films). Following this idea, Terence Twoles Canote’s British Invaders Blogathon is one of my favourite blogging events. Last year, if you remember, I wrote about the very British Anthony Asquith’s The Importance of Being Earnest. For this year’s blogathon, I decided to go with my good old Hitchcock and introduce you to Young and Innocent.
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As a matter of fact, Young and Innocent is not Hitchcock most well known film, but it was my introduction to his pre-1940 British films. And I can positively say that, alongside The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, The Lodger, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Murder!, it’s one of his best from this period.
Actually, Young and Innocent is a good introduction to every Hitchcock’s films in general, not only those produced in the UK. Why? We’ll come back to that in a short while.
Young and Innocent (also known as The Girl Was Young in the US) was released in 1937. It was one of Hitchcock’s last films before moving to the States where he’ll make some films produced by the prolific (but not always appreciated by the Master) David O’Selznick.
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Young and Innocent is one of those typical “wrong man” Hitchcock’s films: A movie star, Christine Clay, has been murdered. Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney) is wrongly accused of being the murderer. Before the trial starts, he manages to escape. The Chief Constable’s daughter, Erica (Nova Pilbeam), after few hesitations, will help him to find the real murderer.
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This is very simple. And as you can see, a typical Hitchcock’s film. Of course, everything doesn’t happen the same way for each Hitchcock’s film of this type! The stories are not the same ones, the characters either.
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Like every Hitchcock’s films (except for The Ring), Young and Innocent was based on a literary work. However, IMDB informs us that the master of Suspense only used one-third of Elizabeth Mackintosh’s novel A Shilling for Candles (written under the name of Josephine Tey), and changed the identity of the murderer. The film’s screenplay was written by Charles Bennett, Edwin Greenwood and Anthony Armstrong. Charles Bennett is also known for being the author of Blackmail, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, Secret Agent, Foreign Correspondent and Saboteur‘s screenplays, all films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The two men certainly made a prolific pair. Bennett was nominated at the 1941’s Oscar for his work on Foreign Correspondent.
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Young and Innocent presents us a delicious bunch of exclusively British actors who all portray quite intriguing characters. That’s one the strengths of this film: the characters’ variety and their strong contribution to the film.
Starting with Derrick de Marney as Robert Tisdall. This one has indeed the perfect “young and innocent” face. His acting remains very simple, but he doesn’t neglect that British humour that we appreciate so much in Hitchcock’s films. His kind manners make him credible as being the innocent one. In other words, he is one we can easily appreciate.
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This was not Nova Pilbeam’s first film under the direction of Hitchcock. Indeed, she previously played the role of Betty Lawrence in the original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). She was only 19 when she starred in Young and Innocent, but what a brilliant actress she already was! It’s too bad that she wasn’t more well-know. However, she had quite a short film career. Her character, Erica, is someone who will take time before admitting she likes someone, but who will secretly do everything for this person. We can feel that, at some occasions, Nova Pilbeam is maybe a little bit too emotional, but she remains brilliant anyway. Alongside Vivien Leigh, Nova Pilbeam was one of the actresses considered for the role of Iris Henderson in Hithcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). The role went to Margaret Lockwood. Also, David O’Selznick, who saw her potential in Young and Innocent, wanted to cast her for Rebecca, but the part went to Joan Fontaine. Maybe this would have made her an international film star.
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Young and Innocent was Percy Marmont’s last film under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. He doesn’t have a leading role, but a very useful and appreciable supporting one. He was very well-cast as the Chief Constable, Colonel Burgoyne, a man who applies the law, but who is not thick headed like some others. I have to say that, among all Hitchcock’s films he made, this one has to be my favourite role of his. He is simple (in the good way) and doesn’t exaggerate his acting.
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Edward Rigby, who portrays Old Will, is a perfect British character actor. Ok, I haven’t seen many of his film, but viewing Young and Innocent is enough to say that. He is, by no doubt, the funniest actor of the lot. Just to think of the way he dances makes me smile. Of course, without the character of Old Will himself, the film wouldn’t be the same and the events of the story would certainly take a different turn.
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Wait, I said Edward Rigby is the funniest actor of the lot. Actually, J.H Roberts as the Solicitor, Henry Briggs, is too. With is awesome accent he also embodies the most “British” character of the film. It’s too bad that we see him in the film for only a very short while. His presence, as much small as she is, is highly appreciated.
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Finally, Young and Innocent introduced Mary Clare and Basil Radford to the Hitchcockian world. In Young and Innocent they play Erica’s aunt and uncle, but we also saw them together the next year as Charters and Baronne Isabel Nisatona in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. We also saw Basil Radford in Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Their part in Young and Innocent is unfortunately quite small. They play an amusing duo and we regret not seeing them longer. For those who have seen them in The Lady Vanishes, you’ll agree with me that it’s hard not to smile when we see them is this small scene of Young and Innocent. Of course, this film proves us Mary Clare’s versatility as an actress because her role is so different from the one in The Lady Vanishes. In Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitchcock reveals to us that this birthday party scene where we see the two actors was cut in the American version of the film. Most regrettable. As he explains, it’s quite an important scene and it was stupid to delete it.
Apart from the actors, Hitchcock had his cameo in the film! And you know what? This is my favourite Hitchcock’s cameo. We see him during this scene when Robert escapes. He’s there with a very small camera which creates a cute and funny contrast: the big Hitchcock and a teeny tiny camera. This looks completely ridiculous, and, the poor one, he tries to take a picture, but we can clearly see he can’ because of all the scene’s chaos. He also tries to say something to the policeman next to him, but this one is too busy with other things to listen to him. Poor Hitch!
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Take a moment to watch this scene (the cameo is at 1min28)
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To continue with the narrative aspects of the film, what I like about it is the irony of the climax. During this one, the trio formed by Robert, Erica and Old Will is at the Grand Hotel to find the real murderer. I won’t hide to you that he is there indeed, but what’s funny about this scene is the fact that he completely ridicules himself. He’s not subtle at all. The Young and Innocent‘s villain is certainly one of Hitchcock’s most clumsy villains. He just has to see Old Will to loose all his credibility (you’ll understand why when you’ll see the film).
I also like this scene when Robert manages to run away by only hiding himself with a pair of glasses. Are people that nut? This film certainly has a lot of humour, a Hitchcockian humour indeed.
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You might wonder why it is called Young and Innocent. Well, I read in a book about Hitchcock that, in this film, the children behave like adults and the adults behave like children. It’s not completely false! For example, at the gas station, it’s a little boy who fills up the gas tank instead of his father who is busy eating his lunch. And we can see Erica’s aunt amusement when she plays with the children at her daughter’s birthday party. The title could also be a reference to the simple fact that the protagonist of the film, Robert is young and… innocent: he hasn’t killed Christine Clay. But in a general idea, the two main characters of the story are young people. Derrick De Marney was already 31 when he starred in this film (it’s not “old”, but it’s not as young as Nova Pilbeam), but we have to agree that he looks much younger. I mentioned that, in the US, the film was called The Girl Was Young. Well, yes, she was young, but I believe it’s a much less interesting title as it contains nothing very relevant. This is just like if To Catch a Thief, for example, was called The Girl Was Rich
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For the technical aspects, Young and Innocent remains very interesting for this travelling shot in the Grand Hotel. The camera shows us a long shot of the ballroom and gradually moves to the murdered to end this travelling with an extreme close-up of his eyes. That’s something Hitchcock liked to do: moving from a general view of something to one very precise element. He repeated the same thing in Notorious, when the camera shows us the famous key in Ingrid Bergman’s hand, but the effect was not as much well made as it was in Young and Innocent. We can easily say that it’s the best shot of the film.
In the same scene, the music also has a very important role to play. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, I simply want to inform you that I’ll be revealing spoilers in this paragraph. As I explained in my article Hitchcock and the Music, that scene has to be my favourite collaboration between Hitchcock and the music. The way he uses it is quite amazing. During this scene, there’s a band playing music and the singer sings “I’m right here to tell you mister, no one can like the drummer man!” A song that seems anodyne at first, but who turns out to be a big clue as we soon discover that, the man Erica, Robert and Old Will are looking for his… the drummer man! Of course, this adds even more irony to the scene. No One Can Like the Drummer Man was composed by Samuel Lerner [end of the spoilers].
You can watch this scene here (or wait to see the full movie if you don’t want any spoilers revealed).
Warning: the song will probably be stuck in your head forever (but it’s a nice song, luckily)!
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Well, Young and Innocent, as you can see, is one of those less known Hitchcock’s films that certainly deserve to be seen and be better known. I can say, without hesitation, that, after The Lady Vanishes, this one is my second favourite British Hitchcock’s film. It’s a real entertainment and it can only make you want to see more of his early work.
If you haven’t seen it, I invite you to do so, it’s only 1h20😉
A big thanks to Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts for, once again, hosting this amazing event. As Always, it was a pleasure for me to review an Hitchcock’s film!
Don’t forget to read the other entries as well:
See you!
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