My Top 10:

A perfect example of Gregg Toland's deep-focus cinematography in Citizen Kane, keeping both Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in focus.

  1. Citizen Kane
  2. The Maltese Falcon
  3. Fantasia
  4. The Lady Eve
  5. Suspicion
  6. High Sierra
  7. Ball of Fire
  8. How Green Was My Valley
  9. The Little Foxes
  10. Pepe le Moko

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture:  How Green Was My Valley
  • Best Director:  John Ford  (How Green Was My Valley)
  • Best Actor:  Gary Cooper  (Sergeant York)
  • Best Actress:  Joan Fontaine  (Suspicion)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Donald Walsh  (How Green Was My Valley)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Mary Astor  (The Great Lie)
  • Best Screenplay:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Citizen Kane
  • Best Original Story:  Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Consensus Awards:

  • Best Picture:  Citizen Kane
  • Best Director:  John Ford  (How Green Was My Valley)
  • Best Actor:  Gary Cooper  (Sergeant York)
  • Best Actress:  Joan Fontaine  (Suspicion)

Top 5 Films  (Top 1000)

  • Citizen Kane – #1
  • The Lady Eve – #114
  • The Maltese Falcon – #161
  • Fantasia – #279
  • How Green Was My Valley – #355

Top 5 Awards Points

  1. How Green Was My Valley – 570
  2. Citizen Kane – 505
  3. Sergeant York – 475
  4. Here Comes Mr. Jordan – 345
  5. The Little Foxes – 300

AFI Top 100 Films:

  • Citizen Kane – #1  (both polls)
  • The Maltese Falcon – #23  (1998) / #31  (2007)
  • Fantasia – #58  (1998)

Nighthawk Awards:

Barbara Stanwyck showing her seductive allure to Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (1941)

  • Best Picture:  Citizen Kane
  • Best Director:  Orson Welles (Citizen Kane)
  • Best Actor:  Orson Welles  (Citizen Kane)
  • Best Actress:  Barbara Stanwyck  (The Lady Eve)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Sydney Greenstreet  (The Maltese Falcon)
  • Best Supporting Actress:  Teresa Wright  (The Little Foxes)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:  The Maltese Falcon (from the novel by Dashiell Hammett)
  • Best Original Screenplay:  Citizen Kane

Nighthawk Notables:

  • Best Film to Watch Over and Over:  The Maltese Falcon
  • Best Scene:  “The Dance of the Hours” in Fantasia – dancing hippos!!!
  • Best Line:  “Men like my father cannot die.  They are with us still, as real in memory as they were in the flesh – loving and beloved forever.”  (How Green Was My Valley – Roddy McDowall)
  • Best Ending:  Citizen Kane

Ebert Great Films:

  • The Lady Eve
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Maltese Falcon

John Huston and Orson Welles both make their film debuts, perhaps the two best in film history.  Yet, somehow, in the end, it is John Ford, the older master who comes out on top at the Oscars, winning his first Best Picture and his third Best Director.  But Huston and Welles will continue to make their influence known as the dark shadows and fog of Falcon and the new innovations in filming from Kane influence the most enduring genre to emerge from the war: Film Noir.

Film History: In spite of the Hearst newspapers refusing to even mention the title of Citizen Kane it goes on to win Best Picture from both critics groups and get nominated for 9 Oscars.  Today it is widely regarded as the greatest and most influential film ever made.  Ava Gardner is spotted in a photograph and signed to a 7 year contract with MGM while Rita Hayworth gets her first starring role.  Frank Capra becomes the first major film industry figure to join the armed forces, signing up 5 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Greta Garbo retires from films.  George Raft turns down roles in both High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, allowing Humphrey Bogart to catapult into stardom.  Edwin S. Porter, the silent film pioneer, dies.

Academy Awards: How Green Was My Valley wins Best Picture while having fewer nominations than Sergeant York, the first winner since 1934 to not lead the field in nominations.  John Ford wins Best Director, joining Frank Capra with 3 Oscars.  Orson Welles beats Charlie Chaplin’s mark from the year before by getting 4 nominations for the same film (Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor).  The Little Foxes sets a new record by going 0 for 9, a mark that will stand until 1977.  Best Documentary is added as a category.  Instead of Best Score and Best Original Score, the categories are changed to Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.  Joan Fontaine wins Best Actress over her sister, Olivia de Havilland.  Citizen Kane and Sergeant York compete against each other directly in 9 categories with Kane winning once and York twice.  In five categories (Picture, Director, Editing, Dramatic Score, Interior Decoration – B&W), Citizen Kane, Sergeant York, How Green Was My Valley and Little Foxes all compete with each other.  Cary Grant finally gets Oscar nominated – for the sentimental melodrama Penny Serenade.  Walter Brennan is nominated but loses for the first time after three wins.  Fox President Darryl F. Zanuck opens How Green Was My Valley on the last day of Oscar eligibility to keep the film fresh in the voters minds, the first to do so.

  • Worst Oscar:  Best Editing for Sergeant York
  • Worst Oscar Nomination:  Best Editing for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Worst Oscar Omission:  Best Director for John Huston  (The Maltese Falcon)
  • Worst Oscar-Nominated Film:  All American Co-Ed
  • Worst Oscar Category:  Cinematography  (Color)
  • Best Oscar Category:  Best Supporting Actress
  • Oscar / Nighthawk Awards Agreement:  Best Original Screenplay

Awards: Gary Cooper becomes the first person to win Best Actor from the New York Film Critics and go on to win the Oscar.  Citizen Kane joins the growing list of films to win both the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review and lose at the Oscars.  John Ford wins Best Director from the NYFC for the third consecutive year and fourth time overall.  Joan Fontaine joins Luise Rainer and Vivien Leigh as winners of both the NYFC and the Oscar.  Pepe le Moko wins Best Foreign Film from the NBR while the NYFC declines to name one, citing the scarcity of Foreign films due to the war.  Neither group will choose a Best Foreign Film again until 1946.

Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery in Hitchcock's Screwball Comedy classic: Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)

Under-appreciated Film of 1941:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (dir.  Alfred Hitchcock)

That this film is forgotten and that the atrocity with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie should have re-used the title is a travesty.

Of course, that this film is forgotten is not entirely the fault of modern audiences.  While dreck like All American Co-Ed, Blood and Sand, Son of Monte Cristo and Las Vegas Nights were receiving Oscar nominations (ensuring that completists like me would eventually track them down), this film gets not a single mention.  Nor did Hitchcock try to keep it around for posterity, given his view of the film:

That picture was done as a friendly gesture to Carole Lombard.  At the time, she was married to Clark Gable, and she asked whether I’d do a picture with her.  In a weak moment I accepted, and I more or less followed Norman Krasna’s screenplay.  Since I really didn’t understand the type of people who were portrayed in the film, all I did was to photograph the scenes as written.  (Hitchcock/Truffaut, p 139)

That’s it for the mention in the book, except later when Truffaut says that the comedies were an “out and out waste of time” and Hitchcock agrees.  Hitchcock spends more time in the book explaining Carole Lombard’s practical joke on the set about Hitchcock’s famous “actors are cattle” comment.  They don’t talk about the film at all.

And that’s a shame, because, coming on at the tail end of the great Screwball Comedies, this is a great example.  It highlights Carole Lombard’s phenomenal comedic gifts, one of her best performances (along with My Man Godfrey and To Be or Not to Be).  It is more tragic that it is forgotten as it was the last film Lombard lived to see as she died early in 1942 in a plane crash while on a war bond drive before To Be was released.

It also stars Robert Montgomery in one of his best roles.  Montgomery often gets forgotten when talking about stars of the forties in lieu of such wooden performers as Tyrone Power and Victor Mature, but it was Montgomery who had truly great range, with his killer in Night Must Fall, his reincarnated boxer in Here Comes Mr. Jordan and his detective in Ride the Pink Horse.  And the two of them have such wonderful chemistry as a couple who find out by accident that their marriage was never truly legal and how that pulls them apart and how they are eventually back together.  In some ways it is a remake of The Awful Truth with a few different twists thrown in and lacking the supporting performance of Ralph Bellamy.  But while Truth has been immortalized by the presence of Cary Grant and the Oscar for Best Director, no such praises come this way for Smith.

Take a couple of hours to watch it.  Especially the opening scenes, where we slowly learn that they have been fighting for two days and that they never leave the room when they are fighting; they stay together until they can work it out.  Watch how Montgomery tries to sneak a fast one past Lombard and watch their reactions with each other.  Don’t let yourself miss such a wonderful film.

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