1946: 2 movies

(Last updated 19 April 2014)

My Darling Clementine
Directed by John Ford
Written by Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller
Produced by Samuel G. Engel
Cinematography by Joseph MacDonald
Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Art Direction by James Basevi and Lyle R. Wheeler
Costumes by RenĂ© Hubert
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Starring Henry Fonda, Victor Mature,
Linda Darnell, and Walter Brennan

   To encapsulate this movie in a couple lines, I'd say it demonstrates the pursuit of beauty and justice in the face of great greed, theft, violence, pride, and bloodshed. And it does so with a wealth of grand photography, a tremendous build-up of suspense, and great acting.
   If you can get past the racism and sexism, you will be swept away to a setting of a dangerous frontier town where law is a fragile thing. It was only to be a pit-stop for Wyatt Earp and his brothers, but the town won't let them move on so easily. The magic of the movie is its realistic juggling of moods, tragedy and romance, violence and humor. All of these elements peek out in rapid succession, showing that our quick emotional adaptability has long been a requirement for survival. In a way, this movie set as a standard the recipe most suspenseful movies still use today: the ratcheting up of the intensity, the amped emotions, and the one cool-headed force that we seem to see in slow-motion through the haze of action, in this case Fonda's Earp. It's as if he's one of the first super-heroes in cinema, after Chaplin's tramp and a few other classic movie characters. The opening massacre is what hooks us initially. The changing allegiances and tones of each character, which makes our moral compass off-kilter and that much more desperate for a hero, keeps us engaged. Fonda's character, Wyatt Earp, with all of his modesty, his unassuming, business-first attitude, mixed with his equal sides of tenderness and toughness, makes him the perfect engine to propel us through the complicated adventure.
   Additionally, the character of the nomadic Shakespearean actor adds an element of bizarre humor and self-reflexively comments on the medium of story-telling. This movie seems to share some lineage with "Destry Rides Again" (1939), "The 39 Steps" (1935), and several Chaplin movies, like "The Pilgrim" (1923).

A Matter of Life and Death
Written, directed, and produced by
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Cinematography by Jack Cardiff
Editing by Reginald Mills
Production design by Alfred Junge
Starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring,
Kathleen Byron, and Robert Coote

   One person thinks he's died and made a deal with angels to come back, while everyone around him thinks he's mental. The interesting thing is that we see both from his perspective and that of his friends, and so we are put in the position of the objective viewer who holds both perspectives just as real as the other. It's a great idea borrowed from "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941), but brought to life better because of the performances and the cinematography, as well as a heavier emphasis on the psychological. The color photography is stunningly beautiful, while the afterlife scenes are drenched in humor but photographed in black and white. This photographic choice gives the movie a feeling of desperate mortality and a reminder of the preciousness and beauty only found while one is alive. That is what makes this and the following two Powell-Pressburger movies so delicious, that the technique enhances the emotional aspect of the story.

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