This post is a part of TMP’s “Historical Context” series, in which I share excerpts from my collection of vintage publications. Today’s tidbits come from the June 1944 combined issue of Photoplay and Movie Mirror.
The June 1944 Photoplay/Movie Mirror combined issue is one of my favorites from my entire collection. A beautiful photo of Olivia de Havilland by Paul Hesse adorns the cover, and the issue has some of the most fun articles I’ve ever seen in a movie magazine, such as Dorothy Kilgallen listing off all the Hollywood men she’d love to marry if she was single.
I will be sharing a lot of fun content from this issue in the future, but today I’ve decided to take a look at the magazine’s film reviews of the month. Since the June issue would have been released on May 1, 1944, it features reviews of films that were released in April and May of that year.
The reviews are broken down into four categories. Three check marks denotes an “outstanding” picture. Two check marks are given to “very good” flicks. One check mark is given to “good,” entertaining but not phenomenal films. If a review is completely free of check marks, the film is not recommended in the least.
The best pictures of the month are listed as White Cliffs of Dover, Days of Glory and Follow the Boys. None of these films are marked “outstanding.” The highest check-mark value given in the June issue is two. These “very good” flicks certainly did impress the reviewers, though; Irene Dunne and Alan Marshall picked up “best performance of the month” accolades for White Cliffs, as did Gregory Peck and Tamara Toumanova for Days of Glory. White Cliffs of Dover is praised for maintaining the “charm and dignity” of the poem on which it was based; Days of Glory is praised for its performers outshining the familiar themes of the script; Follow the Boys is pointed to as the definition of a “colossal” film, packed with stars and “nostalgic numbers.”
A couple more films were given the “very good” distinction by the mag: Broadway Rhythm and Buffalo Bill. Photoplay criticizes Broadway Rhythm as needing “a little more story and a few less people,” but praises the performances of the entire cast. As for Buffalo Bill, the mag describes the film as “A magnificent Western with color emphasizing the beauty of the great West.”
Quite a few films were classified as “good” by the June issue’s reviewers. Action in Arabia, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Casanova in Burlesque, Chip Off the Old Block, Ladies Courageous, Nine Girls, Four Jills and a Jeep, Up in Mabel’s Room and Shine On Harvest Moon were all given one check mark. Reasons for the lowered score range from the film seeming like it “must have been made just for the fun of it” (Ali Baba) to not staying true enough to the source material (Shine On Harvest Moon).
A whopping twelve films earn the infamous distinction of a zero-check-mark score: The Bridge of San Luis Ray, Career Girl, Charlie Chan and the Secret Service, My Best Gal, The Falcon Out West, Detective Kitty O’Day, Hat Check Honey, The Whistler, The Chinese Cat, Hi Good Lookin’, The Lady and the Monster and The Monster Maker. Unsurprisingly, most of these are B-level flicks which have since fallen into the vortex that is known as the public domain. I agree with some of Photoplay’s choices for the stinkers of Spring 1944; Detective Kitty O’Day did not impress me when I reviewed it last year. Some films, our views don’t quite align on. I would have given a check mark to Career Girl, which I reviewed on this blog with a 3/5 score in my Mill Creek Musings series.
What would you rate these films from 1944 on the check mark grading scale? Share ’em in the comments section!
A note from Lindsey: Old fan magazines fascinate me because I love to see what people were saying about these films and stars decades ago, long before I discovered them (or long before I was even born!). I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed researching it. Let me know if you’d like to see more posts of this type — I have over 100 mags that I can share from!