Modern Screen reviews the releases of Fall/Winter 1949

This post is a part of TMP’s Historical Context series, in which I share excerpts from my vintage magazine collection.

The December 1949 issue of Modern Screen, like all issues of Modern Screen, contains reviews of all of the hot new releases of that month, as well as shorter reviews of recent-but-not-quite-new films that were still showing in theaters. Christopher Kane shares his thoughts on a great number of films, including They Live by Night and Everybody Does It. The following are excerpts from his reviews of the month’s new releases.

(Image via Zebradelic)
The Doctor and the Girl (Image via Zebradelic)

They Live by Night
starring Cathy O’Donnell and Farley Granger

Kane was impressed by this one (as was I, when I watched it last year). He says: “For me, it’s the occasional picture that takes you unawares, the unballyhooed treasure you stumble over in the dark, that really puts the thrill into movie-going. They Live by Night is an example.” Kane praises the acting, saying that it “is enough to make your breath catch in your throat,” and also gives the film props for its simplicity and honesty.

The Doctor and the Girl
starring Glenn Ford, Charles Coburn, Gloria De Haven and Janet Leigh
Kane found this film to be incredibly soapy. He does praise the talents of Coburn and Leigh, saying that their subplot of romance is “far superior to the rest of the picture.”

I Married a Communist
starring Laraine Day, Robert Ryan and John Agar
Kane doesn’t seem to buy this film’s message, saying that it paints Communists as “incautious and generally goofy” folks who are “running around San Francisco like a bunch of Al Capone’s boys.” The reviewer finds himself unable to take the film seriously.

Father Was a Fullback
starring Fred MacMurray, Maureen O’Hara, Betty Lynn and Natalie Wood

Kane calls this one “good-natured fun.” The way he describes the plot makes it sound incredibly silly and makes the characters sound hilariously over-dramatic. A football coach with a losing team gets the shock of his life when he finds that his lonely daughter has written an article titled “I Was a Child Bubble Dancer” for a True Confessions-style magazine.

(Image via Brian's Drive-In Theater)
Chicago Deadline (Image via Brian’s Drive-In Theater)

Oh, You Beautiful Doll
starring June Haver, Mark Stevens, S.Z. Sakall and Charlotte Greenwood
Kane finishes off this otherwise vague review with a zinger: “Genuises are unpredictable, and especially in technicolor.” He doesn’t completely give his thoughts on this film away, dedicating the majority of the review’s space to mere plot description.

Chicago Deadline
starring Alan Ladd, Donna Reed, June Havoc, etc.
Kane seems to have been somewhat impressed by this mystery flick, which follows a reporter investigating the death of a girl who he found lying dead in a hotel. He describes it as “quite a fascinating picture, but unbelievably complicated” — perhaps somewhat similar to The Big Sleep, which is a wonderful film but has a lot going on.

Song of Surrender
starring Wanda Hendrix, Claude Rains, Macdonald Carey and Andrea King

The reviewer marks this film only “moderately interesting,” but with excellent lead perofrmances, especially from Wanda Hendrix, who “shows promise of a real dramatic fire.”

Thieves'  Highway (Image via DVD Beaver)
Thieves’ Highway (Image via DVD Beaver)

Thieves’ Highway
starring Richard Conte, Valentina Cortesa and Lee J. Cobb
Kane notes that this film shares a writer with They Drive By Night, and that both films center on truckers who get into trouble. He shares that he found the film thrilling (“the way only Fox seems to make ’em”) and was impressed by the performances with the exception of the “a trifle corny” Italian actress Valentina Cortesa.

Everybody Does It
starring Paul Douglas, Linda Darnell, Celeste Holm and Charles Coburn
Modern Screen has named this “one of the funniest movies of the year” — “the whole picture’s a delight!” Kane praises the film’s zany plot and dialogue, and the performance of Millard Mitchell.

The Red Danube
starring Walter Pidgeon, Ethel Barrymore, Peter Lawford, Janet Leigh, etc.
Kane seems critical of this film for its overt anti-Soviet stance, saying “The movies certainly aren’t treating the Russians diplomatically anymore.” He takes issue with the script’s “gratuitous and absurd” (and also completely false) assertions about Russian people, such as a Ethel Barrymore’s quip of “You Communists don’t believe in Christmas” — Kane says Russians celebrate Christmas for three days straight. He says the film has a lot of stars and Louis Calhern does particuarly well in his role, but as for the picture’s overall merit, Kane is unconvinced.

Have you seen any of these films that were reviewed by Christopher Kane? If you have, feel free to share your own agreements and rebuttals to Kane’s reviews in the comments section!

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2 thoughts on “Modern Screen reviews the releases of Fall/Winter 1949

  1. I totally agree with Kane on ‘The Live by Night’ (and I’d marry Cathy O’Donnell if I could!) and ‘Thieves Highway’, but those were the only two from the list I’ve seen! Both of course are noir films, and I think they’re both great.

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