Meet John Doe (1941)

Frank Capra directed and cowrote this gripping tale of a man, who says he’s fed up with the rotten people in the world, and will commit suicide at midnight on New Year’s Eve in protest.  His letter to a newspaper captures the attention of the nation. But he’s really the publicity stunt of an ambitious reporter (Barbara Stanwyck).  She gets a bum (Gary Cooper) to pose as ‘John Doe’, and she writes inspiring speeches for him to give to the public. They realize they might have a problem when John begins to believe in the speeches he makes.

1hr. 50min.

Ball of Fire (1941)

In this modern take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, eight scientist, each an expert in his field, have been working on an encyclopedia on slang for the past nine years.  One day they realize that their slang isn’t current, so they send out their youngest scientist (Gary Cooper) whos’ expertise is in vocabulary.  While collecting information, he meets Sugar Puss O’Shae (Barbara Stanwyk), the fast talking girlfriend of a notorious gangster (Dana Andrews).  When it looks like Sugar Puss might have to turn states evidence against Andrews, she decides to hide out with the “old mothballs,” as she calls the scientists.

Featuring an endearing cast of characters, this is a charming comedy where sometimes even if you know all the words you just can’t seem to find the right ones.

1hr. 41min.

Suspicion (1941)

Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine star in Alfred Hitchcocks suspenseful tale of a young wife who begins to suspect that her husband is going to kill her for her life insurance.

At first everything seems perfect; a whirlwind courtship between shy young Lina (Fontaine) and debonair Johnny (Grant). It soon becomes apparent that Johnny is a compulsive gambler and spendthrift. After embezzling in order to gamble Johnny becomes desperate. Then when a business deal goes down the drain, he becomes fascinated with the idea of a perfect murder.

Remember the Night (1940)

This film, written by Preston Sturges, tells the funny and poignant story of a thief named Lee (Barbara Stanwyk) and her prosecuting attorney John (Fred MacMurry). Taken into court just days before Christmas on a charge of shoplifting, Lees’ case is postponed by John who, through different circumstances, descides to take her to his families’ home for Christmas. Once there, she receives all the love she never knew as a child.

1hr. 40min.

Random Harvest (1942)

Beginning at the end of WWI, this film tells the story of an amnesia afflicted soldier (Ronald Coleman) and the woman (Greer Garson) whom he befriends and then marries.  Their happiness is cut short when, one day he slips on the rain soaked streets and suddenly regains his memories, but remembers nothing of the last three years of his life.  He returns back to his old life, but still feels the loss he can not remember, his only clue is an unnumbered key in his pocket.

The moving ending to this film is (I feel) on the same level of Charlie Chaplins’ classic City Lights. 

2hrs. 8min.

Casablanca (1943)

Set in Northern Africa during WWII, the small city of Casablanca becomes a melting pot for a variety of desperate individuals trying to escape the dangers of war.  Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is a bitter night club owner who one night has Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), a woman from his past, walk back into his life as she literally walks through the clubs doors.

This atmospheric masterpiece was filmed almost entirely on just three sets, while the script was being handed out as it was written daily, giving the film the sense of urgency and uncertainty that has made it one of the greatest films of all time.  Caping it off is the unforgettably romantic and poignant theme song “As Time Goes By”.

1hr. 42min.

The Major and the Minor (1942)

Susan Applegate (Ginger Rogers) has been living in New York for the past year and has decided she wants to return to her hometown in Iowa. Unfortunately the train fare has gone up and not wanting to stay in NYC a day longer she decides to pose as a 12 year old to get a half priced ticket.  She is befriended by a kindly solider Major Philip Kirby (Ray Milland) and when the train is stranded because of a mud slide, he decides to take the “little girl” with him to his fiancé home. All chaos breaks out, when her home turns out to be amidst an all boy West Point like school, who are all too eager to impress young Susan. Things get more complicated when Susan starts to develop feelings for Philip.

1hr. 40min.

Anna and the King of Siam (1946)

Based on a true story this film chronicles the up and down relationship between Anna Leowens (Irene Dunne), a British teacher and widow who’s come to Siam in the 1860’s, and the King (Rex Harrison), who’s many children she has come to teach. Along with the vast cultural differences, Anna and her son must face the realities of injustice and almost tyranny that the king levels towards his people and in particular towards women. Despite all this the two become unlikely friends as they try to bring a new future to the country.

This inspiring story was later made into a broadway musical and then the classic film, “The King and I”.

2hr. 8min.

Little Women (1949)

This is the classic film adaption of Louisa May Alcotts novel about four sisters growing up during the American civil war.  The oldest is Meg (Janet Leigh), always proper but not above having fun with her tomboy sister Jo (June Allyson).  Next is beautiful and vain Amy (Elizabeth Taylor) and little Beth (Margaret O`Brian).  Into their little world comes Laurie (Peter Lawford), with him they share laughter, tears and triumph.  Co-starring Mary Astor and Rossano Brazzi.

2hr. 2min.

My Favorite Brunette (1947)

Bob Hope stars as Ronnie Jackson; a baby photographer who longs to be a private eye.  Through a mix-up, he is thought to be just that by beautiful Carlotta (Dorothy Lamour), who hires Ronnie to help her find her uncle.  What seems to be a case of missing persons, quickly escalates into a wild “cat and mouse” caper, with the likes of knife throwing Peter Lorre and strong man Lon Chaney, Jr.

1hr. 28min.