Dark Passage

  • Directors: Delmer Daves
  • Producers: Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Story, David Goodis, Screenplay, Delmer Daves
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead

Convicted murderer Vincent Parry escapes from San Quentin prison. He is picked up on the road and sheltered by Irene Jansen, an artist who has taken a personal interest in his case.

Helped by a friendly cabbie, Sam, the fugitive Parry gets a new face from a plastic surgeon, thereby enabling him to dodge the authorities and look for his wife’s real murderer.

He has difficulty staying hidden at Irene’s because of nosy Madge Rapf, a spiteful woman whose testimony sent him up to prison. Madge keeps stopping by Irene’s apartment, particularly after she fears Parry might come after her next.

Parry’s best friend is found murdered, so he becomes the logical prime suspect. A blackmailer named Baker also traps Parry and tries to extort money from Irene to keep from turning over Parry to the cops.

The story’s climax features the killer realizing the true identity of the man behind the new face.

The Conqueror

  • Directors: Dick Powell
  • Producers: Dick Powell, Howard Hughes
  • Writers: Oscar Millard
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Biography, History, Romance, War
  • Actors: John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Thomas Gomez, John Hoyt

Mongol chief Temujin (later to be known as Genghis Khan) falls for Bortai, the daughter of the Tartar leader, and steals her away, precipitating war. Bortai spurns Temujin and is taken back in a raid. Temujin is later captured. Bortai falls in love with him and helps him escape. Temujin suspects he was betrayed by a fellow Mongol and sets out to find the traitor and to overcome the Tartars.

The Magnificent Ambersons

  • Directors: Orson Welles
  • Producers: Orson Welles
  • Writers: Booth Tarkington, Orson Welles
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Joseph Cotten, Dolores Costello, Anne Baxter, Tim Holt, Agnes Moorehead, Ray Collins

The film, set in the early 1900s, tells the story of the Ambersons, an Indianapolis upper-class family, focusing on Major Amberson’s grandson, George. In the beginning of the film, George is home on a break from college, and his mother and grandfather (Richard Bennett) hold a reception in his honor. Among the guests is the widowed Eugene Morgan, who is a prosperous automobile manufacturer who has just returned to town after a twenty-year absence. He brings his daughter Lucy (Anne Baxter) with him. George takes to the beautiful and charming Lucy right away, but seems to instantly scorn and dislike Eugene, almost instinctively.

In a flashback, the prior relationship between George’s mother, Isabel, and Eugene is revealed. Twenty years ago, Major Amberson’s daughter Isabel (Dolores Costello), is unintentionally humiliated in public by her high-spirited beau – Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten) – who, with a group of other men, serenades her after having had a few drinks. Eugene drunkenly falls and breaks his instrument. Following the high attention of the era to decorum and the reputation of members of “high society,” Isabel breaks off their relationship and decides to marry the bland Wilbur Minafer (Donald Dillaway) instead. They have one child, George Minafer (Tim Holt), whom she spoils. As George grows up, he bullies and dominates children and adults alike, and many in the town long for the day when the superior, arrogant, immature mama’s boy will get his “comeuppance.”

Additional underlying plotlines include the slow decline of the financial worth of Major Amberson and other family members, again ironically strongly related to the development of the automobile. For example, their mansion and expansive grounds decline in value as the automobile makes it possible, even desirable, to live further from the center of town. Parallel societal changes are briefly highlighted, such as the decline of the city’s center as commerce becomes more widespread and freed from the geographic limitations imposed by only having horses and buggies as means of transportation. As the Amberson’s fortunes gradually decline, those of the Morgan family, linked to the inexorable rise of the 20th century automobile culture, flourish, until the Ambersons are brought low at the end and the now-wealthy and powerful Morgans become the rescuers of the family.

Citizen Kane

  • Directors: Orson Welles
  • Producers: Orson Welles
  • Writers: Herman J Mankiewicz, Orson Welles
  • Genres: Drama, Mystery
  • Actors: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, Everett Sloane, George Coulouris, Ray Collins

The film opens in a night setting on a vast palatial estate on which the sign “No Trespassing” is posted. Gradually the camera comes to rest in a bedroom on which an elderly man is lying, holding a snow globe. He utters the word “Rosebud” and lets go of the snow globe which drops and smashes on the floor. A nurse enters and covers the man in a way that indicates he has died. The scene fades out.

An abrupt cut leads to a newsreel obituary in which we find out that the estate was Xanadu and the man who owned it and died there was the enormously wealthy media magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). The newsreel reveals details of his life – how his childhood was spent in poverty, then changed when the “world’s third largest gold mine” was discovered on a property his mother had inherited, how he built up his empire of newspapers, how both his marriages were unsuccessful, his conflicting pronouncements, and how the power he once obtained disappeared.

After its preview, the producer of the newsreel feels that it lacks something and asks a reporter, Jerry Thompson (William Alland), to find out about Kane’s private life and personality, in particular to discover the meaning behind his last word. The reporter interviews the great man’s friends and associates, and Kane’s story unfolds as a series of flashbacks, some of which present the same incidents portrayed in the newsreel, but from different recollections.

Despite Thompson’s interviews, he is unable to solve the mystery and concludes that “Rosebud” will forever remain an enigma. At that point, the camera pans over workers burning some of Kane’s many possessions. One throws an old sled into the furnace – the same sled that Kane was riding as a child the day his mother sent him away. The word “Rosebud” painted on the sled burns as the camera closes in on it in the furnace. There is a shot of a chimney with black smoke coming out. For the viewer this solves the “Rosebud” mystery, the sled is a token of the only time in his life when he was poor; more than this, however, it represents the only time in his life when he was truly happy and wanted for nothing. After this twist ending, the film ends as it began, with the “No Trespassing” sign at the gates of Kane’s estate, Xanadu, an indication that sometimes we can never know the truth behind people.