White Christmas

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Robert Emmett Dolan
  • Writers: Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, Melvin Frank
  • Genres: Comedy, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes

The story is about two World War II U.S. Army buddies, one a former Broadway entertainer, Bob Wallace (Crosby), and a would-be entertainer, Phil Davis (Kaye). It begins on Christmas Eve, 1944, somewhere in Europe. In a forward area, Captain Wallace is giving a show to the men with the help of Private Davis, (“White Christmas”). Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger) arrives for the end of the show and has a field inspection prior to being relieved of command by General Harold G. Coughlan (Gavin Gordon) The men give him a rousing send-off, (“The Old Man”). During an enemy artillery barrage, Davis saves Wallace’s life from a toppling wall, wounding his arm slightly in the process. Using his “wounded” arm and telling Bob he doesn’t expect any “special obligation,” Phil convinces Bob to join forces when the war is over. Phil using his arm wound as a way to get Bob to do what he wants becomes a running gag throughout the movie.

After the war, they make it big in nightclubs, radio, and then on Broadway. They become the hottest act around and eventually become producers. They subsequently have a big hit with their New York musical, Playing Around. In mid-December, after 2 years on Broadway, the show is in Florida. While at the Florida Theatre, they receive a letter from “Freckle-Faced Haynes, the dog-faced boy”, a mess sergeant they knew in the war, asking them to audition his two sisters. When they go to the club to audition the act (“Sisters”), Betty (Rosemary Clooney) reveals that her sister, Judy (Vera-Ellen), sent the letter. Bob and Phil help Betty and Judy escape their landlord and the local sheriff (the landlord claimed that the sisters had burned a $200 rug). The boys do the song “Sisters” to a record as the girls escape to the train. Phil gives Betty and Judy the train tickets that he and Bob were intending to use. When Bob and Phil arrive on the train, they have no tickets. Using “his arm” again, Phil gets Bob to agree to travel with the girls to Vermont for the holidays (“Snow”). They discover that the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont, is run by their former commanding officer, Major General Tom Waverly, and it’s about to go bankrupt because of the lack of snow and consequent lack of patrons. The general has invested all his savings and pension into the lodge.

In a memorable finale, Bob and Betty declare their love, as do Phil and Judy. The background of the set is removed to show the snow falling in Pine Tree. Everyone raises a glass, toasting, “May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white.”

Mildred Pierce

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Executive Producer, Jack L Warner, Producer, Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Novel, James M Cain, Screenplay, Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner, Catherine Turney
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden

While the novel is told by a third-person narrator in strict chronological order, the film uses voice-over narration (the voice of Mildred). The story is framed by the questioning of Mildred by police after they discover the body of her second husband, Monte Beragon.

The film in noir fashion opens with Beragon (Scott) being shot. He murmurs the name “Mildred” as he collapses and dies. The police are led to believe that the murderer is restaurant owner Mildred Pierce (Crawford), who under interrogation confesses to the crime. She then relates her life story in flashback.

We see housewife Mildred unhappily married to a newly unemployed Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett). He was originally a real estate partner of Wally Fay (Carson), who propositions Mildred after learning that she and Bert are about to divorce. Mildred keeps custody of her two daughters: Veda (Blyth) and Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe).

Mildred’s principal goal is to provide for eldest daughter Veda, who longs for possessions the family cannot afford. Mildred needs a job and the best she can find is as a waitress — a fact she hides from Veda. One day, Veda gives their maid Lottie (Butterfly McQueen) Mildred’s waitress uniform, thinking nothing of it, until Mildred admits that she is a waitress, infuriating Veda, who thinks it a lowly employ.

When Veda takes up with the scheming Monty, a showdown ensues at the beach house where the film began. We discover what really happened: that Veda, furious over Monte’s unwillingness to take her seriously, is the one who shoots him. Mildred can cover for her daughter no more, and Veda is led off to jail.

Captain Blood

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Harry Joe Brown, Gordon Hollingshead
  • Writers: Casey Robinson
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Romance
  • Actors: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Ross Alexander

In seventeenth century England, Irish Dr. Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is convicted of treason against the King for aiding a wounded friend who had participated in the Monmouth Rebellion. He is sentenced to slavery in the British colony of Port Royal, and is purchased by the beautiful niece of the local military commander Colonel Bishop, Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland), who is attracted by his rebellious nature. During a Spanish raid on the town, Doctor Blood and his fellow slaves escape, steal the Spanish ship and begin a life of piracy. When the old governor is unable to contain the pirate menace, Colonel Bishop is promoted to his post.

When Arabella and a royal emissary, Lord Willoughby (Henry Stephenson), are captured for ransom by Blood’s treacherous partner, Captain Levasseur (Basil Rathbone), Blood purchases them himself, relishing the opportunity to turn the tables on his former owner. However, Levasseur objects; in the ensuing duel, the Frenchman is killed.

Blood decides to take Arabella and Lord Willoughby to the safety of Port Royal. As they approach the port, they sight two French warships attacking the colony. Bishop and his men are nowhere to be found; Bishop has deserted his post in his single-minded hunt for Blood. Willoughby pleads with Blood to save the colony, but the captain and his crew to a man refuse to fight for James II of England. However, when Willoughby reveals that James II has been deposed in the Glorious Revolution and that he was sent by the new king, William of Orange, to offer pardons, emancipation, and a commission with the Royal Navy to Blood and his men, they joyfully change their minds at this good news.

Blood and his crew approach the harbor disguised under French colors and save the colony in a pitched battle. As a reward, Blood is appointed the new governor of the colony and has the pleasure to deal with his hostile predecessor, now in serious trouble for dereliction of duty, and finally wins the hand of Arabella.

Angels with Dirty Faces

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Samuel Bischoff
  • Writers: Rowland Brown, John Wexley, Warren Duff, Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
  • Actors: James Cagney, Pat O Brien, The Dead End Kids, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, George Bancroft

Rocky Sullivan (James Cagney) and Jerry Connolly (Pat O’Brien) are childhood friends who robbed a railroad car as kids. Rocky saved Jerry’s life during the chase by pulling him out of the way of a steam train. Rocky was then caught by the police, but Jerry – who could run faster – escaped. Rocky, after being sent to reform school, grows up to become a notorious gangster, while Jerry has become a priest.

Rocky returns to his old neighborhood, where Jerry is running a home that intends to keep young boys away from a life of crime. Six of those boys, Soapy (Billy Halop), Swing (Bobby Jordan), Bim (Leo Gorcey), Patsy (Gabriel Dell), Crabface (Huntz Hall), and Hunky (Bernard Punsly), idolize Rocky, and Jerry attempts to keep his former friend from corrupting them. (These boys were to star in Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/The Bowery Boys films).

Meanwhile Rocky gets involved with Frazier (Humphrey Bogart), a crooked lawyer, and Keefer (George Bancroft), a shady businessman and municipal contractor. They try to dispose of Rocky, but he finds the record book that they keep where they list the bribes to city officials. Jerry learns of these events and warns Rocky to leave before he informs the authorities. Rocky ignores his advice and Jerry gets the public’s attention and informs them all of the crooked government, causing Frazier and Keefer to plot to kill him. Rocky overhears this plot and kills them to protect his childhood friend.

Rocky is then captured following an elaborate shootout in a building, and sentenced to die. Jerry visits him just before his execution and asks him to do him one last favor – to die pretending to be a screaming, snivelling coward, which would end the boys’ idolization of him. Rocky refuses, and insists he will be “tough” to the end, and not give up the one thing he has left, his pride. At the very last moment he appears to change his mind and has to be dragged to the electric chair. The viewer is never told whether Rocky genuinely was afraid, a “rotten sniveling coward”, or if he does it for the Father and the boys. The boys hear about what happened and decide he was a coward. Then Father Jerry asks them to say a prayer with him, “for a boy who couldn’t run as fast as I could”.

The Adventures of Robin Hood

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I Miller
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Romance
  • Actors: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale

When Richard the Lionheart, the King of England, is taken captive by Leopold of Austria while returning from the Crusades, his brother John (Claude Rains) takes power and proceeds to oppress the Saxon commoners. Prince John raises their taxes, supposedly to raise Richard’s ransom, but in reality to secure his own position on the throne.

One man stands in his way, the Saxon Robin, Earl of Locksley (Errol Flynn). He acquires a loyal follower when he saves Much (Herbert Mundin) from being arrested by Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) for poaching one of the king’s deer. Robin goes alone to see Prince John at Gisbourne’s castle and announces to John’s assembled supporters and a contemptuous Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland) that he will do all in his power to oppose John and restore Richard to his rightful place. He then escapes, in spite of the efforts of John’s men.

His lands and title now forfeit, Robin takes refuge in Sherwood Forest with his friend Will Scarlet (Patric Knowles). There they meet and recruit Little John (Alan Hale, Sr.). Other men join their growing band. Later, Robin provokes Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette) into a swordfight, but then persuades the friar into joining him to provide spiritual guidance to the outlaws. Soon, Prince John and his Norman cronies find themselves harassed beyond all bearing.

Richard is restored to the throne; he exiles his brother, pardons the outlaws, returns Robin’s earldom and orders him to marry Lady Marian. Robin declares, “May I obey all your commands with equal pleasure, sire!”

Casablanca

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Play, Murray Burnett, Joan Alison, Screenplay, Julius J Epstein, Philip G Epstein, Howard Koch, Casey Robinson
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid

Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a bitter, cynical American expatriate in Casablanca. He owns and runs “Rick’s CafГ© AmГ©ricain”, an upscale nightclub and gambling den that attracts a mixed clientГЁle of Vichy French and Nazi officials, refugees and thieves. Although Rick professes to be neutral in all matters, it is later revealed that he had run guns to Ethiopia to combat the 1935 Italian invasion, and fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War against Francisco Franco’s Nationalists.

Ugarte (Peter Lorre), a petty criminal, arrives in Rick’s club with “letters of transit” obtained through the murder of two German couriers. The papers allow the bearer to travel freely around German-controlled Europe and to neutral Portugal, and from there to America. The letters are almost priceless to any of the continual stream of refugees who end up stranded in Casablanca. Ugarte plans to make his fortune by selling them to the highest bidder, who is due to arrive at the club later that night. However, before the exchange can take place, Ugarte is arrested by the local police, under the command of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), a corrupt opportunist who later says of himself, “I have no convictions … I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.” Unbeknownst to Renault and the Nazis, Ugarte had entrusted the letters to Rick because “… somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.” (Ugarte dies in police custody without revealing the location of the letters.)

Major Strasser drives up by himself, having been tipped off by Renault, but Rick shoots him when he tries to intervene. When police reinforcements arrive, Renault pauses, then tells his men to “Round up the usual suspects.” Once they are alone, Renault suggests to Rick that they leave Casablanca and join the Free French at Brazzaville. They walk off into the fog with one of the most memorable exit lines in movie history: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”