The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 2: the 30s and 40s

In my last post, I discussed how I was inspired to compile a list of the most memorable movies of all time.   I will be looking at movies in twenty year segments, which I will intersperse with my other blog entries.  At the end of this list I pick the most memorable movie of this time period.  In my last segment, I will pick the most memorable movie of all time using the finalist from each time period.  Of course, any list compilation is made to be disagreed with so I welcome other views on these movies.

To recap, here are the criteria for choosing the most memorable movie from each year:

  • Memorable movies become part of our culture.  They may directly become part of our culture, showcase stars who become part of our culture, or launch a genre that becomes part of our culture.
  • Sequels of memorable movies are not eligible.

1930 – Animal Crackers (The Marx Brothers)

Quotes – Hooray for Captain Spaulding! the African Explorer! | One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.

Comments – This movie is the essential Marx Brothers.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – All Quiet on the Western Front

1931 – Dracula (Bela Lugosi)

Quotes – I am Dracula. I bid you welcome.

Comments – Dracula was not the first vampire movie but it is the most famous.  It spawned countless vampire based movies and TV shows.

Honorable Mention – Frankenstein | The Public Enemy

Best Picture – Cimarron

1932 – Tarzan the Ape Man  (Johny Weismuller, Maureen Sullivan)

Quotes – The Tarzan Yell | Me Tarzan, You Jane

Comments – Me Tarzan, You Jane was not actually in the movie but since we are talking American culture, misquotes count.  Carol Burnett performed the Tarzan yell in almost every episode of her long-running TV show and Tarzan is one of the most famous movie characters ever.  There have been many movie Tarzans, but Johny Weismuller is the Tarzan everybody remembers.  Here is a link to his yell:

Honorable Mention – Scarface | Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Best Picture – Grand Hotel

1933 – King Kong  (Fay Wray)

Quotes – It was beauty killed the beast.

Comments – The most memorable moment was King Kong climbing the Empire State Building.  If you’ve never heard Bob Newhart’s routine as the guard on duty at the Empire State Building that night, it is well worth listening to.

Honorable Mention – 42nd Street

Best Picture – Cavalcade

1934 – none

Comments – The Oscars have to have a winner every year.  I don’t have to.  I don’t think any movies from this year really stand out as memorable.  I considered “It Happened One Night” with the walls of Jericho but it didn’t quite meet up to my criteria.

Best Picture – It Happened One Night

1935 – none

Comments -I considered both Mutiny on the Bounty and Top Hat (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), but neither quite met my standard of becoming part of the American culture.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – Mutiny on the Bounty

1936 – Showboat  (Irene Dunn)

Quotes – Old Man River, that Old Man River

Comments -Showboat is the first true modern musical.  Before Showboat, musicals were just a collection of songs and dances strung together.  Showboat had a plot, a heart, and a message.  Paul Robson’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” was stirring.  My father frequently would go around the house singing it.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – The Great Ziegfield

1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  

Quotes – Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go! | Someday My prince will come.

Comments -Snow White was the first full length animated movie and is still a classic in its own right.  Almost eighty years after its debut, Disneyworld’s latest attraction is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  That is a perfect example of what I mean by a movie becoming part of our culture.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – The Life of Emile Zola

1938 – The Adventures of Robin Hood (Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland) 

Quotes – Welcome to Sherwood ( )

Comments -There have been many Robin Hood movies, but Errol Flynn is and always will be Robin Hood.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – You Can’t Take it With You

1939 – The Wizard of Oz (Judy Garland) 

Quotes -Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more. | I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too! | Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Comments -Gone With the Wind would have been the most memorable movie in any year but 1939.  Without a doubt, 1939 was the best year for great movies ever.  The Wizard of Oz is the American fairy tale, embedded in our culture like no other.

Honorable Mention – Gone With the Wind | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington |The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Good Bye Mr. Chips | The Hound of the Baskervilles | Beau Geste | Stagecoach (John Wayne) | Wuthering Heights

Best Picture – Gone With the Wind

1940 – Pinocchio

Quotes – A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

Comments – If you say you have never heard of Pinocchio, your nose will grow.

Honorable Mention – Grapes of Wrath, My Little Chickadee, Fantasia

Best Picture – Rebecca

1941 – Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)

Quotes -Rosebud.

Comments – This movie is mentioned as one of the greatest movies of all time and it lost the Academy Award to a movie that most people have never heard of.

Honorable Mention – Sergent York | Dumbo | The Wolf Man

Best Picture – How Green Was My Valley

1942 – The Pride of The Yankees (Gary Cooper)

Quotes -Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Comments – This is a movie where a single line, drawn from real life, made it one of the most memorable sports movies ever.

Honorable Mention – Yankee Doodle Dandy

Best Picture – Mrs. Miniver

1943 – Casablanca (Humphrey Bogart)

Quotes -Here’s looking at you, kid | We’ll always have Paris.  | Louie, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Comments – This is one of the few years where the academy got it right.  I could have filled this entire blog just with recognizable quotes from this movie.

Honorable Mention – Lassie Come Home | Phantom of the Opera

Best Picture – Casablanca

1944 – none

Comments – I strongly considered Arsenic and Old Lace, Meet Me in St. Louis, National Velvet, To Have and Have Not, and Double Indemnity, but none of these quite measure up to the standard of being embedded in the American Culture.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – Going My Way

1945 – none

Comments -This year didn’t have a single movie that I was even tempted to name as most memorable movie.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – The Lost Weekend

1946 – It’s a Wonderful Life (Jimmy Stewart)

Quotes -Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

Comments – This movie, originally considered a disappointment, has become a holiday classic.  As a side note, the villain Henry Potter went on to have a more lucrative career using his nickname.

Honorable Mention – The Song of the South

Best Picture – The Best Years of Our Lives

1947 – Miracle on 34th Street (Natalie Wood)

Quotes -Your Honor, every one of these letters is addressed to Santa Claus. The Post Office has delivered them. Therefore the Post Office Department, a branch of the Federal Governent, recognizes this man Kris Kringle to be the one and only Santa Claus.

Comments – Macy’s is one of the biggest retailers in the world and it is still primarily known for its Santa Claus from this movie.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – Gentleman’s Agreement

1948 – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Humphrey Bogart)

Quotes -Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!

Comments – This line is often misquoted as “We don’t need no stinking badges!”.  This along with “Play it Again, Sam” misquoted from Casablanca led me to the conclusion that every great Humphrey Bogart film must have a famous misquote.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – Hamlet

1949 – none

Comments – This year didn’t have a single movie I seriously considered.

Honorable Mention – none

Best Picture – All the King’s Men

1930-1949 – The Wizard of Oz

1 thought on “The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 2: the 30s and 40s

  1. Pingback: The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 6: The Greatest Movie of All Time | Ralph Koppel

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