By Blake Mandelberg
DVD Netflix is celebrating a passion for movies by dedicating each month to a different decade of films we love. The 1940s were a decade that had a lot of great films, but a particular genre that stands out is the mystery/thriller. That decade included three Hitchcock movies alone and celebrated film noir in a variety of important ways.
But it also presented a newer protagonist – the empowered female. Coming off the heels of a new era, women were leaving the household and feeling more independent than ever. This shows in many of the films that came out of the forties. Though many feature a fearful woman (in most cases, fearful of a man), much of the decade took a different turn. Femme fatales and inquisitive, relentless women were there to do more than just accompany a husband. There are dozens of movies from the forties that shined, but here are four that really exemplified the spirit of the decade.
Joseph Cotton plays one of the best villains of all time as an uncle who may or may not be the Merry Widow killer, a charming murderer offing rich, widowed women. Though it doesn't have the fame of Psycho or Vertigo, it's up there with Hitchcock's very best.
In the film, sweet and innocent Charlie (Teresa Wright) becomes more and more suspicious of her beloved uncle (also Charlie) when he comes to visit the family. Eventually, she even believes him to be the famous serial killer from the papers. As she gets closer to the truth, she remains diligent, while still vulnerable at the knowledge that her namesake could be a cold blooded killer. It all leads to a very Hitchcock-style climax.
Hitchcock's masterpiece is clearly still relevant because it's being remade for a new audience. The film stars Laurence Olivier in his prime, but it was Joan Fontaine as the paranoid new wife and his creepy, obsessive housekeeper that really steal the show. Fontaine, whose name we interestingly enough never find out, is haunted by the strong presence of her husband's first wife Rebecca. The film is full of twists and haunting imagery, and it's evocative of a time when women were starting to find their own voice.
1944's Laura is hailed as one of the greatest film noirs of all time, and for good reason. It's a top notch mystery with a gorgeous leading lady, Gene Tierney, a staple of this important decade in film. She stars as mysterious starlet Laura Hunt, recently murdered in her apartment. A detective begins investigating the crime, and as he digs deeper into her glamorous world, he starts to obsess over and fall in love with the woman, all while trying to solve her murder.
Is Cary Grant a killer or isn't he? That's the question in 1941's Suspicion when charming a potential grifter woos the wealthy Lina. Once again played by Joan Fontaine, she portrays a layered character. A woman who loves her husband, but begins to doubt his intentions. Female paranoia again plays a key role. But instead of succumbing to complete helplessness, we're introduced to a woman who might search deeper for answers as opposed to just sitting back and allowing things to happen.
Manhattan native, writer, story-teller and founder of NYC site Style Island. Obsessed with movies, (especially classics), 70's typography, Jean Paul Belmondo, and vintage. An old soul who can be found anytime devouring cappuccinos and discussing cinema.