The 10 Best Movies of 1947
The Bicycle Thieves. Directed by Vittorio de Sica. Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola. The greatest of all the Italian neo-realist films that is about so many things — a man’s determined search for dignity in the eyes of his son, the manner in which poverty can ravage the young — that this film attains the status of a Shakespearean tragedy. A magnificent, heartbreaking achievement.
2. Miracle on 34th Street. Directed by George Seaton. Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Gene Lockhart, Natalie Wood. I don’t know how he does it, but Gwenn’s performance as Kris Kringle gets though all my defense mechanisms every time. Plus I must admit the idea that a court trial is needed to determine whether there really is a Santa Claus is, when you think about, is the most clever commercialization of Christmas ever.
3. Black Narcissus. Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Sabu, Jean Simmons. One of the most beautiful films ever made and by that I mean beautiful to look at. But within that beauty is an electrifying story on the dangerous effects that restraining your emotions and keeping your passions submerged can have on the human psyche. Another in the chain of Powell/Pressburger masterpieces from this decade.
4. Out of the Past. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming. While Double Indemnity created film noir, this is the movie that defined the genre and the one that made Mitchum a star. Superbly directed and photographed,this film really shows how love can be used as a weapon to entrap the gullible into a world of greed and deceit. Along with Orson Welles’s in The Third Man, Greer has one of the great entrances in the history of movies — a shadow entering a Mexican bar.
5. Odd Man Out. Directed by Carol Reed. James Mason, Robert Newton. Mason’s greatest film performance and the film that established Reed’s mastery as a director. This highly suspenseful film is simply about dying in an uncaring world and about the tragedy of a decent man who succumbs to altruism. A work of art.
6. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders. How can a movie about a woman who falls in love with a ghost ever seem remotely believable? By finding a couple of actors — Tierney and Harrison (in his second American film) — who work so perfectly together they can make anything plausible.
7. Gentleman’s Agreement. Directed by Elia Kazan. Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield, Celeste Holm, Anne Revere, June Havoc. This movie seems dated to me today, but it earns a place on this list not because it won the major Oscars this year but because it was Hollywood’s first major attack on anti-Semitism and remains one of the best of the so-called “crusade” films. Interestingly, it came from Darrell Zanuck, one of the few Hollywood producers at the time who wasn’t Jewish.
8. Nightmare Alley. Directed by Edmund Goulding. Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray. Those who think of Power simply as a matinee idol should see this film just to discover what a fine actor he was, portraying here a man evil to his very core in this excellent character study of life in a seedy carnival. A lot of the more terrifying aspects of the source novel have been omitted, but enough shocking revelations of a spiritual con artist remain for this film to earn its title.
9. Brighton Rock. Directed by John Boulting. Richard Attenborough, Hermione Baddeley. This is often referred to a Britain’s Scarface and in many regards, especially Attenborough’s haunting performance as the leader of a criminal gang, the comparison is apt. The film doesn’t quite pack the sensational emotional punch today it had when it was released, but is still worth watching.
10. Body and Soul. Directed by Robert Rossen. John Garfield, Lili Palmer. This is the greatest of all boxing movies (I don’t count Raging Bull as a boxing movie; it’s biographic study of a demented man who happened to gain fame as a boxer) featuring Garfield’s greatest film performance and photography from James Wong Howe that set the standard for boxing films (he filmed the fight scenes while wearing skates around the ring and shooting with a handheld camera).