Tuesday, July 23, 2019


This is my choice (choices) for Best Picture for the year 1940.  My criteria is that I can only use films that are on the 1001 list. To make it a little easier on myself, I am using the rules of the first Academy Award and name a winner for Best Picture (won by Wings for 1927-1928) and Best and Unique and Artistic Picture (won by Sunrise from 1927-1928). 

And the nominees on the entries from every edition of 1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die are...
His Girl Friday
The Philadelphia Story
The Grapes of Wrath
Dance, Girl, Dance
The Mortal Storm
The Bank Dick

And the winner for the Best Picture of 1940 is…The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath

This seems to be a case where the book and the movie are held in equally high esteem. The film is ranked #21 in the American Film Institute top 1001 list and the book is in the top ten of the Modern Library’s list of top English language novels of the century.

I’m guessing that more school age students over the last few decades have read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men than The Grapes of Wrath because it is shorter and probably easier to grasp. But I think Steinbeck’s tale of the Oakies traveling West during the depression looking for a pot o’ gold or at least a roof over their heads is a highly worthy journey to take even if it might take you a little longer to get there.

Book or Movie? Even though I’m picking the book over the movie this time, you got to at least see the scene where Henry (should have won the Oscar that year) Fonda gives his speech to his Ma before heading down that Golden Highway.

I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be ever'-where - wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad - I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry an' they know supper's ready. An' when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise, and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.
I can hear Woody Guthrie singing in the background now...

The Grapes of Wrath

And the Award for Unique and Artistic Picture of 1940 is...Fantasia


Now critically praised as a classic, Fantasia did poorly during its initial run at the box office. 

 From Walt Disney: Hollywood's Dark Prince by Marc Eliot.

"When asked Roy (his brother) what the thought, his brother decided Fantasia did poorly at the box office because of his "unfortunate" choice of music.'I'll never understand why we couldn't' have sneaked a little Tommy Dorsey in there.' he remarked to Walt after studying the film's receipts. That was the last time Walt ever asked his brother his opinion about anything."

It's not too hard to see why Fantasia didn't do as well as other Disney films of the era. Classical musical being played in the background to various animated vignettes didn't exactly make for a Snow White or Pinocchio sized hit. But Fantasia is undoubtedly filled with great moments and you have to give credit to Disney for really going out on a limb with this one. It is hard to not list everything when listing the highlights of Fantasia, but the Rites of Spring played as we see the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth and the last days of the dinosaurs is certainly a favorite of mine. The Night on Bald Mountain Finale is pretty spectacular, too. Since 1940 is also the year that Pinocchio was also released, 1940 may have been the most important year for the Disney studio, at least certainly up to that point.



  1. For a moment I was thinking if Philadelphia Story should get my pick, but you are right, Grapes is a better movie.
    We love Fantasia in our house. The favorite part is The Nutcracker.

  2. The only film with Grant, Hepburn and Steward together is a must see if only for that reason.