Last year, when planning for my 100th post, I settled on a list of my personal Top 10 Dance Routines. I knew I would be coming up on my 200th post milestone this year, but at first I was stumped about what to do. Then, when I was thinking about some of the films I reviewed last year in honor of the 80th anniversary of 1939, it hit me: I should put together a list, just for fun, of what personally consider to be some of the best years at the movies! Now, as a disclaimer, I obviously have not seen ALL of the movies released in any of these years, and it’s a list that can certainly change the more movies I see, but this is what it is to me at this moment in time.
Starting in at #10, we have:
While I can only think of a few movies from this year offhand, as a musical fan I would be remiss in not honoring this year. After a quick rise (and an equally fast fall), the film musical was on its last legs when the Busby Berkeley film 42nd Street changed things. Now once again a successful film genre, it gave rise to more, including two more Busby Berkeley musicals that same year (Gold Diggers Of 1933 and Footlight Parade), the musical Going Hollywood which helped Bing Crosby’s career, and also gave us Dancing Lady (Fred Astaire’s movie debut), quickly followed up with Flying Down To Rio, the start of the Astaire-Rogers partnership that would further revolutionize the film musical. And of course, I can’t help but throw in one of the best Marx Brothers movies, Duck Soup, which also debuted this year too!
For me, 1957 was the last really good year at the movies. Sure, as you’ve seen, there are definitely some movies that I have a really high opinion of that came out after 1957. But, for me, after 1957, no other year really sticks out in my mind. We get the last musicals from the likes of Gene Kelly (Les Girls) and Fred Astaire (Funny Face, Silk Stockings) before they transitioned into doing more non-musical fare. There are a few other good musicals that year, with the likes of April Love, Pal Joey and Jailhouse Rock (one of the few Elvis Presley films I have a high opinion of). Throw in the likes of An Affair To Remember, Love In The Afternoon, and Tammy And The Bachelor, and while it’s a bittersweet year for me, it still has its memorable movies!
1948 was certainly a year that produced many wonderful movies. Judy Garland had two big musicals, with the likes of Easter Parade and The Pirate. Besides The Pirate, Gene Kelly also had the fun adventure movie The Three Musketeers. Abbott and Costello made a comeback with their classic comedy/monster movie mash Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein plus The Noose Hangs High and Mexican Hayride. There’s still more fun for the year with a Bing Crosby musical (The Emperor Waltz) and one of Bob Hope’s most beloved comedies (The Paleface)! Throw in a few great noirs like They Live By Night, He Walked By Night and Key Largo, plus the Humphrey Bogart classic The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, and it’s another great year at the movies!
With 1941, there were a lot of wonderful movies. Abbott and Costello really started to get big, with hits like Buck Privates and In The Navy, Bing and Bob continued to work together with Road To Zanzibar, and we got the screwball classic Here Comes Mr. Jordan! Throw in another service musical/comedy that gave the world the pairing of Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth with You’ll Never Get Rich for fun. And with the likes of the forgotten classic The Sea Wolf, plus bigger classics like Sergeant York and The Maltese Falcon, and you’ve got a great year!
Of course you knew that 1939, considered Hollywood’s greatest year by some, had to make the list! For me, I’ll easily take the likes of the two musicals The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle and Honolulu as some of the best of the year (and I’ll add Idiot’s Delight with Clark Gable as being fun, too). Certainly a few of the comedies that year, with the likes of The Cat And The Canary establishing Bob Hope’s persona, plus Bachelor Mother and Ninotchka are worth seeing every now and then! Throw in a few of the big dramas of the year, like Gone With The Wind, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and it’s an easy year to enjoy watching movies from!
1942 is a wonderful year! With a few wonderful musicals like the classic Yankee Doodle Dandy as well as Fred Astaire’s two movies You Were Never Lovelier and Holiday Inn, plus Gene Kelly’s screen debut (and opposite Judy Garland, no less!) in For Me And My Gal, the year certainly had some classics for the genre! And as for comedies, when you can include the likes of I Married A Witch, Who Done It?, Road To Morocco, Roxie Hart, The Major And The Minor and My Favorite Blonde (which gave us the first in a long line of Bing Crosby cameos in Bob Hope’s movies), the laughs can come fast and furious as well! Throw in that great classic Casablanca, and it’s hard not to resist that year!
1935 would definitely place up near the top for me, with some musicals I really enjoy, such as Top Hat, Broadway Melody Of 1936, In Person, Naughty Marietta, and Roberta. Of course, I can’t forget the Marx Brothers first MGM film, A Night At The Opera, or one of the better Thin Man imitations, Star Of Midnight! Honestly, a fun year to remember, and, like I said before, one that ranks near the top for me!
Ah, 1940. The beginning of one series I like (Road To Singapore), and the end of another (Broadway Melody Of 1940). What I consider the last really good Marx Brothers film (Go West). My favorite Zorro film (The Mark Of Zorro). The introduction of Abbott and Costello to the movies, even if it’s not a great film (One Night In The Tropics). One of the best screwball comedies (His Girl Friday). And many other wonderful movies, including Little Nellie Kelly, The Philadelphia Story, The Sea Hawk, Kitty Foyle, The Ghost Breakers, and The Great Dictator, just to name a few. Seriously, the year sells itself, in my mind!
Arguably, although I have seen musicals from other years I like better, 1936 seems like one of the best years for the genre, with the likes of the two Astaire-Rogers films Follow The Fleet and Swing Time, the classic Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movie Rose-Marie, Jeannette’s solo outing with Clark Gable (San Francisco), The Great Ziegfeld, the Eleanor Powell film Born To Dance and the classic Show Boat! Of course, the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey also makes for a fun year, as does the Charlie Chaplin classic Modern Times and the Harold Lloyd talkie The Milky Way. A small handful of movies, to be sure, but movies that certainly leave their imprint (along with others I have seen)!
And now for the one you’ve been waiting to hear…
The more I stopped to think about it, the more the year “1938” kept popping in my head as arguably my favorite year at the movies, and it’s hard to disagree with that. Arguably, for me, it is the year of the screwball comedy, with such fun films like Carefree, Vivacious Lady, Merrily We Live, You Can’t Take It With You, Bringing Up Baby and Holiday, just to name of few films from that genre. Throw in some other good movies, ranging from dramas like Jezebel and The Adventures Of Robin Hood, plus musicals like The Girl Of The Golden West with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, comedian Bob Hope’s screen debut (and theme song introduction) in The Big Broadcast Of 1938 and many other movies, it just seems like one of those years with many great movies to choose from (and thus, my current favorite year at the movies).
Well, that’s my list! I hope you all enjoyed it (and I am open to suggestions going forward for my 300th post)! Of course, I would also like to know from those reading this what their favorite years at the movie are (you don’t need to give me a “Top 10” list or even your reasons)?