2021: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, everybody, and it’s time to take a look back at the year 2021. Like the rest of life, change happens here as well, so let’s dig into a couple of things that did change. We’ll start off with one relatively minor one that you probably wouldn’t notice if I didn’t mention it: I’m now making this post an annual thing for New Year’s Eve. Sure, I also did it on New Year’s Eve last year, but the reality is that, apart from my first year when I posted it on Thanksgiving alongside that year’s Top 10 Disc Release post (although it was technically a Top 5 post to start with), I was generally doing it the day after my last review for the year. Plain and simple, I felt this year that it needed to be a New Year’s Eve post every year. Simple as that. I’ve also been working here and there on logos for my various series, and renamed a couple (with one more renamed column making its debut in 2022). I’ve changed a few minor details with my review designs, and made some changes to my homepage’s look.

And there are a few more changes in store going into 2022. I don’t know if many noticed, but I had a HUGE number of posts this year, with my regular Sunday posts, almost every Wednesday (until the last couple of months) for my posts on new physical media releases, plus my newly named Film Legends Of Yesteryear column once a month, as well as entries in my series of The Long And The Short (Series) Of It, Original Vs. Remake, Coming Up Shorts! and Screen Team Edition. It was nice trying to push my limits, just to see how far I could go, but I can’t deny that, for the last few months, I’ve been feeling like I pushed it too far, with too many posts (normally, I like to have my regular Sunday posts written almost two months before they are published, but the last few months, I’ve been finishing a few within the last day before my scheduled publishing date). So, going ahead, I will be pulling back a little. As I mentioned in my last Film Legends Of Yesteryear post, that series will no longer be an extra one, and will instead be part of my regular Sunday or Wednesday posts (whenever I have films that are from 1939, include actress Rita Hayworth amongst the cast, feature screen teams or whatever else I decide to add down the line). I will also no longer be doing any more than two or three posts a month in my What’s Old Is A New Release Again series (if I have more, I’ll just lump all of them into one post with brief descriptions, with a later post to follow in November for titles included in my “Top 10 Disc Release Of The Year” post). How much I do for any of the other non-Sunday series will vary, but the main idea is that I want (and need) to pull back a little for now.

Of course, what we were all here for was the movies, and that didn’t change much. Most of the year has been focused on my various Star Of The Month blogathons, featuring actors and actresses like Doris Day (January), Clark Gable (February), Gene Kelly (March), Cary Grant (May), Claudette Colbert (June), James Cagney (July), Barbara Stanwyck (August) and Humphrey Bogart (November), with one detour in September focusing on the musical genre. Besides all those, I also saw a number of films from writer/director Preston Sturges, with a general emphasis on the comedies, and also had a once-a-month focus on actress Rita Hayworth. My biggest discovery for this year, though, would be the films of child star Deanna Durbin. I had barely heard of her before (but hadn’t seen any of her films), and now, I’ve seen at least six of her films (all of which I thoroughly enjoyed)! I think that more or less sums up my year of movie watching!

And with all that said, here’s my list of the top 10 movies that I watched/reviewed for the year 2021, culled from the list of 2021 reviews, plus 2020 releases reviewed after January 1, 2021 and 2021 releases reviewed before December 31, 2021 (also a few films released on disc in 2018 and 2019, but obviously they’re included in the 2021 reviews).  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Taking the top spot for 2021 is the rather obvious choice of Singin’ In The Rain! Very much a tribute to the film’s producer Arthur Freed and his songwriting partner Nacio Herb Brown, this film makes use of some of their best songs, while giving us a story set in the end of the silent film era (close to the time when the tunes were originally written)! Of course, with a cast that includes Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, the whole affair is top-notch, from the acting to the singing (and especially the dancing!) and always worth seeing (or even just listening to)!
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this biographical musical, James Cagney plays George M. Cohan as he rises to become a famous songwriter and producer. Much of Cohan’s music is here, including the likes of “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” which adds to the fun! But it’s Cagney (in his only Oscar win) that makes the film, as he proves how good he was as a song-and-dance man! Always worth seeing (especially around July 4)!
  1. Naughty Marietta (1934) (Warner Archive, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The film that brought America’s “Singing Sweethearts” together for the first time! Jeanette MacDonald plays a princess who escapes to the New World to avoid an arranged marriage, and falls in love with the leader of a group of mercenaries (played by Nelson Eddy, of course). Their chemistry makes the film (especially when they sing the classic “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life”), with aid from Frank Morgan and Elsa Lanchester as the Governor and his wife. An easy to recommend classic!
  1. Animal Crackers (1930) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The Marx Brothers are back after the success of The Cocoanuts! Groucho plays Captain Spaulding (“Hooray for Captain Spaulding! The African explorer!”), who is the guest of honor at a weekend party hosted by Mrs. Rittenhouse (played by usual Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont). With hilarious comic bits from the Brothers, including “Take A Letter,” Harpo’s thievery, the bridge game and the interactions between Groucho and Chico, this is one of their funniest and most anarchic films (and highly recommended)!
  1. (Tie) It Started With Eve (1941) (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Now we have a three-way tie for fifth spot on the list! In It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin stars alongside Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings in one of her earlier adult roles! She has to pretend to be the girlfriend of Robert Cummings’ Johhny Reynolds, Jr. when his father (Laughton) is on his deathbed (and Johhny’s real girlfriend can’t be found), but she has to maintain the charade when the elder Reynolds recovers! It’s a very heartwarming film, with the song “When I Sing” as its biggest standout tune, and one that I have no trouble recommending for a bit of fun!
  1. (Tie) Mad About Music (1938) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the second film from the three-way tie, Deanna Durbin is the secret daughter of a Hollywood actress, who can’t tell anybody about her mother, and makes up lies about her father. Her lies catch up with her when, to meet a boy, she says she is meeting her father at the train station, and then has to pick somebody out to maintain her lie! It’s another fun musical from Deanna, with the song “I Love To Whistle” as the film’s big standout! Of course, the comedy works well, too, especially with Herbert Marshall’s composer who must “fill in” as the father! Overall, very fun, and worth seeing!
  1. (Tie) Nice Girl? (1941) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this third film of the three-way tie, Deanna stars as the middle daughter of a high school principal (played by Robert Benchley). She’s tired of her “nice girl” image, and when a handsome field man (played by Franchot Tone) comes to see whether her father merits a fellowship, she decides to try to do something about her reputation. There’s more fun here with the music, as Deanna sings songs like “Perhaps” and especially “Swanee River.” The comedy works well, especially as she (and her other sisters) try to make up to the field man! Like the other two Deanna Durbin films on this list, it’s a lot of fun, and I think it’s well worth giving a chance!
  1. Roman Holiday (1953) (Paramount Pictures, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role! She stars as an over-worked princess who decides to take a day to herself. Gregory Peck co-stars as a reporter who figures out that the girl he helped out is the princess, giving him a potentially big story. An overall very heartwarming film. Audrey’s Oscar win is well-deserved, and the film’s place as a classic certainly merits being on this list!
  1. San Francisco (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • San Francisco features the “team” of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald in their only film together (with Clark being paired up with Spencer Tracy for the first of three films together). In the lead-up to the infamous San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, nightclub owner Blackie Norton (Gable) falls for his new singer, Mary Blake (MacDonald). The earthquake finale is well-done, as we see the city torn apart by mother nature. The movie has some fun musical moments throughout, including the title tune, “Would You” (later used in Singin’ In The Rain) and beautiful renditions by MacDonald of the hymns “Nearer My God To Thee” and “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” Overall, a wonderful classic that I love to periodically revisit!
  1. Bringing Up Baby (1938) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in this classic screwball comedy about a paleontologist who gets mixed up with a crazy young woman! I took to the film quite well the first time I saw it nearly a decade ago, and after seeing it for the first time since that initial viewing (and newly restored on Blu-ray, to boot!), I think the comedy holds up quite well! From a buried brontosaurus bone to panthers on the loose to time in jail, this film jut gets screwier and screwier (and ever more hilarious), making it one of the better films that I’ve seen this year!

Honorable mentions: The Lady Eve (1941) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray), It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray), Libeled Lady (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2021, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2022! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 (which starts tomorrow) featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up (or you can wait a few days to see who my star for February will be)!

Previous Years

2020

2019

2018

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… It Started With Eve (1941)

Well, I’ve made it to my 300th post! I’ll admit, normally I would be trying to do a special list for a milestone like this, but, honestly, the one I would have planned for this I moved ahead to my 250th post (Top 5 Dance Routines I Would Love To Learn). I haven’t come up with anything else since, so we’ll just celebrate the milestone, while continuing on with one of my regular reviews! This time, it’s the Deanna Durbin film It Started With Eve from 1941, which also stars Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings! So, we’ll get through the requisite theatrical short, and then it’s on with the show!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Don’t Hustle An Ant With Muscle(1970)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber)

(Length: 6 minutes, 9 seconds)

The ant tries taking some vitamins, which gives him super strength against the aardvark. This one is a lot of fun, with the ant really turning the tables on the aardvark. It’s hilarious seeing him eventually force the aardvark to act as a waiter for him. Of course, you know those vitamins have to wear off after a while, but in the meantime, there are laughs aplenty as the aardvark keeps trying to get the ant! This is one I’m always glad to revisit!

And Now For The Main Feature…

The wealthy Jonathan Reynolds (Charles Laughton) is dying, and his son, Johnny Reynolds, Jr. (Robert Cummings), comes to see him on his deathbed as he returns from Mexico City. His father wishes to see Johnny’s fiancee, Gloria, before he dies, but Johnny had let Gloria and her mother go to a hotel. Johnny rushes off to the hotel to fulfill his father’s dying wish, but when he arrives there, he finds that both of them have gone out (and he has no idea when they will return). In desperation, Johnny offers to pay hat check girl Anne Terry (Deanna Durbin) if she could pretend to be Gloria for a little while. She accepts, and Jonathan, upon seeing her, is thrilled to see that this “Gloria” looks like the right woman for his son, before he falls asleep. So, Johnny pays Anne, and they part ways.

Oh, but you know it’s not going to be that easy. The next morning, Jonathan wakes up, feeling better, and wants to see Gloria again. Johnny is flustered, and tells Jonathan’s doctor, Harvey (Walter Catlett) the truth. The doctor warns Johnny not to tell his father the truth, as the shock might still be enough to kill him, so Johnny tries to seek out Anne before she leaves town. He is successful in catching her at the train station, and she agrees to come back to help. However, when they get back, Jonathan is being visited by the Bishop (Guy Kibbee) and his assistant, and they discuss a potential wedding. After the Bishop departss, Johnny leaves Anne there, and tries to go tell Gloria Pennington (Margaret Tallichet) and her mother (Catharine Doucet) the truth about what’s going on. Anne starts to develop more interest in helping out as she learns of Jonathan’s connections to major people in the opera world (since her attempts at a singing career hadn’t been going well). Jonathan, upon getting back out of bed, starts planning a party for Anne, but Johnny tries to figure out a way to “break up” with Anne and introduce the real Gloria. His attempt backfires, as Anne is determined to further her career. At one point, Jonathan learns the truth when he overhears one of their arguments, but pretends not to know. Anne starts to develop feelings for Johnny, and tries to tell Jonathan the truth. Wanting her to stick around, he manages to keep her from doing so. On the night of the party, Anne decides not to come. Johnny claims she has a headache, but Jonathan tries to call her. On the phone, she tells him to leave her alone, but Jonathan comes to her apartment (and in doing so, reveals he knows the truth). Not wanting her to leave town, he asks her to go out with him one last time. But, can he convince her to stay (and will his son come to his senses about her)?

It Started With Eve was, to a degree, the end of an era. It was the last film that producer Joe Pasternak did for Universal Studios before he switched over to MGM, and, as such, it was the last film actress Deanna Durbin did for both him and director Henry Koster, both of whom had helped her become a star starting with Three Smart Girls in 1936. Onscreen, she was paired up with Robert Cummings (with whom she had worked previously in Three Smart Girls Grow Up and Spring Parade) and Charles Laughton (with whom she would later do Because Of Him). She enjoyed good relationships with both men. It Started With Eve would prove to be a hit (and one of her best-loved films by audiences), and it was the only time one of her films premiered at Radio City Music Hall.

Another Deanna Durbin film, and another one that I enjoyed getting the chance to see! Here, she had moved on to a more adult role (compared to the other two that I’ve seen), but some of her youthful enthusiasm still shows through (and some of the humor that comes with it)! This time, I also found one of the songs that she sang getting stuck in my head! Ok, it’s “When I Sing,” which is the “Garland Waltz” from Sleeping Beauty (you know, “Once Upon A Dream”) with different lyrics than I’m used to (but I sure don’t mind having these stuck in my head).

The plot itself may not be anything to write home about, with one person acting as a fake significant other for the parent (and then they both fall for each other). But, as I’ve said before, the fun is in how well done the story is, and this film does it right! As I said, Deanna Durbin is fun here, but I’d say that Charles Laughton outshines her here in terms of humor! Especially when he’s dealing with Walter Catlett’s Doctor Harvey! His refusal to listen to the doctor’s orders is hilarious, as he slowly but surely drives the doctor crazy! Plain and simple, this movie is a lot of fun, and one I’m very glad I got the chance to see (and look forward to, hopefully, enjoying many more viewings)! So I would certainly highly recommend giving this one a try!

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of Deanna Durbin Collection: Volume 1 from Kino Lorber. Once again, it’s just an HD scan, not a full restoration. Some specks and dirt to be found, but nothing too terrible. The Blu-ray looks good enough to my eyes, and it’s certainly the way that I would suggest seeing this movie!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Deanna Durbin Collection: Volume 1

The Deanna Durbin Collection: Volume 1 set includes the movies One Hundred Men And A Girl, Three Smart Girls Grow Up and It Started With Eve. None of these three films have been given full restorations, but the HD scans this set is working with are all pretty good nonetheless. My own opinion is that this set would be well worth it for any one of these movies, never mind all three. I came into it with no familiarity with actress Deanna Durbin, and now I want to seek out more of her films. It is sad that Kino couldn’t include Three Smart Girls instead of or in addition to its sequel, but from what I’ve heard, that has more to do with Three Smart Girls not having an available HD scan when they licensed these from Universal Studios. Sadly, the chances of that happening are now low, as this set (which, as the “Volume 1” indicates, was to be the first of three 3-film sets devoted to the actress) was a very poor seller, and the remaining six Deanna Durbin films that Kino licensed were dropped as a result. Granted, I know I didn’t help (otherwise, you would have been seeing these reviews in late June or July 2020, right after the set was released, instead of after the Christmas season), so I know I don’t have much room to complain, but I hope somebody is still willing to take a chance, since the other six should have had HD scans done already. But, in the meantime, I very heartily recommend this set!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Nice Girl? (1941)Deanna DurbinCan’t Help Singing (1944)

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939) – Charles Laughton – Because Of Him (1946)

One Night In The Tropics (1940) – Robert Cummings – The Bride Wore Boots (1946)

Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) – Deanna Durbin Collection: Volume 1

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