BECK index
Movie Mirrors Index

More Movies from 1940

Movie Mirrors

by Sanderson Beck

Best Movies of 1940

Movie Mirrors Introduction



c S M H P V En Ed
 Always a Bride 58   b            5  4
 Andy Hardy Meets Debutante 88   b  5  5    5  5  5  5
 Anne of Windy Poplars 86   b  5  4        5  5
 Arizona 125   b  5  5  4  6  5  5  5
 Beyond Tomorrow 84   b  6  5  4  4  4  5  5
 Bill of Divorcement, A 74   b  4  5  5      5  5
 Bitter Sweet 93   c  5  6  4  3  4  5  5
 Black Friday 70   b  5  5  5    5  5  4
 Blondie on a Budget 72   b  6  5  4   4  5  4
 Brigham Young 113   b  6  4  5    3  5  5
 Brother Rat and a Baby 87   b  4  5  4   3  5  4
 Buck Benny Rides Again 84   b  5  6    5 5  5  4
 Calling Philo Vance 62   b  3  4  4      5  4
 Chad Hanna 88   c  4  4  5   5  5  4
 Charlie Chan in Panama 67   b  5  5  4   3  5  4
 Congo Maisie 71   b  6  5  4   5  5  4
 Cross Country Romance 69   b  4          5  4
 Curtain Call 63   b  6    5      5  4
 Doctor Takes a Wife, The 88   b  6  6  5  6  6  5  5
 Dr. Kildare Goes Home 79   b  5  4  4   4  5  5
 Dr. Kildare's Crisis 75   b  5  5  4    4  5  5
 Dr. Kildare's Strange Case 78   b  5  5  4  5  4  5  5
 East of the River 74   b  5  5  4   3  5  5
 Flight Angels 74   b  4       3  5  4
 Flight Command 116   b  5  4  4   4  5  4
 Flowing Gold 81   b  5  5  4   5  5  5
 Four Sons 89   b  5  5  5    4  5  5
 Ghost Comes Home, The 79   b  4  4  4      5  4
 Golden Fleecing, The 68   b    5  4      5  4
 Haunted Honeymoon 83   b  6  5  5      5  4
 Invisible Man Returns, The 81   b  6  6  4  5  6  5  4
 Irene 100   b  5  5  4   5  5  4
 It's a Date 103   b  5  5  5  5  4  5  5
 Johnny Apollo 93   b  6  6  4  7  5  5  5
 June Night (Swedish) 87   b  5  5  5  6  4  5  5
 Keeping Company 80   b  5    4      5  5
 Lillian Russell 127  b 4 4 5 4 5 4
 Lucky Partners 99   b  5  4  5  5  4  5  4
 Man from Dakota, The 75   b  4  5  6      5  4
 Man Who Talked Too Much, The 76   b  5  5  4      5  4
 Married and in Love 59   b            4  5
 Men Against the Sky 75   b  5  3  4   3  5  4
 Mexican Spitfire 67   b  5  6  4  6 4  5  4
 Michael Shayne, Private Detective 77   b  5  5  4   5  5  4
 Millionaires in Prison 64   b    5        5  5
 Money and the Woman 67   b    4        5  4
 Mummy's Hand, The 67   b  4  6  6  5  5  5  4
 Murder Over New York 65   b  4  5    3  4  5  4
 Our Town 90   b  6  7  6  7  6  5  5
 Proud Valley, The 76   b  6  5  5      5  5
 Saint Takes Over, The 70   b  6  5  4    4  5  4
 Saint's Double Trouble, The 67   b  4  5  4    4  5  4
 Saturday's Children 102   b  5  5  4  
 5  5
 Second Chorus 84   b  4  4  4  5  5  5  4
 Son of Monte Cristo, The 102   b  6  6  5  5  5  5  5
 South of Suez 85   b    5        5  5
 Stage to Chino 59   b        6    5  4
 Strike Up the Band 120   b  5  5  5  5  5  5  5
 Tear Gas Squad 55   b            5  4
 Three Cheers for the Irish 99   b  5  4  4      5  5
 'Til We Meet Again 99   b  6  5  4      5  4
 Tin Pan Alley 94   b  5  6  7  7  5  5  4
 Too Many Girls 85   b  6  6  4  6  5  5  4
 Too Many Husbands 81   b  6  6  5    4  5  5
 20 Mule Team 84   b  6  4  5      5  4
 Two Girls on Broadway 73   b  4  4  4   4  5  4
 We Who Are Young 80   b  5  4        5  5
 When the Daltons Rode 81   b  6  6  5      5  4
 Wyoming 89   b  4  4  4      5  4
 You Can't Fool Your Wife 68   b  4  4    5    5  4
 Young People 78   b  4  4  4    5  5  4

b = black and white
c = color
S = Scheuer's rating
M = Maltin's rating
H = Halliwell's rating
P = Martin & Porter's rating
V = Videohound's rating
En = Beck's entertainment value
Ed = Beck's educational value

Always a Bride

(1940 b 58') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on Robert E. Kent's play, a flatterer with no job has the optimism to win over his girl-friend, who could marry a wealthy young man.

Alice (Rosemary Lane) obviously loves spirited Mike (George Reeves) more than conservative Marshall (John Eldredge) and apparently wants to avoid the quarreling example of her parents.

Andy Hardy Meets Debutante

(1940 b 88') En: 5 Ed: 5

Andy (Mickey Rooney) gets some quick maturity lessons in New York at an expensive restaurant and with new girl friends.

Andy's romantic fantasies about a debutante are tested by reality, but he finds real friendship developing with Betsy (Judy Garland) after she sings "I'm Nobody's Baby."

Anne of Windy Poplars

(1940 b 86') En: 5 Ed: 5

Adapted from a novel by L. M. Montgomery, a young teacher faces exclusion from a dominating family but manages to overcome their prejudices.

Anne Shirley confidently overcomes numerous obstacles placed by human ill will until the matriarch Hester Pringle is destroyed by her own negativity.


(1940 b 125’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Starting in 1860 the town of Tucson is aided in its development by the capable Phoebe Titus (Jean Arthur) who forms a freight business with Solomon Warner (Paul Harvey). She eventually persuades the drifter Peter Muncie (William Holden) to help her get cattle for her ranch. The scheming Carteret (William Warren) and the fool Lazarus Ward (Porter Hall) make things difficult for them.

This classic western portrays pioneers in the Arizona territory during the Civil War. An idle villain tries to use deceit and violence to become rich, but as usual the good overcome the evil.

Beyond Tomorrow

(1940 b 84’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Adele Comandini adapted her story about three elderly engineers played by Charles Winninger, Harry Carey, and C. Aubrey Smith and their housekeeper (Maria Ouspenskaya), who on Christmas Eve help young James Houston (Richard Carlson) and Jean Lawrence (Jean Parker) to begin to fall in love. The three engineers die suddenly and exert their influence as ghosts. James gets singing opportunities, and the divorced actress Arlene Terry (Helen Vinson) tries to rope in the Texan singer.

This fantasy attempts to show the spiritual side of life with the three souls visiting their former situation for a while after they have left their old bodies.


A Bill of Divorcement

(1940 b 74') En: 5 Ed: 5

Very similar to the 1932 film A Bill of Divorcement, Meg Fairfield (Fay Bainter) is going to marry Gray Meredith (Herbert Marshall), and her daughter Sydney Fairfield (Maureen O'Hara) is going to marry Australian John Storm (Patric Knowles); but insane Hilary Fairfield (Adolphe Menjou) seems to have recovered and comes home.

This psychological drama probes the problems of hereditary insanity.

Bitter Sweet

(1940 c 93') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a musical play by Noel Coward, a singer (Jeanette MacDonald) elopes with her music teacher (Nelson Eddy), and they struggle with poverty and a military baron (George Sanders).

Even talented musicians can find it difficult to make a living in a society that rewards its warriors more than its artists.

Black Friday

(1940 b 70') En: 5 Ed: 4

A surgeon (Boris Karloff) saves the life of his college-professor friend (Stanley Ridges) by transplanting the brain of a paralyzed criminal who has hidden money the doctor wants.

The transplantation makes this a fascinating study of a double personality but a moral nightmare as he murders several people.

Blondie on a Budget

(1940 b 72') En: 5 Ed: 4

Dagwood (Arthur Lake) wants to join the Trout Club, and Blondie (Penny Singleton) wants a new coat; but old flame Joan (Rita Hayworth) takes Dagwood for a ride, making Blondie jealous.

In this farcical triangle the children seem to have more sense than anyone. Dagwood does not really stray but lies, causing confusion.

Brigham Young

(1940 b 113’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Directed by Henry Hathaway, Joseph Smith (Vincent Price) and the Mormons are persecuted and driven out of Illinois. Brigham Young (Dean Jagger) persuades a majority of them to go west into Mexican territory, but his leadership is challenged by Angus Duncan (Brian Donlevy). Jonathan Kent (Tyrone Power) travels with Zina Webb (Linda Darnell) who stays with him even though she is not a Mormon.

This historical drama is a fictionalized account of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the western trek led by Brigham Young with the other main characters being dramatic creations. Nonetheless the basic story conveys the persecution Mormons suffered and the determination of their pioneers. Although Dean Jagger was not a Mormon at the time the film was made, he became one 32 years later.

Brother Rat and a Baby

(1940 b 87') En: 5 Ed: 4

Three former cadets get into various jams because of one's scheming and then use other schemes to get out of those. Irresponsible Billy Randolph (Wayne Morris) takes advantage of parents' money to try to help his buddies Bing (Eddie Albert) and Dan (Ronald Reagan) while Bing's wife (Jane Bryan) and girl-friends Joyce (Priscilla Lane) and Claire (Jane Wyman) go along for the ups and downs.

Unfortunately his wiles are so foolish that they are more irritating than humorous.

Buck Benny Rides Again

(1940 b 84') En: 5 Ed: 4

Jack Benny wants to romance a singer who likes the West; so he goes to his ranch and tries to prove what a tough guy he is.

Rochester adds color by also courting a maid and entertains with his singing and dancing. Jack's bravado backfires, but he gets help from his pet bear in capturing two outlaws. The show also satirizes westerns.

Calling Philo Vance

(1940 b 62') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on the S. S. Van Dine novel and similar to the 1933 film The Kennel Murder Case, Vance (James Stephenson) escapes from the Nazis on spy charges and then solves the complicated murder case involving airplane designs.

This version adds a contemporary frame, and Vance's brilliance is set off by the comic bumbling of co-investigator Ryan (Edward Brophy).

Chad Hanna

(1940 c 88’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Nunnally Johnson adapted the novel by Walter D. Edmonds set in 1841 about Chad (Henry Fonda), who falls in love with circus rider Albany (Dorothy Lamour), helps a runaway slave, joins the circus that Albany leaves, and then marries the new circus rider Caroline (Linda Darnell).

This romantic comedy displays the innocence and charm of unsophisticated people in rural New York in a bygone era.

Charlie Chan in Panama

(1940 b 67') En: 5 Ed: 4

The Chinese detective (Sidney Toler) and his son solve three murders and prevent the sabotage of the canal and the U. S. fleet.

This mystery explores issues of biological warfare, strategic security, and terrorism among a varied group of characters.

Congo Maisie

(1940 b 71') En: 5 Ed: 4

Sharp Maisie Ravier (Ann Sothern) stows away on a boat in Africa and finds herself in sexual tension with Dr. Michael Shane (John Carroll). She advises isolated Kay McWade (Rita Johnson) to stay with her husband Dr. Jock McWade (Shepperd Strudwick) and manages to win over Michael during a revolt of native Africans under the spell of witch doctors.

The clash of the white personalities is stimulating, but the Africans are treated like foolish children.

Cross Country Romance

(1940 b 69') En: 5 Ed: 4

An heiress (Wendy Barrie) runs away from her wedding in the trailer of a research doctor (Gene Raymond); they travel across the country and get married before he learns who she is.

Humor comes from the audience knowing more than the characters, and the love is perceived as more real, because he does not know she has money. Actually he is more perturbed when he learns she is rich; but despite the manipulations of her mother (Hedda Hopper) and her, she wins him over.

Curtain Call

(1940 b 63') En: 5 Ed: 4

Dalton Trumbo wrote the script for this comedy in which a producer (Donald McBride) and a director (Alan Mowbray) try to make their star actress (Helen Vinson) sign a new contract by giving her an awful play by an unknown (Barbara Read). Ironically the star likes the play, and the director cannot romance the writer into approving changes; but he finds a way of making it a farce, which is successful.

This farce shows the ups and downs of dramatic collaboration while satirizing the superficiality of a famous actress.

The Doctor Takes a Wife

(1940 b 88’) En: 5 Ed: 5

June Cameron (Loretta Young) has written a successful book for spinsters, and she is thrown together going back to New York with Dr. Timothy Sterling (Ray Milland). Odd circumstances make reporters believe they are married. Her publisher and romantic interest John Pierce (Reginald Gardiner) suggests she write a book about marriage. Tim wants to marry Marilyn (Gail Patrick), but his father (Edmund Gwenn) informs him that he was made a professor because of his marriage. So June and Tim decide to pretend to be married for a while before divorcing.

In this farce two intelligent people start out aggravating each other but eventually come to realize they prefer each other to their previously intended partners. Propinquity strikes again.


Dr. Kildare Goes Home

(1940 b 79') En: 5 Ed: 5

Dr. James Kildare (Lew Ayres) becomes a staff physician under Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) but goes to help his aging father's practice by setting up a new clinic while planning to elope with nurse Mary Lamont (Laraine Day).

This warm-hearted episode portrays the humanitarian medical work as young Dr. Kildare finds a way to employ more young doctors to help more people.

Dr. Kildare’s Crisis

(1940 b 75’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Dr. Kildare (Lew Ayres) and nurse Mary Lamont (Laraine Day) are planning to marry, and Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore) wants to give away the bride. However, her brother Doug Lamont (Robert Young) arrives and has a serious medical problem that threatens their plans.

This soap opera examines what a hereditary disease may mean for one’s relatives. Dr. Kildare has difficulty diagnosing a case that affects his personal life, but Dr. Gillespie provides the wisdom and humor to resolve the dilemma.


Dr. Kildare's Strange Case

(1940 b 78') En: 5 Ed: 5

Dr. Kildare (Lew Ayres) turns down a lucrative position to stay with Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore), disappointing nurse Mary Lamont (Laraine Day), who is seeing a wealthy brain surgeon on a run of bad luck.

Dr. Kildare tries to help the young surgeon regain his confidence and undertakes a risky procedure. The medical science may be far out, but as usual the feelings are right.

East of the River

(1940 b 74') En: 5 Ed: 5

An Italian mama (Marjorie Rambeau) has a problem son Joe (John Garfield), but her adopted son Nick (William Lundigan) is good and wins over Joe's girl-friend Laurie (Brenda Marshall).

Some of the changes strain credulity in this melodrama, but the overall theme makes sense that it is possible to go straight after having been a criminal.

Flight Angels

(1940 b 74') En: 5 Ed: 4

Pilot Chick Farber (Dennis Morgan) is grounded for bad vision by supervisor Bill Graves (Ralph Bellamy) and marries stewardess Mary (Virginia Bruce) while feisty stewardess Nan (Jane Wyman) tries to get pilot Artie Dixon (Wayne Morris) away from planes long enough to marry him.

This comedy with a melodramatic climax portrays developing commercial airlines and the catty rivalry among stewardesses seeking marriage.

Flight Command

(1940 b 116') En: 5 Ed: 4

New pilot Drake (Robert Taylor) is assigned to the elite hellcats in the U. S. Navy, and his problems are complicated when he becomes friends with the wife Lorna (Ruth Hussey) of his commander Bill Gary (Walter Pidgeon).

This is another film getting Americans ready for the current war in which they are not yet participating. Drake represents the youth, skill, and innocence of America that lacks experience.

Flowing Gold

(1940 b 81') En: 5 Ed: 5

Oil driller Hap (Pat O'Brien) gives fugitive Johnny (John Garfield) work on the rig; but sparks fly between Johnny and Hap's girl-friend Linda (Frances Farmer), and all three become friends during their quest for oil.

This oil adventure includes comedy and romance, reflecting the modern enthusiasm for the industrial fuel.

Four Sons

(1940 b 89’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Frau Bern (Eugenie Leontovich) is a war widow with four sons living in Czechoslovakia near the German border in 1937. Joseph (Robert Lowery) is an artist, and she gives him money to go America. Chris (Don Ameche) is in love with Anna (Mary Beth Hughes), but she decides to marry his brother Karl (Alan Curtis) who has joined the German Nazis. Chris is a loyal Czech and opposes Karl. Fritz (George Ernest) is too young to go to war but is eventually drafted.

This anti-war drama informed American audiences by depicting the militaristic horror of what was going on in and around Germany. The mother loves her sons and tries to keep the peace in her family as the war is breaking out.

The Ghost Comes Home

(1940 b 79') En: 5 Ed: 4

Eccentric Vern (Frank Morgan) leaves to arrange for a large bequest to his town but gets drunk and returns without it, only to find his wife (Billie Burke) collected on his life insurance Ernest (Frank Albertson) sold him. His daughter (Ann Rutherford) has a friend (John Shelton), who swindles a greedy banker (Donald Meek) to replace the insurance money.

This farce satirizes many petty characteristics and human foibles.

The Golden Fleecing

(1940 b 68') En: 5 Ed: 4

Henry Twinkle (Lew Ayres) sells life insurance to wanted gangster Gus Fender (Lloyd Nolan), collects the reward for turning him in so he can bail out and escape; but his fiancé Mary Blake (Rita Johnson) is jealous of his dealings with Fender's fiancé Lila Hanley (Virginia Grey).

In this comedy the innocent Twinkle accomplishes his purposes amid a flurry of motives in those around him.

Haunted Honeymoon

(1940 b 83') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on a novel and play by Dorothy Sayers, detective Peter Wimsey (Robert Montgomery) and writer Harriet Vane (Constance Cummings) retire upon wedding but solve one more murder when they buy her childhood home.

In this comedy mystery the murder victim seems to be the most wicked of the characters for refusing to pay people their money.

The Invisible Man Returns

(1940 b 81') En: 5 Ed: 4

Geoffrey (Vincent Price) becomes invisible with a drug to escape hanging for a murder he did not commit so that he can find the murderer (Cedric Hardwicke) while his fiancé Helen (Nan Grey) and Dr. Griffin (John Sutton) try to keep him from going insane.

Using the science fiction device of H. G. Wells, this drama reduces his great scope to a comic murder mystery, a diversion for an England at war.


(1940 b 100') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on James Montgomery's play, Irish Irene O'Dare (Anna Neagle) meets Don Marshall (Ray Milland), who gets her hired as a model in his dress shop and competes for her affection with Bob Vincent (Alan Marshal).

Mr. Smith (Roland Young) is promoted by Don to manage his dress shop, and his devices get Irene taken as an aristocratic person by high society, satirizing the social conventions.

It's a Date

(1940 b 103') En: 5 Ed: 5

An actress (Kay Francis) is going to lose a great part for a young actress to her daughter (Deanna Durbin), but she wins the older man (Walter Pidgeon) her daughter thinks she wants to marry.

This comedy-drama-musical plays on competition between mother and daughter and suggests age-appropriate solutions.

Johnny Apollo

(1940 b 93’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Wealthy stock-broker Robert Cain (Edward Arnold) is put in prison for embezzlement, and his son Bob (Tyrone Power) drops out of college but cannot find a job. To help his father get parole he starts working for gangster boss Mickey Dwyer (Lloyd Nolan) and falls in love with singer Lucky Dubarry (Dorothy Lamour), a friend of the alcoholic Judge Brennan (Charley Grapewin).

This underworld romantic drama depicts the dangers of crime and its consequences. True friendships and love are distinguished from the false that are really selfish and violent.

June Night

(Swedish 1940 b 87') En: 5 Ed: 5

Kerstin (Ingrid Bergman) is shot by her rejected boyfriend Nils but survives and changes her name. The sensation of her passionate news story is discovered when Nils finds her after serving his time; but her relapsed wound is treated by a doctor, who falls in love with her.

This melodrama reflects the dangers of publicity to the privacy of victims.

Keeping Company

(1940 b 80') En: 5 Ed: 5

Mary (Ann Rutherford) marries Ted (John Shelton), and both are advised on marriage by her father (Frank Morgan) and mother (Irene Rich).

This comedy points up difficulties a couple can have when circumstances suggest he has been seeing his former girlfriend (Virginia Grey).

Lillian Russell

(1940 b 127’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Tony Pastor (Leo Carrillo) hires singer Helen Leonard (Alice Faye) as Lillian Russell for his vaudeville theater. She is in love with newspaperman Alex Moore (Henry Fonda); but while receiving jewelry from Diamond Jim Brady (Edward Arnold), she marries composer Edward Solomon (Don Ameche).

         This sentimental musical tames the biography of the famous actress who actually married four times.

Lucky Partners

(1940 b 99') En: 5 Ed: 4

A painter (Ronald Coleman) wishes a young woman (Ginger Rogers) good luck, and they become finalists in the sweepstakes and use the $6,000 her insurance-selling fiancé got for half their ticket to go on a Platonic honeymoon; but she finds she likes the artist better. Though he runs out, he can't escape his romantic destiny.

This fluff represents the type of romantic fairy tale Hollywood allowed under censorship.

The Man from Dakota

(1940 b 75') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on a novel by MacKinlay Kantor, two escaped Union prisoners and a Russian woman follow a map and eventually warn Grant of a trap.

The selfish character of Sergeant Barstow (Wallace Beery) adds humor to this war story as he is more concerned with his stomach than anything else. Lt. Oliver Clark (John Howard) manages to lead the others so that the Union army is saved, giving the story a patriotic theme.

The Man Who Talked Too Much

(1940 b 76') En: 5 Ed: 4

Similar to the 1932 film The Mouthpiece, prosecutor Steve Forbes (George Brent) sends a man to the electric chair, who turns out to be innocent. Steve quits and becomes a defense lawyer assisted by his secretary Joan (Virginia Bruce). They struggle to pay the rent until gangster Roscoe (Richard Barthelmess) gives them lucrative business; but Steve's brother Johnny (William Lundigan) finds evidence and is about to be executed.

This drama indicates some of the flaws in criminal justice.

Married and in Love

(1940 b 59') En: 4 Ed: 5

Dr. Leslie Yates (Alan Marshal) meets his college flame Doris Wilding (Helen Vinson) he wanted to marry; but flashbacks show how Helen Yates (Barbara Read) has made him such a good wife that he can't give her up even though Doris has cooled to her husband Paul Wilding (Patric Knowles).

This well crafted little drama shows how married love can come to be much deeper than initial passion.

Men Against the Sky

(1940 b 75') En: 5 Ed: 4

Sensational pilot Phil Mercedes (Richard Dix) is grounded for flying drunk; but with his sister Kay (Wendy Barrie) he helps aircraft engineer Martin Ames (Kent Taylor) develop a better plane.

Using the best airplanes would help bring victory in the war the United States was about to enter.

Mexican Spitfire

(1940 b 67') En: 5 Ed: 4

Aunt Della Lindsay (Elisabeth Risdon) wants Elizabeth (Linda Price) to replace Carmelita Lindsay (Lupe Velez) as the wife of Dennis Lindsay (Donald Woods); but Uncle Matt (Leon Errol) impersonates Lord Epping (Leon Errol), causing much comic confusion.

Discrimination against the fiery Mexican is foiled by the antics of Uncle Matt.

Michael Shayne, Private Detective

(1940 b 77') En: 5 Ed: 4

Based on Brett Halliday's novel, detective Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) is hired to watch a gambling daughter (Marjorie Weaver), is nearly framed for her boyfriend's murder, but solves the complicated case with creative methods.

A fist to the jaw is only one of Shayne's active ways of handling his work.

Millionaires in Prison

(1940 b 64') En: 5 Ed: 5

A prison wise guy (Lee Tracy) blackmails con artists and helps a doctor do an experiment by getting millionaire convicts to contribute.

This comedy explores how the justice on the inside of a prison is not always administered by the legal authorities.

Money and the Woman

(1940 b 67') En: 5 Ed: 4

A bank executive (Jeffrey Lynn) discovers that an employee (Roger Pryor) has been embezzling; but he falls in love with the man's wife (Brenda Marshall), and they put the money back. The executive doubts the wife after the employee robs the vault.

This melodramatic bank mystery keeps the audience guessing.

The Mummy's Hand

(1940 b 67') En: 5 Ed: 4

Archaeologist Steve (Dick Foran) and his friend Babe (Wallace Ford) get magician entertainer Solvani (Cecil Kellaway) to finance their Egyptian dig against the advice of Egyptian Andoheb (George Zucco), who warns Solvani's daughter Marta (Peggy Moran). Instead of the tomb of a princess, they find a dangerous living mummy.

What this fright comedy lacks in realism it makes up in entertainment.

Murder Over New York

(1940 b 65') En: 5 Ed: 4

Detective Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) gets zealous help from his son Jimmy (Victor Sen Yung) and New York Inspector Vance (Donald McBride) in solving murders covering up the sabotage of airplanes.

This typical Chan mystery reflects the concern for the aircraft industry as the war nears.

Our Town

(1940 b 90’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Thornton Wilder helped adapt his own play that was directed by Sam Wood. In the early 20th century the Stage Manager (Frank Craven) narrates the story of two families in a small town. Dr. Gibbs (Thomas Mitchell) and his wife (Fay Bainter) raise George Gibbs (William Holden) who wants to be a farmer and falls in love with his neighbor Emily Webb (Martha Scott) who is brought up by her father (Guy Kibbee) and mother (Beulah Bondi).

            This homespun tale is dripping with nostalgia for a simpler life with no apparent crime but which emphasizes births, a wedding, and death.

The Proud Valley

(1940 b 76’) En: 5 Ed: 5

In Wales in 1938 the African-American David Goliath (Paul Robeson) gets a ride on a train and finds a job coal mining because Dick Parry (Edward Chapman), who directs a choir, likes his singing voice. Mrs. Parry (Rachel Thomas) welcomes David into their home, and after the marriage of their son Emlyn Parry (Simon Lack) to Dilys (Dilys Thomas) he stays in Emlyn’s room. David works hard in the mine and becomes an advocate for worker rights.

            This musical drama was chosen by Robeson because it portrays a positive African-American character who works hard and helps other people. The story reflects the difficulties and problems in the mining industry and the Welsh love of music.

The Saint Takes Over

(1940 b 70') En: 5 Ed: 4

Simon Templar (George Sanders) tries to help clear Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale), who was framed by gambling racketeers; but they keep finding their dead bodies.

This mystery is played for comedy but not romance.

The Saint's Double Trouble

(1940 b 67') En: 5 Ed: 4

In order to prove his innocence Simon Templar (George Sanders) has to contend with a look-alike smuggling diamonds and killing in his name.

In this mystery the audience is challenged to tell the good Saint from the wicked imitation.

Saturday's Children

(1940 b 102') En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on Maxwell Anderson's play, working poor Bobby Halevy (Anne Shirley) takes advice from her sister Florrie (Lee Patrick) to get impractical inventor Rims Rossen (John Garfield) to marry her. They struggle in poverty, and Rims nearly leaves Bobby; but her father (Claude Rains) tries to make a sacrifice that keeps them together.

This touching comedy-drama shows real people struggling to survive economically as many do.

Second Chorus

(1940 b 84') En: 5 Ed: 4

Trumpeters Danny (Fred Astaire) and Hank (Burgess Meredith) hire secretary Ellen Miller (Paulette Goddard); but she gets a job with band-leader Artie Shaw. Danny and Hank strive to get in the band and compete for her.

The audience's ability to handle this strife will probably be about equal to Astaire's success in teaching Goddard to dance.

The Son of Monte Cristo

(1940 b 102’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas pere, Edmund Dantes Jr. (Louis Hayward) is the son of the famous Monte Cristo and pretends to be a rich fop, but as “The Torch” he is able to overcome the ambitious General Gurka Lanen (George Sanders) who tries to manipulate the Grand Duchess Zona of Lichtenberg (Joan Bennett) to marry him as the new king.

This Dumas tale provides romance and adventure with young Edmund gallantly acting as the “spirit of justice” against the force of military oppression.

South of Suez

(1940 b 85’) En: 5 Ed: 5

John Gamble (George Brent) works in diamond mines in East Africa, first for the cruel and selfish Eli Snedeker (George Tobias), whose wife Delia (Lee Patrick) he knows, and then for the alcoholic Roger Smythe (Miles Mander). Gamble finds a valuable diamond but is framed for the murder of Smythe. Gamble escapes and is aided by Limey (Eric Blore), changes his name, becomes wealthy, and falls in love with Smythe’s daughter Kit Sheffield (Brenda Marshall).

This melodrama is filled with ironies and unusual coincidences while it portrays a good man who has to defend himself against a dishonest man.

Stage to Chino

(1940 b 59') En: 5 Ed: 4

Dan Clark (George O'Brien) drives a stage for owner Caroline McKay (Virginia Vale) and exposes her competition under Elliott (Roy Barcraft) as criminals.

The good guy represents the Post Office, and the audience can enjoy his overcoming the obstacles to catching the bad guys, who are out to get him.

Strike Up the Band

(1940 b 120') En: 5 Ed: 5

Jimmy Connors (Mickey Rooney) and his pal Mary Holden (Judy Garland) organize their school band into a swinging dance band.

This musical suggests that music can heal the spirit of people.

Tear Gas Squad

(1940 b 55’) En: 5 Ed: 4

Singer Tommy McCabe (Dennis Morgan) becomes a policeman to woo Jerry Sullivan (Gloria Dickson) but has to compete with Sergeant Bill Morrisey (John Payne) for her affection.

This romantic drama includes several songs and depicts police training as well as a crime plot. A somewhat arrogant young man clashes with the authority of law enforcement officers exacerbated by the jealous rivalry.

Three Cheers for the Irish

(1940 b 99') En: 5 Ed: 5

Pop Casey (Thomas Mitchell) has to retire from the police force but runs for alderman while his daughter Maureen (Priscilla Lane) falls in love with his replacement, the Scot Angus Ferguson (Dennis Morgan).

Friendly antagonism characterizes this story of human interaction.

'Til We Meet Again

(1940 b 99) En: 5 Ed: 4

Following the story of the 1932 film One Way Passage very closely, convicted murderer Dan (George Brent) and terminal heart patient Joan (Merle Oberon) have a brief romance as officer Steve Burke (Pat O'Brien) takes Dan back for his execution despite the efforts of Dan's deceptive friends Rockingham (Frank McHugh) and the Comtesse (Binnie Barnes).

The implications of the drama are the same; but during a world war the nearness of death is even more palpable.

Tin Pan Alley

(1940 b 94') En: 5 Ed: 4

Song publishers Skeets Harrigan (John Payne) and Harry Calhoun (Jack Oakie) rely on Katie (Alice Faye) to put over their songs; but disappointed Katie goes to London with her sister Lila (Betty Grable).

This provides an excuse for Skeets and Harry to enlist in the war, promoted by the song "Good-bye Broadway, Hello France."

Too Many Girls

(1940 b 85') En: 5 Ed: 4

Adapted from the Rodgers-Hart musical, a wealthy father hires football stars Clint Kelly (Richard Carlson), Manuelito (Desi Arnaz), Jo Jo Jordan (Eddie Bracken), and Al Terwilliger (Hal LeRoy) as bodyguards for his errant daughter Consuelo Casey (Lucille Ball).

The ritual of football seems to dwarf most concerns, and after victory the movie ends in frenetic dancing. Most of the students at the college are unmarried women wearing beanies, signifying their virginity.

Too Many Husbands

(1940 b 81’) En: 5 Ed: 5

Based on a play by Somerset Maugham, Vicky (Jean Arthur) is married to Henry Lowndes (Melvyn Douglas) when she discovers that her first husband, Bill Cardew (Fred MacMurray), did not drown at sea but has returned. She and they try to decide which one she will accept as her husband.

This farce is played for laughs with the men naturally competing for her. Because she actually loves them both, the situation is difficult to resolve.

20 Mule Team

(1940 b 84') En: 5 Ed: 4

Skinner Bill Bragg (Wallace Beery) has not been paid for bringing in borax; but an old enemy Stag Roper (Douglas Fowley) offers him a partnership to find the mother lode. Josie Johnson (Marjorie Rambeau) tries to keep Stag away from her daughter Joan (Anne Baxter) and finally gets Bill to go after him.

Josie is trying to prevent her daughter from suffering her shame of running off with a bad man while she is frustrated by the faults of Bill. The melodrama portrays a bleak world of survival.

Two Girls on Broadway

(1940 b 73') En: 5 Ed: 4

Composer-dancer Eddie Kerns (George Murphy) gets a break and calls for his girl-friend Molly Mahoney (Joan Blondell) and her sister Pat (Lana Turner). The latter gets hired with Eddie and is wooed by wealthy womanizer Chatsworth (Kent Taylor).

Young Pat gets some quick lessons on life in the big city.

We Who Are Young

(1940 b 80') En: 5 Ed: 5

Dalton Trumbo wrote this realistic drama about the financial struggles of a young married couple (John Shelton and Lana Turner) that is fired by a boss (Gene Lockhart) for breaking unfair rules.

They learn that everyone needs help sometimes, and ruthless rules can sometimes prevent people from getting the help they need.

When the Daltons Rode

(1940 b 81') En: 5 Ed: 4

Lawyer Tod Jackson (Randolph Scott) tries to help the infamous Dalton gang and wins over the fiancé (Kay Francis) of Bob Dalton (Broderick Crawford).

This western romanticizes the lives of violent robbers and may please audiences that like to watch fighting.


(1940 b 88') En: 5 Ed: 4

Robber Harkness (Wallace Beery) is betrayed by his partner Pete (Leo Carrillo) and betrays rancher Kincaid, who is shot; he charms Kincaid's son Jimmy (Bobs Watson), helps his daughter Lucy (Ann Rutherford), and gets revenge on the gang that did it while he avoids Custer's army and wins a wife (Marjorie Main).

This entertaining western revolves around a gun-slinging buffoon, who manages to kill the bad men and survive.

You Can't Fool Your Wife

(1940 b 68') En: 5 Ed: 4

Accountant Andrew Hinklin (James Ellison) and his wife Clara (Lucille Ball) have a boring marriage until Battincourt (Robert Coote) distracts him with parties, causing Clara to leave him. Battincourt glamorizes Clara and sends her to Andrew masked as Mercedes to seduce him.

This comedy shows that some couples may need to put more zest into their relationship.

Young People

(1940 b 78') En: 5 Ed: 4

Married entertainers Joe Ballantine (Jack Oakie) and Kit Ballantine (Joan Greenwood) raise orphan Wendy (Shirley Temple) to sing and dance too. They retire to a small town but have trouble gaining social acceptance.

This musical comedy uses entertainment to get across its message.

Copyright © 2006 by Sanderson Beck

Best Movies of 1940

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1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939
1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959

Sanderson Beck’s List of the Greatest Movies of All Time
Sanderson Beck’s List of the Greatest Movies in Alphabetical Order

Movie Mirrors Index

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