best film:  Black Narcissus from Powell & Pressburger is the best film of 1947. It may ultimately be the best film The Archers ever made. Perhaps no one director (even in tandem) dominated the 1940’s like Renoir did the 1930’s – but the case for Powell & Pressburger is as strong as any (Welles obviously too—and his 1947 entry is one of Black Narcissus’ closest rivals for the year’s best film). Black Narcissus has an edge the rest of their films (until Peeping Tom when Powell was on his own) lack and it is a seminal film in terms of the use of color.

this is a cinematic painting that Bergman or Kieslowski would be proud of 30-40 years later…

….this could easily be from Fanny and Alexander

excels as both a thrilling and intimate character study– with size and grandeur– an epic landscape here

most underrated:   Brute Force from Jules Dassin. The film is hard-hitting with gritty performances (most notably Burt Lancaster and the sadistic prison guard played by Hume Cronyn). Dassin’s use of shadows is impressive—and it mirrors the narrative. It should for sure be in the top 1000 and yet the TSPDT consensus can’t find a spot for it in the entire expanded top 2000 list.

 

Dassin’s use of shadows is impressive

gritty performances by Burt Lancaster and the sadistic prison guard played by Hume Cronyn

most overrated:  The most overrated film of 1947 is Monsieur Verdoux from Chaplin. It currently sits at #278 on the TSPDT list and it is several hundred slots overrated. It’s an entertaining film but doesn’t have the artistic weight to merit this lofty rating. I’ve got it outside of the top 10 here in 1947 and it’s not an amazing year by any stretch.

 

Monsieur Verdoux is about 200 spots ahead of The Lady from Shanghai on the TSPDT consensus list- despite evidence like this (here) to the contrary

gem I want to spotlight:  Odd Man Out from Carol Reed. Reed is sketching here for The Third Man (1949) – his masterpiece that would come just a few years later. Odd Man Out gets visually bolder and bolder as it reaches its inevitable climax.

Odd Man Out is a splendid rough draft for The Third Man

it sort of starts out as a realistic drama and gets progressively more bold in the visual design

a gorgeous photograph here

trends and notables:

  • Powell and Pressburger are the main story of 1947- some of the best experimentation with color in cinema would come decades later but as far as the 1940’s go- Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes (still to come) are there of the 5-6 most important color films of the 1940’s

the incredible run for Powell and Pressburger continues– it is the lead headline for 1947 in world cinema

  • Overall 1947 is a weaker year—but I don’t think this is a part of any trend- it is just a little fluky that it is sandwiched by 1946 (again probably the strongest year in cinema to date) and 1948 which may be the second strongest of the 1940’s. Remember in 1946 we had dazzling works from all-time masters in Hitchcock, Hawks and Ford—and in 1947 Hawks had no entry, Ford made The Fugitive (very good film but not My Darling Clementine) and Hitchcock made The Paradine Case (certainly a huge drop off from Notorious). There’s your difference between the two years.

a gorgeous shot from Ford’s The Fugitive

  • It bears mentioning that this is the peak for the Christmas movie- this era. We had It’s A Wonderful Life in 1946 and then here in 1947 both The Bishop’s Wife and Miracle on 34th Street
  • Another continuing trend in 1947 is the dominance of film noir—Out of the Past should be on anyone’s film noir Mount Rushmore—and I’m counting as many as 25-30% of the archiveable films from the year as noir

Out of the Past should be on anyone’s film noir Mount Rushmore

  • As far as firsts, we have the first archiveable film from Anthony Mann (speaking of film noir) with T-Men. Mann would start in noir and be better known for his westerns in the 1950’s with Jimmy Stewart- a great director
  • 1947 marks the first archiveable film from James Mason (though he had 20+ credits and a decade of work before). Robert Ryan gives us his first two (of a total of 20 archiveable films) here with Crossfire and Dead Reckoning. Nine-year-old Natalie Wood makes her way into the archives for the first time with both Miracle on 34th Street and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Thelma Ritter has one scene (a memorable one) in 34th Street and it would start her acting career—this was her actual debut at age 45 and would start a great run for her
  • It is the debut for neither (that was 1946) but it is worth noting what a big year this is for frequent co-stars Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. They are excellent in two of the best films of the year, be in a total of five archiveable films between them this year and co-star for the first time (they’d go on to co-star a total of seven times) in the noir I Walk Alone

best performance male:  Robert Mitchum with his cool ease gives perhaps the best male performance in film noir history in Out of the Past and it rivals his best work overall (he’s damn brilliant in Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter as well). I actually thought about picking Kirk Douglas for his supporting role in Out of the Past as well as he’s so good. Those two sparring together are some of 1947’s best moments on screen. James Mason is desperation embodied as the man on the run in Reed’s Odd Man Out– he deserves mention as well.

best performance female: The right answer here comes from Black Narcissus whether it is the steadier hand of the great Deborah Kerr or the louder, more volcanic performance of Kathleen Byron.

Deborah Kerr in Black Narcissus — it is either Kerr or Kathleen Byron that give the best female performance of the year

top 10

  1. Black Narcissus
  2. Out of the Past
  3. The Lady From Shanghai
  4. Brute Force
  5. Odd Man Out
  6. Miracle on 34th Street
  7. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
  8. Pursued
  9. Record of a Tenement Gentleman
  10. Dark Passage

the sublime final shot from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

the hall of mirrors sequence in The Lady From Shanghai is cinema’s finest single moment in 1947

 

Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Double Life- Cukor
Black Narcissus- Powell, Pressburger MP
Body and Soul- Rossen
Born To Kill- Wise R
Brute Force-Dassin HR
Crossfire-Dmytryk R
Daisy Kenyon- Preminger R
Dark Passage- Daves R
Dead Reckoning- Cromwell R
Forever Amber- Preminger R
Gentleman’s Agreement- Kazan R
I Walk Alone- Haskin R
Kiss of Death- Hathaway
Life With Father- Curtiz R
Lured- Sirk R
Miracle On 34th Street- Seaton HR
Monsieur Verdoux- Chaplin R
Mourning Becomes Electra– D. Nichols R
Odd Man Out- Reed HR
One Wonderful Sunday – Kurosawa R/HR
Out of the Past- Tourneur MP
Pursued- Walsh HR
Record of a Tenement Gentleman– Ozu HR
Ride the Pink Horse– Montgomery R
The Bishop’s Wife– Koster R
The Damned – Clement R
The Farmer’s Daughter- Potter R
The Fugitive- Ford R
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir – Mankiewicz R/HR
The Lady From Shanghai- Welles MS
The Red House- Daves R
T-Men- A. Mann R

 

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives