Music Movie Monday: Big Bands and Film Noir – the ’40s

1940s, History, Music and Movies

Music

With the Depression over, people began returning to the dance halls and the era of Big Band Swing was underway. The top dogs in the field were Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Glenn Miller Orchestra
Benny Goodman
Artie Shaw

Glenn Miller was killed while en route to a USO show when his plane crashed into the English Channel, and his death is considered the end of the Big Band Era.

With the close of the swing era, we see the emergence of  bebop and jump blues, two forms of up-tempo jazz. As the decade rolled on, jazz and blues began to make their way into the mainstream, with such singers as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald reaching national prominence.

Ella Fitzgerald
Billie Holiday

“Crooners,” such as Bing Crosby were in vogue and by the end of the decade, Frank Sinatra would become the first teen idol.

Bing Crosby

Crosby’s 1942 “White Christmas” is the best-selling single of all time, with an estimated 50+ million copies sold worldwide.

Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra

Singing cowboys were also a thing, with Gene Autry among the most famous of these.

Gene Autry

Movies

After a rough start in the early ’40s because of the war and loss of foreign markets, the movie industry rebounded and by 1946 was at peak profitability.

You can’t talk ’40s film without Casablanca, the 1942 romance starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The movie won Oscars for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Director, and gave us such classic lines as “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “Round up the usual suspects,” and “We’ll always have Paris.”

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca

Another hallmark of ’40s film was film noir, literally “black film,” which evolved from ’30s gangsters movies and reflected a darker and more cynical mood among the country. Film noir features ominous plots, fatalistic heroes and dangerous femmes fatales (shoutout!). The first definitive example of this genre was The Maltese Falcon, starring Humphrey Bogart as hard-boiled detective Sam Spade and was directed by John Huston in his directorial debut.

Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor and Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon

On a more optimistic note, the films of Frank Capra idealized the underdog and the triumph of the “common man.” The most “Capraesque” of his movies is 1946 holiday feature It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.

And finally, there’s Orson Welles’ 1941 Citizen Kane, which has been called the most influential movie of all time. The film is renowned for its cinematography, innovative plot structure and memorable musical score. Stanley Kubrick, Sydney Pollack and Woody Allen are among the filmmakers who list Citizen Kane as one of the best movies of all time.

So there you have an overview of music and films of the 1940s. If you want to read more, check out the sites below.

filmsite.org
Wikipedia
retrowaste.com

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great day!

xoxo

Leave a Reply