Top Ten 1941

1. Sullivan’s Travels
2. Citizen Kane
3. The Lady Eve
4. The Maltese Falcon
5. 49th Parallel
6. Here Comes Mr. Jordan
7. The Little Foxes
8. All That Money Can Buy
9. Ball Of Fire
10. How Green Was My Valley


Film critics are often so caught up in pointing out the magnificence of the great auteur’s directorial style in Citizen Kane that they easily overlook the performance at the centre of the film. As the newspaper man who grows into a publishing tycoon (modelled on William Randolph Hearst), Orson Welles ages decades, experiences familial anguish, romance, lustful wanderings and a lot of competitive business before his grand finale. It’s the most controlled and compelling he ever was on screen (save for his Harry Lime, perhaps), a far cry from the unfocused, terrifying mess that would appear in character roles until his own grand finale.

Honour Roll: Humphrey Bogart, The Maltese Falcon; Cary Grant, Penny Serenade; Joel McCrea, Sullivan’s Travels; Robert Montgomery, Here Comes Mr. Jordan


Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for Ball Of Fire and that same year appeared in The Lady Eve. It was the most deserved of her four career nominations (yes, even more so than Double Indemnity) as both films show her at the height of her powers: tough, angry, sexy with a core of vulnerability that breaks your heart.

Honour Roll: Joan Crawford, A Woman’s Face; Bette Davis, The Great Lie/The Little Foxes; Greer Garson, Blossoms In The Dust; Veronica Lake, Sullivan’s Travels


The team of Powell and Pressburger often cast the Austrian actor Anton Walbrook in their films, and he very rarely failed to make an impression. His small appearance as a Hutterite farmer in 49th Parallel (aka The Invaders) is not the best of the roles they ever gave him (that would probably be The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp), but it’s one of the most emotionally powerful: his speech about the destructive nature of Nazism on the earth is one of the film’s most emotionally shattering moments.

Honour Roll: Charles Coburn, The Devil and Miss Jones; Sydney Greenstreet, The Maltese Falcon; Walter Huston, The Devil And Daniel Webster; Eugene Pallette, The Lady Eve


Once again we catch up with Mary Astor, this time on the very precipice of her career change from girlfriend to mother. The Great Lie is a tacky melodrama whose morality is incredibly dated (Bette Davis raises Astor’s child as her own since it is born out of wedlock), but her haunted sensitivity as a concert pianist who throws her sorrow into her work gives the film much more depth than it deserves.

Honour Roll: Sara Allgood, How Green Was My Valley; Patricia Collinge, The Little Foxes; Anna Magnani, Teresa Venerdi; Teresa Wright, The Little Foxes


Orson Welles, Citizen Kane

Honour Roll: John Ford, How Green Was My Valley; Howard Hawks, Ball of Fire; Michael Powell, 49th Parallel; Preston Sturges, Sullivan’s Travels