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Best American Films By Year, Part One

Lobby Card for Josef Von Sternberg’s The Scarlet Empress (1934)

One day, my friend Lee Sanders and I started chatting about our favorite American films. From a capacious bag full of various literature, Lee whipped out a list of “The Best American Films of the Year,” spanning the years 1915 through 1977.  Now, for the most part, Lee and I see eye-to-eye. Where we don’t, I propose my own alternative. Where two films are listed for a particular year, the first one is Lee’s; the second, mine:

1915 – The Birth of a Nation (D. W. Griffith)
1916 – Intolerance (D. W. Griffith)
1917 – Straight Shooting (John Ford)
1918 – The Whispering Chorus (Cecil B. DeMille); Shoulder Arms (Charles Chaplin)
1919 – Broken Blossoms (D. W. Griffith)
1920 – Way Down East (D. W. Griffith); The Last of the Mohicans (Maurice Tourneur)

1921 – Dream Street (D. W. Griffith); The Kid (Charles Chaplin)
1922 – Robin Hood (Allan Dwan)
1923 – The White Rose  (D. W. Griffith); Our Hospitality (Buster Keaton)
1924 – He Who Gets Slapped (Victor Seastrom)
1925 – Seven Chances (Buster Keaton)
1926 – The General (Buster Keaton)
1927 – Sunrise (F. W. Murnau)
1928 – The Docks of New York (Josef Von Sternberg)
1929 – Lady of the Pavements (D. W. Griffith); The Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch)

1931 – Dishonored (Josef Von Sternberg)
1932 – Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch)
1933 – Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch)
1934 – The Scarlet Empress (Josef Von Sternberg)
1935 – Barbary Coast (Howard Hawks); The Devil Is a Woman (Josef Von Sternberg)
1936 – The Road to Glory (Howard Hawks)
1937 – Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey)
1938 – Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks)
1939 – Stagecoach (John Ford)
1940 – His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks)

That’s all for the first installment. My differences with Lee in the above listings relate more to his love of D. W. Griffith’s later melodramas. I will continue in a week or so with the remainder of the list.

Any comments? We old film freaks used to call this activity “trading bubble gum cards.”