Blast from the Past: Top 10 Songs and Movies from the 1940s
To continue our Blast from the Past series, we have selected a new decade and are counting down the top songs and movies from the 1940s! You may be surprised by some of the songs and movies that have made our list. Timeless classics that you still listen to and watch today were megahits back in the ‘40s.
The 1940s were a crucial time period in United States history that many people today still recall living through. Here’s a look directly into the heart and soul of Americans during this time period.
Crooners and Classic Pop
To preface this section, you must know that the invention you drive with every morning into work was already widely distributed and used in the 1940s as well. By the beginning of the decade, 80 percent of American households owned a radio and tuned in to hear the latest music, news, and entertainment.
The 1940s were the subject of a major shift in the music industry. Prior to this decade, jazz music with screaming trumpets and saxophones dominated the musical scene. Beginning in the ‘40s, however, a greater emphasis began to be placed on vocally-driven performances commonly referred to as “classic pop”.
While orchestras were still utilized to back the vocalists, big-voiced singers known as Crooners were the new landmark in musical pioneering.
The focus of post-war music began to drift away from orchestration and centered on the telling of a story and the emotions that can be expressed through music. Music producers in the 40s moved away from capturing the sound of live groups and focused more on writing three-minute mini-musicals. Singers’ strengths were dissected and the music they produced was specialized to suit their vocal strengths.
The musical giants listed below are some examples of musicians who successfully captured this new style of vocally-driven composing.
Top 10 Songs of the 1940s
- White Christmas – Bing Crosby
- This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie
- The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole
- You are My Sunshine – Jimmie Davis
- In the Mood – Glenn Miller Band
- Take the “A” Train – Duke Ellington
- You Always Hurt the One You Love – Mills Brothers
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
- When You Wish Upon a Star – Cliff Edwards
- Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah – Johnny Mercer
Depicting The War
The 1940s was a booming decade for the film industry. Innovators had solved the problem of connecting sound with pictures that filmmakers had faced in the ‘30s, and now full-length films with dialogue and music were able to be produced.
World War II had a significant impact on the films of the decade as is reflected in the top ten list below. Many propaganda films were produced and shown throughout the country, the most famous of which is Casablanca. As the gears of war began to turn in the United States, movies took on a very realistic tone. The film industry did its best to capture war-time activities like defense mobilization, factory production and fundraisers for relief funds or war bonds.
Hollywood saw its most profitable year of the decade in 1946. All-time highs for theater attendance were recorded in 1946 as the end of the war brought back thousands of soldiers looking to enjoy entertainment with their friends and families.
The ‘40s was also a very important decade for the creative minds at Disney. Walt Disney Productions released a number of movies in the 1940s that are still classics today. Fantasia is known as a revolutionary work in the film industry because of its auditory masterpiece that accompanied the visuals.
Below are a list of iconic films that came out of a revolutionary time period for filmmaking.
Top 10 Movies of the 1940s
- Casablanca (1942)
- The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- The Great Dictator (1940)
- Double Indemnity (1944)
- Pinocchio (1940)
- Bambi (1942)
- Dumbo (1941)
- Fantasia (1940)
We hope you’ve enjoyed our blast from the past in taking a look at the top songs and movies that characterized the 1940s. Next time you visit your parents, grandparents or other older loved ones, see if they can remember the top songs and movies from this decade!
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