Handsome and debonair, Milland’s early career was mainly in romantic comedies and light action films. His big break came with The Jungle Princess (1936), which made Dorothy Lamour a star as The Sarong Girl. His reputation changed with The Lost Weekend (1945) which won multiple Oscars, but is hard to view as anything other than suffering-porn now—it lacks a plot and an ending. It was no doubt important for people who never realized that alcoholism was bad. But this did alert Hollywood to his skill as a serious actor.
An honorable mention for The Thing With Two Heads (1972), which is terrible, but hey, it is called The Thing With Two Heads. Also an Honorable mention to the sappy, but surprisingly moving Love Story (1970). And a big honorable mention for his portrayal of Mephistopheles in Alias Nick Beal (1949). And another for Irene (1944), a breezy music comedy with little music.
Now for his eight best:
8 – The Lady Has Plans (1942) — A spy comedy as light as fluff. With Paulette Goddard, Milland’s frequent co-star.
7 – The Major and the Minor (1942) — 31-year-old Ginger Rogers pretends to be a child to get a half price train ticket and ends up with Milland at a military school. As this is a romantic comedy, they’d never make it today. [Also on the Ginger Rogers list]
6 – Ministry of Fear (1944) — A light thriller with Milland just out of an asylum facing Nazis. It screams Hitchcock.
5 – Easy Living (1937) — A Preston Sturges penned romantic comedy entwined with the misunderstandings of the very rich.
4 – Dial M for Murder (1954) — Milland plots to murder Grace Kelly. This one is Hitchcock.
3 – The Big Clock (1948) — One of the great Film Noirs as Milland is placed in charge of an investigation to find a man who turns out to be himself. Remade in ’87 as No Way Out with Kevin Costner. (Full Critique)
2 – Beau Geste (1939) — The definitive Foreign Legion film, with Milland one of three brothers who run off for the sake of honor.
1 – The Uninvited (1944) — The greatest ghost film, and the mold for most of those that have followed. Milland and his sister buy a house which turns out to be haunted. (Full Review)