Headed, "Much to entertain for the film buffs", the following review by Peter Dean of "Popular Pictures of the Hollywood 1940s" appeared in "The Courier-Mail" newspaper when the book was first published:
This sixth book in the Hollywood Classics series is as pertinent, illuminating and controversial as its immediate predecessor, "Memorable Films of the Forties".
It has been compiled by the informed and charismatic John Howard Reid. I suspect that Reid and his researchers are heavily male because many inoffensive and obliging actors are labeled dull. Walter Pidgeon, for one. The antipathy exhibited towards him in "Memorable Films of the Forties" is continued, even when he earns a left-handed compliment for his performance in "How Green Was My Valley", in which (while dull, of course) he was "brilliantly cast".
Reid labels Jon Hall as colorless; Don Ameche, boringly brash; Alan Curtis, pathetically wooden; George Brent, stiff as a board; Joseph Calleia, hammy; Gig Young, dreary; Richard Carlson, ludicrous; Lewis Stone’s Judge Hardy, nauseous; Gregory Peck, "no more than adequate" as Father Francis Chisholm in "Keys of the Kingdom"; and Cary Grant, "atrociously miscast" in Frank Lloyd’s spectacular 1940 production of "The Howards of Virginia".
On the other hand, Reid finds Spencer Tracy, Gene Lockhart, Claude Rains, Cedric Hardwicke, Raymond Massey, Norman Lloyd, Jack Carson, Bruce Bennett, Zachary Scott, Lionel Barrymore, John Garfield, Adolphe Menjou, David Niven, Dudley Digges, John Hodiak, Wendell Corey, Ronald Colman, William Bendix and Noel Coward consistently pleasing. There’s little to argue about there.
Proving gallantry isn’t dead, Reid expresses warm regards for a swag of actresses, including Dorothy Lamour, Ilona Massey, Marilyn Monroe, Barbara Stanwyck, Ann Blyth, Ginger Rogers, Jean Arthur, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn and most particularly Alice Faye ("so electrifying") and the incomparable Ingrid Bergman, both of whom, in Reid’s eyes, could do no wrong.
In his review of "Keys of the Kingdom", Reid provides a most interesting section on how Hollywood used to pander to the vested interests of organized religion, particularly the Catholic Church. Reid describes the movie as a milksop version of A.J. Cronin’s novel in which "not a single one of his points or arguments are allowed even a shadow of expression on the screen". Yet Fox’s publicity department had the audacity to hail the novel as "one of the most excitingly discussed books of our times!" even though every single reference, word or incident that excited discussion had been scrupulously removed from the film by executive producer, Darryll F. Zanuck. This review of "Keys of the Kingdom" is film criticism at its best.
Indeed there is much to savor and respect in this book. John Howard Reid speaks his mind intelligently and entertainingly. Even if you don’t always agree with him, your outlook has been so stimulated that it may never be quite the same again.