LawrenceA

Favorites and Other Lists & Musings

152 posts in this topic

#7 Favorite Movie of 1934

The Black Cat - Outrageous horror-thriller from Universal and director Edgar G. Ulmer. Newlyweds Peter (David Manners) and Joan (Julie Bishop/Jacqueline Wells) are on a train trip through Eastern Europe when they have the bad luck to run into Dr. Werdegast (Bela Lugosi), a WW1 veteran bent on revenge against Poelzig (Boris Karloff), the man who had him sent to prison during the war. After an accident leaves them wounded and stranded, Peter, Joan and Werdegast head for Poelzig's mansion, where the former architect now leads a Satanic cult. As Werdegast closes in for the kill, he learns a few disturbing things that may give him pause on his quest, while Peter and Joan will be lucky to get out alive. Also featuring Harry Cording, Egon Brecher, Lucille Lund, Henry Armetta, Albert Conti, Luis Alberni, Herman Bing, and John Carradine.

This was the first pairing of cinema's biggest horror stars of the era, and it doesn't disappoint. In fact, while there's no denying that Dracula was Lugosi's biggest, signature role, I think his best acting is done in this film. Karloff doesn't have quite as much to do, but he looks cool, with his white widow's peak and custom outfits, which blend nicely with the excellent production design. This was released just as the Production Code was cracking down on "objectionable" material, and it's hard to imagine this movie pleased the censors, what with Satanism, skin flaying, bloody violence, and other implied creepiness. While this one isn't as frequently mentioned, I rank it near the top of the 30's Universal horror offerings, and I like it more each time I see it.   (8/10)

Source: Universal DVD, from the Universal Vault Series.

black_cat_1934_poster.preview.jpg

BLACKCAT-1934.jpg

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#6 Favorite Movie of 1934

Manhattan Melodrama - Emotional crime drama from MGM and director W.S. Van Dyke. Friends since childhood, Blackee Gallagher (Clark Gable) and Jim Wade (William Powell) end up on opposite sides of the law: Blackee is a noted bookie and gambling boss, while Jim becomes district attorney. Blackee's girlfriend Eleanor (Myrna Loy) falls for the respectable Jim, but no matter what, Blackee stands by his pal, but can Jim do the same? Also featuring Nat Pendleton, Leo Carillo, George Sidney, Mickey Rooney, Isabel Jewell, Muriel Evans, Noel Madison, Shirley Ross, Oscar Apfel, and Edward Van Sloan.

This is more of relationship drama than a gangster movie, although there is bullet-riddled violence. A prime joy of this movie is seeing three of the biggest and best stars of the 1930's at the height of their screen appeal. Gable was rarely as charismatic as he is here, a swaggering ladies man, tough guy, and loyal pal all at once. Powell is dignified, sophisticated and wryly humorous. Loy is beautiful and intelligent, able to hold her own with either of her co-stars. The supporting cast is also fine, with Pendleton a dim-witted hoot. If the story does seem to head to tearjerking territory more than once, that's fine, as the tears are earned. This won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story (Arthur Caesar). Joseph L. Mankiewicz was one of the other screenwriters.   (8/10)

Source: Warners DVD, part of the Myrna Loy & William Powell Collection, featuring a pair of vintage shorts as a bonus.

mmelo12.jpg

tumblr_m8d2qwxjav1qbm5l6o1_500.gif?w=676

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#5 Favorite Movie of 1934

The Scarlet Empress - History as psycho-sexual phantasmagoria from Paramount Pictures and director Josef von Sternberg. Marlene Dietrich stars as Catherine, future empress of Russia, shown from childhood through her naive teenage years when she is first wed to Peter III (Sam Jaffe), the mentally deranged heir to the throne. His mother Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (Louise Dresser) demands that Catherine quickly produce her own heir in hopes of passing the dangerous Peter III over, but he doesn't seem much interested in his new bride, who turns toward the affections of court Lothario Count Alexei (John Lodge). Also featuring C. Aubrey Smith, Gavin Gordon, Olive Tell, Ruthelma Stevens, Davison Clark, Richard Alexander, Kent Taylor, Edward Van Sloan, and Jane Darwell.

History comes a far second to the production design in the filmmaker's attention. And what production design! The sets require multiple viewings just to take it all in, from the scores of grotesque statues scattered about, to the massive, ornately carved doors in the palace. The costumes, too, are overloaded with detail, among the most sumptuous to date. The performances are good, if pitched to the upper register, with Jaffe a wild-eyed man-child, Dresser a petulant spoiled royal, Lodge a smirking cad, and Dietrich deftly moving from innocent rose to worldly manipulator. The script contains more overt sexuality than just about any other major studio film of the period, and all sorts of "deviant" desires are heavily hinted at. All of this is presented in von Sternberg's exquisite cinematographic style, a masterpiece of lighting and texture.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD, featuring a TV interview with von Sternberg from the 1960's conducted by Kevin Brownlow, and a written essay on the film in the DVD insert.

27163_1_large.jpg

tumblr_mws9xwQxm81qdm4tlo3_500.gif

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#4 Favorite Movie of 1934

The Man Who Knew Too Much - Suspense thriller from Gaumont and director Alfred Hitchcock. British family the Lawrences, father Bob (Leslie Banks), mother Jill (Edna Best), and daughter Betty (Nova Pilbeam), are vacationing in Switzerland when a friend is killed by sinister agents. Bob finds a bit of secret information that his friend possessed which in turn puts all of the Lawrences in danger, especially when the agents kidnap Betty in order to keep her parents quiet. But Bob and Jill won't let their daughter be taken so easily. Also featuring Peter Lorre, Frank Vosper, Hugh Wakefield, Cicely Oates, and Pierre Fresnay.

I'm one of the few people who thinks that this original version is superior to the much-glossier, big budget Hollywood remake Hitchcock made in the 50's. This movie to me is the foundation movie of Hitchcock's suspense career. He had earlier successes in the genre, but with this movie he set the template for most of his later triumphs. The average everyday family caught up in circumstances beyond their control, using their wits to try and outsmart evil forces, is integral. Banks, one of the more unlikely leading men, what with his half-paralyzed face due to war injuries, is very good here at playing a husband and father who will not rest until his family is safe, all the while keeping his stiff upper lip. The performance of the film belongs to Lorre, making his English language debut, although he himself had not yet learned the language and spoke his lines phonetically, quite an accomplishment given the nuance he instills in his dialogue. 

One particular moment that sticks with me is during the film's protracted shoot-out between the agents and London police. A pair of sharpshooter cops are getting into position in an apartment across the street. The resident, a young and pretty blonde in a barely-there nightgown, is ushered out, and the two men trade quips about her looks and how warm her bed is. Seconds later, bullets shatter the window, and a round hits one of the policemen in the face, killing him, his lifeless body falling face down on that same warm bed, his blood trickling across the sheets. A stark moment of mortal horror.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD, bonus features include an interview with director Guillermo Del Toro about Hitchcock, a circa-1972 interview with Hitchcock himself, audio excerpts of Francois Truffaut's interviews with Hitchcock, audio commentary by historian Philip Kemp, and a written essay in the DVD insert (a booklet, really). I think one reason that this movie isn't as fondly remembered as many of Hitchcock's films is that it has been in the public domain for a long time and there are scores of sub-par copies on the market and on television. Criterion has done an outstanding job restoring the film to near-pristine condition, and I recommend that anyone who hasn't seen it do so.

lorre-poster.jpg

giphy.gif

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#3 Favorite Movie of 1934

It's a Gift - Classic comedy from Paramount Pictures and director Norman Z. McLeod. W.C. Fields stars as Harold Bissonette, a henpecked family man and general store proprietor. He dreams of buying an orange grove out in California, and when the opportunity arises, he packs his wife (Kathleen Howard), his teenage daughter (Jean Rouverol), his small son (Tommy Bupp) and all of his belongings into their dilapidated car and heads west, which sets the framework for a series of lengthy comedy segments. Also featuring Julian Madison, Baby LeRoy, Tammany Young, Morgan Wallace, Charles Sellon, Guy Usher, Dell Henderson, Jane Withers, and Chill Wills in his debut.

Fields can be an acquired taste, a sometimes uneven mixture of slapstick farce and sly verbal witticisms and sharply-honed barbs. This ranks near the very top of his film work in my opinion, with several of my favorite bits. The stand-outs are the chaotic scene in the store with everything going wrong ("Kumquats!"), Fields attempting to sleep on a swinging bench on his front balcony while neighbors and salesmen keep making noise, and Fields wrestling with an uncooperative lawn chair. The supporting cast does a good job of making Fields' life a headache, much to the viewer's amusement.  (8/10)

Source: Universal DVD, part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Favorites Collection.

1934itsagift1.jpg

giftgif1.gif?w=366&h=274

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#2 Favorite Movie of 1934

The Thin Man - Murder mystery served with a heavy dose of sophisticated comedy, from MGM and director W.S. Van Dyke, based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett. Nick Charles (William Powell) is a former detective who has retired to enjoy the good life with his wife Nora (Myrna Loy), a wealthy heiress. When a close friend's family gets wrapped up in a murder case, Nick is reluctant to get involved in the investigation, despite the prodding of the bored Nora. Soon enough, though, Nick and Nora are on the hunt for the killer, with cocktails in hand and assistance from their cowardly dog Asta. Also featuring Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Edward Brophy, Cesar Romero, Natalie Moorehead, Minna Gombell, Porter Hall, Henry Wadsworth, Harold Huber, William Henry, Edward Ellis, Cyril Thornton, and Bert Roach.

After the smash success of Manhattan Melodrama made Powell and Loy a bankable screen pairing, MGM rushed them into this project, although many had their doubts about their suitability. They couldn't have been more wrong, as Nick & Nora Charles seem almost tailor-made for Powell & Loy: witty, classy, capable and romantic. Powell in particular seems to have really clicked with the role, spending much of the film slightly soused but never less than able to take on the task at hand, usually with a smirk and a heavy-lidded twinkle in his eye. The mystery elements are well done, with the culprit not easily sussed out by first time viewers. This earned 4 Oscar nominations, for Best Writing, Adaptation (Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett), Best Director (Van Dyke), Best Actor (Powell), and Best Picture.   (9/10)

Source: Warners DVD.

movieposter.jpg

8f44ffce7607bb8b5b3dbc2a90091616.gif

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#1 Favorite Movie of 1934

It Happened One Night - All-time great romantic comedy from Columbia Pictures and director Frank Capra. Wealthy heiress Ellie (Claudette Colbert) is on the run from her father (Walter Connolly), and she's taking a bus from Miami up to New York. She sits next to Peter (Clark Gable), a roguish newspaper reporter on the outs with his editor. When Peter finds out who she is, he decides to escort her all the way to New York in exchange for a story and/or a handsome pay-out. Neither one expects to fall in love, but... Also featuring Roscoe Karns, Alan Hale, Jameson Thomas, Arthur Hoyt, Blanche Friderici, Charles C. Wilson, Bess Flowers, and Ward Bond.

This simple yet highly effective film laid the foundation for both screwball comedies and most every other romantic comedy to follow. Both stars are at the height of their appeal, and in my opinion neither were ever better. The dialogue is sharp, while many of the gags have become part of cultural lore, such as the "walls of Jericho" curtain, or Colbert using her exposed leg to hitchhike. Director Capra largely leaves his political and social agendas out of this story, which is a relief. This was a major success at the box-office and at the Oscars, winning all 5 categories in which is nominated, including Best Writing, Adaptation (Richard Riskin), Best Director (Capra), Best Actor (Gable), Best Actress (Colbert), and Best Picture.   (10/10)

Source: Criterion Blu-Ray. Bonus features include a discussion with critics Molly Haskell and Phillip Lopate about the screwball genre; a circa-1999 interview with Capra's son; Frank Capra's American Dream, a 1997 feature length documentary about Capra; Capra's first film Fultah Fisher's Boarding House (1921); the AFI Lifetime tribute to Capra from 1982; and an essay on a poster fold-out insert. This is an extraordinary release, and a must-have for Capra fans.

ithappenedonenight.jpg 

legs1.gif

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/23/2017 at 8:34 PM, LawrenceA said:

#7 Favorite Movie of 1934

The Black Cat - Outrageous horror-thriller from Universal and director Edgar G. Ulmer.

 

 

I always find that things get a little morally confusing for the viewer whenever the "good guy" skins the "bad guy" alive in films. ;)

I've always been a fan of this moody, bizarre, kinda kinky horror thriller, as well.

David Manners and Julie Bishop as the newlyweds are every bit as cute, boring and square as you might expect them to be in a film like this, while Karloff and Lugosi seem more or less evenly matched in their best film together.

I particularly enjoy the ominous ambience of the sequence in which Karloff peers at a moody sky on the night of the devil worshippers' meeting.

a96d2c6cfb00eba55f62ddd9bb526e7c--classi

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/23/2017 at 10:59 PM, LawrenceA said:

#6 Favorite Movie of 1934

Manhattan Melodrama

Let's not forget, too, that right after seeing this film John Dillinger had a real blast.

Myrna was his screen favourite, apparently. Hope he got his money's worth that evening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/24/2017 at 11:08 PM, LawrenceA said:

#3 Favorite Movie of 1934

It's a Gift - Classic comedy from Paramount Pictures and director Norman Z. McLeod.

And let's not forget it's not nice to wake somebody up just because you're looking for Carl La Fong.

"Capital L, small A, Capital F, small O, small N, small G.

LA FONG! CARL LA FONG!!!"

w-c-fields-its-a-gift-balcony-scene_scru

hqdefault.jpg

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, TomJH said:

Let's not forget, too, that right after seeing this film John Dillinger had a real blast.

Myrna was his screen favourite, apparently. Hope he got his money's worth that evening.

Well John had good taste!     Manhattan Melodrama is a very fine film with the 3 stars at their best.   This was the film that 'sold me' on Gable (I was already a huge fan of Powell and Loy).

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/25/2017 at 6:51 PM, LawrenceA said:

#1 Favorite Movie of 1934

It Happened One Night -

 

One of the aspects of It Happened One Night that I have always enjoying was the Capraizing of Gable, making him more of a down-to-earth common guy than you ever found him to be at MGM, where they keep promoting him as a sexual Zeus. I certainly agree, Lawrence, that this is truly one of the actor's most likeable and endearing performances. I really like Gable when he played a "common man" here. I wish he had had the opportunity to work with Capra again, if they had ever found the right material, of course.

Ironic that Gable was being "punished" by MGM by sending him to Columbia for this film. He should have been "punished" more often at his home studio with films half this good.

I find IHON holds up better for me on repeat viewings than a lot of Capra's preachy films.

I first saw this film at a small movie revival in a Toronto library basement 30 years ago. There were about 30 of us there and we all howled with laughter at the right moments. Spoiled brat that Colbert was, we still cared about her, and Gable was such a great regular guy. And I got a great kick, too, out of Roscoe Karns as "Smiley," putting the moves on Colbert "believe you me."

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/22/2017 at 2:17 PM, LawrenceA said:

#9 Favorite Movie of 1934

Twentieth Century - Early screwball comedy from Columbia Pictures and director Howard Hawks.

 

I love the wild eccentric that Barrymore plays here. Whenever I want to illustrate the incredible range of this actor I point to four films as the proof:

Swashbuckling costume romantic (Don Juan)

Grand Guignol villainy (Svengali)

Elegant debonair romantic (Grand Hotel)

Screwball comedy eccentric (20th Century)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎11‎/‎23‎/‎2017 at 8:34 PM, LawrenceA said:

#7 Favorite Movie of 1934

The Black Cat - Outrageous horror-thriller from Universal and director Edgar G. Ulmer. Newlyweds Peter (David Manners) and Joan (Julie Bishop/Jacqueline Wells) are on a train trip through Eastern Europe when they have the bad luck to run into Dr. Werdegast (Bela Lugosi), a WW1 veteran bent on revenge against Poelzig (Boris Karloff), the man who had him sent to prison during the war. After an accident leaves them wounded and stranded, Peter, Joan and Werdegast head for Poelzig's mansion, where the former architect now leads a Satanic cult. As Werdegast closes in for the kill, he learns a few disturbing things that may give him pause on his quest, while Peter and Joan will be lucky to get out alive. Also featuring Harry Cording, Egon Brecher, Lucille Lund, Henry Armetta, Albert Conti, Luis Alberni, Herman Bing, and John Carradine.

This was the first pairing of cinema's biggest horror stars of the era, and it doesn't disappoint. In fact, while there's no denying that Dracula was Lugosi's biggest, signature role, I think his best acting is done in this film. Karloff doesn't have quite as much to do, but he looks cool, with his white widow's peak and custom outfits, which blend nicely with the excellent production design. This was released just as the Production Code was cracking down on "objectionable" material, and it's hard to imagine this movie pleased the censors, what with Satanism, skin flaying, bloody violence, and other implied creepiness. While this one isn't as frequently mentioned, I rank it near the top of the 30's Universal horror offerings, and I like it more each time I see it.   (8/10)

Source: Universal DVD, from the Universal Vault Series.

black_cat_1934_poster.preview.jpg

BLACKCAT-1934.jpg

Watched this movie a couple nights ago, and I too enjoyed it. It was cool seeing Dracula and Frankenstein's monster in the same movie and with Dracula actually being the more sympathetic of the two (I know, I know it isn't Dracula and the monster they are playing here).

Lugosi is great in here but IMO Karloff is equally great (and menacing). If only Lugosi could have been given more chances to prove he could play characters other than Dracula (his only other opportunity would be his other memorable performance as Ygor in Son of Frankenstein), his career might have turned out quite a bit better and not have had to been reduced to starring in Ed Wood films.

Karloff did better than Lugosi, but was it because he was offered more versatile roles, or because he had a bit more wisdom than Lugosi in choosing the scripts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#10 Favorite Movie of 1935

The 39 Steps - Alfred Hitchcock really hit his stride with this "wrongfully accused man on the run" thriller from Gaumont. Robert Donat stars as Hannay, a Canadian working in London who has the misfortune of running into the wrong woman at a vaudeville show. She has some valuable intelligence that's made her a target of killers, but when she ends up dead, it's Hannay that gets blamed. Not only are the police after him, but so is the group of killers, a spy ring that believe he has the woman's info. Hannay's flight to safety sees him hiding out in the Scottish highlands and getting chained to a beautiful if reluctant partner (Madeleine Carroll). Also featuring Lucie Mannheim, Peggy Ashcroft, Godfrey Tearle, John Laurie, Helen Haye, and Wylie Watson.

Donat makes for an agreeable everyman protagonist, caught up in circumstances that he can't quite understand. One of my favorite scenes of the film comes when he hides out with a farmer and his wife. The wife, brilliantly played by Peggy Ashcroft, is sweetly sympathetic, and her whole, sad lot in life is telegraphed in just a few short minutes. While leading lady Carroll doesn't play a major role until rather late in the proceedings, she and Donat have great chemistry as the chained fugitives on the run.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. Bonus features include Hitchcock: The Early Years, a documentary on Hitch's pre-WW2 output; an archival interview with Hitchcock from 1966; a complete radio broadcast of the story from 1937 with Ida Lupino and Robert Montgomery; some audio bits of Truffaut interviewing Hitchcock; a "visual essay"; a written essay in the insert booklet; and audio commentary from Hitchcock expert Marian Keane. Much like the previous year's The Man Who Knew Too Much, this film has long only been available in lousy public domain editions, and seeing it remastered and presented in high-quality video and audio is extraordinary.

blog_w540_poster-39-steps-the_16.jpg

tumblr_nxu7itHpbM1s0hk6jo1_500.gif

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#9 Favorite Movie of 1935

A Tale of Two Cities - Lavish epic adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, from MGM and director Jack Conway. Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the ensuing Reign of Terror, Ronald Colman stars as alcoholic English barrister Sydney Carton, a man who sees little of value in life until he meets the innocent and lovely Lucie Manette (Elizabeth Allan). Sydney works to acquit her husband Chalres Darnay (Donald Woods) from charges of espionage, while the political inferno in France threatens to consume them all. Also featuring Edna May Oliver, Henry B. Walthall, Basil Rathbone, H.B. Warner, Blanche Yurka, Isabel Jewell, Lucille La Verne, Fritz Leiber, Walter Catlett, Reginald Owen, E.E. Clive, Robert Warwick, and Barlowe Borland.

The period detail is excellent, from the sumptuous decadence of the aristocrats to the squalid misery of the poor. The performances are all very good, with Colman turning in one of his better acting jobs as the hopelessly dissolute romantic. Edna May Oliver and Blanche Yurka are both also outstanding, and if the Best Supporting Actress category had been in existence in 1935, they would be in a dead heat to win it. I also have to point out the tremendous work done on the revolution montage sequences, which were overseen by Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur. The only issue I have with the movie is that the central premise that Colman and Woods' characters look alike is very obviously not true. But I'm willing to excuse that as the rest of the film is so effective. The film earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Film Editing (Conrad A. Nervig) and Best Picture.   (8/10)

Source: Warners DVD, with bonus features including the Oscar-nominated 3-D film short Audoscopiks, two animated shorts, and a radio show version of the story.

1465669447-b8db7f4a27311abb095b6cc119d10

tumblr_mrfqadfM8a1r7k0oco1_r1_500.gif

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#8 Favorite Movie of 1935

A Night at the Opera - The Marx Brothers, sans Zeppo, take their act to MGM in this effort directed by Sam Wood. Groucho plays Otis B. Driftwood, who is being paid by Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to introduce her into high society. He does so by having her invest in an opera company, which leads to chaos courtesy of Otis and oddballs Fiorello (Chico) and Tomasso (Harpo), as well as romance between young opera talents Rosa (Kitty Carlisle) and Riccardo (Alan Jones). Also featuring Walter King, Sig Ruman, Edward Keane, and Robert Emmett O'Connor.

Though not quite as anarchic as their Paramount films, this is still wildly hilarious, with many great sequences, such as the numerous people cramming into a small cruise ship cabin, a manic two-room chase between a beleaguered police detective and the boys, and the madcap finale on the opera opening night. There's quite a bit of music, with a few operetta numbers from the young lovers, and the usual piano and harp solos from Chico and Harpo.  (8/10)

Source: Warners DVD. Bonus features include a commentary track from Leonard Maltin, a 30-minute Marx Brothers retrospective, a vintage Groucho interview, and a couple of vintage short films.

night_at_the_opera_poster_285.jpg

tumblr_ov98raWWYn1v904g0o1_400.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#7 Favorite Movie of 1935

China Seas - Rousing adventure/romance from MGM and director Tay Garnett. Clark Gable stars as hard-edged ship captain Alan Gaskell, a tough commander with a reputation for a mean temper. His mettle gets tested by two women along for the latest voyage: brassy showgirl China Doll (Jean Harlow) and high-class widow Sybil Barclay (Rosalind Russell). While the two women vie for the captain's affections, shady businessman Jamesy MacArdle (Wallace Beery) conspires with pirates to take the ship. Also featuring Lewis Stone, C. Aubrey Smith, Dudley Digges, Robert Benchley, William Henry, Edward Brophy, Donald Meek, Akim Tamiroff, Hattie McDaniel, and Willie Fung.

There's nothing particularly innovative or remarkable about the filmmaking or the story, but I like it, nonetheless. The love triangle is well drawn, with all 3 participants giving great performances. Beery shows more nuance than usual, and the excellent supporting cast are all good, with high marks for Benchley as a perpetual souse. I also enjoyed the character arc for Lewis Stone, and the scene of goofy Willie Fung firing a tommygun is amusing.  (8/10)

Source: Warners DVD,part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Jean Harlow, with a pair of vintage shorts as bonus features.

1132306_original.jpg

ac46845e5f51820652ec6d441fdbc4ba.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#6 Favorite Movie of 1935

Les Miserables - Powerful adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel, from 20th Century and director Richard Boleslawski. Fredric March stars as Jean Valjean, a poor wretch in early 19th century France who is sentenced to 10 years hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. Even after his brutal prison sentence is completed, his life is still misery and deprivation, as society seems unwilling to welcome back a felon. An act of kindness changes his life, though, and he sets off on a better path. But that may all be ruined by the pursuit of Javert (Charles Laughton), a cold and calculating policeman with a fanatical adherence to the letter of the law. Also featuring Rochelle Hudson, Florence Eldridge, Frances Drake, Cedric Hardwicke, John Beal, Jessie Ralph, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Mary Forbes, Leonid Kinskey, Murdock MacQuarrie, and John Carradine.

This is a fine, condensed telling of Hugo's difficult-to-film novel. While some events and characters have been changed for various reasons (running time, censors, etc.), the spirit of the story is left intact. March is fantastic in a role that I would have thought he'd be ill-suited for. He even gets to have some actor-ly fun by playing a lookalike to his character. Laughton, too, is very good. 1935 was arguably the peak of his film career, with this, Ruggles of Red Gap, and Mutiny on the Bounty all finding tremendous success. The costumes and production design are noteworthy, and I also liked the score by Alfred Newman, especially the brooding menace of the slow sewer chase late in the film. The movie earned 4 Oscar nominations, for Best Assistant Director (Eric Stacey), Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean), and Best Picture.  (8/10)

Source: Fox DVD. It includes both this version and the 1952 version.

Les-Miserables-1935-224x300.jpeg

les_miserables_2.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/10/2017 at 8:30 PM, LawrenceA said:

#10 Favorite Movie of 1935

The 39 Steps - Alfred Hitchcock really hit his stride with this "wrongfully accused man on the run" thriller from Gaumont. Robert Donat stars as Hannay, a Canadian working in London who has the misfortune of running into the wrong woman at a vaudeville show. She has some valuable intelligence that's made her a target of killers, but when she ends up dead, it's Hannay that gets blamed. Not only are the police after him, but so is the group of killers, a spy ring that believe he has the woman's info. Hannay's flight to safety sees him hiding out in the Scottish highlands and getting chained to a beautiful if reluctant partner (Madeleine Carroll). Also featuring Lucie Mannheim, Peggy Ashcroft, Godfrey Tearle, John Laurie, Helen Haye, and Wylie Watson.

Donat makes for an agreeable everyman protagonist, caught up in circumstances that he can't quite understand. One of my favorite scenes of the film comes when he hides out with a farmer and his wife. The wife, brilliantly played by Peggy Ashcroft, is sweetly sympathetic, and her whole, sad lot in life is telegraphed in just a few short minutes. While leading lady Carroll doesn't play a major role until rather late in the proceedings, she and Donat have great chemistry as the chained fugitives on the run.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. Bonus features include Hitchcock: The Early Years, a documentary on Hitch's pre-WW2 output; an archival interview with Hitchcock from 1966; a complete radio broadcast of the story from 1937 with Ida Lupino and Robert Montgomery; some audio bits of Truffaut interviewing Hitchcock; a "visual essay"; a written essay in the insert booklet; and audio commentary from Hitchcock expert Marian Keane. Much like the previous year's The Man Who Knew Too Much, this film has long only been available in lousy public domain editions, and seeing it remastered and presented in high-quality video and audio is extraordinary.

blog_w540_poster-39-steps-the_16.jpg

tumblr_nxu7itHpbM1s0hk6jo1_500.gif

Love this one. What a joy to have realized Peggy there at first viewing.. Sometime jifs are annoying but this one may best ever (for me).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#5 Favorite Movie of 1935

The Informer - John Ford's searing examination of guilt , from RKO. Victor McLaglen stars as Gypo Nolan, a drunken brute who impulsively informs to the police about the whereabouts of an Irish rebel fugitive. He's desperate for the reward money, a mere 20 pounds, but a small fortune to Gypo and the poor souls he spends his days with. When the police end up killing the fugitive, Gypo's guilt intensifies, leading to a long night of the soul. Also featuring Heather Angel, Preston Foster, Una O'Connor, Wallace Ford, Joe Sawyer, Margot Grahame, Donald Meek, J.M. Kerrigan, Neil Fitzgerald, Steve Pendleton, May Boley, and Francis Ford.

McLaglen gives a terrific performance of a man of limited intellect brought low by desperation. He's both fearsome and pathetic. The supporting cast is also excellent, with special note for Grahame as an equally desperate prostitute. The sets and the stunning cinematography help evoke not just the battered neighborhoods of the oppressed and miserable Irish, but help to accentuate the murky grime of Gypo's damned soul. I'm more impressed by this movie each time I see it, and will probably rank it higher when I reevaluate my top ten for this year. The movie was nominated for the Oscars for Best Film Editing (George Hively) and Best Picture, and it won for Best Actor (McLaglen), Best Director (Ford), Best Writing, Screenplay (Dudley Nichols), and Best Score (Max Steiner).  (9/10)

Source: Warner Archive DVD, with a bonus featurette about the film's impact.

la-locandina-di-il-traditore-197859_jpg_

image-w384.jpg?1481142390

The-Informer1.png

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#4 Favorite Movie of 1935

Top Hat - Delightful musical comedy reteams the cast and crew from The Gay Divorcee, from RKO and director Mark Sandrich. Fred Astaire stars as American entertainer Jerry Travers, in London to appear in a new show from his friend, impresario Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton). Jerry runs into Horace's neighbor Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) and immediately falls for her, but she mistakes his identity, and much romantic shenanigans ensue. Also featuring Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick, Gina Corrado, and Lucille Ball.

The tone is light, the situation breezy, the stakes are minor, but everyone has a good time, most especially the audience. The dialogue is very funny, and the supporting performances are hilarious, particularly from Blore and Rhodes. The sets and costumes are opulent, and the dance sequences are among the best ever filmed. The songs include such memorable tunes as "Cheek to Cheek", "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails", and "No Strings". The movie earned several Oscar nominations, including for Best Art Direction (Caroll Clarke & Van Nest Polglase), Best Dance Direction (Hermes Pan), Best Original Song ("Cheek to Cheek"), and Best Picture.  (8/10)

Source: Warners DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Astaire & Rogers. Bonus features include a featurette about the film's making and subsequent impact, and a couple of vintage shorts, including Watch the Birdie (1935) featuring Bob Hope before his feature debut.

large_ltPxlajqLOokKahBG8LXBnCESXk.jpg

fredastaire_2188828b.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#3 Favorite Movie of 1935

Captain Blood - Spectacular swashbuckling adventure from Warner Brothers and director Michael Curtiz. Errol Flynn became a star as Peter Blood, a late-17th century English physician who is cast into slavery for supposed collusion with rebels against the king. He and his fellow prisoners are sent to the Caribbean where they are forced into the service of the cruel Colonel Bishop (Lionel Atwill). Eventually Blood and his fellow prisoners escape and become pirates on the high seas, terrorizing the English shipping lanes. Also featuring Olivia de Havilland as Bishop's niece, Basil Rathbone as a French pirate captain, Guy Kibbee, Ross Alexander, Henry Stephenson, Robert Barrat, J. Carrol Naish, Hobart Cavanaugh, Donald Meek, Jessie Ralph, Holmes Herbert, David Torrence, E.E. Clive, Pedro de Cordoba, and Halliwell Hobbes.

One of the all-time great screen pairings, Flynn and de Havilland, was introduced here. They have tremendous chemistry and both look gorgeous. The pirate movie is a venerable genre in cinema, and this just may be my favorite. Rathbone isn't in it very long, but what is there is very good, and a great tease for their future rivalry in The Adventures of Robin Hood. The sets and costumes are good, even if some of the backdrops are a bit too obvious, and the miniature sea battles are well executed. I also really like the score from Erich Wolfgang Korngold. This movie earned 5 Oscar nominations, for Best Director (Curtiz), Best Sound Recording, Best Writing, Screenplay (Casey Robinson), Best Music, Score (Leo F. Forbstein[head of department], Korngold), and Best Picture.   (9/10)

Source: Warners DVD. This includes the "Warner Night at the Movies", with an intro by Leonard Maltin, a newsreel, and various cartoon and live action shorts. There's also a featurette about the making of the film. The highlight is the newsreel, which covers such 1935 topics as the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the death of Will Rogers, Dust Bowl wind storms, FDR on the campaign trail promising to keep the US out of European entanglements, and in the "things never change" department, California wildfires that threaten Los Angeles.

b70-1134

errol_flynn_006_captain_blood.jpg

capnblooduse.gif?resize=598,300

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#2 Favorite Movie of 1935

Mutiny on the Bounty - MGM's lavish epic adaptation of James Norman Hall & Charles Nordhoff's historical novel, from director Frank Lloyd. Clark Gable stars as Fletcher Christian, an English naval officer circa the 1780's, and First Mate on the HMS Bounty, bound for Tahiti to collect breadfruit trees for delivery to the Caribbean. In command of the ship is the tyrannical Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton), a stickler for the rules with a cruel streak. The men under his command will only stand for so much before mutiny begins to be whispered. Also featuring Franchot Tone as a novice ship's officer, Donald Crisp, Eddie Quillan, Henry Stephenson, Stanley Fields, Herbert Mundin, Dudley Digges, Francis Lister, Spring Byington, David Torrence, Ian Wolfe, DeWitt Jennings, Ray Corrigan, Jon Hall, Mamo Clark, and Movita. 

One of the all-time great nautical adventure films, this also set the precedent by which all succeeding tyrannical bosses are judged, with Laughton achieving perhaps his most long-lived screen performance. Gable is strong and capable, and thankfully doesn't attempt an English accent. Tone, in a star-making role, is sympathetic and the voice of naive reason. The tremendous cast of character actors making up the rest of the crew are well-cast, and eagle-eyed viewers may notice David Niven and James Cagney in the background of some scenes. The movie was a huge hit at the box office, and did well at the Oscars, earning three nominations for Best Actor (Gable, Laughton, and Tone), as well as for Best Director (Lloyd), Best Screenplay (Jules Furthman, Talbot Jennings, and Carey Wilson), Best Film Editing (Margaret Booth), and Best Musical Score (Herbert Stothart), while it won the big prize, Best Picture.   (9/10)

Source: Warner Blu-Ray Book. The packaging resembles a book, and has a short booklet inside the front flap. The book has vintage promotional materials, and some biographical information about the people involved with the film. The bonus features on the disc include a making-of documentary, as well as a vintage travelogue to Pitcairn Island, and a newsreel showing an awkward exchange at the Oscars between Frank Capra and Irving Thalberg.

ECCDF13A-160E-4CEE-81B2-9C9F27004D1F.jpg

Mutiny-On-The-Bounty-clark-gable-3059166

mutinyonthebounty1935_15288_678x380_0614

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

#1 Favorite Movie of 1935

Bride of Frankenstein - James Whale returns to direct this bizarre, tongue-in-cheek sequel to the hit 1931 Universal monster flick. Picking up right where the previous film left off, the badly injured Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is brought back to his castle and his loving wife Elizabeth (Valerie Hobson). The Monster (Boris Karloff) has also survived, only badly burned and roaming the countryside in a foul mood. Into the good doctor's life comes the sinister Doctor Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who has himself been experimenting with creating life. He forces Frankenstein to help construct a mate for the Monster in hopes of ushering in a new race of superhumans. Also featuring Una O'Connor, Dwight Frye, O.P. Heggie, E.E. Clive, Gavin Gordon, and Elsa Lanchester.

The proceedings are much more eccentric this time, with dark whimsy and tragedy making for a unique mixture. The performances are all very good, and while I think Thesiger steals every scene he's in, Clive, Karloff and Heggie, as the Blind Hermit, are also noteworthy. I like the laboratory scenes in the last section, and think they're the best of their kind ever put to film, with terrific lighting and great close-up angles on the actor's faces.

I noticed a few things this time around that I haven't before: the burn makeup on the Monster is very good, and the smooth-looking burns on his left arm, fusing some fingers together, is a grisly touch. I also noticed that the ending seems a bit altered. [SPOILERS ahead] The creature instructs Frankenstein to leave the lab with Elizabeth, and then proceeds to pull a lever that blows up the structure, killing himself, the Bride and Pretorius. Only this time, I noticed in a wider shot after the Monster pulls the lever and explosions start going off, Dr. Frankenstein is clearly standing to the left of them, still in the tower, and dying with the rest. That must have proven too much for executives or test audiences, and the bit with him leaving with Elizabeth was added later.

I read recently, during discussions of this film on this message board, that many viewers bristle at the more comedic and/or bizarre aspects, such as O'Connor's over the top maid, or Pretorius's "little people". I think they are both acceptable, and add to the dream-like quality of the proceedings, as well as the unique blend of goofy humor and morbid horror. I also like the intro, featuring Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley, the last played by Lanchester in a dual role, as she's also memorably the Bride. Is it weird that I find her very alluring in this movie? I don't care.   (10/10)

Source: Universal Blu-Ray, part of Frankenstein Complete Legacy Collection, which includes a commentary track, and various featurettes on the film's making, lasting impact, and restoration efforts.

brideoffrank.jpg

bride_0002_Layer+2.jpg

Annex-Lanchester-Elsa-Bride-of-Frankenst

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us