LawrenceA

Favorites and Other Lists & Musings

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#10 Favorite Movie of 1936

Dodsworth - Sterling stage-to-screen adaptation of the marital discord play based on the Sinclair Lewis novel, from United Artists, producer Samuel Goldwyn, and director William Wyler. Reluctantly retired auto magnate Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) embarks on a lengthy cruise and European vacation with his bored wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton). Along the way they discover that neither is who they thought they were, and their attentions drift, his to lonely expatriate Edith Cortright (Mary Astor), hers to a succession of dilettantes and playboys. Also featuring Paul Lukas, David Niven, Spring Byington, Gregory Gaye, Odette Myrtil, Harlan Briggs, Kathryn Marlowe, Gino Corrado, John Payne in his debut, and Maria Ouspenskaya in her Hollywood debut.

Director Wyler does a masterful job opening up the stage play in a cinematic fashion. When I first watched this movie, I had no idea what it was about, and judging by the title, I expected a stodgy costume drama that would have me frequently checking my watch. Luckily, I was completely wrong, and instead was totally invested in this tale of marital failure and people trying to figure out what they want in life. There's an emotional maturity that's absent from many of the films of this period, an honesty that shows through the studio-era artifice. Perhaps the best example of this is the lengthy argument scene between Huston and Chatterton in their bedroom as they both undress for the evening. Neither is shown in a complimentary manner, and as they remove another item of fancy evening wear, their facade of domestic harmony is further stripped away by their words.

The performances are outstanding by the three leads, easily among their respective careers best. Chatterton, at age 44, retired from American cinema after this, only making a couple of European films and some TV appearances before passing away in 1961. Maria Ouspenskaya, a revered Russian acting teacher and former colleague of Stanislavski, finally relented in her dislike of movie making and agreed to appear in this, her first Hollywood film, at age 60, to pay off some debts. This of course led to an unlikely late-life career as a character actress over the next 13 years or so. The movie earned several Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Actor (Walter Huston), Best Supporting Actress (Ouspenskaya), Best Writing - Screenplay (Sidney Howard), and Best Sound Recording, while the only one it won was for Best Art Direction (Richard Day).   (8/10)

Source: TCM. The only DVD release is long out-of-print, so I had to make-do with a VHS recording. This is a title that deserves a top-shelf Criterion restoration and appreciation.

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It is interesting that Chatterton retired from US films after this very good performance.    Should we link that to the plot of the film?   I.e. that she knew she was done playing a women that men would desire and she didn't wish to play mother roles that didn't involve sexuality?   

 

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2 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

It is interesting that Chatterton retired from US films after this very good performance.    Should we link that to the plot of the film?   I.e. that she knew she was done playing a women that men would desire and she didn't wish to play mother roles that didn't involve sexuality?   

 

Yes, I have read that Mary Astor felt as much about Ruth, that she was so good because she was channeling her own fears and worries into the performance.

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1 minute ago, LawrenceA said:

Yes, I have read that Mary Astor felt as much about Ruth, that she was so good because she was channeling her own fears and worries into the performance.

Funny you mention Mary Astor,  because around a decade later Astor was relegated to the mother roles,  something she didn't like, but accepted since she liked to work.

Astor never got to play a final transitioning role like Ruth had.   Instead Astor was cast in Meet Me In St. Louis and it was mostly mothers from then on!   (with Act of Violence being a standout exception).   

 

 

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#9 Favorite Movie of 1936

Sabotage - Thriller from Gaumont and director Alfred Hitchcock, based on The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. Sylvia Sidney stars as Mrs. Verloc, an American in London and married to foreign-born Karl (Oskar Homolka), who runs a small movie theater. He's also secretly part of a network of terrorists and saboteurs responsible for a series of bombings. Undercover policeman Ted Spencer (John Loder) is tasked with watching Karl and learning the truth about the network, and he sees the way to Karl is through his wife. Also featuring Desmond Tester, Joyce Barbour, Matthew Boulton, S.J. Warmington, William Dewhurst, Martita Hunt, Torin Thatcher, and Peter Bull.

This is a divisive film in Hitchcock's oeuvre. I've seen many people state that they didn't care for it, and some rank it among the director's worst, while others, including a great many critics, label it an unheralded masterpiece. I wouldn't go that far, but I do like it a lot. Sidney gives a terrific, low-key performance as a woman whose life is falling apart through no fault of her own. Homolka is also excellent as the shady bomber. Hitchcock does something novel with his narrative, as well: using the films being shown in Verloc's theater to make comments on the events going on in the broader story. This includes one sequence with an audience watching a Disney cartoon, a rare instance of the rights being granted to allow its use (Walt Disney receives a special credit because of it). The ending of the film is a bit of a surprise. I won't go into detail, but the resolution is one that seems to violate the production code to a degree. I don't know if that caused problems for US exhibition. On a side note, I also recommend the 1996 adpatation, The Secret Agent, with Patricia Arquette, Bob Hoskins Gerard Depardieu, and Robin Williams.   (8/10)

Source: Alpha Video DVD. An awful print, and I advise people to steer clear of this release. I think the movie's lowered reputation is partially due to there being very few clean, clearly audible prints put out on disc. Since this has fallen into public domain, there are dozens of inferior quality DVDs and VHS tapes on the market. 

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On 12/10/2017 at 11:30 PM, LawrenceA said:

#10 Favorite Movie of 1935

The 39 Steps

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Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll are one of the most delicious screen teamings of all Hitchcock films. I only wish that she could have shared more scenes with him. It's my understanding that the two had an off screen dalliance while making the film which may account for some of that potent chemistry we see.

What a shame that illness prevented Donat from appearing in Hitchcock's Secret Agent the following year, and the very beautiful Ms Carroll got saddled, instead, with a sexless John Gielgud as leading man. Secret Agent is still a very interesting film, in my opinion, but it might have been something special if it had had Robert Donat in the lead.

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On 12/11/2017 at 10:29 PM, LawrenceA said:

#7 Favorite Movie of 1935

China Seas

 

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Harlow is wonderful in China Seas, and I also enjoy the duplicity of Beery's characterization. I saw this film again last year, recalling my excitement when I first saw it on the late show as a boy, never having heard of the film before. It's still a good show.

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On 12/12/2017 at 10:08 PM, LawrenceA said:

#5 Favorite Movie of 1935

The Informer

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One of the key aspects of The Informer that impresses me is the musical score by Max Steiner. Steiner would often have a leitmotif for some of a film's characters, a recurrent theme that would often be played when that character appeared on screen. He has one for Margot Grahame as the prostitute in this film.

One of my favourite moments is when Gypo breaks down and confesses before the IRA tribunal of his betrayal of a member to the police (for the reward so he could take the prostitute to America).

Gypo sits on a bench, his hands to his head, repeatedly saying, "I don't know why I did it, I don't know why I did it."

As he does so Steiner answers him on the soundtrack, by quietly replaying Grahame's leitmotif.

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On 12/14/2017 at 3:36 PM, LawrenceA said:

#3 Favorite Movie of 1935

Captain Blood -

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What's also interesting about Captain Blood is that, even though a swashbuckler, it is so reflective of Warner Brothers, a studio that had specialized in films about the underdog and repression.

Considering Flynn's inexperience in this film, his performance holds up remarkably well. Much as the actor may have despised director Curtiz, he owned him a debt for the effectiveness of his portrayal here and helping to make him a star.

Not a lot of actors can spout a cumbersome line of dialogue like, "Up that rigging, you monkeys, and watch those sails fill with the breeze that will carry us all to freedom," and be able to sell it with the conviction of his delivery.

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On 12/15/2017 at 9:27 PM, LawrenceA said:

#2 Favorite Movie of 1935

Mutiny on the Bounty  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.

 

 

Perhaps Niven is tucked away somewhere but I never spotted him. But Cagney? Not a chance. He was a major star at another studio.

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42 minutes ago, TomJH said:

Perhaps Niven is tucked away somewhere but I never spotted him. But Cagney? Not a chance. He was a major star at another studio.

"James Cagney (then on a hiatus from Warner Bros. during a contract dispute) and future stars David Niven and Dick Haymes were uncredited extras in the movie. Cagney is clearly visible toward the beginning of the film. He was sailing his boat near where the film was shooting near Catalina Island; director Frank Lloyd was an old friend of his, and Cagney asked him if he could play a small part in the film, saying, jokingly, "I need the money". Lloyd had Cagney dressed in a crewman's clothes and put him in the background of a few scenes."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutiny_on_the_Bounty_(1935_film)

 

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3 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

"James Cagney (then on a hiatus from Warner Bros. during a contract dispute) and future stars David Niven and Dick Haymes were uncredited extras in the movie. Cagney is clearly visible toward the beginning of the film. He was sailing his boat near where the film was shooting near Catalina Island; director Frank Lloyd was an old friend of his, and Cagney asked him if he could play a small part in the film, saying, jokingly, "I need the money". Lloyd had Cagney dressed in a crewman's clothes and put him in the background of a few scenes."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutiny_on_the_Bounty_(1935_film)

 

Thanks for the interesting Cagney anecdote, Lawrence, but I strongly suspect it's pure fiction. But if anyone can post an image of Jimmy in Bounty I will be the first to say I stand corrected.

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#8 Favorite Movie of 1936

San Francisco - Hit historical melodrama from MGM and director W.S. Van Dyke. In 1906 San Francisco, nightclub owner "Black-ie" Norton (Clark Gable) falls for opera singer Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald), hiring her to sing standard songs at his popular nightspot. When rich guy Jack Burley (Jack Holt) hears her, he insists on putting her on the legitimate opera stage, causing conflict with Mary and Norton. The shadow the impending great earthquake of '06 looms over them all. Also featuring Spencer Tracy, Ted Healy, Jessie Ralph, Harold Huber, Edgar Kennedy, Shirley Ross, Margaret Irving, Roger Imhof, Charles Judels, Warren Hymer, and D.W. Griffith.

As I started watching this again, I was hard-pressed to recall why I picked it as one of my favorites of the year. The story seemed a jumble of cliches, Holt is dull, Tracy is underused, and I'm not a fan of MacDonald nor her style of singing. And then the earthquake happened, and it all clicked for me again. First of all, the first 3/4 of the film aren't bad; in fact, it may be a prime example of studio filmmaking at its height, for better or worse. You have the biggest male star and the biggest female star, both doing what they've previously done well. You have Tracy lending moral authority and class, Ted Healy as comic relief, and the kind of production design seen only in the top of the A-list pictures. You also have the downside of the studio era: a script-by-committee made by a competent director who is just doing an assignment; you never get a sense that there's a driving passion to bring this picture to the screen. It's just entertainment for entertainment's sake, working from prior recipes. 

However, I think it becomes something more when the earthquake hits, as I can recall few films of this era that better illustrate the existential insignificance of man and his troubles in the face of natural forces. All of the melodrama, the squabbles, the political machinations and romantic back-and-forth...all become meaningless in the face of wholesale destruction and abject terror. The special effects used for this sequence may have aged quite a bit, but the scenes are still effective. D.W. Griffith, who also has a cameo as an orchestra conductor, directed some of the crowd shots for the end sequences.

The movie earned a slew of Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Director (Van Dyke), Best Actor (Tracy), Best Writing - Original Story (Robert E. Hopkins), and Best Assistant Director (Joseph M. Newman). It won the Oscar for Best Sound Recording. I find it strange that the movie wasn't nominated for Best Costumes, Best Art Direction, or Best Editing, all of which were superb. I'd also point out that this was the first year in which the Academy added the Supporting Acting categories. Spencer Tracy, who received a nod for Best Actor, was most certainly a supporting performance in this movie, and should have been nominated in that category, which he most likely would have won (all due respect to Walter Brennan and Come and Get It).   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD. Bonuses include a profile on Gable hosted by Liam Neeson, a bizarre cartoon short ("Bottles"), two FitzPatrick Travel Talks, and the movie's alternate ending.

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#7 Favorite Movie of 1936

Fury - Searing drama from MGM that marked the American film debut of director Fritz Lang. Spencer Tracy stars as Joe Wilson, an average guy trying to save up enough money to marry his sweetheart Katherine (Sylvia Sidney). Once he meets his goal, he starts to drive out west to meet up with her when he gets arrested in a small town and accused of being part of a kidnapping gang. Before things can get straightened out, rumors and gossip spread like wildfire among the townsfolk, who grow into an unruly mob and attempt to lynch Joe. The consequences will shatter everyone's lives. Also featuring Walter Abel, Walter Brennan, Bruce Cabot, Edward Ellis, Frank Albertson, George Walcott, Arthur Stone, George Chandler, Minerva Urecal, and Leila Bennett.

The centerpiece of this film is the terrific (and horrific) mob attack scene, a misanthrope's view of society made flesh, where ignorance and bloodlust result in tragedy. Tracy, after years in agreeable but largely unremarkable fare, really broke into the top levels of screen stardom in '36, and this was his most dynamic performance to date. Sidney is also perfect as the sad-eyed girl who becomes a widow before she even gets married. I like Abel as a theatrical, prosecutor, but I can see where he may be too much for some viewers.  I've read a lot of complaints about the film's ending, that it seems too trite, too clean, and anticlimactic. I don't agree, but I can understand their frustration. Any other sort of ending would be difficult in the Production Code era.  The movie earned a single Oscar nomination, for Best Writing, Original Story (Norman Krasna).   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, featuring a commentary by Peter Bogdanovich.

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Who sings The Minstrel Boy in The Informer? ImDB says Dennis ODea, but I cannot seem to find anything else about him as a singer, nor can I find a clip of him singing that tune.

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11 hours ago, Thenryb said:

Who sings The Minstrel Boy in The Informer? ImDB says Dennis ODea, but I cannot seem to find anything else about him as a singer, nor can I find a clip of him singing that tune.

I have no idea. I'm awful with music in films, and the info on IMDb seems incomplete.

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#6 Favorite Movie of 1936

Cesar - Bittersweet final chapter in the Marseille Trilogy from writer-producer Marcel Pagnol, who also directs this time. Set 20 years after the close of the last film, old Panisse (Fernand Charpin) is dying. His much younger wife Fanny (Orane Demazis) is struggling with her grown son Cesariot (Andre Fouche), who has learned the truth of his parentage, and wants to seek out his biological father Marius (Pierre Fresnay). Marius' father Cesar (Raimu) suffers through it all. Also featuring Paul Dullac, Robert Vattier, Marcel Maupi, Milly Mathis, Thommeray, and Alida Rouffe.

The plot description may sound heavy, but this is as humorous as the other films, with realistic characters dealing with life's vagaries. The previous two films began as stage plays, and while this was written especially as a film, it retains the dialogue-driven style. It's funny, it's moving, it's a stirring rumination on aging, family and friendships, and a satisfying conclusion to one French cinema's greatest film series.  (8/10)

Source: Criterion Blu Ray, part of the Marseille Trilogy box set. Bonus features on the Cesar disc include a documentary short from 1935, also made by Pagnol, about the seaport; interviews with Demazis, Fresnay, and Vattier; and a French TV segment about the restoration of the trilogy.

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#5 Favorite Movie of 1936

Swing Time - Some call this the peak of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers dance musicals, from RKO and director George Stevens. Astaire plays Lucky Garnett, a professional dancer who has to earn $25,000 to impress his fiancee Margaret's (Betty Furness) father enough to allow him to marry his daughter. Lucky heads to NYC, accompanied by his magician friend Pop (Victor Moore), where they run into dance instructor Penny Carroll (Rogers). Lucky and Penny get an act together involving a popular band leader (Georges Metaxa), but when the two dancers start to fall in love, trouble looms. Also featuring Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Olin Francis, Gerald Hamer, Landers Stevens, and Ralph Byrd.

I find Rogers most appealing in this outing, funny and beautiful and a terrific dancer, of course. Astaire is his usual breezy, classy self, and he really shines in the "Bojangles" dance number, an extremely rare case of blackface being used in a non-offensive way. Moore is very amusing, and his interplay with Broderick is a highlight. Astaire & Rogers reached their pinnacle as a team here, and their subsequent films were less successful. The movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Dance Direction (Hermes Pan, "Bojangles of Harlem"), and it won the Oscar for Best Music - Original Song (Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields "The Way You Look Tonight").    (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Astaire & Rogers. Bonus features include commentary by John Mueller, a featurette on the film's history and influence, and a pair of short subjects.

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20 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

#8 Favorite Movie of 1936

San Francisco

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I've always liked San Francisco. Mind you, I don't have the problems with Jeanette MacDonald that many other posters do. The earthquake sequences are still terrific, as you said, Lawrence. One more thing, while Tracy may have walked off with a best actor nod (undeserved, as you pointed out, Lawrence, since he's clearly supporting) this is, aside from the great special effects, Gable's film. He is at his macho, strutting best.

Until, that is, until his cringe worthy scene at the end in which the script forces him to fall to his knees and pray to God. Uggg! Viewers want to see a brash, cocky Gable strutting, not praying. The price of a production code and MGM's desire to show Gable's character reformed.

That scene in which Tracy's priest pushes his nose into Gable's business for having MacDonald wear black mesh stockings on a stage (makes reference to her "immortal soul" too, if memory serves me correctly) had me cheering Gable when he responded by giving him a shot in his pious, holier-than-thou mouth. Of course that was followed by a closeup of Tracy with blood trickling from his mouth with the most magnificently martyred look he could summon. I would have given him another shot then for playing on audience sympathy.

By the way, John Barrymore was in Frisco at the time of the '06 earthquake.

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#4 Favorite Movie of 1936

My Man Godfrey - Archetypal screwball comedy from Universal Pictures and director Gregory La Cava. William Powell stars as Godfrey Smith, a homeless derelict who gets picked up by oddball wealthy socialite Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) as part of a scavenger hunt. She feels pity for him and hires him on to be a butler for her equally eccentric family: grouchy father Alexander (Eugene Pallette), flighty mother Angelica (Alice Brady), and conniving sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick). But Godfrey isn't quite what he seems, and he'll have a lasting effect on everyone around him. Also featuring Mischa Auer, Alan Mowbray, Jean Dixon, Pat Flaherty, Robert Light, Franklin Pangborn, Grady Sutton, Jean Rogers, Bess Flowers, Andrea Leeds, Jane Wyman, and Reginald Mason.

Powell and Lombard, real life exes, have terrific chemistry together. Powell is his reliable smooth self, while Lombard lets it rip as the off-the-wall Irene. In fact, everyone in the cast is noteworthy, from Pallette, to Brady, to Auer, and Patrick. I liked seeing Mowbray not playing a butler for a change, but in a movie about a butler. In this first year of the Academy Awards including supporting performances, this movie became the first one nominated in all four acting categories. The movie's 6 nominations included Best Director (La Cava), Best Actor (Powell), Best Actress (Lombard), Best Supporting Actor (Auer), Best Supporting Actress (Brady), and Best Writing - Screenplay (Eric Hatch & Morrie Ryskind).   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. Extras include a commentary track from film historian Bob Gilpin, a Lux Radio version of the film, some newsreel fragments on the urban conditions during the Depression, and a very short compilation of bloopers featuring Lombard's foul mouth!

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759aff3c045b3c4c417af389f1b79388--my-man

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#3 Favorite Movie of 1936

Things to Come - Flawed but still revolutionary and highly influential science fiction epic from producer Alexander Korda and director William Cameron Menzies. The film charts the "future history" of mankind, from a devastating world war that lasts decades and decimates the world with unimaginable weapons of mass destruction and horrifying biological and chemical warfare, to the slow rebuilding of society as a scientist-led utopia determined to explore the stars. Starring Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, Edward Chapman, Margaretta Scott, Maurice Braddell, Sophie Stewart, Derrick De Marney, Ann Todd, and Pearl Argyle.

This movie has many problems: H.G. Wells was not a screenwriter by profession, and his script is seriously lacking in humanity, character and emotional weight. There are lengthy passages of characters spewing self-serious monologues that will put more than one viewer to sleep. And for a film whose goal was to foresee and foretell the future of 20th century society, Wells completely missed computer technology, an oversight that can be forgiven due to the era. All of that being said, the movie is a visual feast of stunning sets, interestingly composed shots, unique costumes, and heady ideas about politics, science, human tribalism, and self-destructive impulses. The music is also noteworthy, from respected composer Arthur Bliss, which was released as a 3-record set, the first movie soundtrack sold as such. 

The scenes set in the devastated, post-apocalyptic wastes are forerunners of films like Mad Max or any of the dozens of other post-nuke or post-zombie apocalypse movies or TV shows. The last third of the film, set in the future utopia, is the most visually overwhelming, with towering edifices, glass tube elevators and hundreds of extras, all dressed in "future garb". A fun footnote is that at the very first World Science Fiction convention, held in 1939, future genre magazine editor Forrest J. Ackerman and his girlfriend attended in homemade "Things to Come" costumes, the first instance of "cosplay", or convention goers or fans dressing in homemade costumes from their favorite films/TV/comics/etc.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. Bonus features include feature commentary by film historian David Kalat, a featurette on the film's design, an essay on the score, some unused FX footage, and an audio recording of Wells reading from the source novel.

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#2 Favorite Movie of 1936

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town - Anti-establishment populist comedy-drama from Columbia Pictures and director Frank Capra. Small town poet Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) inherits a $20 million fortune from a distant relative that he never knew. He's brought to New York City to help allocate what's to be done with the funds, where he becomes a celebrity for his offbeat manner and culture clash antics. The front-page stories about him are written by newspaper reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur), who has been dating Deeds under an assumed name. When Deeds decides to do something grand and charitable with his fortune, forces align against him to try and have him committed. Also featuring Lionel Stander, George Bancroft, Douglass Dumbrille, H.B. Warner, Raymond Walburn, Ruth Donnelly, Walter Catlett, John Wray, Mayo Methot, Gustav von Seyfferitiz, Paul Hurst, Charles Lane, Warren Hymer, Franklin Pangborn, and Gabby Hayes.

This is one of my favorite Gary Cooper performances. He can often come across as awkward and uncomfortable in dialogue scenes, preferring action scenes and their physicality. His natural awkwardness works perfectly for the eccentric Deeds. Some viewers will be put off by the story's small town moral superiority and vaguely socialist messaging. I don't take either personally, and view both as a response to the Great Depression and the growing anger over failure to climb out of it. The movie earned a handful of Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Best Actor (Cooper), Best Writing - Screenplay (Robert Riskin), and Best Sound Recording, while it won for Best Director (Capra).   (8/10)

Source: Sony DVD. Bonus features include an interview and commentary with Frank Capra Jr., and a bunch of vintage trailers.

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#1 Favorite Movie of 1936

Modern Times - Charles Chaplin's sort-of sound film is also the swan song of the silent film era and the retirement of the Little Tramp look. This time he takes the form of The Worker, a nameless employee in a dehumanized factory assembly line who eventually has a nervous breakdown and begins an odyssey among the throngs of unemployed, suffering through the Depression and the weekly organized labor battles endemic to the decade. He also meets the Gamin (Paulette Goddard), a orphaned teen who's barely surviving on the streets. 

Chaplin uses synchronized music and sound effects, but dialogue is largely overheard only over speakers. What dialogue there is, that is, which is very little; most verbal information is stated using title cards. This is still a visual endeavor, and it's one of Chaplin's greatest accomplishments, with many of his best loved visual gags, from his assembly line mayhem, to his ride through the giant gears of a machine, to a daredevil roller-skating session, a stint in prison blitzed on cocaine (really!), and his care of the Gamin, a very fetching Goddard. And then there's the incredible finale, closing with Chaplin singing a song in his own voice, the first time it was ever heard on film, singing in a gibberish language so as to not alienate any nationality. A wonderful gesture to the world from one the world's most beloved film stars.  (9/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. A terrific release, it features two discs: the first includes the remastered film (which looks phenomenal), as well as a very good commentary track by Chaplin expert David Robinson, visual essays on Chaplin, a featurette about the use of sound with sound designer Ben Burtt, an interview from 1992 with composer David Raksin, and a few cut sequences; the second disc includes All at Sea (1933), a homemade movie by Alistair Cooke featuring Chaplin and Goddard, The Rink (1916), a Chaplin two-reeler, For the First Time (1967) a documentary short about Cubans seeing a movie (Modern Times) for the very first time, and a 2003 documentary Chaplin Today: "Modern Times", featuring filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Included as an insert are lengthy written essays on the film by Saul Austerlitz and Lisa Stein.

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#10 Favorite Movie of 1937

Dead End - Hard-hitting social drama from producer Samuel Goldwyn and director William Wyler, based on the play by Sidney Kingsley. On a riverside street in NYC, posh new high-rise apartment buildings sit next to tenement slums. Drina (Sylvia Sidney) is a young working woman struggling to make ends meet and keep her teenage brother Tommy (Billy Halop) out of trouble with his gang of aimless friends. Dave (Joel McCrea) is a local boy who went to school to become an architect, and who dreams of tearing down the slums and building something better. "Baby Face" Martin (Humphrey Bogart) is another local boy, but he grew up to become a notorious gangster, and he's visiting the old neighborhood to see his Ma before he skips town for good. Also featuring Wendy Barrie, Allen Jenkins, Ward Bond, Marjorie Main, Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsley, Minor Watson, Don "Red" Barry, and Claire Trevor.

Sidney and McCrea are both excellent as good people trying to survive in the worst environment. This film is most often remembered as the start of the "Dead End Kids", the name given to the group of young actors playing the street urchins. They had played their roles on the stage first, and would go on to unexpected stardom and film careers lasting decades under a variety of group names and as solo performers. Bogart was in his "weasly hood" phase, and this is one of, if not the, best example of that characterization. I liked Marjorie Main's small role as Bogart's shell-shocked mother, and Trevor, playing Bogart's former flame whose life took a turn when he left, earned an Academy Award nomination for one of the shortest performances in Oscar history. The movie is surprisingly violent for the time, and Wyler lenses some expertly shot scenarios, particularly the shadowy show-down between McCrea and Bogart. The film earned 4 Oscar nominations, for Best Supporting Actress (Trevor), Best Cinematography (Gregg Toland), Best Art Direction (Richard Day), and Best Picture.   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, notably lacking in any bonus features.

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#9 Favorite Movie of 1937

Make Way for Tomorrow - Heartbreaking drama from Paramount Pictures and director Leo McCarey. An elderly couple, Lucy (Beulah Bondi) and Barkley (Victor Moore), have learned that they are losing their home, and must be separated, with each moving in with different children and their families, much to the annoyance of their in-laws. The situation for each in their new environment grows untenable, and they come to a difficult decision. Also featuring Thomas Mitchell, Fay Bainter, Porter Hall, Barbara Read, Maurice Moscovich, Elisabeth Risdon, Minna Gombell, Ray Mayer, Ralph Remley, and Louise Beavers.

There aren't a lot of movies about growing old, and they tend to be sickly-sweet sentimental exercises in schmaltz. That's not the case here, as this tale looks unflinchingly at infirmity, obsolescence, and the straining of familial bonds. Bondi is fantastic, perhaps the performance of the year, playing much older than her actual age at the time. Moore, too, is very good. The viewer expects things to end up well for our protagonists, but a happy ending is not to be, rather the story ends with a sad uncertainty, a feeling of an uncertain future that underlines the film's theme. The film isn't all a downer, though, as there are also few films that are as genuinely romantic, with a lovely depiction of true matrimonial love and respect. I liked this a lot the first time I saw it, and this second time has only raised my estimation of it even further.  (9/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. Bonus features include an interview with Peter Bogdanovich on director Leo McCarey, another interview with critic Gary Giddins on the film's messaging, and a lengthy booklet included in the case featuring multiple essays.

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