Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Favorites and Other Lists & Musings


Recommended Posts

#8 Favorite Movie of 1937

The Life of Emile Zola - Hollywood-ized biopic of the French writer and social crusader, from Warner Brothers and director William Dieterle. The story tracks Zola (Paul Muni) from his struggling youth to his first major literary success with Nana, to his establishment as the leading man of letters in France. He's brought out of semi-retirement by the Dreyfuss Affair, a case where the French army convicted an innocent officer of espionage, and even after proof is shown that he's innocent, the army refuses to reverse their earlier decision in order not to lose face. Zola's defense of Dreyfuss (Joseph Schildkraut) in print brings charges against the author, leading to a contentious court case. Also featuring Gloria Holden, Gale Sondergaard, Vladimir Sokoloff, Erin O'Brien-Moore, Donald Crisp, Louis Calhern, Harry Davenport, Robert Warwick, Robert Barrat, Montagu Love, John Litel, Henry O'Neill, Morris Carnovsky, Ralph Morgan, Grant Mitchell, Lumsden Hare, Moroni Olsen, and Dickie Moore.

Here's a case where the rewatching of a movie lowers my opinion of it. It's not bad at all, but it could have been much better. The film's early passages are rushed, trite, and a little juvenile. Things don't really get interesting until the Dreyfuss affair second half of the movie, although there are still problems here, as well. The bizarre decision to omit the blatant antisemitism at the heart of the Dreyfuss case, and in fact the omission of Dreyfuss even being a Jew, seems unconscionable today. It was apparently decreed from on high at the studio, due to possible box-office trouble in Europe if that aspect was left in. The large number of character actors in supporting cast are enjoyable, but I can see some viewers keeping them apart, as many wear identical uniforms and mustaches. Schildkraut would win the supporting actor Oscar, but I'm not sure he deserved it, and it seems more of a case of the character winning the award rather than the performance.

I posted recently in another thread about there being a handful of Best Picture winners that have yet to receive a blu-ray release, and this is one of them. It really needs a remastering, as the DVD picture is lacking. It's far from the worst I've seen, but it could definitely benefit from an HD clean-up. I've heard that some older films have not had remastering/blu-ray treatments due to a lack of surviving elements suitable to the work. I hope this isn't the case here. The movie received 10 Oscar nominations, the most of any film up to that time. The nominations were for Best Actor (Muni), Best Director (Dieterle), Best Writing - Original Story (Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg), Best Art Direction (Anton Grot), Best Sound Recording, Best Assistant Director (Russell Saunders), and Best Music -Score (Max Steiner), while it won for Best Supporting Actor (Schildkraut), Best Writing - Screenplay (Heinz Herald, Geza Herczeg, Norman Reilly Raine) and Best Picture.   (7/10)

Source: Warner DVD. Bonus features include vintage live action and animated shorts, as well as a 1939 radio production of the film.

mpathelifeofemilezolaposter.jpg

1937-The-Life-of-Emile-Zola-02.jpg

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

#7 Favorite Movie of 1937

Topper - Supernatural screwball comedy from MGM and director Norman Z. McLeod. After fun-loving couple Marion (Constance Bennett) and George Kerby (Cary Grant) are killed in a car crash, their ghosts decide to follow around uptight bank president Cosmo Topper (Roland Young), transforming his life while causing chaos everywhere he goes. Also featuring Billie Burke, Alan Mowbray, Eugene Pallette, Arthur Lake, Hedda Hopper, Virginia Sale, Theodore von Eltz, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ward Bond, Doodles Weaver, Si Jenks, Lana Turner, and Hoagy Carmichael.  

This was one of the first "old" movies that I ever saw as a kid, and as such, it has held a place in my heart. However, after this latest re-watch, I can't say that it's as good as I remember. It's still funny, and the performances are good, but too much of the humor lies with "invisible man" slapstick gags. The movie earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Sound Recording, and Best Supporting Actor (Young), the latter of which is incongruous, as Young is certainly the lead in the film.  (7/10)

Source: DVD, a public domain print from a company that isn't even identified on the case or disc. It includes the sequel Topper Returns (1941).

526225cf481b37497b17e8d65cec71a8.png

topper2.png

Link to post
Share on other sites

#6 Favorite Movie of 1937

A Day at the Races - Second Marx Brothers comedy for MGM, directed by Sam Wood. Dr. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) is the newly appointed chief doctor at an upscale sanitarium owned by Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan). She's in danger of losing the place to crooked casino owner Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille), so hospital employee Tony (Chico Marx) and jockey Stuffy (Harpo Marx) try to help Judy's beau, singer Gil (Allan Jones), win a big horse race and get the money she needs to keep the sanitarium open. Also featuring Margaret Dumont, Leonard Ceeley, Esther Muir, Robert Middlemass, Vivien Fay, Frankie Darro, Carole Landis, Richard Farnsworth, and Sig Ruman.

This was the last of the essential Marx Brothers films, and the tone has changed just a bit. This one is less anarchic, less absurdist, with a straightforward plot. Groucho, too, seems a little more sedate, but still chock full of great one-liners. Chico and Harpo are both fantastic, and for once, in my mind, steal the picture from Groucho. Longtime co-star Dumont is a game partner to Groucho, while the romance between O'Sullivan and Jones is pedestrian. 

There has always been music in the Marx Brothers films, but this one has many musical numbers, with Allan Jones singing a couple of tunes, Chico's requisite piano number, Harpo's requisite harp number (after he memorably destroys a piano), a ballet number, and a sensational, raucous musical number with a large cast of black performers. This last bit earned the film an Oscar nomination for Best Dance Direction (Dave Gould).  (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD. Bonus features include a 30-minute making-of documentary, featuring interviews with O'Sullivan, Dom DeLuise, Carl Reiner, Robert Osborne, and more; 4 vintage shorts; and some audio-only musical numbers.

a-day-at-the-races-bedroom-poster.jpg

a-day-at-the-races_esther-muir-and-marx-

Link to post
Share on other sites

#5 Favorite Movie of 1937

The Good Earth - Epic drama detailing the trials and tribulations of peasant farmers in China, from MGM and director Sidney Franklin. Poor farmer Wang Lung (Paul Muni) marries former slave O-Lan (Luise Rainer), and the two struggle to raise a family while working the land. Droughts, famine, military rebellion, plagues of locusts, and even the moral rot of affluence are among the many problems they face over the decades. Also featuring Walter Connelly, Tilly Losch, Keye Luke, Charley Grapewin, Philip Ahn, Jessie Ralph, Charles Middleton, Soo Yong, Roland Lui, Suzanna Kim, Harold Huber, Richard Loo, and Victor Sen Yung.

This was the final film overseen by producer Irving Thalberg, and the movie begins with a dedication to him. The movie stands as a peak achievement of the studio era, with all of the pluses and minuses that entails. On the positive, the production design, cinematography, and large crowd scenes are very well done. The performances are all good, with Rainer and Grapewin both stand-outs. On the negative side, the script is a bit toothless in that production code way, and the unfortunate necessity in casting mainly white westerners as Chinese subtracts a lot of the film's authenticity. Still, the good things outweigh the bad, for me anyway, and this is still a sterling exemplar of big studio filmmaking in its heyday. The movie several Oscar nominations, including for Best Director (Franklin), Best Film Editing (Basil Wrangell), and Best Picture, while it won for Best Actress (Rainer), and Best Cinematography (Karl Freund).  (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, with a pair of vintage shorts as bonus features. 

the-good-earth-australian-movie-poster-m

4_munirainer.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

#4 Favorite Movie of 1937

Captains Courageous - Sterling seafaring adventure, based on Rudyard Kipling's novel, from MGM and director Victor Fleming. Freddie Bartholomew stars as Harvey, the spoiled rich kid son of tycoon and absentee father Mr. Cheyne (Melvyn Douglas). After being suspended from boarding school, young Harvey travels with his father on a transatlantic ship voyage, only to fall overboard. He's rescued by Portuguese fisherman Manuel (Spencer Tracy), who brings the boy to the fishing ship he works on, captained by Disko (Lionel Barrymore). The boy is stuck with the fishing crew for three months, until the fishing season ends, and with the help of Manuel, he'll learn the life lessons he needs to become a better young man. Also featuring Mickey Rooney, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, Oscar O'Shea, Jack La Rue, Walter Kingsford, Donald Briggs, Leo G. Carroll, Billy Gilbert, and Sam McDaniel.

Here's a film that I like more with each viewing, a family entertainment that doesn't talk down to its audience or wallow in schmaltz. Tracy reportedly hated his performance, but I think he's terrific, displaying a range of emotion with skill and honesty. Bartholomew is the key to the film, and he nails the innocent petulance of the spoiled child in the early scenes, and the weightier emotional work late in the film. The supporting cast is spot-on, and the mechanics of sailing ships in the fishing industry of the day are presented with such accuracy and attention to detail that the movie has been used as a reference for maritime historians. The movie earned Tracy his first Best Actor Oscar, and the film was also nominated for Best Editing (Elmo Veron), Best Writing - Screenplay (John Lee Mahin, Marc Connelly, Dale Van Evry), and Best Picture.    (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Legends Collection: Spencer Tracy. Extras include a pair of vintage shorts, and radio spots.

captainscourageous.jpg

captainscourageous.jpg?itok=m0M8SIO8

Link to post
Share on other sites

#3 Favorite Movie of 1937

Stage Door - Wonderful backstage comedy-drama from RKO and director Gregory LaCava. Katharine Hepburn stars as Terry Randall, a rich girl who has come to NYC to become a stage actress. She rooms at a boarding house for young female stage performers, and is placed with roommate Jean (Ginger Rogers), a sharp-tongued gal who's none too pleased with the pretentious Terry. They both get involved with theater producer Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou), a conniving user. Also featuring Andrea Leeds as another struggling actress on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Ann Miller, Lucille Ball, Constance Collier, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Samuel S. Hinds, Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn, William Corson, Phyllis Kennedy, Margaret Early, Jean Rouverol, and Jack Carson.

The backstage drama is a popular genre, and I place this near the top for its look at the struggles of getting a break in a highly competitive field. Hepburn and Rogers are both terrific, and I rank this as one of the best films from each. The supporting ladies are also tremendous. Menjou gives a brave performance as a real cad with no redeeming qualities. The movie earned 4 Oscar nods, for Best Director (La Cava), Best Supporting Actress (Leeds), Best Writing - Screenplay (Morris Ryskind, Anthony Veiller), and Best Picture.   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Screen Legends Collection: Katharine Hepburn. The bonus features include a radio version of the film, and a 1937 musical short featuring an unrecognizable June Allyson.

MPW-10225

rogershepburn.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

#2 Favorite Movie of 1937

The Awful Truth - Classic screwball romantic comedy from Columbia Pictures and director Leo McCarey. Lucy (Irene Dunne) and Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) are a married couple who are both being unfaithful. They decide that a divorce is for the best, only to learn in their separation that they both still love the other, so they set out to sabotage each other's attempts at newfound romance with others. Also featuring Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D'Arcy, Cecil Cunningham, Molly Lamont, Esther Dale, Joyce Compton, Robert Warwick, Robert Allen, Mary Forbes, and Asta (Skippy).

This is my favorite performance by Irene Dunne, and I think she was never funnier or prettier. This film also marks the first appearance of the "Cary Grant" persona, the Cary Grant that audiences loved for the next few decades. He's very funny here, as well, charming and witty. I'm also a big fan of Ralph Bellamy's performance, and think he deserved the Oscar for it. The movie earned nominations for Best Actress (Dunne), Best Supporting Actor (Bellamy), Best Screenplay (Vina Delmar), Best Editing (Al Clark), and Best Picture, while it won for Best Director (McCarey).   (8/10)

Source: Sony DVD. Coincidentally, Criterion just announced yesterday that they will be releasing a remastered Blu-ray/DVD with all the bells and whistles this coming April.

image_12287021.jpeg

awful-truth.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

#1 Favorite Movie of 1937

Grand Illusion - Life inside of a German P.O.W. camp circa WW1, from director Jean Renoir. Aristocratic French officer Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay) and more salt-of-the-earth Lt. Marechal (Jean Gabin) are shot down and captured by the Germans, and soon sent to a prisoner of war camp, where they join in with fellow prisoners in myriad attempts as escape both literal and figurative. They eventually end up in a forbidding castle prison for the most incorrigible prisoners, run by former ace pilot Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim). Also featuring Marcel Dalio, Gaston Modot, Dita Parlo, Julien Carette, Georges Peclet, Werner Florian, and Sylvain Itkine.

You'll find most POW camp movie cliches started with this movie. The tone drifts from comedy to drama with ace precision, and the film's ultimately anti-war message of all men being brothers in spirit is well illustrated. The ployglot nature of a world war is brilliantly depicted in scenes where characters will speak in French, German and English, alternating language with every other sentence. Gabin is my favorite French actor of all time, and he brings his patented world-weary sardonic charm to his role. This is also my favorite performance by von Stroheim as the mangled professional soldier lamenting the end of the era of the "gentleman warrior". This movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture of 1938, the first foreign-language film to do so.  (9/10)

Source: Lionsgate Blu-ray. Bonus features include a featurette on the film's production and impact, a featurette about the movie's negative and subsequent restoration (which is exquisite; the movie looks phenomenal), and multiple vintage trailers.

grande-illusion-french-movie-poster-1937

TheGrandIllusion_justGabin_still.jpg.CRO

grandillusion.jpg?w=490&h=326

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/15/2018 at 6:39 PM, LawrenceA said:

#6 Favorite Movie of 1937

A Day at the Races - Second Marx Brothers comedy for MGM, directed by Sam Wood. Dr. Hackenbush (Groucho Marx) is the newly appointed chief doctor at an upscale sanitarium owned by Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan). She's in danger of losing the place to crooked casino owner Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille), so hospital employee Tony (Chico Marx) and jockey Stuffy (Harpo Marx) try to help Judy's beau, singer Gil (Allan Jones), win a big horse race and get the money she needs to keep the sanitarium open. Also featuring Margaret Dumont, Leonard Ceeley, Esther Muir, Robert Middlemass, Vivien Fay, Frankie Darro, Carole Landis, Richard Farnsworth, and Sig Ruman.

This was the last of the essential Marx Brothers films, and the tone has changed just a bit. This one is less anarchic, less absurdist, with a straightforward plot. Groucho, too, seems a little more sedate, but still chock full of great one-liners. Chico and Harpo are both fantastic, and for once, in my mind, steal the picture from Groucho. Longtime co-star Dumont is a game partner to Groucho, while the romance between O'Sullivan and Jones is pedestrian. 

There has always been music in the Marx Brothers films, but this one has many musical numbers, with Allan Jones singing a couple of tunes, Chico's requisite piano number, Harpo's requisite harp number (after he memorably destroys a piano), a ballet number, and a sensational, raucous musical number with a large cast of black performers. This last bit earned the film an Oscar nomination for Best Dance Direction (Dave Gould).  (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD. Bonus features include a 30-minute making-of documentary, featuring interviews with O'Sullivan, Dom DeLuise, Carl Reiner, Robert Osborne, and more; 4 vintage shorts; and some audio-only musical numbers.

a-day-at-the-races-bedroom-poster.jpg

a-day-at-the-races_esther-muir-and-marx-

About three quarters of the way through A Day at the Races the Marx Brothers seemed to lose something. There would be moments in some of their remaining films to enjoy but the best of the brothers ended with this film.

One of my favourite moments and Groucho lines in the film:

tumblr_lj2gbxv02h1qg1naao1_r1_400.gif

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/16/2018 at 2:56 PM, LawrenceA said:

#4 Favorite Movie of 1937

Captains Courageous -

captainscourageous.jpg?itok=m0M8SIO8

The heart of this film is, of course, the relationship between Harvey and Manuel. Tracy is, as you said, Lawrence, marvelous in his role (this is probably my favourite Tracy performance), while Freddie Bartholomew as the spoiled brat who gradually matures is his equal, giving the performance of his career.

The scene in which Harvey stumblingly tries to tell Manuel of his reluctance to go home, preferring to remain on the boat, never fails to chock me up. At first Manuel doesn't comprehend what the boy is trying to say to him. But then there's that aching closeup of Bartholomew's tear filled eyes as he finally says to the fisherman, "I want to be with you, Manuel." It's a moment of heart breaking vulnerability that tears me apart every time. How many times has the screen seen love between two people so beautifully expressed? I can get teary eyed just thinking about it. This scene is one of the great moments of film acting, in my opinion.

27-tracy-bartholomew.jpg?resize=350,200&

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

#10 Favorite Movie of 1938

Four Daughters - Family melodrama from Warner Brothers and director Michael Curtiz. The story follows the four Lemp sisters: Ann (Priscilla Lane), Kay (Rosemary Lane), Thea (Lola Lane), and Emma (Gale Page). These four young women live with their music professor father Adam (Claude Rains) and his old maid sister Aunt Etta (May Robson), where they practice music and dream of love. Each sister finds a man: Emma is in love with goofy florist Ernest (Dick Foran), Thea is being wooed by the prosperous if ordinary Ben (Frank McHugh), and Ann is in love with music composer Felix (Jeffrey Lynn). Circumstances for the latter pair are complicated when Felix's occasional music collaborator Mickey (John Garfield) arrives on the scene and promptly falls for Ann, while remaining sister Emma pines for Felix. Also featuring Vera Lewis, Tom Dugan, Eddie Acuff, and Donald Kerr.

This isn't the sort of film I'd normally go for. I'm not too enamored of romances or family dramas. But there's something endearingly sweet about this one, and the natural rapport between the sisters, no doubt helped by most of them being actual sisters. Although, having grown up with sisters, they usually don't get along quite so well as these do. Everyone seems right for their role, and even the less dynamic actors like Foran, Lynn or Rosemary are all perfectly cast and enjoyable here. The true stand-out of the cast is Garfield, though, a real revelation and a screen presence like no other, a performance that bridges the decades with its universality. His brooding, unpredictable Mickey is a short but brilliantly expressed depiction of the troubled artist destined for a bad end, or greatness, whichever he finds first. 

I also have to praise director Michael Curtiz for his excellent pacing and camera set-ups that keep things interesting for a film that's largely set within one house. Some of the techniques used near the end with Garfield in a car on a snowy night are also very well shot, with great moody shadowing and camera angles, including one looking up from beneath the steering wheel. There's something about the entire film that seems slightly ahead of its time, and it feels more like a 40's movie than a 30's one. The movie earned several Oscar nominations, including for Best Director (Curtiz), Best Supporting Actor (Garfield), Best Screenplay (Lenore J. Coffee, Julius J. Epstein), Best Sound, and Best Picture.    (8/10)

Source: Warner Archive DVD.

FourDaughters1938_161_678x380_0125201604

fourdaughters.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

#9 Favorite Movie of 1938

Jezebel - Antebellum melodrama from Warner Brothers and director William Wyler. Louisiana society girl Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) is hoping to marry proper young bank executive Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda), but her penchant for bucking societal norms causes him to leave her and to move north. When word comes that he's returning, Julie is determined to make amends, but when he arrives with a wife (Margaret Lindsay), her plans are dashed, and just in time for a yellow fever outbreak that threatens the whole region with doom. Also featuring George Brent, Fay Bainter, Richard Cromwell, Spring Byington, Donald Crisp, Irving Pichel, Margaret Early, Henry O'Neill, John Litel, Gordon Oliver, Janet Shaw, Theresa Harris, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Charles Middleton, and Matthew "Stymie" Beard.

I really enjoyed this one more this viewing, and appreciate the craft of the production. The sets and costumes are impeccable, and the editing and pacing are very well done. The performances, from a large cast, are exceptional, and this is probably the best performance by George Brent as a charming suitor of Davis. The score by Max Steiner is also very good. If there's one drawback to the film that I can point to easily it's the depiction of the slave characters as happy, often comical amusements for their white owners. Clips from this are often used during discussions of lamentable film depictions of black Americans. The movie earned several Oscar nods, including for Best Cinematography (Ernest Haller), Best Score (Max Steiner), and Best Picture, while it won for Best Actress (Davis) and Best Supporting Actress (Bainter).   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD, part of the TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection: Bette Davis. Bonus features include an audio commentary track, a making-of featurette, and a pair of vintage shorts.

Jezebel_1938.jpg

vento5big.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

#8 Favorite Movie of 1938

Test Pilot - Romance and thrills from MGM and director Victor Fleming. Hotshot test pilot Jim Lane (Clark Gable) crash lands on a farm in Kansas where he meets bored farmer's daughter Ann (Myrna Loy). They impulsively get married and Ann moves in with Jim and his mechanic best pal Gunner (Spencer Tracy). What at first seems like a non stop adventure for Ann soon becomes a nightmare as each new test flight may result in Jim and Gunner's death. Also featuring Lionel Barrymore, Gloria Holden, Marjorie Main, Samuel S. Hinds, Ted Pearson, Louis Jean Heydt, Virginia Grey, Priscilla Lawson, and Gregory Gaye.

This one disappointed me on rewatching, not packing the punch from the first time I saw it some 25 years ago. The performances are fine, especially from Tracy as the third wheel. Some of the sequences are exciting, but much of the impact is diminished by the very flimsy special effects work. There's also heavy use of rear projection backgrounds which took me out of the story on multiple occasions. I still enjoyed the movie for the most part, but I don't think it will remain in my top ten for the year. It received Oscar nods for Best Original Story (Frank Wead), Best Editing (Tom Held), and Best Picture.   (7/10)

Source: Warner Archive DVD.

test-pilot-movie-poster-1938-1020456657.

Link to post
Share on other sites

#7 Favorite Movie of 1938

Three Comrades - Melancholy romance based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, from MGM, producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, screenwriter F. Scott Fitzgerald, and director Frank Borzage. Set in 1920 Germany, three friends and WW1 veterans, Erich (Robert Taylor), Otto (Franchot Tone), and Gottfried (Robert Young), run a car garage and try to get on with their lives. They meet Patricia (Margaret Sullavan), a slightly mysterious young woman whom they all fall for, especially Erich. The two eventually marry, when tragedy strikes. All of this is set against the backdrop of rising fascist tides among the German people. Also featuring Lionel Atwill, Guy Kibbee, Henry Hull, Monty Woolley, Charley Grapewin, Henry Brandon, Marjorie Main, and George Zucco.

Margaret Sullavan was a unique actress: not conventionally pretty, with a soft, weak voice, and big expressive eyes. She's not to everyone's tastes, although her behind the scenes romances with Henry Fonda and James Stewart are the stuff of Hollywood legend. For me personally, this film is her greatest moment, a fragile, touching performance that also earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. I've voiced elsewhere my disregard for Robert Taylor, and I still think the movie would have been better with his role recast, but he's not too terrible here. Tone is terrific, and Young as well, although his role is a bit underdone. I wonder how much of his part, dealing the most heavily with the film's political message, may have been censored out by nervous studio execs. Borzage stages some memorable scenes, including a romantic beach-side bit 15 years before From Here to Eternity, and a tremendous bit as Tone chases down a gunman in the snowy backstreets as a church choir thunders on the soundtrack. I'm a sucker for doomed romances, and this is one of the best.  (8/10)

Source: Warner Archive DVD.

three-comrades-poster.jpg

Three-Comrades-2.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

#6 Favorite Movie of 1938

La Bete Humaine aka The Human Beast - French psycho-sexual thriller based on the novel by Emile Zola, from director Jean Renoir. Jacques (Jean Gabin) is a train engineer with mental problems, prone to bouts of uncontrollable murderous urges. He gets entangled with a train conductor (Fernand Ledoux) and his young wife (Simone Simon), which inevitably leads to tragedy. Also featuring Julien Carette, Blanchette Brunoy, Gerard Landry, Jenny Helia, and Jean Renoir.

One of the great train movies, the cacophonous, grimy locomotives are as much characters as the people. Gabin gives a terrific performance as a type of character very unusual for the day, a seemingly decent man with bad wiring in his brain that triggers the killer inside whenever stress, sex, or alcohol enters his system. Simon is also brilliantly cast as the sex kitten "innocent vamp" that destroys men. This was remade in 1954 in English as Human Desire, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD. Bonus features include an introduction to the film by Jean Renoir filmed in 1961, a short interview with Peter Bogdanovich about the film, a short discussing adaptations of the works of Emile Zola, and a French TV segment from the 1950's with Renoir and Simone Simon.

la_bete_humaine.jpg

La-Bete-Humaine18.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

#5 Favorite Movie of 1938

You Can't Take It with You - Screwball comedy based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, from Columbia Pictures and director Frank Capra. Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) is the kindly patriarch of a family of oddballs living in a large, chaotic households. It's not only blood relatives, but the occasional passerby gets brought into the family orbit, given shelter and a place to work on their personal hobbies unfettered, be it fireworks, designing toys, dancing, writing, or playing the xylophone. Martin's granddaughter Alice (Jean Arthur) has fallen in love with Tony (James Stewart), the son of powerful banker Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold), which causes complications since the elder Kirby wants to buy Martin's house to bulldoze the neighborhood for a munitions factory. Also featuring Spring Byington, Ann Miller, Mischa Auer, Samuel S. Hinds, Donald Meek, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Harry Davenport, H.B. Warner, Halliwell Hobbes, Mary Forbes, Lillian Yarbo, Ann Doran, Clarence Wilson, Charles Lane, Ward Bond, Robert Greig, Pert Kelton, Edwin Maxwell, Ian Wolfe, and Dub Taylor in his film debut.

The message may be simple, that people shouldn't mistake wealth or success with fulfillment in life, but that doesn't make it any less true. Some label it "Capra-corn", looking at the world with unrealistic expectations, but I prefer to think of it as uncrushed idealism. The cast of sterling character players is universally excellent, with many recognizable faces, even if you don't know the names. This movie also has some great, sweetly romantic scenes. In my opinion, this features one of the all-time great movie date nights, with Stewart and Arthur sitting in the nighttime park, being accosted by a group of pushy little kids charging money for dance lessons, followed by a very uncomfortable dinner at a posh restaurant. The movie was big on Oscar night, earning nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Byington), Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin), Best Cinematography (Joseph Walker), Best Sound, and Best Editing (Gene Havlick), while it won for Best Director (Capra) and Best Picture.   (8/10)

Source: Sony Blu-ray. Bonus features include audio commentary and a 25-minute making-of featurette.

you-cant-take-it-poster.jpg

post-3-pic-2.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

#4 Favorite Movie of 1938

Pygmalion - British romantic comedy-drama from Rank, written by George Bernard Shaw, and directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. Howard also stars as Henry Higgins, a gentleman and expert on dialects and speech. He makes a bet with colleague Col. Pickering (Scott Sunderland) that he can pluck any low-born person off the street, and with a few weeks training, mold her into a proper English lady so well that she could fool anyone in high society. He chooses flower-girl Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller), a fiery, headstrong young woman who takes to the challenge. Once the transformation is complete, though, Eliza isn't sure where her place in the world is. Also featuring Wilfrid Lawson, Marie Lohr, Jean Cadell, David Tree, Everley Gregg, Leueen McGrath, Esme Percy, Cathleen Nesbitt, Leo Genn, and Anthony Quayle.

Of course most viewers know this better in it's later musical version My Fair Lady, either on the stage or screen. But I much prefer this earlier, non-musical version based on Shaw's original play. It's arguably my favorite Leslie Howard performance, clear and cultured and perhaps lacking in the social graces. I fell in love with Hiller the first time I saw this, and was really amazed by her performance, much more striking in her transformation than Audrey Hepburn's in the later film. Lawson is also enjoyable as Eliza's father. This is one of my favorite film romances, and among the best of British cinema. David Lean was the credited film editor. The movie earned Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Howard), Best Actress (Hiller), and Best Picture, and it won for Best Screenplay (George Bernard Shaw, Ian Dalrymple, Cecil Lewis, W.P. Lipscomb).   (9/10)

Source: Essential Art House DVD. This is a subset from Criterion of "no-frills" editions of movies, featuring no bonus features, and at a reduced price. The picture is still very good, and much better than the copy I watched on PBS a few decades ago.

wp0_wp0_wp165be98f_28_00.jpg

20970_pygmalion-01.jpg?w=800

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

#3 Favorite Movie of 1938

Angels with Dirty Faces - Gangster classic from Warner Brothers and director Michael Curtiz. Two friends grow up on the rough streets but move in different directions: Rocky (James Cagney) heads down a life of crime, in and out of prison while building a tough street reputation, while Jerry (Pat O'Brien) becomes a priest and dedicates himself to trying to keep kids from going down the wrong path. After his latest stint in jail ends, Rocky returns to the old neighborhood, where he meets up with pretty local girl Laury (Ann Sheridan), as well as becoming a mentor of sorts to a group of street kids (the "Dead End kids"). Things for Rocky look grim, though, as gang boss Mac Keefer (George Bancroft) and slimy lawyer Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) are looking to rub him out, while old pal Father Jerry begins a crusade to put an end to all gang activity in the city. Also featuring Billy Halop, Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell, Bernard Punsly, Earl Dwire, and Joe Downing.

Cagney has one of his best roles as the charismatic Rocky, quick with his fists even if he doesn't always make the best decisions. Cagney excelled at showing that these criminals, while possessed of some low cunning, were often prone to stupid decision making, and were their own worst enemies. Bogart is a real spineless weasel, while it was nice seeing Bancroft, sometimes called the first gangster movie star, back in the genre in a large role. Ann Sheridan is lovely to look at, although her role seems a bit underwritten. O'Brien makes for the prototypical good-guy Catholic priest. And there's the Dead End kids, before they became a long running series of diminishing returns, coming off rough and believable. The contentious ending is still debated to this day.  The movie earned a few Oscar nominations, for Best Actor (Cagney), Best Director (Curtiz), and Best Screenplay (Rowland Brown).    (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD. Bonus features include a making-of featurette, a radio version of the movie, and vintage newsreels, live action and animated shorts.

Angels_with_Dirty_Faces_Film_Poster.jpg

angels.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

#2 Favorite Movie from 1938

Bringing Up Baby - Iconic screwball rom-com from RKO and director Howard Hawks. Uptight paleontologist David (Cary Grant) bumps into eccentric young woman Susan (Katharine Hepburn) on the golf course, setting in motion a crazy day and night as he gets further entangled in her bizarre shenanigans, especially trying to catch Baby, her pet leopard. Also featuring Charlie Ruggles, May Robson, Walter Catlett, Barry Fitzgerald, Fritz Feld, Leona Roberts, George Irving, Tala Birell, Virginia Walker, John Kelly, Ward Bond, Jack Carson, and Asta/Skippy as George. 

Hepburn is a delightfully flighty lunatic, continuously exasperating Grant, who excels as a stuffy academic. The supporting players are all good, including Asta/Skippy as George the dog, who makes off with an intercostal clavicle belonging to a brontosaurus. A fun, lightweight blend of rapid-fire wordplay and slapstick physicality and sight-gags.   (8/10)

Source: Warner DVD. The only bonus feature is an audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich. The DVD has "disc one" printed on it, so I guess there's a two or more disc edition with more features.

brin2.gif

Bringing-Up-Baby-1938-644x356.jpg

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

#1 Favorite Movie of 1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood - The quintessential take on the oft-filmed legend, and one of the greatest adventures films of all time, from Warner Brothers and directors Michael Curtiz and William Keighley. In 12th century England, Prince John (Claude Rains) assumes the throne after King Richard (Ian Hunter) is taken prisoner far away. John immediately imposes onerous taxes on the people, and Saxon nobleman Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn) revolts against this unjust rule, taking the name Robin Hood, and amassing a group of followers to fight against John and his Norman ally Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone). Robin also falls for lovely Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland). Featuring Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Una O'Connor, Melville Cooper, Montagu Love, Herbert Mundin, Robert Warwick, Carole Landis,  and Howard Hill.

Shot in Technicolor, this was Warner Brothers biggest, most expensive film to date, and it's all up on the screen, from large, gorgeous sets, to dozens of colorful costumes and scores of extras. Flynn has arguably his greatest role, and to my mind was never better nor more suited to a role. Olivia de Havilland is radiant, and all of the support is spot-on, from Rathbone to Hale to Rains. I view this movie as pure Hollywood artifice and adventure at its finest. The movie was nominated for Best Picture, and won for Best Art Direction (Carl Jules Weyl), Best Editing (Ralph Dawson), and most deservedly for Best Score (Erich Wolfgang Korngold).   (10/10)

Source: Warner Blu-ray (the picture really pops, vibrant and sensational). The bonus features include audio commentary; vintage newsreels, live action and animated shorts; a feature-length making-of documentary; a featurette on Technicolor; home movies filmed by the actors during production; clips from previous Robin Hood films; bloopers and outtakes; and a gallery of Errol Flynn movie trailers.

adventuresofrh.jpg

robinhood.jpg

adventures-of-robin-hood-1938-movie-revi

4639290423_aaaff566e2.jpg

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

#1 Favorite Movie of 1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood - Flynn has arguably his greatest role, and to my mind was never better nor more suited to a role.

4639290423_aaaff566e2.jpg

There is no question, of course, that Robin Hood remains Flynn's best remembered role. It is a film in which he is perfectly cast.

But as an actor i think he shone even brighter in any of a number of other films in his career, including one made the same year as RH. He gave a fine, sensitive performance as a carefree aviator forced into the role of commanding officer in The Dawn Patrol. This is a film in which he, along with co-stars David Niven and Basil Rathbone, all gave performances that were, in my opinion, as deserving of Oscar nominations as many of the actors who got them.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

#10 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Hunchback of Notre Dame - RKO's lavish adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel, from director William Dieterle. In late 15th century France, the bells of the massive Notre Dame cathedral are attended to by the monstrously deformed Quasimodo (Charles Laughton). His pitiful existence is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of beautiful gypsy maiden Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara), whose innocent charms also cause romantic feelings in dour nobleman Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke), and young playwright and radical Gringoire (Edmond O'Brien). Their love for her may send the entire city of Paris into chaos. Also featuring Thomas Mitchell, Harry Davenport, Arthur Hohl, George Zucco, Alan Marshal, Rod La Rocque, Katharine Alexander, Etienne Girardot, Fritz Leiber, George Tobias, Rondo Hatton, and Minna Gombell.

Stunning sets, evocative cinematography, effective makeup design, a sweeping score, and stellar performances make this a tremendous achievement. Laughton gives one of the best "heavy makeup" screen performances in movie history, ably projecting the pathetic humanity in Quasimodo. O'Hara and O'Brien are both young and vibrant, she making her first American film and he his first film, period. Hardwicke is also outstanding , and I've always associated him with this role. Harry Davenport has a great time as King Louis XI. Many people only think of this story as a tragic romance and a portrait of monster-as-tortured-soul, but it's much more than that, a look at society at the time of the story's setting, as well as universal truths that hold to this day, the conflict between religion, politics, and art, between the haves and the have-nots, between the educated and the ignorant, and of thwarted desires and emotions left unexpressed. Dieterle's film manages to touch on all of this, and it gets better with each viewing. It earned two Oscar nominations, for Best Sound, and Best Score (Alfred Newman).  (9/10)

Source: Warner DVD, with a short featurette on the movie's production, featuring an interview with Maureen O'Hara.

the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-1939_u-L-P7Z

hunchback-1.jpg?w=604

TheHunchbackofNotreDame1939_2910_678x380

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

#9 Favorite Movie of 1939

Destry Rides Again - Western comedy from Universal Pictures and director George Marshall. When his father the sheriff is killed, young Tom Destry Jr. (James Stewart) comes to the town of Bottleneck, a rough-and-tumble frontier town virtually ruled by crooked saloon owner and gambler Kent (Brian Donlevy). Destry becomes a deputy under new sheriff Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger), but the young man's techniques aren't like those that the townsfolk are used to. He uses his wits more than his fists, and has a story for every occasion rather than a bullet. This confounds Kent and his partner, saloon chanteuse Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich). Also featuring Una Merkel, Mischa Auer, Jack Carson, Warren Hymer, Allen Jenkins, Irene Hervey, Billy Gilbert, Samuel S. Hinds, Lillian Yarbo, and Minerva Urecal.

The filmmakers take a standard B-western plot and twist it on its ear by casting Stewart as the hero. His amiable, plain-spoken Destry is quite the contrast from the usual square-jawed white hat seen in most westerns of the day. However, he's also shown to be capable of the usual heroics when called upon, and Stewart is just as believable in these moments as in his lighter scenes, foreshadowing his great work in the Anthony Mann westerns of 1950's. Marlene Dietrich also has one of her very best roles as the morally mercurial Frenchy, and it's a role that became iconic in the genre, later sent up to great effect by Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles. The movie builds to a surprisingly large-scale stand-off that ranks with any action spectacle of the day.  (8/10)

Source: Universal DVD.

dest2.gif

783-2.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

#8 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Rules of the Game - French comedy-drama from writer-director Jean Renoir. A group of haute bourgeoisois friends and lovers assemble at a posh country estate, ostensibly to hunt game, but more often hunting each other, hunting for love, hunting for meaning. Featuring Marcel Dalio, Nora Gregor, Julien Carette, Paulette Dubost, Roland Toutain, Mila Parely, Gaston Modot, Odette Talazac, Pierre Magnier, Claire Gerard, Eddy Debray, Anne Mayen, Lisa Elina, and Jean Renoir.

When speaking of the "Golden Year" of 1939, people often mention Gone with the WindMr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Wizard of Oz as the pinnacles of that year. But speak to an arthouse aficionado or someone learned in European cinema, and you'll often see The Rules of the Game mentioned as the greatest. In fact, one or more lists of critics has chosen this as the greatest film ever made. Obviously, as it's at #8 on my list, my opinion isn't quite that ecstatic, but I still like it. Renoir manages to make a film that's satirical of a certain type of person without being cruel to those same people. He shows that the loves and concerns of the largely idle rich aren't that different from those who serve them. There's a lot of dialogue here, and it may take more than one viewing to take everything in, especially for those of us who don't speak French. But it's worth it, as there's so much here, both on the surface and in the subtext, not to mention the cinematic techniques on display, that repeated viewings are a pleasure and always (so far) offer something new.   (8/10)

Source: Criterion DVD, the 2-disc re-release. Disc one contains the film (which looks great), a vintage introduction by Renoir himself, audio commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, scene analysis by historian Chris Faulkner, and a comparison between different endings. Disc two features 1966 TV documentary by Jacques Rivette, a 1993 BBC documentary by David Thompson, and interviews with various critics, filmmakers, and historians on the film's making, impact, and restoration. There's also a very lengthy booklet in the DVD case featuring even more essays from various writers.

LocalPA_La-r%C3%A8gle-du-jeu.jpg?partner

rules-of-the-game-octave-and-marceau.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

#10 Favorite Movie of 1939

The Hunchback of Notre Dame -

 

hunchback-1.jpg?w=604

 

For my money Charles Laughton's portrayal of Quasimodo is a screen performance for the ages.

That Laughton could evoke such pain and sympathy in his characterization behind that incredible application of makeup is truly a reflection of some special kind of genius that existed within him as an actor.

Particularly heart wrenching is his scene on the w h i p p i n g post, after he has taken a public f l o g g i n g, in which Esmeralda (Maureen O'Hara) becomes the first person to ever offer him an act of kindness, pouring some water over his lips from a canister.

At first Laughton resists, pulling his head away from her, too ashamed to accept the water from this girl. Then, in a moment that could make a statue weep, he suddenly looks at her, his lips begin to tremble, tears welling in his eye, as he then tips his head back and hungrily laps at the water he desperately needs.

This "malformed monster" is suddenly transformed by Laughton into the equivalent of a beaten animal grateful for an unexpected kindness.

Not long after he is freed from the w h i p p i n g post, a weakened Quasimodo stumbles his way back to the church. When the priest, his master, sees him, he is surprised to hear the hunchback's only words.

"She gave me water," a weeping Laughton says, as he stumbles away to hide or lie down somewhere.

It's a moment that is both sublimely painful and beautiful, a towering achievement by an actor who was always keenly aware of his own ugliness, and was able to convey the sensitivity of a social outcast in his portrait of the hunchback.

While Cedric Hardwicke is fine as Frollo, I have to wonder how the film would have been impacted if Claude Rains had been cast in the role, as originally envisioned. Rains pulled out of the project after experiencing an ugly moment with Laughton (a former acting student of his) during an encounter in a studio. The two men never saw one another again.

  • Like 1
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
© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...