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MGM vs. Warner Bros.


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Hands down it has to be MGM. It had glamour and style. The gowns and the movie sets were fantastic and all the great novels they made into great films. They had such stars as Harlow, Crawford , Gable , W. Powell , Loy , Tracy , Hepburn and many other great stars. Like in said more stars than there is in heaven.

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In some ways, MGM has been its own worst enemy over the years. The MGM films usually available have stressed the niceness. I usually think of MGM as the place where comedians went to get money and watch their careers die.


However, lately I've discovered a grittier side of MGM. "The Devil Doll," 1936, is a very good horror film, and "Mutiny on the Bounty" is quite well done. I was surprised by the violence and some of the humor. This is MGM? Watching "Battleground" last week, I again was surprised by the (for the time) rawness of some of the dialogue. I recently discovered "Scaramouche" which is not only a first class swashbuckler, but also rather bawdy in spots.


Yet these films weren't on TV on in the film societies when I was younger. Instead there was "Night at the Opera" and "Day at the Races" and the Freed musicals. I guess MGM was more complicated than the stereotype that emerged over the years.

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In working on the new programming challenge, I notice that RKO has the most interesting offbeat films. This is true Especially during the 1930?s to 1945. If you look at a list of all the RKO, Warner and MGM movies made over at IMDB, you will see many RKO short feature comedies and many RKO titles that just jump out at you as being very interesting. MGM was too mainstream, playing it safe, while RKO took risks and it shows. I am sure when you look at all of these interesting titles, you will say to yourself, has TCM ever had this one on? Examples are:


1. The Saint Strikes Back (1939) George Sanders. Directed by

John Farrow

2. The Saint in London (1939) George Sanders Directed by John Paddy Carstairs

3. The Saint's Double Trouble (1940) George Sanders. Directed by

Jack Hively

4. The Saint Takes Over (1940) ) George Sanders. Directed by

Jack Hively

5. The Saint in Palm Springs (1941) ) George Sanders. Directed by

Jack Hively

6. Swiss Family Robinson (1940) Edna Best. Directed by Edward Ludwig

7. Tom Brown's School Days (1940) Cedric Hardwicke. Directed by

Robert Stevenson

8. Li'l Abner (1940) Buster Keaton. Directed by Albert S. Rogell

9. The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) Edward Arnold. Directed by

William Dieterle

10. The Monkey's Paw (1933) Ivan F. Simpson, C. Aubrey Smith. Directed by

Wesley Ruggles, Ernest B. SchoedsackRuntime: 58 min

11. She (1935) Helen Gahagan. Directed by Lansing C. Holden

Irving Pichel

12. Forty Naughty Girls (1937) James Gleason, Zasu Pitts. Directed by

Edward F. Cline

13. Little Orphan Annie (1932) Mitzi Green. Directed byJohn S. Robertson.


MGM and Warner share many similarities for me while RKO just seems to be more interesting with more variety.

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RKO had some great noirs, "Crossfire", "Murder, My Sweet ",along with some great John Ford, "The Lost Patrol", and "The Informer ", and the "Falcon"," Gunga Din", "Bringing Up Baby". I like them and Warners before MGM. Also Fox, for me, ranks ahead of MGM, especially for the Ford Films. Warners had Cagney, Bogart, Garfield,and such great gals as Joan Blondell, and Ann Sheridan.Having Raoul Walsh, and Curtiz didn't hurt.

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All the studios had something to recommend them. Even Columbia, if its library were suddenly eliminated, would take Frank Capra's best films into an inky void.


On the other hand, I think we usually run the danger of overspecializing the studios in retrospect. Warners was more than gangster movies, MGM more than musicals, 20th C. Fox more than Americana, and Universal more than horror films.


Still, in a nose to nose fight between MGM and Warner Bros., I would probably go with Warners. I like Bogey better than Gable, and Flynn better than Gable. MGM has Gene Kelly musicals and some other good films here and there (Mutiny on the Bounty, Devil Doll, Libeled Lady, Go West, Asphalt Jungle, Scaramouche), but to me, Warners has better series: Cagney's gangster films of the Thirties, Bogie's noirs of the Forties, Flynn's swashbucklers and Westerns. Yes, Warners couldn't really do comedy, but MGM wasn't that strong there apart from the Marx Bros. So I'd give the decision to Warners.

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