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FILM MOST IN NEED OF A DEATH SCENE:

 

San Francisco, some earthquake debris needs to fall on Jeannette MacDonald and put a stop to that horrible singing.  If MacDonald's character couldn't be wiped out by a falling wall or something, then Clark Gable should have belted her in the mouth!

 

 

A lot of modern filmgoers seem to feel that way about Jeanette MacDonald, code name "The Iron Butterfly" in her day.

 

But for those who haven't seen her earlier pre-MGM screen work, with Lubitsch and Mamoulian, I hardily recommend watching the lady in musical comedy - in films like One Hour With You, Love Me Tonight (surely one of the most infectiously charming musicals ever made) and The Merry Widow.

 

As far as 1936 is concerned, I named MacDonald as one of my top five actresses of the year for her performance in Rose Marie. Now this film has a bit of immortality for when Jeanette and Nelson Eddy sing "Indian Love Call" into one another's faces, as well as the laughable prospect of Eddy's performance as one of the stiffest Mounties you will ever see in a film. It might also be remembered for a very young Jimmy Stewart appearing as Jeanette's fugitive brother.

 

However, aside from all that, Rose Marie gave also MacDonald the best opportunity to demonstrate her comedy finesse in all of her films with Eddy. She plays an opera star prima donna in the film's early scenes, a sharp look from her eyes sending shivers of fear through her underlings. MacDonald is, in fact, poking fun at her own image to some as that "Iron Butterfly."

 

But she also has a wonderful comedy scene later in the film in which, starving and in need of money, she finds herself in a wild Canadian tavern. There she is, an opera star, but no one there wants to hear her sing opera. What that roughneck crowd do throw their coins to is a h o n k y tonk singer who practically throws her hips out of alignment with all her sashaying body moves as she belts out a song. Jeanette, in a wonderful sequence, then tries to emulate the h o n k y tonk singer, even though her character is clearly out of her element.

 

This is a terrific piece of largely comedy playing by MacDonald that should be seen, not only by those few lovers of the actress still around, but, even moreso, by those who don't much care for the lady as a performer. They may have second thoughts about her talents, at least as a subtle comedienne, afterward.

 

Dinah-JIMMY-CONLIN-and-JEANETTE-MacDONAL

 

This is a shot from the scene in the saloon I mentioned. MacDonald is a marvel here.

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I love MacDonald in her earlier days and I love the movies she made with Nelson Eddy.  But I will watch Eddy on his own like in The Invisible man.  I did not care for MacDonald later.

 

 

Really, though, it depends upon what mood I am in for music style.

 

 

Rose Marie is my favourite of the team's films together.

 

Rose Marie  I love you...

 

 

When I'm calling you.........

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Here are my choices of the 79 films I've seen from 1936 for…

 

Best Actress of 1936

 

1.  GRETA GARBO (Marguerite Gautier), Camille

2.  IRENE DUNNE (Theodora Lynn/”Caroline Adams”), Theodora Goes Wild

3.  MIRIAM HOPKINS (Martha Dobie), These Three

4.  RUTH CHATTERTON (Fran Dodsworth), Dodsworth

5.  LUISE RAINER (Anna Held), The Great Ziegfeld

 

6.  JEAN ARTHUR (Louise ‘Babe’ Bennett/”Mary Dawson”), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

7.  NORMA SHEARER (Juliet), Romeo and Juliet

8.  JEAN HARLOW (Gladys Benton Simpson "Chandler"), Libeled Lady

9.  MERLE OBERON (Karen Wright), These Three

10. MYRNA LOY, (Nora Charles), After the Thin Man

 

and ...

 

CAROLE LOMBARD (Irene Bullock), My Man Godfrey

MARLENE DIETRICH (Madeleine de Beaupre), Desire

GINGER ROGERS (Penelope "Penny" Carrol), Swing Time

BETTE DAVIS (Gabrielle Maple), The Petrified Forest

MYRNA LOY (Gwendolyn “Linda” Stanhope), Wife vs. Secretary

JOAN CRAWFORD (Margaret "Peggy" O'Neill Timberlake Eaton), The Gorgeous Hussy

JEAN HARLOW (Helen “Whitey” Wilson), Wife vs. Secretary

MYRNA LOY (Connie Allenbury), Libeled Lady

CAROLE LOMBARD ("Princess Olga of Sweden"/Wanda Nash), The Princess Comes Across

SYLVIA SIDNEY (Mrs. “Sylvia” Verloc), Sabotage

MIRIAM HOPKINS (Ann Williams), Men Are Not Gods

KATHARINE HEPBURN (Pamela Thistlewaite), A Woman Rebels

BETTE DAVIS (Daisy Appleby), The Golden Arrow

INGRID BERGMAN (Anita Hoffman), Intermezzo

PATSY KELLY (Bessie Winters), Pigskin Parade

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I've noticed that a number of posters here have selected Gary Cooper's performance in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town as one of the year's best. Lawrence, in fact, just selected him as the year's best actor with this performance.

 

Certainly Deeds was the biggest critical hit of Cooper's career up until that time, but it is actually one of four films that he made in 1936, though it is far and away the best remembered of those four films today.

 

Two other films that he made this same year were The General Died at Dawn, which I discussed earlier, and The Plainsman, the first of four DeMille films that he made, in this one playing a very fictionalized, albeit still enjoyable, Wild Bill Hickok.

 

However, for a far different Cooper from any of these films I would like to make mention of DESIRE. This is a sophisticated comedy romance, produced by Ernst Lubitsch, which also has that director's hand print all over the production, even though official credit is given to Frank Borzage.

 

The film is a polished delight, with Cooper as an American tourist eager for a European vacation who meets and falls for the elegant, continental Marlene Dietrich, not realizing that the lady is a jewel thief. This is a far different Cooper from the earnest one that you see in Mr. Deeds. He's light hearted and engaging here, has great screen chemistry with his leading lady, and, for my money, delivers one of the most charming performances of his career.

 

Just to let you know that there's more to the Gary Cooper of 1936 than just the Frank Capra film.

 

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I've noticed that a number of posters here have selected Gary Cooper's performance in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town as one of the year's best. Lawrence, in fact, just selected him as the year's best actor with this performance.

 

Certainly Deeds was the biggest critical hit of Cooper's career up until that time, but it is actually one of four films that he made in 1936, though it is far and away the best remembered of those four films today.

 

Two other films that he made this same year were The General Died at Dawn, which I discussed earlier, and The Plainsman, the first of four DeMille films that he made, in this one playing a very fictionalized, albeit it still enjoyable, Wild Bill Hickok.

 

However, for a far different Cooper from any of these films I would like to make mention of DESIRE. This is a sophisticated comedy romance, produced by Ernbst Lubitsch, which also has that director's hand print all over the production, even though official credit is given to Frank Borzage.

 

The film is a polished delight, with Cooper as an American tourist eager for a European vacation who meets and falls for the elegant, continental Marlene Dietrich, not realizing that the lady is a jewel thief. This is a far different Cooper from the earnest one that you see in Mr. Deeds. He's light hearted and engaging here, has great screen chemistry with his leading lady, and, for my money, delivers one of the most charming performances of his career.

 

Just to let you know that there's more to the Gary Cooper of 1936 than just the Frank Capra film.

 

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I am a fan of Desire.

 

I have never cared for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.  I don't have anyone from that film on my list.

 

I have yet to see The General Died at Dawn.

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I am a fan of Desire.

 

I have never cared for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.  I don't have anyone from that film on my list.

 

I have yet to see The General Died at Dawn.

 

Yeah, that's just me with the **** taste in films.

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Yeah, that's just me with the **** taste in films.

:P

 

I don't know why I don't like it.  I have an interesting reaction to Cooper movies. I love his westerns.  My favourite film is High Noon.

 

His performance in Pride of the Yankees moves me to tears.

 

But when he plays hokey characters in comedies I am more laughing at him than with him.

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Best Actor of 1936

 

Charles Chaplin  Modern Times

Gary Cooper  Mr. Deeds Goes to Town**

Walter Huston  Dodsworth

Paul Muni  The Story of Louis Pasteur

Spencer Tracy  Fury

 

 

Now, I *love* the other films you have listed besides Mr. Deeds.

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2 things have come up today that I have to notice because they're rather important to me-- there's been a great deal of popularity for Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. Apart from Casablanca it may be the only classic film that many people know.

 

The basic sentiment of that film, of all Frank Capra's film in my opinion started with Mr.Deeds Goes to Town. People said Hitchcock made the same film over and over again until it was perfect. Well Capra was no different. Mr. Deeds Is the template which meant it was the most difficult film to create because it came first--the others-- mr. Smith, Meet John Doe, Wonderful Life excetera are just embellishments on mr. Deeds--and part of a series.

 

It's the basic argument about our own Society. The Love of Money vs. The love of people or greed vs. What's doing the right and the decent thing. It sounds very simplistic, but it's very difficult to represent on screen and to project on screen.

 

What made Gary Cooper a great movie star was that he is a minimalist. Cinema picks up what the stage misses. Some people in terms of their face, their body, their ability to project or their limited ability to project or speak expansively is what's needed in cinema and not the stage. I've had this argument with many people about Gary Cooper over the years, but he simply has some unknown quality that works in Cinema.

 

Before I finish I have to say something about Joseph Walker. Walker was the cinematographer for Mr. Deeds. He also did Mr Smith, It's A Wonderful life, you can't take it with you, It Happened One Night-- they said he was Capra's favorite.

 

The black and white beauty of Walker's night scenes in Mr. Deeds have only been equaled by James Wong Howe or Ted Tetzlaff. It's absolutely the height of what could be achieved black and white Cinema in the 1930's. The cinematography is part of what makes this film so beautiful.

 

The Depression era was rife with people wanting to get rich quick, simple people in humiliating pain, people struggling to get by. This film is really a film of its time and place. And the actor came along just at the right time and the right place--he became for many in America, the Depression Everyman.

 

I think you have to know little bit or even to understand a little about the common quality of American culture and American society within the context of American history in general at the time to truly appreciate how great Gary Cooper is in this movie.

 

But this movie, and so many of Capra's movies are so popular all over the world that I just think that they also have a universal message for everyone.

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Perceptive writeup on Capra, Princess. Have you seen the director's 1932 American Madness, with Walter Huston as, ready for this, a bank president who cares about "the common man." Yeh, I know, pure fantasy, but the beginnings, really, of Capra's social message films, even though it was the spectacular popularity of Mr. Deeds that really caught the pulse of the public.

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Princess:

 

I did not see It's a Wonderful Life until only a few years ago.  Same thing with Casablanca. No reason, just worked out that way.  It did not start watching Hitchcock movies until I was 19 after Raymond Burr, my favourite Canadian actor died.  I saw Rear Window because he was in it and then I became a fan of the director.

 

 

 

My favourite Capra films are as follows: No order, just as they come to mind: this changes over time, except the first:

 

You Can't Take it With You

Ball of Fire

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

It's a Wonderful Life

 

 

I just never bought Cooper as being the James Stewart hokey film type like - I could not see Cooper as  Elwood Dowd in Harvey

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I was going to write some notations with my best actor choices, and explain that Mr. Deeds is actually my favorite Cooper performance, perfectly suited to his narrow range of screen acting, and that he seemed more human than in most of his films. I really like Pride of the Yankees, Sergeant York, and High Noon; they all make my top ten of their respective years. But I always see him "acting" in those films, and in High Noon he just looks constipated and/or in pain most of the time (which he was, with bleeding stomach ulcers). There was also an easy, natural chemistry between Coop and Jean Arthur, an actress who can easily steal a film out from under a lesser performer. I know she has as many detractors as admirers, but I've always been the latter.

 

As for my other nominees, Chaplin could honestly play his role in his sleep, but it did feature some inspired physical bits. Muni's performance won the Oscar, but it's just a hair shy of mannered ham. Huston and Tracy were neck and neck behind Coop for me, but the underplayed Mr. Deeds won out for me. 

 

Like I was saying, I was gonna write this, but I didn't, so nevermind.  :rolleyes:

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Tom-- I read all about American Madness in Frank Capra's autobiography years ago and I've seen it in many documentaries concerning the director. I would compare it to Cukor's What Price Hollywood--what he was going to achieve --in the 2 A Star is Born. What Price Hollywood and American Madness are the precursors to these series.

 

I was going to do something on cinematographers separately but I might as well finish it here. Victor Milner in the General Dies at Dawn really hit the target as well as those other two that I mentioned in the previous posting.

 

The night scenes are just unbelievable in these movies. That's what's so exciting about black-and-white cinematography.

 

James Wong Howe set the standard for the Thin Man series. And in 1936 with After the Thin Man, Oliver T Marsh carried the standard magnificently. The most important part of the plot takes place outdoors when Elissa Landi's husband is murdered. Wow, what a scene!

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"narrow range of acting.."

 

 

Yes, well, I always did prefer his westerns, Lawrence.  I usually try to avoid dissing acting abilities (ha!), but I often saw Cooper as movie Star first, actor second.

 

The same could likely be said about Clark Gable - probably was - and yet he is my favourite actor born the same day I was, 75 years apart.  These two giants died about 1 month apart.

 

 

And yes, that would have been an interesting comment if you had written it.  Of course, you didn't. 

 

:rolleyes:

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A digressive, 3 part post so bear with me:

 

1) Tom, I haven't seen Desire, but I want to, even more so after your write-up.

 

2) GPF's post reminded me of how important it is when you see a film, not just your age, or where you are in your life experience, or how you are feeling physically and emotionally when starting a film (all things that can drastically change your watching experience), but when in your film-watching life you see important titles. By that I mean, what films have you seen before watching a given title? How new are the concepts and techniques to you? Some major 30's and 40's films can lose their "magic" if you've seen 40 variations on them before seeing the film that inspired the others. I know I don't get the same "electric" feeling when viewing movies that I used to. I still enjoy them, but it's rare, if ever, that I will sit spellbound during the viewing, and have that almost life-altering experience of seeing a truly great film for the first time. I saw Mr. Deeds fairly early in my classic film "journey", so perhaps that's another reason it left such an impression.

 

3) My grandfather worked his whole life for Kodak, at their headquarters in Rochester NY. He was the floor manager in the section that oversaw special film development for both the US government and the movie industry. One of the treasures I have are a set of prints from the moon landing struck from the original negatives that my grandfather helped develop. Anyway, I bring him up because he told me once about a cinematographer that used to come to the plant occasionally and ask about any new chemical processes or film stocks being used, very technical stuff. It was James Wong Howe, and I also have a photo of him and my grandfather, along with the other floor crew from that day, taken at the plant sometime in the late 40's or early 50's. Just an anecdote.

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Wonderful story about your grandfather and Howe, Lawrence.

 

 

And you are so right about when you see films.

 

I have a tendency to watch movies that got an artist an Academy Award before that artist dies or when a tribute airs for a recently died artist.

 

Sometimes I have gotten burned by that because I was way too young to see a movie that was meant to be understood by adults.  I should never have seen Zorba the Greek when in my 20s.  That traumatized me in a way that I was not when I recently saw Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe because I was nearly 40.

 

I'm not sure I would ever have seen a single Hitchcock movie if not for Burr.  All I knew of Hitchcock before this was the famous gory scenes in The Birds and Psycho.  I could not imagine watching them.  I have seen early all his films now.

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Also, the same man, Robert Riskin, did the story/screenplay for both "American Madness" (1932) and "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936).

 

There's a scene in Mr. Deeds when he is at the bottom emotionally after finding out that Jean Arthur is the reporter writing about him. Deeds faces a wall at that moment, incapable of saying anything. You feel the man's pain.

 

But the forerunner for that scene written by Riskin is in American Madness when Walter Huston has also just been struck down emotionally by some news (I forget the news) and also faces a wall or looks out a window, incapable at that moment of saying anything.

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I am a fan of Desire.

 

 

 

Glad you had a chance to see the film, GPfan. It really is delightful, isn't it?

 

There was, unfortunately, a tragedy associated with this film. At the time of its production Dietrich was having a relationship with John Gilbert, who had been heavily drinking with his once sparkling career now a ruin. His relationship with Marlene helped to sober him up to a large degree, as he appeared to be on some degree of emotional rebound.

 

Unfortunately, he began heavily drinking again after word got back to him that Dietrich and Gary Cooper were having an affair while making the film. Gilbert, in fact, had been up for a part in the film (the role played by John Halliday, I assume) Soon afterward poor Gilbert was dead of a heart attack at age 39.

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NEXT UP FOR ME IS BEST ACTOR 1936

 

(again, no order)

 

 

 

Fred Astaire in Follow the Fleet

Fred Astaire in Swing Time

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times

Gary Cooper in Desire

Bing Crosby in Pennies From Heaven

Melvin Douglas in Theodora Goes Wild

Nelson Eddy in Rose Marie

Clark Gable in San Francisco

Clark Gable Wife vs. Secretary

John Gielgud in Secret Agent

Walter Huston in Dodsworth

Leslie Howard in The Petrified Forest

Oskar Homolka in Sabatage

Paul Muni in The Story of Louis Pasteur

Charles Laughton in Rembrandt

William Powell in My Man Godfrey

William Powell in Libelled Lady

William Powell in The Great Ziegfeld

William Powell in After the Thin Man

James Stewart in Born to Dance

Edward G. Robinson in Bullets or Ballots

Randolph Scott in Follow the Fleet

Spencer Tracy in San Francisco

Spencer Tracy in Libelled Lady

Robert Young in Secret Agent

 

 

 

 

WINNER:

 

WILLIAM POWELL IN LIBELLED LADY

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GPF--

 

1936--this is about my favorite year. And you have just about all my favorite actors and movie stars and some were actually both - -

 

Leslie Howard

Spencer Tracy

William Powell

Clark Gable

Fred Astaire

Charles Laughton

Gary Cooper

Robert Young

James Stewart

Randolph Scott

Melvyn Douglas

 

 

Melvyn Douglas is such a solid leading man in romantic comedies as well as dramas, I'm sorry that he often gets overlooked.

 

Thanks for including him.

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Then can we say Carole Lombard is the Actress of 1936 - - with My Man Godfrey, The Princess Comes Across, and Love before Breakfast.

 

Now I'm so excited I'm carried away - -

 

Plus Carole is the all-time Queen of the Screwball-- in addition to the 1936 offerings we have: Nothing Sacred, 20th Century, True Confession and Hitchcock's one screwball as a present to Carole, Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

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I have a tendency to watch movies that got an artist an Academy Award before that artist dies or when a tribute airs for a recently died artist.

 

Sometimes I have gotten burned by that because I was way too young to see a movie that was meant to be understood by adults.  I should never have seen Zorba the Greek when in my 20s.  That traumatized me in a way that I was not when I recently saw Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe because I was nearly 40.

 

I'm not sure I would ever have seen a single Hitchcock movie if not for Burr.  All I knew of Hitchcock before this was the famous gory scenes in The Birds and Psycho.  I could not imagine watching them.  I have seen early all his films now.

 

 

2) GPF's post reminded me of how important it is when you see a film, not just your age, or where you are in your life experience, or how you are feeling physically and emotionally when starting a film (all things that can drastically change your watching experience), but when in your film-watching life you see important titles. By that I mean, what films have you seen before watching a given title? How new are the concepts and techniques to you? Some major 30's and 40's films can lose their "magic" if you've seen 40 variations on them before seeing the film that inspired the others. I know I don't get the same "electric" feeling when viewing movies that I used to. I still enjoy them, but it's rare, if ever, that I will sit spellbound during the viewing, and have that almost life-altering experience of seeing a truly great film for the first time. I saw Mr. Deeds fairly early in my classic film "journey", so perhaps that's another reason it left such an impression.

 

Re: the idea of watching films at a certain age or in a certain stage of life.  I agree with this idea, sometimes there are films that you watch at one point that you just don't "get" and then watch them later after perhaps having seen more films from the same era or perhaps having gone through something and the film suddenly "clicks."  Of course, there are also films with themes or dialogue that a kid might not understand or might not want to see.  

 

I must have been a weird kid.  I saw both of Hitchcock's gorier films: Psycho and The Birds probably at the end of elementary school or the beginning of middle school and I loved them.  My favorite part of Psycho was when Norman Bates' mom's skeleton turns around after Vera Miles taps her on the shoulder.  My favorite part of The Birds was when they find the man with his eyes pecked out.  My second favorite part was when the bird attacks the little girl as they foolishly leave the school and run outside (why did they leave the school? It never made sense to me).  

 

I saw Casablanca around the same time I saw the aforementioned Hitchcock films and liked it but mostly because I liked the music and Claude Rains.  As I've seen it more and more and have aged twenty years since then, I've gotten more out of the film and have picked up on many of the themes and nuances of the film.  Now that I'm 31 (almost 32, eek!) I'm not sure if I'll get more out of films if I saw them again at 50.  Can you max out at getting more out of a film? I am definitely getting more out of films as a 31 year old than I did as a 12 year old.  

 

It's amazing how the same piece of film, the exact same film, that's been around for 70, 80 years can mean different things to different people.  The same little 90 min piece of film can be interpreted in so many different ways.  

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