1935by marie_D | created - 14 Oct 2012 | updated - 08 Jun 2016 | Public
Films to watch for 1935
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1. Top Hat (1935)
Not Rated | 101 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance
An American dancer comes to Britain and falls for a model whom he initially annoyed, but she mistakes him for his goofy producer.
Votes: 14,855 | Gross: $1.78M
Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire) is a famous song and dance man who is scheduled to star in a show produced by Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) in London. Fashion designer Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes) has hired lovely Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers) as a sort of social mannequin to show off his gowns. Jerry and Dale meet and Jerry is immediately smitten. Horace’s wife Madge (Helen Broderick) is in Venice and wants to try her hand at a little matchmaking. The sparks fly when Dale mistakes Jerry for Madge’s husband and the two arrive in Venice.
The silly comedy of errors is a structure on which to hang some glorious dancing, art deco sets, gorgeous gowns, and snappy dialogue. Most of the cast of The Gay Divorcee comes back and is funnier than ever. I particularly like Erik Rhodes’s conceited Beddini, who always refers to himself in the third person.
Fred Astaire was Irving Berlin’s favorite interpreter of his songs and he sings plenty of then here. ”Cheek to Cheek” is the standard coming from this film but I have a huge soft spot for “Isn’t This a Lovely Day”. The dance to that one, in which Rogers starts out by mimicking Astaire’s movements, is the essence of joy. In my view, a practically perfect picture
2. Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Not Rated | 90 min | Comedy, Romance
An English valet brought to the American west assimilates into the American way of life.
This seldom mentioned treasure is one of the reasons I keep watching these old movies! It has a perfect cast, a wonderful script, and is expertly directed by Leo McCarey.
The time is the Gay 90′s. The place is Paris. Charles Laughton plays Ruggles, the proper English valet to the Earl of Burnstead (Roland Young). The Earl “loses” Ruggles to the rough-and-ready American Egbert Floud (Charlie Ruggles) in a poker game. Mrs. Floud has taken a fancy to Ruggles because she thinks he can civilize her boisterous husband and improve her social standing. Egbert immediately treats Ruggles as his equal, much to Ruggles’ embarrassment.
The Flouds soon return with Ruggles to Red Gap in Wild West Washington State. Due to a misunderstanding, society thinks that Ruggles is a house guest of the Floud’s and they are hard-pressed to deny it. In the meantime, Ruggles is introduced to American ways. Then the Earl comes to visit and Ruggles has some decisions to make. With Zasu Pitts as Ruggles’ lady love and Leila Hyams as the local “bad girl”.
I smiled throughout this entire film, even when I had a little tear in my eye. I think this is Charlie Ruggles’ finest performance, and I always like him. Roland Young and Zasu Pitts are also perfectly charming. And just watch Charles Laughton recite the Gettysburg Address! This movie is great. My highest recommendation.
3. The 39 Steps (1935)
Not Rated | 86 min | Mystery, Thriller
A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
An early classic in Hitchcock's "wrong man" themed movies. Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) chances upon a woman at a music hall who says she needs protection and takes her home. The woman is a spy on the trail of "The 39 Steps" and tells Hannay she has little time to prevent a valuable secret from leaving the country. She is promptly murdered in the apartment and Hannay is the prime suspect. Thus, begins his desparate flight from the police and quest to stop the spy ring. On the way, he becomes entangled (literally!) with Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) who would initially like nothing better than to turn him in.
I've seen this one many times. The famous set pieces (Mr. Memory, the little finger, the handcuff scene in the inn) are indelibly imprinted in my memory. Yet I was surprised how fresh the story remains. I also forgot many of the details of how the chase progresses. I was interested to see the scene where Hannay is suddenly thrust into being a speaker at a meeting without preparation. I wonder if The Third Man picked up that idea here? Of course, it's a common nightmare, at least for me.
I prefer The Lady Vanishes among Hitchcock's British films, but this ranks just behind it. It remains a witty and stylish suspense thriller.
4. Tôkyô no yado (1935)
80 min | Drama
Unemployed Kihachi and his two sons struggle to make ends meet. But that doesn't keep Kihachi from wooing single mother Otaka.
Kihachi is unemployed and is raising his two young sons. The little family is so poor that it relies on the boys catching stray dogs and bringing them in for rabies shots for a bounty to get money to eat and shelter from the elements in a common inn. Sometimes they must choose between eating and shelter. Despite this, the children manage to enliven this bleak existence with imagination and mischief. They meet a woman and her young daughter at the inn and the children become friends.
Kihachi has the very good fortune of meeting an old female friend who helps him find work. The mother of the girl remains unemployed and Kihachi gets his friend to (reluctantly) help feed those two as well. The older boy goes to school and all the children play together after he gets home. The mother and daughter eventually fail to turn up. It turns out the daughter is seriously ill. Then Kihachi does something he shouldn't to help them and puts his own family's future at risk.
This is Ozu's last silent film and one of his best. It has been compared to The Bicycle Thieves in its focus on the effects of poverty on the dignity of the individual. Despite the somber subject matter, the parts of the film that focus on the children are really charming. The clip shows a scene I particularly liked where the older boy tries to cheer up the father by pretending to serve him sake. Ozu's style had matured by this point and many of his trademarks are in place. There is a very interesting ellision in which the boys lose a parcel and we completely skip any angry words from the father. The acting from all concerned, and especially the children, is top-notch.
I watched the film on Hulu Plus streaming. It is also currently available on YouTube. The print is not pristine by any means but that did not interfere with my enjoyment of this wonderful film.
5. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Not Rated | 132 min | Adventure, Biography, Drama
A tyrannical ship captain decides to exact revenge on his abused crew after they form a mutiny against him, but the sailor he targets had no hand in it.
In 1787, the HMS Bounty departs Portsmouth for Tahiti, carrying a crew largely composed of impressed sailors. The ship is helmed by Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton). His second in command is Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) . Christian befriends a first-voyage midshipman Roger Byam (Franchot Tone). Bligh’s idea of enforcing discipline is with the lash and he also keeps his men on tight rations to line his own pockets. When Christian takes Bligh to task for this, Bligh plots revenge. Bligh’s cruelty only increases on the return journey from Tahiti. Christian then takes matters into his own hands and casts Bligh and the men loyal to him adrift in a launch, but Bligh refuses to admit defeat.
As soon as I heard Herbert Stothart’s rousing score coming up under the credits of this big-budget MGM production, I had that comforting feeling that this movie would be, if nothing else, entertaining and I was right. The script moves along at a good pace and the production values are first-rate. We are even treated to location shots in French Polynesia. Kudos must go to Charles Laughton for one of his very best performances. I always enjoy his work but usually feel like I am watching an actor wink at the audience. Here, he plays it very straight and is excellent. Highly enjoyable.
6. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Not Rated | 75 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.
Neither Frankenstein nor his Monster were killed at the end of Frankenstein. The Monster is only looking for a friend but meets with terror everywhere he turns. Is the solution to build him a Bride from dead body parts? The nutty Dr. Pretorius thinks so! With Boris Karloff as the Monster, Colin Clive as Frankenstein, Valerie Hobson as Elizabeth, Ernest Thesinger as Dr. Pretorius, Dwight Frye as miscellaneous ghouls, and Una O’Connor as Minnie.
I may be in the minority in preferring the 1931 original to this sequel. This one is just a little bit too arch for me and the original didn’t have all that shreeking by Una O’Connor. That said, Karloff is wonderful despite the ill-advised decision to have him speak, the lighting and sets are atmospheric, and the special effects are first-rate for their time. I can have fun every time I come back to this classic.
7. Crime and Punishment (1935)
Not Rated | 88 min | Crime, Drama
Man is haunted by a murder he's committed.
I loved this film, a loose adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel. Raskolnikov (Peter Lorre) graduates with highest honors from university and makes his mother and sister proud. He goes on to write scholarly articles on criminology. He has a sort of Nietzschean theory that ordinary standards cannot be applied to extraordinary men. His articles don’t pay much, however, and he is living in desperate poverty. He goes to a grasping, insulting old pawnbroker to pawn his father’s watch to pay the rent and while there meets a sweet, devout prostitute named Sonya (Marian Marsh).
When he discovers that his sister has lost her position and feels forced to marry a horrible beaurocrat to support herself and their mother, he snaps and murders the pawnbroker for her money. The rest of the story follows the psychological aftermath of the crime on Raskolnikov, the relentless investigation of the murder by Inspector Porfiry, and the redemptive love of Sonya.
According to the commentary track on Mad Love, Peter Lorre agreed to star in that film in exchange for a guarantee that he could make this one. I am glad it worked out because he is simply fantastic in it. It is great to see him exercise a full range of emotion in a complex leading role. My favorite parts were immediately after the crime when the character decided that he no longer feared anything. I laughed out loud several times at the way Lorre delivered the many zingers. He is also pathetic, tender, and hysterical as the moment requires. Marian Marsh is very good and Edward Arnold is almost satanic as the inspector. The film looks quite beautiful despite its low budget thanks to cinematography by Lucien Ballard.
8. The Good Fairy (1935)
Approved | 98 min | Comedy, Romance
A naive girl just out of a cloistered orphanage finds that being a 'good fairy' to strangers makes life awfully complicated.
The setting is modern-day (1935) Hungary. A movie theater owner goes to an orphanage to find an usherette for his theater and selects the sweet, naive Luisa Ginglebuscher (Margaret Sullavan). On one of her first days in the big city she is invited by a waiter (Reginald Owen) to a party in the hotel where he works. At the party, she is approached by wealthy Mr. Konrad (Frank Morgan) who tries to seduce her. This frightens Luisa and she says she is married. Konrad is not deterred and says he will make her husband rich. This inspires Luisa with the thought that she could do a good deed for someone like they were taught at the orphanage. So she selects the name of lawyer Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall) from the phone book. Konrad goes to see Sporum the next day and gives the bewildered man a lucrative five-year contract. Sporum and Luisa meet thereafter and go on a shopping spree and things proceed from there!
The plot description doesn’t sound too amusing but I can assure you the movie is. The dialogue just pops. I adore Margaret Sullavan, whom I have not seen enough of. She would charm the pants off an alligator. Herbert Marshall has probably never been this whimsical and it suits him. Recommended.
9. The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)
Not Rated | 109 min | Adventure, Drama
Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves.
In this unexpected gem, Col. Tom Stone (Sir. Guy Standing) commands a regiment of the Bengal Lancers that is patrolling the northeast border of British India fighting skirmishes with rebels who hide out in the mountains (of Afghanistan?) . Lt. McGregor (Gary Cooper) greatly resents the colonel's by-the-books manner. Two fresh replacements arrive, Lt. Forsythe (Franchot Tone) and Lt. Stone, the colonel's son (Richard Cromwell). Forsythe is a wisecracking pro but Stone is fresh out of Sandhurst and has a lot to learn. To add to his problems, the colonel is determined that there should be no special relationship between father and son. The tension rises when a shipment of ammunition is diverted by the rebels due to a miscalculation by Lt. Stone.
This was a really excellent film and even had me in tears at the end. All the acting is good but I particularly enjoyed Guy Standing's turn as the colonel who must balance duty with fatherly love. It has the blessed advantage of no romantic subplot so it can concentrate on questions of honor and loyalty. It also delivers on the action and bantering comedy fronts. Warmly recommended.
10. The Wedding Night (1935)
Passed | 83 min | Drama, Romance
Because his finances are low and he is seeking background for a new book, author Tony Barratt and his wife Dora return to his country home in Connecticut. While he is finding a theme for ... See full summary »
I’m about ten films away from finishing up 1935. Running into a film like this one that I had never heard of makes me glad that I stick with it until the end. This romantic drama really impressed me.
Gary Cooper plays Tony Barrett a hard-drinking washed-up novelist who can’t even get an advance on his next book. He and his wife Dora move to his family farmhouse in Connecticut where they can live for free. Their neighbors are a community of very traditional Poles. One of these buys some of Tony’s acreage and Dora, who decides she doesn’t like country life, moves back to New York. Tony remains behind and finds inspiration for his next book in Anya (Anna Sten), the daughter of his neighbors. He also gradually falls in love with her. But she has a strict Polish upbringing and is promised in marriage to a local boy. With Ralph Bellamy (complete with Polish accent!) as the loutish fiance.
This is a very mature and realistic sort of romance and the performances are terrific. It’s refreshingly different from the all too familiar plotlines of other films of the period. I think Cooper’s performance equals or betters anything he ever did. The movie is also beautiful to look at with cinematography by Gregg Toland and many Polish folkloric details. Highly recommended.
King Vidor won the award for best director at the 1935 Venice Film Festival for this film, which was nominated for the Mussolini Cup.
11. A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
Not Rated | 128 min | Drama, History, Romance
A pair of lookalikes, one a former French aristocrat and the other an alcoholic English lawyer, fall in love with the same woman amongst the turmoil of the French Revolution.
This is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Dickens novel. The evil Marquis St. Evremonde (Basil Rathbone) denounced Dr. Manette and had him imprisoned without trial in the Bastille for 18 years. Manette is finally freed through the efforts the seditious De Farges and is reunited with his daughter Lucie. Lucie and Manette travel by ship to England and meet Charles Darnay on the journey. Darnay is the free-thinking nephew of the Marquis who has arranged that he be framed and arrested for treason upon arrival. Darnay is a acquited through the efforts of barrister Stryver and his associate, the dissolute but clever Sidney Carton. Carton and Darnay both fall in love with Lucie, while Lucie’s heart belongs to Darnay whom she marries. A few years later after the French Revolution, Darnay is in danger of the guillotine due to his aristocratic ancestry and the ills done by the Marquis to a number of poor people.
1935 was quite the year for big-budget literary adaptations and this is a fine one. It is rescued from an excess of sentiment (also present in the novel) by the fantastic performance of Ronald Colman as Sidney Carton. His eyes are wonderfully expressive and he delivers his dialogue with just the right touch of irony. Among the supporting players, I particularly like Basil Rathbone as the supercilious Marquis and Edna May Oliver as Lucie’s maid, Miss Pross. Oliver has a really touching and funny scene near the end in which she the interests of her mistress. MGM spared no expense on settings or costumes. Recommended.
12. The Band Concert (1935)
9 min | Animation, Short, Comedy
Mickey and his band are determined to perform their music despite the interferance of Donald Duck and a powerful storm.
Mickey Mouse conducts an old-fashioned band composed of his animal buddies in a rendition of "The William Tell Overture" but Donald Duck keeps distracting the musicians by playing "Turkey in the Straw" on his fife. The cartoon concludes with the band being sucked up by a tornado and playing valiantly through it all.
This is one of the funniest Mickey Mouse cartoons of all time. I laughed out loud several times. Some full-length comedies don't get that out of me. I love Donald Duck! This was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in Technicolor.
13. Music Land (1935)
Approved | 10 min | Animation, Short, Comedy
The princess violin from the sleepy Land of Symphony is chased by a more lively alto saxophone from the Isle of Jazz. Soon the queen (a viola) discovers them and locks the sax in the metronome.
Director: Wilfred Jackson
Music Land is one of the Disney "Silly Symphony" animated cartoon shorts. The Princess of the Land of Symphony (a violin) and the Prince of the Isle of Jazz (a saxophone) fall in love, much to the disapproval of their parents. A war ensues. Peace is achieved through the wedding of the Queen of Symphony (a viola) and the King of Jazz (an alto saxophone) on the Bridge of Harmony. The story is told in music. There is no dialog. This is fun and shows Disney's build up to what would flower in Fantasia.
14. Captain Blood (1935)
Not Rated | 119 min | Action, Adventure
After being wrongly convicted as a traitor, Peter Blood, an English physician, is sent to exile in the British colonies of the Caribbean, where he becomes a pirate.
Captain Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is living peacefully as a physician when he is called on to tend a wounded rebel. For his trouble, he is convicted of treason and transported to Jamaica as a slave. Arabella (Olivia de Havilland), the niece of a wealthy landowner (Lionel Atwill), admires Blood's defiant spirit and buys him. Blood mightily resents this. His medical skills make him a favorite of the gouty Governor of the island and allow him to plan his escape and that of his comrades. The men soon turn pirate but Arabella and her uncle seem part of Blood's fate. Also starring Basil Rathbone as the French pirate Levasseur and a host of Warner Brothers character actors.
This movie was the first pairing of Errol Flynn and the 18-year-old Olivia de Havilland and made them both stars. It drags a bit in spots but basically is an exciting romantic adventure with thrilling sword fights and sea battles and dynamite chemistry between the two leads. The magnificent score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold adds to the fun.
15. Les Misérables (1935)
Approved | 108 min | Drama, History, Romance
In early 19th Century France an ex-convict who failed to report to parole is relentlessly pursued over a 20 year period by an obsessive policeman.
Hollywood adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel starring Fredric March as Jean Valjean and Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert with Cedric Hardwicke as the Bishop, Rochelle Hudson as Cosette and Francis Drake as Eponine. The film makers managed to fit the plot into a 108-minute feature film by completely eliminating the Thenardiers, the innkeepers who mistreated little Cosette and went on to hound Jean Valjean. The film, which benefited from cinematography by Gregg Toland, was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Editing.
Two more different interpretations of Jean Valjean could not be seen than those of Fredric March and Harry Bauer, who played the role in the 1934 French film. Bauer says very little and March can scarcely stop talking. That is not to say March is bad, he is very good. Laughton is outstanding and restrained, playing Javert as a neurotic seeking to compensate for his low birth by a rigid adherence to the law. I could have done without the celestial choir when Valjean has his redemptive revelation. On the whole, I can recommend this film, though if you are going to pick just one I would say to definitely go for the 1934 version directed by Raymond Bernard.
16. A Night at the Opera (1935)
Not Rated | 96 min | Comedy, Music, Musical
A sly business manager and two wacky friends of two opera singers help them achieve success while humiliating their stuffy and snobbish enemies.
Let's see, is there a plot? Well, Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) has hired Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx) to get her into high society, an unlikely proposition if ever there was one. His brilliant idea is for her to invest in the New York Opera. In the meantime, Fiorello (Chico Marx) and Tomasino (Harpo Marx) are promoting a tenor (Allan Jones) who is in love with a soprano played by Kitty Carlisle. They all end up on a ship at some point and hilarity ensues.
This is the one with the "sanity clause" contract bit and the stateroom scene. There are a lot of laughs but perhaps a little too much singing. As usual, my favorite part of any Marx Brothers movie is when Chico plays the piano. Here he does a rendition of "All I Do Is Dream of You" to a group of enthralled children.
17. David Copperfield (1935)
Passed | 130 min | Adventure, Drama, Romance
A gentle orphan discovers life and love in an indifferent adult world.
An MGM adaptation of the Dickens novel, this film follows the life of David Copperfield from his posthumous birth to a childlike widow, to the cruel treatment by his stepfather, friendship with the Micawbers, eventual home with his aunt, and young adulthood. This was one of those productions that allowed the studio to show off its vast resources of talent in the many character parts. With Freddy Bartholomew as the young David, Edna May Oliver as Aunt Betsey Trotwood, Basil Rathbone as Murdstone, Jessie Ralph as Peggoty, Lionel Barrymore as Dan Peggoty, W.C. Fields as Micawber, Elsa Lanchester as Clickett, Roland Young as Uriah Heep, Margaret O'Sullivan as Dora and many, many more.
It is impossible to convey the story of the novel in a two hour movie and so the ending, in particular, seems rushed. The story is also told with all the sentiment in the novel particularly when Freddie Bartholomew is front and center on the screen. That said, there are some wonderful performances here. Basil Rathbone is absolutely chilling as Murdstone, quite different from his swashbuckling villains, and Edna May Oliver is hilarious as the intimidating but tender Aunt Betsey. Finally, it's a treat to see W.C. Fields as Micawber playing quite the devoted husband and father to his brood! I enjoyed this.
18. Triumph of the Will (1935)
Not Rated | 110 min | Documentary, History, War
The infamous propaganda film of the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, Germany.
This is a propaganda film documenting the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremburg, Germany. It features many mass demonstrations and parades as well as speeches by Hitler and other Nazi party leaders.
It is of course impossible to view this film outside the context of history. I kept thinking throughout of the fates that would befall the people pictured and their victims. From this distance, a lot of the Nazi rituals would have looked comic if they had not been carried out with such deadly seriousness. Obviously, I could not possibly feel the emotions the film makers intended to evoke in the audience. Only someone viewing around the time of its production could judge whether the film did achieve its intentions. Hitler was reportedly pleased and the movie played in cinemas almost until the end of the "1000-year" Reich, ten years later.
No one, I think, could deny that the film is very artfully photographed and edited. True, Riefenstahl had an unlimited budget and lot of help from whoever choreographed the ceremonies and the settings provided by Albert Speer. Nevertheless, many of the shots could only have been achieved by a master. They are especially impressive considering the state of technology at the time.
19. The Informer (1935)
Approved | 91 min | Crime, Drama
In 1922, an Irish rebel informs on his friend, then feels doom closing in.
Gypo Nolan (Victor McLaghlen) is a big lug who is down on his luck. He got bounced from his local IRA unit for failing to kill a prisoner. He is broke and his girl has turned to prostitution. One fine night he notices a poster promising a 20 pound reward for the capture of his friend, Frankie. Shortly thereafter, he sees an advertisement for a sea voyage to America for 10 pounds. He meets Frankie at a pub and, without much thought, is off to the British soldiers who patrol the streets. Only problem is everything Gypo does is on impulse, he is mighty fond of the bottle, and the IRA will stop at nothing to root out the informer.
You can almost feel the dampness and cold of the foggy streets of Dublin when you watch this movie. This is more "stage-bound" somehow than other Ford films but is nonetheless excellent. Victor McLaghlen is wonderful. You believe all the bewilderment, bluster, and violence of the character. Whether this was a match of actor with role or a specific characterization I don't know and it doesn't really matter. I have read, though, that John Ford was really rough on McLaghlen (making him perform without notice and hung over, etc.) to get the performance out of him.
20. Carnival in Flanders (1935)
95 min | Comedy, History, Romance
Tells the story of the Spanish invasion of Flanders
A whole Flemish town was built in suburban Paris as the setting for this farce and it is certainly quite a spectacle. You can see the inspiration in the paintings of Brueghels, who is a character in the film, in many of the crowd seens. The acting is first-rate. I particularly liked Louis Jouvet as the crooked Spanish priest.
This was the kind of costume production that the French New Wave was rebelling against. It is now possible to enjoy both kinds of films and "pleasant and perfect" is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
21. Happiness (1935)
Not Rated | 95 min | Comedy, Drama
A hapless loser (with the surname of Loser) undergoes misadventures with avaracious clergy, a tired horse, and a walking granary (among other things) on his road to collectivized happiness.
Surreal silent Soviet propaganda comedy, quite a combo! In Tsarist Russia, a sad sack peasant named Loser is sent by his wife on on a quest to find happiness and told not to come back empty handed. In his one piece of good luck in the film, Loser stumbles upon a merchant’s purse. Through hard work, especially by his wife who pulls the plow, the Losers grow a bumper crop. However, greedy clergy, landowners, and government officials take all the proceeds. Loser decides to die. But the powers that be decide that this is not allowed, punish him and send him off to war instead.
Years pass and Loser, as bumbling as ever, settles on the local collective farm. He still can’t win. Everything he touches turns to disaster. His wife, however, is a star worker and Loser finally finds happiness in the socialist state.
This is fairly amusing and very innovative. The characters are all quite stylized and look like they could come straight out of a Russian fairy tale. The clergy is mocked mercilessly. Although there is a message, lots of it is played just for laughs. As might be expected, the film was never released commercially in the USSR.
22. Alice Adams (1935)
Approved | 99 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
The misadventures of two social-climbing women in small town America.
This romantic drama made me get pretty darn misty. Katharine Hepburn plays Alice Adams, daughter of a working class family, who hides her origins under a facade of “quality” and a nervous laugh. Her mother (Ann Shoemaker) is constantly after her father (Fred Stone) for “not making something of himself” and calling him a failure for not giving his children what they deserve. She eventually nags him so much that he quits his job and unwisely opens a glue factory to exploit a formula he developed while working for his employer.
We see Alice suffer the youthful humiliations of being roundly snubbed at a society party, where she appears in a two-year-old dress and wearing hand-picked bunch of violets instead of orchids like the other girls. But it is here that she meets a wealthy young man (Fred MacMurray). She continues to play her society act until the fateful evening she must bring him home to meet her parents.
I liked the actors who played Alice's parents nearly as much as Katherine Hepburn. They seemed very believable in their roles. Fred MacMurray played himself but how young he was! Katharine Hepburn makes you embarrassed along with her at the dance and then convinces as a girl who is desperately acting a part. I was surprised to learn that this film was a success during the Depression. It's not the escapist fare I am used to for 1935.
23. Mad Love (1935)
Passed | 68 min | Horror, Romance, Sci-Fi
In France, an insane surgeon's obsession with an actress from England leads him to replace her pianist husband's hands that got mangled in an accident with the hands of a late knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.
Brilliant surgeon Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) has become obsessed with love for grand guignol actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake). Her husband is great concert pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive). When Steven’s hands are mangled in a train wreck, Gogol attaches the hands of an executed knife-throwing murderer. Maddened by Yvonne’s continuing rejection of him, Gogol then conceives an insane plan to get Stephen out of the way.
When this movie works, it works very well. Peter Lorre is always interesting in this and sometimes simply brilliant. The climactic scenes are unforgettable. There is also some excellent expressionist camera work by Gregg Tolland. The problem is, once again, that the film is bogged down by unnecessary comic relief by Ted Healy (ex of Ted Healy and his Stooges) as a reporter and May Beatty as the doctor's drunken housekeeper. Despite its flaws, this is well worth seeing just for Lorre's performance in his U.S. screen debut.
24. Roberta (1935)
Not Rated | 106 min | Comedy, Musical, Romance
In Paris, a man clueless about fashion suddenly inherits his aunt's dress shop, while his bandleader friend reunites with his old flame.
Astaire and Rogers are fine in supporting roles in this screen adaptation of a Broadway musical penned by Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Otto Harbach.
Roberta is the chicest of Parisian fashion houses. John (Randolph Scott), a sports hero who knows nothing about fashion inherits it from his Aunt Minnie who founded the business. He becomes partners with his aunt’s assistant and house designer Stephanie (Irene Dunne), a deposed Russian princess. The “Countess Scharwenka” (Ginger Rogers) is an important client and leading nightclub entertainer. It turns out that she is actually Liz, a boyhood neighbor of bandleader Huck (Fred Astaire). Liz gets Huck work in her act and John and Stephanie fall in love, not without many misadventures along the way.
As usual, Fred and Ginger put a smile on my face. Ginger is particularly good here as the fake countess, complete with Polish accent. Irene Dunne is in top form both as an actress and a singer. Even Randolph Scott cracks a smile and loosens up a bit. Some beautiful standards came out of this: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” ; “I’ll Be Hard to Handle”; “Lovely to Look At”; and “I Won’t Dance.” All the lovely 30′s dresses are an additional bonus.
25. Mark of the Vampire (1935)
Passed | 60 min | Horror, Mystery
When a nobleman is murdered, a professor of the occult blames vampires; but not all is what it seems.
This is a sound re-make of the famous lost silent horror picture, London After Midnight, which starred Lon Chaney. It also shares a lot of themes with Tod Browning’s 1931 Dracula. The film begins in the same ambiguous Middle European milieu with the peasants all convinced that there are vampires in their midst. Soon Sir Karell, a local aristocrat, is found dead with tell-tale marks on his throat and his body drained dry of blood. The doctor names the cause of death as vampire attack but the police inspector (Lionel Atwill) is not buying it. Sir Karrell’s daughter’s (Elizabeth Allan) wedding plans are disrupted and she goes to live with her guardian (Jean Herscholt). A year later, the daughter is visited by a shrouded female apparition on the terrace and a Van Helsing-like professor (Lionel Barrymore) is called in. With a mostly silent Bela Lugosi again in his Dracula cape as “Count Mora”.
To those that like this sort of thing, this will be a hell of a lot of fun. The mechanical bats with their visible wires and the possums lurking in the creepy castle only add to the experience. The plot doesn’t bear much scrutiny but I found it satisfying in the end. The cast is top-notch and any over-acting works in this context. The comic relief maid is less annoying than many such characters.
I watched this as part of the Hollywood Legends of Horror collection which gathers six MGM horror movies of the 1930s. I particularly liked the commentary track on this one.
26. If You Could Only Cook (1935)
Passed | 72 min | Comedy, Romance
An executive lets an attractive cook talk him into taking a job as butler.
In this pleasant romantic comedy, Jim Buchanan (Herbert Marshall), a young automobile magnate, is soon to wed a gold-digging socialite. His innovative designs are being rejected by the Board of his company. He walks out in a huff and meets Joan (Jean Arthur) leafing through the want ads on a park bench. Joan assumes Jim is out of work too and when she spots an ad for a cook-butler couple suggests they try for the job. They are hired and later discover the boss (Leo Carrillo) is an ex-bootlegger gangster. Naturally, they fall in love but their potential romance is prey to several misunderstandings.
I enjoyed this film, mostly thanks to the charm and appeal of its stars. I can never help rooting for Jean Arthur. The DVD is part of the “Icons of Screwball Comedy” set. I think it is misadvertised, being more of a true romantic comedy with plenty of sentiment and little wise cracking.
27. Annie Oakley (1935)
Not Rated | 90 min | Biography, Drama, Western
A romanticized biography of the famous sharpshooter.
This well-made romantic biopic exceeded my expectations. Annie Oakley (Barbara Stanwyck) hunts quail to support her family. She is famous for being able to kill them with one shot to the head. When the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show hires world champion sharpshooter Toby Walker (Preston Foster), Toby bets he can beat any comer. Hotel management, which has been buying Annie’s quail, calls on Annie to challenge him. Buffalo Bill talent scout Jeff Hogarth (Melvyn Douglas) is impressed with Annie’s shooting and with Annie and hires her for the show. Annie and Toby become close but an accident enables Jeff to part them. The movie also features several sequences of acts from the show. With Moroni Olsen as Buffalo Bill and Chief Thunderbird as Sitting Bull.
The more movies I see that are directed by George Stevens the more taken with him I am. He seems to bring something to all his films that makes me care about the characters. Barbara Stanwyck’s Annie is far softer and more feminine than the character portrayed in Annie Get Your Gun but still quite believable as a sharpshooter. There is a nice helping of humor thrown in with the romance.
28. Peter Ibbetson (1935)
Not Rated | 88 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance
Architect Peter Ibbetson is hired by the Duke of Towers to design a building for him. Ibbetson discovers that the Duchess of Towers, Mary, is his now-grown childhood sweetheart. Their love ... See full summary »
This unusual romantic fantasy features some beautiful expressionistic cinematography by Charles Lang and music by Ernest Toch. Whether the fantasy quite works is a matter of opinion I suppose.
The story begins with two playmates, the boy Gogo and girl Mimsy, who are English expatriates in Paris. They bicker as children do. Then Gogo’s mother dies and Mimsy grieves with him. Probably the most wrenching scene in the entire film is when Gogo’s uncle comes to take him away to England over the heartrending protests of both children.
Segue to perhaps 20 years later and Gogo, now called Peter (Gary Cooper), is an architect in London. He suffers from a pervasive sense of emptiness that he cannot pinpoint. He wants to quit his job but his boss convinces him to take a holiday in Paris instead. There, he visits the house where he grew up, remembers his time with Mimsy again, and realizes the source of his sadness.
He is recalled to England to design a new stables for a Lord and his Lady in Yorkshire. There he meets Mary, the Duchess of Towers (Ann Harding). They are strangely drawn to each other and discover they share the same dreams at night. I will stop the plot summary to avoid spoilers but suffice it to say that nothing can separate these two in their dreams any more in life or after death. The photographic effects come in particularly during extended dream sequences.
I enjoyed the film but it does require a total suspension of disbelief. Also, although I like both of them, Cooper and Harding, two very grounded earth-bound actors, were perhaps not the best choices for these roles. The first part of the film with the children and the development of the feelings between the adults worked better than the fantasy for me.
29. The Ghost Goes West (1935)
Approved | 95 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
A haunted Scottish castle is dismantled and transported to Florida, bringing a ghost along with it.
This enjoyable and atmospheric romantic comedy/fantasy film is a bit reminiscent in tone to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. It was the highest grossing film of 1936 in Great Britain.
The Glouries and the McGlaggens are two ancient feuding Scottish families. In the 18th Century, the Laird of the Glouries sends his womanizing son Murdoch (Robert Donat) off to the battlefield to avenge the honor of the Glouries on the McGlaggens. Murdoch is killed before he can do this and is doomed to wander Glourie castle until he can find a McGlaggen and get him to apologize and admit the superiority of the Glouries.
In 1935, Donald Glourie (also Robert Donat) is broke and living in the castle which he cannot sell because it is haunted. Wealthy American Peggy Martin (Jean Peters) discovers the castle and talks her father (Eugene Pallette) into buying it and rebuilding it in Florida. Donald is smitten with Peggy at first sight but is shy. Murdoch, the ghost, has no such problems. The ghost keeps things lively both on the sea voyage to America and after arrival.
Robert Donat is, as usual, excellent and very appealing and all the other performances are fine. Clair has deftly captured the fantasy and historical elements and kept the comedy sparkling. There is some good satire on American media frenzy and consumerism at the end. Recommended.
30. 'G' Men (1935)
Approved | 85 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
It's the early days of the F.B.I. - federal agents working for the Department of Justice. Though they've got limited powers - they don't carry weapons and have to get local police approval ... See full summary »
There is something so comforting about putting a James Cagney movie into the player. I can count on him being good and usually the movie is good as well. In this case, the movie is quite good. With this film, Warner Brothers transformed the gangster genre into something the Hayes Code could live with while boosting an FBI that had just received the right to carry weapons and federal crime laws to enforce.
Cagney plays Brick Davis, a guy who grew up on the mean streets of the East Side but was financed by a bootlegger through law school. When his government agent law school friend is gunned down by mobsters, Davis decides to join the Bureau, severing his ties with his benefactor and Jean, the nightclub singer who is sweet on him (Ann Dvorak). In Washington, Davis is put under the tutelage of crusty veteran agent Jeff McCord (Robert Armstrong) who thinks him “soft”. Davis rapidly sets McCord straight and also impresses with his street smarts and inside info on the criminals he came up with.
The film is full of violent action, perhaps more of it than in the earlier gangster films. Davis’s colleague is slaughtered by the mob while trying to transport one of their number to prison and there is a montage of armed bank hold-ups. Later, after the Bureau is armed, there are a couple of spectacular gunfights. In keeping with the Code, there is no gore and the bad guys are thoroughly despicable and thoroughly vanquished. With Margaret Lindsay as Jeff’s sister and Brick’s love interest.
This movie sinks or swims on the back of Jimmy Cagney and he does not disappoint. He has the same cocky charm and energy that Tom Powers had, with the appeal of being in the right, and a good script to work with. Robert Armstrong plays his part with a healthy dose of humor, refreshing after his super-earnest work in King Kong. The bad guys are all interesting. Ann Dvorak was fine, but where did they get her dresses? I don’t think I’m a Margaret Lindsay fan.
31. Turn of the Tide (1935)
Not Rated | 80 min | Romance, Drama
The arrival in a Yorkshire fishing village of the Lunns with a modern fishing boat is deeply resented by the Fosdykes. Eventually hostilities are overcome and the families join forces to get a modern deep sea fishing boat.
Turn of the Tide is a sort of a Romeo and Juliet story told in a fishing village on the coast of Yorkshire. It was based on a real feud. The Fosdycks have fished the area for 400 years when the Lunds arrive. The Lunds have modern ideas (like buying an engine for their boat) and the Fosdycks, particularly the patriarch of the clan, mightily resent their presence. John Lunn (Niall MacGinness in his film debut) and Ruth Fosdyck (Geraldine Fitzgerald) are in love and both families object.
This film has a semi-documentary feel and is enjoyable for the good acting and glimpse at a vanished way of life. It took brave men to go out in those rough seas in small boats! This was the first feature film produced and distributed by J. Arthur Rank.
32. Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935)
Passed | 66 min | Comedy
Hard-working, henpecked Ambrose Wolfinger takes off from work to go to a wrestling match with catastrophic consequences.
No trapeze here. A day in the life of Ambrose Wolfinger (W.C. Fields) begins with two singing burglars in his basement. We then follow the henpecked family man on his adventures in jail, at work, driving a car, and at a wrestling match. All ends well, as usual. With Kathleen Howard, Grady Sutton, and Vera Lewis as Ambrose's obnoxious wife, brother-in-law, and mother-in-law and Mary Brian as
his loving daughter.
The saving grace of this movie comes near the end when Fields actually stands up to his family and even punches his horrible brother-in-law! Other than that, this is Fields in his gag mode and it does nothing for me.
33. Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
Approved | 95 min | Comedy, Musical
Romantic antics abound among the guests at a luxury hotel, including a stage director, an eccentric millionaire, and the daughter of a financial backer.
I could have sworn I had seen this before but now I think it’s just that the “Lullaby of Broadway” sequence has been anthologized so often. It is fairly entertaining but does not hold a candle to those sassy, sexy pre-Code Busby Berkeley musicals.
The story concerns the staff and guests at a luxury resort. Wealthy Mrs. Prentiss (Ann Brady) arrives with her randy son Humbolt (Frank McHugh) and bored daughter Ann (Gloria Stewart) in tow. Soon thereafter, Ann’s fiance, daffy millionaire snuff-box collector T. Mosley Thorpe (Hugh Herbert), shows up. Ann hates Mosley and is longing to have fun. Her mother agrees that she can have fun that summer if she will promise to marry Mosley afterward and hires hotel clerk Dick Curtis (Dick Powell) to escort Ann around. It doesn’t take a genius to tell where that part of the plot is going ….
Meanwhile, impresario Nicoleff (Adolphe Menjou) is deep in debt to the hotel. The hotel manager plots to have Nicoleff direct Mrs. Prentiss’s annual charity show. Nicoleff plots to milk as much money out of Mrs. Prentiss as possible. The whole thing ends with the show, naturally. With Glenda Farrell as Mosley’s gold digging private stenographer.
This is closer to a traditional musical comedy than the earlier Warner backstage musicals in that the opening minutes are a kind of artificially staged narrative and Dick Powell spontaneously bursts into song a couple of times. Everyone is pretty good and Menjou is very funny as a Russian theatrical type. The production numbers can be rather clunky at times. I never fail to be shocked by the tragic ending to the “Lullaby of Broadway” sequence. It seems so out of place. Maybe the girl needed to be punished for staying out all night?
34. Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)
Approved | 72 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama
Hired to investigate forged bonds, Charlie is thwarted by the murder of his undercover agent, but the arrival of son Lee helps him uncover the true culprits.
Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) visits Paris to investigate a bond forging scheme and meets up with a couple of murders in the process.
This is a pretty good entry in the mystery series. I was interested to see Erik Rhodes in the role of a bank employee and usually drunk. I had never seen him in anything but the two Astaire/Rogers movies in which plays comic Italians. He’s OK but his material doesn’t let him be very funny.
35. Werewolf of London (1935)
Not Rated | 75 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror
The juice of a rare Tibetan flower is the only thing that keeps Dr. Glendon from turning into a werewolf during a full moon.
The first mainstream Hollywood werewolf movie is pretty good. Botanist Dr. Wilfred Glendon (Henry Hull) is searching for a rare flower that blooms only by moonlight in Tibet when he is attacked by a mysterious beast. He manages to return to England with a specimen and devotes himself single-mindedly to experimenting with the plant, thereby further estranging his wife (Valerie Hobson). The mysterious Dr. Yogami (Warner Oland) visits Wilfred and tells him that the flower is the only cure for werewolfery and that there are two werewolves in London. Sure enough, on the first night of the full moon, Wilfred begins to grow hairy palms and discovers that both of his Tibetan flower blossoms have been stolen from his laboratory …
The Wolf Man has never been my favorite Universal monster, largely because of Lon Chaney, Jr’s curious miscasting as an English lord’s son. Henry Hull is much more convincing, as the tormented half-beast. The make-up and transformations, however, are far less impressive than in the 1941 film. It’s fun to see Warner Oland out of his Charlie Chan mode.
36. China Seas (1935)
Passed | 87 min | Action, Drama, Adventure
When earthy Dolly Portland is rejected by Captain Gaskell in favor of a socialite, she aids Jamesy McCardle, in league with Malay pirates, in his plot to seize his ship.
Gable and Harlow reunite in another love-triangle story following their success in Red Dust (1932). Clark Gable plays the skipper of a cruise liner/freighter on the China Sea. The vessle is carrying a hidden gold shipment. His girl "China Doll" (Jean Harlow) has tied along, mostly to stay in his hair it seems. At the last minute, Sybil (Rosalind Russell) an old love of the captain's, now widowed, boards the ship. The final main character is Jamesy MacArdle (Wallace Beery), whom we soon learn is the leader of a gang of modern day Malaysian pirates. When Gable starts paying attention to Sybil, China Doll first acts up and then gets revenge. With Lewis Stone as a cowardly officer, C. Aubrey Smith as a ship's company executive, and Robert Benchley as a drunk.
I thought this was entertaining though I wasn't blown away or anything. The movie has plenty of action including a convincing typhoon (two stuntmen were nearly killed as they were washed away by 50 tons of water in the studio) and the pirate attack. Gable, Harlow, and Beery give good solid performances. If I had not known that the actress playing Sybil was Rosalind Russell, I might not have known her. She puts on an English accent (the only one of the American to do so, though I think all were supposed to be English) and her face looks somehow different. Maybe it was the makeup.
I will use this as the opportunity to give my rant on "comic drunks." I find them terribly annoying. This film has Robert Benchley staggering across the screen and slurring a line or two at least every five minutes. Nothing he does advances the plot in any way. I find constantly inebriated people more to be pitied than laughed at, and this stuff just makes me mad. I have a similar reaction to "humor" that relies on a "comic stutterer". It was surely a different time.
37. Wings in the Dark (1935)
Approved | 75 min | Adventure, Romance
In his dedicated pursuit of technology that will aid pilots to safely "fly blind" during adverse conditions, aerial innovator Ken Gordon is literally blinded in an accident, but this setback doesn't deter him from his goal.
This improbable aviation romance is bolstered by the charisma of its stars. Sheila Mason (Myrna Loy) is a daring barnstorming pilot. She has a yen for fellow aviator Ken Gordon (Cary Grant), who is developing a plane that will be capable of flying “blind” without instruments. Ken is too busy to notice. When Ken is about to demonstrate his plane with a transatlantic flight, he is (temporarily?) blinded in a gas stove explosion. Ken overcomes his bitterness with the encouragement and help of Sheila and they fall in love. Can Ken realize his dreams of flying blind??
A picture with Myrna Loy and Cary Grant automatically has a lot going for it as far as I am concerned. They bring a lot of charm to a frankly melodramatic and utterly unlikely story. Roscoe Karns is good too as Sheila’s promoter.
38. A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
Approved | 133 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Theseus, Duke of Athens, is going to marry Hyppolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Demetrius is engaged with Hermia, but Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius. Oberon and Titania, of the ... See full summary »
This big-screen adaptation of the popular Shakespearean comedy has its plusses and minuses. The story takes place on the eve of the marriage of the Duke of Athens to the Queen of the Amazons. Four young lovers congregate in a wood on the same night some rustics are rehearsing for a performance at the wedding feast. The king and queen of the fairies and their minions amuse themselves by playing tricks on the mortals and each other. With an all-star cast, including Olivia de Havilland in her screen debut as Hermia, Dick Powell as Lysander, James Cagney as Bottom, Joe E. Brown as Flute, Mickey Rooney as Puck, and Anita Louise as Titania, Queen of the Fairies.
This film was not a box-office success and I can see why. It takes some getting used to. The production is absolutely beautiful and brilliantly conveys the enchanted world of the fairies. The film is gloriously scored to Mendelssohn’s incidental music for the play, as orchestrated by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The cinematography by Hal Mohr and art direction by Anton Grot are spectacular.
In my opinion, the performances are much less successful. This film was based on a Max Reinhardt production at the Hollywood Bowl and I attribute some of the truly weird acting choices to Reinhardt. For example, the fairy characters, and especially Puck, shriek, laugh, and make strange noises to convey their other-worldliness. It is very odd. Mickey Rooney’s performance was downright irritating, almost embarrassing, for me. Cagney and the other rustics are pretty good. Of the lovers, de Havilland is the standout.
39. The Clairvoyant (1935)
TV-G | 81 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance
A fake music-hall clairvoyant meets a woman, and suddenly his predictions seem to come true ...
This movie started out extremely strong. Claude Rains is, of course, brilliant and Faye Wray is appealing. The screenplay was written by long-time Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett and made at Hitchcock’s British studio and early parts of the piece had a definite Hitchcockian feel.
Unfortunately, the story descends into melodrama and the ending is really weak. Still, I’m glad I watched this while I could. I love Rains and he was in top form here.
40. Scrooge (1935)
Approved | 78 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy
Scrooge, the ultimate Victorian miser, hasn't a good word for Christmas, though his impoverished clerk Cratchit and nephew Fred are full of holiday spirit. But in the night, Scrooge is ... See full summary »
This was the first sound film adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is all business and thinks Christmas is a humbug. His deceased business partner Jacob Marley has learned differently and sends the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to teach Scrooge a lesson in what Christmas is all about.
It would take a lot to top the 1951 Alistair Sim version of this story in my estimation and this film does not have what it takes. That said, Seymour Hicks makes a very credible Scrooge and this is a pleasant enough entertainment. It does suffer from a bit of over-earnestness in what is already a pretty melodramatic story. It also spends a puzzling amount of time in a 75 minute movie dwelling on atmospheric Christmas scenes that have nothing to do with the story. Not a must but also not unworthy of a viewing.
41. The Black Room (1935)
Unrated | 68 min | Crime, Horror
Ignoring an ancient prophecy, evil brother Gregor seeks to maintain his feudal power on his his Tyrolean estate by murdering and impersonating his benevolent younger twin.
A chance to see Boris Karloff in not one but two roles in this gothic horror tale. The story is set in an unidentified Eastern European country in the 18th or 19th Century. Twins are born to a baron. This is seen as a bad omen as the baron’s house was founded when a younger twin murdered an elder twin. Legend has it that the lineage of the house will die off the same way when a younger twin kills the elder in the Black Room. This room is sealed.
The boys, Gregor and Anton (both played by Boris Karloff) grow up, one evil and the other good. Gregor, the evil twin, inherits the title; Anton has a paralyzed right arm and leaves the castle unable to bear the strain of the prophecy. Years later, the deeply unpopular tyrant/murderer Baron Gregory summons Anton back to the castle, begging for his assistance. So begins a tale of inexorable fate. Also starring Marian Marsh as the love interest for both twins and a local soldier.
It is fun to watch Karloff tackle these roles. He not only delineates the good and evil twins admirably but also portrays one imitating the other. All three characters are quite different. Otherwise, the movie is entertaining, if not earthshaking, and has a nice ironic ending.
42. The Little Colonel (1935)
Approved | 81 min | Comedy, Family, Musical
After Southern belle Elizabeth Lloyd runs off to marry Yankee Jack Sherman, her father, a former Confederate colonel during the Civil War, vows to never speak to her again. Several years ... See full summary »
This Shirley Temple film is memorable for a couple of fantastic tap dance sequences with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and a choral number at an African-American baptism.
It is 1870′s Kentucky. When Elizabeth Lloyd elopes with a Northerner, her proud rebel father (Lionel Barrymore), Colonel Lloyd, disowns her. Six years later Elizabeth and her husband Jack Sherman go out West to make their fortune and their daughter Lloyd (Shirley Temple) Sherman is made an honorary colonel by an adoring outpost regiment. Mother and daughter return to Kentucky while father searches for a property to invest in. Although the Colonel is still not speaking to his daughter, little Lloyd rapidly wins the old man’s heart. Can she bring her mother and grandfather together? With Bill Robinson as Walker, the Colonel’s servant, and Hattie McDaniel as Mom Beck, Elizabeth’s nursemaid and cook.
The Colonel is portrayed as a cranky, angry old man and he frequently denigrates Walker, who fortunately responds with perfect dignity. The general portrayal of African-Americans in the film is of its time. That said, Hattie McDaniel and especially Bill Robinson are the standouts in the picture, which is worth seeing just to see Robinson dance. The film ends with a brief Technicolor sequence.
43. The Littlest Rebel (1935)
Approved | 73 min | Comedy, Drama, Family
Shirley Temple's father, a rebel officer, sneaks back to his rundown plantation to see his family and is arrested. A Yankee takes pity and sets up an escape. Everyone is captured and the ... See full summary »
Poor Shirley, her parents die off at such an alarming rate… In this one, Virgie Cary is a little Southern belle when the Civil War breaks out and her Daddy goes off to the army. Virgie and her mother bravely face the hardships of war. Finally, their plantation is burned down by the Yankees and they have to go live in the slave quarters. Mother catches pneumonia. Father comes home and mother dies. The Yankees are looking for Daddy who is a Confederate spy. But when they are about to catch him, Virgie charms a Yankee colonel into giving him a pass and Union uniform so he can take Virgie to an aunt in Richmond. While the two are going through a Union camp, Daddy is captured and he and the colonel are sentenced to death. Can Virgie save the day? With John Boles as Daddy, Karen Morely as mother, and Bill Robinson as Uncle Billy, the faithful slave. As with The Little Colonel, Bill Robinson’s dancing is the main reason to watch this film. Shirley keeps up with him nicely. Otherwise, it is business as usual.
44. Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935)
Approved | 71 min | Comedy, Crime, Mystery
When a prominent official is murdered at a banquet honoring Charle Chan, the detective and son Lee team up to expose an opium-smuggling ring.
Master-detective Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) travels to Shanghai ostensibly to visit the land of his ancestors but really to assist in a secret investigation. But the British agent he was to assist is murdered at Charlie’s welcoming banquet and Charlie soon finds himself dodging murder and kidnapping attempts. An American agent arrives and he and Charlie start on the trail of a gang of opium smugglers. With Keye Luke as Lee, Chan’s “Number 1 Son.”
This is a competent, fairly standard entry in the mystery series. It is notable for giving Oland a chance to show off his rich baritone singing voice when he entertains some children. Number 1 Son, whom I had not encountered before, is somewhat silly but also comes to his father's assistance in this one.
45. The Devil Is a Woman (1935)
Approved | 79 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
A young man is warned by a captain about a temptress; nonetheless, he finds himself falling in love with her.
The film opens with a carnival in turn-of-the-century Spain, all the revelers are masked. Antonio Galvan (Cesar Romero), a fugitive revolutionary, spies the beautiful Concha (Marlene Dietrich) and they make a date for a rendezvous. Before the appointed time he has a chance meeting with his friend Don Pasquale (Lionel Atwill) and tells him about the mysterious beauty. Don Pasquale tells him his long, sad history with this duplicitous vixen to warn Antonio away from her. Alas, Concha’s attractions are too strong for any man to resist … With Edward Everett Horton hiding behind a beard as the governor of the town.
Although Dietrich said this was her favorite picture, I thought it was pretty bad and did her no favors. Although she drives multiple men to their ruin, most of the time she acts like a petulant little girl, stamping her foot when she doesn’t get her way. This is not the aloof Dietrich I love from the earlier films. Her costumes are also very unflattering as far as I am concerned. To add to that Lionel Atwill just wasn’t cut out to be a thwarted lover and Edward Everett Horton is wasted in a part that requires him to be at autocratic bully.
46. She (1935)
Approved | 101 min | Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Leo Vincey, told by his dying uncle of a lost land visited 500 years ago by his ancestor, heads out with family friend Horace Holly to try to discover the land and its secret of immortality... See full summary »
In the last hours of his life, Leo Vincey's uncle tells him of a family legend that a 15th century ancestor, John Vincey, found the flame of immortality. Leo bears a remarkable likeness to his ancestor. He sets off with the uncle's assistant on a journey to the Arctic to locate the flame. On the way, they meet up with Tanya, a guide's daughter. An avalanche reveals the entrance to a volcanic cave and from there to Kor, a land ruled by Hash-A-Mo-Tep or She, an immortal beauty and absolute monarch who has bathed in that same flame. She has been waiting through the centuries for the return of her beloved John Vincey and believes Leo is his reincarnation. In the meantime, Leo has fallen in love with Tanya, which does not bode well for Tanya's survival. With Randolph Scott as Leo, Nigel Bruce as the uncle's assistant, Helen Mack as Tanya, and Helen Gahagan as She.
Marien C. Cooper, who produced this film, intended it as a lavish special effects successor to his 1933 King Kong. Unfortunately, it was a box office bomb. I believe the problem may have been that Helen Gahagan just lacked the charisma to bring life to the title role. In addition, the rituals of the civilization of Kor and the screenplay are both fairly clunky. The film is just nothing special on any front, though the Max Steiner score is rather nice.
I thought it was fun to find out where Rumpole's wife's nickname ("She Who Must Be Obeyed") came from. This movie killed Helen Gahagan's film career. She went on to become a U.S. Congresswoman from California.
47. Curly Top (1935)
Approved | 75 min | Family, Musical, Romance
Wealthy Edward Morgan becomes charmed with a curly-haired orphan and her pretty older sister Mary and arranges to adopt both under the alias of "Mr. Jones." As he spends more time with them, he soon finds himself falling in love with Mary.
This is the kind of movie that gives Shirley Temple a bad name in some circles. Elizabeth Blair (Shirley Temple) and her grown-up sister Mary (Rochelle Hudson) are orphans living in an asylum. One day when the trustees are visiting the home, a new, immensely wealthy, handsome young trustee Edward Morgan (John Boles) espies Elizabeth singing “Animal Crackers” to her fellow orphans and it is love at first sight. He brings the sisters to his Southhampton summer home where everyone, including the servants, goes gaga over the little moptop and Morgan falls in love with Mary.
I’m proud to be a Shirley Temple fan but this one is not good. She is almost too cute and nothing rings true. The songs are OK, though Boles has a couple of numbers that I could have lived without as well.