1931-1940

W.S. Van Dyke – I Love You Again (1940)

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Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Those popular MGM co-stars William Powell and Myrna Loy take a break from their usual Thin Man duties to star in the zany comedy I Love You Again. The film opens with Loy prepared to divorce her dull businessman husband Powell. A blow on the head causes Powell to remember his former life as a notorious con man. No one in town has any knowledge of Powell’s criminal past, a fact he hopes to use to his advantage. Loy, astounded at Powell’s sudden surge of amorous ardor, reconsiders her divorce. When she learns of his true identity, she is even more fascinated. Another blow on the head restores the non-criminal Powell–at least, that’s what he and Loy would like you to believe. The film’s highlight is a screamingly funny sequence in which Powell plays scoutmaster to a group of surly youngsters (including Our Gang veterans Carl Switzer and Mickey Gubitosi, aka Robert Blake). Read More »

Pierre Chenal – Le Dernier Tournant AKA The Last Turning (1939)

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Plot summary:

Frank, a vagabond, arrives at a service station on a mountain road near to Marseilles. The kindly old owner, Nick, offers him a job which he accepts. Frank is instantly attracted to Nick’s young wife, Cora, and they have a passionate affair. The two lovers plan to kill Nick so that they can profit from his life insurance. Having made Nick’s death look like an accident, they are acquitted of his murder. However, fate has a cruel twist in store… Read More »

Sacha Guitry & Fernand Rivers – Bonne chance! AKA Good Luck (1935)

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Synopsis:

‘Linen maid Marie is surprised when one of her neighbours, an impoverished artist named Claude, wishes her “good luck” one day. When a client gives her a present, Marie is convinced that Claude’s salutation will indeed bring her good luck, so she goes and buys a lottery ticket. She immediately tells Claude that if she wins, she will share her winnings with him. Naturally, Marie wins the jackpot but Claude is reluctant to take his share. He agrees only when Marie accepts his proposal that they spend twelve days together, living the high life on Claude’s winnings. Although she is engaged to be married, Marie accepts, and they set off on the holiday of a lifetime…’
– Films de France Read More »

Leni Riefenstahl & Béla Balázs – Das blaue Licht AKA The Blue Light (1932)

Synopsis
Junta is hated by the people in the village where she lives, especially by the women, who suspect her of being a witch. Only she can climb the nearby mountains to a cave high up, whence a mysterious blue light glows when the moon is full. Many young men of the village have died trying to follow her. She is driven out of town, and takes to living in the mountains. Eventually she shares the secret of the blue light with one man, and he betrays it. Read More »

Leni Riefenstahl – Der Sieg des Glaubens AKA Victory of the Faith (1933)

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Der Sieg des Glaubens (English: The Victory of Faith) is the first documentary directed by Leni Riefenstahl, who was hired despite opposition from Nazi officials that resented employing a woman — and a non-Party member too. Her film recounts the Fifth Party Rally of the Nazi Party, which occurred in Nuremberg from August 30 to September 3 in 1933.

Like her Nazi documentaries of 1935, the short Tag der Freiheit (Day of Liberty) and the classic propaganda feature Triumph of the Will, Der Sieg des Glaubens has no voiceover commentary and few explanatory titles. The activities captured by Riefenstahl’s cameras include the welcoming of foreign diplomats and other politicians at the Nuremberg train station; Adolf Hitler’s arrival at the airport and his meeting with important party members; massive Nazi troop parades; and Hitler’s speech on the tenth anniversary of the National Socialist movement. Read More »

Ernst Lubitsch – Broken Lullaby (1932)

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From the AFI Catalog:

After World War I, Frenchman Paul Renard is haunted by the memory of Walter Holderlin, a German soldier he killed in the heat of battle. Having read and signed Walter’s last letter and memorized his home address, Paul goes to Germany to confess his deed to the soldier’s family. Anti-French sentiment is strong in Germany and Dr. Holderlin will not suffer Paul’s presence in his home until Walter’s fiancée Elsa recognizes Paul as the man who has been leaving flowers on Walter’s grave. Paul reveals that he knew Walter, but is unable to confess his past, and tells the grateful family he and Walter were friends during the war. Paul and Elsa fall in love and a close bond grows between Paul and the Holderlins, despite the entire town’s disapproval. When Elsa shows Paul Walter’s former bedroom, he is unable to contain himself any longer and confesses the truth to her. Paul also reveals his plans to tell Dr. and Mrs. Holderlin his secret and then leave, but Elsa intervenes and advises him that his confession and departure would deprive the Holderlins of their second “son.” Eventually, Elsa convinces Paul to sacrifice his conscience and stay to make the Holderlins happy. After Paul consents, Dr. Holderlin gives him Walter’s violin to play to Elsa’s accompaniment. Read More »

Sacha Guitry – Le Roman d’un Tricheur AKA Confessions of a Cheat (1936)

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Synopsis
The story of the cheat begins and ends with personal misfortune. When he was a young boy, our hero was caught stealing money from the family shop. As a punishment, he was not allowed to join his family on their picnic. They ate mushrooms and died of food poisoning, he survived and was placed in the care of his unscrupulous aunt and uncle, who intended to rob him of his inheritance. Years later, our hero ends up as a croupier in a casino at Morocco. There, he is about to embark at what looks like being a very lucrative career – as a professional cheat. Read More »