W.S. Van Dyke – Eskimo (1933)

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Plot Synopsis
The remarkable location-filmed Eskimo was adapted from two books: Die Flucht Ins Wiesse Land and Der Eskimo, both written by naturalist Peter Freuchen. Director Woody Van Dyke, in the tradition of his White Shadows on the South Seas and Trader Horn, took his cast and crew on location to the Arctic, arriving by whaling schooner at the topmost settlement in Alaska with author Freuchen as his guide. Van Dyke, Freuchen, and cinematographer Ray Wise also played prominent on-screen roles in the film. Eskimo Ray Mala (billed only by his last name) essays the title role, speaking in the tongue of his ancestors (even though his English was excellent). Rather than use superimposed titles, Van Dyke resorted to old-fashioned silent-movie subtitles in several dialogue sequences. The story concentrates on the more exotic aspects of Eskimo life, notably the race’s (alleged) casual approach to sex. Though tribal leader Mala has, by his own admission, slept with 20 women without benefit of clergy, woe betide anyone who tries to steal his current sweetheart — as a rapacious trader discovers when he’s harpooned to death by the cuckolded hero. Mala is ultimately undone by the Canadian Mounties, whose efforts to civilize the Eskimo community result in a sudden and tragic shift of the balance of power. Editor Conrad A. Nervig won an Oscar for his Herculean efforts to bring cohesiveness to the story. Performing respectably at the box office, Eskimo inspired another location jaunt in 1935: Last of the Pagans, which also starred Ray Mala. by Hal Erickson Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

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Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) is the first feature-length talking (sound) version of the Tarzan series. [Tarzan films stretch into the silent film era back to 1918.] The Tarzan saga was based upon the original ‘Lord of the Jungle’ characters created by novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Tar-zan character (called various titles through the years, including John Clayton, Lord Bloomstoke (Greystoke)), first appeared in late 1912 in All-Story Magazine. Many actors have portrayed Tarzan, both on screen and on television, including Elmo Lincoln, Gene Pollar, P. Dempsey Tabler, James Pierce, Frank Merrill, Larry “Buster” Crabbe, Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett), Johnny Weissmuller, Lex Barker, Gordon Scott, Denny Miller, Jock Mahoney, Mike Henry, Ron Ely, Miles O’Keefe, Joe Lara, Wolf Larson, Christopher Lambert, and Casper Van Dien. Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – Guilty Hands (1931)

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Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Madge Evans, Kay Francis, C. Aubrey Smith, Polly Moran, Alan Mowbry

Richard Grant (Barrymore) is a successful lawyer who believes that his many years of dealing with crime has taught him how to commit the perfect murder. He’s working for shady cad Gordon Rich (Mowbry) who informs Grant before a dinner party that he intends to marry his daughter, Barbara (Evans). Grant seethes with anger and, after dinner, kills Rich. It’s almost the perfect crime, but Rich’s troubled mistress Marjorie (Francis), becomes suspicious of Grant. Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – Rose-Marie (1936)

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Comment from IMDb:
This was the 2nd film venture for Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald. Nelson, the former opera star, as a stalwart Mountie and Jeanette, playing the opera star, she never was in real life. Coasting on the phenomenal success of their first film, this set the tone for their next ones–the formula, great singing, gorgeous setting, supposedly in Canada, but actually filmed in the rustic pre tourist attraction of Lake Tahoe. The 2 stars complemented each other perfectly, a love match on screen as well as off. Jimmy Stewart featured in an early role, and David Niven, wasted as a suitor. Gilda Grey, a famous stripper, managed to wear a revealing dress, that escaped the censors. Allan Jones appeared in 2 opera sequences with Jeanette, and proved once more, he was no threat to Nelson Eddy. Beautiful music, some laughs some tears, and always Nelson and Jeanette–together. Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – Marie Antoinette (1938)

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With a seven-figure budget and veteran director W.S. Van Dyke at the helm, MARIE ANTOINETTE is one of the most opulent period dramas produced in the golden era of Hollywood. The film chronicles the life of the 18th-century queen, following her emotional transformation from childhood as a young Austrian princess to her last days in the court of Louis XVI before the French Revolution. Led by the talents of Norma Shearer as Marie, John Barrymore as Louis XVI, and Tyrone Power as Marie’s childhood friend and aspiring lover, Count Axel de Fersen, the film exposes the power plays and chicaneries of the French court, painting the Duke d’Orleans as the villainous source of Marie’s public relations tragedy. With the extravagance of the court matched vociferously by the extravagance of the production, a romantic score by Henry Stothart, and a strong performance from Shearer, MARIE ANTOINETTE is a quality period drama. Continue reading

W.S. Van Dyke – I Live My Life (1935)

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Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A brisk romantic/comedy Joan Crawford vehicle capably directed by W.S. Van Dyke and gamely written but not one of the better scripts by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It’s from the short story “Claustrophobia” by A. Carter Goodloe. It’s the usual class warfare Joan Crawford film of that era with the good looking actress dressed chic and defending her free-spirited upper-class superficial lifestyle in her argumentative romance with the commoner Brian Aherne, who thinks the high society crowd are idlers and lightweights.

Bored heiress Kay Bentley (Joan Crawford) travelling with her dad (Frank Morgan) on his yacht meets on the Greek island of Naxos handsome Irish archaeologist Terry O’Neill (Brian Aherne), who’s on an archaeological dig for the Pygmalion statue. Learning that he thinks very little of the society jet set Kay tells Terry she’s Ann Morrison, the secretary of Mr. Bentley. They kiss and he falls madly in love, surpisingly following the attractive secretary to New York where he hopes to marry her. Learning the truth, the two have a spat but nevertheless grow fonder of each other. Continue reading