1931-1940

John Cromwell – Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)

Plot:
Among the most masterful matchups of actor and role in screen history is this stirring film of Robert E. Sherwood’s beloved play taking a thoroughly human look at the early years of our 16th President, with all his frailties and strength of character. Best Actor Oscar nominee* Raymond Massey (who originated the role on stage) wonderfully plays the future Great Emancipator in a chronicle of his backwoods childhood through his first romance with Ann Rutledge (Mary Howard) to his phenomenal rise to President Elect, besting the great orator Stephen Douglas (Gene Lockhart). Ruth Gordon also does memorable work as driven, ambitious Mary Todd Lincoln, whose vision of Abe’s leadership destiny will not be denied by anyone – including her often reticent husband. There’s also no denying the enduring emotional power of this simple, magnificent movie. From Warner Brothers! Read More »

Henry Hathaway – Souls at Sea (1937)

Gary Cooper and George Raft play a couple of seafaring buddies in this moral adventure
saga set during the 1840s, when the slave-trade had been outlawed by the British
Empire but was still a reality on the high seas. In its depiction of the friendship between
two men, one of questionable character, the film bears some similarities to Hathaway’s
Spawn of the North, made the following year. Read More »

George Archainbaud – Penguin Pool Murder (1932)

RKO Pictures launched what could have been one of the great detective series in 1932, when Edna May Oliver starred in “The Penguin Pool Murder”. As Stuart Palmer’s elderly schoolteacher turned sleuth Hildegarde Withers, Oliver was one of the screen’s most liberated women, defying Police Inspector Oscar Piper (James Gleason) to track down killers with little regard for his pride or her own safety. Although Oliver left the series after only two more installments, leading to a serious decline in quality for the films, her first two outings in particular were years ahead of their time, thanks to director George Archainbaud’s uniquely visual narrative skills and for the films’ depiction of an older, independent woman.
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Howard Hawks – His Girl Friday (1940)

Quote:
A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying.

Hildy Johnson has divorced Walter Burns and visits his office to tell him that she is engaged to another man and that they are going to get married the day after. Walter Burns can’t let that happen and frames the other man, Bruce Baldwin, for a lot of stuff getting him into trouble all the time, while he tries to steer Hildy back into her old job as his employee (editor of his newspaper). Read More »

Howard Hawks – Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Synopsis wrote:
David Huxley is waiting to get a bone he needs for his museum collection. Through a series of strange circumstances, he meets Susan Vance, and the duo have a series of misadventures which include a leopard called Baby.

Rob Nixon, Kerryn Sherrod & Jeff Stafford wrote:

Why BRINGING UP BABY is Essential

In the eyes of many critics, Bringing Up Baby is the quintessentialscrewball comedy, incorporating all the standard elements of the genre such as themadcap heiress, a hapless leading man virtually victimized by herattentions and a group of stuffed shirts whose pomposity is deflated by thefarcical goings on. It also stands as a prime example of the liberatinginfluence of eccentricity (and the female) in the screwballcomedy. Read More »

Teinosuke Kinugasa – Yukinojo henge AKA An Actor’s Revenge (1935)

Quote:
Here is the 1935/1936 original version of “An Actor’s Revenge”, which was hugely popular at that time and a high point in Kazuo Hasegawa’s career. In fact, he even chose to remake this film as his 300th film work, helmed by Kon Ichikawa.

The original film has 3 parts and runs 310 mins long, released. However, like most pre-1945 jidaigeki, it has been seized and re-edited by GHQ during the occupation era. And now, only this truncated version which runs only 97 mins exists. Read More »

Lev Kuleshov – Velikiy uteshitel aka The Great Consoler (1933)

The Great Consoler is Lev Kuleshov’s most personal film reflecting both the facts of his life and his thoughts about the place of the artist in contemporary reality. It was the only film in the Soviet cinema of those years that raised the question of what role a creative person played in society.

The film takes place in America in 1899, and in its principal plot depicts Bill Porter, who is the great consoler of the title, in prison. His writing skills earn him privileges from the governor and he is spared the inhumane treatment meted out to other prisoners. Porter is very much aware of the brutality around him but, mindful of his better conditions, refuses to write about prison life. He prefers to console his less-well-treated friends, and indeed all his readers, with excessively romantic fantasies in which good invariably triumphs. Read More »