1931-1940

John Ford – Pilgrimage (1933)


Synopsis:
The story of an Arkansas farm woman and her son. When the son expresses his desire to marry a girl who comes from a family that the mother thinks is trash, she enrolls him in the army.

Review:
In this sentimental film directed by John Ford a mother disapproves of her son’s marriage and gets him drafted; he is killed in the war, and she comes to realize her error.

In Three Cedars, Arkansas Hannah Jessop (Henrietta Crosman) works in the field with her son Jim (Norman Foster). She reads to him from the Bible about the dangers of an evil woman, and he says he wants to enlist. Jim meets Mary Saunders (Marian Nixon) at night, putting her drunk father to bed and hiding his jug in the hayloft. Mary asks Jim not to enlist. Jim tells his mother he wants to earn wages so that he can marry. Hannah tells Mary to stay away from Jim and gets Jim put in the army. Jim gets off a troop train and kisses Mary, who tells him she is going to have a baby. He tries to stay to marry her, but he is forced back on the train. Jim fights in the trenches. In a rain storm Mary’s father asks Hannah to help deliver Mary’s baby. A telegram to Hannah reports that Jim was killed. She pieces together a torn photo of him. Read More »

Ben Holmes – Maid’s Night Out (1938)


29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Joan Fontaine was still two years away from full stardom when she appeared in the B-plus comedy Maid’s Night Out. Future cowboy star Allan Lane plays Bill, a millionaire’s son who, to win a bet with his father (George Irving), sets out to prove that he can succeed without his family’s money. While working as a milkman, Bill offers a lift to Sheila (Fontaine), whom he takes to be a housemaid. In fact, Sheila was also born into wealth, but she doesn’t let Bill know that, fearful that she’ll lose his love; Bill likewise keeps his actual identity a secret for the same reason. Adding to the fun is the presence of Hedda Hopper, making one of her final acting appearances before devoting herself full-time to her gossip columnist. Film buffs will also enjoy a fleeting but hilarious jibe at Hopper’s number-one rival Louella Parsons. Read More »

William Keighley – Big Hearted Herbert (1934)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Plot: A clumsy, bumbling plumber finds his true calling as a successful manufacturer of bathroom facilities. Read More »

Harry Beaumont – Are You Listening? (1932)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Synopsis:
WBLA is on the air, presenting the live music, the sudsy dramas and the sell-sell-sell of commercial interludes that keep consumers buying and sponsors smiling. But one sponsor, a producer of plumbing supplies, isn’t happy. So WBLA scriptwriter Bill Grimes is bounced from his job, setting in motion this movie’s turn from comedic to darkly tragic. William Haines, two years removed from being Tinseltown’s top male star, plays Grimes in a melodrama noted for its glimpses of live radio production and for a Depression-era ethos that includes peroxide cuties eager to land a job, a sugar daddy or both. The cast includes Hattie McDaniel in a bit role. Are You Listening? Don’t touch that dial. From Warner Brothers! Read More »

Robert Florey – The Woman in Red (1935)


29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Plot: Shelby Barrett (Barbara Stanwyck) rides show horses for wealthy widow “Nicko” Nicholas (Genevieve Tobin)and meets Johnny Wyatt (Gene Raymond), scion of a once-wealthy Long Island Family, but who now goes about the country riding polo ponies for “Nicko.” Despite the efforts of “Nicko” and wealthy Gene Fairchild (John Eldredge), who is in love with Shelby, Johnny and Shelby are married. Shelby is treated frigidly by her snobby-but-broke in-laws, who frown even more when she and Johnny start handling the horses for wealthy neighbors on money Shelby had borrowed from Fairchild without telling her proud-but-broke husband. Matters aren’t helped any when “Nicko” shows up and starts a gossip circuit directed against Shelby. When Johnny is away, Fairchild asks Shelby to help him entertain a wealthy client aboard his yacht. She tries to contact Johnny and fails but accepts the invitation. Read More »

Edward H. Griffith – Another Language (1933)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Given the usual pedestal upon which mothers were placed by MGM head Louis Mayer, it’s all the more amazing that Mayer gave the go-ahead for Another Language. Louise Closser Hale plays a domineering matriarch who controls the lives of her grown, married sons, using a fabricated heart condition to keep them in line. Helen Hayes marries youngest son Robert Montgomery, only to sit by in mute horror as Mother exerts her authority over her timorous offspring at a weekly family get-together. At the end, only Hayes and Montgomery’s nephew John Beal have the courage to break the apron strings, but not without the formidable opposition of Monster Mom. Based on the Broadway play by Rose Franken, Another Language represented the screen debut of Margaret Hamilton, recreating the supporting role she’d played on stage. Read More »

Amleto Palermi – Cavalleria rusticana (1939)

29f7c043f76a2bde437fd0d52a185152

PLOT & Review:
(Contains some spoilers)

Quote:
This film was not based on the famous one-act opera of Pietro Mascagni but rather on the original story by the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga. It’s the story of Santuzza, her love Turiddu, and his passion for the married Lola that leads to his death in a duel when Lola’s husband Alfio exacts satisfaction. Santuzza’s curse leveled at unfaithful Turiddu, “A te la mala Pasqua!” (“Hope you have a bad Easter!”) is a memorable moment… as it was in Mascagni’s opera.

All Sicilian passion and emotion, the film is shot against authentic Sicilian backgrounds. There are wonderful colorful sequences of villagers riding in decorated traditionally decorated carts. Those scenes are so vivid you almost don’t notice the absence of color in this black and white film. Mount Etna looms in the background, suggestive of the smoking volcanic passions of some of the characters we see living near it. Read More »