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1931-1940

Edward H. Griffith – Another Language (1933)

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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)

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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 »

Oskar Fischinger – Oskar Fischinger: Ten Films (1926-1947)

Spirals (1926)
Study no. 6 (1930)
Study no. 7 (1931)
Kreise (1933)
Allegretto (1936-43)
Radio Dynamics (1942)
Motion Painting No. 1 (1947)

and 3 Early Films:

Wax Experiments (1921-26)
Spiritual Constructions (1927)
Walking from Munich to Berlin (1927)

Special Features
* Never-released early experiments, animation drawings and tests
* Home movies of Oskar, Elfriede and Hans Fischinger in the Berlin Studio, c. 1931
* Biographical Photographs
* A Selection of Paintings by Fischinger
* Film notes by Fischinger and others
* Biography
* Preserved films, high definition digital transfers and digitally remastered audio

Decades before computer graphics, before music videos, even before “Fantasia” (the 1940 version), there were the abstract animated films of Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), master of “absolute” or nonobjective filmmaking. He was cinema’s Kandinsky, an animator who, beginning in the 1920’s in Germany, created exquisite “visual music” using geometric patterns and shapes choreographed tightly to classical music and jazz. (John Canemaker, New York Times) Read More »

Charles Chaplin – City Lights (1931)

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Quote:
The Tramp meets a poor blind girl selling flowers on the streets and falls in love with her. The blind girl mistakes him for a millionaire. Since he wants to help her and doesn’t want to disappoint her, he keeps up the charade. He befriends a drunk millionaire, works small jobs like street sweeping, and enters a boxing contest, all to raise money for an operation to restore her sight.

CHAPLIN HILARIOUS IN HIS ‘CITY LIGHTS’; Tramp’s Antics in Non-Dialogue Film Bring Roars of Laughter at Cohan Theatre. TAKES FLING AT “TALKIES” Pathos Is Mingled With Mirth in a Production of Admirable Artistry.

Charlie Chaplin, master of screen mirth and pathos, presented at the George M. Cohan last night before a brilliant gathering his long-awaited non-dialogue picture, “City Lights,” and proved so far as he is concerned the eloquence of silence. Many of the spectators either rocking in their seats with mirth, mumbling as their sides ached, “Oh, dear, oh, dear,” or they were stilled with sighs and furtive tears. And during a closing episode, when the Little Tramp sees through the window of a flower shop the girl who has recovered her sight through his persistence, one woman could not restrain a cry. Read More »

Victor Fleming – Gone with the Wind (1939)

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Gone With the Wind boils down to a story about a spoiled Southern girl’s hopeless love for a married man. Producer David O. Selznick managed to expand this concept, and Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel, into nearly four hours’ worth of screen time, on a then-astronomical 3.7-million-dollar budget, creating what would become one of the most beloved movies of all time. Gone With the Wind opens in April of 1861, at the palatial Southern estate of Tara, where Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) hears that her casual beau Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) plans to marry “mealy mouthed” Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland). Despite warnings from her father (Thomas Mitchell) and her faithful servant Mammy (Hattie McDaniel), Scarlett intends to throw herself at Ashley at an upcoming barbecue at Twelve Oaks. Alone with Ashley, she goes into a fit of histrionics, all of which is witnessed by roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the black sheep of a wealthy Charleston family, who is instantly fascinated by the feisty, thoroughly self-centered Scarlett: “We’re bad lots, both of us.” The movie’s famous action continues from the burning of Atlanta (actually the destruction of a huge wall left over from King Kong) through the now-classic closing line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Holding its own against stiff competition (many consider 1939 to be the greatest year of the classical Hollywood studios), Gone With the Wind won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), and Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar). The film grossed nearly 192 million dollars, assuring that, just as he predicted, Selznick’s epitaph would be “The Man Who Made Gone With the Wind.” (AMG) Read More »

Jean Epstein – Les berceaux (1931)

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Here is the text for the poem by Sully Prudhomme that the song is based on:

Le long du Quai, les grands vaisseaux,
Que la houle incline en silence,
Ne prennent pas garde aux berceaux,
Que la main des femmes balance.

Mais viendra le jour des adieux,
Car il faut que les femmes pleurent,
Et que les hommes curieux
Tentent les horizons qui leurrent!
Read More »

Jean Grémillon – Gueule d’amour AKA Lady Killer (1937)

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Gueule d’Amour
Made partly while Grémillon was working at the Ufa Studios in Berlin, this film features the young Jean Gabin as a foreign-legion Casanova – the “lady killer” Lucien Bourrache – who meets his match in the mysterious seductress Madeleine (Mireille Balin). The sizzling electricity between Gabin and Balin made Gueule d’amour a rare popular success for the director. Read More »