1931-1940

Ben Holmes – Maid’s Night Out (1938)


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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)

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

Harry Beaumont – Are You Listening? (1932)

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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)


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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)

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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 »