Archive for the ‘Allan’s 30s Countdown’ Category


by Allan Fish

my choice as best film of the 1930s…

(USA 1938 102m) DVD1/2

Searching for the intercostal clavicle

p  Howard Hawks  d  Howard Hawks  w  Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde  story  Hagar Wilde  ph  Russell Metty  ed  George Hively  m  Roy Webb  art  Van Nest Polglase, Perry Ferguson  cos  Howard Greer

Katharine Hepburn (Susan Vance), Cary Grant (Prof.David Huxley), May Robson (Aunt Elizabeth), Charles Ruggles (Maj.Horace Applegate), Walter Catlett (Constable Slocum), Fritz Feld (Dr Fritz Lehman), Barry Fitzgerald (Mr Gogarty), Leona Roberts (Hannah Gogarty), George Irving (Alexander Peabody), Virginia Walker (Alice Swallow), Jack Carson, Ward Bond,

Bringing up Baby is one of those films which is a pleasure to discuss, a pleasure to write about, a film that, to those in on the joke, needs little introduction or even another viewing prior to putting digits to keyboard.  It’s so indelibly imprinted on the memory as to be not only irremovable but cherished.  Screwball comedies are a thing of beauty to many film buffs opining for them in an age when they seem no longer possible and outmoded.  Yet do any films move faster than they?  Even now, contemplating this sub genre, one mourns the absence of such other gems as The Awful Truth, Ball of Fire and Easy Living from this list.  Yet they are merely classics, whereas Howard Hawks’ masterpiece is the greatest of its type ever committed to celluloid and one of the funniest films ever shot.  It’s also one of the quickest, maybe only surpassed by Hawks’ other comedy masterpiece His Girl Friday.  Yet Friday is a knowing film, a cynical film in which the characters are as hard boiled as their surroundings.  Baby is quite the opposite, a film in which innocence and almost surrealism are to be cherished.  It’s also the finest film anyone involved with it ever made, and when you think of Hawks, Grant and Hepburn, that is not a statement to be made lightly. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

no 2 in the 1930s countdown…

(France 1939 109m) DVD1/2

Aka. The Rules of the Game

Everyone has their reasons

p  Claude Renoir  d  Jean Renoir  w  Jean Renoir, Carl Koch  ph  Jean Bachelet, Alain Renoir  ed  Marguerite Renoir, Marthe Huguet  m  Joseph Kosma, Roger Desormières  art  Eugène Lourié, Max Douy  cos  Coco Chanel

Marcel Dalio (Robert de la Chesnaye), Nora Gregor (Christine de la Chesnaye), Mila Parèly (Genevieve de Marrast), Jean Renoir (Octave), Julien Carette (Marceau), Roland Toutain (André Jurieu), Gaston Modot (Schumacher), Paulette Dubost (Lisette), Odette Talazac (Charlotte de la Plante), Pierre Magnier (The General),

We all have our favourite human images in French cinema; Michèle Morgan under that beret, Jean-Paul Belmondo imitating Bogie, Jean-Pierre Léaud in that chequered jacket, Jean-Louis Barrault in mime make-up, Brigitte Bardot in deliciously little, the list is endless.  Yet if one had to name one film to perfectly represent the French nation and its cinema, it would have to be Renoir’s masterpiece, a film that has an entire cast of types and an iconic cast to play them.  No other film has quite the same texture, deftly blending together divers elements, from tragedy to melodrama, and from low marital farce to high comedy, with liberal sprinklings of social satire.  So many plaudits have been tossed its way and it has been analysed in detail on so many occasions that often, as with Citizen Kane, it’s easy to forget to watch Jeu just as a film, and a marvellous film it is.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

next up in the 1930s countdown would be City Lights, but this has been covered before, so we move on to no 3.

(Japan 1939 143m) DVD2 (France only, no Eng subs)

Aka. Zangiku Monogatari

Your art is your life

p  Nobutaro Shirai  d  Kenji Mizoguchi  w  Yoshikata Yoda  ph  Minoru Miki, Yozo Fuji  ed  Koshi  Kawahigashi  m  Senji Ito, Shiro Fukai  art  Hiroshi Mizulani

Shotaru Hanayagi (Kikunosuke Onoue), Kakuko Mori (Otoku), Korichi Takada (Fukusuke), Gorijuro Kawarazaki (Onoue V), Yoko Umemuru (Osato), Ryotaro Kawanami (Eiju Dayu), Nobuko Fushimi (Onaka), Benkei Shiganoya (Genshun Anma),

If someone were to ask what the cinema’s most potent depiction of ill-fated romance was, the candidates would be rich indeed.  In this list alone one could recall Brief Encounter, Casablanca, Les Enfants du Paradis and Gone With the Wind.  Yet topping them all in impact, at least to these eyes, is Mizoguchi’s heartbreaking depiction of romantic sacrifice from 1939.  Like many Mizoguchi films it is fascinated with the often unfortunate fate of women and in 1936 alone he made two superb studies of this, Osaka Elegy (see elsewhere) and Sisters of the Gion.  Yet they are small films, mini-masterpieces both, but their combined running times falls short of the length of this later masterpiece.  (more…)

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next up in the 1930s countdown, a short masterpiece…

by Allan Fish

(USA 1932 30m) DVD1/2

Where are Pickfords when you need them?

p  Hal Roach  d  James Parrott  w  H.M.Walker

Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Billy Gilbert (Professor Theodore Von Schartzenhoffen), Charlie Hall (postman),

What can one say about this?  The Music Box is three reels of absolute perfection, thirty minutes of laugh upon laugh, wince upon wince and shudder upon shudder.  The great duo made many great shorts in their early talkie days, including Towed in a Hole with its boat-wrecking scene, Busy Bodies with the car being sawn in half, Laughing Gravy with the poor eponymous dog and Dirty Work with Sam Adams’ unctuous butler declaring “you can’t miss the fireplace, it’s up against the wall.”  All are great in themselves, but none of them are as immortal as The Music Box or cause so much destruction.  (more…)

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continuing the series of masterworks from World War I…probably the most famous of them all, which came agonisingly close to making my top 25 1930s films…

by Allan Fish

(USA 1930 130m) DVD1/2

We try not to be killed

p  Carl Laemmle Jnr  d  Lewis Milestone  w  Lewis Milestone, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews, George Abbott  novel  Erich Maria Remarque  ph  Arthur Edeson, Karl Freund (uncredited)  ed  Edgar Adams, Milton Carruth  m  David Broekman  art  Charles D.Hall, William R.Schmidt  spc  Frank H.Booth

Lew Ayres (Paul Baumer), Louis Wolheim (Katczinsky), John Wray (Himmelstoss), Slim Summerville (Tjaden), Raymond Griffith (Gerard Duval), Russell Gleason (Muller), Ben Alexander (Kemmerick), Beryl Mercer (Mrs Baumer), William Bakewell (Albert), Scott Kolk (Leer), Walter Rogers (Behm), Owen Davis Jnr (Peter), Yola d’Avril,

Lewis Milestone’s anti-war drama is arguably the first true masterpiece of talking cinema and an even braver film in that it shows the war from the enemy viewpoint.  Even now, in audiences accustomed to the almost virtual reality war of Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now, it’s a startling achievement, not only a great war film, but perhaps the only American film to truly get over the real malaise and futility (if not the absolute horror) of life in World War I.  It’s also, at least in the UK, the only one of this director’s thirties output to be freely available, with the likes of The Front Page and Of Mice and Men only available in the US for import.  (more…)

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next up in the 1930s countdown…

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1931 108m) DVD1/2

We must all keep an eye on our children

p  Seymour Nebenzal  d  Fritz Lang  w  Fritz Lang, Thea Von Harbou, Paul Falkenberg, Adolf Jansen, Karl Vash  article  Egon Jacobson  ph  Fritz Arno Wagner, Gustav Rathje  ed  Paul Falkenberg  md  Adolf Jansen  art  Emil Hasler, Karl Vollbrecht

Peter Lorre (Franz Becker), Otto Wernicke (Insp.Carl Lohmann), Gustav Grundgens (Schraenker), Theo Lingen (Bauetnfaenger), Theodor Loos (Police Commissioner Groeber), Georg John (blind balloon seller), Inge Landgut (Elsie), Ellen Widmann (Frau Becker),

M is a remarkable film for any number of reasons, not the least of which was that it was made at all.  It was a return for Lang to the crime world that he depicted so memorably in his Doctor Mabuse films nearly a decade earlier and deserted in favour of the epic Die Nibelungen, the future world of Metropolis and the spy rings of Spione, but with a twist; the criminals weren’t the bad guys.  (more…)

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Next up in the reverse countdown of top 25 1930s films, as no 8 Only Angels Have Wings has already been covered, is no 7, which also continues the World War I masterworks series…

by Allan Fish

(France 1937 117m) DVD1/2

Aka. Grand Illusion

Poor geranium

p  Frank Rollmer, Albert Pinkovitch  d  Jean Renoir  w  Jean Renoir, Charles Spaak  ph  Christian Matras, Claude Renoir  ed  Marguerite Renoir, Marthe Huguet  m  Joseph Kosma  m/ly  Vincent Telly, Albert Valsien  art  Eugène Lourie  cos  Decrais

Jean Gabin (Marechal), Erich Von Stroheim (Von Rauffenstein), Pierre Fresnay (Capt.de Boeldieu), Marcel Dalio (Rosenthal), Julien Carette (Cartier), Edouard Dasté (teacher), Dita Parlo (Elsa), Gaston Modot (surveyor),

Based on the experiences of a flyer he knew during the war, Renoir’s La Grande Illusion is unquestionably one of the masterpieces of the silver screen, a film of incredible humanity set during a period of great inhumanity.  In short, it’s probably the greatest anti-war film ever made, a film that cannot help but move people every time they see it.  (more…)

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Next up in the series of 25, no 9…

by Allan Fish

(USA 1932 82m) DVD1

It must be marvellous

p/d  Ernst Lubitsch  w  Samson Raphaelson, Grover Jones  play  “The Honest Finder” by Laszlo Aladar  ph  Victor Milner  ed  Merrill White  m  W.Franke Harling  art  Hans Dreier  cos  Travis Banton

Herbert Marshall (Gaston Monescu), Miriam Hopkins (Lily Vautier), Kay Francis (Mariette Colet), Edward Everett Horton (François Filiba), Charles Ruggles (the Major), C.Aubrey Smith (Adolph Giron), Robert Greig (Jacques the butler), Leonid Kinskey (revolutionary), George Humbert, Luis Alberni, Rolfe Sedan,

I hardly know where to begin discussing the innumerable merits of Ernst Lubitsch’s masterpiece.  Truly great film comedies are rare and it’s the director’s own individual style that makes them great.  But without wishing to overlook the merits of such masters as Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Frank Capra, George Cukor and Mitchell Leisen, none of them ever really got to grips with that rarest of styles; pure unadulterated sophistication.  The sort of the film that is sublime to the nth degree and sublime in its ridiculousness without ever in itself being ridiculous.

            Of course such films as Cukor’s The Philadelphia Story were sophisticated, but brilliant though that film is, its sophistication belongs to a more moral age, an age where Tracy Lord can go for a swim with a fellow and even kiss him, without any sense of any immorality having taken place.  Crooks such as Sydney Kidd are looked upon and viewed as slimeballs not to be trusted as far as you could throw them.  Trouble in Paradise meanwhile belongs to an altogether more risqué period, when sophistication stretched to sexual dalliance and sophisticated badinage exchanged not just to insult and get one up, but as foreplay.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USSR 1930 70m) DVD1

Aka. Zemlya

Ode to a tractor

d/w  Alexander P.Dovzhenko  ph  Danylo Demutsky  ed  Alexander P.Dovzhenko  art  Vassili Krichevsky

Semyon Svashenko (Vasil Trubenko), Stepan Shkurat (Opanas Trubenko), Nikolai Nademsky (Old Semion Trubenko), Yelena Maximova (Natalka), Julia Solntseva (Opanas’ daughter), Vladimir Krasenko (Old Peter), Ivan Franko (Arkhijo),

In Mamoulian’s 1957 film Silk Stockings, a composer comes to Paris on the success of his communist piece ‘Ode to a tractor’, which immediately conjures up images of this 1930 film, which really was an ode to a tractor.  Yet it was also a eulogy for the earth.  Dovzhenko’s Earth is one of those films that can justifiably be called a spiritual experience, yet it’s not in any way religious.  Indeed, religion is seen as one of the evils of the world, in the person of an unforgiving self-righteous old priest.  This is a film where there are heroines, but the one real spiritual heroine is Mother Earth. 

            At the beginning of the film, one of a farming village’s elders, Old Simeon, is dying.  He’s lying outside, surrounded by friends, wishing him well for the journey ahead.  One asks him to tell him how he gets on and he promises to do so if he can.  The old man briefly comes to and asks for some food and savours its taste for one final time before returning from whence both came, to the earth.  Yet Simeon’s death is also a milestone, for the world he knew is about to vanish forever.  Under the Stalinist Collective Farms, each village is about to get a tractor to help them increase turnover for the good of the state.  The old farmers dread seeing the earth taken away from them, but one of their sons, Vasil, is very keen on the idea, preaching the benefits to all who will listen and anyone else, too.  However, the rich farmers who lived nearby grow suspicious of the peasants getting better off and they shoot Vasil late at night in cold blood, while he is dancing down the lane.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1936 76m) DVD2 (Japan only)

Aka. Arigato-San

The Lives of Five Thieves

d/w  Hiroshi Shimizu  novel  Yasunari Kawabata  ph  Isamu Aoki  m  Keizo Horiuchi 

Ken Uehara (Mr Thank You), Michiko Kuwano, Mayumi Tsukiji, Kaoru Futaba, Takashi Ishiyama, Einosuke Naka, Reikichi Kawamura,

One of the travesties of film history is the plight in retrospect of Hiroshi Shimizu, one of the great Japanese directors of the thirties.  Kenji Mizoguchi once said of him that “where the likes of myself and Ozu get films made by hard work, Shimizu is a genius.”  Belatedly Mikio Naruse and even Sadao Yamanaka have been given their dues in the west, but Shimizu virtually never.  Part of the reason for his neglect was that all his major work was done in the thirties, whereas Mizoguchi, Ozu and even Naruse made great films after 1950, when Rashomon made the west thirsty for more Nippon fare.  Shimizu had slipped the west by. 

            A friendly young bus driver has gained the nickname of Mr Thank You from his passengers and friends because of his incredible politeness towards everyone.  Anyone he passes along the way he thanks, and anyone he accepts onto his bus he greets like a member of his own family.  One day, he stops off at the small coastal town of Shichichenko to take a few passengers to Tokyo, including a young girl who’s been forced to leave the village following a scandal, and another young girl, somewhat more worldly wise, who is vaguely attracted to the driver.  (more…)

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