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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for the ‘1930s’ Category

More film watching

Monday, May 11th, 2015

I’ve been naughty and have been rewatching some films. I can’t always get myself to watch new movies — I don’t know why!!!

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The Age of Innocence (1993)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder, Geraldine Chaplin
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, I did like the film, but there were things that I felt were slightly off because of the casting of the main characters. Day-Lewis, Pfeiffer, and Ryder are great actors but I guess that I imagined these characters a certain way that I couldn’t get passed the cast. However, I do think that it says something about how great these actors are because I started seeing why these actors were chosen for their parts. Pfeiffer was graceful, the way I imagined Ellen to be; Ryder occasionally looked so sweet and innocent, which is how I saw May; and I started to get over Day-Lewis’ hair because I always imagined Newland to have a more slicked down hairdo. My ideal cast would have been John Barrymore for Newland, Mary Astor or Vivien Leigh for Ellen, and… oh May is such a hard one! Maybe Lana Turner? Joan Fontaine? Ooooh maybe Lillian Gish?!?! I think Lillian is the one I’ll stick with for May!
Because I have such an immense crush on Winona Ryder, I just have to say that the sweetness of May came through in the scene when she is reading (narrating?) the letter to Newland about agreeing to hasten the wedding. Also, she did a perfect job in the scene when she tells Newland that she is pregnant.
The only major complaint I have is the use of voiceover even though I know why it was used — I knew that voiceovers would be inevitable for this film. I wondered how in the world anyone could film this book due to how descriptive it is and how much of it is based on Newland’s perception of New York society, but I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up enjoying the film even though I hoped that Scorsese would find a way around voiceovers. I honestly was a bit wary to watch the film because I imagined that anyone who attempts to film The Age of Innocence would fail.
Beautifully shot film (especially the ending!!!) and I loved all the food porn. I still stand by that this is Scorsese’s Barry Lyndon because I didn’t expect either Scorsese or Kubrick to make the films.

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Chaplin (1992)
Director: Richard Attenborough
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd
Country: U.S.A., Japan, France, Italy

Since I do not know much about Chaplin’s personal history, I don’t really have anything to compare this film too, which I am actually glad about because knowing too much about Chaplin could have made me dislike the film because all I would be doing is moan about inaccuracies or wonder why they left certain things out. But maybe the film isn’t riddled with inaccuracies since Chaplin’s daughter is in the film and I doubt she would have been in it if she strongly disagreed with it. I don’t think the film itself is made well (it is ok but I had some issues with the way they edited it), but the acting was phenomenal!!! I also loved Mary Pickford’s hair in the film and even though she wasn’t portrayed in a good light, it is true that Chaplin and Pickford did not get along so I wouldn’t be surprised if Pickford was nasty to Chaplin.
Geraldine Chaplin and Robert Downey Jr. shine in this film and seeing their performance was a joy to watch. At first I was like, “Robert can’t get away with this. He can’t be Chaplin.” but I was proven wrong because his performance was so convincing that it was as if he became Chaplin. I wouldn’t mind rewatching this movie to watch Robert Downey Jr.’s performance again because it is just that good.

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Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Actors: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Cyd Charisse
Country: U.S.A.

I’ve wanted to rewatch this movie for some time and I finally got around to it! The last time (and only time) I watched this was in 2007 or 2008 and my mom told me that she enjoyed this movie a lot and that I should watch it. I loved this movie back then because I thought that it was hilarious and fell in love with Gene Kelly’s dancing. I still love the same scene, which is when The Dueling Cavalier‘s sound synchronization goes out the window; it is one of the most hilarious scenes I have seen in any film that I’ve watched.
The reason why I wanted to rewatch this film was because I remembered enjoying it but didn’t remember why I liked it so much nor did I really remember much about it. After rewatching it, I found out that I still love the movie because I find it funny, but I now love it because of all the references to film history. When I first watched it, it was when I was getting my feet wet with film history, so I knew about silent films but not much. Now that I am more aware of film history, all the scenes related to the silent-to-talkie transition resonated with me.
It was rewatching this movie that made me keenly aware of Gene Kelly’s athleticism in regards to his dancing. In the “Moses Supposes” number, seeing Gene dancing next to Donald O’Connor made me think of Fred Astaire because O’Connor is slim and his dancing isn’t as full of power and energy like Gene’s. O’Connor is a great dancer but his style is different than Gene’s, just like how Fred and Gene are very different too. I saw so much power in Gene’s dancing that I was blown away.
I still can’t get over the beauty of how that long veil moves in the “Broadway Melody” sequence — Cyd Charisse looked awesome in it! The whole “Broadway Melody” sequence also made me think that Hollywood films can be very avant-garde and artsy-fartsy too because there were times when it looked very surreal. I actually find all of Gene Kelly’s ballet sequences to be really surreal and it takes the musical genre to a whole ‘nother level. Fred and Ginger tell a story through their dancing and Gene Kelly does the same thing too, but by taking the viewers into a whole different realm than the location of the story is a bold thing to do. I guess it isn’t as jarring in this film because Gene Kelly’s character is telling his idea for The Dancing Cavalier, but it was rather surreal in On the Town and (if I remember correctly) An American in Paris.
Also, does anyone think that Gene Kelly is not a very convincing silent film actor? I don’t know what it is about him but he just doesn’t look like one!!! I know that makes no sense whatsoever because there is no “look” when it comes to an actor in a silent film. I kind of felt that way about Jean Hagan too. Don’t get me wrong though because this movie would not be the same without them and I love them in it.

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On the Town (1949)
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Actors: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Alice Pearce
Country: U.S.A.

Around 2008 or so, I did a Gene Kelly marathon where I would hunt down as many Gene Kelly films as I can and watch whatever I could get my hands on. After several years passed, my memory of these films waned but I remember that back then, there was a film that I considered to be better than Singin’ in the Rain in Gene’s oeuvre. The thing is, I don’t remember what the movie was called but I thought that it was this film or It’s Always Fair Weather because I remembered sailors, Frank Sinatra, and Cyd Charisse.
Now that I watched this film, I don’t think this is the movie I was thinking about but at least I know which movie has Frank Sinatra and sailors — I hope that I don’t forget again. I wonder if my taste and perceptions of movies have changed so much that I won’t know which film I preferred back then. This film was fun to watch but I didn’t think it was anything special and I don’t think I’d watch it again because there isn’t even a scene that would draw me back to this film. Oh wait, I will rewatch parts of this film because I want to learn how to do the Charleston and I think that this film shows off the dance quite well! I wonder what I thought of this film when I first watched it; this is why I need to be more vigilant with my blogging!
Between the time I first watched this film and the time I rewatched it, I was on a Bewitched kick so I was so happy to see Alice Pearce because I love her as Gladys Kravitz.
Now I need to get my hands on It’s Always Fair Weather!!!

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Mr. Skeffington (1944)
Director: Vincent Sherman
Actors: Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel
Country: U.S.A.

This is the first Bette Davis film that I’ve ever watched and the first time I watched it, I hated it! I hated the film, I hated Bette Davis, and I was a raging madwoman and didn’t understand the hype about this film or Bette. Well, things have changed over many many years and I think I’ve watched more Bette Davis films than Joan Crawford films >_>; I used to say that I love Joan more than Bette but I’m not too sure anymore!!! I now love them both and they’re brilliant in their own ways.
Anyway, I rewatched this film a year or two ago and I really enjoyed it and found it so touching. I don’t know why I hated it so much when I first watched it and why I found it to be such a bore then, but when I rewatched this film once again, I enjoyed it once more. When Job comes back and Fanny accepts him, my heart was wrung dry and my eyes watered from emotion.
I believe that I read this in Bette’s memoir when she said that she bluffed her way through this role because she knew she wasn’t the most beautiful woman. This film shows off Bette’s acting chops because she is totally convincing as the most desirable woman. I also find Bette to be pretty and wouldn’t mind if I looked like her at all — Warner Brothers knew how to make her up! Maybe all I need is a studio makeover?
I know I’m babbling a lot about Bette BUT HOW CAN WE FORGET CLAUDE RAINS’ PERFORMANCE? Jesus christ that man can act!!! He is so touching as Job and when Fanny keeps on mentioning his eyes, you completely understand what she means because Claude Rains is SO GOOD.

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Robin Hood (1922)
Director: Allan Dwan
Actors: Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Beery, Sam De Grasse, Enid Bennett, Paul Dickey
Country: U.S.A.

I know the basics about Fairbanks due to reading a bit about Mary Pickford but I never watched any of his films because I had this odd abhorrence towards them for no good reason. I think it’s because I felt as if the kinds of films he was known for wasn’t my type but… I WAS WRONG! My reluctance to watch a Fairbanks film ended up being the way I felt about western films: my feelings towards them were completely irrational.
I have to say that this film is something special because no other film has drawn me in that I started to whoop and holler while watching it. Without knowing, when Robin Hood was kicking some booty, I was shouting, “YOU GET THEM!”, “HOORAY!!!”, and other related things. I was laughing, squealing, and rooting for Robin Hood and this is something that I’ve never done in my entire life. I can now understand people who shout at bars while watching sports. Because no other film gave me such an interactive experience, I have to think highly of this film and put it in a special place. It’s rather odd since it’s not really a film I would watch on repeat or whenever I want to cheer up, but I can’t disregard the experience that this film gave me. I wonder if contemporary moviegoers also rooted for Robin Hood while watching this film.
Fairbanks was so charming in the role of Robin Hood. He was ok as the Earl of Huntingdon but he truly blossomed when he portrayed Robin Hood and I wanted to see more of Fairbanks and didn’t care for any of the other actors because he was a joy to watch. Kind of random, but I was surprised to like Wallace Beery in this film because I usually don’t care for him and always see him as a douchecanoe (I don’t know why), but I did like him as King Richard.
The film was shot beautifully and I couldn’t get over the gorgeous sets and elaborate costumes. Also, SERIOUS HAIR INSPIRATION IN THIS FILM. If anyone says that old films weren’t polished or as great as modern films or talkies, they need to watch this film because it has the finesse of films from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Did anyone else think of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in the scene where the court jester is murdered? Another thing that surprised me was that people getting hanged and hanged people were shown in the film — isn’t that a bit disturbing?!
I need to make a gazillion gifs from this film because there were so many great moments.
I’m glad that the ice is broken and I look forward to watching more of Fairbanks’ work!

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Ninotchka (1939)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Actors: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach
Country: U.S.A.

Before I start rambling about the movie, CAN WE PLEASE DISCUSS BELA LUGOSI AND ALEXANDER GRANACH BEING IN THIS FILM?! I was working on my “art project” (paper chain) while watching this movie and when the film started and the credits came on, my eyes went straight for Bela Lugosi’s name and I was like, “WTFBBQQQQQQ?!?!”, because I’ve watched this film probably 10+ times and I never noticed. When the credits came on at the end of the film, my eyes went straight for Alexander Granach and once again I had the same exact reaction as I did to Bela Lugosi’s name. HOW IN THE WORLD DID I MISS THIS THE LAST BAZILLION TIMES THAT I HAVE WATCHED THIS FILM? HOW?! I always associate Alexander Granach with German silent films (never forget the pig exit in Schatten) so to see him in an American film (and a talkie at that!) had my head reeling.
I haven’t watched Ninotchka in awhile and decided that this time around, I’m going to be a more active viewer and try to find Lubitsch’s brilliance because as much as I love Lubitsch, I also question why he is so great. Sometimes I wonder if Lubitsch is great because of the great scripts he has (I’m focusing on the sound picture era here) or if he’s great because he really brings out the greatness of a darn good script. I need to read some academic works on Lubitsch to help me out… but I should do that after I do another Lubitsch marathon! After rewatching Ninotchka, I think that maybe Lubitsch’s brilliance is that you forget everything and become a passive viewer; I just take in the jokes and have a good time. I guess that’s some dangerous filmmaking though… I think this is even more apparent in To Be or Not to Be because I always feel reluctant recommending that film because as much as I love it and find it hilarious, some people might find it offensive. I wonder how Russians would see Ninotchka, especially people who lived much of their life in the USSR.
I have a love/hate relationship with Greta Garbo but I absolutely LOVE, LOVE her in this film. I wish that she did more comedies because she is brilliant in this film. Her deadpan face expressions are perfect but she is also great when her character loosens up too. It’s a real shame that her last film, also a comedy, was kind of a dud. I remember not enjoying it when I watched it… or maybe I’ll change my mind like I did with Mr. Skeffington?

Stella Dallas ; 1937

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Director: King Vidor
Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley, Barbara O’Neil
Country: U.S.A.

Film adaptations of Olive Higgins Prouty’s novels seem to have a way of making me into an emotional wreck. Now, Voyager gets me every time and has me clutching onto napkins and wringing them while watching the film but Stella Dallas made me emotional to the extent that I could not even watch the film straight through. I don’t know what I would have done if I watched it in a theatre because the emotions that I felt were much too great to handle. I am a sucker for melodramas and usually cry through most of them but there was something about Stella Dallas that was almost painful for me to watch and it reminded me of an essay I had to read for class about female spectatorship in regards to melodramas. If I remember correctly, it was about the masochistic relationship that women have and how they enjoy seeing other women in pain (disclaimer: I could be remembering this all wrong), and the reason I thought this was because I continued watching the film when at times I almost became physically ill from watching this film. Even though I paused the film at times to catch my breath, I kept on watching it until the end. Why did I do this? The answer could be as simple as “Because I wanted to know the ending.” but somehow I don’t think it’s quite that.

While watching it, I wondered why I had such a violent reaction while watching this film to the extent that I had to get away from it at times and why I started feeling sick and couldn’t breathe properly. After thinking a bit after watching this film, I think that my fear (of sorts) with maternal melodramas stem from Mildred Pierce. While Mildred Pierce is a film that I like a lot, sometimes I have a hard time watching it due to how hateful Veda is and another melodrama that I have a hard time watching is Imitation of Life because of how Peola acts towards her mother. In both these films, the daughter character has traits that can be seen as despicable (why they act this way can be analyzed and be a wholeeeee ‘nother entry) yet in Stella Dallas, the daughter: Laurel, is not a character to be hated. She is a likable character and quite noble as can be seen in the scene when she finds out that her friends are making fun of her mother. Even though in the beginning she was embarrassed by her mother, she realizes that she loves her mother very much and does not want to leave her mother’s side, even for the chance of being seen as an upper-class, respectable young woman. I was so terrified that Laurel would hate her mother and had to pause the film and take a break for a few minutes before watching the scene when Laurel finds out that it is her mother that her friends are ridiculing. To be honest, I didn’t even really watch it and closed my eyes and ears and looked sporadically to see what happened but I couldn’t take the scene in fully. I didn’t want to because Veda from Mildred Pierce haunted me and I was frightened that Laurel would turn out to be just like Veda.
This was why the ending was particularly hard to watch and why I cried through the whole end sequence. There was no blame to be put on a specific character as to why the ending happened the way it did and the excess emotions that I felt weren’t filtered into how I felt towards various characters. Instead, all I felt was pity and frustration throughout the whole film and there was no cathartic moment or an outlet for these emotions. In Mildred Pierce, I felt anger towards Veda and pity towards Mildred but in Stella Dallas, there wasn’t any division or displacement of my emotions and my feelings just kept on rolling into a ball. Maybe after a few months, I should do a “Stella Dallas Revisited” sort of blog entry and analyze WHY I felt as if there wasn’t an outlet for emotion, at least for me.
While some people may view Stella’s actions to be annoying and that Stella was “asking for it”, she did the ultimate sacrifice by giving up her daughter so that her daughter could have a life that is different from her own. What perturbed me though was Stella’s smile as she watches her daughter get married and then walks away. Sure she is happy that her daughter was able to marry the man she loved but why is it necessary for Stella to be out of the picture? It was obvious that Laurel loved her mother very much and that Laurel would have found a way to have her man and keep her mother close to her. What was the force that drove Laurel and Stella apart? Is it because social image is so important that a mother has to give up her daughter in order for the daughter to be happy? Is image that important that Laurel’s father and stepmother would support Stella’s decision even though they are aware of Stella’s ulterior motives? Would Laurel truly be happy without her mother? I think that there is a very bittersweet undertone to the wedding scene because Laurel still remembers her mother and I don’t think that Laurel will ever forget her even as years pass by despite how they ended their communication with each other. Both characters are trapped within circumstances that they couldn’t fully control as can be seen with both Laurel and Stella being behind bars and I strongly believe that neither character will truly be happy by the trappings that society made for them and the trappings that they themselves made for themselves by accepting the pressures of society.

Finally, I just wanted to say how surprised I was by this film in regards to King Vidor. While I do associate King Vidor with Show People, somehow I expected this film to use the film medium more effectively than the traditional classic Hollywood style. I know of King Vidor’s potential and his interest in cinematography and somehow I expected something a little more from Stella Dallas. Although I DO admit that this film did remind me of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement in Germany because of the film didn’t look glamourous like Now, Voyager, but at the same time, many Hollywood films had this look of even lighting. Also, Stella Dallas didn’t really call for glamour like Now, Voyager did. I guess what did most of the legwork in this film for its emotional intensity was Barbara Stanwyck, but I’m not surprised by that. She is an amazing actress, no doubt about it!

IMDb Link: Stella Dallas
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Fire Over England ; 1937

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Director: William K. Howard
Actors: Flora Robson, Raymond Massey, Leslie Banks, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Morton Selten, Tamara Desni, James Mason
Country: United Kingdom

This entry is for the Viv and Larry Blogathon.

I have been meaning to watch Fire Over England because it stars both Olivier and Leigh so I thought that it would be perfect that I watch it and blog about it for the marathon. To be honest though, I was a little disappointed by it. There were so many big names behind it, specifically Erich Pommer, Alexander Korda, and James Wong Howe and it was obvious that it was a huge production, but it felt like a bit lacking. It reminded me of the large historical films that Hollywood made, for example the 1938 Marie Antoinette where there were great costumes and sets, but that was it. Even the actors seem like nothing and the beautiful costumes just overpower them.

Although I watched this film for Olivier and Leigh, the actress that stood out was Flora Robson. She had so much presence as Queen Elizabeth and was absolutely perfect. She WAS queenly and it was as if you were watching the real Queen Elizabeth (or how I imagined Queen Elizabeth was like). I was a disappointed by Olivier’s performance and I thought that his performance in this film supported the arguments that people made about how he was not a screen actor but a stage actor. He was so lovely in Pride and Prejudice and to see him less than perfect in this film made me a bit sad. I felt that he was a bit hammy, and not the good kind like John Barrymore, but from what I understand, this film was made earlier in his career before he reached the zenith of his career. I didn’t see any potential in him as a film actor solely based on this film but on the other hand, Vivien Leigh showed the potential that she had. Despite being a newcomer compared to Olivier when it came to acting, she showed energy and passion. Even though she had a minor role with a rather flat character, there was just something in her face and the movement of her body that just screamed out POTENTIAL TO BE A BIG MOVIE STAR. I cannot put my finger on it but there was just something about Leigh that I liked in this film. It was fun to watch an early film that she starred in and I think it’s the energy that I felt in her performance that made her performance in Gone With the Wind so great. That bubbly energy and drive that showed through in her performance in Fire Over England made me think that it was the right choice to choose Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. I guess what I love so much about Vivien Leigh is that you feel this energetic drive every time you watch a film with her in it — you feel something that makes you drawn to her and she seems to be so open, vulnerable, and raw as if she exposes and gives everything in her film performance. I felt a bit of that in Fire Over England and that energy really shows through in Leigh’s future great performances such as Gone With the Wind, Waterloo Bridge, and A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s such a shame that I wasn’t able to write something nice about Laurence Olivier because I admire him as a film director and actor. I guess his talent just didn’t shine through in this film or I just wasn’t feeling his performance but it’s ok because I’ll be blogging about my all-time favourite Olivier film performance tomorrow!

IMDb Link: Fire Over England
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Stage Door ; 1937

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Director: Gregory La Cava
Actors: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers , Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Andrea Leeds, Lucille Ball
Country: U.S.A

Stage Door… Where to even begin? Terrific directing, terrific script, terrific acting and cast, terrific everything! I enjoyed this film from beginning to end despite having one of my least favourite actresses, Katharine Hepburn.

I won’t talk much about the story since I think everyone should watch this so I’ll focus on my favourite subject: acting! Despite my lack of knowledge about acting and anything related to it, I really do put much emphasis on it with my own scale of what’s good or bad. If the person’s acting really hits home with my emotions, I know it’s good (for me). I was slightly disappointed with the top-billed actresses (Hepburn and Rogers) because I thought that it was Andrea Leeds’ performance that stood out. Hepburn was perfect for the role as Terry since I always imagine Hepburn to be intelligent and witty, but I was surprised to see Ginger Rogers playing a serious role. I’ve only seen her in her early Warner Pictures and the Astaire x Rogers films and have been annoyed by her for the most part, but I liked her in this role. Despite liking her performance and her character, she was nothing compared to Leeds as the tragic Kay. Oh how I cried every time I watched this film when I saw what happened to Kay in the end because of Leeds’ performance. When Terry mentions something along the lines that it was Kay’s spirit that was doing the acting, I almost felt as if somehow the character of Kay was playing the role that Terry played in the play. I guess that also means Hepburn’s acting was great… well, only in that scene! (I’m always reluctant to praise Hepburn.) La Cava directed Kay’s last scene so perfectly that everything about it was effective in adding to the tragedy.
Also, I have to add that Gail Patrick is definitely looking regal in this film! She’s the epitome of patrician beauty… *happy sigh*

The dialogue is fast-paced, which makes watching this film multiple times a must. I was surprised to find out that much of the dialogue was improvised in the scenes when the girls are in the boarding house. It just added to my little idea in my head that everyone was funnier, smarter, wittier, and knew how to talk fast back in the days.

Great film and I’ll definitely give it a 10/10. I usually hate watching sad films over and over, but this film is one that I could watch any time because it is so enjoyable.

IMDb Link: Stage Door
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Morocco ; 1930

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Actors: Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou
Country: U.S.A.

I was a bit disappointed after I finished Morocco but in retrospect, I am impressed that this melodrama didn’t come off as overly dramatic and cheesy. Instead, the ending made me only think of one word: classy. I don’t know why but I’m assuming it’s the cinematography because everything in this film was beautiful and Marlene Dietrich looked as gorgeous as ever. I didn’t really care much for the story but the images were all so perfect for it. My first Sternberg film was Der blaue Engel and I can see traces of that film in this. The way he uses objects to frame the subject of the scene and bring focus to certain areas were reminiscent of Der blaue Engel. Although each scene was a sight to see, the ending was the most beautiful of all. It almost reminded me of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura, cinematography-wise, except the film didn’t feel drawn out. The film wrapped up so well, starting with the remark about “suicide passengers”, somewhere in the mid-section talking about the women who follow the men and sometimes dying, and then showing Amy Jolly (Dietrich) following Légionnaire Tom Brown (Cooper) into the desert with no belongings. I usually despise open-ended films (I’m just not pretentious intelligent enough for them), but this film left me with a sense of satisfaction most likely due to the way it was filmed.

Dietrich’s performance was impressive for her first film in Hollywood (also hooray to pre-code Dietrich!). Although she did star in an all English film before (The Blue Angel), it was Morocco that impressed me. She didn’t know much English yet I couldn’t even tell because she spoke her lines so well and naturally. When she first appears on the scene, I gasped at her beauty and was blown away by how much presence she has whenever she is in a scene. The scene when she performs at the club for the first time exemplifies how much of a presence she has in a scene. She commands all of one’s attention and her attitude, her strut, and face expression is all so perfect. No movie star has the same effect that Dietrich has on me and I’ve never seen an actress that drew me in. Well, there is Asta Nielsen, but that is a different story. Her character when she first performs reminds me of Dietrich in real life: seducing people of both genders with her looks and charisma. Dietrich smoking and in a suit has got to be one of the sexiest images that one could look at and in Morocco, Sternberg takes full advantage of Dietrich’s sex appeal for both genders. I couldn’t help but thing, “Boy, she sure is a gentleman!” when she kissed the lady as thanks for the flower. Gary Cooper was nothing too exciting as Tom Brown, but I never really liked Cooper so it’s nothing new that I didn’t care much for him in Morocco. He always seems the same to me and bland so I don’t get what the big deal is with Gary Cooper. Adolphe Menjou’s character is nothing exciting in itself and doesn’t allow him to show off his acting, but nonetheless, I thought he did the best he could.

Stephany’s immature anecdote: I TOTALLY ENVY THE WOMAN THAT MARLENE DIETRICH KISSED! If I was that woman, I would have done more than just look shy, I would have fainted on the spot. I JUST LOVE THE WAY THIS WOMAN MOVES, SINGS, AND TALKS!!! I thought that the kissing scene was the cutest thing ever so I had to bring it up. The way the lady giggles and looks at Amy Jolly before the kiss and then covers her face afterwards is so adorable. And Dietrich’s reaction! That is cuteness overload because she has a silly grin on her face and smells the flower as if she was a little boy being mischievous. If anyone did what Dietrich did and reacted that way, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Ok, I need to stop being so immature, but it’s such a cute scene and well, everyone knows that Dietrich is one of my favourite actresses and also numero uno on my “Most Beautiful People” list, so I guess it’s expected that I would rave about her.

This film has got to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing films that I have ever seen. The lush visuals, Marlene Dietrich, and beautiful lighting… what more can you ask for?

IMDb Link:
Morocco
Where to buy: Amazon.com (Marlene Dietrich – The Glamour Collection DVD set) ; Amazon.com (VHS)

Red-Headed Woman ; 1932

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Director: Jack Conway
Actors: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, Leila Hyams, Una Merkel
Country: U.S.A.

I loved Red-Headed Woman because I wish I could be like Lillian (Harlow)! To have that much charm to seduce every man she likes is something that not every woman can do.

So what exactly do I think about this film? First I would like to start by saying that I give it a thumbs up. One can’t find films like this when the Hays Code was in effect and I thought that this film was the epitome of what was acceptable pre-code. You can watch this film for yourself and see what I mean. I don’t find Jean Harlow to be beautiful, but she is glamourous and perfect for this role. I cannot imagine anyone else playing the part because the way Harlow moved, glanced, and looked was dead on for the role for Lillian. Something about Harlow made me understand why so many people love her to this day; the way her makeup accentuated her features and her large, almost tragic, eyes definitely drew me in. She was also an amazing actress and I enjoyed watching her in a comedy and I liked her just as much in this film. This is my second film with Chester Morris (the first being The Divorcee) and I thought he was suited for this role. I don’t really like him much for some reason… maybe it’s his slicked back hair that doesn’t do much for his profile. Leila Hyams as Irene was GORGEOUS. When I saw her, I couldn’t help but keep my eyes on her. Although she is beautiful, I still thought Harlow stole the show with her acting.

For all pre-code film fans, this is a must watch. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t enjoy this film because modern day viewers can see that life back then was just the same as today and it’s interesting to see that scandalous things were portrayed in films in the past.

IMDb Link: Red-Headed Woman
Where to buy: Amazon.com (VHS) ; Amazon.com (Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 1 DVD set)

Anna Karenina ; 1935

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Director: Clarence Brown
Actors: Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Freddie Bartholomew, Maureen O’Sullivan
Country: U.S.A.

I have yet to read Tolstoy’s classic novel due to my fear of Tolstoy that was instilled in me as I was a child. Although I have enjoyed one of his novels, Anna Karenina always scared me despite it being one of my mother’s favourite books thus I decided that I’ll take the easy way out and watch the film to educate myself a bit and perhaps make me less intimidated by the book. It was an enjoyable film for the most part, but I didn’t find it to be anything special. I usually like Garbo when I watch her films, but I thought that her acting wasn’t as great as everyone says it is; I thought her voice inflections, tone, and pitch were odd at times and not right for the scene. I know that Garbo is known for saying more with her face than her lines, but even I wasn’t impressed and thought everything was not right. It’s a gorgeous film to watch but it just didn’t do it for me. None of the other actors were any better and I felt that everything was too overdone. This film was a big disappointment for me since I do adore (well, it’s more like love/hate, but while watching this, I did like her) Garbo and wanted to like this film. The only thing saving it would be Garbo’s beauty and Adrian’s lovely designs. Yes, I stooped down to the level of superficiality for this film.

Just like Grand Hotel, Garbo is presented in a dramatic fashion with a cloud of smoke and then the beautiful face emerges from it. Oh MGM, how overly dramatic you can be!!!

I would recommend this film for Garbo fans, Anna Karenina and Tolstoy enthusiasts, people interested in Clarence Brown’s works, and people interested in old costume films. Oh and Fredric March fans as well (ALTHOUGH I REALLY CAN’T SEE WHAT THE HUBBUB ABOUT HIM IS). I can’t find anything special about this film, but that doesn’t mean that it should be thrown in the “don’t watch it” bin.

IMDb Link: Anna Karenina
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Waterloo Bridge ; 1931

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Director: James Whale
Actors: Mae Clarke, Douglass Montgomery, Doris Lloyd, Frederick Kerr, Enid Bennett, Bette Davis
Country: U.S.A.

I’ve watched the remake of this film and absolutely fell in love with it the first time I watched it. I forgot what the title was and it took me two years to hunt it down until my mom finally remembered what the title was. When I looked it up, I found out that it was a remake of an earlier film so I became even more curious about this film. Usually I hate remakes, but I adored the remake; that gets me wondering if the mindset that people carry about remakes is what tarnishes their reputation because I didn’t know the later Waterloo Bridge was a remake and liked it. I probably would have liked it nevertheless due to Vivien Leigh and the great story and acting. Anyway going on, at first I was indifferent while watching this (original) version due to the odd pacing and me wondering just where this film was going with the story. On top of that, sometimes Mae Clarke’s face expressions were hard to decipher. I really did like Mae Clarke as Myra and she was gorgeous yet had an air of tragedy, which was perfect for her character. Kent Douglass as the nineteen year old war soldier Roy looks completely innocent and is perfect in this role. I was surprised to see the young Bette Davis but her performance didn’t leave much of an impression on me, which makes me admire her even more for eventually becoming such a big star. It’s a shame that this was my first Davis film but it is still interesting to see her in one of her earlier films.

The editing and special effects in this film is fun to see since it’s obvious but still pretty good for its time. I wonder if they used the Schüfftan process, but it doesn’t look as seamless as it did in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Hmm… *ponders*

My favourite scene has got to be when Myra sees Roy leave and then puts on her hat and gets ready to go out again (ref. Picture 2). From her face expression and her getting ready to go out, somehow you know about her occupation. I thought Mae Clarke’s performance was at its best in this scene although the scene when she yells and cries when Roy comes in through the window is a close second.

Also a weird thing, the ending credits has “A Good Cast is Worth Repeating”; I wonder what the meaning of that is…

The beginning of the film is a bit slow but as the film progresses, it gets better and better. I do recommend this film although I can see how some people might not like it. It’s not as dramatic as it could have been or as tragic, but I think it was good nonetheless. The remake definitely smoothes out the rough edges and heightens the drama and the tragedy. It’s also interesting to watch a film that goes against the stereotype of pre-code films being racy and sexual. I would give this film about a 7.5 or 8 out of 10.

I’ll definitely write about the remake as well once I find my DVD!

IMDb Link:
Waterloo Bridge
Where to buy: Amazon.com (Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 1 DVD set)

Grand Hotel ; 1932

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Director: Edmund Goulding
Actors: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt
Country: U.S.A.

First of all, I would like to say “Happy birthday!” to the “Queen of MGM”, Norma Shearer. I didn’t have any more Shearer films with me so I decided to post about a film that Shearer would have been in except word has it that her fans begged her not to star in it. I wish that Shearer was in it, but I love the cast of Grand Hotel as it is. Nevertheless, happy birthday, and may you rest in peace.

The whole idea of Grand Hotel is stated by the Doctor (Stone) saying, “Grand Hotel. Always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” Although it seems like it goes against all the drama that does happen in the film, it does show the nature of the hotel. People come in and go out all the time and although there are things happening in the place, in the end the stories that happen there doesn’t matter because it is replaced by the new flood of people that come. The drama that happened one time in Grand Hotel is all forgotten eventually.

Or at least that is my take on it.

I highly enjoyed this film the first time I watched it and when I watched it the second time around, I was more interested in how the hotel functions as a place. There is so much going on but everything is ephemeral there: the food, the music, the romance, nothing ever lasts. People change while they are in this hotel, but the hotel never changes and always does the same thing by serving the people under its roof. The story we see in this film is just a small fraction of what happened at that one period of time in the hotel’s history and it’ll soon just be irrelevant replaced by the new couple who come to the hotel in the end and eventually their presence and actions will be forgotten. I love that the hotel creates the opportunity of mishmashing between all kinds of different people such as a stenographer, an ill man, a ballerina, a baron, and a textiles business man. How the drama unfolds in this film is perfect and the ending is bittersweet. Surprisingly the second time around, I didn’t feel much sadness for Grusinskaya (Garbo) and felt even happier for Flaemmchen (Crawford) and Kringelein (L. Barrymore). I guess Grusinskaya was simply too selfish for me the second time around whereas when I first saw her, my fascination with Garbo and her beauty enraptured me.

Crawford’s performance in this film was spectacular. Even Garbo couldn’t outshine Crawford because Garbo seemed too overdone and almost not genuine. While I thought that she did portray her character well, Crawford’s timing and face expressions were performed so perfectly that I enjoyed every minute of her screen time. Her little talk with the Baron (J. Barrymore) was flawless because her body language and face expressions made it clear what kind of person she was. Crawford has such a presence in each scene that you have to see this film just for her.

Also, I have to point out my amusement of how long it takes for Greta Garbo to appear in a film. And on top of that, her entrance is always dragged out and her glorious face is always obscured by something and then makes a dramatic entrance. It’s almost laughable at times and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when I saw how the bed sheets just happen to cover her face in Grand Hotel and the camera does almost a full circle until it gets to Garbo and her face.

I believe that this film was the first all-star cast film to ever be made in America. I think that MGM succeeded in creating a film that had the star power and a great story to go with it. I highly recommend it and just like how the hotel changes over time, your thoughts about the film and what intrigues you will change every time you watch it as well.

IMDb Link: Grand Hotel
Where to buy: Amazon.com

A Free Soul ; 1931

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Director: Clarence Brown
Actors: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore, James Gleason, Clark Gable, Lucy Beaumont
Country: U.S.A.

A Free Soul is an amazing pre-code film that I enjoyed from the beginning to end. Norma Shearer as Jan is a free woman who can do whatever she wants. Her father (Lionel Barrymore) has taught her to be independent and that if she ever makes mistakes, it will be no one’s fault but her own because she had the choice to make it or not.

This film also gives the viewers a glimpse of how a “free” woman was perceived by society: Jan is seen by her family as someone who is wild and Ace (Clark Gable) says that he’ll ruin her reputation by telling the truth so that no man would want to marry her. I loved Jan and her wit, charm, intelligence, and her willingness to take responsibility for her actions and to be a strong woman in various situations. What I found to be interesting about this film is that it had both progressive ideas and incredibly conservative and classist ideas portrayed as well. Nevertheless, I highly enjoyed this film.

My favourite scene cinematically is the jail scene with Jan and Dwight (Howard). It gives a sense of closeness through its almost claustrophobic-like framing and to see how they are communicating not only through their voice but through their eyes. It was as if this scene solidified their relationship and they both knew what each other was thinking just by looking at each other. While they are close emotionally and location-wise, the wall between them keeps them away from each other. The wall could be seen as a hurdle that Dwight needs to go over in order to be free and be with Jan, but at the same time, if that wall wasn’t there, Jan’s past actions would be exposed, just as her face would be. I thought that it was an interesting way of filming this scene because so many films from the past go for the plan américain and simple shots that show people’s faces with no obstructions

The acting is superb on everyone’s part. Norma Shearer is FANTASTIC; no words can describe how much I loved her as Jan. From the beginning I couldn’t help but fall in love with her character. And when she is with Clark Gable and does her “come here” arm motions (ref. Picture 1), even I was entranced. Lionel Barrymore’s speech at the end is heart breaking and he definitely has his own charm. Clark Gable, as a gangster, was known as “the man who slapped Norma Shearer” after this role. I was surprised to see him without his trademark moustache! Even though it wasn’t there, I somehow kept thinking that it was. Leslie Howard was absolutely delicious in this film! I couldn’t help but think that he looked like a British version of Gösta Ekman; funny thing is, he played Gösta Ekman’s part in Intermezzo in the American remake of the Swedish film. But of course, my heart will always side with dear Gösta and think that he’s the best.

IMDb Link: A Free Soul
Where to buy: Amazon.com (Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 2 DVD set), Amazon.com (VHS)