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Old 11-30-2007, 12:21 AM   #1
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Top Films of the Decade -- The 1930's

This is the final decade that I'm going to be taking part in. Besides, the 20's would essentially be a list of Chaplin & Keaton films, and maybe some Dryer, Murnau & Lang. Not as much to choose from.

The stuff on this list isn't as visually artistic as stuff from the subsequent decades, with a few exceptions. To me this was more of a writer's decade, before the European directors brought their expressionism over to the U.S. and influenced the future of film. So there's a fair amount of screwball comedy on this list, which represent some of the greatest viewing experiences I've ever had, regardless of the lack of a visual stamp.


1. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, '38)
Cary Grant & Katherine Hepburn in what may be the funniest comedy ever, that is as fresh as when it came out 70 years ago.

2. The Rules of the Game (Renoir, '39)
Often a runner-up to Citizen Kane in "best ever" polls. A masterpiece of satire on the French class system, funny yet totally heartbreaking. Essential viewing for anyone serious about film.

3. City Lights (Chaplin, '31)
One of the best endings ever. Not Chaplin's funniest (that would be The Gold Rush), but it's still hilarious, and more moving than you could imagine.

4. Gone With the Wind (Fleming/Cukor/Wood, '39)
Yes, melodramatic and socially dated, but it has astounding visuals, from the art direction to the cinematography, and two iconic performances. Titanic only wishes it was as good.

5. The 39 Steps (Hitchcock, '35)
Hitchcock's first masterpiece.

6. The Awful Truth (McCarey, '37)
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne get divorced, then run around in circles trying to prove to each other that they've moved on, which of course, they haven't. A sophisticated screwball comedy that still delivers on the pratfalls, and a great "relationship" story to boot.

7. The Grand Illusion (Renoir, '38)
A World War I film that's not really a war film (think The Great Escape) that will just kill you with its humanity. This one has everything, comedy, drama, suspense. One of many Renoir masterpieces.

8. Holiday (Cukor, '38)
Grant and Hepburn again, from the same guy who wrote The Philadelphia Story for the stage. This one is a darker comedy about a couple people who are a bit out of step with high society's demands of conformity. Not rough or political enough to really be labeled anti-establishment, but certainly a film that champions those with an original voice.

9. Duck Soup (McCarey, '33)
The Marx Brothers. Anarchy on film. Another candidate for funniest film of all time. You may have to watch it twice just to catch everything. But you'll want to anyway.

10. Captain Blood (Curtiz, '35)
Errol Flynn swashbuckling on the high seas. Makes Pirates of the Caribbean look like the over-produced theme park ride that it is.

11. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch, '32)
Male and female con artists on the Riviera. Think Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but more sophisticated. Just as funny.

12. Ninotchka (Lubitsch, '39)
Lubitsch did American screwball with his distinct European flair. This one was famous for featuring Greta Garbo's first laugh on film. A smart and sweet political satire featuring a communist agent who shows up in Paris to check on her fellow comrades, who have been seduced by freewheeling capitalism. Co-written by Billy Wilder.

13. M (Lang, '31)
This one has a reputation that preceeds it, and it's every bit as good as rumor has it. A manhunt for a child murderer turns into a searing critique on mob violence that will have you questioning your own moral sense. Visually arresting as well.

14. Sylvia Scarlett (Cukor, '35)
Grant and Hepburn (and Cukor, and con artists) AGAIN! This one is set in England, with Hepburn posing as a man for much of the film. Grant is in rare full-on cockney travelling-player mode, closer to his real-life roots than any other role . A difficult-to-categorize film that will really surprise you--very underrated.

15. My Man Godfrey (LaCava, '36)
William Powell (a personal favorite of mine) with Carole Lombard (a beautiful and talented comedienne who deserves more attention from younger generations) in another great class system comedy. She's a little rich girl on a scavenger hunt, who winds up bringing home a homeless man, who actually turns out to be something much more.


I was sad to have to leave off a couple of Capra's great early films, as well as Howard Hawks' Twentieth Century (also with Lombard, and John Barrymore).

Special mention must go to the Thin Man series of films (the first 3 of 6 were made in the 30's) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, great mystery-comedies with two charming stars who spend most of the films trading one-liners and cocktails. Can't recommend these films enough, and they're in a nice little boxed set that came out a couple years ago (also shown often on Turner Classic Movies)!
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Old 11-30-2007, 12:51 AM   #2
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Nice, Lazarus. I think I've seen 10. Now we've got some to look out for. I remember M from college, but don't think I've seen it since.

It's incredible how well people spoke back then. The back & forth banter really was key in the 30's. Wonderful stuff. And everyone smokin' & drinkin'.

I'll get a list together, shouldn't be too hard. 1 - 10 are all Shirley Temple
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Old 11-30-2007, 02:43 PM   #3
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I've seen ten of yours too laz. Have yet to see The Grand Illusion, Captain Blood, Trouble in Paradise, Sylvia Scarlett and My Man Godfrey but I'll keep an eye out now.

1. M (Lang, '31)
The first, and one of the all time greatest, serial killer movies. Peter Lorre is excellent as the child murderer and the use of sound and images by Lang is superb. The climax is still shockingly and sadly relevant today.

2. All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone, '30)
I just watched this a couple of months ago but it is one of the best war films I've seen. Some of the acting is a bit, well, poor, but overall this is a top film.

3. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, '39)
One of the greatest and most memorable fantasy films. Who can forget the first time a sepia toned Dorothy opens her front door to reveal the amazing colour outside? It's also genuiniely creepy in places.

4. Gone With the Wind (Fleming/Cukor/Wood, '39)
Not one I'm likely to return to often, but for sheer scope and achievement this ranks very highly. And as laz has already pointed out the visuals are astounding.

5. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, '38)
Hilarious from start to finish, with almost every scene feeling like a sketch. Cary Grant plays an uncharacteristicly dorky fellow while Katherine Hepburn has never been cuter (check out the scene when she walks on the side of the hill).

6. The 39 Steps (Hitchcock, '35)
Featuring a setup that Hitch would later reuse again and again, this one still holds up as one of his best. Great interplay between the two leads.

7. It Happened One Night (Capra, '34)
Fans of modern day romances where the two leads start off hating each other (When Harry Met Sally I'm looking at you) give this a whirl. Fantastic performances from Clark Gable (he inspired Bugs Bunny in the role) and Claudette Colbert work wonders with an already sublime script. Also notable for being the first of only three films to date to bag all five top Oscars.

8. King Kong (Cooper, '33)
Forget the remakes, including Jackson's, this is the only version to bother with. The stop motion effects have transcended dating and still look amazing when you consider when they were made.

9. Duck Soup (McCarey, '33)
One of the funniest films I've seen, full stop. I can usually take or leave the Marx Brothers, but this film has me laughing from start to finish. Inpsired lunacy that even the director could barely handle.

10. The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, '35)
Surpassing the original in terms of quality, this sequel explores the Monster's personality much more than before. Worth watching just before popping Young Frankenstein into the player just to see how good Mel Brooks used to be.

11. Modern Times (Chaplin, '36)
This has the edge over City Lights for me, although that too is a great, great film. Whilst lacking the beautiful ending of City Lights, this still has many stand out moments. The meal machine early on, Chaplin's roller skating, numerous spells in jail and of course the climatic song and dance number.

12. Destry Rides Again (Marshall, '39)
Before hooking up with Hitchcock and Mann to give his image a dramatic make over, Jimmy Stewart made this western with Marlene Dietrich. But it doesn't entirely fall back on his 'aw, shucks' persona, as even though Stewart's deputy doesn't carry a gun he's still a force to be reckoned with.

13. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz, '38)
Jolly good Technicolor fun with Errol Flynn making a dashing Robin Hood. One of those films that's practically impossible to not like and wish to see again.

14. Ninotchka (Lubitsch, '39)
I first watched this for the Wilder connection and I'm so glad I did. A witty script and an honest, sweet performance from Greta Garbo make this one to remember.

15. The Public Enemy (Curtiz, '38)
"Whadda ya hear! Whadda ya say!" James Cagney in one of his signature roles as Rocky Sullivan is freed from jail and walks straight back into a life of crime. Humphrey Bogart gives support as his crooked accountant.

As you can see, I had to cave in on my one film per director rule, as I haven't seen enough from the 30s to pick 15 great films otherwise. I agree with laz that The Thin Man is a also a top watch and mention must also go to Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes.
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Old 11-30-2007, 04:33 PM   #4
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1. Gone with the Wind
2. It Happened One Night
3. Wizard of Oz
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
5. Bringing up Baby

Many more, I'll think of some and add them later
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Old 11-30-2007, 05:01 PM   #5
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I'll have a list later.

Surprised nobody has Snow White on theirs.
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Old 12-05-2007, 05:37 PM   #6
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*bump*

I saw The Whole Town's Talking over the weekend, a 1935 screwball comedy starring James G. Robinson and Jean Arthur, directed by none other than John Ford. Although not exactly known for these types of films, Ford nailed it with great pacing and an excellent rhythm. The two leads are great value too, with Arthur a hoot as a fun loving accountant caught up in a case of mistaken identity (her "Mannion" interrogation scene is hilarious). But it's Robinson's show, with a dual role as both the hapless accountant who bears a striking resembalance to an escaped gangster and the gangster himself. It's basically his roles from Scarlet Street and Key Largo played for laughs but that's definitely no bad thing.
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Old 12-06-2007, 04:17 AM   #7
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Sorry this took so long

Incredible how many films John Ford did, and so many good ones. I didn't know he made some silent movies also.

I joked my top 10 were Shirley Temple. Well, Shirley ruled this decade, she cranked out 3 or 4 movies per year for a while and this thread will disappear quickly, so who's up for some happy endings, even if the stories are all basically the same. Lots of singing and dancing. Many with Arthur Treacher "My word", & Cesar Romero is in a few.

Wee Willie Winkie w/ Victor McLaglen, Cesar Romero. John Ford directed this one set in British controlled India.
The Little Princess w/ Cesar Romero & Arthur Treacher. Shirley searches hospitals for her father wounded in battle.
Heidi - Yeah, Shirley is stolen from grandfather by her greedy aunt.
Curly Top - Shirley & her sister are orphans adopted by a rich man
Captain January w/ Buddy Ebsen - Cruel truant officer takes Shirley from Cap. Nice song & dance with Buddy Ebsen
The Little Colonel w/ Lionel Barrymore & Bojangles Robinson - Shirley softens crusty old confederate Lionel Barrymore, dances with Bojangles and saves her father from swindlers
The Littlest Rebel w/ Bojangles Robinson - Shirley saves her confederate father from execution by seeing President Lincoln
Bright Eyes - Orphan Shirley has to choose who will adopt her, Loop the pilot or the nice rich old uncle, who's family is greedy.
Little Miss Marker - little Shirley is left as an IOU with some mobsters, who of course fall in love with her. W/ Adolph Menjou
Poor Little Rich Girl - Shirley gets lost, ends up in a couple's act, while rich dad looks for her.

Baby TAke a Bow, Dimples, Stowaway....... they're all good. But no special effects.

And here's the rest

1. Babes in Toyland - Stan & Ollie live and work in Toyland. Stan blows Santa's toy order and sets everything in motion, ending with the attack of Toyland by evil Barnaby and the Boogeymen. This use to be shown once a year on Xmas morning if I recall correctly, and it was a highlight of the year.
2. The Wizard of Oz
3. Drums Along the Mohawk - another John Ford, set in the pre-revolutionary war Mohawk Valley. Henry Fonda brings young bride Claudette Colbert to the frontier to start life together. They live on the farm of the wonderful Edna May Oliver, eventually getting caught up in the war. Great depiction of the times.
4. Topper - great screwball fun, with Cary Grant and wife as ghosts trying to bring some fun to the life of Cosmo Topper.
5. Frankenstein & Bride of Frankenstein
6. Dracula
7. Tarzan, Tarzan Finds a Mate.... basically all Johnny Weismiller tarzan movies were good.
8. Flying Deuces & Sons of the Desert - two great Laurel & Hardy. Sons finds the boys lying to the wives about a convention they go to. Unfortunately, Stan, of course, has a hard time lying. Flying Deuces has the boys in the French foreign legion, as Ollie tries to forget his lost love. They sing and dance to 'Shine on Harvest Moon' and this one has my favorite L & H endings.
9. All Quiet On the Western Front - Kids, don't listen to your elders
10. Any Marx Brothers - I can't really choose between Horse Feathers, Duck Soup, Night at the Opera, Room Service, A Day at the Races. They're all insane.
11. Beau Geste - my favorite of the different versions I've seen. With Gary Cooper
12.. Bringing Up Baby - more great comedy as mentioned already
13.. Gone with the Wind
14. Stagecoach - John Ford again w/ a young John Wayne.
15. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - faithful version of the story, with a cool cave scene with Injun Joe at the end.

Also Charlie Chaplin of course, W.C. Fields is always entertaining, and all the gangster films with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, George Raft.







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Old 12-06-2007, 03:30 PM   #8
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We're up to 4 lists!

Hopefully others can catch up and join us...
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Old 12-06-2007, 11:11 PM   #9
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1. It Happened One Night
2. The 39 Steps
3. The Wizard Of Oz
4. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
5. Bringing Up Baby
6. King Kong
7. All Quiet On The Western Front
8. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs
9. The Lady Vanishes
10. Gone With The Wind
11. The Bride Of Frankenstein
12. M
13. The Adventures Of Robin Hood
14. Duck Soup
15. Wuthering Heights
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Old 12-08-2007, 01:06 PM   #10
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I like to make my own double or triple features, so from the 30's I have.

Scarface/Little Caesar/Public Enemy (early 30's gangster movies)

Bringing Up Baby/Holiday/Philadelphia Story (Katherine Hepburn at her best)

Adventures of Sherlock Holmes/Hound of the Baskervilles (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in the roles they own)

Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein (Karloff and the greatest sequel in history)

I've also become very interested in Pre-Code Hollywood. There are 2 box sets out called Forbidden Hollywood (one is to be released soon) that are superb. There is also some pre-code nudity in Tarzan's Mate and movies like Frankenstein and King Kong were heavily censored and only restored for home video in the last 20 years.

Hardyharhar.
Just this week a new set called M-G-M Holiday Collection was released that features a pristine version of March of the Wooden Soldiers. The best I've ever seen and I watch it every year for Christmas as well.
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Old 12-08-2007, 01:22 PM   #11
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Re: Top Films of the Decade -- The 1930's

Quote:
Originally posted by lazarus
This is the final decade that I'm going to be taking part in. Besides, the 20's would essentially be a list of Chaplin & Keaton films, and maybe some Dryer, Murnau & Lang. Not as much to choose from.
Do you want me to start accumulating the lists after this thread then?
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Old 12-08-2007, 03:00 PM   #12
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Indy - thanks for the heads up on March of the Wooden Soldiers (or Babes in Toyland). The opening scene of Toyland must be pretty sweet. That is something I'll check out.

And pre-code Tarzan Finds a Mate is probably cool, Maureen O'Sullivan even in the regular version has some pretty risque scenes.
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Old 12-08-2007, 06:51 PM   #13
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Re: Re: Top Films of the Decade -- The 1930's

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Originally posted by LemonMacPhisto


Do you want me to start accumulating the lists after this thread then?

Yes.
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:31 AM   #14
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I just noticed a truckload of great oldies coming up in the next couple weeks on TCM.

And this week is loaded with John Ford hits. The Iron Horse silent, My Darling Clementine, Young Mr. Lincoln, Drums Along the Mohawk, How Green Was My Valley & more.

And lots of 30's comedies.

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Old 12-09-2007, 12:50 AM   #15
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I know they're from the '40s, but I just DVR'd The Treasure of Sierra Madre and Notorious. Really looking forward to those.
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