075. Hide-Out (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)
Hide-Out is a mobster movie in so much as it’s about a mobster. But instead of being a Little Caesar type story of the rise and fall of a gangster, it’s a romantic dramady. Montgomery’s Lucky really is no good. When he ends up at the Miller family farm after being shot, he intends to use the family’s kindness for as long as he can until he recovers and then return to his life of crime. But he starts to actually genuinely like the family, especially Pauline, the daughter, played by a charming Maureen O’Sullivan. At first he is after that one thing that bad boys are after when it comes to girls, but he realizes her really loves her and that makes him want to turn his life around. The movie is a really good piece of character development for Lucky, and Montgomery’s performance as both the heartless Lucky and the changed man is very good. He makes the development feel very natural. The love story, while simple, is surprisingly romantic, and there’s a an incredibly charged scene where Lucky and Pauline take refuge in an empty house during a rainstorm.

074. City Girl (Murnau, 1930)
FW Murnau was a really interesting director. It’s kind of fascinating to compare his other films, like Nosferatu, Faust, and even Sunrise with his 1930 silent film City Girl. On the surface, it’s a very different kind of film. It’s visual style is much simpler than most of his previous efforts (but no less stunning), and it doesn’t have the massive dramatic punch. It’s a much smaller, more intimately set story about love and family and finding your place. Mary Duncan and Charles Farrell (who were fantastic together the year before in Frank Borzage’s The River) play the young lovers who come from two different worlds, and their chemistry manages to carry much of the film.

073. Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936)
William Powell and Myrna Loy made a huge amount of films together. Their most notable are obviously the Thin Man movies, but Libeled Lady is easily their best non-Thin Man movie. I’m a big fan of the love-quadrangle thing in old movies, and this movie has one of the best. Powell, Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow make a great team, and it makes for three of the best pairings in classic romance – Loy and Powell (obviously), Tracy and Harlow, and Harlow and Powell. I think Harlow’s performance is particularly impressive because she spends a good portion of the movie acting like the last thing she wants to do is marry Powell, when in reality that was what she wanted more than anything (Powell and Harlow were an item until her death in 1937).

072. Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich, 1937)
Shall We Dance really doesn’t get a lot of love among the Astaire/Rogers films, which is unfortunate and not entirely fair. Sure, while the dancing is good, it doesn’t really match a few of their other films, and with the exception of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” there isn’t an amazingly memorable number. But what it lacks on the musical front it makes up for by having one of the most original stories and the pair’s film canon. No mistaken identity here. Fred and Ginger play two famous dancers who the press mistakingly think are married. It’s a good premise that leads to some fantastic comedy, and great performances from its leads. Especially Ginger, who spends much of the movie acting annoyed and put out by Fred’s obvious attractions. And while there’s no mind blowing dance accompanying it, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is one of the best songs Fred ever sang, and Ginger’s reaction shots to it are beautiful.

071. Midnight Mary (William A. Wellman, 1933)
Thanks to the ultra-pious good girl image she cultivated for herself in the late 1940s and 1950s, when people think of Loretta Young think almost exclusively of that ultra-pious good girl. So a lot of people are often surprised to go back in her filmography and look at her pre-code work, in which that good girl was a far away thing. This is especially true of Midnight Mary, an amazing character study where Young plays one of the most flawed heroines of the era. Mary gets dealt a shit hand early on, and her life just devolves from there, from prostitution to a dangerous relationship with a violent criminal. This film is so obviously pre-code. It seems that every time Mary makes a strong moral decision, it backfires on her completely, but whenever she does something bad things kind of work for her. In the end, Mary is her own worst enemy, thinking that she doesn’t deserve any better than the life she has. Young’s performance is incredible, and this is one of the best characters to come out of the decade.

By Katie Richardson

080. The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch, 1931)
It’s kind of strange to see Miriam Hopkins, the actress who I think is the true Queen of Pre-Code film, playing such a sweet, timid character. No actress during the era enjoyed her sexuality more than Hopkins, but she’s able to play the inexperienced slightly prudish wife of Maurice Chevalier so well and so convincingly that it’s hard to believe it’s the same woman. Until the end, that is, when she becomes the sexual being that Hopkins was known for. It’s almost like watching the birth of the Pre-Code queen. The “Jazz Up Your Lingerie” number with Hopkins and Claudette Colbert is easily the high point of the movie. One wouldn’t think that these women would get along (since they’re rivals for the same man) but they have so much chemistry, almost more than either woman has with Chevalier. This is a Lubitsch movie, so it’s just as sophisticated as it is sexy, and it’s a joy to watch.

079. Conquest (Clarence Brown, 1937)
It’s refreshing when a movie that’s based on fact comes right out and says, before the movie even starts, that the story has been seriously embellished and that it’s a more romanticized version of the events that actually happened. Conquest, a movie about the love story between Napoleon and his mistress, the Polish Countess Marie Walewska, does this. It starts with the disclaimer. It’s nice to see a movie not hide that it’s not 100% fact. Because when the movie is good, that doesn’t really matter, and Conquest is good. It’s very good. It’s kind of amazing that this was made during the strict era of code enforcement considering the entire story is about a romantic relationship between the Countess, who has left her husband, and Napoleon, who eventually becomes married to someone else, even though they never marry. The love story really is beautifully told. It starts out with Marie mostly taking on the role of the Emperor’s mistress to help her country, but she comes to truly love this man. Conquest is also somewhat unique in that Garbo really doesn’t take on the dominant role in the relationship. Usually she’s playing the alpha to a weaker man, but this time that’s not so. It’s a heartbreaking love story that’ s brilliantly performed by the Garbo and Charles Boyer.

078. The Rules of the Game (La regle du jeu) (Jean Renoir, 1939)
Robert Altman’s Gosford Park is one of my favorite films of the 2000s, and it probably wouldn’t exist were it not for Jean Renoir’s amazing examination of the upper class The Rules of the Game. There were a lot of American films in the 1930s about wealthy people, but the most critical Hollywood was of the upper class was usually just depiction them as screwy and kind of lovably out of their minds (see My Man Godfrey and Merrily We Live). But the French filmmaker’s work looks at the real faults of the upper class in the 1930s and just how they were quite different from the common man, not just in their income, but in their attitudes. The most impressive part of the film is how it’s not particularly intimate. The viewer is not treated as part of the experience. We’re merely observers of the action, kept at a distance that almost (almost) makes the film cold. We’re seeing the way these people would act if we weren’t around watching them, which gives the film a voyeuristic feeling.

077. Today We Live (Howard Hawks, 1933)
I really love World War I movies, and I think that there aren’t enough of them. Today We Live doesn’t follow the tradition war movie formula. It focuses  mostly on Joan Crawford’s character and how she deals with the war, with her brother and her best friend (and later husband) serving. We see a little bit of action, but it’s mostly about the effects that the war has on the people on the periphery. Sure, it has it’s faults, like the whole things in the 1930s where, as long as it was set in the 20th century, everyone wore the latest 1930s fashions. But in the end, that really has no effect on ho this story just works on an emotional level. Crawford’s character has a lot of big choices to make, and sometimes she makes the wrong ones, but that perfectly reflects the confusion that comes from being indirectly involved in a war. Franchot Tone plays her brother and Robert Young their best friend, and they both deliver incredibly supporting performances.

076. Fugitive Lovers (Richard Boleslawski, 1934)
Road Romances were a neat little subgenre of Romantic Comedy in the 1930s. The most notable is probably Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, but perhaps the most overlooked is Richard Boleslawski’s Fugitive Lovers. It’s another pairing of the endlessly adorable and enchanting Robert Montgomery and Madge Evans. This time Montgomery is an escaped convict who grabs a ride on the bus that Madge Evans is traveling on, trying to get away from the mobster who’s infatuated with her, who follows her anyway. It’s a pretty simple movie, but it’s incredibly sweet and has a surprising amount of character development for such a short comedy. The relationship between Evans and Montgomery has a very natural feel to it. Montgomery is great as always, but I think it’s Evans who’s particularly impressive here. She’s playing a character who’s a little bit sharper and snippier than her usual characters, and there are moments where she’s flat out hilarious. Nat Pendleton is the main supporting player, as Evans’ mobster stalker. He’s always a joy to watch, and this time is no different. He also has one of the most surprising and satisfying character moments in the whole film.

By Katie Richardson

095. The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich, 1934)
After their show stealing supporting performances in Flying Down to Rio, RKO paired Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in their first starring vehicle in 1934, The Gay Divorcee. The set up of mistaken identity definitely established a standard story point for many of their films in the following years, but Fred and Ginger are always so charming that nobody really cares that the plots all look kind of the same. The Gay Divorcee is definitely noticeable as an early entry in the pair’s canon. The dancing isn’t quite as awe inspiring as it would be a few years later. But what they may lack in technical proficiency, they make up for with chemistry. Fred and Ginger are one of the all time greatest screen teams because of all the ways they clicked together on screen, with or without the dancing. As always, they’re surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast including the delightfully daffy Alice Brady and the dependably befuddled Edward Everett Horton.

094. Inspiration (Clarence Brown, 1931)
Inspiration, Greta Garbo’s third talkie, is often dismissed as lifeless, and it’s leading couple (Garbo and Robert Montgomery) as being without passion. It’s easy to see how some might think that, seeing as how it’s surrounded by pre-code melodramas being made at the same time. But this film is anything but lifeless and passionless. It’s simply a lower-key melodrama than most films that were being made at the time. For addressing such a typically pre-code topic, it remains a remarkably gentle and patient movie. Garbo played a lot of these long suffering, self-sacrificing women, who loved their men enough to know when to leave. She played the character so many times because she was good at it, and it worked, as it does here. The relationship between Montgomery and Garbo is a lot less in your face than so many of her other pairings, because in this case we’re dealing with a man of extreme repression. There’s a lot going on underneath the surface with Montgomery, and their relationship, in this movie. Inspiration is all about the thing going on just outside of our line of vision. That’s why it usually needs to be seen more than once. You have to realize where you’re supposed to be looking.

093. Romance (Clarence Brown, 1930)
This vaguely titled melodrama is the ultimate forbidden love story. Greta Garbo, at her absolute most beautiful, is an opera singer with quite a past who falls in love with a man of God played by Gavin Gorden. Director Clarence Brown isn’t particularly creative with the camera (save for one particularly tense and steamy scene between the lovers toward the end), but he makes up for it with lush and glamorous costume and set design. Garbo’s gowns in this movie are exquisite. The fact that the story is so simple is what makes the film special. There are no crazy twists and turns. We know the way it’s going to end the second the story starts. It’s the knowledge of the inevitable which makes watching the love story unfold so heartbreaking. This is the love story from which so many modern love stories derive.

092. What Price Hollywood? (George Cukor, 1932)
Five years before William Wellman’s A Star Is Born became the cautionary tale for young stars exceeding their mentors, George Cukor’s What Price Hollywood told the same basic story, with an even more heartbreaking twist of unrequited love. Constance Bennett is the young starlet here, every bit as charming as the naive Hollywood newbie as she is as the seasoned Hollywood vet. The criminally underrated Lowell Sherman is her mentor, a gifted producer who teaches her how to be a star. Unfortunately he’s a drunk, and the more her star rises, the more his falls, and his unrequited love for her doesn’t help, especially when she married another guy. In the early 1930s, the film industry was still relatively young, and it wasn’t an entirely usual thing for people on the inside to take a cynical look at the inner workings of their bread and butter. It had been done before, of course, but not quite as brutally and heartbreakingly as it was in What Price Hollywood. It showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that even the ones who seem like they have it all don’t have it all.

091. Lovers Courageous (Robert Z. Leonard, 1932)
The set up and story for Lovers Courageous, Robert Z. Leonard’s stunningly visual ode to the complications of love, is rather simple. Rich girl meets poor boy. In any other movie, this set up might lead to some pretty humdrum boring stuff. But when the girl is the endlessly charming Madge Evans and the boy is sexy and suave Robert Montgomery, you’re well on your way to an entertaining movie experience. Add to that the fact that Robert Z. Leonard managed to express the beauty of love on front of the camera with some surprisingly gorgeous settings and camera work, and you’re got a pretty nice little love story to kill less than an hour and a half with. Montgomery and Evans are one of the unsung duos of classic film. They made some of the best romances of the 1930s together, and had the perfect spark and chemistry for each other. Montgomery, who is often known for playing snarky men of considerable means, is quite low-key here, a humble and romantic minded playwright who enjoys the simpler things in life, specifically the beauty of one Miss Evans. It’s a charming, visually pleasing love story with a satisfying conclusion and a couple that’s impossible not to root for.

Stay tuned for 90-86

By Katie Richardson

Tallulah Bankhead is legendary in the theater world, but not so much in the film world. She only made 12 films, and I’d say all but one belong firmly in the “Obscure Classics” category. And many of them aren’t even available for viewing. But I love Tallulah Bankhead. I have only seen a few of her movies, but she makes such a lasting impression. Today I’ll talk about my two favorite films starring Tallulah.

Faithless (Harry Beaumont, 1932)
With her outspoken ways, Bankhead was a perfect fit for pre-code Hollywood, and her best work during that era is the Depression era romance Faithless. I think it’s truly the role Bankhead was born to play in films.

She stars opposite Robert Montgomery as a very wealthy heiress who refuses to live on her fiancee’s income, which breaks up the engagement. Of course, she’s so arrogant and having such a good time that she doesn’t pay any attention to the fact that the Depression is quickly cleaning her out, and she ends up broke.

She and Montgomery find each other again, both poor as can be, and reignite their love. The film becomes truly pre-code in the end. Montgomery is injured in an accident, and Bankhead has to find a way to pay for his medical expenses, and she turns to prostitution. When Montgomery finds out, instead of being furious with his wife, he is grateful to her, believing that what she is doing is a sacrifice for him. Not only is it wonderful pre-code, it’s a great love story.

A Royal Scandal (Ernst Lubitsch and Otto Preminger, 1945)
Her role in Faithless may be the role she was born to play, but Bankhead’s role as Catherine the Great in A Royal Scandal isn’t that far behind. It’s an Ernst Lubitsch picture, so even though it isn’t a pre-code film, there’s still a dash of sly and subversive naughtiness, which is a perfect fit for Bankhead.

When you see costumes like this in a classic movie, you’d probably be expecting some kind of costume drama. But A Royal Scandal is a comedy, a light and sexy Lubitsch comedy (though a good deal of it was directed by Otto Preminger due to Lubitsch’s illness), that Bankhead sparkles in. There’s just something in her personality that’s so suited to the genre, but this might be the only comedic film she ever made.

A Royal Scandal is just a delightful movie through and through. Sexy, silly, and fun, with Bankhead at her best.

By Katie Richardson

I kind of can’t believe I haven’t already written this article. My second favorite film couple of all time,  and I haven’t written this article? It just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps I have written it, and I somehow missed it when I was updating the “Reviews and Essays” page. Oh well. I’ll just write it again. But I’m pretty sure I never have.

Like I said above, Robert Montgomery and Madge Evans are my second favorite film couple of all time, second only to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And really, if Montgomery and Evans could dance like Astaire and Rogers, they’d probably be my number one. Montgomery had a lot of really fantastic leading ladies, with whom he made many movies and had incredible chemistry. Joan Crawford (The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, Letty Lynton), Rosalind Russell (Fast and Loose, Trouble For Two), Norma Shearer (Riptide, Private Lives), Marion Davies (Blondie of the Follies, Ever Since Eve), Myrna Loy (Petticoat Fever, When Ladies Meet). Evans had a few really memorable leading men, too. Robert Young (Paris Interlude, Hell Below), Otto Kruger (Paris Interlude, Beauty for Sale), Richard Dix (The Tunnel, Day of Reckoning), Paul Lukas (Age of Indiscretion, Espionage), William Haines (Are You listening, Fast Life). But really, when it came down to it, no other match was as completely perfect as Bob and Madge. All the similarities and differences just clicked in the most incredible way. He was suave and and arrogant, she was sweet and modest. Yet at the same time they both had a certain spunk to them. A spunk I really can’t quite describe. Maybe it’s the spunk that comes from being an underappreciated star. But they both had it, in spades.

Thee chemistry between them was so adaptable. They really worked well in pretty much ever genre, from comedy, to drama, to war movie. They were the perfect couple because they were perfect in everything. They worked well trading jokes and banter in their comedies, they worked well crying and pouring their hearts out in their melodramas. There was such a genuine feeling between them no matter what they were doing onscreen. They must have been really good friends off screen, because they really seemed to enjoy each other.

So, here they are, the films Bob and Madge made together, ranked. Because I love my lists.

05. Hell Below
This is kind of the grand-daddy of all submarine films.  It’s a pretty good combo of war movie and romance. Bob falls in love with Madge, the already married daughter of his commanding officer. Ooh. Tense times on the sub for all.

04. Made on Broadway
This is probably the least talked about of all the Montgomery/Evans movies. It’s actually a really good movie, though it did take some time to grow on me. Bob and Madge play a former couple that’s already split (but, of course, they’re still mad about each other deep down).  Sally Eilers costars as the undeserving object of Montgomery’s affections. He saves her from a suicide attempt, gives her a makeover, and makes her semi-famous. The story is good, but it really is the chemistry between Bob and Madge that keeps the movie afloat.

03. Fugitive Lovers
What an adorable, fun, unique little movie. It’s a road romance, so it kind of has a bit of a Love on the Run/It Happened One Night feel to it, only it’s a little different because there’s a bit of exciting action in it. Montgomery plays an escaped convict who ends up on the same bus as Madge, a show girl who’s on the bus trying to get away from her mobster suitor, who followed her anyway.  Two incredibly flawed characters, falling for each other, sacrificing for each other, and being pretty darn hilarious while doing so.

02. Lovers Courageous
This is one of the most masterful romantic melodramas I’ve seen from the 1930s. The chemistry between Bob and Madge in this, and their incredible performances, make this movie insanely romantic, and at times very heartbreaking. It’s a simple plot, poor boy falls in love with rich girl, marries her, and tries to give her everything she had before. It really is that special spark between Evans and Montgomery that makes this movie so special.

01. Piccadilly Jim
Even without Bob and Madge, this movie would be hilarious. It’s a wonderfully written romantic comedy. It would be good probably no matter who was in it. Luckily, it was blessed with an awesome cast. Frank Morgan and Billie Burke in the supporting cast as the second banana couple are so great and sweet in their own way. And then there’s Bob and Madge. It’s something of an antagonistic pairing at first. Bob is a cartoonist who’s creating a scathing comic strip based on Madge’s family. But the ice starts to melt away as she warms to him.

By Katie Richardson

It’s a pretty tough time money-wise for a lot of people. Unemployment rates are rising, people are getting laid off and losing money left and right. Right now, we’re in recession. But there are a lot of people worried that we’ll soon be in a depression.

This, of course, would not be the first depression. The Great Depression in the 1930s was one of the bleakest times in history. But hey, it produced some great films. Especially some great films set during the Depression. So maybe we should take some tips from these movies on how to get through these rough times.

Tip #1: Find a rich man to keep you
See: Bed of Roses, The Easiest Way, Our Blushing Brides, Possessed
You’re down on your luck. You’re a girl living in a poor neighborhood, you either can’t find a job or you have a really crappy one. But you’re damn pretty, and with the right dress and hair, you could look damn classy.

And hey, here’s a handsome (hopefully) rich guy who likes you. Really likes you. You’re one of the lucky ones now. He like you so much he wants to set you up in a nice apartment so he doesn’t have to go to the bed part of town to see you. Of course he doesn’t want to marry you. He may already be married, or the idea of marriage just doesn’t interest him. But that’s probably a good thing. Why ruin something so simple with marriage?

Now you have a fancy apartment to yourself, an bottomless bank account, and you get to rub elbows with all of your man’s high class friends.

And hey, this is the 21st century. There are plenty of rich, powerful women, so it’s completely possible for a man to find himself a cushy situation like this.

Be careful, though. These situations don’t always end happily. Unfortunately for Constance Bennett in The Easiest Way, she lost the man she really loved when she couldn’t resist the life of luxery. And don’t go thinking this guy’s going to marry you. That idea turned out not too well for Anita Page in Our Blushing Brides.

Of course, you could get Joan Crawford-in-Possessed lucky, attract a handsome rich guy like Clark Gable, fall in love with him, and then have the good fortune of him falling in love with you.

Tip #2: Find a rich man (or woman) to marry you.
See: Red Headed Woman, Mannequin, Platinum Blond
You’re situation is probably pretty similar to the one above. However, finding a rich man to marry you might be a littler tougher than finding a rich man to keep you. Marrying a poor girl takes on some more social implications than just keeping her in a nice apartment and buying her stuff.

So you may have to resort to complete bitchery. Like Jean Harlow in Red Headed Woman. Easily one of the biggest bitches to ever hit the big screen, she did every single thing she had to do to get her rich boss to marry her. Even though he was already married.  Sure, the marriage was absolutely miserable, but she had all the money she wanted.

You may get lucky, though, and find a rich guy who’s just plain infatuated with you, like Joan Crawford found Spencer Tracy in Frank Borzage’s Mannequin. Sure, she didn’t love him at first. But there’s a lesson there in itself. Love will eventually grow.

Of course, it’s entirely possible for a man to marry a wealthy woman. It just doesn’t usually take much scheming. According to Platinum Blond, heiresses like to take on poor, unsophisticated men to see if they can change them. Just for fun. So all you boys have to do is be unsophisticated and put yourself in front of some rich chicks. But, seriously, if you’ve got someone as cute as Loretta Young already in love with you, save yourself the trouble.

Tip #3: Use sex in the workplace
See: Baby Face
The last two options were good options. But of course, you’re a modern woman. Maybe you don’t want to be married or kept. Maybe you’ll only feel complete if you’re working.

Yes, these days it is much, much easier to climb the corporate ladder for women than it was in the 1930s. But it’s still not the easiest thing in the world. Especially right now, when some people are having a hard time finding a job.

So if there’s any time when you shouldn’t feel ashamed to get on your back to get up the ladder, it’s now. You should always use what god gave you. And if he happened to give you some good looks and a fair amount of sex appeal, you should use it.

Just be careful. In Baby Face, Stanwyck got into a few sticky situations doing this very thing. Try to keep the amount of men with whom you exchange sexual favors to a minimum to avoid that.

Tip #4: Crime pays…. to a point
See: Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, Angels With Dirty Faces, Scarface
During the Depression, gangsters were almost treated as heroes in film (and even outside of it). Life was tough. The world, the country, fate, God… these things had taken everything from people. And the gangsters were the ones rebelling against that and taking it back. By any means possible. Sure, they were doing bad things. But they were getting the money they wanted. And in times like these, sometimes that seems like the most important thing.

Without fail, whether it’s Cagney in The Public Enemy and Angels With Dirty Faces, Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, or Paul Muni in Scarface, things always go amazingly well for these guys for some time. They climb the ranks and live very comfortably.

So yeah, a life of crime is always going to be dangerous. But unlike the guys in these movies, be smart. Don’t want to much. Once you get to a certain point where you’re living comfortably, let it be. Don’t try to get any higher. And for the love of god, don’t try to take over the organization. That’s the kind of shit that gets you killed.

Tip #5: Turn to prostitution
See: Faitless, Anna Christie, Midnight Mary
Now things are seriously bad. You can’t find a job at all. And the idea of marrying or being kept by a rich man isn’t happening (maybe you just can’t find one, or maybe you’re so much in love with someone poor you can’t bring yourself to leave them). You have no choice. You must turn to prostitution.

Sure, it’s probably the least dignified thing on this list. But when you’re desperate, you’re desperate. You gotta eat. You gotta keep a roof over your head. And maybe like Tallulah Bankhead in Faithless, you have to find some way to pay for your husband’s medication. She got lucky, though. When husband Robert Montgomery found out that she was a prostitute, he was moved by her sacrifice.

Tip #6: Split a nice apartment with some pals
See: Ladies In Love, Beauty For Sale, The Greeks Had a Word For Them, Our Blushing Brides
Probably the easiest option so far. You’re single, you don’t have a lot of money. But you do have two good friends who are in the same situation. So how much easier would it be on all of you to split an apartment!

This can be done just for necessity’s sake, as it was for Joan Crawford, Anita Page, and Dorothy Sebastian in Our Blushing Brides, and Madge Evans, Una Merkel, and Florine McKinney in Beauty For Sale.

But you can also do the three way split in a fancier way. It might require a bit more money, but getting a nicer apartment in a better part of town with three friends could be a bit of a confidence booster, which is always needed in times like these. In Ladies in Love and The Greeks Had a Word For Them, three single ladies (Constance Bennett, Janet Gaynor, and Loretta Young in Ladies, Madge Evans, Joan Blondell, and Ina Claire in Greeks) split nice aparments in nice neighborhoods to make themselves look classier and like they have more money, presumable to attract wealthy men.

Tip #7: Embrace your poverty and realize that love is ultimately what matters
See: Bad Girl, Man’s Castle
Yes, times are indeed tough for you. But they’re tough for most people.

Not everyone loves the idea of trying to find a rich person to take care of them, or turning to crime, or getting on their backs. So they just accepts their circumstances. And sometimes they’re really lucky, because they might have love in their life.

Tenement life blows, obviously. But if you have a husband or wife that you love very much, and a baby on the way, like Sally Eilers and James Dunn in Bad Girl, that becomes more important than everything else, even if there are some bumps along the way.

Even worse than tenement life was life in the Hoovervilles, where families lived in little more than tiny shacks. No matter how bad a living situation might be, look on the bright side like Loretta Young in Man’s Castle does. At least she has a place to live. Add to that the fact that she’s in a (somewhat complicated, admittedly) relationship with Spencer Tracy. Life is difficult, but Borzage films the movie almost like a fairy tale. Their love is so powerful, it can make a little shack seem like a castle.

There you go. Seven tips from the classics on how to get through these tough times.

I’d love it to here any tips you guys can come up with from watching 1930s films!

By Katie Richardson

I noticed in the Hitchcock Consensus thread on RT that there were a number of people giving Mr. and Mrs. Smith a very low rating, even calling it his worst film (though I was surprised and pleased to see that there were several people giving it good ratings). Mr. and Mrs. Smith is certainly not Hitch’s worst movie. In fact, it’s one of his best. So I thought I should write this up so everyone could see why.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
stand alongside films like The Philadelphia Story and The Awful Truth in a subgenre of romantic comedy called the “remarriage comedy”. In traditional comedy, the story generally begins with the “meet cute”, where the boy-meets-girl set up is established, and the characters clash in order to give the growing romance conflict. In most remarriage comedies, the leading couple has not only already met, but already have an established relationship. The conflict and structure isn’t to get two characters together, but rather to get them back together. It was a structure that became quite popular after enforcement of the production code to cleverly insert the issue of adultery into comedic storylines. A married couple splits and divorce, and then one (or both) parties have a flirtation/relationship with other people. Since the couple is divorced, it cannot technically be considered adultery.

In Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Hitchcock plays with the conventions of the genre, as he usually did. Instead of having a couple divorce, we discover that they were never technically married in the first place. Hitchcock cleverly combines the conventions of traditional comedy and remarriage comedy. The story structure is set up as a remarriage comedy. The Smiths are a couple that already have a well established relationship. But since they were never actually married, the storyline is subtly heading in the more traditional direction of a marriage rather than a remarriage. Structurally, it’s kind of like a reverse of The Lady Eve, in which we get a boy-meets-girl opening, only to lead to a form of remarriage comedy.

By doing this, Hitchcock slyly gets to play around with the production code. He’s basically using the guise of remarriage comedy to trick the Code. Without the pair being legally married, they’ve actually been involved in a sexual relationship without marriage for several years. Throughout pretty much the whole movie, Hitchcock is winking at the audience, proving he’s much smarter and more clever than Joseph Breen and the censors.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith may be Hitchcock’s only straight-up comedy, but his touches are definitely there – not just visually, but psychologically. One of the things that separates this film from other in this genre is the high amount of pain and suffering the couple puts each other through, both physically and emotionally. There is a large amount of deliberate deceit and actions taken specifically to hurt the feelings of the other. At first glance, these things might seem cold hearted and distancing. But both characters delight in both giving this pain and receiving this pain. It is, after all, what brings them back together in the end. It’s an integral part of the relationship, it helps them to thrive. The film both begins and ends with the conclusion to a huge argument. And that gives the feeling that “The End” isn’t really the end and that “Happily Ever After” isn’t really happily ever after. Their relationship will remain largely the same and just keep going. This is because we aren’t necessarily being show a relationship that needs to change. We’re simply seeing a thriving relationship that’s had a misstep. So many of Hitch’s film relationships are about the incompatibility of me and women, even if they end up together forever. Mr. and Mrs. Smith is no different. In fact, it may highlight that theme better than any of his other films.

While the film is one of Hitch’s best romance stories, it is perhaps one of his least “romantic” films (intentionally so). In other films, like Notorious and Vertigo, the passion in the relationships come from sexuality and romance. In Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the idea that romantic passion is needed to maintain a relationship is thrown out the window. The couple is generally unsentimental, and when they try to be, like when they attempt to go to the restaurant from early in their relationship, the attempt fails. Their relationship and love is held together by structure, rules, and the passion that comes from their antagonism, not their romantic ideas or sexual desire for each other. Rather, their sexual relationship generally arises from their conflicts and antagonism, and though fighting is foreplay.

Hitchcock’s heroes and heroines often inflict more pain onto themselves than the outside forces do. (Alicia Huberman’s alcoholism, Maxim DeWinter’s inability to let go of what happened to Rebecca, Scottie Furguson’s guilt manifesting itself in vertigo). Hitchcock parodies this idea himself. Throughout the film, the characters do tend to hurt themselves (and each other) with their own actions. But Hitch has a great scene which physically embodies this idea. In order to get himself out of an embarrassing date, Robert Montgomery attempts to give himself a bloody nose by beating on his own face. This is only one of several very clever moments that Hitch creates in the film.

Even with the somewhat complicated relationship and the non-traditional (even cynical) view of marital relationships, in the end Hitchcock still treats us with the idea of the perfect couple. At the end of the film, we see that they are meant for each other and no one else. Because nobody else would be able to put up with the rigidity of rules, the obsession with technicalities, and the childishness of their antagonism.

It really is a much richer film thematically than most people realize. But even outside of the themes, it’s an extremely funny comedy. Hitchcock did a wonderful job with screwball, striking the perfect balance between dialogue and situation driven comedy and slap stick comedy. And Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery were the perfect team. The had extremely similar approaches to comedy. The could deliver dialogue smartly and sharply, but the were neither afraid nor ashamed to make themselves look ridiculous, which worked brilliantly in both the smaller moments (Lombard trying to zip up an old dress that no longer fits, wondering why a dress would shrink) and the larger moments (the aforementioned scene in which Montgomery tries to give himself a bloody nose). Their chemistry was so strong. It takes a really special kind of chemistry to achieve a convincing romantic comedy about two people who are truly in love, but extremely contentious. It echoes Montgomery’s film from a decade prior, Private Lives with Norma Shearer, which is pretty much the grand-daddy of remarriage comedy. If Lombard hadn’t died so soon after making this movie, they could have made so many more wonderful romantic comedies together.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
is simply a great movie. Hitchcock was a brilliant director, and this is just further proof of that. It shows he could step outside the box and handle a genre he didn’t typically handle, and it showed he could take the conventions of a genre and cleverly play around with them in ways that nobody else could. Definitely a wonderful film.

By Katie Richardson

Cast: Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, Nils Asther, Lewis Stone, May Robson, Louise Closser Hale

Joan Crawford plays the title character, a woman of questionable morals who’s taken up with  Emile (Asther), who is manipulative and controlling. She finally leaves him, and on the boat meets Jerry Darrow (Montgomery) and she falls in love. But she fears if he knows about her part with Emile that he will leave her, so she attempts to keep it a secret. Which becomes difficult when Emile meets them at the docks. Emile refuses to leave her alone, so Letty resorts to drastic measures.

Letty Lynton is something of a legend among classic film fans. It’s rights have been tied up in legal issues since the late 1930s. A federal court ruled that the story was too close to the play Dishonored Lady, making the film an unauthorized adaptation, thus keeping it completely out of circulation. For decades, it was simply impossible to find, and for years it’s been quite the accomplishment to find a bootleg of it. Recently, though, it’s become a little more available through various rare film dealers. And now, it’s available on YouTube.

Made during the pre-code era, Letty Lynton certainly takes advantage of the things women were allowed to get away with in film at the time. Not only does Letty get away with living the wild life, she also gets away with murder, and in the end still gets the man she loves and the life she wants. These are definitely the makings of pre-code melodrama, and Letty Lynton is one of the best, mainly because of Crawford’s performance. It’s all in her eyes, the fear of being discovered as a “wild” woman, and the fear of losing Jerry. The scene in which she kills Emile has some of Crawford’s best acting, and watching her unravel is certainly entertaining.

Crawford is paired yet again with Robert Montgomery. While he doesn’t have quite as much to do here as he does in his other films with Crawford, he’s still endlessly charming and watchable. He’s definitely not the caddish character he played in so many films. He’s a good man, and his love for Letty is admirable. Crawford and Montgomery were always a really good pair, and this film definitely benefits from that.

It’s legend of this as a lost film might make one a little disappointed in what they end up seeing, but if you just go into it expecting a quality pre-code melodrama, you’ll be pleased.

Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10

By Katie Richardson

Direct Download

Yes, it’s finally here. We recorded this a month ago, but there were so many fracking technical difficulties. But now our third podcast (yes, posted after our fourth) on Robert Montgomery is finally here.


In the first of these movies Janet Gaynor plays the role she was so good at, the simple, sweet, slightly naive, but very adorable small town girl (she even starred in a movie called Small Town Girl). She’s Nancy, from a small town down south, who’s engaged to marry her longtime love George, who’s supposed to be arriving by train. When he fails to show up for the wedding,  Nancy heads to New York to find him and takes up with author Mal Niles (Robert Montgomery), who finds her small town sweetness and wisdom to be irritating, but can’t bring himself to throw her out on the street because he’s the only person she knows, so he decides to use her as the inspiration for a new character.

Nancy also meets Mal’s publisher, Bob Hanson (Franchot Tone), a troubled drunk who takes to Nancy immediately, hires her as his cook without really asking her, and falls in love with her. Nancy, while trying to find George, finds herself falling in love with Mal, while Mal is basically a big child who is completely unable to express or even understand his feelings.

I really love Three Loves Has Nancy, but I love it more for its leading men than for its leading lady. Gaynor is a wonderful actress, and is so charismatic and likable. But Nancy sometimes comes off as a bit irritating, and you can see where Mal is coming from earlier in the film. Most of the time she’s great, but there are moments, like where she’s freaking out on the train because she thinks someone has stolen her bag, that you get irritated at the country bumpkin-ness of it. She adds a rural charm to the urban world the men live in, but while she helps change this world, or at least the men in it, the world doesn’t really change her. Really, Nancy as a character doesn’t do much growing. She mostly acts as a catalyst for the growth of Mal and Bob, who turn out to be rather fascinating characters.

Bob is a lonely man who really just needs someone to care about him. So when Nancy comes along, despite the fact that she isn’t in love with him, she does care enough about him to give him the confidence boost he needs. At the same time, however, we see that he still needs to grow because he does view Nancy as more of an object than as a human. He moves her things into his apartment and hires her as his cook without asking, when he decides to marry her, he calls both his family and hers to announce it without even telling her. Perhaps he needs Nancy more than Mal does, but while he does show character growth, he still doesn’t deserve her in the end.

Mal, as the lead character, is much more complicated, and even entertaining. We see early on how he mostly views life as nothing but a silly story from the way he turns everything into a story narration in his head. He both minimizes the importance of certain things in his life while at the same time. He treats everything, from his girlfriend (played by Claire Dodd) to his career as nothing more than silly diversions. When he starts to feel smothered by his girlfriend’s marriage talk, he takes off on a book signing tour to get away from her, and then ditches the tour as soon as he discovers that she’s gone on the road with her theater company. He’s initially extremely annoyed with Nancy, and were he not to base a character on her, he probably would go on continuing to be. It’s because he’s made this decision to make her into a character that forces him to really look at her and understand her. And even then it’s not until he discovers Bob’s intentions, and he’s faced with losing her, that he finally grows up, and the narration in his head tells him to get things together.

George is the third love, and is actually of very little consequence. While Nancy serves as a catalyst for the men to grow up, George is little more than the catalyst for getting Nancy out of the small town and into the big city. You almost forget George even exists until he shows up at the end, pretty much just to show the difference between the romantic ideals Nancy once had and the ones she has now.

And the best part about the movie is that it’s never quite clear who Nancy might end up with until the end. It just a question of who’s going to grow up enough to deserve her.

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