Essays


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

How could anyone not love George Burns and Gracie Allen? They were adorable, hysterically funny, and they loved each other so much.

I first discovered the pair through their Vaudeville work. I find the whole world that was Vaudeville to be completely fascinating, and George and Gracie are probably my favorite act that I’ve found.

The pair met in 1922 and performed on the Vaudeville circuit together. When their act first started, it was Gracie who was the straight man, but George quickly discovered that it worked better the other way around. The two fell in love while working together and were married in 1926.

By the early 1930s, Vaudeville was starting to die out, and George and Gracie had to find other ways to perform. While most of their work at this time was on the radio, they did make a few films, usually playing supporting roles, but always giving wonderful and bright support.

We’re Not Dressing (Norman Taurog, 1934)
We’re Not Dressing is a wonderfully strange little musical. It’s set on an uninhabited island after a shipwreck, and features Bing Crosby singing, Carole Lombard trying to sing at points, Ethel Merman and Leon Errol being goofy, and Ray Milland as one half of a duo of gold digging princes. Oh, and there’s a bear who sometime wears roller skates. So yeah, George and Gracie are actually the most normal thing in the movie. They play a couple of scientists (I think, I’m not sure we’re ever actually clear on what they do). They get a few really amazing Vaudeville-type bits, like Gracie’s “Moose Trap”. It’s a weird movie, and I kind of love it a lot, but Burns and Allen really make their scenes great.

Six of a Kind (Leo McCarey, 1934)
Despite the fact that this movie was directed by the amazing Leo McCarey, I’m not that crazy about it. I know it might be somewhat blasphemous, but I am not a WC Fields fan. He kind of grates on my nerves, especially in this movie. Though, admittedly, this is one film where he does that the least. It’s an interesting idea, making a movie using three great comedic duos: Burns and Allen, Charles Ruggles and Mary Boland, and Fields and Alison Skipworth. All the couple balance each other out pretty well. Gracie is easily the best thing about this movie, especially when she’s causing all manner of problems for Ruggles (like, oh, making him fall off a cliff).

A Damsel In Distress (George Stevens, 1937)
I’m not too crazy about this movie either. I find the story and pacing to be incredibly messy, and I think the romance between Fred Astaire and Joan Fontaine is really flat. Yet again, Burns and Allen are the high point of the movie. The trio of Astaire, Allen, and Burns is actually quite excellent. The movie might have been a lot better if more time was focused on it. And it would have been wonderful to see them in more movies together. They could have been Fred’s partners after he split from Ginger!

By Katie Richardson

While I didn’t have a lot of time to work on the site over the summer, I did find time to fall completely and totally in love with a sexy little show called True Blood. I’ve always enjoyed vampires, but I am a little bit picky when it comes to the subject. (I find Twilight offensive in so very many ways). But True Blood is just all kinds of awesome. And it made me think about all the great vampire movies that came out of the classic era. Of course there are the well known ones, like Dracula with Bela Lugosi, and the silent masterpiece Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. But there are some pretty good vampire movies that aren’t too well known.  So, in honor of my True Blood love, and the fact that the second season will be over in less than two weeks, I’ve decided to write about two of my favorite obscure classic vampire films. One lost silent, and its remake.

London After Midnight (Todd Browning, 1927)
Sadly, the only print of London After Midnight was destroyed in a fire in the 1960s. The only material that exists are several publicity shots and a shooting script. This was enough to create a very thorough reconstruction, however.

The film stars Lon Chaney, easily one of the finest actors of the silent era. Really, one of the finest actors in film history. His makeup is, as usual, wonderful, and even through stills you can tell that his character is quite chilling.

The leading man in this movie is Conrad Nagel. Regular readers of this site will know that I’m a huge fan of his. I think that’s one of the saddest things about the loss of this film. Nagel was a wonderful actor, but he’s so little known today, and a lot of his films are lost. It’s just a huge shame that this is yet another of his performances that’s forever gone.

So, even though the film is lost, a very good reconstruction exists. From the shooting script we can see that it has a pretty good story. From its publicity stills, we can tell that it was probably quite creepy. And the presence of Chaney and Nagel assure that the acting was good.

Mark of the Vampire (Todd Browning, 1935)
Mark of the Vampire is a remake of London After Midnight. Being made by the same director, it is apparently an extremely faithful remake, almost shot for shot.

It isn’t a brilliant movie, but I think it’s a lot better than its IMDb rating would have you believe. It’s a little bit hammy, but at the end of the day Todd Browning really knew horror, and despite the ham, the most has a wonderful atmosphere.

It also has an incredible cast. Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi are they big names in this one, and both give good performances. That’s to be expected from them, though, especially Barrymore, who was really never anything but good. The rest of the cast is filled with wonderful character actors. Elizabeth Allan is the female lead, and Lionel Atwill and Jean Hersholt play support.

By Katie Richardson

Let’s not kid ourselves. John Gilbert is, without a doubt, Greta Garbo’s greatest co-star. The two had a sizzling onscreen chemistry that’s difficult to match. It’s that chemistry that makes their films, Flesh and the Devil, one of the sexiest movies ever made, even after over 80 years. That onscreen chemistry leaked into the stars’ offscreen lives, and the couple carried on an affair that both delighted and disturbed Louis B. Mayer.

But Garbo had a longer career, with a lot of different costars. She starred with Melvyn Douglas three times, twice in comedies and once in a psychological drama. Her pairing with Robert Taylor in Camille is much loved (they were feature in TCM’s recent book “Leading Couples”). She adored John Barrymore, her costar in Grand Hotel.

I’m particularly fond of her pairings with Conrad Nagel, a costar who doesn’t get enough attention in Garbo’s canon (really, he’s an actor who doesn’t get enough attention in general). Nagel, like Garbo, had a unique look and a smoldering screen presense. He wasn’t of any strange or exotic nationality like Garbo was. He was born and bred American. But the silent screen helped to give him an interesting and sensual presense.

Garbo and Nagel starred in two films together, The Mysterious Lady and The Kiss. Strangely enough, despite the fact that both stars went on to have successful sound careers throughout the 1930s, and remained on MGM contract, they never made a talkie together. (In fact, the only silent leading man of Garbo’s that she made a talkie with was Gilbert, when she tried to help revive his career with 1934’s Queen Christina). Perhaps that’s a good thing, though. As wonderful as they both were in sound films, they both underwent an inevitable change in image with the transition to sound. Perhaps they wouldn’t have been as wonderful actually talking to each other.

The Mysterious Lady is often overshadowed by the similar Garbo film Mata Hari from five years later. The Mysterious Lady, though, is a much, MUCH better film. Garbo plays a sexy spy lady who seduces secrets out of soldier Conrad Nagel, only to fall in love with him while doing so. It features an incredible introduction scene for Garbo, where Nagel walks into a box at the theater to see Garbo sitting there, beautiful and completely enraptured in the opera being performed in front of her. In fact, I don’t think Garbo was ever filmed or lit more carefully and lovingly as she was in this movie.

Overall, it’s just an incredible looking movie. There’s such a mysterious and romantic atmosphere established with the lighting and cinematography. The way light and shadow is used works brilliantly for both a spy thriller and a romantic tale. There’s one particular romantic sequence, in which Garbo is seducing Nagel, where she is lit only by candlelight. She never looked so luminous.

With their smoldering chemistry, Nagel and Garbo give their characters so much tension and sensuality. They love and hate each other all at the same time, and both actors are able to perfectly sell the intensity of both emotions. Without a single word, they pass feelings between themselves and the viewers using just their eyes. Anger, desire, lust, longing, hatred. Just subtle facial ticks that speak volumes, and creates a much sexier film than any other kind of physicality ever could.

Nagel and Garbo’s second pairing was in 1929’s The Kiss. It was the last silent film Garbo made before making her transition into talkies the next year, as well as being the last major film of the silent era. Garbo plays a woman married to a wealthy man. She begins a flirtation with a very young Lew Ayres. When her husband catches them kissing, a struggle occurs and her husband is shot. Nagel must then defend Garbo, who he’s loved for some time, in court.

While it’s not nearly as intense or romantic as The Mysterious Lady, The Kiss is an exceptionally good looking movie. It was directed by Jacques Feyder, who was a visual master. The domestic scenes with restless housewife Garbo are intentionally cold and lifeless. It’s beautiful, of course, but it’s a cold beauty. Even her moments with Ayres have an empty feeling to them. Though his friendship does bring her joy, the infatuation is very much one-sided, so there isn’t much feeling on Garbo’s part, and that’s reflected by her surroundings. The courtroom scenes are remarkable, empty space and large objects making the room unbelievably intimidating.

Garbo and Nagel aren’t quite as smoldering here as they are in The Mysterious Lady, but then they’re not supposed to be. There’s a lot of restraint going on between them, and they’re able to express a great deal of feeling going on beneath the surface. He brings out the life in her which is missing with her husband, and Garbo glows in Nagels presense.

These two were a great silent team, and if you ever get the chance to see these movies, take it.

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

Talking about how much I hate the adaptation of The Sound and the Fury the other day made me think about other Faulkner works that have made it to the screen. He’s definitely not an easy author to adapt to the screen. While there have been a number of films based on his works, he’s not a, let’s say, Jane Austen type whose writing works well on film and who has a million film adaptations of each book.

Perhaps that’s because his best ad most revered works haven’t really been adapted. At least not well. There is a terrible adaptation of The Sound and the Fury, but other than that, his most loved and recognized titles haven’t been adapted. There’s no films adaptation of Light in Augest, or Absalom, Absalom!, or The Unvanquished, or As I Lay Dying. Because so much of his work would be so difficult to adapt into an accesible film.

But there have actually been quite a few Faulkner adaptations. Let’s start with what is probably considered the best one, The Long Hot Summer, which is based on The Hamlet. It starred Hollywood supercouple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and is one of the best depictions of the south ever put out by Hollywood. It isn’t a very “faithful” adaptation in terms of storyline, but it definitely captures the Faulkner feeling spot on, and it has  a stellar cast, all of whom give excellent performances. Newman, Woodward, and Lee Remick are the best of the cast, and Orson Welles is superb.

I think The Story of Temple Drake is definitely one of the best Faulkner adaptations. His novel Sanctuary was one of the most shocking things printed in the 1930s, and it remains a pretty unsettling piece of work. Even during the pre-code era it was near impossible to get all the grit and unsavoriness of the novel onto the screen, but The Story of Temple Drake does a great job, mostly focusing on constructing a brilliant character in Temple Drake. It’s definitely an essential pre-code film, with one of Miriam Hopkins’ best performances.

Perhaps lesser revered by film fans, but still an amazing movie, is Intruder in the Dust. I’ve always thought that the book had a bit of a different “feel” to it than most of Faulkner’s other work, and it is considered one of his lesser novels, but it’s still an excellent book, and it adapts into a fantastic movie. It’s up there with The Defiant Ones and No Way Out as one of the best films of the time about racism and race relations.

I’ve never read the story Turnabout, but it was adapted into one of my favorite Joan Crawford movies, Today We Live. Since I haven’t read it, I don’t know how faithful it is as an adaptation, but looking at it just as a film, it’s a really excellent WWI film about love and family and the toll that war takes.

The Tarnished Angels, based on Pylon, is directed by Douglas Sirk, and while I don’t love it, I think it’s a much better film than his more appreciated melodramas like Written on the Wind. I definitely prefer the less soapy side of Sirk (like the thriller Lured). Overall, though, I don’t think this movie captures the Faulkner feel very well, despite it being a pretty downtrodden film for the time.

Faulkner also spent a fair amount of time simply working in Hollywood, writing scripts. He had a hand in three noir classics, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Mildred Pierce.

So yes, while there aren’t really any definitive Faulkner adaptations, the major ones that exist are all very good. Here’s hoping that one day we’ll get truly brilliant and faithful adaptations to some of his major works. Think of how epic an Absalom, Absalom! movie would be. And how amazing could The Sound and the Fury be if Paul Thomas Anderson directed it?

By Katie Richardson

It’s Oscar night tonight (I may be live-blogging over at thoughtfulthinkingthoughts.wordpress.com). So here’s part 2 of the list of Obscure Oscar Nominees.

Our Town (1940)
It’s hard to believe than an adaptation of one of the greatest plays ever written, starring William Holden, which was nominated for Best Picture, is practically forgotten today. It’s not quite as brilliant as most stage productions you’ll find of it, but it’s an extremely poetic movie.

Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
This was one of the more worthy nominees of this year, and sadly the most forgotten. With the trio of Charles Boyer, Olivia DeHaviland, and Paulette Goddard, it’s a sexy, romantic tale.

The Talk of the Town (1942)
Cary Grant, Ronald Coleman, and Jean Arthur are delightful in this wonderful mix of comedy, drama, and suspense. It’s not a perfect movie, but at the same time it’s hard to really look at it as having any faults. It’s just a delightful movie.

Watch on the Rhine (1943)
I think if this were released on DVD it would find a new life. It’s an incredibly powerful film about self-sacrifice and nobility. Paul Lukas, who I sometimes find dull, especially in the last two films I watched with him (Downstairs and Ladies In Love), but he gives an incredible performance here, which beat out Bogart’s Casablanca performance for Best Actor.

Crossfire (1947)
A gritty as all get-out film noir starring three Roberts (Young, Mitchum, and Ryan) that gets nominated for Best Picture? And not even one of those early, ten nominees years, but the later, much more selective five nominees a tear Oscars? AWESOME.

The Snake Pit (1948)
This is an eerie, unsettling drama about life in an insane asylum. DeHavilland’s performance in this is incredible, one of her very best.  DeHavilland lost the Best Actress Oscar to Johnny Belinda‘s Jane Wyman. It’s definitely a close race, but I’d give it to DeHavilland.

And that’s all I’ve got for you, folks. Enjoy the Oscars tonight!

I really kind of struggled to figure out exactly what I wanted to write for Valentines Day. I didn’t want to just review a romantic movie. I do that all the time, it didn’t seem particularly special. And I couldn’t really think of a good topic for an essay.

I’m alone on Valentines Day. And I always have been. I’ve never had someone to share the day with. So, naturally, I’m a little bitter toward it. So finally, the idea popped into my head to cover an anti-romantic love story.

I do have a sort of fascination with movies about couples who, while they do love each other, treat each other horribly. And I think the best film of that type would be Look Back In Anger, starring Richard Burton. It was a pretty early film in Burton’s career, and it definitely helped to establish him as the go-to guy for moody, troubled characters.

Burton play Jimmy, a dark man with a horrible temper. He’s married to Alison, played beautifully by Mary Ure. The couple do seem to love each other, but for some reason they can’t stop themselves from completely ripping each other apart. They seem to resent each other – he resents her family’s wealth, she resents him taking her away from it. But that’s really just a part of the problem. These are two miserable people who find satisfaction – but not happiness – in destroying each other.

But still, they’re married. And this isn’t the 1800s where people get married for various reasons, even if they can’t stand each other. They got married for a reason, and we come to see that the reason really is love. They’re two people who are in love but don’t really know how to be. They just know how to hurt each other and themselves. We get a few lovely moments of the two really sharing that love with each other, but overall it’s just the never ending cycle of pain and anger.

Like so many couples, they fail to communicate with each other, and that’s one of the biggest problems. It leads to misunderstanding of each others emotions, to misunderstandings and a lack of trust.

Perhaps their problems come from the fact that they initially loved each other for what might have been the wrong reasons. When they were dating, Jimmy thought that Alison had a relaxed spirit, and he thought he needed that in his life to help him calm down. But after their marriage, he realized that it wasn’t calm that Alison had, she just suppressed her feelings, and marriage to Jimmy made it all come out.

In the end, though, I think it’s almost a hopeful movie about love. It ends on a kind of up-in-the-air note. Alison leaves Jimmy, and he takes up with her best friend Helena, played by Claire Bloom. These two have a sort of opposite relationship than Alison and Jimmy. While Alison and Jimmy had love first, that turned to anger, Helena and Jimmy hate each other and that passion turns to love (or something resembling it). But in the end, Jimmy loves Alison and Alison love Jimmy. She loses the baby she was pregnant with, and this loss makes them re-evalute their love. No matter how much pain their in, or how far apart they are, all they can think about is each other.

The loss of their child is definitely a strong point in their reunion. Jimmy tells Alison that it isn’t his first loss, and Alison tells him, “It was mine.” Perhaps Alison needed to experience a loss like that to really begin to understand Jimmy and his anger.

We’re left with Jimmy and Alison, not together, but not apart.

By Katie Richardson

It’s that wonderful time of the year again! It’s nearing the Academy Awards. In less than a month, we’ll see who gets to take home the statue.

I always wonder, “Will anybody even remember some of these nominees 70 years from now?” There are certainly a lot of Best Picture nominees from the past that have completely left the public’s  memory. So I figured I’d try to help people remember. Here are some of the best obscure and forgotten Best Picture  nominees of the classic era.

The Racket (1928.)
The Racket was nominated for Best Production at the very first Academy Awards. John Cromwell (who directed some of the all time greatest melodramas) directed this crime tale, making it on of the definitive crime stories of all time. Because it was unavailable for so long, it’s been overshadowed by gangster classics like Public Enemy and Little Caesar, but it deserves to stand up there with the rest of them. Watching The Racket is almost like observing a little slice of the time. It lacks glamor, and it a downright gritty films that really captures the feel of the era it was made and set in.

The Big House (1930)
This prison drama was nominated for Best Picture the year that  the WWI masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front took home the prize. The Big House, however, did earn Frances Marion a screenwriting award. It truly is a fantastic script and a beautifully told story about life behind bars. I think what really makes it great is its cast. Chester Morris, Wallace Beery, Robert Montgomery, and Leila Hyams all give top notch performances.

Bad Girl (1931)
One of Borzage’s Depression era masterpieces, Borzage took home his second Best Director Oscar for this film, while it lost to Grand Hotel for Best Picture. Raw and real, it’s a beautiful love story that ignores sentimentality and truly puts you in the time and place of its setting, the Depression

Five Star Final (1931)
This is a brilliant newspaper. Most of the movies you see about newspaper men are comedies (The Front Page, Platinum Blond). Five Star Final is an excellent drama starring Edward G. Robinson as a newspaper man who is struggling with morality and the guilt of a story gone wrong. It’s one of Robinson’s very best performances.

Smilin’ Through (1932)
This is one of my favorite love stories. There are two love stories going on at once, the past and present, bound together forever by desting and blood. Norma Shearer’s performance is top notch, and it’s told so meticulously, perfectly, beautifully, and emotionally. I wish love stories like this were made today.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)
This is definitely Norma Shearer’s finest dramatic performance. She plays the ill poet Elizabeth Browning, and the film tells the story of her relationship with her tyrannical father, and falling in love with Robert Browning. It’s a great love story, but the most interesting part of the film comes from the strange relationship between Elizabeth and he father, playing absolutely brilliantly by Charles Laughton.

Dodsworth (1936)
It isn’t often you find a movie like Dodsworth. Instead of focusing on young lovers, it tells the story of an older couple after the husband retires. Not only does it focus on older characters, it also deals with the characters facing their older age. Both Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton are amazing, not fearing playing these older characters.

Dead End (1937)
This is one of the strongest gangster films ever. It’s not about the life of crime.  It subtly shows the evolution of the gangster, a victim of circumstance. We see a young gang that will probably eventually turn into the character portrayed by Humphrey Bogart. Claire Trevor received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for a performance that’s only a few minutes long, but absolutely perfect and beautiful. The whole cast is amazing. It’s a brilliantly performance film.

Four Daughters (1938.)
This movie almost doesn’t seem like it fits among the other nominees (among them Jezebel, Pygmalion, The Grand Illusion) until you see that the winner was the small comedy You Can’t Take It With You. Four Daughters is a very quiet family drama that draws from its complicated and conflicted characters to form its story. This movie made John Garfield a star. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

To be continued…..

By Katie Richardson

Hot damn, I love Christmas. The snow, the lights, the songs, the presents. Especially the presents.

I got the best gift last night at about 6 pm when our power, which had been out since Friday, came back on. But that’s not classic movie related, so let’s move on.

I happen to be getting the one thing I wanted most this year, the Murnau, Borzage, and Fox DVD set with a bazillion movies and books. I know I’m getting. It’s the only thing I asked for. And I ordered it myself. With my mom’s credit card. So, technically it’s a present from her. That I bought myself.

The DVD set might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. From Murnau, it has Sunrise and City Girl. From Borzage, it has Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, Lazybones, Lucky Star, They Had to See Paris, Liliom, Song o’ My Heart, Bad Girl, After Tomorrow, Young America. It also has a documentary. And on those DVDs is also a reconstruction of Murnau’s 4 Devils and the surviving footage of Borzage’s The River. AND it comes with two books. My god.

Really, that’s all I want. I know I’m getting other stuff, because my mom has the guilt thing where she thinks we need to have a bazillion presents under the tree. But that’s all I want.

But…. in the hypothetical Christmas list…. I got one wish this year already when TCM finally aired Man’s Castle. Now I want it on DVD. Special edition DVD. With extras and commentaries (hey… I could do the commentary… just sayin’….) Maybe a Criterion release….

Christmas is also about more than presents. It’s also about Christmas movies. I adore Christmas movies. There are the old favorites. A Christmas Story, Muppet Christmas Carol. But there are those lesser known pieces of lovely.

We discussed Bachelor Mother on the Christmas podcast. Ginger Rogers give an excellent performance opposite David Niven and an adorable baby. It draws some parallels to the story of the virgin birth, so it’s kind of a Christmas movie more in theme then in time setting (though it does take place during the holiday season).

Another Ginger Rogers Christmas movie, I’ll Be Seeing You, is a little darker in tone, but it’s a really beautiful movie. Rogers plays a convict on furlough for Christmas, and Joseph Cotten plays a soldier suffering from post traumatic stress. They meet, and mend their broken spirits together over the holiday season.

Finally, I love the hell out of the Barbara Stanwyck/Fred MacMurray film Remember the Night. It is technically a comedy, but like I’ll Be Seeing You, it’s more serious in tone. Stanwyck and MacMurray shared such steamy chemistry in Double Indemnity, and their chemistry translates very sweetly to this film.

So, if you have time tonight and tomorrow, seek these movies out. They’re really great for the holiday season. Have a great Christmas!

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