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

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

Wow, two big birthdays in a row!

Robert Montgomery is just my absolute favorite ever. An amazing actor, a fantastic director, and very handsome man.

Montgomery had a wonderful talent in front of the camera. He could play almost any kind of character in any kind of movie. Romantic melodrama, screwball comedy, even psychological thriller. Montgomery could do it all and he could do it brilliantly.

Sadly, he’s not as remembered today as he should be. He deserves to be remembered among the greats of the 1930s and the 1940s. Nearly all of his films could be considered obscure classics. I’ve seen 54 of his films, but I don’t want to go overkill here. Instead of just listing my favorites, I’m going to do a nice little service for everyone and talk about the rare films that you can get at http://www.freemoviesondvd.com

The Big House (1930) – Montgomery costars with Wallace Beery and Chester Morris in this prison drama. Those of you who are mostly familiar with Montgomery as the suave playboy are in for a treat here, with Montgomery going against the type he would late establish for himself by playing something of a nervous weasel.

The Gallant Hours (1960) – Montgomery directs this war drama starring James Cagney. It’s a really interesting war film, done without battle scenes.

Fugitive Lovers (1934) – Montgomery stars with my favorite of his leading ladies, Madge Evans, in this really sweet road film about an escaped convict and a showgirl who fall in love when they meet on a bus.

Hide-Out (1934) – Montgomery and Maureen O’Sullivan make a really sweet pairing in this unique, but genuine love story about an injured gangster who finds sanctuary with a family on a farm. He falls in love with the sweet daughter. This movie has one of the absolute most romantic scenes of the 1930s.

June Bride (1948) – Not a great film, but it’s pretty fun and Montgomery and Davis have decent chemistry together.

When Ladies Meet (1934) – Definitely not one of my favorite Montgomery films. Kind of dull and the characters are all pretty unlikeable. But you get to see Bob with two of his best leading ladies, Myrna Loy and Ann Harding.

Haunted Honeymoon (1940) – I really enjoy this movie. Robert Montgomery and the completely lovely Constance Cummings play reluctant crime solvers who get sucked into a murder mystery on their honeymoon. A colorful cast of characters and a good romance between its leads makes this movie really fun.

The Saxon Charm (1948) – I still haven’t gotten my hands on this one yet (soon, oh very soon), but it’s available and I think it looks pretty good.

Ride the Pink Horse (1947) – A really brutal noir that doesn’t shy away from violence. Montgomery gives a really good performance, as well as directs.

Inspiration (1931) – This movie doesn’t get enough love. A lot of people say that Montgomery and Garbo just didn’t go well together, I think their restrained, under the surface chemistry was perfect for this movie about repressed love and sexuality.

The Single Standard (1929) – Yeah, I’m cheating on this one. Montgomery is just an extra in this film, but it’s one of my very favorite Garbo movies and everyone should see it.

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937) – Another Montgomery movie that I just downright adore. Joan Crawford was one of his best costars. This is a really fun and unique story about jewel thief Crawford falling for Montgomery, the nephew of her mark.

Letty Lynton (1932) – A fantastic pre-code melodrama with Joan Crawford giving one of her best performances

Faithless (1932) – A beautiful Depression era romance. Bob and Tallulah Bankhead are perfect together. Montgomery gives a really wonderful performance, but this movie belongs to Bankhead.

Fast and Loose (1939) – I’m such a sucker for screwball detective movies, especially when they star Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.

Night Must Fall (1937) – This is probably Montgomery’s best performance. He completely breaks type to play a creepy, tortured, insane murderer.

There you go. freemoviesondvd.com is a wonderful resource. You pay less than $10 for each DVD (and that includes shipping) and these films (and so many others they have) are more than worth it.