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

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

Robert Montgomery. Robert Young. Robert Taylor. during the 1930s in Hollywood, MGM had three fantastic contract players, all by the name of Robert. They were also frequently cast in similar roles, despite their types and styles being quite different. This habit of MGM of casting them similarly is the reason, I imagine, that my dad can never remember which one I’m talking about. I’m pretty sure he still thinks Robert Montgomery and Robert Young are the same person. I talk about Montgomery a lot, and my Dad always says, “Father Knows Best, right?” No. No, Dad. Not at all.

Robert Taylor

Taylor’s career started a little after the other Roberts. Taylor was classically good looking, which made him well cast in films like Camille. But he did have the charm and talent to pull off different kinds of roles as well.

Small Town Girl (1936)
Taylor plays a drunken playboy who gets smashed and married sweet Janet Gaynor one night. At first, Taylor’s role is kind of thankless. The pair agree to a sham marriage, and Taylor kind of treats her like dirt, even when they bury the hatchet and agree to be friendly. Taylor doesn’t try to make his character’s behavior charming. He’s not afraid to really show his character as the bad guy, so that when the character turns around and we get the happy ending we want, it’s a little more interesting.

Three Comrades (1938)
Taylor’s youthful looks served him well in this role as a childish soldier back from the first world war who falls in love with dying ex-socialite Margaret Sullavan. There are three “leading me” in this film; Taylor, the other Robert, Young, and Franchot Tone. They each possess something unique to their character so that when the three of them come together they almost create one whole person. Taylor provides, quite perfectly, the heart.

Johnny Eager (1942)
Taylor really broke type to play the seemingly heartless gangster of the title. Though there is romance to the story, Taylor is at his most compelling here when he’s being ruthless, as when he sets up his lover, Lana Turner, for a fake murder. The film also features a brilliant and Oscar winning performance from Van Heflin.

Robert Young

Of the three Roberts, Young is the least “suave” and “debonair”. However, I don’t agree with Hollywood’s assessment of him, that he had no sex appeal. While he may not be as attractive physically as the other Roberts, or the other stars in Hollywood, there is a certain something about him. Perhaps it’s just his talent, but there is something incredibly attractive about him.

Today We Live (1933)
This is one of my very favorite war movies. It centers on four people and their relationships with each other, and the way the war shapes them. Young gives a very good performance opposite Joan Crawford. He’s her childhood friend who loves her. The two marry, despite her love for Gary Cooper, and Young is blinded in battle. He gives a really nice, quiet performance, never overplaying it and never asking for pity.

Married Before Breakfast (1937)
Movies don’t get much cuter than this. I wasn’t expecting this movie, it was just on late one night when I was trying to sleep and I ended up staying up late and watching the whole thing. Both Young and his love interest are engaged to other people, but they have a one night adventure that makes you want them to both leave their respective fiancees. It fun, sweet, and completely adorable.

The Mortal Storm (1940)
For 1940, this film must have been brutal. America hadn’t even entered the war yet, but still Borzage made this moving and unflinching film about a half Jewish family in Germany torn apart by the Nazis. Young really broke type in this movie to play an intolerant young Nazi who helps to destroy the family he was practically a part of.

Robert Montgomery

Montgomery is my absolute favorite Robert. He’s also my favorite actor ever. Though he was frequently cast in supporting roles that required him to be suave and slick, he showed more than once his incredible range. He really could do it all. Sophisticated comedy, slapstick, drama, even psychological thriller. Montgomery was amazing as pretty much everything the studio threw at him, and he received two Oscar nominations for his work (for Night Must Fall and Here Comes Mr. Jordan)

Lovers Courageous (1932)
Montgomery is paired here with Madge Evans, his very best leading lady. Evans is a wealthy girl, Montgomery a poor playwright, and the two fall in love and are married, despite her parents’ objections. It’s such a simple story, and it is handled as such by director Robert Z. Leonard, but the simplicity of the film is one of the best things about it. It’s just a straight up, lovely, and honest romance.

Trouble for Two (1936)
This is one hell of a strange film. The plot involves royalty, arranged marriage, and suicide clubs. It’s really weird, and I can’t really explain it. It’s a good movie, but it has such a unique tone and bizarre storyline that it has to just be seen. Montgomery and costar Rosalind Russell give pitch perfect performances, which I can’t imagine was easy in a film with such a weird style and atmosphere.

Rage In Heaven (1940)
Montgomery apparently was not pleased about being cast in this film, and said that he wasn’t even going to try. Well, the fact that he didn’t even try in this only shows how amazing he was, because it’s still an excellent performance. He plays a man driven mad by jealousy. He starts out romantic and slowly descends into creepy and crazy. It’s really a good performance.

By Katie Richardson