100. Liliom (Frank Borzage, 1930)
It’s not exactly the easiest love story for a modern generation to swallow, despite the fact that in its musical form (the wonderful Carousel) it’s one of the most beloved romances of all time. Nevertheless, with its endlessly flawed hero, his doormat wife, and their unconventional version of love, this is one romance that modern feminists aren’t going to be fans of. And it’s true, in its final moments, trying to sell physical abuse as some kind of sign of affection doesn’t really work as well as it wants to. But before that point, director Frank Borzage still managed to do what he always did best: he took an immensely flawed couple with an even more flawed relationship and made it beautiful. Liliom and Julie’s marriage isn’t near perfect. He’s lazy with a bad temper, she allows him to walk all over her. But underneath it all, there is a deep love there and an understanding that the pair has for one another that is unparalleled.  And even in the end, while (perhaps ill-advisedly) sugar coating Liliom’s domestic abuse, Borzage never let’s Liliom off the hook, which leaves us with a heartbreaking conclusion. Despite what seems to be an uplifting ending, we really know that even with the best of intentions, even in death some men can’t change.

099. Made For Each Other (John Cromwell, 1939)
Carole Lombard is one of the greatest comedic talents to ever appear on the screen. Because she’s so famous for her comedic efforts, her dramatic performances are, at best, often forgotten, and, at worst, ridiculed as being “a waste of her talent”.  But her talent really did shine through in her dramatic roles, and Made for Each Other is proof of that. The film is a unique love story. In most romances we get to see the falling in love part, with “happily ever after” being the end of the story”.  Here, it’s the beginning, and it’s not so much “happily ever after” as it is “with a whole lot of bumps along the way.” Marriage is hard work, and this movie shows it, complete with disapproving mothers-in-law, terrible bosses, and sick children. It still hold up particularly well today as proof that, no matter the decade, marriage comes with the same problems and the same responsibilities. Made For Each Other is a dose of reality, maybe not one that everyone wants to see, especially from the classic era, but one that’s honest and, because of that, rewarding.

098. History Is Made At Night (Frank Borzage, 1937)
It’s not secret that director Frank Borzage was all about the transcendent power of love and all the spirituality that entails. It’s a hallmark of his films, and it figures quite prominently in History Is Made At Night. But what’s most prominent in this little romantic oddity is an element that’s only a latent theme in his other films: the battle between good and evil. Underneath the surface of a lush romance is a very primal tug of war between two forces. The evil is personified in the quite substantive form of Colin Clive’s downright deranged and insanely jealous ex-husband, while the good is represented less by the lovers (Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur), and more by the undying love that they share. With shifts between romantic comedy, psychological drama, and disaster film, History Is Made At Night may seem downright schizophrenic at times, but no matter what genre it’s veering into, it always maintains Borzage’s warmth, romance, and optimism.

097. Heroes For Sale (William A. Wellman, 1933)
Unflinching yet still somehow optimistic, Wild Bill Wellman’s Depression-era saga Heroes For Sale is one of the decade’s best glimpses into the way times really were for millions of Americans. It’s not just one problem for leading man Richard Barthelmess. It starts with one thing and then just starts to snowball from there. It’s pre-code in the best possible way, dealing with issues like drug addiction head on, and never pulling its punches (there’s a character death which leads to one shot that is one of the most startling in all of classic film). Wellman wasn’t afraid to make things as dark as possible for his characters, because that’s the way things were in the world around him, and somehow, like no other director really could, he balanced this crushing sadness with a certain amount of hope. Even though they couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it was there, somewhere, and eventually they would see it, if they just kept looking.

096. Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, 1938)
Despite all the fawning that goes on over the overblown My Fair Lady, the gloriously simple 1938 version of Pygmalion is still the best version to ever appear on the big screen. Everything about this movie is perfect, from its head to its toes. Wendy Hiller is the best Eliza Doolittle there possible could be, beautiful enough to be convincing as the lady she becomes, but with just enough grit and uniqueness to keep her believable as the lovable street urchin. Leslie Howard’s refined gruffness is inimitable, and the chemistry they share is one of a kind. The story of Pygmalion is special in that it’s a love story without being a romance. It’s not about falling in love, and the big dramatic feelings that come with it. It’s about companionship, finding where you fit. What a novel idea, to sell that as such a quiet, unassuming thing as this.

Stay tuned for 95-91.

By Katie Richardson

I’m such a bad person for not updating the past few days. I spent about 6 hours yesterday reading everything I could about podcast production to make sure I get it all right, so I wasn’t slacking completely on the site. 😀

I have a special love for Carole Lombard. While she’s not my absolute favorite actress (though she is up there on the list), I feel a bit of a connection to her. She was born in my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her house is in what is just outside of Downtown in the West Central area where my brother lived for several years, so I’ve walked by it dozens and dozens of times. I’ve walked around inside of it four times. (Here’s a link to the website for the house, which is now a Bed and Breakfast) I’m a proud hometown girl, I love Fort Wayne, and I love that such a talented actress came from here.

Early in Lombard’s career in the 1930s, Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with her. She was placed in several different kinds of films: dramas, light comedies, even musicals (the thoroughly bizarre and off the wall We’re Not Dressing). By the mid-1930s she’d found her niche as a screwball comedian. But a few years later she was on the list of actresses being seriously considered to play Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Lombard wanted the role, but she had to prove herself as a dramatic actress. So she made a brief string of dramas, where she showed her range and excellent dramatic skills.

Virtue (1932) – An early light dramatic romance between street walker Lombard and cab driver Pat O’Brien. It’s another of the very common ‘Prostitute marries and husband finds out about her past after the fact’ stories, but this one handles it really well and is moe convincing than most.

Supernatural (1933) – Actually not a drama, but a horror/mystery film. Yeah, but you never figured you’d see Lombard in one of these. It’s a really creepy film with good atmosphere.

Bolero (1934) – Lombard showed her dancing skills in this drama about… yeah, dancing. She makes a really good team with George Raft, in a pretty unexpected, but likable role.

Made For Each Other (1939) – One of my favorite Lombard films. She stars with Jimmy Stewart in this story of the ups and downs of marriage. It’s really a beautiful film, simply put together, but brilliantly acted by its leads.

In Name Only (1939) – A solid melodrama with Cary Grant. She and Grant have really good chemistry. It would have been nice to see them in a comedy together. This was actually their third film together. They were both in Sinners in the Sun and The Eagle and the Hawk (one was a thriller, the other a war movie), but Grant wasn’t the lead in those films. As great as Lombard’s performance is in In Name Only, Kay Francis steals the show as Grant’s bitchtastic wife.

Vigil In the Night (1940) – Kind of a weak and dull melodrama with Lombard giving a good, if not a little sappy, performance as a nurse who blames herself for her sister’s tragic mistake.

They Knew What They Wanted (1940) – This is a really unique and lovely romance, and one you wouldn’t expect. Lombard’s love interest in this one is Charles Laughton, and it’s a really sweet love story. It’s also a little racy (Lombard becomes pregnant by another man). Kind of hard to believe this one got past the censors.

By Katie Richardson

Today is the wonderful, charming, and completely lovable James Stewart’s 100th Birthday!

Sure, we’ve all seen the big James Stewart classics. It’s a Wonderful Life, Vertigo, Rear Window, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and so on. But Stewart also made a lot of really great movies that don’t get a lot of love nowadays. So, with this place being all about obscure classics, here are some of my favorite James Stewart movies that deserve more love.

The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage, 1940)

One of the best films from the master Frank Borzage. The Mortal Storm is a really fantastic movie about pre-war Germany and the rise of Nazism. Sure, Stewart, Robert Young, and Margaret Sullavan might be a little hard to believe as Germans, but they all put in very strong performances (especially Young, in a role that really breaks type) in this heartbreaking film. Definitely a brave movie for 1940.

Come Live With Me (George Cukor, 1941)

Come Live With Me is a really simple, subtle love story. That subtlety really makes the film a beautiful romance. Stewart had great chemistry with Hedy Lamarr. I’m not entirely sure what it is about this movie that I adore so much, but it just feels genuine. It feels very real.

Vivacious Lady (George Stevens, 1938)

Ginger Rogers and James Stewart were a fantastic pairing. I wish they had made more films together. The story is very cute, but Rogers and Stewart together make is a truly great romance.

Made For Each Other (John Cromwell, 1939)

Stewart and Carole Lombard had an excellent chemistry, and I wish they had the chance to make a comedy together before Lombard’s death. Made for Each Other is a very strong romance about the struggles of marriage which comes across as very realistic and honest. One of the best films from the golden year of 1939.