It's 1932--new stars from the sound era are emerging, Hollywood wasn't yet gagging on the Production Code and everything was up for grabs. But the deepening Depression, combined with higher costs for sound films, had most of the studios in the dumps. Still, they made a bunch of amazing films that year.
Let's see what Jesse Walker, continuing his look back to years ending in "2," thinks of 1932.
Here's his top ten:
2. Island of Lost Souls
5. Love Me Tonight
6. Horse Feathers
7. Boudu Saved from Drowning
8. Land Without Bread
9. Trouble in Paradise
10. Million Dollar Legs
Quite a list. I've never seen Ivan, but the rest look pretty good. Pretty high on horror. I like Vampyr, Island Of Lost Souls and Freaks, but they're all ranked a bit too high. In fact, first place should be a tie between Horse Feathers, the Marx Brothers' best along with Duck Soup, and Trouble In Paradise (which Jesse predicted I'd put on top), Lubitsch's most stylistically perfect film.
Love Me Tonight is the best ersatz Lubitsch operetta ever, with a better score ("Isn't It Romantic?" may be the best tune in the entire Great American Songbook) than Lubitsch ever had. Boudu is a Renoir classic. Land Without Bread--I don't know what the hell it is, exactly (I'm not even sure if I can dismiss it as a short), but it's too bad Bunuel would essentially be required to leave behind directing for about 15 years after this. Million Dollar Legs can't be compared to Duck Soup, as it sometimes is, or even later W.C. Fields, but it's still a glorious mess.
11. Betty Boop, M.D.
12. Shanghai Express
13. American Madness
14. Betty Boop for President
15. One Hour with You
16. Minnie the Moocher
17. Red-Headed Woman
18. Murders in the Rue Morgue
19. The Idea
A bunch of Betty Boop Cartoons. They're fine, though Jesse knows I don't approve of comparing shorts to features. But if you're going to have them, where are the Disney shorts? Or Laurel and Hardy (this was the year of The Music Box and County Hospital)?
Shanghai Express is my favorite von Sternberg--should probably be (and at #12 almost is) top ten. American Madness is pretty good, even if Capra would go on to better things. One Hour With You is my favorite Lubitsch musical, and would be in my top ten. (1932 was quite a year for Ernst--two classics, Trouble In Paradise and One Hour With You, along with a fascinating if deadly serious drama (that flopped), Broken Lullaby, and a fine segment in If I Had A Million.)
Red-Headed Woman is fun, if no classic. Murders In The Rue Morgue is also good (big year for horror). The Idea I haven't seen. Kongo may be weirder than Island Of Lost Souls and Freaks combined.
Jesse notes Scarface didn't make the list. He does't like the scene inserted into the film that lectures the audience about crime so the rest of the film wouldn't be considered too offensive. I consider it comic relief (and, interestingly, the most offensive part of the film by today's standards) and think the rest of it--the stuff Howard Hawks shot--is the best gangster film of all.
Here are some other film of 1932 that might make my top ten:
I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (a little surprised not to see this film on the list--it remains powerful)
Red Dust (shiny new stars Clark Gable and Jean Harlow at their pre-Code best)
Other films I like:
Broken Lullaby (as mentioned above--originally entitled The Man I Killed--you can see why they changed it), The Crowd Roars, Jewel Robbery (a Trouble In Paradise knockoff), Movie Crazy (probably Harold Lloyd's best talkie), The Mummy, Night After Night (Mae West's debut), The Old Dark House, One Way Passage (one of Hollywood's best romances with fine direction by Tay Garnett), Skyscraper Souls, Tarzan The Ape Man, Tiger Shark
Other films of note: