Thursday, January 17, 2013

Depressing List

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:

1. Vampyr
2. Island of Lost Souls
3. Ivan
4. Freaks
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
20. Kongo

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:

Grand Hotel (Jesse has mixed feelings about this Oscar-winner, but I consider it solid Hollywood entertainment)

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:

20,000 Years In Sing Sing, Air Mail, The Animal Kingdom, Arsene Lupin, As You Desire Me, Back Street, The Big Broadcast, A Bill Of Divorcement, Blonde Venus, Chandu The Magician, Doctor X, A Farewell To Arms, Flesh, Forbidden, The Greeks Had A Word For Them, If I Had A Million, The Kid From Spain, The Lost Squadron, The Mask Of Fu Manchu, Me And My Gal, The Miracle Man, The Most Dangerous Game, No Man Of Her Own, No More Orchids, The Passionate Plumber, The Phantom President, Polly Of The Circus, Rain, Rasputin And The Empress, Rich And Strange, Ride Him Cowboy, Scarlet Dawn, Sherlock Holmes, Shopworn, The Sign Of Four, The Sign Of The Cross, So Big!, Speak Easily, Strange Interlude, Taxi!, There Goes The Bride, Thirteen Women, This Is The Night, Three On A Match, Three Wise Girls, Union Depot, What Price Hollywood?, White Zombie


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buster Keaton's talkies are pretty sad, but occasionally you see a glimmer of the original greatness.

10:53 PM, January 16, 2013  
Blogger Jesse said...

I haven't seen The Country Hospital. I do like The Music Box, though I don't understand why it's considered the cream of the crop for Laurel & Hardy -- they've done several shorts that I think are funnier.

I'm not sure I've seen many Disney shorts from this year. Certainly none that stick out.

I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang is good but, like The Music Box, it didn't strike me when I saw it as deserving its exalted reputation. It sometimes gets heavy-handed in that familiar message-movie way.

I haven't seen Red Dust, and the only pictures on your "other films I like" list that I've watched are The Mummy (good, but I like the horror movies on my list better) and The Old Dark House (it didn't do much for me). I've been meaning to see The Crowd Roars for a long time.

6:05 AM, January 17, 2013  
Blogger New England Guy said...

I was expecting not to recognize many on this list but recall quite a few from days of yore when old B&W movies regularly played on the commercial stations

I loved Chandu the Magician. Qualification- I saw it in serials (I assume its the same as the film- they were 10-12 minute snippets) when I was 10 at the SUNY-Potsdam film night(my dad was doing summer graduate work and brought the family up). I got my son to order it from Netflix but we never got around to it and it got sent back. I'm sure its just over-the-top Lugosi but I recall being fascinated and couldn't wait to see it each week. (I think I first saw Horsefeathers too along with The Blob, El Cid and some Matt Helm). I think The Most Dangerous Game was a fun flic to see in Freshman or Sophmore English (I think some schools still read that story)

6:18 AM, January 17, 2013  
Blogger New England Guy said...

Add Rain to the remembered HS screening

6:41 AM, January 17, 2013  

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