Sunday, January 04, 2015

Turning Point

Jesse Walker has put up his latest (and last?) top ten movie list.  This time it's 1934.  The 30s is probably my favorite era for film, and there's a certain freshness and excitement in the first decade of talkies that makes even programmers worthwhile.

I've always seen this year as a turning point--it's when Hollywood started seriously enforcing the Production Code, and it's also the year the screwball comedy started.

Here's the list:

1. The Black Cat
2. It Happened One Night
3. L'Atalante
4. The Thin Man
5. The Scarlet Empress
6. Granton Trawler
7. The Mascot
8. Crime Without Passion
9. The Man Who Knew Too Much
10. We Live in Prague

The first five on this list might would all make my top ten.  Whether or not you're a fan of Universal horror, or Ulmer, there's nothing quite like The Black CatIt Happened One Night--which would be my #1--happens to be both the first screwball comedy and the best one (and just by chance, as I write this, I'm planning to see it in a theatre tonight).  It thrust Capra into the big time, but he never really topped it.  L'Atalante is the film that makes you wonder what sort of career Vigo would have had if he'd lived longer.  The Thin Man started a great series and a great team, and also showed screwball could adapt to genres.  The Von Sternberg/Dietrich films are close to camp, and I'm not sure you need "close to," but they're still fascinating.  Even though I've seen countless 1930s films, I've only seen one of the bottom five--The Man Who Knew Too Much. It's solid British Hitchcock, even though it's clearly not The 39 Steps, which he made next year.

Jesse has no honorable mentions:

Other films that might have made my top ten:

Dames (so we continue with my list of musicals that Jesse has ignored, and this movie ends with what may be Busby Berkeley's two greatest numbers)

The Gay Divorcee (a screwball musical, and the first film starring Astaire and Rogers, whose magical 1930s films are the greatest series in Hollywood history)

It's A Gift (I don't put Fields in the same category as the Marx Brothers (who were between jobs this year), but this is one of his best)

The Merry Widow (not Lubitsch's best, but still quite something)

Twentieth Century (not Hawks' best, but still pretty good)

Other films I like:

Babes In Toyland, Belle Of The Nineties, The Captain Hates The Sea, The Cat's-Paw (a flailing Harold Lloyd tries a story comedy, and the results must be seen to be believed),  College Rhythm, Imitation Of Life, Little Miss Marker, Man Of Aran, Manhattan Melodrama, The Old Fashioned Way, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Six Of A Kind, Tarzan And His Mate (generally considered the best in the series, and certainly the hottest), Wonder Bar (Al Jolson's best, and "Goin' To Heaven On A Mule"...I'm not even going to try to describe it), You're Telling Me!

Other films of note:

The Affairs Of Cellini, Allez Oop, Anne Of Green Gables, Bright Eyes, Broadway Bill (Capra's forgotten film between It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds), Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back, Charlie Chan In London, Cleopatra, Cockeyed Cavaliers, Come On Marines!, The Count Of Monte Cristo, Death Takes A Holiday, Easy To Love, Evelyn Prentice, Evergreen, Fashions Of 1934, Flirtation Walk, Forsaking All Others, Gambling Lady, Here Comes The Navy, Hips, Hips, Hooray!, Hollywood Party, The House Of Rothschild, Jimmy The Gent, Jew Suss (not the Nazi propaganda film), Judge Priest, Kentucky Kernels (I don't want to give the impression I don't like Wheeler and Woolsey--they made three films in 1934 and they're all worth watching), Kid Millions, Lady By Choice, The Last Round-Up, Liliom, Little Man, What Now?, The Little Minister, Lorna Doone, The Lost Patrol, Madame Bovary, The Man From Utah, Mauvaise Graine, Les Miserables, Murder At The Vanities, Nana, Of Human Bondage, One Night Of Love, Our Daily Bread, The Painted Veil, The President Vanishes, The Return Of Chandu, Le Roi Des Champs-Elysees (a French Buster Keaton oddity worth checking out), Sadie McKee, Servants' Entrance, Spitfire, Stand Up And Cheer!, A Story Of Floating Weeds, Treasure Island, Twenty Million Sweethearts, Viva Villa!, What Every Woman Knows


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you've got two pictures of Claudette Colbert.

12:48 AM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Yep, you got me. I try to avoid that, but I couldn't resist the milk bath.

2:46 AM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger Jesse said...

Jesse Walker has put up his latest (and last?) top ten movie list.

There will be a 1924 list. It wouldn't do to finish the series without a nod to...well, you'll see what's at #1 when I post it.

6:32 AM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

I know this was explained at one point, at least partially, but I'm not very good at list math. Have we seen 100 lists, 1000 films? '2x to '0/1x from '04 to '14?

10:14 AM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Jesse has been doing this for over a decade, and he goes back at least to the 30s and sometimes the 20s, so you figure it out.

10:58 AM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

By the way, 1924 was a great year for film. I can think of five of six classics off the top of my head. I really can't guess which will be you #1.

11:52 AM, January 04, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Twentieth Century holds up with the best screwball.

11:55 AM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger Jesse said...

LAGuy: I'll say that it's a comedy. There will be several comedies in the list, so that in itself shouldn't be a total giveaway—but I think you'd have a good chance of guessing which '24 comedy is my favorite. (It may well be my favorite silent comedy of any year.)

12:22 PM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I should just wait, because we know that Buster Keaton released two classics that year, as did Harold Lloyd. (There's also some great Lubitsch, but I don't think that'll be it.)

The Lloyd stuff isn't quite as famous, but Girl Shy is one of his best and Hot Water, which so often gets the back of the hand, may be his best pure gag film.

Still, I have to lean toward Buster, who made The Navigator and Sherlock, Jr. The Navigator has often been classed, alongside The General, as Buster's best, but Sherlock, Jr., with its brilliant look at the magic of film, has become a modern favorite. So I'm guessing that's the one.

We'll know soon enough.

1:24 PM, January 04, 2015  
Blogger Jesse said...

A good guess. You'll find out tomorrow if you're right.

Beyond that, I'll just say that three of the four films you mentioned are on the list. (And I like the fourth one too, so it wasn't a bad guess either.)

1:31 PM, January 04, 2015  

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