All This And The Depression Too
1936 was a fine year for film, because most of the 30s were fine years for film. They might not have been fine years for other reasons, but Hollywood was doing some of its best work, and at a high volume.
Let's see what Jesse Walker picks as his top ten:
2. Theodora Goes Wild
3. Rainbow Dance
4. Modern Times
5. My Man Godfrey
6. Swing Time
7. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
9. Libeled Lady
10. Thru the Mirror
Well, first off, there are three shorts, so let's ignore them. The 30s was a golden age of shorts, but it's hard to compare them to features. (And if you're going to mention them, how about Grand Slam Opera, Buster Keaton's best short talkie? And how about The Plow That Broke The Plains?)
Jesse has always loved Theodora Goes Wild. I consider it decent screwball, but not top tier. There are two other screwball titles in here, both better--My Man Godfrey (one of the best ever) and Libeled Lady.
Much to my surprise, Chaplin's masterpiece Modern Times makes the list. Considering how Chaplin-phobic Jesse tends to be, high praise indeed. (And I wouldn't make too much of the comparisons to A Nous La Liberte. The great--and not-so-great--clowns often used similar settings and gags. It's how you handle them that counts.)
I like Sabotage, though I think its reputation is a bit high--it's no 39 Steps of The Lady Vanishes. It's not even Saboteur.
Swing Time, even with one of the dopiest plots ever in an Astaire-Rogers films (she falls in and out of love with him several times, never for a good reason), is one of their best. It's often listed as their absolute best, but I'd still say Top Hat wins.
After The Thin Man (the sequel to The Thin Man, and perhaps the best in the series--they now get it's about Nick and Nora, not the crime; and what a year Powell had: this, Libeled Lady, My Man Godfrey and the Oscar-winning The Great Ziegfeld)
Follow The Fleet (plotwise, as bad or worse than Swing Time, but it's still got the dancing and the amazing Berlin score)
Anything Goes (though it could have been so much more), Born To Dance, Come And Get It, The Crime Of Monsieur Lange, Desire, Fury, Gold Diggers Of 1937 (the series is getting tired, but it's still got some great numbers), The Milky Way (perhaps Harold Lloyd's best talkie), Pigskin Parade, Rhythm On The Range, Show Boat (lots of musical here, which may not all be great films but I like for some of the numbers)
All American Chump, The Beloved Vagabond, The Big Broadcast Of 1937, Camille, Captain January, Cesar, The Charge Of The Light Brigade, College Holiday, Collegiate, Dodsworth, The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, The Garden Of Allah, The Gay Desperado, The Great Ziegfeld, The Green Pastures, I Married A Doctor, Intermezzo, King Of Burlesque, Klondike Annie, Little Lord Fauntleroy, Mary Of Scotland, Mayerling, The Moon’s Our Home, Next Time We Love, Oh Susanna, One Rainy Afternoon, The Oregon Trail, Our Relations, The Petrified Forest, Piccadilly Jim, Poor Little Rich Girl, The Princess Comes Across, Queen Of Hearts, Ramona, Reefer Madness, Rembrandt, Rhodes Of Africa, Riffraff, The Road To Glory, Romeo And Juliet, Rose Marie, San Francisco, Satan Met A Lady (the second version of The Maltese Falcon), Secret Agent, The Singing Cowboy, Sons o’ Guns, Stage Struck, The Story Of Louis Pasteur, Strike Me Pink, Suzy, Tarzan Escapes, Thank You Jeeves!, These Three, They Met In A Taxi, Things To Come, Three Godfathers, Three Men On A Horse, Three Smart Girls, Trapped By Television (great 1936 title), The Walking Dead, White Fang, Wife Vs. Secretary, Winterset