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Full Version: TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
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84 years ago...

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Trouble in Paradise (1932)
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Country: United States
Length: 83 minutes
Type: Drama, Comedy, Crime

'Trouble in Paradise' is a delightful film, full of sparkling, sexy back-and-forth dialogue (I'm surprised they got away with some of it). Two master thieves fall in love when trying to rob each other and decide to go into "business" together. If you like Hitchcock's 'To Catch a Thief' (or any peak Hitchcock espionage film really) then this will feel familiar. Charlie Ruggles and Edward Everett Horton make a great comedy double-act as two suitors of the same lady, needling each other constantly. This is a firm step towards classic Hollywood film-making and out of the shaky early sound film period.

The original 'Scarface' next.
85 years ago...

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Scarface (1932)
Director: Howard Hawks
Country: United States
Length: 93 minutes
Type: Drama, Crime

I'm not the biggest fan of the famous 1983 Oliver Stone remake of 'Scarface'. It's fine but Tony (Scarface) being such a horrible b*stard (with not a single redeeming feature) from start to finish, makes it difficult to empathise with him and to love the film. The same problem proves true for the original, which is very close in plot and characterization to the remake. Paul Muni is excellent in the title role but I think he plays a good guy better, in 'I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang'. A couple of awkward scenes seem tacked on, in which politicians (and a man who is an example of an upstanding Italian-American) discuss how wrong the Gangsters are... before we cut right back to the Gangsters having all kinds of illegal fun!

A Sternberg picture next.
85 years ago...

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Shanghai Express (1932)
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Country: United States
Length: 79 minutes
Type: Drama, Romance

'Shanghai Express' is a movie as much about Marlene Dietrich gliding around looking seductive and mysterious, wreathed in cigarette smoke, as it is about political intrigue. A group of disparate strangers are bound together on a train journey through (then) present-day civil war torn China. It's very much an Agatha Christie style mystery, where nobody is who they first seem to be. The shady characters, turn out to be honourable and the respectable characters, turn out to be rogues. The moody cinematography is gorgeous...

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Tod Browning's infamous 'Freaks' is next.
84 years ago...

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Freaks (1932)
Director: Tod Browning
Country: United States
Length: 64 minutes
Type: Drama, Horror

Directed by 'Dracula's Tod Browning, 'Freaks' depicts the backstage of a Carnival "freak" show.  The central theme is that sometimes humans are "ugly" on the outside and beautiful on the inside but sometimes it's the other way around. The cast is made up of real Carnival people with genuine deformities, so the acting isn't always perfect but it feels genuine. Browning ran away to join such a show when he was 16, so this must have been a very personal project.

Test screenings were a disaster with a few audience members vomiting (and one woman even threatening to sue MGM because she claimed the film caused her to miscarry) resulting in the studio slashing a third of the run-time, with that footage now forever lost. Watching it today when deformity and disability are no longer feared and despised, the film is not disgusting, or shocking but does still have a memorable David Lynch-style weirdness to it.

The book's first Spencer Tracy film next.
84 years ago...

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Me and My Gal (1932)
Director: Raoul Walsh
Country: United States
Length: 79 minutes
Type: Comedy, Romance

Set among the New York/Irish working class, a year before the end of Prohibition, 'Me and My Gal' has no shortage of boozy fun. Will Stanton has a very memorable role as an absolutely paralytic fisherman, in some of the all-time-great drunk acting. The story is in no particular hurry to get anywhere and mostly we are just there to enjoy the badinage between a non-nonsense waitress (Joan Bennett) and the brash Irish waterfront Cop (Spencer Tracy) who has his eye on her. There is plenty of cleverly written dialogue between the pair, in the street lingo of the time:

Danny - "I never knew how much I liked you until the other night when you gave me the air"
Helen - "I guess it's the same with girls. They never fall hard, 'til they're dropped".

There isn't anything particularly remarkable about the film, it's just nicely enjoyable fun.

The first entry by Jean Vigo next.
84 years ago...

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Zero for Conduct (1933)
Director: Jean Vigo
Country: France
Length: 41 minutes
Type: Drama, Political

'Zero for Conduct' (Zéro de Conduite) is a short film set in a French boarding school, as the kids rebel against the teachers. The French Revolution in microcosm is mixed with scenes of anarchism. It has some interesting visuals but didn't really do anything for me emotionally, or politically. However, the super slow-motion pillow-fight, with feathers floating down like snow-flakes, is an impressive sequence (NSFW - Contains some nudity):

The first of three Busby Berkely musicals next.
84 years ago...

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42nd Street (1933)
Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkely
Country: United States
Length: 89 minutes
Type: Musical, Comedy, Drama

'42nd Street' is the first of a trio of Busby Berkely choreographed Hollywood Musicals in the book. I confess I don't think I've ever seen one of his movies but it almost feels like I have, this being a favourite song of mine...

Most of the film is a look behind-the-scenes of the feverish weeks leading up to the production of a new Musical. It's full of smart, modern, witty dialogue and refreshingly modern female characters. The short-tempered banter is often pretty cheeky and risque. A female dancer fidgeting on the lap of a male Dancer remarks indignantly that she's sitting "On a flag-pole, deary. On a flag-pole!". Warner Baxter as tempestuous Producer Julian Marsh is a force of nature. His role would make this an ideal double-bill with 1948's 'The Red Shoes' and that film's obsessive Producer. For the final 15-minutes, the character stories are mostly dropped and the film is given over entirely to the actual Musical within the Musical. Despite the visually inventive dance numbers and clever set design, it lost me a bit here, especially with the dated singing style.

Busby Berkely's 'Footlight Parade' is next.
84 years ago...

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Footlight Parade (1933)
Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkely
Country: United States
Length: 102 minutes
Type: Musical, Comedy, Drama

At first I found the super-rapid pace of dialogue in 'Footlight Parade' to be hard to follow (like they were being paid based on how many words they could squeeze into the picture) but once I'd caught up with who the characters all were, it was frenetic fun.  James Cagney plays a theatrical Producer of short live musical "Prologues", or "Units" used to preface movies (A practice I'd never heard of). Joan Blondell is his tough, hard-working, no-nonsense Secretary who keeps this particular Genius on the level. She is also in love with him (a fact clear to everyone except him) and stole the film from Cagney  for me.

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This is basically the exact same plot from '42nd Street' done again but done even better. The three Busby Berkely musical extravaganzas at the end are fantastically lavish and inventive but this time they find a way to more smoothly integrate the film's plot into the dance numbers. One of the characters is a prudish (but hypocritical) censor, who everyone hates and makes fun of. This combined with the film's later stages including scenes celebrating unmarried sex, prostitution, drunkenness, near nudity and drug-abuse must be seen as a big f**k you to the proponents of the "Hays Code" that would soon come into force 9-months later.

Busby Berkely's 'Gold Diggers of 1933' is next.
84 years ago...

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Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy & Busby Berkely
Country: United States
Length: 96 minutes
Type: Musical, Comedy, Drama

'Gold Diggers of 1933' is far and away the best of these three Busby Berkely films. The music, dancing and singing is a natural part of the story but there is still that big finale. This time we focus on several Showgirl flat-mates down in the Depression-Era gutter, looking at the stars. One of them falls in love with a songwriter, who is also heir to a fortune. The songwriter's two snobbish trustees try to breakup the match and we have enormous fun as the feisty Showgirls run rings round the pair of them. I just loved these characters and look forward to watching this film many more times in the future!

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With a cheeky marketing campaign like this, no wonder that censorship was right around the corner!

An early Cary Grant film next.
84 years ago...

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She Done Him Wrong (1933)
Director: Lowell Sherman
Country: United States
Length: 66 minutes
Type: Drama, Comedy

'She Done Him Wrong' features one of Cary Grant's earliest performances (with his distinct invented mid-Atlantic accent already in place) but the main focus is the top-billed Mae West. She swaggers round the disreputable bar in which the film is set, dropping double-entendres, flirting lasciviously with every man who crosses her path and using them for sex, or financial gain. Apparently Censors tried to prevent the film from being made and it's not hard to see why with most of Mae West's dialogue. In my opinion, it all wraps up a little too neatly and morally to square with the boldly "immoral" body of the movie.

One of my favourite movies next.