Films of the 1930s
March 5, 2010 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Trouble in Paradise is such an amazingly good film -- it's fun all the way through, and Lubitsch was giddy-drunk on the possibilities of sound ("let's have everyone shout in Italian! Now German! Now French! Because we can!"). Oh, I have to go buy a copy right now.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's a good start, for sure. No mention of "The Thin Man" series, no pre-40's Astaire musicals (The Gay Divorcee, Going down to Rio).

I'd add:
The Champ
The Gay Divorcee
Hell's Angels
The Thin Man

I was going to keep going with this list but the fact is there are so many fantastic movies from the 30's. Boston Blackie series, Fred and Ginger, pre-code hollywood gems.
posted by deacon_blues at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

This list is sorely missing King Kong.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 8:20 AM on March 5, 2010

Wonderful list, and I just wish all of these were available on DVD. Thank you.
posted by blucevalo at 8:23 AM on March 5, 2010

I think the strength of the list is that is doesn't include perennial favorites. I, especially, appreciate the highlighting of pre-war Japanese movies.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:31 AM on March 5, 2010

Little Caesar is my favorite gangster flick, Edward G. positively chews the scenery every moment he's on screen. I love it. 1931.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 8:36 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey, Sunrise (admittedly from 1927, not the 30s) is finally out on DVD! One of the best films ever!
posted by stinkycheese at 8:40 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this is the first time I've even read anything about Japanese silent films. That's probably the area of film I'd like to know more about the most, early films from countries besides the US.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:59 AM on March 5, 2010

No Wizard of Oz?
posted by idiomatika at 10:15 AM on March 5, 2010

This is good. Thanks for the post.
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:53 AM on March 5, 2010

No list of the best 30s movies is complete without Dinner At Eight.
posted by dnash at 11:53 AM on March 5, 2010

Okay, I'm going to assume they overlooked a few all time classics because everyone knows they are classics.

Gone with the Wind - best color film photography to that point, Vivien Leigh gave one of the all-time great performances. She is truly crazy and totally charming. I felt Clark Gable could deliver his role in his sleep - but it was pitch perfect for Rhett Butler.

M - One of the half dozen or so best crime movies, thrilling cinematography and brilliant performance by Peter Lorre.

It Happened One Night - one of the best arguments for the code. No one had such fun bouncing off the Hays Office until Preston Sturges in the 40s.

Wizard of Oz - my two year old loves this and I can't get him to watch anything.

Ninotchka - yes, Trouble In Paradise is perfect, but it leaves you jonesing for more Lubistch.

Night at the Opera - after Duck Soup, who would want to stop at one Marx Bros. movie?

Bringing Up Baby - Until Wilder and Sturges, this was the best screwball comedy.

Bride of Frankenstein - Best camp horror until Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Capra at full throttle, wrapped up in a flag and blurting the Star Spangled Banner on a kazoo.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:06 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also Gone With the Wind had the most sweepingly beautiful and memorable musical score up to its release. Really, other than the classic songs from musicals can you hum a note from any score from any movie before it?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2010

Since we're avoiding the most obvious choices, I'll skip over Dracula and Frankenstein and go straight to

posted by the bricabrac man at 12:33 PM on March 5, 2010

The Gay Divorcee

An unhappily married woman mistakes a suitor for the gigolo hired to end her marriage.

I like this as a classic comedy setup because the joke still works if the misunderstanding is reversed. Plus, it sounds pretty darn saucy.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2010

Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) is a personal favourite. Found it and two other 1930's films of his on DVD, at three for 99 cents, way down in a big bin at Walmart. The other two were "The 39 Steps" (also 1938) and "Rich and Strange" (1932). Latter is indeed strange...
posted by drogien at 1:25 PM on March 5, 2010

Oh, Gay Divorcee is tons of fun. It's also pre-code, and yes it does have some very saucy humor in it.

Same goes for 1933's Flying Down to Rio, the first Astaire - Rogers flick.

In fact, the stark contrast between those two movies and everything the duo made afterward is an excellent demonstration of just how dramatically clever, naughty dialogue got axed by those code bastards.
posted by the bricabrac man at 1:29 PM on March 5, 2010

The General (1927) and other Buster Keaton movies.
Captain Blood (1935)
the Awful Truth (1937)
The Women (1939)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)
posted by kirkaracha at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2010

Trouble in Paradise is just wonderful.

I also recommend Libeled Lady (1936 - Tracy, Powell, Loy, Harlow), Swing Time (1936, Astaire, Rogers), Dodsworth (1936, Huston, Chatterton, Astor), and to a lesser extent Holiday (1938, Hepburn, Grant)
posted by julen at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2010

Hmmm ... I'm sorry, but Animal Crackers is far superior to Duck Soup.

Spaulding: (to camera) Pardon me while I have a strange interlude. Why you couple of baboons, what makes you think I'd marry either one of you? Strange how the wind blows tonight. It has a tintity voice, reminds me of poor old Moslin. How happy I could be with either of these two if both of them just went away! (to Mrs. Rittenhouse and Mrs. Whitehead) Well, what do you say girls, what do you say, will you marry me?...Both of you, let's all get married. This is my party. (to camera) Party! Party! Here I am talkin' of parties. I came down here for a party. What happens? Nothing. Not even ice cream. The gods looked down and laughed. This would be a better world for children if the parents had to eat the spinach. (to Mrs. Rittenhouse and Mrs. Whitehead) Well, what do you say, girls? What do you say? Are we all gonna get married?
Mrs. Rittenhouse: All of us?
Spaulding: All of us!
Mrs. Rittenhouse: But that's bigamy!
Spaulding: Yes, and that's big-a-me, too...It's big of all of us. Let's be big for a change. I'm sick of these conventional marriages! One woman and one man was good enough for your grandmother, but who wants to marry your grandmother? Nobody, not even your grandfather. Think, think of the honeymoon, strictly private. I wouldn't let another woman in on this. Well, maybe one or two but no men. I may not go myself.
Mrs. Rittenhouse: Are you suggesting companionate marriage?
Spaulding: Well, it's got its advantages. You could live with your folks and I could live with your folks. (to Mrs. Whitehead) And you, you could sell Fuller Brushes. (to camera) Living with your folks. Living with your folks. The beginning of the end. Drab dead yesterdays shutting out beautiful tomorrows. Hideous, stumbling footsteps creaking along the misty corridors of time. And in those corridors I see figures, strange figures, weird figures, Steel 186, Anaconda 74, American Cane 138...

posted by The Great Big Mulp at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this; looks like a great list with some less-obvious ones I know nothing about.

Happy to see the mention at the top to his previous review of Love Me Tonight, a very smart, funny musical and one of the best 1930s films I've ever seen. It's almost shockingly good - not just stylistically inventive, integrating the musical numbers into the plot for arguably the first time, but also has a fun plot and lots of witty pre-Hays Code sexual banter, and an amazing opening sound collage that builds to the first musical number as a city wakes up.

It came just after director Rouben Mamoulian had wowed everyone with his technical brilliance on 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and continued his streak of defining new ways to use cameras and microphones in the talkies. Weird how neglected it is even among musical fans, but very cool Rosenbaum name-checked it at the start.
posted by mediareport at 4:26 PM on March 5, 2010

I agree with Love Me Tonight. So inventive, so playful. When I first got a VCR in the 1980s, I went into a video store with the naive assumption they must have Love Me Tonight. I was shocked that with thousands of videos they didn't. I guess I was very naive, thinking this would be a movie they had to have because everyone must love it. Then I asked for El Norte, which they did have. The woman at the counter said, "That is the most dramatically efficient movie I've seen in months." Which kind of freaked me out that I was running the risk of taking movies too seriously like her. So I settled on Porky's. There's a moral to that story.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:22 PM on March 5, 2010

i've said it before, but if you like ozu check out naruse :P oh and murnau's last laugh is awesome, cf. wilder's people on sunday :P
posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on March 7, 2010

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