Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Month of Movies: January...

I thought it would be fun to keep a film journal this year. Then I thought it might be fun to post it at the end of each month. So here it is, 31 films for 31 days...

Artman's rating system:
**** = awesome!
*** = solid!
** = watchable!
* = lame!
BOMB = sucked!
an * asterisk after the title and studio indicates a "new to me" picture

January 3rd
“Laughing Lady” 1929 Paramount *
Decent drama of wife played by Ruth Chatterton who unknowingly becomes embroiled in a scandal that wrecks her marriage. Clive Brook plays her husbands lawyer who destroys her in court. She plots revenge on him but they end up falling for one another. Brook is stiff as a board but I like him and Ruth is fantastic. Not a great film but well worth a look. ** ½

Ruth Chatterton

January 4th
"Design for Scandal"  1941 MGM *
Fairly limp comedy with newspaperman Walter Pidgeon trying to dig up dirt on judge Rosalind Russell. Of course they fall for each other. Guy Kibbee has precious little screen time but totally steals the show. Edward Arnold is also highly amusing as Pidgeon’s employer. **

"Sarah and Son" 1930 Paramount *
Fairly static soaper is very much redeemed by Ruth Chatterton and Fredric March’s performances. Directed by Dorothy Arzner. ** ½

Fredric March and Ruth Chatterton

January 5th
“Playing Around” 1930 WB *
Typical Alice White vehicle is fun, moves right along and she is, as always, cute as the proverbial button. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. ** ½

Alice White

January 7th
“Man of the World” 1931 Paramount *
William Powell, Carole Lombard, Guy Kibbee and Wynn Gibson make the most of this story of a professional blackmailer falling in love with his latest prey. Hard-boiled ending was a downer but rang true. Reminded me a bit of “Nobody Lives Forever”. ** ½

Lobby card for "Man of the World"

January 10th
“We’re Not Dressing” 1934 Paramount *
This reminds me of the SNL skit “The Nude House of Wacky People” because they even had a bear! An insipid tale wasted on a good cast. Carole Lombard looked great though! Too many songs! * ½ January

January 11th
“Hands Across the Table” 1935 Paramount *
Highly enjoyable romantic comedy brought engagingly to life by Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy and Marie Prevost. Well-directed by Mitchell Leisen who seems to have a deft touch with this type of film. ***

Carole Lombard

“Love for Breakfast” 1936 Universal *
Carole Lombard and Preston Foster play great sparring partners in another highly enjoyable romantic comedy. Fine support from Cesar Romero, Janet Beecher, Betty Lawford and Richard Carle. Directed by Walter Lang who helmed two of Loretta Young’s best films at Fox, both in 1937. ** ½

“The Princess Comes Across” 1936 Paramount *
Off beat murder mystery with Carole Lombard masquerading as a Swedish Princess on her way to Hollywood via steam ship. There she meets concertina playing band leader Fred MacMurray and his sidekick William Frawley. Things get really interesting when its discovered an escaped murderer is on board. Carole does a marvelous take on Garbo and the entire supporting cast is first rate. Not a great film but very watchable! ** ½

Carole Lombard

“True Confession” 1937 Paramount *
A strange hodgepodge of drama and screwball comedy enlivened by Carole Lombard and Una Merkel. Fred MacMurray…I don’t know, I definitely seem to have a problem with him most times. John Barrymore hammed it up nicely but his character served absolutely no purpose to the story at all. All in all I would say this is a misfire. On the other hand Toby Wing makes an appearance in the courtroom scene and that alone is worth the price of admission as far as I’m concerned! **

“No Man of Her Own” 1932 Paramount *
Gable and Lombard definitely sizzle in far-fetched but enjoyable romantic drama. Grant Mitchell and Dorothy Mackaill head a fine supporting cast. Nicely paced and a very attractive production. Lombard is gloriously shown in various states of undress throughout! Glad I finally saw this one! ** ½

Carole Lombard, Clark Gable, and Dorothy Mackaill

January 14th
“No More Orchids” 1932 Columbia *
Routine pre-code programmer elevated by the efforts of Carole Lombard, Lyle Talbot, Louise Closser Hale, C. Aubrey Smith and especially Walter Connolly who gives a wonderful heartfelt performance. Carole is absolutely dazzling and there’s plenty of zesty pre-code dialogue! And seriously that woman had just about the best ass in Hollywood! Another fine job of directing by Walter Lang. ** ½

 Walter Connolly, Carole Lombard, and Lyle Talbot

January 16th
“Virtue” 1932 Columbia *
Solid pre-code melodrama with a first rate performance from Carole Lombard as a reformed prostitute who marries cabbie Pat O’Brien. Ward Bond, Mayo Methot and Jack LaRue make up a fine supporting cast. Moves right along with plenty of sordid subjects and Lombard is simply gorgeous. ***

Carole Lombard

“Lady By Choice” 1934 Columbia *
Off-Beat story of down in the gutter May Robson getting “adopted” by fan dancer Carole Lombard to be her mother! Moves in some interesting directions and has a fine supporting cast. Sadly the ending is cut off my recording and I couldn’t see the finale, though it’s certainly not hard to figure out how it ends! Once again Carole is just unbelievably beautiful throughout. ** ½

January 17th
“While the Patient Slept” 1935 WB *
The Warner Bros stock company – Aline MacMahon, Guy Kibbee, Patricia Ellis, Allen Jenkins, Lyle Talbot, Robert Baratt and Henry O’Neil add much zip to silly and fun murder mystery. Pat is especially fetching in several very flattering Orry-Kelly gowns! ** ½

Patricia Ellis

“Melody For Two” 1937 WB *
Fairly lackluster musical type film with Patricia Ellis once again teamed with singer James Melton. Melton has a good voice but he’s no actor and so the film really suffers when he has to emote. The supporting cast is pretty good though and we get a nice little diddy with Eddie Anderson doing a swing dance and then Charlie Foy jumps in and joins him. Good fun! The best part of this film is Patricia! She is a platinum blonde vision in Milo Anderson gowns and possibly never looked better on film! She sings a couple of tunes as well. I like her voice. Pleasant enough tripe and just over an hour running time but Pat deserves much better material than this. **

Charlie Foy, James Melton, and Patricia Ellis

“The Racketeer” 1929 Pathe’ *
Stiff early-talkie suffers from weak dialogue and an immobile camera but Robert Armstrong and Carole Lombard manage to make it interesting regardless. **

 Carole Lombard

“Held For Murder” 1932 Cliff Boughton Productions *
Interesting and, at times, pretty intense melodrama with a rare starring role for Irene Rich. Conway Tearle as her fiance’ and Kenneth Thomson as her slime bag former flame do good work but more memorable is Mary Carlisle. For a brief second I thought she was Toby Wing! Moves rather slowly and is a bit far-fetched but still entertaining. **

Mary Carlisle

 “Success at Any Price” 1934 RKO *
Solid pre-code melodrama about a ruthlessly ambitious businessman, well-played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., stopping at nothing to get what he wants. An interesting look at the dark side of the “American Dream” with a first rate supporting cast including Frank Morgan, Edward Everett Horton, a very glamorous Genevieve Tobin and Colleen Moore in one of her last film appearances. Well-directed by J. Walter Ruben, with some nice Deco style art direction as well. Despite a weak ending, I am puzzled as to why this film doesn’t get more recognition?! ***

Douglas Fairbanks jr.

“Party Girl 1930” Victor Halpern Productions *
Fast moving little B programmer busting open the sordid world of “Party Girls”! Douglas Fairbanks Jr is effective but Marie Prevost steals the show as a bottom of the barrel floozie. I love when these kinds of films open with a “disclaimer” type of prologue to excuse the sex and/or violence we are about to be entertained with! ** ½

Marie Prevost

“The Lost Zeppelin” 1929 Tiffany-Stahl Productions *
A creaky but fascinating tale of a doomed airship expedition to the South Pole. Early talking picture has remarkably good special effects and interesting (though ultimately annoying) sound effects. Conway Tearle, Ricardo Cortez and Virginia Valli make up the love triangle subplot. A much more polished production than expected! ** ½

“Flight” 1929 Columbia *
Early Frank Capra talkie is definitely a cut above most regarding performances and action but still creaks in spots. Jack Holt is simply impossible not to like in this film! ** ½

Jack Holt and Lila Lee

“I’ve Got Your Number” 1934 WB *
Pat O’Brien plays a hotshot phone company troubleshooter who seems to find lots and lots of trouble! His life really gets interesting when he meets ungodly sexy hotel switchboard operator Joan Blondell. First-rate WB entertainment moves along like a locomotive, has an awesome supporting cast including Allen Jenkins, Eugene Pallette, Gordon Westcott, Henry O’Neil and Glenda Farrell, its funny, exciting and Joan is utterly stunning throughout! Seriously just watching her walk across a room has become a near-orgasmic experience! ***

Joan Blondell and Pat O'Brien

January 20th
“Dirigible” 1931 Columbia *
Jack Holt and Ralph Graves team up again with director Frank Capra for this taut, exciting and at times harrowing action adventure film! Solid performances and first-rate special effects elevate the story of a doomed trip to the South Pole. Fay Wray plays Graves’ long-suffering wife. She had some nicely played scenes with both Graves and Holt. By this time Capra had a sure hand making talking pictures and it shows. Quite similar in story to “The Lost Zeppelin” but the two years between them and the man in charge made all the difference in the world! Good stuff! ***

Fay Wray

January 24th
“Unashamed” 1932 MGM *
Interesting but ultimately not very good tale of a woman, played by Helen Twelvetrees, in love with a no good cad played to the hilt by Monroe Owsley. He wants to marry her for her daddy’s money. Daddy refuses to permit it. Robert Young plays her trigger-happy overly protective younger brother who spends way too much time in this movie kissing her on the mouth! Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt, Robert Warwick, and John Miljan round out a fine supporting cast. Never hits the bulls-eye but touches on many pre-code subjects and has stunning sets by Cedric Gibbons. **

“Are You Listening?” 1932 MGM *
William Haines does well in a rare straight role as a radio show writer who ends up accidentally killing his awful mentally abusive wife, played to the nines by Karen Morley. The always beautiful and sincere Madge Evans plays Haines’ devoted love interest. An interesting sub plot involving Anita Page, Joan Marsh, Jean Hersholt and Neil Hamilton carried some heavy pre-code subject matter. Also in the cast were the great Wallace Ford, slimy John Miljan, Hattie McDaniel and Charley Grapewin. Well-directed by Harry Beaumont, with solid pacing and a great touches of Radio atmosphere throughout. A no-nonsense no cop-out, but optimistic ending was also a big plus! Not a great film but definitely a good one! ***

 Madge Evans by George Hurrell

“Huddle” 1932 MGM *
Ramon Navarro stars as an Italian mill worker who goes to college and becomes a football hero. Along the way he meets Madge Evans and of course falls for her! But she’s the sister of the Captain of the football team who detests Navarro and it goes from there. Nice poor boy/rich girl story amidst the backdrop of Yale. Well-made picture moves right long (despite being nearly 2 hours long) and has a fine cast. Ralph Graves is a standout as their coach but Henry Armetta steals the show as Navarro’s hot-tempered father! Madge is absolutely radiant throughout! ** ½

Madge Evans and Ramon Navarro

January 29th
“High Voltage” 1929 Pathe’ Exchange *
Stiff early talkie, interesting chiefly for the casting of Carole Lombard and William Boyd. Some really far-fetched story elements didn’t help. Carole and Boyd had one tender scene near the end that was done very, very well, worth the price of admission just for that. **

William Boyd, Carole Lombard, and Owen Moore January 30th

“A Gentleman’s Fate” 1931 MGM *
Fascinating tale of orphan well-to-do gentleman of leisure John Gilbert finding out he actually has a father and a brother in the bootlegging business! His father is on his deathbed and wants to see him….what transpires from there is off-beat and interesting. Louis Wolheim as always is first-rate as his brother. Leila Hyams, Anita Page and potato chip munching Marie Prevost are excellent in supporting roles. John Miljan shows up again in another slimeball role that he is just so adept at playing! A well-told story with some great cinematic flourishes! Easily one of Gilbert’s best talkies! ***

Louis Wolheim and John Gilbert

January 31st 
“Murder at the Vanities” 1934 Paramount *
Highly entertaining backstage musical murder mystery that certainly represents the apex of precodery! Jack Oakie stars as a producer on opening night trying to put on his show, meanwhile backstage all kinds of antics are occurring! Victor McLaglen plays a police detective who seems much more interested in investigating the girls more than the murders! Very fast moving and frantic, with some really outrageous musical numbers including one called “Sweet Marijuana”!!! The showgirls are practically nude for the entire film and there are some really cool Art Deco sets and costumes. Toby Wing makes several appearances, all giggles, smiles and sex on a stick! ***

Victor McLaglen, Toby Wing, and Jack Oakie

“Search For Beauty” 1934 Paramount *
Silly and entertaining film with Robert Armstrong in fine form as a fast-talking con man looking to dupe two Olympic athletes into serving as editors on his new “Health Magazine”. James Gleason is his partner, Ida Lupino, sporting the worst penciled in eyebrows ever, and Buster Crabbe, play the Dupe-ees. Toby Wing plays…oh for gods sake it doesn’t matter what she plays, she steals the whole film just by showing up! I caught Ann Sheridan, in her film debut, in two quick shots as “The Winner from Texas”. ** ½

Toby Wing strutting her abundant stuff

31 films, all in glorious black and white and all new to me! Not a bad start to 2014 as far as classic films go!

February has been designated the month to revisit classics I haven't seen in many years or just really want to see again!


Patti said...

Wow! You sure watched a lot of movies! Then again, isn't that what these cold, dreary winter days are good for!? How exciting that you were able to catch so many "new to you" films.

I've seen a few of the ones you watched, but the vast majority of them, I haven't. "Sarah and Son" is one that is on my "must watch" list this year. I am on a Fredric March kick, and I would like to catch his entire filmography (if I can) by the end of the year.

As for me, I watched only 10 films in January, and 2 of them, I turned off within 10 minutes. One of my movies, however, was a 5-star "discovery." So that makes up for the duds.

I don't normally watch so few movies, but between being sick, celebrating birthdays, and working on a genealogy project, I just didn't have the chance to watch more. February may not be much better, since the Olympics will be on.

Artman2112 said...

i still cant wrap my mind around turning a film off after 10 mins or whatever. once i start it i am committed to it no matter how bad it is haha! nothing wrong with a Fred-a-thon thats for sure! i hope you are feeling better now!

Kristina Dijan said...

this was a great read. Like enjoying a peek into fellow movie buffs' collections, we love to know what everyone's watching too. Many I haven't seen and want to now. Cheers

Artman2112 said...

Hi Kristina! thanks for reading and commenting! part of my motivation for posting this was in the hopes of drumming up some interest in others to seek out titles they might not have been aware of but might enjoy seeing! I'm going to do this at the end of every month so stay tuned!

Raquel Stecher said...

I'm enjoying this round-up posts you are doing!