Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stage Door (1937)

Going through all these old movies, it's easy for the titles to blend together and I struggle keeping them straight sometimes afterward. Most of them are enjoyable and entertaining, but very few stand out. Stage Door is definitely one of the stand-outs.

The primary setting is a boarding house for women struggling to become actors in New York City. They talk throughout the movie with the speed and wit of the Gilmore Girls, but instead of two of them, it's a houseful. It's a fantastic blend of hilarious one-liners and heartfelt emotional drama starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers (sorry, no Fred Astaire here).

64 to go...

John Ford

One of the great, early American film makers, John Ford was referred by Frank Capra as the "king of directors" and Orson Welles said his three favorite directors were "John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford." Ford won a still record holding four Academy Awards for Best Director.

The first of these was for The Informer (1935) which I just watched. Unfortunately, this is not one that stands up as well against time as most of Ford's other work. The protagonist is Gypo, a dim-witted thug who turns in a fellow criminal to collect the reward money, then blows it all during a night on the town. Gypo is played larger than life by Victor McLaglen, to the point that he is comically overacting. It was a performance that earned him the Oscar back then but would easily land him the Razzie today.

Ford's other Oscar wins were for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and The Quiet Man (1952). He was additionally nominated for Stagecoach (1939) and directed many other classics including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962) and My Darling Clementine (1946).

65 to go...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Les Miserables (1935)

I was excited to watch this after hearing it was one of the more faithful adaptations of the book (one of my all-time favorites), though when I saw the run-time was a mere 1:48 I knew everything would have to be insanely rushed.

It started off well enough, but then they seemed to realize they weren't going to have the time necessary and just ended the story suddenly. Marius (Cosette's love) isn't introduced until nearly the end of the entire movie.

The film is well cast and well acted, but anything shy of a mini-series will always be inherently incapable of doing justice to Hugo's masterpiece.


66 to go...

Top Hat (1935)

Though the formula for romantic comedies is the same today as it's been since movies began (boy meets girl, some misunderstanding causes boy to lose girl, misunderstanding is resolved and boy gets girl back), they just don't seem to work as well as they used to. It may be as simple as they didn't have to try as hard in the past and that ease shows on screen.

Top Hat isn't great, but it's very enjoyable and a far better choice than whatever the latest Adam Sandler and/or Jennifer Aniston picture is. It is also, incidentally, the movie that they show to John Coffey in The Green Mile.

67 to go...