#38 A Night at the Opera

Watched: September 10 2016

Director: Sam Wood

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 36min

anightattheopera680713544large1024x808

Source

Is there anything left to say on the Marx Brothers? We think not, and so we will not, except to tell you to watch this one too. Boom! Shortest blog entry in 1000filmsblog history!

nightattheopera
Cue out-of-context pictures

Source

nightattheopera2

Source

a-night-at-the-opera-marx-brothers-15827363-1280-1024

Source

What we learned: we still love the Marx Brothers. Groucho is still the most quotable bastard in movie history. Chico is still our favourite pianist. Harpo is still creepily likable. Zeppo is still oddly replaceable…

Next time: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Advertisements

#37 Twentieth Century

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 31min

twentieth-century-1934-poster-4

Source

Lingerie model Mildred Plotka (Lombard) has been discovered by theatre producer/director Oscar Jaffe (Barrymore) who wants to make her a star, despite the protests of his coproducers and assistants. He renames her Lily Garland, manages to “mine her performance for gold” and their play is a huge success, making her an overnight sensation.

annex-barrymore-john-twentieth-century_nrfpt_01
“I’m so glad you saw the talent in me and in no way hired me for my looks or the allure of me being a lingerie model!”

Source

Fast forward three plays and while their working relationship is still productive and successful, his manipulative behaviour has all but driven her away. When he hires a private detective to watch her every move, she finally has enough and runs away to Hollywood where she becomes a film star.

holuy
Still a better love story than Twilight, as the old internet adage goes.

Source

After her departure, Jaffe struggles to produce another success, fails miserably, and is eventually wanted by the law for dodging debtors. While evading the police, he boards the Twentieth Century Limited, a train where Garland is also a passenger. When Jaffe learns of her presence, he starts plotting how to get her back under his thumb.

annex-lombard-carole-twentieth-century_01
It goes about as well as you’d expect

Source

Despite both main characters being narcissistic, manipulative bastards, they’re strangely charming and they really do deserve each other. Barrymore’s Jaffe is hilarious and fun in his flamboyancy and in the way he always thinks in terms of staging, and Lombard’s Garland is wonderfully divaesque. With great gags (“Baptist!”) and entertaining supporting characters in the increasingly drunk cohorts, this is a great watch with a bottle of wine and in a fabulous dress on a Saturday night. Or in any other setting, really. We’re not the bosses of you.

twentiethcentury39
May they live unhappily ever after!

Source

What we learned: the old south does not yodel. Also, we never thought we’d sink so low as to be actors.

Next time: A Night at the Opera (1935)

#36 The Scarlet Empress

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: Josef von Sternberg

Starring: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 44min

the_scarlet_empress-989929865-large

Source

Innocent princess Sophia of Germany (Dietrich) has been chosen to marry Russia’s Grand Duke Peter (Jaffe) and is fetched from her German palace by the illegitimate offspring of Vlad Tepes and Titi Suru the Rock’n’Roll Wolf, Count Alexei (Lodge).

800full-the-scarlet-empress-screenshot-jpg
“When in wolf form, father Vlad had certain…appetites… And once he found himself wandering into a Russian ballet musical. The rest is history.”

Source

Inexperienced and sheltered as she is, she naturally falls for the animalistic wolf-man before arriving in Russia, and falls for him doubly once she meets the “imbecilic royal halfwit” she is to marry. However, she is a woman of her word and keeps her promise to bring new blood into the Russian royal family (and about time too, judging by her husband).

wedding
“She is so lucky to be marrying me!”

Source

Exposed to the harsh realities of life in the household of the Russian Empress (Dresser), the coldness of her arranged marriage, and Vlad Suru’s reputation as a Lothario (kind of like his fathers, we guess) the once innocent child becomes Catherine the Great, a seductive and intelligent ruler who will no longer be a pawn in other people’s power games. Instead, she’ll play her own.

scarlet
And she’ll play them in style

Source

This movie is epic in scope, violent and stunning, beautifully scored with themes from Wagner and Tchaikovsky among others (they’re the ones we could recognize anyway), and really well acted. The costumes, tableaux and sets are amazing (we love the grotesques everywhere in the castle), and there are so many huge, impressive scenes that you tend to wonder how much money was put into this production. We’re guessing a lot. But that is a conservative estimate – it may have been much more. The Scarlet Empress is an epic ride from start to finish, and we loved it!

poster-scarlet-empress-the_02
“How do you do, I’m Titi Suru, friendliest wolf you’ve met.”

Source

What we learned: rebound sex is an old, time honoured tradition.

Next time: Twentieth Century (1934)

#35 The Man Who Knew Too Much

Watched: September 21 2016 (delayed Blu-Ray delivery meant we couldn’t watch in order)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Peter Lorre, Edna Best, Leslie Banks, Nova Pilbeam

Year: 1934

Runtime: 1h 15min

the_man_who_knew_too_much_1934_poster

Source

Jill (Best) and Bob (Banks) Lawrence have brought their daughter Betty (Pilbeam) on a holiday in the Swiss alps, expecting no trouble apart from stories to bore their friends with upon returning to England. They befriend a Frenchman called Louis who is assassinated on the dance floor on his last day at the resort.

0098
Literally assassinated – not just served

Source

Before he dies, he manages to give Jill instructions about a very important message which must be brought to the British consul. Bob retrieves the message from the dead man’s room, but before the couple has time to talk to anyone from the consul, they receive a note saying their daughter is kidnapped and will be killed if they talk.

manwhoknewtoomuch02
“Is it worth it though, darling? I mean, we could always make another. How fond of her are you really..?”

Source

The Lawrences decide not to risk their only child’s life and return to London pretending Betty’s with an aunt in Paris and not at all kidnapped and held by some secret society plotting the assassination of a foreign dignitary. Since they cannot confide in the police, Lawrence goes after the bad guys himself and manages to track them down rather easily.

0399
When in doubt, gas and impersonate a dentist until you overhear the information you need. Works nine times out of ten!

Source

Of course, it goes as it must, and soon both father and daughter are hostages. It’s up to Mama to save the day.

manwhoknewtoomuch2
“This never would have happened to Liam Neeson. Damn my lack of a particular set of skills!”

Source

We won’t reveal the ending (except to mention that there’s a shoot out!), but we urge you to watch this film. There’s suspense, intrigue, international politics and espionage, and there’s Peter Lorre being almost as creepy as he was in M. There are also some truly hilarious scenes, such as when Bob and friend/cohort Clive sing messages to each other in church and the ensuing chair fight with organ music accompaniment. Hitchcock really knew how to build suspense (in case no one’s pointed this out before) and while this is a fairly early work compared to some of his more famous masterpieces, The Man Who Knew Too Much is still a good example of his skills. The silence helps build the tension (there’s no score for most of the film) and some of the scenes literally had us on the edge of our seats.

manwhoknewtoomuch03
How did they end up on the roof? Will they get down? Why is his head so big? Who are these people anyway? Watch the movie to have at least three of these questions answered!

Source

What we learned: Peter Lorre used to be typecast as a child killer. Dentists are always in on evil plots.

Next time: The Scarlet Empress (1934)

#34 Dames

Watched: September 5 2016

Director: Busby Berkeley & Ray Enright

Starring: Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Guy Kibbee, Hugh Herbert

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 31min

dames-poster

Source

Ezra Ounce (Herbert) has got it going on. He’s rich, eccentric (but he can afford to be), and he has a purpose in life: to raise American morals and more specifically, get rid of Broadway shows. He decides to give his sister and brother-in-law $10 million on the condition that they live up to his standards of “clean living” and help him with his foundation.

dames-blondell
“We need to get rid of the filth that is cleaning ladies who actually enjoy their work!”

Source

Alas, Ounce’s niece Barbara (Keeler) and his more distant relative Jimmy (Powell) have already fallen to The Theatre (and for each other) and are busy putting on a production which Ounce decides to sabotage. However, star of the show Mabel (Blondell – who also steals the show in the film) has dirt on Barbara’s father Horace (Kibbee) and blackmails him into financing the show.

dames
Never has a man been more mortified at finding a half naked burlesque girl in his bed. His views do in no way represent the views of the studio or the producers.

Source

Eventually, the Ounce Foundation for the Elevation of American Morals attend the opening night of Jimmy’s musical and, unwittingly drunk on Dr. Silver’s Golden Elixir, enjoy every minute of it, causing them to change their views on both Jimmy and Broadway shows.

1480x1362dames_740_550_s_c1_c_c
Strange how scantily clad dames have that effect on sexually frustrated middle aged men

Source

In many ways, this seems like the most honest of the Berkeley musicals we’ve seen. “The Girl at the Ironing Board” is an unabashed male fantasy of the perfect woman whose happiest times are cleaning men’s clothes, and in the titular number “Dames” they’re not even trying to pretend that the selling point for all these films is anything other than the pretty dames. Still, we enjoyed it a lot although, in our opinion, Footlight Parade and Gold Diggers of 1933 had slightly better musical numbers.

dames1934_678x380_05312013095838
But fewer beds on stage, so we’ll call this a win.

Source

What we learned: what do we go for? Beautiful dames!

Next time: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

#33 The Invisible Man

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Una O’Connor

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 11min

the-invisible-man

Source

A man (Rains) is walking through a snow storm. He has 1/2 mile left to go to civilization. Cut to the Lion’s Head pub, a local pub for local people – there’s nothing for our man there! Nevertheless, the stranger enters and demands a room and privacy. Inn keeper Jenny Hall (O’Connor) is so done with his shit even before he is installed in his new rooms.

invisible-man-1
“A ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ never hurt anyone, mister! Coming in here with your demands and your bandages and your snow and you didn’t even shut the front door. Men!”

Source

Meanwhile, the stranger’s girlfriend Flora (Stuart) is worried about him being missing and confides in his colleague Dr Kemp (Harrigan), who promptly hits on her. Classy.

invisible-man
“Out of sight, out of mind, eh? Eh?”

Source

The stranger, who we learn is scientist Jack Griffin, has managed to turn himself invisible and is working on a cure whilst also spiralling into madness brought on by one of the drugs in the invisibility cocktail. When the Halls finally move to evict their disruptive tenant, he throws a fit and shows off just how much of a bastard he is, assaulting the landlady and going on a bit of a spree.

33891
I mean, look at that adorable face! Who would possibly hurt her?

Source

After wreaking havoc on the small village, Griffin goes to see Kemp to enlist his help in creating an antidote and taking over the world. Not necessarily in that order. From that moment on things take a turn for the worse, and murder and mayhem ensue.

invisible_man_5
“We’ll begin with a reign of terror” – actual line from the movie

Source

Despite being a horror film, this is as funny as it is scary. There’s some very entertaining slapstick (how could there not be, with a naked, invisible man with no boundries running around?), and some amazing secondary characters. Griffin himself is a megalomaniac, but it seems he has become that way after turning invisible, possibly because he is no longer confronted with himself in the mirror, or because he can now get away with pretty much anything. Or because of the “monocane” he’s injected himself with. No matter the reason, he’s kind of hilarious when he’s not running around killing people.

theinvisibleman3
“If I don’t even have a head, how can I be responsible for my actions?”

Source

This film has amazing performances, great humour and very impressive special effects and we recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

What we learned: Don’t meddle with things man is not supposed to know. Don’t do drugs of which you don’t know the full effects. Una O’Connor is amazing.

Next time: Dames (1934)

#32 Sons of the Desert

Watched: September 3 2016

Director: William A. Seiter

Starring: Stanley Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 8min

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Source

We have to be honest here, and say that this is not our favourite from the list. The opening scene is wonderful though. The “Sons of the Desert,” a second-rate freemason society, are having a meeting discussing their upcoming annual convention. Enter Laurel and Hardy (or Moss and Roy if you will), climbing over other attendees in order to get to the vacant chairs. This is by far the funniest scene in the film.

sons4
“I cannot believe they let us in. Makes me question whether membership is really worth it, considering the riff-raff they let join…”

Source

At the meeting, all members have to take an oath to attend the convention in Chicago the next week, and our two “heroes” have to figure out a way to go, given that they are both under the thumbs of their wives. Laurel, being an honest simpleton, gets permission from his wife just by asking, but Hardy tries too hard to be “the king of his own castle” and his wife forbids him to go. Thus, they must scheme and plot.

4573045_l2
“Only Honolulu can cure the man flu!”

Source

They manage to go under the pretense of traveling to Hawaii for Hardy’s health, but the ship they were supposed to come back on sinks and the wives (believing they might now be widows) go to the movies. Because that’s what you do when your spouse might be dead. There, a newsreel shows their supposedly drowned husbands at the Sons of the Desert convention and they realise they have been tricked.

sons
Thank God Hardy’s wife isn’t violent and unstable! Then she might have overreacted.

Source

There are some very funny scenes in this, some silly slapstick, a farcical plot, and a good musical number with a girl who looks like Olivia Colman and Mae Whitman had a love child (which is a good thing!) but on the whole we were slightly underwhelmed. Or possibly just whelmed. It’s OK for a hungover Sunday afternoon though.

What we learned: where the trope of nagging wives and lying husbands came from (although it’s possible that’s an even older stereotype). Also, spousal abuse is apparently hilarious if it’s from a woman to a man.

Next time: The Invisible Man (1933)

#31 King Kong

Watched: September 3 2016

Director: Merian S. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Starring: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 40min

kingkong_1933_lc_01_1800_061620061222

Source

King Kong needs no introduction, but we’ll try to summarise the plot anyway. In depression era New York, evil David Attenborough Carl Denham (Armstrong), is preparing for a journey to find a mythical beast. He has the ship and the crew ready to go, but for some reason he has trouble finding an actress willing to travel on an isolated ship with several strange men to an unknown destination. Girls used to be so picky.

King-Kong-1933-fay-wray-25
“I should have seen this coming. My mother always warned me that going on trips with strangers would result in kidnappings by prehistoric beasts”

Source

This being the depression, there is no shortage of unemployed actresses and one night on the streets of New York is enough to find a suitable girl with nothing to lose, Ann Darrow (Wray). Once at sea, Denham reveals their destination – an uncharted island known as “Skull Island” which is rumoured to be the home of a mythical creature known only as “Kong.”

king-kong-1933
“That’s King Kong to you, thankyouverymuch!”

Source

When they arrive at the island the locals are in the middle of a ceremony wherein a girl is sacrificed to be the “bride of Kong.” However, when the local chief spots Ann among the men, he decides “the golden woman” is a more suitable offering. That night, tribe members sneak aboard the Venture and kidnap Ann, and by the time the crew realise what has happened, she is already tied up and the beast is being summoned.

king-kong-1933-1
“Go me, it’s my birthday, they left a pressie for me for my birthday, gonna take my pressie with me for my birthday…”

Source

Denham, Ann’s love interest Jack Driscoll (Cabot), and several disposable crew members chase Kong and Ann into the jungle, and on the way they run into several other “monsters” such as Nessie, a couple of huge lizards and a freaking T-Rex.

King_Kong_vs_Tyrannosaurus
“No! She was MY birthday pressie! Get your own!”

Source

Eventually, Jack manages to save Ann with the help of an unwitting pterodactyl and they get back to the surviving crew members. However, Kong is quite smitten with Ann and not ready to let her go, so he follows them to the village where he eats (well, chews) a few villagers before Denham gas bombs him and transports him to New York. Because that seems like an excellent idea.

kong-king-kong-1933
What could possibly go wrong?

Source

Then, on opening night, a whole Young Frankenstein-thing happens with the flash photography of the reporters and Kong is on the loose. He finds Ann and climbs the Empire State Building with her for the climactic and iconic final scene of the film.

kk1933
This is what happens when you take extremely strong and dangerous animals and torture them. (OK, technically, this rarely happens, but we’re trying to prove a point!)

This film is another old favourite and we still love it. Sure, the effects might seem a little bit dated, but they are still impressive and it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out how each shot was done. (Yes, we’re aware that there are probably hundreds of articles and documentaries on exactly how each shot in King Kong was done, but it’s much more fun to try and analyze it yourself with limited knowledge of film making.) We heartily recommend it!

What we learned: it was Beauty killed the Beast. Also, buy a girl an apple and a cup of coffee and she’ll be in your film, no questions asked.

Next time: Sons of the Desert (1933)

#30 Gold Diggers of 1933

Watched: September 4 2016

Director:  Mervyn LeRoy & Busby Berkeley (choreography)

Starring: Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 37min

gold-diggers-of-1933

Source

“We’re in the Money,” a big Broadway number, is in rehearsal when creditors come and repossess the props, costumes and pretty much everything but the girls themselves. This is the ironic opening of yet another fabulous Busby Berkeley musical.

gold-diggers-of-1933-2
As well as another excuse to feature semi-naked ladies

Source

Yet again, the plot revolves around Broadway productions and in this one, the producer has everything he needs to put on a great show, except money. He visits the apartment of three showgirls (the titular “gold diggers”) to discuss the prospects with them and hears a composer playing the piano through an open window. The composer, Brad (Powell), is the sweetheart of one of the showgirls, Polly (Keeler), and he offers to put up $15 000 for the production on the condition that Polly gets a leading role. He himself is hired as a composer but refuses to be a stage performer.

golddiggers1933
“This face would never do on stage!”

Source

Complications arise, and as Brad is forced to perform on opening night his real identity as a member of a prominent Boston family is revealed. As his older brother J. Lawrence Bradford (William) learns of his activities and his intentions to marry a showgirl, he interferes and threatens to cut him off from his inheritance if he does not leave her. However, when the brother goes to Polly’s apartment to buy her off, he meets fellow dancer Carol (Blondell) instead and mistakes her for Polly. After he thoroughly insults her and third flatmate Trixie (MacMahon), as well as their careers, they decide to take him and his lawyer for a ride.

macmahon-blondell-keeler-1a
“Sisters before misters, bitches!”

Source

The two girls take the men out, tricking them into paying for all sorts of extravagant things along the way. Naturally, they do a Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Bradford falls for Carol despite her “low breeding” and unseemly profession.

Blondell, Joan (Gold Diggers of 1933)_02
Them dancin’ legs will take you far, however cheap and vulgar your future husband finds you

Source

After the happy ending is resolved (with no less than three weddings, in proper Shakespearean fashion) the big musical numbers hit the stage. And my god, what numbers! “The Shadow Waltz” features glow-in-the-dark violins and some truly remarkable skirts and is amazing to watch.

Gold-Diggers-1933-06
How convenient that all showgirls are also masterful violinists

Source

However, the true showstopper is the spectacular “Remember my Forgotten Man” which completely blew us away. If you have no interest in musicals and no intention of watching this film, then at least do yourself a favour and check out this number. You won’t be sorry.

GoldDiggersOf19331-750x410
This picture does not even begin to do it justice

Source

Another new favourite which solidifies our newfound love of Busby Berkeley.

What we learned: always bring a can opener to a date.

Next time: King Kong (1933)

#29 Footlight Parade

Watched: September 3 2016

Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkeley (choreography)

Starring: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 43min

footlight-25a

Source

We reiterate: we cannot put into words our newfound love of Busby Berkeley, and we cannot believe it took us this long to find out about him. Thank you, Mr Wright!

Chester Kent (Cagney) is a musical director who is quickly becoming obsolete with the rising popularity of talkies. In addition, his wife wants a divorce, but this doesn’t seem to faze him significantly.

Footlight+Parade+1933+5
Who needs a wife when you can have all this?

Source

He changes his business venture into producing musical “prologues” for movies, dealing with creative exhaustion, corrupt business partners, rival spies and romantic complication along the way. When secretary Nan’s (Blondell) old frenemy Vivian decides to crash at her place, Kent is duped by her perceived worldliness into giving her a job and a marriage proposal, much to the chagrin of Nan who is deeply in love with her boss.

Blondell, Joan (Footlight Parade)_01
Luckily, Nan is a saucy minx who knows how to divert his attention away from Vivian

Source

In order to save the business, Kent and his company need to wow cinema mogul Apolinaris with three spectacular shows to play in all his cinemas, but a rival company has infiltrated the chorus and all their ideas are being stolen. It’s pretty much Bring It On (2000) with better costumes and more sensational routines.

footlight-parade-ruby-keeler-1933
There’s also a production of Cats before it was cool

Source

In addition to the main story, there’s a sub-plot romance between secretary-cum-leading lady Bea (Keeler) and juvenile lead Scotty (Powell) which is very sweet, but not that important to the overall plot.

In the end, we are treated to three fantastic Berkeley numbers: “Honeymoon Hotel,” with lots of innuendo; “By a Waterfall,” which features some amazing water scenes; and our personal favourite (mainly for the music) “Shanghai Lil,” in which Cagney himself stars.

Footlight-Parade
We are beginning to suspect that these films were all a flimsy, high-budget excuse to feature scantily clad ladies, though

Source

footlight6
Despite some casual racism, “Shanghai Lil” amazing!

Source

Like 42nd Street, you can watch this for the story and performances (which we personally thought were slightly better in Footlight Parade), the banter and jokes, or just for the truly spectacular dance numbers. Either way, they should both definitely go on your to-do list. We’re off to watch Gold Diggers of 1933, and we can’t wait!

What we learned: As long as there are sidewalks, we have a job.

Next time: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, surprisingly enough)