#47 The Roaring Twenties

Watched: October 17 2016

Director: Raoul Walsh

Starring: James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Priscilla Lane, Gladys George, Jeffrey Lynn, Frank McHugh

Year: 1939

Runtime: 1h 46min

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It’s World War One and two guys are doing their best to smoke a cigarette in a shell hole during the fighting. A third guy joins them and they gradually strike up a friendship despite being from very different walks of life; Eddie Bartlett (Cagney) is a mechanic, George Hally (Bogart) is the son of a bar owner, and Lloyd Hart (Lynn) is a lawyer.

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Sharing a smoke and a shell hole in WWI = best friends forever!

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Upon returning home after the war, the three go their seperate ways and we follow Bartlett as he goes back to his old friend and his old job only to find that the world has moved on and there’s no work for him. To make matters even worse, Eddie decides to look up his old penpal from the war, Jean (the ridiculously gorgeous Priscilla Lane), and discovers she’s a school kid. To his credit, he walks away.

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“I’ll just look you up in three years, dollface!”

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He moves in with his friend Danny Green (McHugh) and they take turns driving Danny’s taxi to make a living. After Eddie is arrested for unwittingly smuggling rum into a bar, he realises that there’s money in illegal alcohol and he starts producing and delivering his own, with the help of Danny, the fabulous Panama Smith (George) and his old lawyer friend from the war. He makes it big, runs into (the now legal) Jean again and starts to pursue her, with varied success. She tries, but fails, to fall in love with Eddie.

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“I appreciate the job and the pressies, but I think I’m just gonna fuck your friend instead. #friendzone!”

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George Hally comes back into their lives and the business keeps growing. However, Hally’s ruthlessness and tendency towards violence push Lloyd away and drive Eddie to become more violent himself. When prohibition ends, Eddie has lost it all – his business, his girl, his best friends and his sobriety. Panama stands by him, but he becomes a drunk and reverts to taxi driving again.

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While Hally keeps up his violent criminal career with considerable more success.

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Eddie is short tempered, proud and impulsive, but he’s not a really bad guy, more a victim of circumstance and his own ambition. Hally is more the psychopath – the one who delights in violence and excessive force. Panama and Danny are easily the most likable characters, and in many ways the most innocent victims of Eddie and Hally.

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She’s also the most fabulous character. You can’t go wrong with polka dots and feathers!

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We loved the voice-over and the documentary feel of The Roaring Twenties. The plot and the characters are intriguing and the film was strangely educational, like a very engaging history lesson. Our love for James Cagney is still going strong – whether he’s playing a gangster or he’s dancing and singing, he is mesmerizing.

What we learned: don’t drink and drive, kids! Also, we learned a lot of stuff about the USA between 1920 and 1939. Thank you, voice-over dude!

Next time: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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#46 The Lady Vanishes

Watched: September 17 2016

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty, Paul Lukas

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 36min

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In a remote European town, a train is delayed due to an avalanche. A random assortment of tourists are forced to spend the night in a hotel and interact with each other. We meet a gang of young women, one of whom is on her way home to England to get married; some cricket obsessed Brits, a judge and his mistress, an arrogant musician and an old retired governess.

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The nun comes later.

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After the (undiscovered) murder of a busker in the night, the tourists are sent on their merry way the next day. Iris Henderson (Lockwood), the lady about to be married, shares a compartment with Miss Froy (Whitty), the retired governess, and they spend the first part of the train ride in each other’s company. However, after a nap (brought on by a mild concussion from a mysterious accident at the train station), Iris wakes up to the old lady having vanished. In addition, everyone in her compartment denies her ever having been there, saying she must be a figment of Iris’ imagination (or brain injury). Cue mystery!

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“An old lady? We’ve never seen anything of the sort. And why would we lie? We’re not at all sinister foreign types in a xenophobic Europe!”

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Iris teams up with Gilbert (Redgrave), the annoying musician she had a less than pleasant run-in with the previous night and together they start investigating the missing lady, with the occasional help from fellow passenger Dr. Hartz (Lukas). Naturally, things are more complex than they seem at first, and the plot, as they say, thickens.

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“So, let me get this straight: the old lady vanishes, then she reappears but it’s not the same lady, then there’s a severe Italian lady who lies about it, then a judge and his mistress who also lie, as do a couple of Brits because of a cricket match and then there’s a creepy nun..?” “Yes. And there’s also an escape artist. But he escapes.” “I see… Makes prefect sense!”

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This is a good old-fashioned mystery film with intrigue, espionage and international politics (which was important in 1938 as you can imagine). There’s also romance, humour and a wonderful cast of characters, and there’s an action packed shootout towards the end (always fun!). Hitchcock films are always interesting to watch, both due to the contents as well as beautiful and inventive shots. We love and cherish it!

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Also, the lady is adorable!

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What we learned: There’s always a conspiracy.

Next time: The Roaring Twenties (1939)

#45 The Adventures of Robin Hood

Watched: September 30 2016

Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, and Una Freaking O’Connor!

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you: our first feature film in glorious technicolor! And what a film! Swashbuckling heroes, forbidden romance, great fight scenes and men in tights! What more can two ladies ask for on a Friday night?

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Perhaps a cheeky bastard defying authority while carrying a big piece of meat..?

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The evil Prince John (Rains) and his sidekick Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Rathbone) start a reign of terror against the Saxons in the absence of John’s brother, King Richard the Lion Heart, who’s in captivity after fighting in the crusades. However, one Saxon nobleman will not be subdued – Robin of Locksley, a.k.a. Robin Hood (Flynn), the sassy leader of a band of merry men who make it their mission to protect the people and defy the rule of the Norman upper classes.

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“We’ll start sharing our loot with the oppressed once we’ve paid off these matching outfits. We should have considered the price of green dye before deciding on this colour scheme…”

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Robin, Little John, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck and the other famous and beloved characters from the Robin Hood legends not only rob from the rich and give to the poor, they also assassinate all who threaten, torture and/or kill Saxons. Which John did in abundance.

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His mistake was going full oppressor. You never go full oppressor.

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This was one of the best Friday nights we’ve had in a while (sad, we know..). The colours are really vibrant (particularly after so many weeks of black and white films) and the characters are fun and cheeky – especially Flynn’s Robin. There’s bravery, political activist women (though turned that way by love for a man), the glorious Una O’Connor (imagine our happiness when we spotted her!), wonderful fight sequences (some in shadow), humour, romance, suspense and a great score.

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We must admit to a weakness for men who shoot arrows while on horseback. But only in historical clothing.

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Another interesting detail is that for macho men, the outlaws are very happy to be shown up by others. We think a lot of people can learn something from them about lightening up and not taking themselves so seriously…

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Like these guys.

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What we learned: unlike other Robin Hoods, he can speak with an English accent. (Okay, we’re Norwegian and not particularly good at distinguishing accents in English, and we know that Flynn was Australian so this may be a blatant lie, but dammit! Men in Tights [1993] is NOT on the list, and this may be our only chance to quote the great Cary Elwes in this blog, so we’re bloody well going to go for it!)

Next time: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

#44 Bringing Up Baby

Watched: September 17 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Screwball comedies are always fun, and Bringing Up Baby is no exception. This was another rewatch which we enjoyed as much as the first time around (despite our dislike of having wild animals as pets).

Paleontologist David Huxley (Grant) is trying to assemble a Brontosaurus skeleton and also secure a 1 million dollar donation to his museum. Meanwhile, his path keeps crossing that of heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn) who, after several chance encounters, falls madly in love with him and comes up with increasingly complicated excuses to keep him near.

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You can see why she likes him. It takes a man secure in his masculinity to pull off this look.

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Susan, believing David is a zoologist, talks (read: cons and guilts) him into helping her transport her leopard, Baby, to Connecticut, and the scenes with them singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” to soothe the (relatively small) cat are among the funniest in the film.

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“Are you sure this is going to work? Because right now she looks at me like I’m lunch…”

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There are mix ups, wardrobe malfunctions, romance, snappy dialogue and everything else you’d want in a farcical screwball comedy. Grant and Hepburn are adorable – their performances and chemistry really make the film, and Hepburn is amazingly good at balancing being annoying with being wonderfully charming. In the end, Susan saves David from a entering into a disastrous marriage, and he finally has all the bones he needs to finish his Brontosaurus. All in all, a happy ending, and we had a blast with this one.

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“Well, fellas, I’m not gonna brag, but despite the connotations of this pose, I will fight the temptation to make a dick joke. You’re welcome.”

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What we learned: when a man is wrestling a leopard in a pond he is in no position to run anywhere. Also, there’s an abundance of leopards in Connecticut in spring.

Next time: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

#43 Angels with Dirty Faces

Watched: September 20 2016

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 37min

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It is laundry day in downtown New York (we think?), and friends Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly are up to no good. After bullying some passing girls, they decide to steal some fountain pens (cause that’s what bad boys did in the ’20s) and Rocky is caught. He goes to juvenile detention where he learns to be an even better criminal and spends the next 13 years in and out of prison.

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In between stints in prison, he stays busy coaching basketball, as one does

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After being released a final time, Rocky (Cagney) goes back to his old neighbourhood and meets up again with childhood cohort Jerry (O’Brien) who is now a priest. Despite their different lifestyles, their old friendship stays strong and the gangster even helps the priest with some of the “dead end kids” who Jerry is trying to save from a life of crime.

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He also corrupts them of course, but only out of necessity

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While Rocky might initially have tried to get back on the right track, it doesn’t take him long to return to a life of crime, partly due to local crime kingpin Frazier (Bogart) who tries to have him killed. He does not take kindly to this and exacts his revenge by kidnapping Frazier and forcing him into a partnership.

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“Whadda ya mean taking the money and leaving would be smarter than getting into business with the man who tried to have me killed?”

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Eventually, Rocky’s escapades threaten not only his relationship with his girl Laury (Sheridan) but also the one with Jerry, who launches his own campaign to overthrow the corrupt officials and the gangsters who secretly run the town. After a shootout with the police, Rocky is arrested again and sentenced to death. Jerry comes to see him before the execution and begs him to sacrifice his ego and pride to save the dead end boys, which leads to one of the most emotionally devastating scenes we’ve ever seen (possibly worse than the Tramp’s New Year’s dinner in The Gold Rush).

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Will he or won’t he do his old friend one last favour? The results might shock you!

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Angels With Dirty Faces is in a way an early condamnation of the American justice system, and the arguments (nor the realities of the system) haven’t changed much over the years. It’s a beautiful, gripping gangster film with excellent performances and a truly heartbreaking ending. Even though we were both in tears in the end, we loved it.

What we learned: Whadda ya hear, whadda ya say?

Next time: Bringing Up Baby (1938)

#42 The Awful Truth

Watched: September 18 2016

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy, Cecil Cunningham

Year: 1937

Runtime: 1h 31min

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After jealous misunderstandings and unexplained absences, Lucy and Jerry Warriner (Dunne and Grant, respectively) decide to get a divorce.

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“Meet Lucy and Jerry Warriner. Toast of the upper crust, headliners on the society pages… And oh yes, they’re getting divorced!”

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While waiting for their divorce to be finalized, Lucy moves in with her glorious aunt Patsy (Cunningham) and strikes up a romance with oil-rich idiot Daniel Leeson (Bellamy) who lives next door with his mother. Meanwhile, after a short affair with a showgirl, Jerry strikes up a relationship with socialite Barbara Vance, much to Lucy’s dismay.

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“You know as well as I do she won’t make you nearly as happily unhappy as me.”

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Through their shared custody of their dog, the soon-to-be divorcees are forced to meet each other on a regular basis, and they take every opportunity to try to sabotage each other’s affairs, with hilarious consequences. In addition, Aunt Patsy is always at hand with wonderfully snarky remarks.

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Aunt Patsy embodies snarkiness and delightful dance moves – all the things we aspire to possess!

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This was a new one for us, and a new favourite at that. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant were both great (they remind us strangely of Frank and Sadie Doyle, though without the supernatural complications), but our new role model is easily Cecil Cunningham’s Aunt Patsy. That girl was life! The Awful Truth is funny, charming, and has plenty of gorgeous outfits, and we loved it completely.

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What we learned: actually, what we didn’t learn was what the hell Jerry was really doing when he was supposedly in Florida??? Also, Aunt Patsy taught us the definition and consequences of rebound guys.

Next time: Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

#41 Modern Times

Watched: September 17 2016

Director:  Charles Chaplin

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard

Year: 1936

Runtime: 1h 27min

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Modern Times is Charlie Chaplin’s comment on the Great Depression and the struggles of modern society, and he is clear in his condemnation of the eradication of humanity within the capitalist ideals of modern industrialisation.

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Political, yet adorable

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The Tramp has got a job working in a factory straight out of Metropolis, and spends his time turning screws on an assembly line to maximise efficiency. After his boss tries out a new “feeding machine” on him (to reduce break time and thereby increase production), he finally snaps and has a mental breakdown.

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We’re not entirely clear on how this would increase efficiency, but it’s a great scene.

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To his credit, Chaplin has the most adorable mental breakdowns. A lot of dancing is involved

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After being advised to “take it easy and avoid excitement,” he inadvertently leads a worker demonstration and is arrested. In prison, he gets high on cocaine (again, without really realising it) and stops a mass breakout, earning him a position as the jailers’ pet.

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The prize for helping terminate a prison break: tea with this charming lady!

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He gets out of jail against his will (in prison, he is given food and clothes, which is quite a high quality of life during the depression) and immediately starts trying to find ways in which to get back in. He finds his opportunity when a young girl is caught stealing a loaf of bread, and he takes the fall for her.

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Cue depression era romance/father-daughter relationship/friendship or similar

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The girl (Goddard) and the Tramp spend the remainder of the film trying to make a life for themselves, working as singing and dancing waiters in a café while doing their best to keep her out of the claws of something equivalent to Child Protective Services (which is where her siblings went after their father died). There are many complications, and some wonderful scenes (including an amazing skating bit in a shopping centre) but the two of them manage to be quite happy together even though their lives are unstable at best.

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They find that life is still worthwhile if they just smile

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Modern Times is a beautiful and melancholy film which we really enjoyed. We loved the girl and her feisty and proactive personality, and the Tramp, though a hazard and fairly egocentric, was charming and funny. It was also interesting to go back to silent films after so many talkies, where everything spoken was recorded, broadcast through a machine or sung. One of our favourite Chaplin films for sure!

What we learned: once younger siblings are removed from your life, you never spare them another thought.

Next time: The Awful Truth (1937)

#40 Top Hat

Watched: September 28 2016

Director: Mark Sandrich

Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Jerry Travers (Astaire), an American dancer and Broadway star, is bringing his talent to Britain. Producer Horace Hardwick (Horton) and his wife Madge (Broderick) have a plan that their newly imported star should be married (and Madge has an idea as to who his wife should be), but Travers politely disagrees. So of course he falls in love. With the downstairs neighbour Dale Tremont (Rogers) who he annoys by tap dancing on her roof before he drowns her in flowers and sort of kidnaps her. This being an old-timey romantic musical screwball comedy though, he does these things in a very charming and endearing way

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“In dealing with a girl or horse, one just lets nature take its course” – actual quotation

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Their romance is complicated further when Dale (who incidentally is the Jerry’s intended wife) mistakes Jerry for Horace and believes him to be married to her friend Madge. She goes off to Venice with designer Alberto Beddini to meet up with the “betrayed” wife, followed by the admirably dedicated valet Bates (Blore – our favourite).

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“May we take your hat, your coat, and stalk your crush for you, sir?”

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After the very successful opening night performance, Travers and Hardwick charter a plane to Venice themselves, and Tremont decides to play a trick on her “dishonourable” suitor, which backfires horribly and leaves her even more confused. However, this being a comedy, it all works out in the end (thanks to Bates).

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“Thank God Beddini and I never got around to actually…dancing.”

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The plot is farcical and frustrating but it has its moments, some of them laugh-out-loud. Top Hat has an excellent cast of characters – mainly Madge Hardwick and Bates, both of whom we now adore and want to spend our lives with. The real reasons to watch the film though, are the spectacular dance numbers and the amazing costumes. If you like that sort of thing. And let’s face it – who doesn’t.

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Ah – bliss!

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What we learned: For the girls – the kiss. For the men – the sword! Also, SILENCE! Must be observed in the club rooms.

Next time: Modern Times (1936)

#39 Bride of Frankenstein

Watched: September 10 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester, Valerie Hobson, Una O’Connor

Year: 1935

Runtime: 1h 15min

Liquids consumed: inordinate amounts of wine…

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Dr. Frankenstein learned absolutely nothing from the events of the first film and is back to repeat his past mistakes.

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“I nearly died myself, therefore no one can criticize me!”

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Both the good(?) doctor and his creation survived the burning windmill at the end of Frankenstein and they are back. The creation (KARLOFF! KARLOFF! KARLOFF!) doesn’t exactly redeem himself in the beginning, by killing both parents of the girl he inadvertently drowned in the first film.

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In his defense, he was probably still slightly agitated from all the burning people had been doing to him lately

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Again, the creature is captured, but no chains can bind him! He escapes into the woods where he eventually meets up with a lonely old blind man who takes care of him and treats his injuries.

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Pictured: one of the most beautiful meetings in cinema history

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The old hermit treats him like a person and teaches him humanity and compassion, something his creator failed to do. Of course, eventually angry villagers destroy his peace and he must once again go into hiding.

Meanwhile, Henry Frankenstein (Clive) is nursed back to health by Elizabeth (Hobson). When he recovers, he swears off playing God for the foreseeable future. That is, until his old mentor Dr. Pretorius (Thesiger) comes calling and lures him back in.

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“Behold: the fruit of my loins; the tiny results of my seed!” “Wow! How did you do this?” “Ehm… Let’s not get into the details, shall we…”

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Pretorius befriends the creature and promises him a spouse. They convince (read: force) Frankenstein to assist them, and together the two scientists create a cultural icon (Lanchester).

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The inspiration for many a Halloween costume and gothic wet dream

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If you haven’t seen this one, we have no idea what you are waiting for. The cast is brilliant; the effects are very impressive (such as the tiny seed-people), the sets are wonderfully stylistic and the film is beautifully lit. Like the first installation in the Frankenstein series, the story is loosely based on Mary Shelley’s novel, but a lot of liberties are taken with the story and the characters. They try to pay tribute to the author though, by introducing Shelley with her trophy husband Percy Bysshe and their mutual friend Lord Byron in the beginning of the film, but here Mary sort of comes off as a silly little girl which doesn’t do her justice. Still, it’s a nice nod to the creator of it all (although it gave Sister the Oldest flashbacks to certain scenes in Gothic [1986]).

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“I still love her… But we belong dead…”

What we learned: Dr. Pretorius must have won some sort of masturbation championship to create so much life from his seeds.

Next time: Top Hat (1935)