Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Talking heads

 The commonality of a language. Here are some of the building blocks of that language.

Film History by Decade: 100 Years of Movies written and edited by Tim Dirks

 Anna Christie (1930), 86 minutes, D: Clarence Brown
Film adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's play. One of the earliest talkies, noted for the film in which silent star Greta Garbo first speaks. Her first line of dialogue: "Gimme a viskey..." Garbo plays an ex-prostitute who returns home to locate her barge captain father. She falls in love with a seaman (Charles Bickford), and must tell him and her father about her past.

Blonde Venus (1932), 92 minutes, D: Josef von Sternberg
A camp classic. Helen Faraday (Marlene Dietrich), a cabaret singer, is also a loving mother and wife who sells herself to nightclub owner and wealthy playboy Nick Townsend (Cary Grant) in order to pay for her scientist husband Edward's (Herbert Marshall) medical bills so that he can go for treatment in Europe. Her husband is an American chemist dying of radium poisoning. Upon his return from treatment, he discovers her liaison with Townsend and files for divorce and custody of their son Johnny (Dickie Moore). In the end, her husband realizes that her sacrifice was for his cure, and they are reconciled.

Grand Hotel (1932), 112 minutes, D: Edmund Goulding
An MGM all-star classic film and soap opera - Best Picture-winning film. World War I is over, and Berlin's beautiful, art-deco Grand Hotel is busy with the intersecting lives and destinies of its glamorous guests in a 24-hour period. The dramatic ensemble cast includes a weary, unloved and lonely ballerina Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), a financially-destitute nobleman and jewel-thief Baron Felix von Gaigern (John Barrymore) who she falls in love with, a sexy hotel stenographer Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford) who meets a dying clerk Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore) searching for a last fling, and a crude industrialist Gen. Director Preysing (Wallace Beery).

Dinner at Eight (1933), 113 minutes, D: George Cukor
A star packed classic masterpiece. A Park Avenue snob Mrs. Oliver Jordan (Billie Burke) invites an assortment of guests to come to a formal dinner party, ignoring the ailments of her husband (Lionel Barrymore). From the time of the invitations to the actual dinner party, vignettes tell the story of the invited individuals, including forgotten stage star Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), fading matinee idol Larry Renault (John Barrymore), and the battling Packard couple including brassy blonde Kitty (Jean Harlow) and entrepreneur Dan (Wallace Beery)

I'm No Angel (1933), 87 minutes, D: Wesley Ruggles
One of Mae West's funniest films. The star of a side show act is carnival dancer and lion tamer Tira (Mae West). She pursues playboy Jack Clayton (Cary Grant), but later sues him for breach of promise. In the hilarious courtroom scene, he counters by assembling all her ex-lovers, but then allows her to win the case.

Little Women (1933), 117 minutes, D: George Cukor
Regarded as the best of all versions. A delightful and faithful screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic American story of the March sisters and the sorrows and joys of the New England family. Father March has gone off to fight in the Civil War, so the family is left with four very independent sisters who are all coming of age, including an outstanding Katharine Hepburn as tomboy Jo, who wants to be a writer. Each of the sisters finds independence and strength, and some find romance.

Cleopatra (1934), 102 minutes, D: Cecil B. DeMille
DeMille's extravagant production of the spectacular historical epic of the Egyptian Queen of the Nile. Seductive, mysterious, and voluptuous Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) flirts openly with Roman lovers. After the death of Julius Caesar (Warren William), she focuses her attention on Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxon).

Imitation of Life (1934), 106 minutes, D: John M. Stahl
The film adaptation of Fannie Hurst's melodramatic novel. A sentimental soap opera about an ambitious widow/working girl Beatrice Pullman (Claudette Colbert), her daughter Jessie (Rochelle Hudson at age 18), her black housekeeper/maid Delilah Johnson (Louise Beavers), and her maid's daughter Peola (Fredi Washington at age 19) whose light complexion enables her to pass for white. Beatrice goes into a successful pancake restaurant business with Delilah. The film deals with disappointments in personal relationships and questions of identity and racial confusion.

The Thin Man (1934), 93 minutes, D: W.S. Van Dyke
Based on the Dashiell Hammett detective story. The first (and considered the best) in the entertaining series of six films, the debut of the charismatic, beloved team of Powell/Loy as the suave, sophisticated, happy, and fun-loving detective couple. Retired police detective Nick (William Powell) and wealthy wife Nora Charles (Myrna Loy), with the help of their dog Asta, are asked to investigate the disappearance/murder of Dorothy Wynant's (Maureen O'Sullivan) missing father, screwball inventor Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis). With witty dialogue, clever bantering between the two, wisecracks, sophisticated humor, romance, and an intriguing plot.

The 39 Steps (1935), 87 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
One of the all-time great thrillers, Hitchcock's first great masterpiece. In London, a visiting/vacationing Canadian rancher Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) attends a Palladium vaudeville act. When a shot rings out, he ends up in the company of a frightened woman, a female British agent Miss Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim). He is given a map of Scotland and told about an international spy ring (with vital national security secrets) run by a man missing part of one finger. Sheltering her for the night, she is murdered, and he finds himself as an innocent man who must avoid police authorities (who suspect him of the murder) and avoid pursuit by spies (who want to silence him). He takes on her mission, and following the only clues he has, ends up in Scotland. On the way, he is handcuffed by the spies to a strange woman Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), who at first hates him believing he is a criminal, but ends up in love with him and helping him solve the case.

Camille (1936), 110 minutes, D: George Cukor
The film version of Alexander Dumas' novel, with Greta Garbo's greatest performance in one of the best romantic films of all time. Marguerite, "lady of the camellias" (Greta Garbo), a lovely Parisian courtesan (prostitute) is a kept woman by wealthy Baron de Varville (Henry Daniell). She falls in love with Armand (Robert Taylor), a young innocent man, but then sacrifices herself for him when his father (Lionel Barrymore) asks her to give him up. With a classic, tearjerking death scene conclusion.

My Man Godfrey (1936), 94 minutes, D: Gregory La Cava
One of the first and best of the screwball comedies, a very zany, humorous classic. A group of extremely wealthy Park Avenue socialites holds a scavenger hunt, and one of the participants, ditzy blonde Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) finds a "forgotten man" at the dump for her list of odd items. The down-and-out, unemployed and homeless bum Godfrey Parke (William Powell) is in fact a blueblood who has had a run of romantic bad luck, a product of the Depression. Back at the party in the hotel, he speaks to the crowd about the insensitivity of their quest. She gives him a job as the family butler and brings him home. In the wealthy, snobbish household, he attempts to set things straight, teaches them a few lessons, and ultimately marries Irene.

Now playing: Morrissey - That's How People Grow Up


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Beautiful, beautiful Cary.

Daniel-Halifax said...

Wonderful movies! Wonderful song!

Jon said...

Some of the best films of all time are there - congratulations on gathering them all together in one, glittering, place! Jx

Benjamin said...

HOBAC - You are a GENIUS...

Thea Beasley, formally known as Talitha Love.... said...

Dear Mr/Mrs HOBAC,

I've been reading your blog for quite some time, even before you took your hiatus. I fretted that you had gone away, and was so happy when you returned.
Never had the nerve to list you, as that seems such a personal thing, but tonight I find that I am listed on your blog roll!!!!
Ok, am just GOBSMACKED!, and incredibly complimented, and attempted to email you through the usual sources, but I am not that savvy, so am sending this as a "comment" with very huge, heartfelt thanks.
I am officially signing on as a follower, placing you on my blog roll, like it or not, and forever in the debt of your graciousness.

Thea Beasley

Jamie Herzlinger said...

You hit it on the head! Those are some of thee best movies ever made! Thank you for great references!
Jamie Herzlinger

victoria thorne said...

can't get this out of my head; will have to have a hobac filmfest this fall. there's no two ways about it.

HOBAC said...

TB - 'tis I who should thank you. I adore your blog and it has taken me off on many an unexpected and wonderful tangent.