The sultry “Bolero” the light Terpsichorean “Gay Divorcee” the dramatic “Of Human Bondage” and the classic Oscar-winning screwball “It Happened One Night” among others, made their debut in 1934. I’m doing a little better; seen about twenty films. Here are the list of my favorites. Don’t worry…I have more lined up on my DVR to devour.
( Garbo – “The Painted Veil” Picture her…in a disease-ravaged country. Ooh boy. )
THE BLACK CAT – ( Edgar G. Ulmer )
Atmospheric. Eerie. Disturbing. And great Art Deco. Karloff and Lugosi square off in this horror drama. Karloff has married Lugosi’s wife and daughter while Lugosi was a P.O.W. There’s all sort of Satanic cult crap going on too. The movie’s indescribable You got to see it to feel it. ( Psst! That lady between Karloff and Lugosi…in the picture on the left…that’s Lugosi’s wife, under glass. And that ain’t the half of it! )
HEAT LIGHTNING – ( Mervyn LeRoy )
Aline MacMahon runs away from past by working in a gas station out in the Mojave Desert taking her sister with her. That doesn’t mean her past doesn’t follow her out there. MacMahon’s magnificent. If there’s any justice, TCM would show this at their next festival. You can read a complete review of this movie: here.
IMITATION OF LIFE – ( John Stahl )
The unschmaltzy version features Claudette Colbert and Louise Beaver as two mothers who face problems raising their daughters. Fredi Washington gives one of the heartbreaking performance of the 30’s as a young woman who doesn’t fit comfortably in either race. Killer!
THIN MAN – ( W.S. VanDyke )
I could pour the nitrate sheen of this b&w into a Martini-glass and drink it straight. No chaser. The Granddaddy of ‘em all, here’s where we first see Nick and Nora Charles who make marriage, drinking ( and solving murder ) look like fun. Really well-constructed plot and the chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell is off the chart. This does not feel dated. Woody VanDyke keeps things moving loverly.
TWENTIETH CENTURY – ( Howard Hawks )
Hey, if you’re going to take pre-code films off the table, you might as well create the screwball comedy. And this is one of its finest. Overbearing egotistical Broadway producer
( John Barrymore ) needs to get his actress ( Carole Lombard ) to appear in his new play; even if he has to drag her across country on the Twentieth Century Limited. And he does. It’s a wild ride for everybody. Allllllllllll aboard!!! ( My boy Walter Connolly’s in this too, as exasperated as ever! Love him. )