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The Guardsman (1931)
From Russia with love
Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne are married to each other and have a successful stage career. However, whilst the public sees them perform successfully on stage, they are constantly goading each other in their private life, so much so that the trust placed in their marriage vows is being tested and threatened. No more so than when a mysterious Russian turns up and starts sending flowers to Fontanne. Who could he possibly be?
This film is funny. It has a different storyline and you are never quite sure whether or not Lynn Fontanne knows what she is doing. Even her knowing glance to camera at the film's end leaves you in two minds.
Would you recognize your partner if they donned a disguise? Every time I've ever put a fake moustache on, I've always been rumbled.
Night Court (1932)
Can you swim?
Judge Walter Huston (Moffett) sits during the night court and emphasizes the moral need to obey the law when dealing with his cases. The trouble is that he himself is morally corrupt and is being investigated by fellow Judge Lewis Stone (Osgood). It's a matter of gathering evidence and waiting for the right moment for Stone. Meanwhile, Huston sets up housewife Anita Page (Mary) to be 'removed' for 6 months and sent to jail on prostitution charges. When her night-working cab-driver husband Phillips Holmes visits the night court with their baby to find out what has happened to his wife, Huston takes the baby away from him as well! Holmes now has nothing - he has lost both his wife and baby in one night. He broods for a while and then takes action. He is going to get to the bottom of things and the audience are all on his side as he goes about it.
The cast are good in this film which is based on some true gangster activity of the time. The only let-down is Anita Page in the second half of the film. Once she gets arrested she gets extremely annoying and so the film has to lose marks as we needlessly cut to her crying once again or calling out for her baby. Shut up!! Holmes is likable as the cab driver and gets a few good moments and some good dialogue whilst Huston is a good baddie. Noel Francis (Lil Baker) also plays a memorable part as Huston's 'bit on the side'. I've just watched her in "Manhattan Transfer" (1932) and she always seems to carry off her parts well. The set-up that convicts Page is memorable as are other scenes are we are drawn into devious plotlines. What a shame Page is so homely - I think she should have tried her luck "on the game". She would have been more likable. Maybe that's what she does next?
Manhattan Tower (1932)
Party still going on
This is yet another story from 1932 about the lives of various people within a building. In this film, which borrows heavily from "Skyscraper Souls" (1932), the young lovers are played by Mary Brian (Mary) and James Hall (Jimmy) and they do a better job than their counterparts in "Skyscraper". Indeed both Mary and James don't have to learn to respond to a different name. It's been made easy for them by calling their characters Mary and Jimmy. I wonder if this was to help James and his drinking. It's sad to notice that he looks a fatter version of himself in "Hell Angels" two years previously. My wife and I both recognized his face but thought it must be a fatter actor that looks the same. Nope. Again, it is sad to learn of his drinking problem and fate and to then find out that this was also his final film. We both feel sorry for him and really like him now.
As for the story, stick with it. The dialogue is funny in parts, the acting is fine and the director uses some interesting techniques. It's always interesting to see the period's fashions and there is even a zeppelin on show hovering above the tower. Noel Francis (Marge) makes good use of her role as the tarty secretary - check out her party dress - and secretary Nydia Westman (Miss Wood) has a funny scene when someone steals part of her lunch. The villain of the piece is played by Clay Clement. And his name in the film is Mr Burns. Just think of Mr Burns from "The Simpsons" and you've got a similarly heartless man at the top.
However, it's a poverty row film and there are no real surprises to the tale. In the overall 'building' genre of films from 1932, this one sits in the middle. The best is "Skyscraper Souls" and the worst is "Grand Hotel".
Skyscraper Souls (1932)
Go for the money
That's my advice to assistant Maureen O'Sullivan (Lynn) in this tale. Wealthy boss Warren William (Dwight) owns the tallest building in town and this film recounts various stories and plotlines that are interwoven with life in this building. It is a much better film than "Grand Hotel" from the same year. The boss fancies O'Sullivan and can set her up for life - it's a no-brainer. However, she is held back by the awful Norman Foster (Tom) who irritatingly pursues her in such an embarrassing way that the audience has no option but to dislike him. And she falls for him!!? This film loses marks for both those ridiculous elements. Outside of that stupid relationship which should really go nowhere, the storylines involving the boss and how he runs his business are very interesting. His relationship with his wife Hedda Hopper (Ella) is also to be admired. They get on perfectly! A lot happens in this film - plenty of drama, so keep watching. There is quite a memorable ending, especially for secretary Verree Teasdale (Sarah) and there are a couple who try to pull off a robbery that comes to no good. Don't go in the safe!
This film wins hands down over Grand Hotel (with its stellar cast) and actually provides you with a role model in Warren William. Yes he's arrogant and ruthless, conniving and vain - anyone see a resemblance to Donald Trump? Actually, there's a resemblance to many more individuals than the current President. He epitomizes all narcissistic psycopaths. He has no feelings for others. Why should he have? It's his life and he's only got one. I really like this guy. However, all that money doesn't necessarily bring you happiness. Watch the film and find out his fate.
Strange Justice (1932)
Hat-check girl Marian Marsh (Rose) sets up her annoying boyfriend Norman Foster (Wally) with a job as a chauffeur for wealthy bank boss Reginald Denny (Judson). Foster is a whining simpleton who is impossible to relate to. Anyway, he gets the job but Denny also has designs on his girlfriend and she sort of encourages this a bit. She says "No" but stays behind with him, goes to parties with him - that sort of thing. Denny is also a crook who's been embezzling bank funds to keep up with his socialite lifestyle. This doesn't go unnoticed by his number two at the bank, Irving Pichel (Waters), who blackmails him. Uh-oh, a scheme is set which doesn't bode well for our simpleton chauffeur.
The plot and storyline are ok but Norman Foster is terrible and single-handedly brings this film down at least a couple of marks. I've just watched him in Skyscraper Souls (1932) where he plays a similar character. You can't possibly like this idiot. It's a tough ask. The story ends in a very predictable manner but as long as Foster isn't on screen, the film isn't too bad.
I watched the French version of this film and the casting varies slightly to the German and UK versions. This film plays on the idea that Atlantis hasn't disappeared into the sea but lies buried under the sands of the Sahara. Why not? I have no doubt that those sands are burying secrets that could help us determine our origins and rewrite our history. For this film, the mystery of Atlantis is interwoven into the culture of the native Tauregs. From a garrison stationed in the Sahara, Captain Pierre Blanchar (Saint-Avit) recounts his story to Lieutenant Georges Tourreil (Ferrieres) of how he ended up in this mythical place where he met the evil Queen - Brigitte Helm (Antinea). Is his tale one of truth or is he bonkers?
The film has an interesting subject matter and a great location to keep you watching. It's full of mystery and you never quite know what is going on as characters that we meet don't say much. Well, apart from Vladimir Sokoloff who plays the mysterious European resident who is slightly camp and totally insane. However, the film sort of meanders along and the audience has no real sense of purpose as to what the aim of it all is. There are memorable scenes that are thrown in but are they may all be red herrings. Is this just one man's lunatic ravings as he has been affected by the sun? Or has this stuff really happened?
I think the thing to do is smoke some "kuff" and find out. It's easily available in Atlantis - 40% hashish and 60% opium. Everyone - let's go explore the Sahara!
Call Her Savage (1932)
Clara Bow (Nasa) is dangerous. Watch the film and find out why. Who will she find love with? I found it was a bit boring and took a while to get started. When we finally see Clara, she's comically screaming "yee-hah!" or "whoopee!" as she rides a horse. It's ridiculous. This is meant to portray her wild nature. She then gets a scene where she whips Gilbert Rowland (Moonglow) so voraciously that he would be dead. The fact that he doesn't flinch devalues the scene and just adds to the comical content. She goes relentlessly full pelt on his torso. Nothing. Ha ha. Her whip must be made of candy floss.
The story presents an offensive interpretation about what makes her so "bad". She's not really bad, though. Still, the film's message is ludicrous. Despite the film being rare, it doesn't grab enough interest to keep it for a further viewing so someone lucky (?) will be receiving my copy.
Beauty and the Boss (1932)
A spot of dictation
Is always required in an office situation. In this film, Warren William (The Baron) is a super-rich businessman who has no time for play during work hours. So, how he gets around his selection of attractive secretaries is to fire them if they are good-looking and then casually date them whilst keeping them on a retainer salary for 6 months. It's a perfect set-up. In walks Marian Marsh (Susie) looking for a job and she is the perfect secretary as he doesn't find her attractive. She looks poor and doesn't wear make-up. She isn't a distraction and proves herself super-efficient at her duties. However, she wants more. She can also make herself look attractive.
This is a comedy that is funny and points out a few truths about men and women although the politically correct mob will be horrified. Ha ha. Live with it. All characters do well in this short film and it's a pretty racy pre-code offering. Marian Marsh plays a kind of Mary Poppins role. Warren Williams really does have office life sussed - a good role model. However, Poppins arrives and makes some changes. Her main rival comes in the shape of previous secretary Mary Doran (Ollie) and these two have some funny interactions that are also fraught with tension.
Anyone for a box of carrots? Good for Marian.
Smilin' Through (1932)
How times have changed
In this film, window peeping is a perfectly acceptable part of the early stages of a relationship between 2 people. Indeed, Norma Shearer (Kathleen) seems impressed with the night-time activities of Fredric March (Ken). Ha Ha. The police will have you in jail these days. The film begins with Leslie Howard (Sir John) lamenting the death of his bride Norma Shearer (Moonyeen) many years ago. She appears to him as a ghost to re-assure him that they will always be together. The main storyline emerges with the arrival of Fredric March in what seems to be an abandoned house where Shearer (playing Kathleen) and her suitor Ralph Forbes (Willie) have taken shelter from a storm. It is the spark between March and Shearer that drives the remainder of the story alongside the addition of a secret that is preventing their love from being allowed to blossom.
This film has all three of the main characters playing double roles. Norma Shearer plays both the bride who died and the main character looking for love in the present day; Fredric March plays both the young man looking to enlist in the First World War as well as his father (Jeremy); whilst Leslie Howard plays his character as both an older man and a younger man. The reason for the double roles is that a crucial segment of the film is played in flashback to an earlier time in history - a generation before.
The cast are all good, the story is mysterious, intriguing and keeps you watching and if you are a romantic, them this film is for you. You'll want to cry in places and it has an ending that will remind you of the Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947) although this film obviously did it first. Love conquers all.
By Whose Hand? (1932)
Ben Lyon (Jimmy) is a reporter who is just a little too keen with his pursuit of a good story. His summary at the end of the film regarding 5 murders being committed is hilariously warped. What a twisted brain he has. Goody! There's been loads of murders! Ha ha. What a psycho lunatic.
The story is set aboard a train and begins with the murder of jewellery tycoon Kenneth Thomson (Chambers). We then meet a cast of characters and the who-dunnit plays out for us in flashback. Unfortunately, this is very slow to get going and one of the characters is the terribly unfunny Tom Dugan who gets far too many scenes playing for comedy. Boring. I'm afraid you will be transported to daydream land on numerous occasions watching this tedium. Things get resolved at the end and that's that. Uninteresting main cast other than Ethel Kenyon (Eileen) who is good at being cunning, The detective at the end is appalling - straight out of the poor school of Whit Bissell acting. He shouts all his requests at the passengers and it is unintentionally hilarious. No-one talks to people like that. What a poor actor. And having journalist Ben Lyon given the ok to do the policework of searching everyone's bags - this story really is a load of nonsense, I'm afraid. I could go on, but I won't. A poor effort.
Evenings for Sale (1932)
Gigolo for hire
Count Herbert Marshall (Franz) faces a dilemma. Should he kill himself or go to a party? Well, that party was a good choice because he meets Sari Maritza (Lela) and falls in love. He also gets a job. As a gigolo. He goes to work and has a price list for various activities - it's a well organized gigolo outfit that he works for. This is where he meets wealthy widow Mary Boland (Jenny) who falls in love with him. Several misunderstandings and blunt conversations later and the film has a happy couple. But who are they?
I wish the happy couple were a different combination - one that involved the Count's valet Charles Ruggles (Bimpfi). The cast are ok in this comedy although Sari does make some strange decisions and seems to be a bit of a horrid character. Kudos to her, though, as pretty soon after this film, she quit acting recognizing the fact that she couldn't act. Ha ha. Well done, girl. Unfortunately, that doesn't help this film. Marshall is also a bit grumpy in this. It's a comedy with an amusing subject matter but needed a better ending. It lacks the true romance that should have been played out between two of the other characters.
One Way Passage (1932)
Still on the garlic?
William Powell (Dan) meets Kay Francis (Joan) in a Hong Kong bar. It's an interesting opening sequence that pans across the length of the bar focusing on the customers and in particular a singing trio of three fat men. Hold on, one of them is a woman - Jane Jones - that was a difficult call to make but my wife got it. A clear lesbian character and it's refreshing to see. Our main characters are introduced to us, drink a cocktail, smash their glasses and it's love at first sight. Unfortunately for Powell, he's a wanted man and his dithering at the bar-room door as he looks at Francis one more time as he leaves costs him his freedom. Detective Warren Hymer (Steve) has caught up with him and makes his arrest. His job is to escort his prisoner back to San Francisco where the death penalty awaits Powell. On the voyage over aboard a cruise ship, guess who is a passenger - yep, it's Francis, and she is a dying woman on a trip to enter a respite home. Well, these two characters meet aboard the ship and a romance blossoms. Can it last?
While watching this film, my wife recalled the story. We had seen this film before. Only we hadn't. Turns out this was remade on 1940 as "Till We Meet Again" and we had previously seen that version. Well, this version is better - there's nothing like an original! Even though Frank McHugh (Skippy) plays an annoying drunk, he also played the same annoying character in the remake so that cancels out that irritation as both films have this annoying character. The remake also focuses more time on the Francis character (played by Merle Oberon) and this just drags the film out by an extra half hour and fills it with soppy, sentimental nonsense. The lead female character is just not an interesting role.
In this film, Powell does all that for bland Kay Francis - I don't think so. Aline MacMahon (Betty) as a phoney Countess gets to overshadow Francis in all her scenes. She's good entertainment. The story is good and develops at a fair pace and Powell does get several opportunities to evade his captor. Can he finally make one count? It's a memorable ending as everlasting love is shown to conquer all. I like it. Clink, clink, smash!
If I Had a Million (1932)
I'd be very happy
What would you do if you had a fortune and didn't know who to give it to come the day of your reckoning? And what would you do if you were the recipient of an unexpected fortune? This film explores some scenarios in a series of short stories on that theme all linked to a dying man's wishes.
The wealthy dying man is Richard Bennett (Glidden) and he's a bit over the top. He's dying for goodness sake and he's old. So, why is he so energetic and shouty? He's not well played when it comes to realism. The film starts with him and so it drags for a bit as we pray for him to stop endlessly blustering and shouting. He is occasionally funny but his cantankerous manner grates.
Story 1 - China Shop. Charles Ruggles (Peabody) is a clumsy sales assistant in a china shop who is married to nagging wife Mary Boland. His pay is continually docked as he keeps dropping items and smashing them. You can probably guess the outcome of this one but its still enjoyable to watch.
Story 2 - Prostitute. Wynne Gibson (Violet) works in a bar if you know what I mean. Her story is satisfying and stays with you even though it's short. It makes its point well but she is criminally overlooked and not mentioned in the cast list.
Story 3 - Forger. Criminal George Raft (Eddie) is up to his tricks scamming banks and withdrawing money with forged cheques. He gets given a cheque for £1 million. Guess what? Ha ha.
Story 4 - Road Hogs. A classic. All I will say is "Road Hog!" Starring WC Fields and Alison Skipworth as a husband and wife team.
Story 5 - Death Row. The first misfire. Gene Raymond plays a man waiting to be executed. His acting is terrible. Quite rightly, he has been omitted from the cast list.
Story 6 - Office Worker. Charles Laughton. Waste of time. Anti-climactic and pretty insulting as a story. Very short, very obvious and very pointless.
Story 7 - Marines. Gary Cooper, Jack Oakie and Roscoe Karns play three boisterous marines and it's Cooper who gets his $1 million. Unfortunately, it arrives on April Fool's Day. Well, these three jolly fellows prank around and clown around and need money to pay for some hamburgers and take out a girl.
Story 8 - Old People's Home. The longest story and it starts badly. This is just sentimental nonsense. Predictable but it has its moments.
This is a story about a group of circus freaks and I recommend you watch it even if you are upset by looking at people with deformities. I was worried it would affect me, upset me and cause me nightmares but I braved it. Actually, it's not that bad. You get involved with the cast and the story that concerns evil trapeze lady Olga Baclanova (Cleopatra) playing midget Harry Earles (Hans) for a sucker, leading him on and marrying him for his money. She then has a plan to get rid of him so she can hanky-panky about with strongman Henry Victor (Hercules). However, she has not counted on the social bonding of the freak community.
I realize that this film will put people off but I wanted to watch it as it has gone down in the folklore of 1930s horror films. I can report that I was encouraged by my response. I have nothing but admiration and respect for some of these characters who in some instances have acquired outstanding levels of achievements. Two that stand out are Prince Randian (The Living Torso) who can roll his own cigarettes and smoke them without any arms (!!!) and Frances O'Connor (Armless Girl) who is super skilful at using her feet. They have incredible skills and my feelings changed from an attitude of not wanting to know to a feeling of complete respect and empathy for them. You definitely take their side in the storyline that is presented. However, beware, because when they start singing "We'll Make her One of Us" at the wedding feast scene, well, it's a game-changer...
Paul Muni (Tony) is Scarface, a gangster with no fear who is headed for the top. He gets there but can he stay ahead of everyone else? Well, he has a peculiar and fateful over-protection of his sister Ann Dvorak (Cesca). Ultimately, they are cut from the same cloth. The film also contains George Raft (Guino) and Boris Karloff (Tom) as fellow and rival gangsters respectively, as well as Karen Morley (Poppy) as the boss's wife. She belongs to Osgood Perkins (Johnny). You've got to be daring if you make a play for her! So, guess what Muni does.... He is a psycho.
It's interesting to watch as the reputation of the film almost demands that you watch and like it. So says the gangster code. Yeah, it's alright and the cast are good. You know what you're going to get but this type of story is nothing new nowadays. The remake throws in more graphic violence for the modern audience which is always something I find unnecessary, so I'll stick with the original.
Three on a Match (1932)
Buy a lighter
Three schoolgirls grow up and take different paths in life only to be reunited and re-establish relationships. Joan Blondell (Mary) goes from badass Reform School to Chorus Girl. She's the best character and bunks off lessons at school to try smoking with the boys. Good stuff. Ann Dvorak (Vivian) is voted most popular girl at school, goes off to a posh college and gets married to wealthy lawyer Warren William (Robert). She seemed a little nasty at school if you ask me but her just deserts may just come knocking. Oh, here they are! She and Warren have a ghastly son - Buster Phelps (Junior). Bette Davis (Ruth) is the insipid one - she's the school swot and trains as a secretary. How interesting. Anyway, these three meet up and characters all change for the better. Apart from that blasted child.
The film is short and the story progresses at a good pace. What an interesting cast - Humphrey Bogart (Harve) is also in there as a gangster as well as the "Officer Dibble" man from "Top Cat". Blackmail, kidnap, defenestration - it's all in there. Unfortunately, that awful child really does pull things back. There is a scene at the end where a group of gangsters discuss killing the blasted thing and rather unrealistically, nobody really steps forward with the enthusiasm which would undoubtedly ensue in a real life situation.
Don't share the 3rd light from a match - that's what superstition says. Buy your own lighter.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
Nice trophy room
A yacht is travelling through dangerous waters in which buoys mark out a safe route through. However, the Captain (William Davidson) suspects that something is wrong. The buoys are slightly off-position and he recommends going back. No way says the owner of the yacht Hale Hamilton. Bad call.
The majority of the film takes place on an island where nutcase Leslie Banks (Zaroff) has invented a new sport that involves shipwrecked survivors. He always wins and he has a trophy room to prove it. Shipwreck survivor Joel McCrea (Bob) provides Banks with his biggest challenge as he also is a hunter by profession. So, armed with a knife, McCrea is given a head start on the island. Survival is the game. Fay Wray (Eve) is there as well from a previous shipwreck and provides screaming duties. She's not too annoying, just a little bit.
It's an enjoyable film with a horror moment worthy of frightening audiences today. It's over fairly quickly but it's a memorable storyline and exceeds expectations for a short film. I love a waterfall scene - yes, there's a waterfall scene! You know, the type of thing like in "Last of the Mohicans" (1992) where the chase takes you behind the waterfall and you know this is a doomed path to take. Someone is right there on your trail.
Paul Muni (James) plays real-life prisoner Robert E Burns and it's worth knowing this before you watch the film. It's a true story. What adds to this still is the fact that Robert E. Burns was still on the run at the time the film was made. Muni goes to jail but judging from the title I reckon he's gonna break out, don't you?
It's an enjoyable prison film - better than "Hell's Highway" from the same year.
Big City Blues (1932)
Poor acting blues
Eric Linden (Bud) is a simpleton who heads for New York to find his fortune. On arrival, he meets up with relative Walter Catlett (Gibby) who vows to show him a good time. Hence, the introduction to chorus girls and in particular Joan Blondell (Vida). However, things take a turn for the worse when he holds a party and chorus girl Josephine Dunn (Jackie) is murdered. Everyone bails out of the apartment sharpish. Linden is suspect number one. Can things work out in New York for him?
Well, I didn't expect the shock of a murder in what was up to that point a light, frothy tale. Maybe things will start to get good. Unfortunately not. The main problem is the awful lead character who is just impossible to relate to. Once the party scene starts, you become aware that Humphrey Bogart is in this film. And he's in a familiar Mr No-Nonsense role. Great. I then realized where his fame began. Obviously, he's going to kill Linden and audiences were so grateful for this that he became an overnight sensation and his popularity soared to the heights of superstardom. Well, that's not what happens no matter how much you may wish for it. He does start a fight, though, which provides the film with its most memorable sequence.
Blonde Venus (1932)
Monkey Dietrich (Helen) gets married to chemist Herbert Marshall (Ned) and they have a son Dickie Moore (Johnny). Unfortunately, Marshall gets radium poisoning and his time on Earth is limited. There is only one hope and it involves a stack of cash that he just can't afford. Dietrich goes to work in a nightclub to help raise the money and it's here that she meets wealthy Cary Grant (Nick). This nightclub acquaintance develops into something more and very soon Dietrich has raised the necessary cash for her husband. No guesses as to how she has raised this money in this wealthy man's company. Know what I mean? Whilst hubby is away getting cured, Dietrich continues her liaison with Grant. Then, hubby returns unexpectedly early. What is Dietrich to do?
That's just the first part of the film. We then follow Marlene as she leads the film through its course. It's entertaining and has memorable scenes. The gorilla music number stands out where she first appears to Grant. All the cast do well with a special mention for cabaret rival Rita La Roy (Taxi0 although Marshall doesn't convince in his sudden hatred of the woman that he claims to love. It is his awful attitude that jars the film and so skews events to a flawed ending. It's all very nice and that but sappy and sentimental and a bit vomity sickly sweet. It's not the ending I wanted to see and so the film loses a mark. Dietrich had another option and should have taken that. Maybe she does after the credits have finished. Let's hope so. Luckily, the majority of the film is in the presence of Marlene and she has that star quality and the acting ability to hold your attention. She's good.
Rome Express (1932)
We start the film being introduced to the cast as they board the express train to Rome at Paris. Donald Calthorp plays the man with the briefcase that contains a stolen painting who is being pursued by fellow gang members Conrad Veidt (Zurta) and Hugh Williams (Tony). Calthorp has betrayed them and run off with the painting. Not a good move. Do you think they get to him?
None of the cast is wasted and the story is well constructed in how everyone links together to give the film its storyline. The most annoying character is Gordon Harker - what a buffoonish bore - who plays a friend of an eloping couple who don't want anyone to know they are on the run. There are a couple of funny lines, and generally the film is fine but it just fizzles out with a complete non-ending to wrap things up.
The film reminded me of an incident when I was at a boarding school in Switzerland when I was around 10 years old. We were on a train and one of the pupils fell out. He leant on a door, it opened and he disappeared. That was that. When we went to bed that night, we were one man down and the atmosphere was one of disbelief - it hadn't sunk in. Anyway, at around midnight, this boy was walked into the dormitory. He'd survived. Luckily, he fell into the snow and just followed the rail tracks until he came to a station where a worker recognized the school uniform and contacted the school. My point is that if you fall off a train when travelling across Europe, you don't necessarily die. Storytellers take note!
Hell's Highway (1932)
It's a prison film with all the annoying clichés you can think of. Richard Dix (Duke) is top dog and planning his escape. Actually, he's carrying it out when he spots his younger brother Tom Brown (Johnny) in the jail and decides to stay behind to look after him. How nice of him. But how annoying. The relationship between the two brothers just continues in this annoying way with younger brother giving out hero worship to his big brother whilst big brother is dragged back by an unconditional love to help his younger brother. Yawn. Just let them get on with things without all this brother namby-pamby stuff. Anyway, the prison conditions are harsh and we get some black prisoners in fine voice singing their way through their sufferance in perfect harmony. Very nice to listen to but a bit racist. There is a jailbreak, strict wardens and all the usual stuff. Rochelle Hudson is second billed - God knows why. I can only remember her in one scene and I'm not sure she even said anything. She must have been boning the director. Still, it's an ok film and gets the ok as it was probably one of the first films to portray this type of story. It's just a bit predictable these days.
Love Me Tonight (1932)
The singing tailor
Maurice Chevalier is a tailor who has a dodgy client in Viscount Charles Ruggles. He's dodgy because he never pays his bills. Chevalier decides to confront the Viscount by turning up at his mansion which is headed up by Duke C. Aubrey Smith. Also in residence are Princess Jeanette MacDonald, Count Charles Butterworth and Countess Myrna Loy along with a gaggle of 3 witch-like aunts and various servants. Chevalier wants his money but is convinced to stay as a guest in the guise of a member of the aristocracy until Ruggles can get him his money. After all, Duke C Aubrey Smith won't allow tradesman in his house. So, Chevalier pretends to be from a higher class to fit in and love gets in the way....
However, the love that gets in the way is all wrong. It comes from the direction of the rather horrid Jeanette MacDonald. Wait a minute, Maurice, Myrna Loy is in the house. And she is making no bones about what she is after. What are you doing? Go after Loy, for goodness sake. Well, he doesn't. And MacDonald sings her songs in that stupid way that either leaves you laughing or just bored senseless. And her sudden 180 from detesting him to loving him just doesn't make sense. Chevalier has natural class and is easy to follow as the lead man and the director - Mamoulian - throws in novel techniques for developing the storyline and incorporating the songs in doing so. Unfortunately, despite the odd funny moment, eg, Solitude the horse, the film is just not very interesting. Shame.
The Sign of the Cross (1932)
Under the naked moon
That's where the party is. Director Cecil B De Mille was obviously a fan of the Showaddywaddy song "Under the moon of Love" and he basically tweaked this song to give it his own twist when performed by Joyzelle Joyner (Ancaria) at an orgy. It's very entertaining.
As for the film's story, Fredric March (Marcus) is the highest-ranked official in Rome and responsible for rounding up Christians to be thrown to the lions for Charles Laughton's entertainment. Laughton plays emperor Nero, who is clearly unhinged. And a homosexual. However, March has a big problem when he inexplicably falls in love with Christian fanatic Elissa Landi (Mercia). This doesn't go unnoticed by nemesis Roman official Ian Keith (Tigellimus). Or by empress Claudette Colbert (Poppaea) who is in love with March. Don't get on the wrong side of her. Uh-oh, that's precisely what March does. What an idiot!
The film's standout characters are played by Colbert and Laughton, so it's a shame that they are not in the film very much. Ian Keith also carries off his role well. Again, he's not in most of the scenes. When these three are on screen, the film is good. The film unfortunately falls away with overlong sequences of the goody-goody Christians being pious and holier-than-thou. The idea that March would prefer Landi over Colbert is a nonsense and his actions at the end of the film are just plain unbelievable. No way. If that's how he feels then he deserves his fate. I repeat, Landi over Colbert....???!!
The film is famous for the arena sequence and I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy this part of the film and was constantly prepared to avert my gaze. There is some pretty hardcore stuff going on. De Mille drags out the build-up to the Christians making it into the arena so that you don't really sympathize with them. You end up taking the side of the Roman audience. Come on! Throw them to the lions. They are so annoying. And their singing sucks. Elissa Landi wins an Olympic gold medal for being irritating.
This film highlights the point that Hell is way better than Heaven, so put on that racy oufit and let the wine flow. You know it makes sense. Party on!
Grand Hotel (1932)
Greta Garbo plays a Russian ballerina with a long name who is going through a confidence crisis. Will the crowd applaud her anymore? Will her understudy now get all the glory? She dramatically declares that she can't go on for the next performance. Perhaps she needs to find love and restore her self-confidence by getting a man to bone her so she feels wanted again. The problem with Garbo in this film is that she over-emotes and just basically puts a downer on the film whenever she appears. She also doesn't convince as a ballerina, her technique of throwing in a couple of twirls and dramatically posturing when she kneels just shows that she absolutely has no real skill in this particular art. The camera zooms in on her face so she can emote and it all becomes comical when she delivers her dramatic moments. And dull. Shut up, Garbo.
John Barrymore has an easier name as he is just referred to as the Baron. And he is one of the few reasons to watch this snorefest. He is effortlessly likeable as a rogue gentleman. He engages the audience and is one of only 2 characters that we can sympathize with. We think he is staying at the hotel because his life is successful. Actually, he is a crook and is on a mission to steal Garbo's pearl necklace. Ah! There is a story at last!
Joan Crawford is unfortunately given the name "Flem" so what you hear is "Phlegm". Nice. She is the other reason to watch the film if you really must. She is the poor stenographer who does what she can to make money. Know what I mean? She definitely wins the acting honours over Garbo. She's likeable and so what if she wants to sleep with people for money. This should be more accepted as a social custom.
Wallace Beery speaks with a German accent and he was a surprise as he can actually act. Granted, it's yet another bully-boy role but he does well with it. He is the mean owner of a business who is motivated solely by his standing as someone at the top and he has a ruthless manner.
Lionel Barrymore has the most memorable name as it is the easiest to say. I can't remember it, though. He should be the most sympathetic character as he is dying and is on one last bender in life. However, his naivety and simple-minded dialogue along with the way he behaves, whether drunk or sober, is just so irritating that you can't relate to the man. He acts the whole role as if he is a child of 4 years old. What an irritating loser!
The film is long, has no intrigue or suspense and guess what............it drags. Given the money spent and the number of stars, things should have been better. People come, people go, nothing happens. I want to be alone.
Here's something to do instead of watching this film. Get the following sorted out - 2 oz (1 full shot glass) spiced rum, 1 oz Cointreau, 2 oz fresh orange juice, 1 oz grenadine, 1 whole egg - blend for 30 seconds till foamy and transfer to iced shaker (1/2 full of crushed ice). Shake for 30 seconds and pour through a strainer into 2 martini glasses. Add slice of orange. Voila! You have a Louisiana Flip.