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Showing posts with the label 30's

Things to Come (1936)

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Let's acknowledge up front that this isn't something I'd call a Christmas movie, though it comes significantly closer than I'd have expected. Things to Come is a 1936 British science-fiction film directed by William Cameron Menzies and scripted by... hold on... got to check my notes here... some guy named H. G. Wells. Anyone heard of him? Things to Come doesn't have a typical narrative. While the movie sort of has a lead actor, his characters (he plays a couple) are really just standing in for an ideology. The real main character is the fictional city of "Everytown" (subtle!) which evolves and changes over the course of a century. The movie is less interested in its human characters than it is in speculating on the arcs of history. This is quite literally Wells's vision of a possible future, augmented with absolutely astonishing sets and visual effects that often left me scrambling to figure out how shots were achieved. That qualifies as a recommendati

Made for Each Other (1939)

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I've encountered a few movies from the 1930s that follow a similar template to Made for Each Other, a film that shifts genre relatively dramatically between comedy and melodrama. The idea seems to be to offer a film encompassing a bit of everything, or at least as close as they could cram in. This can feel off-putting now that we're no longer accustomed to this particular mix of tones, but conceptually it's not all that different than what Marvel movies attempt: it's only that the specific genres being incorporated have changed. That does mean this movie feels dated in a way several more straightforward comedies don't. The first half of Made for Each Other holds up pretty well, but as the movie grows more and more serious, I found it difficult to enjoy unironically. Though, for better or worse, moments of the last third kind of come off as unintentionally funny. The movie stars Carole Lombard and James Stewart as newlyweds Jane and John, who eloped immediately after

The Divorcee (1930)

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I'm stretching to discuss this here - the combined time spent on the holidays (in this case a couple different New Year's Eves) accounts for a minuscule portion of the overall runtime. Granted, those moments are thematically important and one of them closes the film, but even so, I wouldn't review a modern movie with this little seasonal screentime. But The Divorcee was released in 1930, making it one of the earliest talkies with any holiday connections I've located, and it was extremely successful at the time, picking up nominations for Best Picture, Director, Writer, and winning Best Actress for Norma Shearer. And while it feels very different than later Hollywood genres, elements of the structure resonate with modern romantic comedies (though this is definitely a drama). And seeing as one of those elements is the aforementioned New Year's Eve conclusion, I felt like I should discuss it. Shearer plays Jerry, a woman destined to be the titular divorcee, though the

Miracle on Main Street (1939)

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While it's admittedly 1939's second-best Christmas movie about a woman down on her luck finding an abandoned baby that winds up changing her life for the better, Miracle on Main Street is still a solid, albeit weird, little film with notably progressive undertones. Moreover, those undertones are different than the likewise progressive ideas expressed in Bachelor Mother , the other film with that premise released the same year. But then there's actually a great deal separating them, starting with genre. Miracle on Main Street is a drama, a fact that does hinder its longevity - I'm finding comedies I'm seeing from the 1930s generally hold up, while dramas tend to feel dated. This stars an actress simply billed as "Margo," (her birth name was MarĂ­a Marguerita Guadalupe Teresa Estela Bolado Castilla y O'Donnell, so I can understand wanting to simplify it for film) who's pretty interesting herself. Born in Mexico, she moved to the US and worked began a

Three Godfathers (1936)

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This is either the third or fourth adaptation we've covered of the classic western Christmas novel, The Three Godfathers, depending on whether you consider the 2003 anime Tokyo Godfathers  adapted from or inspired by the original. Of the relatively straightforward versions, the 1929 version, Hell's Heroes , by William Wyler remains my favorite, while the 1948  3 Godfathers  starring John Wayne, is my least favorite, and this one - directed by Richard Boleslawski - lands somewhere in the middle. Well, the middle leaning closer to Hell's Heroes, if I'm being specific. Unlike the 1948 movie, this one doesn't pull its punches in the second and third acts, or the first as far as the bank robbery is concerned. I know the John Wayne version has its fans, but this is one of those stories I don't like watered down (unless, I suppose, the water in question is poisoned). The rough outline is basically the same as the earlier version and source material: three outlaws find

Bachelor Mother (1939)

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Not for the first time, I find myself writing up a movie from the 1930s that's smarter, funnier, and frankly more progressive than virtually any I've encountered from the '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s... honestly, I'm not even sure where the cutoff here is. Almost everything in Bachelor Mother holds up more than eighty years after it was produced. Apparently, this is a remake of a 1935 Austrian-Hungarian film called Kleine Mutti (Little Mother). I found versions of the original on Youtube, but unfortunately none that are subtitled, so I haven't been able to determine just how close the Hollywood version sticks to the original, including whether the holiday setting was carried over or added in the remake. As always, I'd be grateful to anyone who wants to shed some light in the comment section. Regardless, Bachelor Mother is a romantic comedy starring Ginger Rogers as Polly, a department store clerk losing her job on Christmas Eve due to usual seasonal cuts.

Holiday (1930)

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I recently watched and wrote up the 1938 remake of Holiday before realizing it was, in fact, a remake. Since I'm prioritizing pre-war holiday movies this year, I didn't want to skip over its predecessor. In earlier years, I'd have given it some time to avoid watching the same basic story twice in quick succession, but last year's Christmas Carol project warped my brain to the point that sort of thing no longer bores me. That does place me in the somewhat awkward position of talking about a film that - at least as far as story is concerned - is virtually identical to one I just discussed. Since I neither want to reword the same synopsis nor copy and paste what I wrote before, when the time to talk plot rolls around, I'll just direct you to that review and discuss elements that were different between versions. First, though, I want to get to the unfortunate business of measuring the two films overall. Normally, I tend to favor earlier adaptations (as my picks for  Th

Holiday (1938)

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I've got two pieces of business before I start describing this movie in detail. The first is that this is a remake of a 1930 film of the same name , with both versions being based on a play. I'm not certain which order we'll wind up running the reviews, but - just to be upfront - I watched and am writing up the remake first. The second piece of business I want stated upfront is that this movie rules, and you should watch it. The jokes are hilarious, the performances are fantastic, the characters are extremely likeable, and the politics hold up. But more on that (a lot more, in fact) later. While I don't think knowing more is going to seriously impact the fun of seeing it play out, consider this your mandatory spoiler warning, in case you want to track down and watch an eighty-five-year-old romantic comedy before learning more. The movie opens with Johnny (played by Cary Grant) returning from a vacation. He meets a couple friends and reveals he met a woman and they'r

The Little Match Seller (1902), The Little Match Girl (1914), La Petite Marchande d'allumettes (1928), Little Match Girl (1937), La Jeune Fille aux Allumettes (1952)/The Little Match Girl (1954)

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Rather than running these individually, I'm posting reviews for five shorts, each of which is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl. This is far from an exhaustive list, of course, but this covers every surviving version through the 1950s I was able to locate. For those of you who don't feel like digging through my notes, I'll save you a little time - these are all good for when they were made. The two that really stood out were the 1928 silent French version and the 1937 animated version. The animated probably aged the best of the bunch, as far as general audiences are concerned, while the 1928 film was the one I found the most fascinating from a technical standpoint. So, if you're interested in old movies, that's a good one to see (actually, all of these are good to see, but that's a great starting point). Those are the two I was thinking of when I slapped a "Highly Recommended" label on this post, though in both cases

Little Women (1933)

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I should start by acknowledging I've previously said Little Women wasn't Christmas media and that we wouldn't be covering it here. I still stand by the first part, incidentally - most adaptations of Little Women don't pass our personal litmus tests - but obviously, I reconsidered the second half. As I've been diving into the origins and evolution of Christmas movies, I've concluded Little Women may be quite a bit more important to the history of the quasi-genre than I'd given it credit for, this version most of all. So I decided to watch through the theatrically released adaptations to explore how this story influenced and/or reflected that evolution. I'm not going to do full reviews for these, since - again - it's not a Christmas movie, and I assume you know what Little Women is anyway, but I'll offer some general reactions and thoughts. I want to acknowledge two video essays I found extremely useful in this project - Be Kind Rewind's Compar