The Thin Man
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke
#138 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
IMDb Users say 8.0/10; I say 9.0/10
Nick Charles: I’m a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune.
Nora Charles: I read where you were shot 5 times in the tabloids.
Nick Charles: It’s not true. He didn’t come anywhere near my tabloids.
An inventor mysteriously disappears and is blamed for the murder of his girlfriend and her possible paramour. His daughter (Margaret O’Sullivan) appeals to retired detective Nick Charles (William Powell). Charles would prefer to enjoy the high life with his rich, beautiful, and witty wife Nora (Myrna Loy) but she thinks it would be exciting for him to pursue the case.
Having a Merry Christmas
I have seen this many times and I always forget who the murderer is. That is because the mystery is just a vehicle to showcase the fantastic repartee of Loy and Powell. They make the perfect married couple, playfully bickering but obviously in love. It is also the ideal escapist fare when one has, say, spent a whole day watching a manhunt in Boston and thinking about people who have lost their lives and limbs.
Kiss and Make-up
Directed by Harlan Thompson
Tagline: …a racy romance of a famous beauty doctor
Cary Grant plays Dr. Maurice Lamar, a Parisian plastic surgeon and beauty expert in high demand. His efficient secretary Anne (Helen Mack) is in love with him. His “masterpiece” is Eve Caron (Genevieve Tobin), though her husband Marcel (Edward Everett Horton) does not approve of the changes the doctor has wrought and divorces her. Maurice marries Eve but is perfection all it is cracked up to be?
This movie was released just before the Production Code began to be enforced and you can sure tell by the double entendres and the amount of cheesecake on offer. In case there was any doubt, the first scene has the good doctor asking Toby Wing to disrobe and she is down to her scanties in a flash. The film also served as a showcase for the WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1934 so there are multiple parts for the lovely starlets as the doctor’s assistants or patients.
The plot is slender and unremarkable. Good for something light or to see Cary Grant sing and look young and handsome. The art deco sets are also very nice.
Clip – Cary Grant sings “Love Divided by Two”
The World Moves On
Directed by John Ford
Fox Film Corporation
This film follows the fortunes of the Girard family and its cotton and textile businesses from 1825 through 1934, similar to the premise of Fox’s 1933 Best Picture Oscar winner Cavalcade. The story starts in New Orleans with the reading of the will of the firm’s founder. The will enjoins his three sons to establish branches in New Orleans, Paris, and Berlin and forms a partnership between the family and Henry Warburton. Oldest son Richard (Franchot Tone) is named executor. Warburton’s wife (Madeleine Carroll) and Richard are quietly and chastely in love but they are soon parted when Warburton leaves for Manchester to start a textile mill there.
The film then segues to 1914 and a wedding between cousins in the French and German branches of the family. Richard Girard (Tone, again) and Mary Warburton (Carroll) attend the wedding. Mary is engaged to one of the German cousins but Richard and Mary feel that they have met before and begin to yearn for one another. Richard is heartbroken that Mary is engaged to another and enlists in the French Foreign Legion when World War I breaks out. The war naturally divides the family but brings Mary and Richard together. We follow the fate of the family through the stock market crash of 1929 and on into 1934. When the family holds its last meeting some suggest that another war is in the cards. This is followed by footage of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo and their armies.
Mary and Richard in 1825
The film is competently made and very watchable. It suffers from being all over the place. It’s not quite a romance and not quite a war movie. Madeleine Carroll is positively radiant in this film and turns in an excellent performance. Franchot Tone not so much. The film makers also chose to include some unfortunate and unnecessary “comic relief” by Stepin Fetchit during the WWI section.
I got excited about the fantastic combat footage and then realized it looked familiar. It turns out 7 minutes of war footage from Raymond Bernard’s Wooden Crosses, one of my Top 10 for 1932, was included in this film. This was the first film to be granted the production seal of approval under new guidelines set forth by the Production Code Administration Office and the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America. It received Certificate No. 1.
Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Paramount Pictures (A Cecil B. DeMille Production)
Cleopatra: Together we could conquer the world.
Julius Caesar: Nice of you to include me.
Cleopatra (Claudette Colbert) seduces Julius Caesar (Warren William) and then Marc Antony (Henry Wilcoxson) in an attempt to save her beloved Egypt from conquest by Rome.
The Hollywood epic is my least favorite genre of movie. While spectacular, the sets here are more reminiscent of the studio backlot than of Egypt. Claudette Colbert can’t help but be just a bit charming but the other acting is over-the-top when it is not just wooden. Colbert wears many revealing gowns and there is plenty of suggestive dancing and gore to be had, but nothing near to that on display in DeMille’s The Sign of the Cross a couple of years earlier.
Thirty Day Princess
Directed by Marion Gering
B.P. Schulberg Productions for Paramount Pictures
King Anatol: It’s extraordinary how much you look like Zizi! Tell me, have you any royal blood in your veins?
Nancy Lane: I don’t think so, Your Majesty.
King Anatol: Well, my dear, one can never tell.
A banker (Edward Arnold) wants to float a bond issue for the kingdom of Tyronia and brings its princess (Sylvia Sydney) to New York to publicize the deal. During her first speech there, the princess collapses and must be quarantined for mumps. The banker finds a lookalike stand-in in the form of Nancy Lane (also Sylvia Sydney), a struggling actress. He promises her extra payment if she can vamp crusading newspaper editor Porter Madison III into not denouncing the bond issue. Naturally, Porter soon falls in love with the “princess” and the feeling is mutual.
This is standard romantic comedy fare. The story is lifted slightly above average by the performances of the two leads and a script that was co-written by Preston Sturges.
Clip – at the automat (the two men are scouting for a princess stand-in)
Now and Forever
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Penelope Day: Daddy doesn’t know anything about raising children.
Gary Cooper pays con man Jerry Day who travels the world one step ahead of the law with his wife Toni (Carole Lombard). In China, he announces that he has a child and is going to sign her over to his ex-brother-in-law for $75,000. Toni doesn’t care for this scheme and they separate. Naturally, Jerry falls in love with Penny (Shirley Temple) as soon as they meet and the two reunite with Toni. Jerry tries to go straight but is constantly tempted by a fellow con man (Guy Standing) who has something on him. With Charlotte Granville as the society matron who wants to take care of Penny.
This movie is quite a departure from Shirley’s normal fare. First of all, her part is secondary to the two adult leads, though she does get equal billing. She does not play her normal role of bringing two people together for love of her and there is almost no singing. It’s quite a dark story with an ambiguous ending. That said, this is no better than your average melodrama of the time period. Gary Cooper is an unlikely con man and Carole Lombard doesn’t have much of a chance to be wacky.
Shirley sings “The World Owes Me a Living” – only song in the picture
Little Miss Marker
Directed by Alexander Hall
Marthy Jane, Little Miss Marker: My mommy used to read to me about King Arthur.
Bangles Carson: Where is your mother, Marky?
Marthy Jane, Little Miss Marker: My mommy got awfully tired, and went away. She’s never coming back anymore.
Wow, this was kind of a let down after Bright Eyes. The plot of the movie is based on a Damon Runyon story and all of the characters are gamblers or their associates. Marthy Ann’s (Shirley Temple) father doesn’t have the money to bet on a race but leaves his daughter as a marker. After he loses his bet, he commits suicide (!), leaving Marthy Ann an orphan. Sorrowful Sam, the bookmaker (Adolphe Menjou), is stuck with the adorable child and spends most of the movie trying not to fall in love with her. Bangles Carson (Dorothy Dell), nightclub singer and moll of a crooked racehorse owner, helps Sam take care of her. Will Sam and Bangles turn Marthy Ann over to the authorities?
The gamblers try to get Little Miss Marker to believe in fairy tales again.
I’ve liked Damon Runyan adaptations including 1933’s Lady for a Day but Alexander Hall is no Frank Capra and he can’t make the sodden screenplay sparkle. I am beginning to wonder about how cavalierly the movies treat tragedy in the ’30’s. I can’t imagine slapping the suicide of a small child’s father in the middle of a comedy in a modern movie or that the child would scarcely react to such an event. Puzzling.
Pedophilia didn’t seem to be a big concern then either. We are treated with a scene in which Sam and Markie share a room. Markie complains that she can’t go to sleep in her underwear and proceeds to strip down in front of him wearing Sam’s pajama top but revealing a lot. It was clearly a much more innocent age.
Clip – “Laugh, You Son of a Gun”
The Old Fashioned Way
Directed by William Beaudine
Cleopatra Pepperday: [after McGonigle takes a heavy fall] Marky, are you hurt?
The Great McGonigle: [sarcastically] No, I had the presence of mind to fall on my head.
It is the Gay Nineties and W.C. Fields plays The Great McGonigle, proprietor of a travelling theater company that puts on melodramas. As usual, there is a romance involving his daughter. There’s some comedy singing by a rich widow and straight singing by the daughter’s beau. The film is capped by Fields’s juggling act.
Some quality time with Baby LeRoy
I found this less annoying than the other Fields pictures I’ve watched for 1934. The juggling act at the end is actually pretty good. Fields got his start in vaudeville as a juggler and is talented at it.
Fields’ juggling act
Directed by Clarence Brown
Opal: Lady, when you say, “I do take thee,” how you take him.
Sadie McKee’s mother is a cook for a wealthy family and Sadie grew up with son Michael. She is engaged to Tommy. Michael fires him for stealing. Tommy takes off for New York and Sadie tags along with the understanding they will marry. But Tommy skips out on her with a night club singer. Penniless (she went with Tommy with the clothes on her back), Sadie gets a job dancing at a night club and meets alcoholic millionaire Jack Brennan, whom she marries. Sadie and Michael spend most of the movie at odds with each other because 1) Sadie’s never forgiven him for firing Tommy and “ruining her happiness” and 2) Michael thinks Sadie is a gold digger for marrying Jack, his client. With Joan Crawford as Sadie, Franchot Tone as Michael, Edward Arnold as Jack Brennan, and Gene Raymond as Tommy. Also with Jean Dixon in a nice performance as Sadie’s buddy and Esther Ralston (who can’t carry a tune) as the night club singer.
What a plot! And I omitted a lot of it …. Anyway, this is your standard glossy MGM melodrama. It’s pretty good for what it is but numerous aspects of the story annoyed me. I don’t particularly care for Joan Crawford, particularly when she is being deified as here. I should have known Joan would give me trouble when the movie started with a couple of high-society types referring to her as a “thoroughbred”. If you like her, I think you’d like the movie more than I did. The trailer gives a fair representation of what is in store.
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Gaumont British Picture Corporation
Abbott: Tell her they may soon be leaving us. Leaving us for a long, long journey. How is it that Shakespeare says? “From which no traveler returns.” Great poet.
Bob and Jill Lawrence are vacationing with their daughter Betty in Switzerland when their friend Louis is murdered. Before dieing Louis passes them secret information. Betty is promptly kidnapped to prevent the Lawrences from going to the authorities with the information. Can the Lawrences rescue Betty? Can another assassination be prevented? With Leslie Banks and Edna Best as the Lawrences, Nova Philbeam as Betty, Pierre Fresnay as Louis, and Peter Lorre as the head of the kidnapping/spy ring.
This is OK early Hitchcock but I can understand why he wanted to remake it on a bigger budget in 1956. The suspense leaves something to be desired, though the Albert Hall scene is still classic. The picture is well worth seeing if only to catch Peter Lorre’s performance. He makes a wonderfully jovial yet really creepy bad guy.
The Albert Hall sequence