Sunday, October 4, 2009

30s and 40s : Glitz, Glamour, Drama, Humour, Wonder

I've had a really good run of films lately, and they've been mostly from the 30s, early 40s (I'm going back to my classic roots). Here are some little summaries from the best of the bunch:

Come Live With Me (1941) - Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart make an interesting couple. She's foreign and has a raven beauty (well she was dubbed the most beautiful woman in Hollywood) and he's the everyman. But they make it work. The film has some comedy and clever lines, but at heart it's a (albeit light) love story. It has some nice cinematography (particularly when considering these films were usually made on the studio lot) and nice performances (I've seen one other Hedy film, Ziegfeld Girl, and she was unfortunately cardboard bland in it. But in this film she is much comfortable and engaging). Overall a very enjoyable film.

It's a Wonderful World (1939) - Another Jimmy Stewart film, and this time he's paired with Claudette Colbert (one of the fine comediennes of the 30s imo). Again, they're not the couple you'd expect to be paired up, but they work fine. There's a particular scene where Colbert's character has to get up on Stewart's back (this is a screwball comedy so it's to be expected) so she can get apples from the tree. The processes of this action and its results show a real naturalness between the actors and great comedic timing from both. The rest of the film is great lighthearted fun and was much more enjoyable than I was expecting (since it's not talked much of, I naturally thought it wasn't good).

My Best Girl (1927) - This was my first Mary Pickford film and it didn't disappoint. The fascinating thing about Mary was that she was quite young looking and played ingenues even when she was well passed thirty (as she is in this picture). She was also short and petite and cute, which I guess helps. Here she was teamed with a younger man, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers (just about the cutest, baby-faced looking guy in silent filmdom), who would later become her husband. It's no surprise I say because they have quite good chemistry in this. There's such a lovely boy/girl cuteness between them, but also tenderness in one particular close-up scene. The film is on a whole pretty funny and very lovely, capturing a sweetness that only other silent films of its kind can capture.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) - I'm generally a sucker for period romantic films, but I'll admit that they're not always well made. That said, this one is wonderful. I think it might be because the romance is not overbearing (nor under utilised), and also the heroine is a fascinating character. I've never cared much for Norma Shearer (I've only seen her in The Women, where she played arguably the dull character amongst show-stoppers), but watching this has made me re-examine her. I don't know if she was Oscar-nominated [edit: she was nominated, yay], but she should have been. The story itself is fascinating. It's about the poet Elizabeth Barrett's life around the time that she met and fell in love with Robert Browning (played by the handsome Fredric March, though his performance was a little over the top, or maybe that's how Browning was?). They have one obstacle, her overbearing and possessive father (played to perfection by Charles Laughton) who doesn't want his children to marry. The film is a winner for me.

Romance in Manhattan (1935) - I've seen about five (now six with this new inclusion) of Ginger Roger's films sans Fred Astaire, and each of them have given me a different outlook on her. As it is, different co-stars and settings can bring a different dynamic to an actor's performance. In this film, Ginger still keeps up her 30s, no-nonsense, yet wise-cracking working class girl persona, but she brings something a little varied to the plate. This time she has to deal with the Great Depression (it was also an issue in Swing Time, but somehow there wasn't a doubt she'd pull through financially). I don't know if Romance in Manhattan is classified as a comedy, but it's through-and-through drama for me with a side-dish of smiles. Ginger is great as the struggling working girl who has to find a way to prevent both her brother from going to an orphanage and her newfound Czechoslovakian lover (Francis Lederer, also very good and sympathetic in this) from being deported. Up until that final reel I still didn't know if the ending would be happy or not (though, alas, the ending is happy--perhaps wishfulfillment happy, but I'm not complaining; it would otherwise have been a painful film).

I Love You Again (1940) - I just watched this one today and boy, William Powell and Myrna Loy can do no wrong when they're together. Now this is the screen couple upon which all others are measured. In my opinion, nobody quite has the believability that they do. Their chemistry is mostly known for its comedic qualities, but blended in this comedy is much affection and a dash of romance. In their own rights they are fine actors and they make this film possible, which would otherwise probably not work (the plot is slightly absurd and the comedy could easily have been uninteresting and unfunny if actors with less enjoyment and dedication to their work had been on board). That said, the plot does run smoothly and this film is very funny and has meaning. Powell and Loy are wonderful, unique talents.


1 comment:

  1. oooh. i havent seen any of these. but...'I love you again' sounds cool, and so does 'my best girl'

    ...i miss you so much already!!!! <3