The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part III)
I gave Colin a giant list of 500 movies, and he finished it. Of course I’m gonna come up with another list.
This one is for everyone, though. Not specifically for Colin. This is raw material for everybody, should they choose, to go out and see more movies. Not all of them are essential. Most of them are just awesome. I told Colin that once he finished this list, I’d give him another one that was more fun than work. Geared toward cool stuff that he’d enjoy.
I went through and found 1,000 more movies that I think either need to be seen (leftover “essential” films) or are just really great and would be enjoyed by most who see them. Here they are:
The Lost Patrol (1934)
John Ford. A small patrol in the desert slowly gets picked off by unseen snipers. Really good stuff.
Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Powell and Loy. One of the few straight dramas they made. Clark Gable’s in this too. This is the movie that Dillinger saw before he was shot.
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
Terrific movie. Leslie Howard. Foppish aristocrat is secretly Robin Hood meets Batman. Always in disguise and getting out of situations. Highly recommended and hugely entertaining.
Twentieth Century (1934)
Hawks. Lombard and Barrymore. Hawksian dialogue. Lots of bickering.
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Alice Adams (1935)
Katharine Hepburn, in one of her best early performances. A George Stevens film. And you know with Stevens, you’re getting quality.
Becky Sharp (1935)
The first film made in all color. And by all color, I mean all color. Before this was two-strip Technicolor. All reds and greens. This was three-strip Technicolor. So the first full color feature. (I remember we saw this as a double feature with La Cucaracha, which was the first full color film. It’s a 20 minute short. Not time-consuming at all, but also not something I’d count as a full entry on this list, the way Un Chien Andalou, or a lot of the early Chaplin/Keaton shorts shouldn’t count, but area great and should be seen by all.) It’s an adaptation of Vanity Fair, so if you saw the middling Reese Witherspoon version, then you’ll know the basic story. Mostly it’s all about the color.
The Call of the Wild (1935)
This is a great 30s movie, because it feels like it takes place outside. I like early studio films that feel like they were shot on location. This is about Alaskan prospecting, and they’re in snow a lot of the time. At least it feels that way. Which adds to the appeal. Also, William Wellman, who is a name that’ll come up a lot on this list. And Clark Gable and Loretta Young. (And Jack Oakie.) Definite star power, and there’s also a great side story about what happened with Gable and Young on set. It’s your classic adventure film. People set out to make money on a gold mine. Lot of fun, this one.
Hands Across the Table (1935)
Screwball comedy. Carole Lombard (one of the queens of the genre) and Fred MacMurray. She wants a rich husband, and he’s from a rich family who lost all their money, and wants to marry an heiress. And they end up staying together, trying to marry other people, and — it’s a screwball comedy. You’re in good hands. It’s great. You’ll like it. Highly recommended.
The Little Colonel (1935)
Shirley Temple. She was the biggest star in Hollywood at this time. It’s always fun to see how they built films around her. They have some token love story that holds it together, but it’s essentially about her, parading around this plantation, dancing with the slaves (the staircase dance with Bojangles is one of the most famous in history. The first time a black person danced with a white person on screen), winning the heart of her irascible grandfather (Lionel Barrymore, of course), and getting into trouble. It’s a fun little movie. Worthwhile for a few “firsts,” and because it represents Shirley Temple at the height of her fame. Plus it’s one of the only times Shirley Temple appeared on screen in color (there’s a “pink party” at the end that’s the only color in the film).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
You’ve seen this done on screen before. The reason you should see this one, is because this one does a really fun job of using early movie magic and special effects. For the time, the special effects are really well done. They look hokey now, but if you’ve seen a lot of films of the era, the effects will stand out. A lot of great camera tricks and lighting. (Put it this way — the cinematographer is the only write-in candidate to ever win an Oscar. Get that? Not nominated, and was written in enough to actually win the award.) This is definitely one of those movies as well that has a lot of fun with itself. The dialogue in particular. Let’s put it this way — Olivia de Havilland has a very defined screen presence. In this movie, she looks like she had some great sex just before they called action in every single scene. Not joking. And James Cagney is in it, too. Definitely a recommended movie. This is kind of like the 30s Anna Karenina. You know the story, but it’s about how they made it and who is in it more than the actual story.
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
This is one of those great underrated, forgotten movies. Kind of like Dodsworth. Charles Laughton is a perfect butler. Think Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day. And the guy he serves (some Earl or Duke or whatever) loses him in a card game to a nouveau riche American. So now Charles Laughton has to move to small-town America. And there’s some comedy, and things of that sort, but ultimately the film becomes about Laughton coming into his own as a person and learning to stand on his own. It’s kind of the opposite of Remains of the Day, where Anthony Hopkins doesn’t do that. It’s really great, and would make an interesting double feature with Remains of the Day.
Astaire/Rogers movie. Not quite an Astaire/Rogers movie. They made ten movies together. Only one of them will not feature on any of my lists, which is their first, Flying Down to Rio. And that’s because it’s not their film. They’re the supporting pair. But their dancing completely steals the movie and led to them becoming the leads of their features. The rest will either be on this list or were on the initial list. Because their chemistry was second to none. But, of all the ten, outside of Flying Down to Rio, this is the one that’s the least “Astaire/Rogers.” Because Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne are the leads. Astaire and Rogers are again the supporting parts. So it’s not the best of their pairings, but with them, you just want them, so you’ll take what you can get.
She Married Her Boss (1935)
Claudette Colbert and Melvyn Douglas. She’s his secretary, he’s the boss. They fall in love and marry. She realizes being a wife is not the same as being a secretary. Nice 30s comedy.
The 39 Steps (1935)
Hitchcock. I, personally, am not the biggest fan of his pre-America films. But this is clearly the best of the bunch. You don’t have to pitch Hitchcock. You know what you’re getting.
The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)
Edward G. Robinson plays a timid bank clerk who gets mistaken for the biggest gangster in town. Meanwhile, the gangster (also played by Edward G. Robinson), decides, “Hey, this can be useful,” and decides to start taking advantage of it. So you get Edward G. Robinson playing two roles, and Jean Arthur is also in it. Oh, and by the way, it’s directed by John Ford.
After the Thin Man (1936)
William Powell. Myrna Loy. AND it’s a Thin Man movie. You have no excuse to not see this. These movies are perfect.
Follow the Fleet (1936)
Astaire and Rogers. I describe this one as some of their best dancing, with one of their worst plots. The story isn’t that great at all. But the dancing is incredible.
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Best Picture winner. Really terrific film. It’s three hours long, so be ready for that. William Powell plays Ziegfeld. And it’s basically three movies in one. There’s the Ziegfeld third, where it’s the origins. And then there are cameos, like Fanny Brice. Then there’s the first wife third, with Luise Rainer, and that heartbreaking telephone conversation. Then there’s the second wife, Billie Burke (aka Glinda), played by Myrna Loy. So technically this is a Powell and Loy film. And throughout, there are ten giant musical numbers. Not quite Busby Berkeley, because the camera doesn’t go in weird spots, but it definitely has the scale down. You look at the numbers and you go, “Yeah, they wanted to make this look big and expensive.” The sets are huge for those numbers. Quite impressive stuff.
Libeled Lady (1936)
Powell and Loy. Oh, and Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow. Screwball. Spencer Tracy writes a column about Myrna Loy, and she sues him for libel. So, to not be sued, he decides to get the story to be true. The story is that she’s breaking off her marriage because she’s fallen in love with someone else. So he brings in William Powell, a ladies’ man, to get her to break off her marriage. Oh, and then there’s also Jean Harlow, as Tracy’s fiancée. She’s like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. They’ve been together forever, but he hasn’t married her yet. They all get involved in this, and it’s hilarious. You should have been sold by the first three words of this paragraph.
The Petrified Forest (1936)
Humphrey Bogart, Leslie Howard, Bette Davis. It’s terrific. It’s really the Leslie Howard show. You’d think it’s Bogie, but it’s not. It’s all Howard. Wonderful film that everyone needs to see. One of the best of the 30s.
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