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The B+ Movie Guide: The New List (Part IV)

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:

1935-1939

The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

Prison film. Warner Baxter. Directed by John Ford. Baxter is a doctor who gives treatment to a wounded man one night. Who just happens to be John Wilkes Boothe. So he gets thrown in jail for aiding Boothe. And we see him in prison for most of the film, and eventually he uses his doctor skills to stop a huge epidemic that’s sweeping the island. Prison films are always interesting. You can’t go wrong with prison films or courtroom films.

Reefer Madness (1936)

This is one of those movies that got rediscovered as one of those unintentionally hilarious films. This was a completely straightforward, unironic film that discussed the dangers of using the marijuana. Which include: manslaughter, rape, suicide, and madness via marijuana addiction. It is pretty hilarious. And they spoofed it like ten years ago as a musical. It’s enjoyable in the sense that The Wicker Man remake is enjoyable.

San Francisco (1936)

Some of the best special effects I’ve seen in the 30s. This is great because it’s two halves of a movie. The first half is a drama, with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeanette MacDonald. Tracy’s a priest, Gable’s a gambler. Gable falls in love with MacDonald. She knows he’s not good for her, but she loves him. And there’s all that going on, and then he wants her for his club, but she should be playing the big time. Drama. And then, out of nowhere, the San Francisco earthquake hits. And it’s really astounding, as an effects film goes. Then the rest of the film is them dealing with the quake and the aftereffects. This film really surprised me.

The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936)

These biopics are just interesting, for whatever reason. Paul Muni won an Oscar for this. What it’s about is in the title. It’s just a solid 30s movie.

Things to Come (1936)

One of the early sci-fi movies. For those into that. It’s an alternate reality where humanity is destroyed by war, and how it rebuilds from there. If you want to see early science fiction, this is the one.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936)

As someone who adores early color films, this one is worth the watch. This was in the era before Hollywood really started using color. They had it for a full year-plus by this point, but they still treated it almost as a novelty. Almost like sound was, at first. They didn’t want to overwhelm people with it. So everything was muted. This movie is a lot of dark blues, dark greens and browns. Color isn’t garish quite yet. That’s for when we get to 1938-1939, and Adventures of Robin Hood and the like. Anyway, the movie is essentially about the Hatfields and McCoys. Not really, but kinda. There’s also a lot of tree cutting and things of that sort. Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda star with Sylvia Sidney. And Spanky from the Little Rascals. It’s a great movie for color and cinematography.

Captains Courageous (1937)

GREAT movie. This is one of those movies that’s great because it doesn’t really have a plot. Spoiled rich kid falls overboard and is picked up by a fishing boat. And he quickly realizes he has to learn how to hold his own. And in doing so, learns to become a better person. Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for this. Mickey Rooney, John Carradine, Lionel Barrymore and Melvyn Douglas are also in it. One of the best movies of the 30s. It ends with a really touching father/son moment, and is one of those movies that you can show anyone at any time and they’ll like it.

Dead End (1937)

This is one of those interesting movies, because it’s a weird hybrid. It’s called such because it stars and spawned the group The Dead End Kids. They’re kind of like the Bowery Boys. They’re the same kids that appear in Angels with Dirty Faces. It’s that kind of movie. Where you see the kids and their hijinks, but there’s also another (gangster) story going on. There’s a whole subplot about Humphrey Bogart, as a gangster coming back to hide out in his hometown. Then there are the two young lovers — all that stuff. There’s a great scene in this with Claire Trevor and Bogart, where it’s obvious she’s got syphilis, but they can’t call it that because of the Code, so they work around it, even though it’s really clear when you watch it. Good film. Interesting mix of storylines.

Double Wedding (1937)

William Powell. Myrna Loy. The end. But for further proof: screwball comedy. Two sisters, one serious, one adventurous. Two men, one foppish, one free-spirited. Hijinks ensue. It’s Powell and Loy. You’re in the best possible hands.

The Good Earth (1937)

Wang Lung wants his mo’fuckin’ land. And O-Lan’s dropping babies in the rice paddies. Did you guys read this book in middle school like I did? Anyway, Luise Rainer won her second of back-to-back Oscars for this. Poor Chinese farmer wants his land. It’s not as hardcore as the book, but it gets the job done. (Also, if any rappers want to use the first two lines as lyrics, I wholly support it.)

It’s Love I’m After (1937)

Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland. Need more? Howard and Davis are an acting team. Very famous. They also fight like crazy. Even though they’re in love. But they fight so much they have never gotten married. Meanwhile, de Havilland plays a chick with a crush, and Howard decides to push back the wedding to Davis to get de Havilland to stop crushing on him. So he tries to act like as big an asshole as possible. And it doesn’t work. Bette Davis does comedy here.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

Best Picture winner. Better than Louis Pasteur. This one’s about (insert title here). Mostly it’s about the Dreyfus Affair. Zola defends Dreyfus who is essentially thrown in prison because he’s Jewish. Muni delivers what I feel is a better performance than the one he won for (he lost to Spencer Tracy this year), and Joseph Schildkraut (as Dreyfus) won for it. The last half of the film is a trial, and you know what I always say about courtroom movies. Weak Best Picture winner, but great movie.

Lost Horizon (1937)

I call this a forgotten Frank Capra movie because it came out between It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It With You and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. (Technically Broadway Bill did, too. But that one he never quite cracked.) This is about a plane full of people who crash in Shangri-La, and they discover this paradise where nobody ages. It’s a really interesting fantasy movie. Very solid and worth seeing. When Capra makes good ones, he really makes good ones.

Nothing Sacred (1937)

Probably the quintessential Carole Lombard performance. Most people would say To Be or Not to Be. Which would also be correct. She plays a woman who is convinced she is dying, but then finds out she’s not. Then Fredric March shows up in town, looking to do a story on her. So she decides to pretend to be sick. Classic, classic movie. Also a screwball. Though not as zany as some of the others.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)

If you like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Scarlet Pimpernel, this is another one to put on the list. Basically if the Pimpernel met The Prince and the Pauper. The king is kidnapped, so this guy’s gotta pretend to be king. Ronald Colman stars in this one. Raymond Massey, Mary Astor, David Niven and Douglas Fairbanks Jr are also in it. Really entertaining movie.

Stage Door (1937)

Really loved this one. It’s a woman’s picture. And by that I mean — it stars almost all women. It’s about a boarding house that takes on aspiring actresses and dancers and the like. Katharine Hepburn is the main girl, who wants to be an actress. She’s secretly the daughter of a wealthy man and is trying to make it on her own, without her name. Ginger Rogers is also there, playing the jaded dancer who is sleeping with a producer who takes care of her. But the real star of the movie is Andrea Leeds, who plays a woman who had one huge hit starting out but hasn’t worked since, and desperately wants to get the part that Katharine Hepburn also wants. It’s… tragic. Oh yeah, Lucille Ball is also in this movie. And Adolph Menjou. Great cast, really good movie. Also nominated for Best Picture that year. Though a bunch of these were nominated. I generally only try to tell you when things win, in case that sways you.

Topper (1937)

Not a gay porno as the title would suggest. Roland Young is Topper. He got nominated for Supporting Actor for this movie, which I mention because — he’s clearly the lead. Cary Grant and Constance Bennett play a couple who get killed. But then they come back, Casper-style. And they start to mess with Roland Young, an uptight banker. And there are a lot of funny ghost hijinks that happen. It’s a funny movie. Chock-full of character actors you’ve seen everywhere, like Billie Burke, Eugene Pallette and Alan Mowbray.

Wee Willie Winkie (1937)

Another Shirley Temple. This one directed by John Ford. And co-starring Victor McLaglen. Shirley MacLaine wins over an army base. It’s fun seeing her with Victor McLaglen. Also, Cesar Romero is the villain. Kind of. It’s a fun movie.

The Amazing Doctor Clitterhouse (1938)

The title makes you interested, doesn’t it? Edward G. Robinson is a doctor who decides to become a criminal. But for science. He wonders what it’s like to be a criminal and how the mindset works. So he plans these brilliant heists and essentially becomes a criminal in order to study criminals. Bogie is the main crook he teams with, and Claire Trevor is also in it. Very interesting movie, to see Robinson descend from clinically interested into full-on criminal without realizing it.

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

I only need to say two words to convince Colin of this one: Ernst Lubitsch. It’s Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert. A screwball romance. He’s a banker who has had seven wives. She finds out about this and decides to teach him a lesson. It’s… it’s Lubitsch. You know you’re getting quality.

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