The Blue Angel, Germany, 1930, 103 min. Starring Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings. Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Jannings was the star, but Dietrich ended up stealing the show with her star-making role as cabaret chanteuse Lola Lola. Includes her rendition of ‘Falling in Love Again.’
L’Age d’Or, France, 1930, 63 min. Starring Gaston Modot, Lya Lys. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Buñuel’s second collaboration with Salvador Dali (though the famed painter’s participation was apparently minimal) was banned after its first showing for its perceived anti-Catholicism, and didn’t end up having a legal US premiere for almost five decades. Delightful slice of surrealism.
Morocco, USA, 1930, 92 min. Starring Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich, Adolphe Menjou. Directed by Joseph Von Sternberg. For her Hollywood debut, Dietrich teamed once again with her favorite director. She plays, not surprisingly, a cabaret singer, caught up in romantic intrigue with French Foreign Legionnaire Cooper and upper class Menjou. Beautiful décor and a luminescent Marlene make this a real treat.
M, Germany, 1931, 111 min. Starring Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann. Directed by Fritz Lang. Gripping crime story of a child murderer roaming the streets of Berlin, while both the police and the local crime syndicate attempt to bring him down. Chilling, and thought provoking.
Boudu Saved From Drowning, France, 1932, 87 min. Starring Michel Simon, Charles Granval. Directed by Jean Renoir. Renoir looks at one of his favorite topics – disparity between classes – in this comic tale of a Parisian bookseller who rescues a vagabond from the Seine only to have the man take over his life. Classic performance by Michel Simon in the title role.
Duck Soup, USA, 1933, Starring the Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Edgar Kennedy. Directed by Leo McCarey. Groucho takes over as leader of Freedonia – surprise, surprise, pretty soon they’re at war. The Brothers’ first flop is now widely considered their best film, with a level of anti-establishment humor that is simply staggering for its time.
L’Atalante, France, 1934, 89 min. Starring Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, Jean Dasté. Directed by Jean Vigo. The second and last feature of Vigo’s regrettably short career tells the story of newlyweds who set off for their new life on a barge – along with the husband’s blustery friend. Offbeat and thoroughly enchanting.
Stagecoach, USA, 1939, 96 min. Starring John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine. Directed by John Ford. Wayne went from cowboy actor to cowboy star, as well as beginning a longtime public association with director Ford, with this character-driven piece that more than delivers on the action as well. Yakima Canutt’s stunts still impress.
Alexander Nevsky, Russia, 1938, 107 min. Starring Nikolai Cherkassov, Nikolai Okhlopkov. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein and Dmitri Vasilyev. Under the watchful eye of the state, Eisenstein created this classic of sweeping battle scenes, not-so-subtle warnings about the dangers brewing to the west in Germany, and even less subtle pandering to the ego of Papa Joe. Propaganda, to be sure, but grandiose, unquestionably cinematic propaganda.
La Grand Illusion, France, 1937, 117 min. Starring Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Eric von Stroheim. Directed by Jean Renoir. A war movie with no war in sight might be unthinkable today, but Renoir was far more interested in decoding what being on different sides in a conflict did to people internally, as characterized by the relationship between Gabin’s war camp prisoner and Von Stroheim’s warden.
Bringing Up Baby, USA, 1938, Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Charles Ruggles. Directed by Howard Hawks. The definitive screwball comedy has Grant as a prim zoologist whose life is turned upside down when he becomes the object of a daffy socialite’s attention. Hawks is often remembered for his macho style of adventure, but films like this and His Girl Friday show how adept he was at forging some of the most energetic romantic comedies of all time.
Only Angels Have Wings, USA, 1939, 121 min. Starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth. Directed by Howard Hawks. Typically rough and tumble Hawks story with Grant leading a company of mail pilots in South America, coming into conflict with love interest Arthur who fears for his safety and rightly so. Striking aerial scenes coupled with great ensemble work from a fine group of actors.
Rules Of The Game, France, 1939, 113 min. Starring Marcel Dalio, Nora Gregor, Jean Renoir. Directed by Jean Renoir. Renoir’s scathing satire of France’s societal confinements wasn’t appreciated at all upon its initial release, and the edited version shipped over here didn’t help things. It wasn’t until 1959 when a restored version made it to the Venice Film Festival that the true brilliance behind Renoir’s vision became apparent and the film took its place among cinema’s masterworks.