1001 Flicks

Regularly updated blog charting the most important films of the last 104 years.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

133. Rebecca (1940)

Directed By Alfred Hitchcock


You know, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Fall Of The House of Usher... only here there is no ghost or living wife, but something which can be even more insidious, a memory and a secret.

Woman marries De Winter to find herself haunted by the memory of his previous wife Rebecca.


This film won the Best Movie Oscar of 1940, and it is easy to see why. Hitchcock rarely disappoints, the film is expertly directed. While it might at times seem drawn out it is all part of the suspense, of making you want to know what will happen next. The acting is very good as well, Laurence Olivier looks better than he did in Wuthering Heights, having learned his lessons and Joan Fontaine as the nameless second Mrs. De Winter is also beautiful and quite good.

The acting award here goes to Mrs. Davers, however, probably because she has the best and most memorable part as the hallucinated lesbianic sycophantic nutcase governess. The scene where she tries to convince Fontaine to commit suicide is particularly good.

Not having read the book it is hard for me to judge how faithful it is or not, but as a piece of cinema it stands by itself quite perfectly. The only part of the film which I thought was superfluous is the beggining narration, which kind of gives away the ending of the film. Still, superb. Get it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

At Selznick's insistence, the plot of the novel Rebecca was largely unchanged in the film. However, one plot detail in the novel was altered to comply with the Hollywood Production Code, which said that the murder of a spouse had to be punished. In the novel, Maxim shoots Rebecca, while in the film, he only thinks of killing her after she taunts him, saying she is pregnant with someone else's child. She then suddenly falls back, hits her head on a piece of boat equipment, and dies from her head injuries. This is therefore much more innocent seeming than in the book version, as in the book, Maxim has purposely killed Rebecca, while in the film it is seen to be more of an accident.

The protagonists get to know each other:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

132. His Girl Friday (1940)

Directed By Howard Hawks


Girl is getting married to some hick from Albany. She makes the mistake of saying goodbye to her ex-husband Cary Grant who was also her boss at the newspaper. Girl gets involved with a newspaper story and ends up with Cary Grant.


If there is one thing to be said about this film it is the fact that it is really fast. I have rarely seen films with such fast dialogue before or after this one. Everyone talks at the same time, there might be five jokes being delivered in the same second because different people are making them either at the same time or in extremely fast succession.

This is something which is quite typical of American comedies of this period but that reaches a real apex here. While French comedies are witty and delightful and somewhat fast, American comedies are tougher and at completely breakneck speed. They are both good but in very different styles.

Cary Grant is great here as usual in comedies, and the whole cast is pretty great. Another interesting thing about the film is how it breaks the fourth wall, when talking about Baldwin the guy played by Ralph Bellamy in the film the character of Cary Grant says " You know he looks like that film actor, Ralph Bellamy". Grant even makes digs at his own real name when he says "The last guy that said that to me was Archibald Leach (Grant's real name)". The film isn't as funny as many other American comedies reviewed here, but it does have its own merit for the way the script is not only written but expertly delivered. So get it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

This is one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films and is even referenced in the beginning of his script for Pulp Fiction for its rapid-fire dialogue.

The film was originally supposed to be a straightforward retelling of The Front Page, with both the editor and reporter being men. However, during auditions, Howard Hawks' secretary read reporter Hildy Johnson's lines. Hawks liked the way the dialogue sounded coming from a woman, and the script was rewritten to make Hildy female (and the ex-wife of editor Walter Burns). Most of the original dialogue and all of the characters' names were left the same.

Here you go, I talked so much about the dialogue, so I am giving you the whole film in 8 minutes, without any dialogue!:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

131. Wuthering Heights (1939)

Directed By William Wyler


It's me Cathy, let me in to your windoooow.


Well it isn't that special a film. It is actually quite run of the mill melodrama. That isn't to say that it is bad, it is a good melodrama but nothing astounding. 1939 has been a pretty good year for films with stuff like La Regle Du Jeu and Gone With The Wind taking the cake. When this film is put next to those giants it pales terribly.

Laurence Olivier is hamming it a bit, as the theatre actor that he was, he would eventually get better but this is one of his first cinema parts and he isn't that astonishing. Much worse than him is Merle Oberon, however, hamming it all the way. David Niven was the more natural of all the main actors.

The plot was based on the very famous book and therefore not a surprise to anyone. The directing is good but uninspired, but a nod should be given to the set and dress design which was great throughout. Probably the best version of Whuthering Heights out there, but that isn't saying much. Get it if you want it from Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia

* In the final sequence of Wuthering Heights, the spirits of Heathcliff and Cathy are seen walking together. This was added after filming was complete. As Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon had already moved on to other projects, doubles had to be used.

* Wyler hated the idea of the after-life scene, and didn't want to do it but Samuel Goldwyn vetoed him. Goldwyn subsequently claimed, "I made Wuthering Heights, Wyler only directed it."

* The Mitchell Camera Corporation selected cinematographer Gregg Toland and Wuthering Heights to be the first to use their new Mitchell BNC camera. This camera model would become the studio standard.

* Vivien Leigh wanted to play the lead role, alongside her then lover and future husband Laurence Olivier, but studio executives decided the role should go to Merle Oberon. They later offered Leigh the part of Isabelle Linton, but she declined, and Geraldine Fitzgerald was cast. Leigh's next project, Gone with the Wind, that same year, won her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

* Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier apparently detested each other. Legend has it that when William Wyler yelled "Cut!" after a particularly romantic scene, Oberon shouted back to her director about Laurence: "Tell him to stop spitting at me!" Olivier retorted by shouting, "What's spit, for God's sake, between actors, you bloody little idiot?"

* Samuel Goldwyn claimed that this film is his favorite of all his productions.

* Laurence Olivier found himself becoming increasingly annoyed with William Wyler's exhausting style of film-making. After countless takes of one scene, he is said to have exclaimed, "For God's sake, I did it sitting down. I did it with a smile. I did it with a smirk. I did it scratching my ear. I did it with my back to the camera. How do you want me to do it?" Wyler's retort was, "I want it better."

* Ronald Colman, Douglas Fairbanks and Robert Newton were considered for the role of Heathcliff.

* Both of the leading players began work on the film miserable at having to leave their loved ones back in the United Kingdom. Olivier was missing his fiancée Vivien Leigh and Oberon had recently fallen in love with film producer Alexander Korda.

* David Niven remembers the filming of Merle Oberon's deathbed scenes (recorded in his bestselling book The Moon's a Balloon) as less than romantic. He had been given a substance to help it appear as if he were crying, which instead had the effect of making "green goo" come out of his nose.

* Laurence Olivier credits William Wyler with teaching him how to act in films, as opposed to acting onstage, and for giving him a new respect for films. Olivier had tended to "ham it up", as if he were playing to the second balcony, but Wyler showed him how to act more subtly

A better version of the film... Wuthering Heights in Semaphore:

Saturday, June 23, 2007

130. La Regle Du Jeu (The Rules Of The Game) (1939)

Directed By Jean Renoir


Setting is the same as Gosford Park, some characters are different and the murder happens right at the end. Oh and it is a much better film. Recapping: There's masters and servants, masters have big get together at country house, someone gets killed.


Whatever possessed the sadly departed Robert Altman to make a film strongly based on La Regle Du Jeu only with British (i.e. boring, uptight, represed and WASPish) characters instead of French is a secret that he took to the grave with him.

Regle Du Jeu is a superior film, and I am not saying this just because. At first glance it is a very entertaining, very well shot and beautiful film., At a deeper level it is a political statement which is at the same time funny and tragic. This is a film that I think pretty much anyone can enjoy, it is extremely fast paced and witty, the sets are amazing, and <sexism> for the ladies the clothing is all Chanel </sexism>. Then it is a terrible indictment of the bourgeoisie in the late 30's. They are portrayed as care-free and fun-loving, but also childish and not aware of the consequences of their actions, as well as casually brutal as represented by the Watership Down that is the hunting scene.

It might seem to us quite astonishing that the film was banned in France when it came out because of its portrayal of the higher classes, like my wife says, "Vive La Revolution!". But at an age where the status quo was there to be upheld this is a film which tears it down, gently but determinately. All the characters are in fact sympathetic but also silly. The film starts out as a farce, and it is a farce for almost the whole time until the last 10 minutes. Another great feature of this film is just how French it is, the dialogues as well as the attitudes to life could have come out of no other country, it is almost a caricature of laissez faire and promiscuity mixed with a certain pretentiousness in the higher classes. Jean Renoir reveals himself as a brilliant actor, as much as a brilliant director, his character of Octave is one of the best in a film populated with fascinating characters.

The film is brilliant and a lot of fun, you owe yourself to watch it, so get it from Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The film was initially condemned for its satire on the French upper classes and was greeted with derision by a Parisian crowd on its première. The upper class is depicted in this film as capricious and self-indulgent, with little regard for the consequences of their actions. The French government duly banned it, but after the War it has come to be seen by many film critics and directors as one of the greatest films of all time.

The Rules of the Game is noted for its use of deep focus so that events going on in the background are as important as those in the foreground.

In a 1954 interview with Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut, reprinted in Jean Renoir: Interviews, Renoir said "Working on the script inspired me to make a break and perhaps get away from naturalism completely, to try to touch on a more classical, more poetic genre." He admitted that he wrote and rewrote it several times, often abandoning his original intentions altogether upon interaction with the actors having witnessed reactions that he hadn't foreseen. As a director he sought to "get closer to the way in which characters can adapt to their theories in real life while being subjected to life’s many obstacles that keep us from being theoretical and from remaining theoretical".

The film has been a favorite with other filmmakers. One example is Robert Altman's Gosford Park which copied many of its plot elements (a story of aristocrats in the country, aristocrats and their servants, murder) and pays homage with a direct reference to the infamous hunting scene.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

129. Ninotchka (1939)

Directed By Ernst Lubitsch


Ninotchka is a Soviet trade agent trying to sell some jewels to the French when she falls in love with the paramour of the former owner of the jewels, before the revolution.


Well, Garbo is starring in a comedy! As one of the taglines for it said "Garbo Laughs!"... the other tagline says "Don't Pronounce it, see it!"... in a long tradition of Americans revelling in their own short comings (like renaming Harry Potter's first book Sorcerer's Stone because no one would buy a book with Philosopher written on the cover). Actually Garbo is quite good in it, partly because she spends the first half of the film acting like a Bolshevik robot of some kind, which really suits her.

Garbo cannot, unfortunately laugh in a convincing way, it looks a bit forced, but she only has to do it seldomly in the film to satisfy the slogan. The film is as interesting for it's comedy as it is for its politics. For an age when so many films were terribly callous in their political stance, this one manages to give a pretty balanced picture of pre and post-revolutionary Russia. There are no good guys here, the Soviets are a brutal dictatorship but have achieved a great degree of equality, while the aristocracy is composed of horrible snobs who kept the people enslaved. You get the idea that the situation didn't change so much, only aristocracy was substituted by the party.

And it is a very funny film, credit has to go to the three Bolshevik agents that show up right at the beginning of the film and that serve as a kind of comic relief to the more serious romance going on with Garbo. The film is witty, and makes a lot of fun of politics, stuff which you wouldn't really think as great comedic material, like being sent to Siberia, being killed because someone didn't like your report or taking 15 years to make a 5 year plan. But here the unPCness of the film actually helps it, mainly because it is funny, and good comedy can be as unPC as it wants because it mocks a bad situation, it doesn't try to make us empathise with it. But despite all my talk about politics, it is a very funny film and that is why you should see it. Get it form Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Released in 1939 in the United States, the movie was released during World War II in Europe, where it became a great success. It was, however, banned in the Soviet Union and its satellites.

Ninotchka, on her arrival at the train station, updating her fellow countrymen about latest news in Moscow: "The last mass trials were a success: there will be fewer, but better Russians."

No film of Ninotchka, but here is a short 1929 silent newsreel of Garbo crying after leaving Sweden...:

Monday, June 18, 2007

128. Gunga Din (1939)

Directed By George Stevens


Freedom fighters try to liberate India through targeted attacks on the military only to be shafted by a traitorous Indian reactionary and crushed under the boot of imperialism.


Wow, talk about un-pc films, this one is way up there. You are supposed to empathise with the British and their blacked-up friend while they treat Indians like dirt, and I'm not even talking about the Thugees. The treatment of all Indians is pretty bad, except the kind of patronising relationship that Cary Grant has with Gunga, as if he was a 4 year old.

Of course this is one of those films about the "white man's burden", it is part of a tradition of justifications for the presence of colonials in any colony including India. It goes like this: "We need to be there to keep it civilised, or else the whole country would be taken over by mad murderous heathens who worship Kali, the goddess of BLOOD!". Of course less than 10 years after this film there would be a very different tune going on.

Of course you could try to feel better about this film and take it the other way and think that all the British had to be saved by a lowly Indian, but the message here is that some Indians, and by what you see in the film, a minority are still submissive to the white man and there fore are "good natives".

Let me skip my anthropology under-grad rant and go on about the film... Ideologies aside I am just not big on adventure films, not big on Captain Blood, on Robin Hood or on this film. When it's swashbuckling for swashbuckling's sake I just don't engage. I loved Mutiny on The Bounty and Only Angels Have Wings, but those are much more about relationships than adventure. Also, I was so shocked by most of it that I couldn't take it seriously. In the end it is not a bad film visually, there are plenty of battles and the temple is quite cool and all, it is also worth watching because of the scenes that remind you a little too much of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. Get it from Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Critics have noted that the film has many plot similarities with The Front Page, with Fairbanks' character wanting to leave to get married but being prevented from doing so by Cary Grant's scheming character. (Grant played the same role in a remake of The Front Page called His Girl Friday the following year.)

The film version of Gunga Din was re-told (perhaps "parodied" would be a better word) in a 1962 tongue-in-cheek version reset in the American West and starring all of the members of the Rat Pack, entitled Sergeants 3, with Frank Sinatra in the McLaglen role, Dean Martin in the Grant role, Peter Lawford in the Fairbanks role, and Sammy Davis, Jr. in the Jaffe role.

Gunga Din remains the favorite film of novelist and screenwriter William Goldman; his first novel, The Temple of Gold, is named after the location of the film's climax.

The film is referenced in two Peter Sellers films. In The Party, Sellers plays an Indian actor in the role of Gunga Din, and a parody of the film's climax has Sellers blowing his bugle to warn the British Army to such annoying effect, that his own troops start shooting at him; in Revenge of the Pink Panther, the mad genius Dreyfus quotes the insane guru's speech about mad military geniuses.

Many of the events and scenes from the second Indiana Jones film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, are taken from Gunga Din, including casting a lookalike as the Thuggi leader, although all the original film's plot similarities to The Front Page are omitted in the Spielberg movie.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

127. Le Jour Se Leve (Daybreak) (1939)

Directed By Marcel Carne


A man murders another man, in a series of flashbacks we understand why... jealousy SHOCK!


Jean Gabin leads the cast of this film, and like in any film with Jean Gabin until now, he is nothing less than flawless. He isn't a pretty man, but he does have that star power quality that you really can't take your eyes off him. His penchant for tragic characters quite helps with the fascination of Gabin. For the reason alone that it is another flawless performance by Jean Gabin this film is worth watching.

Now let's get to the meat of the film. The idea of a film composed of a series of flashbacks has been done to exhaustion later, but here in 1939 it still looks very fresh. It does, however suffer and benefit from the fact that we already know what is going to happen. It keeps you glued to the screen because you want to know the story of the love square but it doesn't pay off immensely because the cause isn't that spectacular.

Still it is a perfectly shot film, where all actors play their parts flawlessly, a particular nod to the guy who plays the dog trainer... it is hard to come across so dodgy and slimy on screen without ever falling into parody or stereotype. Unfortunately you can't get this film in the UK... so download it in French and find subtitles in English somewhere on the internet. Our American viewers are luckier because you can get it here.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

In 1952, the film was included in the first Sight and Sound top ten greatest films list. The film was remade as The Long Night (1947) with Henry Fonda in the Gabin role.

Excerpts from the film:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

126. Gone With The Wind (1939)

Directed By Victor Fleming


Scarlett is a bitch, she is in love with this guy who is marrying his cousin. She marries her brother, who dies, Rhett falls in love with her. She marries another guy, who dies. She marries Rhett, has an abortion, their daughter dies, guy she loves' cousin/wife dies, Rhett leaves. Scarlett says tomorrow is another day.


So I spent the afternoon watching this again, at almost 4 hours this is a respectably long film. And it is also a pretty amazing technical achievement, even if it can clash with or post-modern sensibilities today. The first big film of American cinema was D. W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation, and this is really the second big film. Curiously they are both about the South and the Civil War and they are both big on ennobling the Southern cause.

This film is so very beyond Birth Of A Nation technically that it is very easy to forget that there's been no more than 24 years between the two films. The views on slavery, what the South was like and what the living conditions for black people were didn't really change that much. If in Birth Of A Nation this is actually quite easy to dismiss as primitivism form 1915 crude, silent cinema, the same doesn't happen in Gone With The Wind. Technical achievement is not equal to cultural development, however and although the film has a full orchestral score, is in colour and looks to all intents and purposes modern because there have been no major technical advancements except CGI since then makes it hard for us to distance ourselves from the opinions shown in the film.

I will however approach the appreciation of this film the same way I did Birth Of a Nation, leaving the plantation myth and exaltation of the South and Klan like groups of people taking lynchings into their own hands aside. This is therefore a very impressive film, and really a beautiful film. The visuals here are much beyond anything done before, the Technicolor enhances the fiery colours of the deep South making the film all the more moving. The plot is a bit soapy, but that is not a bad thing, even if the events towards the end seem to happen in too fast a succession after a long, drawn out first half, the film might actually benefit from being longer.

The acting is pretty good with the exception of Vivian Leigh, who comes across as a bit hammy when delivering her rousing speeches. Clark Gable is pretty brilliant here, however and Rhett Butler is one of the most lovable cads in the whole history of cinema for good reason. It is hard to imagine what audiences felt like looking at this in the cinema, but the technological jump is so astounding, and sustained for 4 hours that it can actually be compared to the impact of Birth Of a Nation a quarter of a century before. This is an essential film for anyone interested in the history of cinema, and it is a cracking good film as well. Get it from Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Racial politics

Some have criticized the film for romanticizing, sanitizing or even promoting the values of the antebellum South, in particular its reliance on slavery. For example, syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts has referred to it as "a romance set in Auschwitz." But the majority of filmgoers back in 1939 expressed no concerns about this. In fact, the blacks in the film were generally portrayed in a better light than the black characters in the book.

Portrayal of Black characters

The character of Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel, has been linked with the stock character of the "happy slave", an archetype that implicitly condones slavery. However, some, as in Scarlett's Women: Gone with the Wind and Its Female Fans by Helen Taylor, have argued that Mammy's character is more complex than this, that her character represents someone who cared for others, despite the racism and oppression she suffered. Other writers also point out that despite her position as slave, she is not shy about upbraiding her white mistress, Scarlett; and indeed, she is yelling at Scarlett in her first scene.

But Mammy frequently derides other slaves on the plantation as "field hands", implying that as a House Servant she is above the "less-refined" blacks. While never referring specifically to Mammy, civil rights leaders like Malcolm X were very critical of "house Negroes" who helped maintain the status quo of slavery and subjugation by being content with their place. Most apparent is the scene in the film where Mammy accompanies Scarlett to Atlanta, in order to convince Rhett Butler to help them pay the taxes on Tara. As they walk down the streets, Mammy passes by a Yankee carpetbagger who promises a group of ex-slaves "forty acres and a mule." The ex-slaves are excited, but Mammy glares at them disapprovingly.

Responding to the racial critiques of the film, Selznick replied that the black characters were "lovable, faithful, high-minded people who would leave no impression but a very nice one." While Mammy is generally portrayed in a positive light, other black characters in the film are not so fortunate.

The character of Prissy, a dim-witted slave girl, played by Butterfly McQueen, offended blacks and whites when played in the theatre. In one especially famous scene, as Melanie is about to give birth, Prissy bursts into tears and admits she lied to Scarlett: "Lawzy, we got to have a doctor. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!" (in response, Scarlett slaps her).[11] In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the former civil rights leader recounted his experience of watching this particular scene as a small boy in Michigan: "I was the only Negro in the theater, and when Butterfly McQueen went into her act, I felt like crawling under the rug."

Others have pointed out that Scarlett also slaps Ashley, Rhett, and her sister Suellen. But none of those incidents involved Scarlett punishing a slave like Prissy who could not reasonably retaliate. Others have also argued that Prissy's frightened dim-wittedness is matched by the white matron Aunt Pittypatt, who deserts Melanie and Scarlett in their time of need. But while Aunt Pittypatt is frightened and dim-witted, she knew that unlike Prissy, she could leave without consequences.

The role of Prissy catapulted Butterfly McQueen's film career, but within ten years she grew tired of playing black ethnic stereotypes. When she refused to continue being typecast that way, it ended her career.

Many black actors in the film were criticized by members of the African-American community for agreeing to play a role. Oscar Polk, who played the role of Pork, wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Defender -- a prominent newspaper in the black community -- to respond to that criticism. "As a race we should be proud," he said, "that we have risen so far above the status of our enslaved ancestors and be glad to portray ourselves as we once were because in no other way can we so strikingly demonstrate how far we have come in so few years." Polk, however, failed to mention that as recently as 1939 in the South, African-Americans were forcibly prevented from voting, lynched and subject to Jim Crow segregation.

Unquestioned racist comments

After the Civil War, Gerald O'Hara (Scarlett's father, who owns the plantation Tara), scolds his daughter about the way she is treating Mammy and Prissy. "You must be firm to inferiors, but gentle, especially darkies", he advises her. While Scarlett was criticized for being too harsh on the house servants, Gerald's premise that black people are "inferior" never gets questioned in the film at all. On the other hand, his inclusion of "especially darkies" shows he was not speaking of Blacks alone. He could have been speaking of his work force, as one would refer to his boss as his "superior."

Some scenes subtly undercut the apparent romanticization of Southern slavery. During the panicked evacuation of Atlanta as Union troops approach, Scarlett runs into Big Sam, the black foreman of the O'Hara plantation. Big Sam informs her that he (and a group of black field-hands who are with him) have been impressed to dig fortifications for the Confederacy. But these men are singing "Go Down Moses", a famous black spiritual that slaves would sing to call for the abolition of slavery.

The Shantytown Raid scene was changed in the film to make it less racially divisive than the book. After Scarlett is attacked in a Shantytown outside Atlanta, her husband Frank, Ashley, and others leave to raid the Shantytown that night to avenge Scarlett's honor. In the book, Scarlett's attacker was black, and her friends are identified as members of the Ku Klux Klan. In the film, no mention of the Klan is made. In both the film and the book, her life is saved during the attack by a black man, Big Sam.

Racial politics at Atlanta premiere

Racial politics spilled into the film's premiere in Atlanta, Georgia. As Georgia was a segregated state, Hattie McDaniel could not have attended the cinema without sitting in the "colored" section of the movie theater; to avoid troubling Selznick, she thus sent a letter saying she would not be able to attend. When Clark Gable heard that McDaniel did not want to attend because of the racial issue, he threatened to boycott the premiere unless McDaniel was able to attend; he later relented when McDaniel convinced him to go.

At the costume ball during the premiere, local promoters recruited blacks to dress up as slaves and sing in a "Negro choir" on the steps of a white-columned plantation mansion built for the event. Many black community leaders refused to participate. But prominent Atlanta preacher Martin Luther King, Sr. attended, and he brought his 10-year-old son, future civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who sang that night in the choir.

The film also resulted in an important moment in African-American history: Hattie McDaniel won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first time a black person won an Oscar.

Gone With The Wind:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

125. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Directed By Howard Hawks


Girl gets off boat at Barranca, a banana port in South America, she meets up with a group of fliers who fascinate her, particularly Cary Grant. Tragedy follows tragedy and she falls in love with firm but fair Cary Grant, they end up staying together.


Wow, this was the best flying film I've ever seen and I've seen Top Gun. This film, however is pretty incredible - the casting and acting is stellar and the script is just amazing. The lines are fast and witty, the music is good and each character is very much fleshed out.

Even though Jean Arthur and Cary Grant are the central couple here, the film is very much one of those ensemble affairs. Each secondary character has a past, a story to tell and is relevant to the film, they are all fleshed out in an extreme way. The only exception to this rule is Rita Hayworth, who is just a ham... she was the producer's "protege", if that's what you want to call it.

There are also a couple of pretty amazing flying sequences, and because the characters are so well fleshed out they are even more thrilling because you care for what happens. Actually, if you are interested in aviation at all this is a pretty interesting film to see, how different flying was in them days and how daring pilots had to be in those conditions. A really amazing and expertly made film that you should really watch, so get it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) is a movie directed by Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. While somewhat contrived in its plot twists, it is generally regarded as being among Hawks' finest films, particularly in its portrayal of the professionalism of the pilots, its atmosphere, and the flying sequences.

The plot of the film was copied almost exactly in the 1942 film Flying Tigers. The tone of this film inspired the 1983 television series Tales of the Gold Monkey.

A pretty funny film about women in Howard Hawks films, the scenes with Jean Arthur are from Only Angels Have Wings:

Friday, June 08, 2007

124. Destry Rides Again (1939)

Directed By George Marshall


Sheriff of small town gets murdered, town drunk gets elected to sheriff and sends for son of legendary sheriff Destry to assist him as deputy. Son of Destry is a bit os a soft-touch, until he gets pissed off. Marlene Dietrich fits in there somehow as well.


No westerns for the longest time and now we get another one, good. This is a strange film, it is a comedy western, but also a tragic one, some of the most beloved characters get killed but it is still a funny film, Jimmy Stewart plays a bit of the same character that he does in most of his other films of this era, the naive man stuck in a place he has no experience with, but he does it great.

I can't tell you enough how much I love Jimmy Stewart, and Marlene as well, the fact that the film has the both of them is enough to make it worth watching. Unfortunately Marlene isn't quite as fantastic here as in Shanghai Express or Blue Angel, but she is always a presence on screen. She is actually playing pretty much the same role as Mae West in She Done Him Wrong, which is unfortunate because it is hard to beat Mae West for sheer wit.

That said, the film is a good film, but not a spectacular one unfortunately. 1939 is turning out to be a pretty exceptional year however and there is still plenty more to come, so hold on to your hats folks. Get the film from Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

* The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

* Universal Pictures released an earlier version, also titled Destry Rides Again (1932), directed by Benjamin Stoloff.

* The 1939 version became famous for the "catfight" between Dietrich and veteran actress Una Merkel.

* A western with a very similar plot and similar comic effects is Michael Curtiz's Dodge City.

* A Broadway musical version of the story, Destry Rides Again, opened in New York at the Imperial Theater on April 23, 1959, and played 472 performances. Produced by David Merrick, the show had a book by Leonard Gershe and music and lyrics by Harold Rome and starred Andy Griffith as Destry and Dolores Gray as Frenchy.

* A remake, Destry (1954), was directed by George Marshall and starred Audie Murphy and Thomas Mitchell.

Some band plays one of the musical acts of the film, Boys In The Backroom:

Thursday, June 07, 2007

123. Wizard Of Oz (1939)

Directed By Victor Fleming


You know it, "We're not in Kansas anymore", Munchkins, Lions Tiger and Bears, Oh My... back in fucking Kansas.


This is probably one of the most important films on the list pop-culture wise, even if you have never sat through it you are bound to know all the songs and even most of the dialogue, I know I did and I hadn't actually watched it... I know it's a shame but I haven't watched Sound Of Music as well, which seems to shock people. I was busier watching
Star Wars, The Great Escape , Flash Gordon and Dune as a kid than musicals.

The film is a great achievement in technical terms, there was nothing like it before in the history of cinema, but unfortunately there have been enough things like it since to make it a bit deja vu. It's not the fault of the film, this is the original.
The music here is also great, but sometimes a bit repetitive and even gratuitous, like when Dorothy first sings Somewhere Over The Rainbow, coming absolutely from nowhere. You can't help but admire the film's campiness however and it is that which makes it great. This is the masterpiece of kitsch, like a bad LSD trip by someone with incredibly poor taste. It is this "poor taste" that has made the film as immortal as it is however, and it is all the better for it.

There isn't much of a plot here and the "it was all a dream" ending is always a disappointing cop-out, but it is still worth watching all the same. Get it at Amazon
UK or US.

Final Grade



Some Pop-culture references form Wikipedia, in no way extensive:


One of the earliest references to this film can be found in the movie The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (released in England in 1943), in which one of the characters sings a bit of "We're Off To See The Wizard."


In Class of 3000, Cheddar Man was making a film similar to this one. He says "What a hood" and "There ain't no place like my crib."

The lyrics to the song "Home" by alternative metal band Breaking Benjamin are almost entirely influenced by The Wizard of Oz. I

n the television series Stargate SG-1 involves countless references to The Wizard of Oz throughout its ten year run. This culminated in the 200th episode, which featured an extended sequence of Stargate characters reenacting the movie.

Movies where the characters are seen watching The Wizard of Oz include One Fine Day, Shoot the Moon, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

The 100th episode of the television series Scrubs, entitled My Way Home, is an homage to the Wizard of Oz.

In the show Futurama, from the episode "Anthology of Interest II", there is a sequence in which the main female character Leela gets knocked out by a lever being pulled down, and dreams that she herself enters the land of Oz. She eventually deserts the friends she meets on the way (who are of course in likeness of her friends from her real life), and chooses to become a witch by the Wicked Witch of the West's granted wish.

In the Disney Channel TV show That's So Raven there is an episode where Raven dreams that she is in the Wizard of Oz. Corey is the Tin Man, Chelsea the scarecrow, and Eddie the lion. Raven's teacher Dr. Stuckerman comes as the Wicked Witch who throws water at Raven, who reverses the scene and says "Water on weave!? I'm melting!" Afterward Victor comes out as the Wizard. In South Park an episode is modeled after the Wizard of Oz while Kyle and his friends attempt to get back his adopted brother Ike, from his biological parents in Canada.

"Violent J", of horrorcore musical group ICP, recorded a solo project, "Wizard of the Hood; a retelling which strongly features drugs, sex, and violence.

Witch's Castle/Guards' Chant

The scene in which the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man approach the Wicked Witch's castle has been paid homage to in David Lynch's Wild at Heart, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Spaceballs , and O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Peter Jackson is on record in interviews as confirming that the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in which Frodo, Sam and Gollum first approach the Black Gate of Mordor from overlooking mountain crags is a deliberate homage to the scene in The Wizard of Oz where the three friends arrive at the Witch's castle. The reference is driven home when a group of Southrons march in from the right, voicing an impressive but unintelligible chant.

The castle guards' chant has been interpolated into several songs, including LL Cool J's "I'm That Type of Guy," Metallica's "The Frayed Ends of Sanity," Prince's "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night", and Kid Rock's "Trucker Anthem".


In the earlier days of the show Ally McBeal, the perceived ill-tempered and hard-nosed character of Ling Woo (Lucy Liu) was emphasized by having her frequently stormy entrances to episodes underscored by the Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch musical motif.

The ZAZ comedy team have made references to Oz in all of their movies both as a team and in their individual careers.

The witch's dying cry, "I'm melting! Melting!" has been referenced or spoofed in films such as Field of Dreams, Spaceballs, Gremlins 2: The New Batch and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The song, "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead" was a (indeed, the only) hit song for The Fifth Estate, a 1960s pop group whose version interpelated the bourée from Michael Praetorius's The Dances of Terpsichore.

The English band America produced a song called "Tin Man", which included the line "Oz didn't give nothing to the Tin Man that he didn't already have."

In the sitcom ALF a friction is made between ALF and Kate's mother Dorothy causing him to refer to her as "The Wicked Witch Of The West". Both are deliberate homages to The Wizard Of Oz.

In the popular video game World Of Warcraft the Karazhan instance contains the opera event, players get to face 1 of 3 encounters. This is the Wizard of Oz, the big bad wolf or Romeo and Juliet. Also in this instance you can obtain the Ruby Slippers as treasure from the Wizard of Oz encounter.

The HBO Series Oz, refers to the main cell block 'Em City', named after Emerald City in the story.

The band Demons and Wizards released the song Wicked Witch on their 2005 album Touched by the Crimson King. The song was an interperatation of The Wizard of Oz by the song's writer Hansi Kürsch.

Wizard of Oz Futurama style:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

122. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Directed By Frank Capra


Mr. Smith becomes a senator because he is a rube and therefore easily controllable... Well, he is a rube but not easily controllable and he fights the power by filibustering.


Frank Capra is the king of the feel good film, and both here and in Mr. Deeds he manages to marry the feel good film with the very good political point film. Mr. Smith is a film about the Rupert Murdochs of this world and their pernicious effect on society. The bad guy in this film is not really the corrupted senator, which is just another victim, but the guy who owns all the land as well as the newspapers and has senators in his pocket.The bad guy is the guy who controls the media for his own political and economic games, filtering what the public gets to know and shaping popular opinion for his own petty ends.

The film is unfortunately as relevant today as it was in 1939, the same characters still exist even though they might have changed name and their tactics - Murdoch probably never ordered a hit on children. Mr. Smith on the other hand is what we wish all politicians could be, wide-eyed, enthusiastic and with a genuine belief in a better world.

One of the saddest moments of the film comes when Mr. Smith has the American Dream shattered by the corrupt politicians, when he sits crying on his suitcases on the Lincoln memorial. But it all ends well after a particularly stunning performance by the always excellent Jimmy Stewart, who is only second to Cary Grant for actors in the late 1930's. So something you really need to get, films aren't often uplifting, funny and make good political points all at the same time, but this one does. So get it at Amazon UK or US.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

When it was first released, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was attacked by the Washington press, and politicians in the U.S. Congress, as anti-American and pro-Communist for its portrayal of corruption in the American government.

The film was banned in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Falangist Spain. According to Capra, the film was also dubbed in certain European countries to alter the message of the film so it conformed with official ideology.

When a ban on American films was imposed in German-occupied France in 1942, some theatres chose to show Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as the last movie before the ban went into effect. One theatre owner in Paris reportedly screened the film nonstop for thirty days after the ban.

The end of the filibuster:

Saturday, June 02, 2007

121. Babes in Arms (1939)

Directed by Busby Berkeley


Some annoying kids put on a show. Black face FTW!


Well there go one hour and a half of my life that I will never get back. As the clock ticks inexorably towards my death time starts lacking to watch crap films and that was what this was. I am truly sorry to say this because I love Busby Berkeley's work, hey I quite like Judy Garland (in a manly way) but this was horrid.

If you find The Jazz Singer to be an offensive film you ain't seen nothing yet. The black face number here is probably the most offensive thing I've seen on the list, Judy Garland and Mick Rooney go through a gamut of racial stereotyping like there was no tomorrow when they do the "My Father Was A Minstrel" act. From accents to singing Dixie and stereotyped "Negro" laughters it was really appalling, at least there were no fried chicken jokes... must have been cut at the last minute.

Also uncommonly for Berkeley the musical numbers aren't that good. The best one is Babes In Arms near the beginning with it's inventive music. Music isn't bad actually, there is Where Or When and Good Morning which are great tracks. Garland comes across as annoying however and Mick Rooney, to borrow a line from some Portuguese comedians looks like a "cross between a pig and two pounds of carrots" while not being very funny and making a terrible impression of Clark Gable.

When films have a young cast and the people who make the film think that that will be enough to endear the film to an audience you know it's going to be shit. In this case you would be right. Don't bother watching it, I'm not even giving you the link to Amazon.

Final Grade



I'd like to know why the fuck this was on the list. Will someone tell me? Please make an intelligent defence of this film, if you can.

Thankfully the film seems to have fallen into oblivion and therefore there is not clip for you. But you get a portrait of Huey P. Newton of the Black Panthers just to balance having watched this film: