Films 1930s

This page contains links to all the films I have reviewed from the early days of the movies and Hollywood. When the screwball comedy and the grand musical were king and gritty gangster films showed the nasty underbelly of America.

1927

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – Murnau’s fairy tale of a man and wife helps redefine the language of cinema for HollywoodDirector: FW Murnau
Cast: George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston
Wings – WW1 flying film and buddy movie, the first Best Picture winner: pilots love the same woman but become friendsDirector: William A Wellman
Stars: Clara Bow, Charles Rogers, Richard Arlen

1930

All Quiet on the Western Front – WW1 trenches drama and Best Picture winner with powerful anti-war messageDirector: Lewis Milestone
Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray
The Blue Angel – a Professor is smitten by a cabaret singer – just as von Sternberg became smitten with Dietrich – and comes off badlyDirector: Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron
Morocco – romantic drama set in the French Foreign Legion, full of classic imageryDirector: Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou

1931

Cimarron – terrible, semi-racist Western, Best Picture winner – possibly the worst ever winner, following the growth of a townDirector: Wesley Ruggles
Cast: Richard Dix, Irene Dunne, Estelle Taylor
The Public Enemy – iconic Cagney gangster film with the famous grapefruit scene, still rather excitingDirector: William A Wellman
Cast: James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods

1932

Blonde Venus – melodrama about a woman’s desperate attempt to save her husband’s lifeDirector: Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant
Grand Hotel – Best picture all-star melodrama about comings and goings in a posh Berlin hotelDirector: Edmund Goulding
Cast: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford
Scarface – brilliant gangster film, ‘the shame of the nation’ in its day: bullets fly as a ruthless gangster climbs to the topDirector: Howard Hawks
Cast: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, George Raft
Shanghai Express – romantic drama and tension on the eponymous trainDirector: Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong
Trouble in Paradise – two con artists in a relationship decide to con a rich woman: not helped when he falls in love with herDirector: Ernst Lubitsch
Cast: Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall

1933

Cavalcade – Best picture winning Noel Coward adaptation of a posh British family sagaDirector: Frank Lloyd
Cast: Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O’Connor
King Kong – iconic monster movie, the ‘daddy’ of them all, as the big beast takes an unfortunate trip to see his love in New YorkDirector: Melville C Cooper, Ernest B Schoedsack
Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot

1934

It Happened One Night – legendary Oscar-winning road-trip romantic comedy, still one of the best there isDirector: Frank Capra
Cast: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly
The Scarlet Empress – absolutely crazy von Sternberg historical epic about Catherine the GreatDirector: Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe
Twentieth Century – a theatre producer tries to cajole his former star to return with him to BroadwayDirector: Howard Hawks
Cast: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly

1935

David Copperfield – classic all-star Dickens adaptation, extremely influential costume dramaDirector: George Cukor
Cast: Freddie Bartholomew, WC Fields, Edna May Oliver
The Devil is a Woman – romance and duels in revolutionary SpainDirector: Josef von Sternberg
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, Cesar Romero
Mutiny on the Bounty – Best Picture winning retelling of the most famous mutiny everDirector: Frank Lloyd
Cast: Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, Franchot Tone
Ruggles of Red Gap – comedy about a classic British butler falling in love with AmericaDirector: Leo McCarey
Cast: Charles Laughton, Mary Boland, Charles Ruggles
Top Hat – classic Astaire and Rogers dancing, in glorious top hat and tailsDirector: Mark Sandrich
Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton

1936

The Great Ziegfeld – Best Picture winning biopic of a legendary Broadway showman. Better than you might have heard.Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Luise Rainer
My Man Godfrey – a millionaire goes incognito as a butler with one crazy family, classic screwballDirector: Gregory La Cava
Cast: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady
Rembrandt – biopic of the great Dutch artist with Laughton on top form.Director: Alexander Korda
Cast: Charles Laughton, Gertrude Lawrence, Elsa Lanchaster

1937

The Awful Truth – remarriage comedy as a feuding couple faces ‘the awful truth’: they’re in love, Grant’s first ever “Cary Grant” roleDirector: Leo McCarey
Cast: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy
La Grande Illusion – Jean Renoir’s masterpiece, French POWs struggle with class, friendship and war Director: Jean Renoir
Cast: Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresney, Erich von Stroheim
The Life of Emile Zola – Best Picture winning biopic of the great French writer, mostly about the Dreyfus affairDirector: William Dieterle
Cast: Paul Muni, Joseph Schildkraut, Gale Sondergaard

1938

The Adventures of Robin Hood – the classic Robin Hood film, best swashbuckler ever made and one of the most influentialDirector: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone
Angels with Dirty Faces – Cagney weeps on the way to the chair in this classic gangster flickDirector: Michael Curtiz
Cast: James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart
The Lady Vanishes – an old woman disappears on a train in this gripping Hitchcock comedy-thrillerDirector: Alfred Hitchcock
Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, May Whitty
Pygmalion – classic adaptation of Shaw’s best known playDirector: Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard
Cast: Leslie Howard, Wendy Hiller, Wilfrid Lawson
Quai des Brumes РFrench romantic gangster tragedy in a seedy docklandsDirector: Marcel Carn̩
Cast: Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan

1939

The Four Feathers – classic boys-own British Empire hero story as a man is mistaken for a coward but proves his worthDirector: Zoltan Korda
Cast: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith
Gone with the Wind – the classic Hollywood Romance to end all Hollywood Romances. A legend despite everythingDirector: Victor Fleming
Cast: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland
Goodbye, Mr Chips – heartbreak and romance in an English boarding schoolDirector: Sam Wood
Cast: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Lyn Harding
The Hunchback of Notre Dame – marvellous, gothic adaptation of the Victor Hugo novelDirector: William Dieterle
Cast: Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell
Love Affair – two people fall in love on an Atlantic cruise, before tragedy strikes: half comedy, half sentimental love storyDirector: Leo McCarey
Cast: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya
Mr Smith Goes to Washington – the best-ever filibuster film as one man makes a differenceDirector: Frank Capra
Cast: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains
Young Mr Lincoln – myth-making ‘origins story’ for America’s greatest PresidentDirector: John Ford
Cast: Henry Fonda, Alice Brady, Marjorie Weaver