Films 1910s-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.


Intolerance – DW Griffith’s impossibly grand masterpiece covers the history of intolerance from 30AD all the way to the 1920s. Director: DW Griffith
Cast: Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, Constance Talmadge


Nosferatu – a mysterious vampire (definitely not Dracula) travels to Germany in Murnau’s genre-defining masterpieceDirector: FW Murnau
Cast: Max Schreck, Gustav van Wangenheim, Greta Schroder


Battleship Potemkin – one of the most influential films, a triumph of montage and the greatest propaganda film ever madeDirector: Sergei Eisenstein
Cast: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky, Grigori Aleksandrov


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


The Passion of Joan of Arc – Dreyer’s searing passion play on the trial of the French saint, shot in glorious, searching close-upDirector: Carl Dreyer
Cast: Renée Jeanne Falconetti, Eugène Silvain, André Berley


The Broadway Melody – Best Picture winning sound musical, from a time when seeing a film with actual singing would have been revolutionary. Director: Harry Beaumont
Cast: Anita Page, Bessie Love, Charles King


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


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


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
The Most Dangerous Game – genre-defining movie, as a mad Russian hunts the shipwrecked on a jungle islandDirector: Ernest B Shoedsack, Irving Pichel
Cast: Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, Fay Wray
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


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
The Private Life of Henry VIII – Laughton establishes the public idea of the Merrie Monarch in this early Carry on HenryDirector: Alexander Korda
Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Merle Oberon


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


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


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
Things to Come – HG Wells utopia future has flat dialogue but great visuals in this sci-fi curiosityDirector: William Cameron Menzies
Cast: Raymond Massey, Edward Chapman, Ralph Richardson


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


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
Alexander Nevsky – Eisenstein shoots in a traditional style a great propaganda epic, as Russia defeats the GermansDirector: Sergei Eisenstein
Cast: Nikolay Cherkasov, Nikolay Okhlopkov, Andrei Abrikosov
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 – French romantic gangster tragedy in a seedy docklandsDirector: Marcel Carné
Cast: Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan


Dark Victory – a woman has her terminal condition hidden from her by the doctor who loves her, in a classic tear-jerkerDirector: Edmund Goulding
Cast: Bette Davis, George Brent, Geraldine Fitzgerald
Destry Rides Again – delightful semi-mock Western, as a gun shy sheriff cleans up a dirty townDirector: George Marshall
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, Brian Donlevy
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
La Règle du Jeu – a weekend shooting party is swept up in love affairs in Renoir’s metaphorical masterpieceDirector: Jean Renoir
Cast: Nora Gregor, Paulette Dubost, Marcel Dalio
Young Mr Lincoln – myth-making ‘origins story’ for America’s greatest PresidentDirector: John Ford
Cast: Henry Fonda, Alice Brady, Marjorie Weaver