1930s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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Cold Bishop
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1201 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:52 pm

Oh, the sets we're great... that's where all the money went!
matrixschmatrix wrote:Could you elaborate about Roberta at all? I'm a newcomer to this whole area of film so I'm as interested to hear which ones I should avoid as which I should look for.
Well, basically the Astaire-Rogers films, up till near the end, came in two modes: the films that were remakes of The Gay Divorcee, and those that were remakes of Flying Down to Rio. This is one that's a remake of ...Rio, meaning it's a film in which Astaire & Rogers are back to being sidekicks to a much less interesting main couple, in this case Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne. Scott's a long way from his Westerns here, and while I'm a fan of Dunne, this film is prior to when she discovered what a brilliant comedienne she was. It's a backstage musical, not a fairytale one, albeit in this case, it's backstage to a fashion show, and the numbers are doled out more judiciously. So, not only are Astaire & Rogers completely pushed aside in the narrative, there's not even all that many numbers to make up for it. I think Dunne gets more songs than the pair does, and I've never been a fan of the operatic warbling of these 30s musicals. There are only three real numbers in the classic Astaire-Rogers vein: "I'll Be Hard to Handle", which is actually quite fun; basically a rehearsal scene with the pair just shooting-the-breeze, and that easy-going charm replicates itself in the dance. Astaire gets a pretty impressive solo in "I Won't Dance", but I always felt the rest of the number was pretty bland. However, the big melody that closes the film is a number I personally find a bit hard to watch: I think it's one point where it's clear just how far ahead Astaire is as a dancer to Rogers, and there are several moments where it's clear that Rogers is trying hard to keep up (I recall one point where he spins Rogers around, and it really looks like she wasn't expecting to go around so hard).

Basically, it's an Astaire-Rogers film that only partially feels like an Astaire-Rogers film. It really exposes the sort of tentative nature of RKO trying to make stars of the two, not quite sure how to go about it, trying to see what properties they could fit them into. They would use the same structure again for Follow the Fleet, but by that point, they'd know that Astaire & Rogers need to be the A-plot, not the b-plot.

I wouldn't recommend avoiding any of them, however.

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triodelover
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:11 pm
Location: The hills of East Tennessee

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1202 Post by triodelover » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:14 pm

zedz wrote:Well, I love Top Hat, despite the relative weakness of 'The Piccollino'. I simply think it's the funniest of the Astaire / Rogers films, and I adore the transcendently ridiculous Deco Venice of the closing section.
Agreed, and I think the supporting cast, especially Helen Broderick, raise it a notch over other Fred and Ginger efforts.
Cold Bishop wrote:It would take until Swing Time for Astaire and co. to finally figure out to play to all their own strengths.
The strength ofSwing Time largely rests in Gershwin and the on-screen relationship between Fred and Ginger reaching a mature stage. However, it has a glaring flaw and a truly cringe inducing sequence. The flaw is Victor Moore, who simply can't begin to fill Edward Everett Horton's shoes and is a constant irritant to boot. The sequence is, of course, the "tribute" to Bill Robinson in blackface. Kartina Richardson takes it apart much better than I could in her "Race on Film" series.

Other than that small disagreement, you've done a really nice survey of the Astaire/Rogers efforts.
Last edited by triodelover on Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1203 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:25 pm

Haha, damn, I'm kind of regretting not getting the Ultimate Collection now.

In terms of the distance between their dancing skills- is that why we never seem to get any Ginger solo numbers? I keep wishing I'd see one, it always seems to unbalance the movies a bit that Astaire seems more compelled to burst out into dancing at any provocation, while Ginger seems only to dance when in company with Fred.

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domino harvey
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1204 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:26 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Haha, damn, I'm kind of regretting not getting the Ultimate Collection now.

In terms of the distance between their dancing skills- is that why we never seem to get any Ginger solo numbers? I keep wishing I'd see one, it always seems to unbalance the movies a bit that Astaire seems more compelled to burst out into dancing at any provocation, while Ginger seems only to dance when in company with Fred.
If you're itching to see Rogers break free, I think you'll like Carefree

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triodelover
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2007 2:11 pm
Location: The hills of East Tennessee

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1205 Post by triodelover » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:34 pm

domino harvey wrote:
matrixschmatrix wrote:Haha, damn, I'm kind of regretting not getting the Ultimate Collection now.

In terms of the distance between their dancing skills- is that why we never seem to get any Ginger solo numbers? I keep wishing I'd see one, it always seems to unbalance the movies a bit that Astaire seems more compelled to burst out into dancing at any provocation, while Ginger seems only to dance when in company with Fred.
If you're itching to see Rogers break free, I think you'll like Carefree
Seconded, and Ralph Bellamy does a fine turn as the opera's baritone (a role he reprised and improved upon in His Girl Friday)

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1206 Post by zedz » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:17 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Haha, damn, I'm kind of regretting not getting the Ultimate Collection now.

In terms of the distance between their dancing skills- is that why we never seem to get any Ginger solo numbers? I keep wishing I'd see one, it always seems to unbalance the movies a bit that Astaire seems more compelled to burst out into dancing at any provocation, while Ginger seems only to dance when in company with Fred.
Well, Ginger wasn't really a dancer, and became one through sheer hard work and great (if punishing) teaching, so you can watch her develop as the films progress, but she never turns into Eleanor Powell.

On the other hand - and this for me is one of glories of the series - Fred's also learning a lot from Ginger as the partnership develops, since she was much more comfortable and accomplished as an actor and comedian when they started out.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1207 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:25 pm

Many an actress punished herself to work alongside Astaire, Rogers is just the most visible by heft of work if nothing else. Being paired with Astaire is a ridiculous burden for even a talented dancer (He made poor Leslie Caron abandon on-screen dancing after his treatment in Daddy Long Legs, but he wasn't in the best place of course). It often pays off though, as even a non-dancer like Paulette Goddard absolutely kills it with Astaire in the one-take master class in exuberant dancing, "I Ain't Hep To That Step But I'll Dig It" from Second Chorus-- but it took so much out of her she vowed never to do another musical (cinema's loss, really, as she's great there).

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lubitsch
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2005 4:20 pm

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions

#1208 Post by lubitsch » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:35 am

Buying some Norwegian films I thought I should see a film from the 30s. I decided against The Big Christening because I'm rarely interested in films which are the first in something, here the first Norwegian talkie. Instead I picked Fant/Gypsy from the same director made six years later. It's one of the truly bad films of the decade.
The plot revolves around gypsies travelling on boats along the Norwegian coast. We are introduced to a family with quite a bit of comedy and a lot of cliches about gypsies, like e.g. stealing. The father outwits his son by giving him a boat of his own and getting this way rid of the pregnant wife of a man who is in prison and is supposed to get out soon according to the father, but in fact it's still three years. The wife is certainly no delicate flower who goes on to bully the son and complains that her man knew how to handle her (this means beating). That's it for roughly 40 minutes of modestly amusing, politically highly incorrect cliches.
Then the story picks up a young girl, Aryan not a Gypsy (I use this wird deliberately because the contrast between the gypsies and the Norwegians is made very plain via the casting), who has the problem that her uncle wants to sleep with her, she escapes and hides on the boat of the son who just managed to get rid of the pregnant Xanthippe. Unfortunately he is no less lecherous than the uncle and finally rapes her which leaves the viewer pretty confused. Weren't we supposed to find the gypsies to a certain degree loveable rogues? I doubt that by now since what follows is a Griffithian melodrama where the girl is treated badly by the cowardly gypsy while her lover starts a search for the missing girl.
SpoilerShow
There's a happy end when he finds her and the gypsy meanwhile falls out of a motor boat which goes around in circles while he drowns.
I admit I thought this was a pretty eerie film, at the start it seemed like trifle taking place in an interesting millieu though. then however as the lead character got progressively more evil abusing the girl, i began to reread the first half as being also intended as an attack on gypsies being not loveables folks who make a living like Chaplin's tramp but instead being ordinary thieves and an inferior race. That the girl and her lover fit quite exactly the categories of Aryan fragile virginity in her case and handsome, physically imposing masculinity in his case ... to be frank this film would have fit very well in the production of the Third Reich.
All told a discomforting experience and a bad film.

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movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: 1930s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol

#1209 Post by movielocke » Wed Jun 01, 2016 4:02 pm

An Inn in Tokyo will definitely be in my top ten on the next iteration of the list. On the chance that the film isn't readily available on FilmStruck this fall, I'd recommend everyone who has access to Hulu to check it out while it is still available.

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