Bad Company (1931) Starring Ricardo Cortez

Helen Twelvetrees and Ricardo Cortez in Bad Company

RKO-Pathe gangster entry released at the end of 1931, several months after Little Caesar, The Public Enemy, and the little wave of lesser remembered mobsters who followed that Spring, but ahead of the following year’s Scarface. It’s not in the class of the “Big 3,” but Bad Company fits near the top of the next […]


There Goes My Heart (1938) Starring Fredric March, Virginia Bruce

Virginia Bruce and Fredric March in There Goes My Heart

Fun romantic comedy release from Hal Roach Studios includes a deep cast of character actors and two worthy leads in Fredric March and Virginia Bruce. Open has a very It Happened One Night-feel to it, as heiress Joan Butterfield (Bruce) argues with her grandfather (Claude Gillingwater) for independence and freedom, a normal life. After Grandfather […]


Turn Back the Clock (1933) Starring Lee Tracy, Mae Clarke

Lee Tracy and Mae Clarke in Turn Back the Clock

Sort of a pre-Code precursor to It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), with Lee Tracy wishing he could go back and do it all over again, not to save himself, but to to make himself rich. It’s March 6, 1933. FDR has just taken office, the bank holiday is on, and old hometown acquaintance Ted Wright […]


Success at Any Price (1934) Starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Genevieve Tobin in Success at Any Price

Joe Martin (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is a complicated and flawed character. John Howard Lawson wrote the play this movie was based on and also adapted it for the screen (co-credited with Howard J. Green on the adaptation), so I presume Joe didn’t lose too much along the way. Still, he feels incomplete. Very empty for […]


Now I’ll Tell (1934) Starring Spencer Tracy and Helen Twelvetrees

Spencer Tracy and Helen Twelvetrees

Now I’ll Tell introduces itself as “the story of a girl who married a gambler,” and maybe that’s true of Mrs. Arnold Rothstein’s book, but the movie is all about the gambler. Spencer Tracy poses as Murray Golden, a fictionalized version of King of the Roaring ‘20s Rothstein, who risks it all, over and over […]


Lightning Review: One Hour Late (1934) Starring Helen Twelvetrees

Conrad Nagel and Helen Twelvetrees in One Hour Late

This could have been better with stronger writing, a more skilled director, and, if you really want to get carried away, maybe Bing Crosby in the lead. But it’s a lot of fun anyway, even if it’s a bit sloppy. Maybe because it is. The entire action of the movie takes place over one day, […]


Lightning Review: Sadie McKee (1934) Starring Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford and Edward Arnold in Sadie McKee

Forget a single love interest, Joan Crawford gets three as Sadie McKee. They pass in and out of her life with enough twists and turns to make for a very entertaining movie. Sadie’s fall and rise provides a fascinating portrait of a young woman whose loyalty always remains intact, even after her ideals are shattered […]


Lightning Review: The Shining Hour (1938) Starring Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford and Robert Young in The Shining Hour

Well, that was soapy, wasn’t it? Wealthy Wisconsin farmer Henry Linden (Melvyn Douglas) falls in love with New York dancer Olivia Riley (Joan Crawford), who likes Henry a whole lot, but can’t say she loves him. Henry’s brother David (Robert Young) comes to New York for a look at Olivia, delivers some smug comments, gets […]


Lightning Review: The Girl in 419 (1933) Starring James Dunn

Gloria Stuart and James Dunn

Lessons learned from old movies: if you’re looking for romance there’s really no better place to work than a hospital. That went in 1933, and I’m sure there’s something new on TV that still proves it today. The particular hospital where The Girl in 419 is set is a police hospital, so the staff is […]


Lightning Review: The Easiest Way (1931) Starring Constance Bennett

lightning reviews

Thick Great Depression atmosphere overwhelms the opening as the Murdock family wakes to another day of toil. Two sons share a bed, three daughters another. Mom is cranky prepping breakfast; Dad can’t find work, but prefers a bottle anyway. One by one the Murdocks filter to the breakfast table, several of the younger generation preparing […]