Despite its poor reception in 1932, today Downstairs is often pointed to as John Gilbert’s best talkie and further evidence that his voice was not poor. A look at some key scenes with Virginia Bruce and Paul Lukas, plus just how bad of a guy was Gilbert’s Karl?
Upon publication reviews called John Monk Saunders anything from a hack to a plagiarist when his Single Lady cashed in as an inferior version of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Adapted as The Last Flight, Saunders’s story emerges as perhaps the best of any film about The Lost Generation. Directed by William Dieterle, with excellent performances from Richard Barthelmess and Helen Chandler.
A history of Madame X concentrates on the 1937 film version starring Gladys George. Includes a biography of Gladys George with comparison to Ruth Chatterton’s 1929 performance.
A look at Lee Tracy as the Walter Winchell inspired star of pre-Code classic Blessed Event (1932). Includes back story about the stage adaptation, movie casting and speedy film production, plus a bit about Walter Winchell himself, circa 1932.
Paul Muni stars as a mine worker who is duped into breaking the union in 1935’s Black Fury from Warner Bros. Post includes background about real-life John Barcoski murder from 1929 and other notes about the origins of the film.
James Cagney stars in Warner Bros. fast-paced Jimmy the Gent (1934), made all the faster by Cagney’s own frenzied performance. Bette Davis co-stars in an underwhelming role while Alan Dinehart excels in his part as rival “Heir Chaser.” Directed by Michael Curtiz and also featuring Allen Jenkins and Alice White.
A look at Frank Capra’s follow-up to It Happened One Night, the 1934 holiday release Broadway Bill starring Warner Baxter, Myrna Loy and a horse named Broadway Bill. With comparison to 1950 remake Riding High and explanation of why Bill wound up out of circulation until 1992.
Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy live up to expectations in MGM’s Test Pilot (1938). One of the most popular films of 1938, the Academy Award-nominated Best Picture directed by Victor Fleming allows all three stars to shine in strong parts that they enliven with strong performances. Time well spent, no matter the length.
Stage legend Elsie Ferguson plays in her final film and only talkie, Scarlet Pages (1930), a courtroom drama offering a view of feminism at that time. Due to its mature content Scarlet Pages was successfully marketed as what was considered a “dirty picture” by 1930 standards.
Richard Dix is a harmless playboy until trouble calls and with the assistance of Boris Karloff and Paul Hurst he becomes The Reckoner in RKO’s The Public Defender (1931).