1930’s

[5.0] Cary Grant stars as a wealthy Parisian with terrible taste in women. When one of his most recent girlfriends rejects him over the phone, he jokes about killing himself — bringing his apartment’s telephone operator, played by Frances Drake (Mad Love), running to him in tears. Drake tells him she’s been listening to all his phone calls and that one of his ladies of …

[4.0] Barbara Stanwyck plays an engaged Christian missionary who is separated from her husband-to-be during the Chinese civil war in Shanghai. She is rescued by General Yen (Danish actor Nils Asther with ‘squinty eyes’ makeup), who takes her to his palace and looks after her. But Stanwyck soon realizes she hasn’t so much been rescued as kidnapped. While begging to be reunited with her husband, …

[4.0] On the barren moors of Yorkshire, a young girl befriends an orphan boy her father brings home from a trip to Liverpool. The friendship turns romantic, but when the girl’s father dies, her nasty blood brother becomes master of the estate and forces her adopted brother into the role of stable boy. Eventually, the young woman marries a wealthy neighbor and the stable boy …

[8.0] Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lily Powers, the poor daughter of a speakeasy owner, who takes an old philosopher’s advice to start using her feminine wiles (or ‘lily power’) to get ahead in life. After her nasty father dies in a distillery fire, Lily moves to New York City and literally sleeps her way, floor by floor, to the top of a banking company. She …

[3.0] Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant star in this iteration of Madame Butterfly, the shitty-ass story of a geisha who marries an American Navy officer who leaves her and never comes back. The concept, alone, makes me cringe. Granted, this may be excellent fodder for opera, but stripped of music and left as a bare-bones narrative, this Madame Butterfly is almost torturous for most of …

[7.5] Barbara Stanwyck plays a lonely librarian who falls in love with Adolph Menjou on a cruise, but her joy is short-lived in this tragic love story directed by Frank Capra. Stanwyck finds out her beau is already married (to an invalid, no less) and ends their relationship, keeping her pregnancy a secret to save his political career. But when a newspaper reporter (Ralph Bellamy) …

[6.0] Cary Grant and Claude Rains star as British officers whose paths cross time and again on the Eastern front of World War I. The two become friends after Rains saves Grant from Kurdish raiders. Grant then goes on to help Rains move a village to safety and prevent a sneak attack on British troops. The friends part for much of the second act, during …

[4.0] Katharine Hepburn’s affection for director George Cukor began with this, her feature film debut. A Bill of Divorcement stars John Barrymore as a man returning home after five years in a mental asylum. During that time, his wife (Billie Burke) and daughter (Hepburn) have moved on with their lives and are planning their respective weddings. Imagine their surprise when Barrymore returns home and promises …

[6.5] Errol Flynn stars in his most enduring performance in this romantic action adventure that has captured audiences of all ages for more than three-quarters of a century. You know the story: In the absence of King Richard, Prince John seizes control of the land and taxes it into despair, causing a renegade Saxon named Robin Hood to come to the people’s defense, stealing from …

[7.5] James Cagney and Pat O’Brien star as a criminal and a priest who grew up on the streets of New York, rekindling their friendship and mentoring a new gang of street rats through O’Brien’s youth ministry. At first, the boys benefit from both men’s teachings, but when Cagney settles back into his old ways, O’Brien fears what the boys may learn from example. O’Brien’s …

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