1930’s

[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 …

[7.0] Katharine Hepburn stars as a poor young woman trying to enter snobbish social circles to find a husband in this first major film directed by George Stevens (Woman of the Year, Gunga Din). Hepburn’s character eventually lands a doting beau (Fred MacMurray). Her problem then becomes how to disguise the fact that she comes from modest means. I like Alice Adams because it features …

[5.5] Cary Grant and Joan Blondell star as a private eye and a manicurist-turned-journalist who help solve a mystery that began as a jewelry theft ring and escalates to the accidental shooting death of a baby in Central Park. Yeah, Big Brown Eyes may not sound like the usual Cary Grant movie, but beneath some odd plot choices, it’s not too many shades off His …

[6.5] James Whale (Waterloo Bridge, The Invisible Man) directs Boris Karloff in his iconic performance as Frankenstein’s monster in this cornerstone of Universal Pictures’ monster movie legacy. The adaptation from Mary Shelley’s novel is somewhat loosey-goosey, but taken on its own merits, Whale’s film offers a lot of Gothic horror, expressionistic set design, and a handful of indelible images — including the monster’s laboratory ‘birth’ …

[7.0] In this early Frank Capra flick, romance blossoms and seeds of betrayal are sown during two days at a bank where a robbery leads to a public panic that threatens the bank’s existence. Walter Huston plays the bank’s owner, an optimist who lends to hard-working Americans who can’t get loans anywhere else. He’s the sort of boss who treats the security guard and the …

[6.0] Frank Capra directs this tale of a struggling circus troupe trying to put on a show in Everytown, America, before the money dries up and the performers go their separate ways. Joe Cook plays the circus manager, a very Groucho Marx-esque personality who talks quick to outwit his prey and who can perform some pretty nifty juggling and balancing acts. Joan Peers plays the …

[8.0] Behold the glory of Barbara Stanwyck. One of classic Hollywood’s sassiest broads makes a big splash in this early talkie that’s leagues ahead of other early 30s flicks in terms of story, craftsmanship, and performance. Babs plays a “party girl” (we know them as escorts now) who serendipitously winds up hitching a ride in the middle of the night with a fuddy-duddy artist. Both …

[5.0] Dorothy Mackaill stars as a young woman strung along by a wealthy suitor who eventually declines to marry her, souring her relationship with any man until a rich artist comes along and strikes her fancy. The Reckless Hour is cut from a well-used cloth, but moves briskly for an early talkie and features a couple of colorful supporting performances, namely Joan Blondell as Mackaill’s …

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