1930’s

[4.5] Sylvia Sidney (Madame Butterfly, Sabotage) plays a rich girl smitten with a drunkard. Fredric March co-stars as her somewhat charming but sobriety-challenged lover, effectively doing a dry-run for the type of role for which he’d receive an Oscar nomination five years later with A Star is Born. Despite the warnings of her father (George Irving) and friends, Sidney marries March and things go as …

[7.0] Mae West wrote and stars in I’m No Angel, one of her more absurd and uncompromised outings, released before Hollywood began imposing its Production Code on films. After the Code, West’s sultry and witty charm would be considerably watered down. I’m No Angel would even be banned for fourteen years after its initial release. But here we have her in full bloom, playing (of …

[8.0] Irene Dunne and Cary Grant star as a couple who file for divorce, then proceed to thwart each other’s attempts to socialize with new partners. Both are too proud to admit they still have feelings for the other until the divorce proceedings have nearly come to a close. Under the direction of Leo McCarey (Make Way for Tomorrow), Dunne and Grant deliver some of …

[9.0] Somewhere along the way, Hollywood forgot how to make good romantic comedies. Because there are plenty of them to be found in the ’30s and ’40s, with Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night being chief among them. Claudette Colbert plays a rich gal running away from what is essentially an arranged marriage. After she bumps into a reporter played by Clark Gable on a …

[7.0] A young man falsely accused of murder (Derrick De Marney) escapes his hearing and sets out to prove his innocence, dodging the police and falling in love with a blonde young woman (Nova Pilbeam) who helps him against her better judgment. The key to his salvation is finding a stolen raincoat, which kicks off a serendipitous adventure to find a man with an uncontrollably …

[8.0] Jimmy Stewart gives a career-defining performance in this Frank Capra classic about a celebrated boy scout leader (Stewart) who gets chosen to fill a deceased senator’s seat in the U.S. congress. His party assumes Stewart will be a doting yes-man, seriously underestimating his sense of duty and patriotism. When he introduces legislation that conflicts with a corrupt land deal, the party tries to take …

[7.0] Frank Capra directs Barbara Stanwyck in this cautionary tale of phony evangelism. After her minister father dies unappreciated, Stanwyck’s character falls in with a con man (Sam Hardy) to open a church that fakes miracles. The operation becomes lucrative and Stanwyck becomes a celebrity, but when a blind musician (David Manners) demonstrates true faith and begins to fall in love with her, she begins …

[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 …

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