1930’s

[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 …

[3.0] Dorothy Mackaill headlines as a newly-engaged Broadway song and dance star who’s confronted with a ghost from the past on the eve of her retirement. Noah Beery plays the bad guy — a man who tried to rape Mackaill’s character several years ago, and who shows up at the theater to (we assume) try again. Bright Lights (also known bizarrely as Adventures in Africa) …

[7.5] A young boy named Jesse (Roger Daniel) runs away from home to find a job and send money back to his mother, but along the way he falls in with a band of other runaways who are constantly avoiding the police. When the boys are arrested, they are sent to a turpentine factory where they soon realize they are prisoners without rights. Jesse tries …

[6.0] Norma Shearer, ‘the First Lady of MGM,’ won her Academy Award for The Divorcee. Shearer plays against Chester Morris, happily married until she discovers Morris had a fling with a floozy a few months in the past. While he’s away on a work trip, her despair sees her into the arms of another man. When the couple try to reconcile their indiscretions with each …

[6.5] A tropical island native woman falls in love with a visiting white man, even though she’s destined for marriage to an island prince. The two lovers flee and begin a new life together, but the native mob soon catch up with them and demand they be sacrificed in a volcano to appease their angry god. Joel McCrea (The Most Dangerous Game) and Dolores del …

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