1930’s

[6.0] Devil and the Deep stars Tallulah Bankhead as the wife of a U.S. naval commander played by Charles Laughton (receiving ‘introducing’ credit here). Laughton’s character is mentally ill and insanely jealous of every man Bankhead ever comes into contact with, which includes Cary Grant early on in the film, and later with Gary Cooper. Thing is, Tallulah really did sleep with Cooper (God bless …

[6.5] Mae West stars as an 1890’s club entertainer courting a variety of suitors while a dangerous boyfriend promises retribution if she leaves him. While the suitors keep her covered in diamonds, it’s the man running a mission next door who most strikes West’s fancy. That man is played by Cary Grant, in one of his earliest screen appearances. Based on West’s own stage play, …

[5.5] Janet Gaynor and Fredric March star in a love story so good, they’ve made it four times now — most recently with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in the roles. Gaynor plays a small-town girl with dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress. With encouragement from her grandmother, she arrives in Tinseltown bright-eyed and bushy-tailed only to discover what everyone discovers — that opportunity is …

[5.5] Cary Grant made his big-screen debut as a singing javelin thrower in this romantic comedy about adulterous lovers (Thelma Todd and Roland Young) who go to great lengths to hide their secret affair from the woman’s husband (Grant). The cover-up involves hiring a woman (Lili Damita) to play the other man’s wife and all of the characters taking a trip to Venice together.┬áThis Is …

[5.0] Pre-Code bad girl Barbara Stanwyck stars in this hybrid of a love story and a prison movie. Stanwyck plays Nan, a woman who works with a team of mobsters who rob banks. She goes in and distracts the security guards while the men rush in with guns and grab the cash. But Nan is eventually captured and sentenced to prison. But then an evangelical …

[6.5] This is a serendipitous romantic comedy pairing frequent costars Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. Gable plays a reporter who runs away with a press-weary heiress, hoping to snag the headline of the century. But naturally, he falls in love with the dame, which would be complicated enough without being mistaken for spies. Gable and Crawford are having fun and it shows — especially when …

[6.5] Groucho, Chico, and Harpo (but not Zeppo) provide classic comic relief in a series of vignettes tied together in a loose narrative involving a wayward socialite (Margaret Dumont) and a pair of opera-singing lovers (Kitty Carlisle and Allan Jones). Groucho may be the king of off-handed one-liners, but my favorite is Harpo, who holds the screen without uttering a word. A Night at the …

[5.0] Groucho Marx plays the dean of a university in desperate need of a football win. His son (Zeppo) convinces him to recruit two football players at a local bar, but of course, Groucho recruits the wrong people (Chico and Harpo). When the rival university hires the real football players, Groucho responds by sending his new recruits to kidnap theirs, and everything ends in a …

[6.0] Joan Blondell (The Public Enemy, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) stars as a bored nurse who gets recruited by a police detective to infiltrate a rich family’s mansion and help him solve a suicide case that looks suspiciously like murder.┬áBlondell is bubbly and irreverent in the role, screaming when director Lloyd Bacon (Marked Woman, 42nd Street) brings out the expressionistic long shadows and then …

[7.0] Three orphans grow up together as brothers under the care of a kindly benefactor. When they’re old enough, they join the Foreign Legion, but their dreams of adventure are dashed when a sinister sergeant turns their first outpost into a last stand. There are shades of Gunga Din here, but it’s not nearly as carefree or uplifting as that movie. The final act is …

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