1930

[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 …

[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) …

[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 …

[4.5] Groucho, Chico, Zeppo, and Harpo are back for their second big-screen soire. This one hangs loosely on a stolen painting plot, with Groucho playing a returning safari hunter at a rich aristocrat woman’s house where all the action takes place. Like The Cocoanuts before it, Animal Crackers still suffers from being an un-cinematic Broadway stage adaptation. It’s just hard for vaudeville acts like these …

[9.0] The grand-daddy of ‘anti-war’ war movies is Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front, the first non-musical talkie to win the best picture Academy Award. The film is stylistically way ahead of its time, with sweeping camera movement, realistic (non-theatrical) acting, deep layers of action in the photography, and sophisticated action choreography — all of which you just don’t see in most other …