Site Under Reconstruction

1935

[6] Innovative producer/directors Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper (King Kong, Dr Cyclops) tackle a religious parable that ends in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius with The Last Days of Pompeii. Preston Foster stars as a poor blacksmith hardened by misfortune who turns to the Gladiatorial arena, slavery, and other shady deeds to acquire vast wealth. His life intersects with those of Jesus Christ …

[8] George Stevens (Gunga Din, A Place in the Sun) directs this romanticized tale of an American western legend — Annie Oakley, the woman sharpshooter who could beat any man at gunplay. While the real Annie Oakley was surely rougher around the edges, Barbara Stanwyck carries this first film adaptation of Oakley’s life with strength and compassion. The screenplay centers around Oakley’s romance with a …

[6] In the first and least successful of their screen pairings, Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant star as swindlers who end up running a traveling vaudeville show on the shores of England. Hepburn’s character disguises herself as a young man in order to evade police looking for her father (Edmund Gwenn), a gambler on the lam. The episodic script becomes unfocused when the father becomes …

[7] A London man gives refuge to a female spy, but after she’s knifed in the back he’s accused of her murder. The only way to clear his name is to piece together the clues she left behind and prevent top secret information from being smuggled out of the country. The 39 Steps is an taut espionage-thriller from Alfred Hitchcock that exemplifies the director’s fascination …

[5] Jean Harlow and William Powell star in this romantic comedy about a Broadway singer who impulsively marries a wealthy playboy (Franchot Tone) before realizing her true love is really her long-time agent (Powell). Powell’s droll, sardonic humor fits Reckless nicely, but Harlow isn’t quite charismatic enough to make her part work. It doesn’t help that her character is a singer and a dancer — …

[8] William Wellman directs Clark Gable in this loose adaptation of Jack London’s classic novel. While the book is entirely from the point-of-view of Buck, a weathered sled dog, this film version focuses more on human characters. Gable and his comedic sidekick (Jack Oakie) are on a quest for gold in the Yukon when they stumble across a lone woman (Loretta Young) fighting off wolves. …

[8] Director James Whale (Waterloo Bridge) was given free reign by Universal Pictures to craft a sequel to his highly successful Frankenstein. The result is a more daring and stylized film considered by many to be the most remarkable in all the studio’s legacy of classic monster movies. In The Bride of Frankenstein, both Frankenstein and his monster survive their apparent deaths at the end …

[6] Cary Grant and Claude Rains star as British officers whose paths cross time and again on the Eastern front of World War I. The two become friends after Rains saves Grant from Kurdish raiders. Grant then goes on to help Rains move a village to safety and prevent a sneak attack on British troops. The friends part for much of the second act, during …

[7] 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 …

[6] 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 …

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