Tuesday, July 28, 2009

UPDATE: 13 Classic Movies I've Never Seen....But Really Want To

Several weeks ago, I posted a list of 13 classic films that had always intrigued me for one reason or another but which had eluded me over time, either by my own fault or merely the lack of access to the film. Thanks to a terrific friend, I am happy to say that I have now had the opportunity to watch some of the elusive movies on my list and thought I might share some of my thoughts pertaining to these swell flicks. This post is dedicated to that super classic film loving pal.

The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936) Sylvia Sidney, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray.
The Trail of the Lonesome Pine was the first film to be shot outdoors in full Technicolor. It focuses on the centuries old feud between two mountain families and how an outsider from the city, who comes to buy part of their lands for coal mining, affects their feud.

Initial appeal for me: I am attracted to Paramount films (which this is) from this era because unlike MGM and Warner Brothers productions, they are harder to find and the ones I have seen (many years ago on commercial television or AMC back in the day when it was a real "classics" channel) I enjoyed no end. Also, I am a fan of young Fred MacMurray, who I feel is underrated and overlooked in the movie actor market. Lastly, having known the backwoods theme of the film, I assumed it would have similarities to one of my alltime favorite movies, Shepherd of the Hills (1941), another Technicolor drama based on hillbilly lore.

My opinion: I really enjoyed The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. The color cinematography is gorgeous and the entire cast did a fine job. Having little knowledge of the films of Sylvia Sidney, the female star, her role as June was enough to ignite an interest in seeing more of her.

Hands Across the Table (1935) Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy.

Queen of the Screwball Comedy, Lombard stars along with MacMurray in this fine example of the genre. Carole plays a gold digging manicurist who latches onto playboy Fred, the hitch is, she doesn't know he's broke.

Initial appeal for me: As with Sylvia Sidney, I have only seen a handful of Lombard's films in my time (through lack of access) and as earlier stated, I like the performances of young Fred MacMurray (Maid of Salem, Remember the Night). From the things I'd heard and read, Hands Across the Table seemed like a solid comedy and a good example of Lombard's work.

My opinion: The film was good. Not as good as other screwball classics but better than adequate for sure. I was glad to see Ralph Bellamy in a more sympathetic role rather than his usual buffoon second lead. MacMurray was charming as expected and Lombard was just great. Some of their comic antics were a little strained but overall a film that I'm glad I was able to see.

Mandalay (1934) Kay Francis, Ricardo Cortez, Lyle Talbot

Mandalay is a Kay Francis film through and through. Lurid melodrama which has Kay suffering and wringing her hands with costume changes galore for it's glamorous star (though Francis' character is anything but glamorous, Kay could be nothing but!). Francis plays a gal abandoned by her low life lover into what is essentially white slavery at a brothel/nightclub in Rangoon, Burma. When she decides to leave said life, it's not as easy as she may think. Just getting into distribution under the wire before the Production Code hit big time in Hollywood, it's a racy and risque bit of Kay Francis fun.

Initial appeal for me: I had heard of Mandalay for years as an excellent showcase for the always interesting Francis.

My opinion: The film was everything I expected and then some. Kay is great as Tanya/Spot White and Mandalay is a great example of what a Warner Brothers melodrama could be before the Production Code watered things down.

Forbidden (1932) Barbara Stanwyck, Adolph Menjou, Ralph Bellamy.

Like Mandalay, Forbidden is a pre-Code gem with one of that periods most solid performers, Barbara Stanwyck (Stanwyck would be a solid performer for decades). She plays a dowdy librarian (can you imagine!) who takes her life savings to go on a cruise and meets a married man whom she falls for....permanently.

Initial appeal for me: Always a big Stanwyck fan, her early 30's roles are some of the most compelling of the era. The film was directed by Frank Capra, who always puts on a good show and whose early pairings with Stanwyck were always interesting to me (Ladies of Leisure, The Miracle Woman). Add these elements to the fabulous pre-Code title of Forbidden and I was hooked.
My opinion: Forbidden, like Mandalay, had the adult subject matter and atmosphere that I assumed it would and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Not as much as some of Stanwyck's sassier early roles in films such as Ladies They Talk About or Baby Face, but very watchable nonetheless. Never a big Adolph Menjou fan, that opinion carries through here. I cannot understand Stanwyck's character's attraction to him, as I cannot understand the public's attraction to him as an actor. However, his casting is what it is and taking that fact with a grain of salt, he doesn't hurt the overall picture.

I still have the remaining 9 movies on my initial posting list to discover but I have high hopes for them as well as the many many other films that I yearn to see but fate has yet to allow me. Perhaps after I see a few more on this list I will post another with hard to find gems I can't wait to get my peepers on.


  1. There are so many films I have not seen. Not enough hours in the day. One day we have to get together for a "film festival"!

  2. I'm so glad you finally got to see Forbidden! I agree completely about Adolphe Menjou (he doesn't bother me at all as a supporting actor, but his romantic lead parts always baffle me) but Barbara Stanwyck cancels out any reservations I would have had because of Menjou. Isn't she terrific?!

  3. Lesley Ann, that sounds great! I'll bring the popcorn ;)

    Kate Gabrielle, I really enjoyed Forbidden despite Menjou. Next up for me is Illicit also with Stanwyck.

  4. Forbidden's the only one I've seen here, I'm afraid, but I share your opinion of Adolphe Menjou completely.

  5. Wow, It seems the list of movies I haven't seen is worse than I thought. These look inviting..thanks for the updates.

  6. I have not seen many movies and I hope to be able to see them someday.

  7. three cheers for stanwyck's performance in forbidden! the scene with the masks is especially excellent.

  8. The only two of these films I've seen are "Mandalay" and "Forbidden" - and then only thanks to a college pre-code film festival. I thoroughly enjoyed them both. I'll have to check out the others on your recommendation - though I have to admit that screwball comedy is one of my least favorite genres - rating just a tad higher than The Three Stooges. Sorry. LOL

    I'm so glad you mentioned "Baby Face" - one of my favorites! I saw it as a double feature with "Marked Woman" years ago and had a riotous good time with four hours of debauchery and treachery and fun.

    I'm afraid I'm odd man out here. When I was a young teenager, I thought Adolph Menjou was the height of sophistication - I wanted to grow up just like him (alas, nothing near the sort came to pass). I was always excited when he was going to be on the "Four O'Clock Afternoon Movie" after school!

  9. What a terrific post. I've seen all these films at one time or another but you critiques make me want to see them again. One thing I noticed from this era is that women's roles were pretty limited---long-suffering types drenched in melodrama, gold-diggers (this was the Depression after all), tarts, and wisecracking dames--and any combination. Funny that when the code went into effect women's roles got more diverse. It's no wonder that Kay Francis' career waned after the code--her type of character was becoming obsolete. Menjou is on my "what's the attraction?" list too. He was good at playing wily bastards but as a leading man, YAWN.

  10. Great post Rupert. I have seen Mandalay of course. Kay was wonderful as always. I also seen hands Across The Table which I enjoyed. I love Carole in just about anything. I really would love to see Forbidden. I will look out for all the movies you listed!!

  11. I liked Illicit, but it isn't quite pre-code enough for my pre-code tastes. I don't want to say anymore since you haven't seen it yet but I'm anxious to discuss it once you have :D

  12. Good luck Rupert...and they are all good films, mate....



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