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Rare, Seldom-Seen and Classic Movie Recommendations Blog
I watch movies every day because movies significantly enhance the quality of my life. I enjoy popular movies, award-winning movies, classic movies, and various genres. I find particular pleasure, however, in discovering rare, seldom-seen and classic movies that engage me and leave me with that satisfying feeling of having shared a beautiful artistic moment with those who created the film. Although I view some modern seldom-seen movies, I focus more on rare and seldom-seen movies from the Silent Era, the Pre-Code Era, and the Thirties.
I consider rare movies to be those that are difficult to find or that may be prohibitively expensive. The 1962 French movie Thérèse Desqueyroux, Abel Gance’s Napoleon from 1927, and Disney’s Song of the South are rare because they are, generally, unavailable in the United States in a format that is playable on U.S. DVD players. Seldom-seen movies, on the other hand, are movies that are readily obtainable but are seldom viewed.
Many movie viewers don’t realize the fine quality and artistic importance of rare and seldom-seen movies. One can have an incredibly moving experience discovering and watching movies that people seldom see.
I endeavor in this blog to write short opinions of rare movies, classic movies, silent movies, and seldom-seen movies to point movie viewers to films I know they would appreciate and enjoy and to point out rare and seldom-seen movies that viewers should avoid because of poor quality or boring content. I include in each entry the movie title, year of release, and stars. I devote just a few words to the plot because viewers can easily access detailed synopses and reviews on such sites at IMDB.COM and AMAZON.COM. I provide a few sentences of opinion on the movie and then finish with my recommendation and a link to the movie on IMDB.COM. If I indicate a movie is a must see movie, I am confident anyone watching this movie will find the experience gratifying.
I record most recent posts first and include posts from previous years in archive PDFs.
Where does one find rare and seldom-seen movies? AMAZON.COM sells most of the seldom-seen movies, and many are very inexpensive if one buys used DVDs. In some cases, seldom-seen movies are not for sale in the United States. In these cases, search the internet to find the movies for sale from foreign vendors. The cost of foreign-purchased movies is, in most cases, not much more expensive than movies purchased in the United States. (Carefully check the regional code for foreign movies, however, because some may not play on U.S. DVD players. In these cases one can use computer software to recode the movie.)
A free source of seldom-seen-movies is the public library. One can request nearly any movie through the local library’s interlibrary loan process. The library can obtain at no charge any movie located in one’s state. For a small fee, the library can obtain any movie cataloged in the United States. One can also find seldom-seen-movies on the American Movie Classics (AMC) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable channels. Their web sites list schedules of movies. Another source for viewing rare and seldom-seen movies is the website archive.org/index.php. One can watch online movies on the site or download movie files of videos in the public domain. There are also links on the IMDB.COM website for viewing movies in the public domain.
I strongly encourage those interested in movies to explore rare and seldom-seen movies because the viewing experience can be rewarding and enjoyable. Take a break from popular movies and discover movie-making geniuses from the past and movies featuring stars who deliver astounding performances.
Because I appreciate movies, I begin my blog with quotations that demonstrate the importance of movies in our culture and the enjoyment one can get from viewing films. I also present a voluminous collection of film quotations on the Best Quotes for English Teachers and Students page of my website.
The films made in the first half of the 20th century are in many ways superior to the films being made now. It wasn’t an industry forced by bankers and investors to pander to 18-year-olds. A film now has to fill vast numbers of seats. Studios have to show huge profits to the multinational corporations that own them. Not exactly like the old days of classic Hollywood.
The movie is the imagination of mankind in action.
I always liked movies…they were Milk Duds for the soul.
The moving picture is beautiful; the moving wind in the trees is more beautiful than a painting.
–D. W. Giffith
All life’s riddles are answered in the movies.
The cinema has no boundaries. It is a ribbon of dreams.
There are more valid facts and details in works of art than there are in history books.
How can a serious, passionate artist not make film? It’s the most important art form ever created.
Through the magic of motion pictures, someone who’s never left Peoria knows the softness of a Paris spring, the color of a Nile sunset, the sorts of vegetation one will find along the upper Amazon and that Big Ben has not yet gone digital.
Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.
We live in a box of space and time. Movies are windows in its walls. They allow us to enter other minds—not simply in the sense of identifying with the characters, although that is an important part of it, but by seeing the world as another person sees it.
The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.
Film is the only really vital American art form right now. It’s a unifying, worldwide, powerful art form that’s unique in human history.
If I can make them laugh and through that laughter make this world seem just a little brighter, then I am satisfied.
–W. C. Fields
When a movie transports me in an emotional way, it inspires my imagination or my intellect. I love to lose myself in the characters or the world the director is creating. It’s rare and wonderful.
Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream, it takes over as the number one hormone; it bosses the enzymes; directs the pineal gland; plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to film is more film.
One can be sad, alone, detached from family and friends, and the movies can fill a void. Film can provide one for a short period of time with an intimate relationship with characters who fully participate in all aspects of life. One becomes absorbed in a film and vicariously experiences life through characters created by gifted artists.
–Dan L. Miller
Television and film are our libraries now. Our history books.
The carpeted, gilt-adorned palace interior of the theater, where in the darkness you find two seats, whisper a remark or two, and go lifting, speeding into the great moving magic of the silver screen which pulls all into itself, lulling with the magnetic other-worldliness all who sit in adoration before it. The collection is taken discreetly at the door by the gaunt, gray-haired man in the scarlet uniform with the crust of gold braid, and the worshipers are ushered to their cushioned pews in reverent darkness. No matter if they are late; the service is continuous, and if the beginning of the first mass is missed, one may stay through the beginning of the second to achieve full continuity. In the democratic twilight, the clothes of the patrons are not in evidence. If Mrs. Allan’s hat is out of taste, if Mac the cabdriver snores through the dull first lesson or the news reel, if Mamie and Joe nuzzle each other playfully, fondly in response to the sermon of a screen kiss, there is no one to be censorious, no one who really minds. For this is the altar at which more Americans spend their time and money, daily, nightly than ever before. Here the mystic incense of the traditional popcorn, chewing gum and chocolate, of mixed perfume and whiskey smells is neutralized and cooled by the patented air-conditioning system. And here people can lose their identity in a splurge of altruism before the twentieth century god. His messengers, his missionaries are everywhere. Dark in the room above your heads, one runs the machine; reel after vibrating reel of divine life circles under his directions onto the mammoth screen, playing forth the drama, the life force, the Bible of the masses. Rave notices are circulated in the newspapers. Everybody reads them. Sex and slaughter are substituted for the sin and sulphur of the pulpits, now quite antiquated. Instead of watching a man dictate manners and morals, you watch the very workings of these manners and morals in an artificially constructed society which to you, is real. Which, to all the worshipers, is the most wonderful and temporary reality they could every hope to know.
RARE, SELDOM-SEEN AND CLASSIC MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS
Recommendations from 2016
Recommendations from 2017
Recommendations from 2018
Recommendations from 2019
RARE, SELDOM-SEEN AND CLASSIC MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS
RARE, SELDOM-SEEN, AND CLASSIC MOVIES
JANUARY-MARCH 2022 POST
Gang’s All Here, The (1943) Alice Faye, Phil Baker, Edward Everett Horton, Eugene Pallette, Carmen Miranda, Benny Goodman and His Orchestra
Sergeant Andy Mason falls in love with Eadie Allen, working in a popular night club. Their relationship progresses until the army calls up Andy for active duty. Eadie’s career soars, Andy becomes a war hero. Upon his return, the relationship looks to be in jeopardy. If you’re looking for a visually beautiful, eye-popping spectacle with amazing costumes, beautiful dancers, and Busby Berkley’s lavish sets and musical production numbers, you’ll enjoy this film. If you’re looking for a strong plot with emotional appeal, skip this one. IMBD: The Gang’s All Here
Naughty Marietta (1955) Patrice Munsel, Alfred Drake, John Conte
Marietta, actually Italian royalty sailing under an assumed identity, disembarks a ship in French colonial New Orleans, with many other girls. All the other girls match up with men waiting on the dock, and leave as fiancés. Marietta hides, however, because she wants to fall in love and pick her own husband. American Captain Wellington, in New Orleans looking to bring a notorious pirate to justice, finds Marietta and helps her hide among the gypsies. They’re falling in love, but the corrupt governor, tipped off about Marietta’s whereabouts, has her arrested and forces her into a wedding. This television production faithfully follows the original operetta. The story is interesting enough, but the show scores a big win by the casting of opera and theater stars. This production succeeds, and watching an early black-and-white television show demonstrates the quality of presentations at that point in the development of television. Interesting enough to watch. IMBD: Naughty Marietta
Notes from Underground (1995) Henry Czerny, Sheryl Lee, Vic Polizos, Jon Favreau
A mentally ill man confesses directly to the camera during this film as he denigrates himself and reviews his despicable life. The film cuts back and forth from the confession of his wretchedness to events in his life. Even when a prostitute tries to reach him and treats him with kindness, he destroys her emotionally. Although dark and difficult to watch at times, this film offers a faithful representation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella and most viewers will appreciate this film. IMBD: Notes from Underground
Ziegfeld Follies (1945) Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice, Judy Garland, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, Red Skelton, Esther Williams
This homage to Florence Ziegfeld presents a series of acts (much like the Follies) starring the top talent of the time. Beautiful chorus girls in sensational costumes provide an introduction to comedy skits interspersed with singing and dancing acts. This film disappoints. The movie makes an attempt to duplicate the Ziegfeld Follies, but despite the top talent involved, the presentation falls flat. The comedy routines fail the test of time, although humorous, most likely, when the film debuted. Awkwardness haunted some sequences such as presenting Lucille Ball as a show girl cracking a whip at a gaggle of show girls costumed as black cats. Technicolor makes this film artistically beautiful to watch and enhanced the highlight of the film—Esther Williams’ water ballet. Watchable. IMBD: Ziegfeld Follies
Starlift (1951) Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Virginia Mayo, Gene Nelson, Ruth Roman, Janice Rule
Two Air Force crew members who shuttle soldiers between Los Angeles and Honolulu lie to three visiting Hollywood starlets about being deployed to the front during the war. They’re looking for sympathy and possible kisses. Hollywood reporter Luella Parsons concocts a relationship between one of the crew members and one of the starlets. The thin plot in this film works to showcase the talents of many Hollywood stars at the time with singing, dancing, and comedy skits. Interesting enough to watch. IMBD: Starlift
I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951) Doris Day, Danny Thomas, Frank Lovejoy, James Gleason, Jim Backus
Pesky lyrics writer, Gus, tries to get his lyrics published by aggressively pursuing a young, sheet music sales girl. She eventually agrees to review his lyrics, writes the music and sings the songs. They become partners, spouses, and parents. Over time, Gus’s growing success damages their relationship. Doris Day, famous for light comedies, shines in a dramatic role, and, of course, features her singing throughout the film. Danny Tomas’s character irritates, but his talent also makes this film work. Well worth watching. IMBD: I’ll See You in My Dreams
Kid Brother, The (1927) Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Walter James, Olin Francis
Two of Sheriff Jim Hickory’s sons are huge, strong, strapping boys while one son, Harold, is small, skinny, and bespectacled. Father and big brothers keep Harold doing housework and refuse to let him work with the others. Harold play acts at ‘heroric’ activities, and while ‘acting’ as the sheriff, he approves a medicine show, which features a beautiful, young girl. Harold immediately falls in love with the beauty, while many others pursue her as well. Someone steals a large amount of the community’s money from the sheriff, and he sends his ‘big’ sons out to find the culprits, while citizens are intent on lynching him. Harold Lloyd scores a major hit with this classic. Non-stop action, innumerable sight gags, romance, and extreme physicality as well as imaginative cinematography, superb acting, and an engaging story make this film one of Lloyd’s best. Viewers should not miss this Must See Viewing experience of one of the era’s best silent films. IMBD: The Kid Brother
Bring on the Girls (1945) Veronica Lake, Sonny Tufts, Eddie Bracken, Marjorie Reynolds
Multimillionaire, J. Newport Bates, catches his fiancée in a romantic embrace with his cousin. He realizes his fiancée planned to marry him only for his money. He realized that through his life people have liked him only for his money. He decided to join the Navy as an ordinary citizen so others would relate to him for his true self and not just his money. His lawyer, however, insists that his nephew join the Navy with Bates as his chaperone. Complications, romance, and hilarity ensue. Breezy comedy interesting enough to watch. IMBD: Bring on the Girls
Wake up and Live (1937) Walter Winchell, Alice Faye, Patsy Kelly, Ned Sparks, Jack Haley, Joan Davis
Eddie Kane and his singing partner bring their act to the big city. At their first recording session, Eddie freezes when first facing a microphone and can’t perform. The act takes a break, and Eddie takes a job as an usher at the night club. During a band performance at the club, Eddie walks into an empty recording studio, faces the microphone and sings into what is, unknown to him, a ‘hot mic,’ which broadcasts to the nightclub’s ballroom. Everyone’s amazed at the ‘mystery troubadour,’ and the bandleader and Walter Winchell both try to discover the identity of the amazing singer. This comedy moves quickly, features top performers, and entertains. Viewers will find this film well worth watching. IMBD: Wake Up and Live
Tempest (1928) John Barrymore, Camilla Horn
Ivan Markov, a peasant, studies and works hard to become an officer in Czarist Russia, a position normally reserved for aristocrats. When he attempts to return the stolen clothes of a group of girls swimming in the nude, he approaches the Princess Tamara, impulsively grabs her, forcefully kisses her, and endures her wrath. Thereafter, he obsessively pursues her, despite her engagement to an aristocratic officer. This well-developed, well-acted film features the talents of John Barrymore and German actress, Camilla Horn. They truly ‘had faces then.’ Well worth watching. IMBD: The Tempest
Mr. Skeffington (1941) Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel
Suitors galore pursue Fanny for her beauty, vivacity and wealth. She leaves them all hanging on until her alcoholic, ne’er-do-well brother embezzles from his firm. Penniless herself, now, to bail him out, she marries his wealthy boss—a union of convenience only. This emotional film features Bette Davis at her best supported by an exceptional cast with a masterful script. Must-see viewing. IMBD: Mr. Skeffington
Love Me or Leave Me (1955) Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell
Gangster Marty Snyder spots Ruth Etting selling dances at a dance hall and pegs her as his next fling. Ruth accepts his career help but rebuffs his romantic advances…until Marty’s violent streak forces Ruth to makes a tough choice. This biopic of Ruth Etting entertains with James Cagney perfectly dramatizing the manic, violent Marty Snyder and Doris Day singing with elegance and talent the songs that made Ruth Etting famous. Highly entertaining. IMBD: Love Me of Leave Me
A Majority of One (1961) Rosalind Russell, Alec Guinness, Ray Danton
Japanese soldiers killed widow Bertha Jacoby’s son during World War II, and she harbors a hatred for the Japanese, but when her son-in-law transfers to a job in Japan, her daughter insists she move with them. This film features prejudice as its theme, and the theme plays out through the interrelationships of the characters. Although the film provides several touching scenes and Alec Guinness portrays his Japanese character well, the fact that a Japanese actor did not play his role makes his presentation awkward—cringe-worthy, actually. Despite the message, Miss Russell’s spot-on portrayal of a Jewish widow, and some tender romance, I recommend skipping this one. IMBD: A Majority of One
Houdini (1953) Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Torin Thatcher
This entertaining film traces Houdini’s life from wild man in the circus to becoming the world’s greatest magician. It focuses as well on the relationship with his wife and the performance of his greatest illusions throughout his career. The film entertains. Highly recommended. IMBD: Houdini
The House on 92nd Street (1945) William Eythe, Lloyd Nolan, Signe Hasso
This film depicts the workings of a German spy ring in the United States during World War II. The U.S. government places a mole in the network, and he’s successful—until…. This film utilizes documentary footage of locations where the events took place as well as film of actual spies depicted in the film. This film offers mild entertainment but depicts well the methods of the government at the time to root out spies. Better films exist on this topic. IMBD: The House on 92nd Street
AUGUST-DECEMBER 2021 POST
Horse’s Mouth, The (1958) Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Renee Houston
In this British farce, famous painter, Gulley Jimson, when released from prison struggles to find and recover his appropriated masterpieces. He also can’t resist his craving to cover any blank surface with paint. Guinness delivers a quirky, but amusing performance, although some may find his strange voice off-putting. Kay Walsh, Gulley’s domineering girlfriend, puts in an hilarious, stellar performance. Viewers will find this film well worth watching. IMDB: Horse’s Mouth, The
Long Night, The (1934) Henry Fonda, Barbara Bel Geddes, Vincent Price
Factory worker, Joe, meets a young, beautiful and innocent girl delivering flowers to the plant office. Their relationship develops with the promise of an idyllic future. Then Joe begins to question her mysterious past and her supposed innocence. A murder takes place, and all hell breaks loose. This film features incredibly powerful performances from a cast of A-list actors. Breath-taking drama with artistic cinematography make this film must-see viewing. IMDB: Long Night, The
Lady of Burlesque (1943) Barbara Stanwyck, Micheal O’Shea, J. Edward Bromberg
Based on the book, The G-string Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee, this inside look at burlesque theater life with the acts, the songs, the vaudeville routines and the chorus girls shows the interactions and the conflicts among the performers. Those conflicts lead to suspicions when someone secretly starts murdering chorus girls. Barbara Stanwyck leads the cast with her unique style in a stellar performance. Viewers will find the film interesting and entertaining. IMDB: Lady of Burlesque
I Was a Male War Bride (1949) Cary Grant, Ann Sheridan, Marion Marshall
In occupied Germany after World War II French captain, Henri, and US Army lieutenant, Catherine, get paired up for a mission. They have an acrimonious past and try unsuccessfully to get reassigned. Despite constant bickering, they fall in love and decide to marry. In order to qualify for immigration to the US, though, Henri must register as a war bride. Although the concept and story are interesting, this comedy falters with weak humor and an unrealistic conversion from a battling couple to lovebirds. Moderately interesting but entertaining enough to watch. IMDB: I Was a Male War Bride
A Lady Takes a Chance (1943) Jean Arthur, John Wayne, Charles Winniger
A young, New York woman with multiple, uninspiring suitors seeks adventure on a Western bus tour. Out West she instantly falls in love with a cowboy who travels the rodeo circuit and refuses to even consider getting ‘hitched.’ This breezy comedy features the comedic talents of Jean Arthur in an entertaining, humorous film. Her understated style shines and interest never wains in this Must See viewing experience. IMDB: A Lady Takes a Chance
Bathing Beauty (1944) Red Skelton, Esther Williams, Basil Rathbone
Song writer, Steve, adores his bathing beauty fiancé, Caroline. His agent sabotages their marriage because he wants more songs from Steve. Caroline retreats to become a teacher at an all-girls college. Finding a loop hole in the school’s charter, Steve enrolls as the only male at the school in order to win back Caroline. Viewers will appreciate a bevy of bathing beauties in this film, and the thin plot serves mostly to showcase the talents of the Xavier Cugat band, the Harry James band with Helen Forrest, the artistic swimming of Esther Williams, the silliness of Red Skelton, and a number of singing and dancing acts. Viewers will find this musical comedy highly entertaining. IMDB: Bathing Beauty
Dangerous When Wet (1953) Esther Williams, Fernando Lamas, Jack Carson
The Higgins family practice swimming together every day, but sister Katie excels. Windy Weebe arrives in town with his medicine show and woos Katie. To promote his elixir and enhance his chances with Katie, he enrolls the family in an English Channel swimming contest. In England Katie meets a millionaire, who pursues her as well. Mediocre acting, a pedestrian plot, and slow pace make this film one to skip. Watch this film only if you’re an Esther Williams completist. IMDB: Dangerous When Wet
3 Penny Opera (Die 3 Groschen-Oper) (1931) Rudolf, Lotte Lenya, Carola Neher
Local crime boss, Mack the Knife, exits a London bordello and notices a beautiful, young girl walking with her friend. He follows the girl, asks her and her friend to go to a club, dances with the girl, asks her to marry, and she accepts. Unknown to Mack, he’s married the daughter of another crime boss, the King of the Beggars. The great, German filmmaker G. W. Pabst creates an interesting, tension-filled film with touches of humor. Pabst displays outstanding cinematography to make this film compelling. Despite typical early-talkie acting, the film works. Exemplary and representative German film of the early 30s. Must-See Viewing. IMDB: 3 Penny Opera
The Tollgate (1920) William S. Hart, Anna Q. Nilsson, Joseph Singleton
Vicious outlaw, Black Deering, urges his gang to disband, but he’s outvoted, and they plan a major heist of a train. One of his gang members turns him in during the raid and collects the reward. Black Deering escapes and wreaks havoc on a local town before fleeing the local sheriff and his posse. This adventure entertains and serves as an example of Hart’s best work. Action, adventure, and tenderness when a woman helps shelter him from the authorities. Well worth watching. IMDB: The Tollgate
His Bitter Pill (1916) Mack Swain, Louella Macam, Ella Haines
This Mack Sennett short features Sheriff Jim pursuing local beauty, Nell, while local cad, Diamond Dan, tries to steal her from Jim. Complications arise when Nell falls for Diamond Dan and Jim attempts to regain her affection. This typical Sennett short includes all the Sennett components of fights, romance, humor, chases, and redemption. Worth watching. IMDB: His Bitter Pill
Hot Spell (1958) Shirley Booth, Anthony Quinn, Shirley MacLaine
Beleagered housewife, Alma, turns a blind eye to her demeaning and demanding husband’s philandering and the struggles her three grown children face. Shirley Booth shines in her lead role, but strong acting across the board makes this a film viewers should see. IMDB: Hot Spell
Emperor Jones (1933) Paul Robeson, Dudley Digges, Frank H. Wilson
[Spoiler Alert] Doorman, Brutus Jones’s, huge ego leads him to use others to move upward in society until an accidental murder sends him to prison. After escaping prison he takes a position in the boiler room of a freighter, jumps ship near a Caribbean island, and rises from prisoner, to slave, to self-titled ‘Emperor.’ This film makes liberal use of the ’N’ word, and the predominantly Black cast speaks in the stereotypical dialect of the period. The film, however, delivers a faithful version of Eugene O’Neill’s play supported by impressive acting. Well worth watching. IMDB: Emperor Jones
Jitterbugs (1943) Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Vivian Blaine
Laurel and Hardy run out of gas in the desert and are rescued by a con man selling tubes of pellets that turn water into gasoline. They team up with this ‘miracle worker’ and chaos ensues. This film features the beauty and talent of Vivian Blaine as the love interest. Well-acted, funny, and typically Laurel and Hardy. IMDB: Jitterbugs
Diamond Horseshoe (1945) Betty Grable, Dick Haymes, Phil Silvers
Joe Davis drops out of medical school to pursue a career in show business like his father. His father does what he can to dissuade his son, and his father’s fiancé devises a scheme to get him out of show business as well. Joe falls in love with the star of the Diamond Horseshoe nightclub and faces obstacles rather than finding true romance. This splashy MGM musical features amazing costumes, beautiful show girls, and extravagant routines. It features the talents of Betty Grable and Dick Haymes with 80% of the film consisting of singing and dancing. This musical gets off to a slow start but builds interest and ends with a powerful, endearing conclusion. Well worth watching. IMDB: Diamond Horseshoe
RARE, SELDOM-SEEN, AND CLASSIC MOVIES
JANUARY-JULY 2021 POST
Midnight (1934) Sidney Fox, O.P. Heggie, Humphrey Bogart
Mr. Weldon serves as jury foreman, delivering the murder verdict for a woman convicted of murder in a crime of passion. Without considering extenuating circumstances, Mr. Weldon believes “The law is the law.” On the night of the murderess’s execution, Weldon’s own daughter confesses to murdering her lover. Humphrey Bogart plays a pivotal role in this film. This tense drama makes imaginative use of photography, and despite mediocre acting, viewers will find this film entertaining. IMDB: Midnight
Wealthy socialite, Cynthia, loves and wants to marry Roger, a man married to another wealthy socialite, Marcia. Even though Marcia has her own lover on the side, she extorts Cynthia for money in order for her to divorce Roger. In the mean time, Cynthia is in line for an extraordinary inheritance which carries the stipulation that she be married by a particular date. With the date fast approaching, she realizes she can’t marry Roger in time to collect on the inheritance. She decides to marry an accused murderer on death row, Hagon, who is about to be executed. Cynthia endures the marriage ceremony in front of Hagon’s jail cell in order to collect her inheritance and marry Roger at a later time. After the legal ceremony, and minutes before the execution, the actual murderer confesses, and the warden releases Hagon from prison. He intends to claim his bride. Superb acting, particularly by Kay Johnson, and the tension between her character and Charles Bickford’s Hagon highlight this incredibly engaging film. Head-snapping plot twists, occasional humor, sexy flappers, and warm sentiment keep viewers’ attention throughout. This film ranks as one of the PreCode films I’ve enjoyed most, and, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, viewers will find this extraordinary film to be MUST SEE VIEWING. IMDB: Dynamite
After their discharge from the Marines, Quirt and Flagg compete over the years for money and women. When bootlegger Flagg unwittingly imports a sexy spitfire from South America, the boys focus their attention and their futures on her whims. This film showcases the talents of Lupe Valez and the comedic repartee between Edmund Lowe and Victor McLaglen. The humor borders on silliness, but Valez shines in a high-powered, talented tour-de-force. Entertainment value—worth watching. IMDB: Hot Pepper
Suave Englishman, Richard Dexter, travels to Ardenberg to surreptitiously extricate the queen from the danger of the revolution in her country. He smuggles her out of the country, hides her in his apartment and later in his country house. Not surprisingly, Dexter, develops a close relationship with the queen, who is not familiar with the customs and everyday lives of ‘normal’ people. The relationship also raises the suspicions and ire of Dexter’s fianceé. This British comedy elicits a few titters, but there are so many better films from this period to watch. Don’t waste your time. IMDB: Lady in Danger
Men pay for dances with women at the dance hall. Gloria dances with the men and sings with the band. Despite her sinful reputation, the band leader loves her and the local gangster considers her ‘his girl.’ Gloria, however, falls in love with the band’s saxophone player, and they plan to marry. Tension, deceit, threats, misunderstandings, and murder ensue. The film showcases Miriam Hopkins’ talents, Jack Oakie puts in his usual, strong performance, and George Raft authentically plays the gangster. This outstanding film entertains. IMDB: Dancers in the Dark
Heather’s excited to immigrate to America, but a letter from her sponsor awaits her in New York harbor. He can no longer support her, and she’s to remain in immigration’s custody for her trip back to Scotland. She escapes the authorities and finds adventure and love ashore—all the while frantically eluding immigration authorities. This lightweight film starts slowly and builds throughout to a suspenseful conclusion. Gaynor pushes cuteness to its limits, musical numbers achieve only mediocrity, and the humor at times elicits groans. Nevertheless, the film entertains at a moderate level. IMDB: Delicious
Once wealthy sister and brother rent out their mansion and pose as the cook and the butler. Some of the genuinely wealthy tenants fall in love with the ‘servants.’ This unusual farce with musical numbers may have served as a time-passer in 1930, but contemporary viewers will find this film too aggravating to watch. Avoid a disjointed plot, unnecessary and inexplicable musical numbers, an annoying brat, forced coincidences, and unrealistic relationships by avoiding this dud of a film. IMDB: Honey
Flat broke Letty asks her friend to get her a job in the beauty salon, where many of the girls make their way in life by hooking up with sugar daddies. Letty finds her man. He’s wealthy, in love with her, and married. She struggles with her decision regarding her path forward. This engaging film provides competent acting, imaginative cinematography, a solid plot, suspense, and a high level of entertainment. You’ll enjoy this must-see viewing film. IMDB: Beauty for Sale
As a hit man for the mob, “Pops” uses his daughter, Nan, to assist him as needed. When she takes the rap for him and goes to prison, her carnival barker boyfriend joins the mob to improve his status and help Nan—on the advice of “Pops.” Uneven acting in this potboiler fails to detract from the power of the narrative. Cooper, as usual, delivers a solid performance. A strong, suspenseful plot keeps viewers’ eyes on the screen, and the inventive cinematography enhances the viewing experience. A dramatic, unique climax tops off this this must see film. IMDB: City Streets
Fanny and Jim live a listless, loveless marriage. Both alcoholic Jim and beautiful Fanny find companionship with lovers. After a night at the club, Jim falls drunk on his lover’s couch and wakes in the morning to find her dead. This well-done film offers quality acting, suspense, heartbreak, and hopelessness. Entertaining and well worth watching. IMDB: 24 Hours
Using a spiritualist as a front for their criminal activities, a gang teams up with a young woman, Jean, to seek revenge on the grandmother who falsely accused her of crimes that sent her to prison. Jean plans on kidnapping her young granddaughter and raising her as a criminal. If the Golden Raspberry Awards (Razzies) existed in 1929, this film would win. A cringe-worthy plot accompanies a primitive presentation with no redeeming qualities. Skip this one. IMDB: The Hole in the Wall
Sydney works against all odds to bring about her marriage to her lovable mug, Peter. His mother challenges the marriage, her mother runs off with the border, her father fights heart failure, the couple pinch pennies to pay for a wedding, and Peter looks in earnest for a better job. This bittersweet romance entertains. Marian Nixon’s sweetness shines and Charles Farrell’s “aw shucks” portrayal provides a perfect counterpoint. Solid acting, a great story, and emotional conflicts make this romance Must See viewing. IMDB: After Tomorrow
The wealthy Herringtons host wild parties regularly. Mom and Dad provide the booze and entertainment and each have lovers on the side. Son, Jack, a neer-do-well partier with a fiancee falls in love with the malt shop owner’s daughter, Cathleen—a virginal, church-going young girl devoted to her dad. Her dad forbids her to see Jack, but she’s torn between her love for Jack and her devotion to her father. Even with marginal acting, a slim plot, and an annoying soundtrack that doesn’t match the action, this film entertains enough to be watchable. IMDB: The Mad Whirl
RARE, SELDOM-SEEN, AND CLASSIC MOVIES
JULY-DECEMBER 2020 POST
International bank robber, Barrington Hunt, flees Paris for the Sahara Desert. He kidnaps a woman who tried to trap him for the reward, and hides out in a notorious den of thieves in the desert. A blind old man, tended to by his beautiful, young daughter, protects the hidden treasure in his apartment. Hunt attempts to foil the other thieves, his kidnapped hostage, and the old man’s daughter to secure the treasure. Some suspense, a bit of humor, and Colman/Wray hold this film together, but mediocrity reigns throughout. Mildly entertaining. IMDB: Unholy Garden
Clay Thorne loves heiress, Nancy Brookfield, and visits her Kentucky mansion frequently. Her father, Jack, runs an illegal casino out of his house. In front of Clay, he has a run-in with a local authority and threatens to kill him. Clay harbors an extreme fear of cat’s eyes, and when he freaks out at the sight of Jack’s cat’s eye ring, Jack hypnotizes him to relieve his fear. Unfortunately, the hypnosis results in unexpected and deadly consequences. This well-acted film offers an unusual story-line and surprising plot twists. Not an award-winner, but, also, not a waste of time. IMDB: The Witching Hour
Ritzie, the long-time girlfriend of gangster, Thunderbolt, falls in love with another man and attempts to leave Thunderbolt. He refuses to let her go and threatens to kill her new lover. Against all odds and at great peril, Ritzie and her lover pursue their relationship. Although the wooden acting in this early talkie detracts from the film, the story and the plot twist at the end make this film worth watching. IMDB: Thunderbolt
A wealthy industrialist comes down hard on his worthless, shallow son by cutting off his funds and sending him to San Francisco to start at the bottom in one of his businesses. He washes out there, as well, but falls in love with a young lady before being kidnapped and taken to Shanghai. Devoted to her man, his new love follows him to Shanghai but descends into a hellish existence. This pre-code film features underwear, alcoholism, opium addiction, prostitution, and mental illness. Populated with unlikeable characters, this film fails in a big way. As a viewer who believes in watching a full movie once started, I was tempted many times to pull the plug on this dud. I even found Janet Gaynor’s performance unwatchable at times. An unimaginative, confused plot with unrealistic coincidences make this film one to avoid. Hard to say, considering the first-rate leads in this film, but The Man Who Came Back ranks as one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. IMDB: The Man Who Came Back
Mother, daughter, and brother are theater royalty. Granddaughter balks at a career in the theater because she’s in love and wants to marry. Brother dodges commitments and tries to hide from a breach of promise threat. Daughter’s old flame shows up with a proposal of marriage. The conflict of life in the theater and a life of love and marriage stands at the center of this film. Despite the hokey antics of Fredric March in this film, the acting is superb, the screenplay written by Edna Ferber and George Kaufman first rate, and the entertainment value high. The emotional conclusion to the film makes the viewing experience worthwhile. IMDB: The Royal Family of Broadway
Philandering actor, Richard Hardell, makes love to Helen, the naive, young daughter of the studio’s night watchman. When Richard’s wife visits the studio, she finds Helen in her husband’s dressing room. She takes Helen home with her, and tells her the story of Richard’s many lovers and that he’s just stringing her along. Helen’s brother and father find out about her relationship with Richard, and Richard’s current director threatens to fire him, so numerous suspects have a motive when Richard turns up murdered at the studio. Substandard acting and a mediocre screenplay make this primitive Precode film difficult to watch at times. Although watchable, better Precode mysteries would fulfill a viewer’s entertainment needs. IMDB: The Studio Murder Mystery
Ma prepares her foods and Pa readies his prize hog, Blue Boy, for competition at the state fair. Although the competitions play a part in the plot, the film focuses on the romance of daughter, Margy, and the dalliance of son, Wayne. Actual Iowa state fair footage adds authenticity to this film, and the plot provides humor, sentimentality, and romance. And, yes, Janet Gaynor is adorable. As a light romantic comedy, this film delivers. Highly recommended. IMDB: State Fair
Four grifters flee the town they just fleeced, and on the train the porter asks the doctor in the group to help a seriously ill lady. Although he’d lost his license, he agrees to help the lady, who’s on her way to meet her estranged, teenage son, who she hasn’t seen in many years. She’s wealthy. The doctor stays with her, gets off the train to accompany her to the hospital, but she dies. He schemes with his partner to impersonate the mother and scam the son for money. She yearns to leave the racket, but agrees to one last job. When she arrives at the mansion to see her “son,” she finds out he’s blind and ill. She falls in love with the boy, he falls in love with his “mother,” but she’s pressured by her partner to “get the money.” Interesting film if one can wade through the syrupy sentiment. Kay Francis delivers a low-energy, understated performance, while others make journeyman efforts. Worth a watch. IMDB: The False Madonna
Mendel struggles to pay the rent and provide for his family in the Jewish ghetto of New York City. He secretly takes money from his daughter to develop his invention, and when its sale makes him rich, the family takes a turn for the worse. This Precode film seems to be a Jewish Amos N’ Andy in that it features Jewish stereotypes that may offend viewers’ sensitivities. This comedy with PreCode attributes doesn’t age well, and contemporary viewers would be best to skip this one. IMDB: The Heart of New York
During a late-night double date, the couples decide on a whim to get married. When Helen gets home in the early morning, the nurse announces her father is near death. She runs to his room, only to have him die in her arms. When the estate is settled, she finds out that her father was bankrupt. Her new, but ne’er-do-well, husband, explodes when she explains she has no money. He’d lied about his wealth and has nothing as well. He leaves and takes a job as a gigilo in a night club run by the mob. She takes a job as a social secretary for a wealthy family and falls in love with the young daughter’s fiancee. Intrigue, romance, illicit love, and murder ensue. Colbert doesn’t disappoint, and this first-rate film entertains. Highly recommended. IMDB: Secrets of a Secretary
Vaudevillian Kitty, while pregnant with her child, loses her husband in a trapeze accident. When her daughter, Shirley, comes of age, Kitty drives her, against her will, into show business. Kitty deviously works to promote Shirley’s career, thwarting her romances and promoting elicit relationships that will boost her career, as well as Kitty’s lifestyle. Maureen O’Sullivan shines as the rising star in this film, and the supporting cast excels. The musical numbers add to the film’s entertainment value but fall short of quality performances. Overall, this film delivers a high level of entertainment, and is well worth watching. Highly recommended. IMDB: Stage Mother
Fräulein Doktor uses her beauty and sex appeal as a spy for the Germans during the Great War to achieve her objectives. She outs Mata Hari for letting love interfere with her role as a German spy, which leads to Mata Hari’s execution. Unfortunately, during her mission to Istanbul, Fräulein Doktor, herself falls in love with a man who’s been pursuing her relentlessly, and her role as a spy who trades sex for secrets creates the major conflict in the film. Myrna Loy excels in this film which features suspense, intrigue, romance, and sexual tension (a lot). See Myrna Loy at her best in this exceptional Must See film. IMDB: Stamboul Quest
Representatives of the dregs of society can be found in a Panamanian night club. Carlotta entertains for drinks and favors while the ex-lawyer, Dick Grady, exists as an irredeemable drunkard. A stalker breaks into Carlotta’s apartment and ends up dead. Dick defends her in court, and they develop a symbiotic relationship. Plot twists, romance, drama, murder, suspense, superior acting and professional production values make this film a winner. To see Tallulah Bankhead at her best, don’t miss this Must See view. IMDB: My Sin
A radio program features songs from “The Purity Girl.” The sponsor wants to sign her to a long-term contract with morality clauses, and a competing company also wants to sign her without morality clauses. On the radio the Purity Girl comes off as sweet and innocent. Off the radio she wants to smoke, drink, and go out with men. To promote her innocence, the company’s publicist sets up a romance and on-the-air wedding. The groom doesn’t realize it’s a publicity stunt. Although this film offers only light, comedic fare, Ginger Rogers makes the most of her role and turns a modest film into a movie well worth watching. IMDB: Professional Sweetheart
The fleet pulls into port, and the sailors pour onto shore looking for booze and babes. One sailor lucks out by finding a sweet, pretty girl who just got evicted and needs help. He sets her up in an apartment and expects a return on his investment. She’s too innocent, however, and he falls out of lust and into love. He stumbles along in his relationship, though, and risks losing her altogether. One can abandon this film early because of the sophomoric attempts at humor, but if one sticks with this film, it does provide a moderate level of entertainment. IMDB: Sailor’s Luck
A wealthy, young lady, bored with her life, connives a meeting with a broadway producer. After much wrangling and his suggestion that she pursue a gentleman also at the gathering, she makes a deal with the producer. If she can convince the gentleman to propose marriage within three days, the producer will consider her for the lead in his new play. At a party, she secretly records her rendezvous with the gentleman, who, indeed, does propose to her, even though she has a fiancee. She’s abruptly called out of the room. The gentleman also wanders out while partygoers flood into the room to play the record player with the recorded proposal still in place. Everyone at the party hears the proposal, to the extreme embarrassment of the gentleman, who realizes the young lady manipulated him. And next…he kidnaps the young lady. This farce provides all the stock characters for a farce along with quick entrances and exits and exaggerated drama. A clever plot and effective acting drive the fun in this romp. Well worth watching. IMDB: Misleading Lady
A wealthy matron finalizes her will and has to decide whether to leave her vast fortune to her crazy son or her alcoholic nephew. After she makes her decision, mayhem ensues and bodies pile up. A rather trite plot and amateurish acting weaken this film, but the suspense and intrigue make this film worth watching. IMDB: Murder by the Clock
With two friends, a young girl introduces her fiancee to her scientist father, who happens to live in a mansion with secret rooms and passages. On a dark night with thunder and lightning, and murder—it appears to be the perfect atmosphere for a whodunit, except this film fails at every level. Actors perform so poorly that they flub lines and the scene remains in the film. Slapstick intrudes on the horror that should anchor this film. Fight scenes elicit more snickers than suspense. Bottom line—viewers should not waste their time with this one. IMDB: Murder at Dawn
A young chorus girl marries a much older millionaire but can’t resist the laughter and carefree existence of her previous life—-and previous boyfriends. Her husband also tasks her with watching over his wild daughter back from college. Competent acting and an intriguing storyline make this film engaging from start to finish. No laughter in this one, but an examination of the conflict of wealth and comfort vs. true love. Well worth watching. IMDB: Laughter
Due to the Depression, department store owner, Gabriel Service , needs to fire a number of staff. Because of his personal relationship with a low-level clerk, Tim Benton, who has worked with the store for forty years (as did his father and grandfather) he fires him personally. Tim Benton returns to his humble home, wife and two grown children, who realize they have to sacrifice. Gabriel Service returns to his mansion with servants and a wife and two grown children, who do not understand sacrifice. This well-done film focuses on the differences between the worker and the elite during the Depression while glossing over the bitter suffering of most during this time and providing a saccharine ending. This film is well worth watching. IMDB: Looking Forward
RARE, SELDOM-SEEN, AND CLASSIC MOVIES
JANUARY-JUNE 2020 POST
College rivalries among co-eds for the big man on campus. Blondes vs. brunettes in this film with examples of some women being more aggressive in getting their man than others. The big dance and the baseball game at the beach provide the highlights. This silent short provides interest with a glimpse into campus life in the 20s. Lots of slapstick in this short with some laughs and antics focused on female rivalries. Mildly interesting. IMDB: Campus Vamp
New York police commissioner takes a vacation with his secretary. While visiting a suburban New York town, they visit a circus where intrigue reigns. The beautiful trapeze artist is having an affair with the circus star while her husband vows revenge. He threatens to kill her and her lover and destroy the circus. Commissioner Colt takes charge of the investigation. The circus cannibals are suspicious, the murders are gruesome, and this mystery is entertaining enough to deserve a watch. IMDB: Circus Queen Murder
College football star, Jim Warren, rebuffs the offer from the owner of a professional football team to play for his team. Jim says he wants to become a doctor instead. He does, however, accept the owner’s offer to visit the club that night, where he meets and falls in love with St. Louis Lou, the club’s singer. He drinks, starts a fight, and gets caught by the college dean. He’s expelled, can’t find a job, and plays for the professional football team while pursuing St. Louis Lou, who pulls strings behind the scenes to benefit Jim’s career. Poor, stiff acting and an unimaginative story, make this film just average. It’s also unrealistic for 30-year-old Johnny Mack Brown to be playing the part of a college kid. Not a good movie but entertaining enough to watch. IMDB: St. Louis Woman
On her return cruise from Europe with her overprotective companion, wealthy Patricia finds herself bored and depressed. When she runs into a group frolicking on deck, she joins in and experiences the type of fun she doesn’t have in her locked-down life. One of the group falls in love with her, but when he follows her off the ship he sees her kiss her fiancé. At home she yearns for the fun she experienced aboard the cruise ship and for her new-found boyfriend. She’s to marry the rich man her parents chose for her and feels obliged to do so. Her shipboard boyfriend, however, pursues her relentlessly. Looking for a cute, clever romantic comedy? This is it. Well-acted with an engaging plot, corny humor at times but generally funny, sexual innuendos, serious romance, conflicts galore make this film must see viewing. IMDB: Stolen Sweets
At a resort, father cavorts shamelessly with a married woman, mother plays with a much younger man, older sister tries to close a marriage proposal with her cad of a boyfriend, and little sister works to save this dysfunctional family. Grifters are also on the prowl. An abundance of bathing beauties, legs galore, risqué dancing, and plenty of singing, amateurish acting and a thin plot highlight backstabbing and intrigue among flirtatious couples and philandering spouses. Lots of bickering, love making, and some violence. Sappy romantic comedy/musical. Worth a look. IMDB: Tanned Legs
A wealthy married woman wants to end her affair with a cad. She desperately wants to retrieve her love letters, but her lover insists she visit him in his apartment to get them. When she goes to his apartment, he locks the door and moves in to rape her. In the struggle that ensues, she conveniently grabs a gun on a table, the gun goes off, and her lover dies. She later agonizes over the trial of an innocent man accused of this murder. The film features cringe-worthy acting—even hard-to-watch hysterics. The well-worn plot executes well, but the urge to stop watching kept nagging at me. Only watch this movie if you’re desperate for entertainment—really desperate. IMDB: Her Private Affair
As a favor to a friend, wealthy Mr. Wayne buys half interest in a prize fighter. Wayne’s college-educated daughter falls in love with the ‘mug’ who dropped out of grammar school to help support his family. They marry, have a child, and face with the conflict of a woman who wants a family and a man who wants the world championship. This film gets a sluggish start and looks like it could be a dud. But a strong second half, top-notch acting, and a major dose of sentimentality make this film must see viewing. Irene Dunn’s stellar performance and the realistic, powerful fight scene at the end serve as highlights in this film. IMDB: Invitation to Happiness
A wealthy playboy dumps his kept lover to marry a young, naive beauty. He can’t give up another long-time lover, however, even after marriage. Tensions grow as he continues his love affair and his young wife falls in love with the neighbor. And then there’s a murder. Beautiful women but atrocious acting and a simplistic, sloppy story make this “less-than-B-movie” barely worth watching. IMDB: Playthings of Desire
Timid, absent-minded Professor Topaze stresses kindness and honesty in his classroom and in life, but he struggles to handle a misbehaving student. The student’s wealthy, influential mother pressures the principal to fire Topaze. A wealthy grifter then enlists Topaze to sponsor his drink that, supposedly, provides medicinal benefits. Based on an original play by Marcel Pagnol, this film was remade a number of times, including Mr. Topaze in 1961 starring and directed by Peter Sellers. This flimsy comedy with moral overtones boasts an impressive cast and worthy production values, but fails to offer more than modest entertainment value. IMDB: Topaze
A once-wealthy, blended family finds themselves on hard times. Two young family members write songs to raise money, but a series of improbable events finally provide their ex-vaudeville step-mother Trixie with a job singing in a high-class club. Her troublesome behavior, though, threatens to ruin the whole affair. This hokey farce padded with musical numbers provides minimal entertainment. Watchable but why? IMDB: Rainbow Over Broadway
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