Baby Face (1933). 75 minutes. Directed by Alfred E. Green. Starring Barbara Stanwyck (as Lily Powers), George Brent (as Courtland Trenholm), Donald Cook (as Ned Stevens), Alphonse Ethier (as Adolf Cragg), Henry Kolker (as J. P. Carter), Margaret Lindsay (as Ann Carter), Arthur Hohl (as Ed Sipple), John Wayne (as Jimmy McCoy, Jr.), Robert Barrat (as Nick Powers), and Theresa Harris (as Chico).
Baby Face tells the story of a young woman who is sexually exploited for all of her young adulthood and who in a life-changing reversal determines that she will exploit men instead for her own personal gain. The film, which charts her quest to use sex to move up the corporate ladder, is frequently cited as a catalyst for the 1934 enforcement of the Hollywood Production Code, the set of industry censorship policies that regulated motion picture content. I have to admit that even as a fan of pre-Code movies, I was surprised by how brazen … Read the rest
Hollywood Canteen (1944). 124 minutes. Directed by Delmer Daves. Starring Robert Hutton (as Slim Green) and Dane Clark (as Sergeant Nolan). Also starring as themselves: The Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown, Eddie Cantor, Kitty Carlisle, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jimmy Dorsey, John Garfield, Sydney Greenstreet, Paul Henreid, Joan Leslie, Peter Lorre, Ida Lupino, Joan McCracken, Roy Rogers and Trigger, S. Z. Sakall, Barbara Stanwyck, and Jane Wyman.
Hollywood Canteen is a World War Two-era propaganda film that takes place in the real Hollywood Canteen, a wartime nightclub for G.I.s that operated from 1942 to 1945 and was staffed by Hollywood superstars. Inside the canteen, the most glamorous names in the film industry performed menial labor by preparing food, waiting tables, and cleaning up after guests, and provided entertainment on a main stage. The movie Hollywood Canteen offers us a glimpse of what a canteen guest’s experience might have been like while also promoting the war effort and the … Read the rest
The Other Side of the Wind (2018). 122 minutes. Directed by Orson Welles. Starring John Huston (as J. J. “Jake” Hannaford), Peter Bogdanovich (as Brooks Otterlake), Susan Strasberg (as Juliette Rich), Norman Foster (as Billy Boyle), Oja Kodar (as the Actress), Bob Random (as John Dale), Joseph McBride (as Marvin Pister), Lilli Palmer (as Zarah Valeska), Edmond O’Brien (as Pat Mullins), Mercedes McCambridge (as Maggie Noonan), Cameron Mitchell (as Matt “Zimmie” Zimmer), Dan Tobin (as Dr. Bradley Pease Burroughs), Cathy Lucas (as Mavis Henscher), and Tonio Selwart (as the Baron). Featuring Henry Jaglom, Paul Mazursky, Claude Chabrol, Curtis Harrington, and Dennis Hopper as themselves. Cinematography by Gary Graver. Edited by Bob Murawski and Orson Welles. Produced by Frank Marshall and Filip Jan Rymsza.
This November, 48 years after its first day of shooting, Orson Welles’s film The Other Side of the Wind was finally released to the general public on Netflix. The film was not Welles’s last (he left … Read the rest
This 31-minute audio recording was made by film critic, screenwriter, and actor Joseph McBride on August 23, 1970—the first day of shooting on The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles’s film about the last day in the life of fictional director J. J. “Jake” Hannaford (played by John Huston). The recording features McBride (as Marvin Pister) rehearsing a scene with Peter Bogdanovich (as Charles Higgam) at Welles’s house in Beverly Hills, with Welles directing. Bogdanovich would later be recast as Brooks Otterlake.
Many thanks to McBride for making the recording available to Kozak’s Classic Cinema.… Read the rest
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). 98 minutes. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Starring Fredric March (as Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde), Miriam Hopkins (as Ivy Pierson), Rose Hobart (as Muriel Carew), Holmes Herbert (as Dr. Hastie Lanyon), Halliwell Hobbes (as Brigadier General Sir Danvers Carew), Edgar Norton (as Poole), and Tempe Pigott (as Mrs. Hawkins).
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a terrifically creepy movie about a man who splits himself through chemical means into two distinct personalities with horrific results. Actor Frederic March plays both the tepid scientist Dr. Jekyll and his demonic alter ego, Mr. Hyde, who leers, threatens, assaults, and murders his way through the back alleys and palatial drawing rooms of nineteenth-century London. March’s Jekyll transforms into the malicious Hyde through elaborate makeup and camera techniques, but the film offers a great deal more than special effects-related thrills. As a pre-Code film, its content is daring, particularly its dark sexual undertones, which are largely absent from … Read the rest
The Mummy (1932). 73 minutes. Directed by Karl Freund. Starring Boris Karloff (as Ardath Bey/Imhotep), Zita Johann (as Helen Grosvenor/Princess Ankh-es-an-Amon), David Manners (as Frank Whemple), Arthur Byron (as Sir Joseph Whemple), Edward Van Sloan (as Dr. Muller), Bramwell Fletcher (as Ralph Norton), Noble Johnson (as the Nubian), and Leonard Mundie (as Professor Pearson).
The Mummy is one of the classic Universal monster movies, which also include Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), and The Invisible Man (1933). Directed by Karl Freund, who worked as a cinematographer for such silent landmarks as The Last Laugh (1924) and Metropolis (1927), as well as for the Universal Dracula, The Mummy is atmospheric and visually pleasing, even though it is staged using only a limited number of sets. Part of the reason for its success is no doubt owed to actor Boris Karloff, who manages to infuse the titular character with both creepiness and, perhaps unexpectedly, a fair amount of rebel chic. Although Karloff’s … Read the rest
Battleship Potemkin (1925). 75 minutes. Directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Starring Alexsandr Antonov (as Grigory Vakulinchuk), Vladimir Barsky (as Commander Golikov), Grigori Alexsandrov (as Chief Officer Giliarovsky), Mikhail Gomorov (as militant sailor), Alexsandr Levshin (as petty officer), N. Poltavseva (as woman with pince-nez), Beatrice Vitoldi (as woman with baby carriage), Konstantin Feldman (as student agitator), and Lyrkean Makeon (as masked man).
Battleship Potemkin is a landmark Soviet propaganda film directed by Sergei Eisenstein. Filmmakers such as Billy Wilder and Orson Welles numbered it among their top favorites for its artistry, and it consistently places on Sight and Sound’s polls of the greatest movies ever made. Yet it may be difficult for some to accept Battleship Potemkin as one of the great films, or at least as an unhindered work of art, given the brutal realities of the regime that it was designed to serve as a mouthpiece for. Battleship Potemkin’s mission is, after all, to express Soviet political rhetoric as a … Read the rest
Steamboat Willie (1928). 8 minutes. Directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Voices by Walt Disney. Music by Wilfred Jackson and Bert Lewis.
Steamboat Willie is a black-and-white animated Disney short that was the first cartoon of any kind to use completely synchronized sound. It draws thematically from both the 1911 song “Steamboat Bill” and the 1928 silent Buster Keaton comedy Steamboat Bill, Jr., but it was also inspired by the technological revolution launched by The Jazz Singer (1927), the first feature-length movie to use partially synchronized sound. Steamboat Willie is notable today for its historical achievement and for being the first widely successful cartoon to feature Mickey Mouse, but in addition to these accomplishments, it remains extremely silly and a good example of how charming early animation could be.
The story follows the iconic rodent protagonist as he works on a riverboat. A large cat (Pete) orders Mickey around and banishes him from the ship’s bridge. Mickey … Read the rest
L’Atalante (1934). 89 minutes. Directed by Jean Vigo. Starring Dita Parlo (as Juliette), Jean Dasté (as Jean), Michel Simon (as Père Jules), Gilles Margaritis (as peddler), Louis Lefebvre (as cabin boy), Maurice Gilles (as manager), and Raphaël Diligent (as Raspoutine).
L’Atalante’s 1962 appearance on Sight and Sound’s decennial poll of the ten greatest films of all time, alongside such classics as Citizen Kane (1941) and Battleship Potemkin (1925), solidified its status as a cineaste favorite and required arthouse fare. François Truffaut and others have advocated for its brilliance, lyricism, and admirable earthiness. Yet the film community’s insistence on L’Atalante’s greatness has distanced some modern critics from it, including David Kamp and Lawrence Levi, who fail to see profundity in its artful shots and poetic sequences. While it is not clear to me that it belongs alongside Kane or Potemkin, or that it outranks other French films of its era such as The Grand Illusion (1937), L’Atalante is nevertheless … Read the rest
Director, screenwriter, producer, and actor Ernst Lubitsch (1892-1947) was considered by film luminaries such as Orson Welles, Jean Renoir, and Billy Wilder to be among the greatest of directors. Over the course of 36 years and 69 films, Lubitsch’s career survived two major transitions: the industry-wide shift from silent film to sound and the director’s own migration from Europe to the United States. He worked with some of the most brilliant screen performers of his time—including Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, Maurice Chevalier, James Stewart, Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, and Miriam Hopkins, among many others—in films such as Trouble in Paradise (1932), Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and To Be or Not to Be (1942). Along the way, he perfected the romantic comedy, infusing it with sophistication and wit, and with a sexual humor that seems both cutting edge for its time and a breath of fresh air in our present film culture.
Why then … Read the rest