Movies from the Trenches: “Rear Window” at the Paramount Theater

/ Leave a comment
"Rear Window" (1954). Detail of ticket stub.

After my previous unsuccessful attempt to see the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window (1954) at a Bay Area theater, I was delighted to learn that the very same movie would be screened in late April at the Paramount Theater, the glorious art deco movie palace in downtown Oakland.  The screening began at 8:00pm, but the theater opened at 7:00pm.  Believe me, anyone who sees a movie at the Paramount as part of their classic film series will want to get there early as there’s so much to see.  People start lining up on the street at about 6:30pm, but the theater seats many thousands of people and the screen is one of the largest anywhere, so those who come later are in no danger of missing out on a good seat.

You will, however, want to enter the theater at 7:00pm so that you can tour the gorgeous, multi-floor structure at your leisure, gape in awe at the sublime … Read the rest

Freaks (1932)

/ Leave a comment
Freaks (1932). Detail from movie poster.

Freaks (1932). 62 minutes.  Directed by Tod Browning.  Starring Harry Earles (as Hans), Daisy Earles (as Frieda), Olga Baclanova (as Cleopatra), Henry Victor (as Hercules), Wallace Ford (as Phroso), and Leila Hyams (as Venus).

It is hard to know what exactly to say about Tod Browning’s Freaks.  Some people have called it an early exploitation film, and others have called it a horror film.  Perhaps the New York Times reviewer who wrote about the movie in 1932 put it best when he said, “The only thing that can be said definitely for ‘Freaks’ is that it is not for children. Bad dreams lie that way.”

The movie is about a circus and in particular its freak show, but until the final moments of the film, we never see anyone actually perform.  The cast is divided into freaks and non-freaks (and I use those terms, which I realize may be offensive to some, only because they are the language of … Read the rest

Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

/ Leave a comment
"Gold Diggers of 1935." Detail from movie poster.

Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935).  98 minutes.  Directed by Busby Berkeley.  Starring Dick Powell (as Dick Curtis), Adolphe Menjou (as Nicolai Nicoleff), Gloria Stuart (as Ann Prentiss), Alice Brady (as Mathilda Prentiss), and Hugh Herbert (as T. Mosely Thorpe III).  Music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin.

One might be tempted to say that the plot of this film exists mainly to support the lavish, geometrically obsessed Busby Berkeley musical numbers presented at the film’s conclusion.  Such a reading, however, would marginalize all of the lampooning of class and extravagance that takes place over the course of the majority of the film.  What happens before the musical numbers is truly wonderful, a great showcase of scheming and greed that is delivered from an entirely playful perspective. 

Nearly everyone in Gold Diggers of 1935 is after someone else’s money.  Almost all of the characters scheme to enrich their wallets and widen their pockets—some maliciously (for example, Mosely’s stenographer blackmails … Read the rest