I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). 93 minutes. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Paul Muni (as James Allen), Glenda Farrell (as Marie), Helen Vinson (as Helen), Preston Foster (as Pete), and Allen Jenkins (as Barney Sykes). Based on the memoir by Robert Elliott Burns.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is notable for being an early Hollywood social commentary film. Based on the memoir by Robert Elliott Burns, it tells the story of Burns (called James Allen in the movie), who after serving in World War One returns home to the United States with the dream of becoming a civil engineer but ends up doing hard time in a forced labor camp. The subject of forced labor had appeared in theaters previously in, among other things, a popular Disney short starring Mickey Mouse (“The Chain Gang,” 1930), and the 1932 movie based on Burns’s life was soon parodied in a short musical comedy (“20,000 Cheers … Read the rest

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

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"The Great Ziegfeld" featured image. Detail from original movie poster.

The Great Ziegfeld (1936). 185 minutes.  Directed by Robert Z. Leonard.  Starring William Powell (as Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.), Luise Rainer (as Anna Held), Myrna Loy (as Billie Burke), and Frank Morgan (as Billings).

If you enjoy the movies of the 1930s, it would be wrong for you not to see The Great Ziegfeld at some point.  It is bloated, to be sure, and many of its historical and biographical details are inaccurate, but it was financially one of the most successful films of its decade, and among its many honors, it was the first musical for which a performer won an Academy Award (Luise Rainer for Best Actress; the movie also won for Best Picture).  It features many phenomenal musical numbers, including the famous “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” in which performers dance and sing on a slowly turning wedding cake-like set.  The “Pretty Girl” sequence alone reportedly cost $220,000 to make at the time (close to $3.75 … Read the rest

That Hamilton Woman (1941)

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That Hamilton Woman (1941)

That Hamilton Woman (1941).  128 minutes.  Directed by Alexander Korda.  Starring Vivien Leigh (as Emma, Lady Hamilton), Sir Laurence Olivier (as Admiral Horatio Nelson), Alan Mowbray (as Sir William Hamilton), and Gladys Cooper (as Lady Frances Nelson).

If you have heard of That Hamilton Woman, it may be for one of the following reasons:

  • First, it features Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier cast as Emma, Lady Hamilton and Admiral Horatio Nelson (respectively) in the period of the Napoleonic Wars.  This casting is especially famous (or perhaps infamous) because Leigh and Olivier, while married to other people, had engaged in a well-known affair with each other prior to divorcing their partners and marrying each other, and in this film, in a situation that mimicked real life, they are cast as two people who are married to others and have a well-known affair together of international proportions.
  • Second, it was Winston Churchill’s favorite film.  Churchill was fond of movies of
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