Battleship Potemkin (1925)

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Battleship Potemkin (1925)

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

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939) featured image

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). 129 minutes. Directed by Frank Capra. Starring James Stewart (as Jefferson Smith), Jean Arthur (as Clarissa Saunders), Claude Rains (as Senator Joseph Harrison Paine), Edward Arnold (as Jim Taylor), Guy Kibbee (as Governor Hubert Hopper), Thomas Mitchell (as “Diz” Moore), Eugene Pallette (as Chick McGann), Harry Carey (as President of the Senate), and Beulah Bondi (as Ma Smith).

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is considered one of the great movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age. As a celebration of the role of goodness in American politics, the movie optimistically maintains that average, decent people can make meaningful contributions to democratic government, yet it also provides an unflinching depiction of the unprincipled nature of Washington culture.  At the same time, while it tells the morally tinged story of one man’s struggle to triumph virtuously over his political adversaries, it represents the American democratic process with a decent amount of precision and accuracy, despite the fact that … Read the rest

Gabriel Over the White House (1933)

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"Gabriel over the White House" featured image. Detail from original movie poster.

Gabriel Over the White House (1933). 86 minutes.  Directed by Gregory La Cava.  Starring Walter Huston (as President Judson Hammond), Karen Morley (as Pendola Molloy), Franchot Tone (as Hartley Beekman), and C. Henry Gordon (as Nick Diamond).

“The good news: he reduces unemployment, lifts the country out of the Depression, battles gangsters and Congress, and brings about world peace.  The bad news: he’s Mussolini.”

Film Series on Religion and the Founding
of the American Republic, Library of Congress

Gabriel Over the White House has been called one of the most bizarre movies of the 1930s.  It is also the rare film that people will stress is notable but not many will say they actually liked.  The movie focuses on a Depression-era American president who, following a car accident, appears to be possessed by an other-worldly spirit and is turned into a raging totalitarian dictator who ameliorates hard times by doing away with Congressional, and other, limitations on his power.  Among … Read the rest