The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

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The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). 97 minutes. Directed by Alexander Korda. Starring Charles Laughton (as Henry VIII), Merle Oberon (as Anne Boleyn), Wendy Barrie (as Jane Seymour), Elsa Lanchester (as Anne of Cleves), Binnie Barnes (as Catherine Howard), Everley Gregg (as Catherine Parr), Robert Donat (as Thomas Culpepper), Franklin Dyall (as Thomas Cromwell), and Lady Tree (as the king’s nurse).

The Private Life of Henry VIII is a historical film starring Charles Laughton as Tudor King Henry VIII, who lived from 1491 to 1547. As a light and at times comic treatment of the tyrant king’s notorious romantic life, the movie is decidedly strange: both more amusing than a history lesson and more troubling because it is at times so distant from facts. Yet weirdly, its levity remains one of its strongest selling points. Those who are less inclined to watch period pieces due to their perceived stodginess will be entertained by the often racy components of this … Read the rest

Piccadilly (1929)

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Piccadilly (1929)

Piccadilly (1929). 109 minutes. Directed by E. A. Dupont. Starring Gilda Gray (as Mabel Greenfield), Anna May Wong (as Shosho), Jameson Thomas (as Valentine Wilmot), King Hou Chang (as Jim), Hannah Jones (as Bessie), Cyril Ritchard (as Victor Smiles), and Charles Laughton (as nightclub diner).

Piccadilly is an impressive silent film. From its dazzling camera work, to its invigorating jazz-era atmosphere, to its use of stunning lead actress Anna May Wong, the movie infuses its scenes with beauty and a keen artistic sensibility. Piccadilly provides Wong—a Chinese American actress who left the United States for more meaningful parts in Europe—with a role of substance, and her work as the nightclub dancer Shosho overshadows the performances of her colleagues, including dancer Gilda Gray, who was at one point a well-known Ziegfeld girl. In the end, the movie, while perhaps less clichéd than Wong’s American projects, still relies on stereotypes to get its points across and concludes Shosho’s narrative in what feels … Read the rest

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

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Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). 90 minutes. Directed by Leo McCarey. Starring Charles Laughton (as Ruggles), Mary Boland (as Effie Floud), Charlie Ruggles (as Egbert Floud), ZaSu Pitts (as Mrs. Judson), Roland Young (as the Earl of Burnstead), Leila Hyams (as Nell Kenner), Lucien Littlefield (as Charles Belknap-Jackson), and Maude Eburne (as Ma Pettingill).

Ruggles of Red Gap is a delightful comedy about a stuffy English valet who is won in a card game by a pair of nouveau-riche Americans and relocates to their small Western town. With the help of American principles of political and social equality, the valet (Ruggles) embarks on a project of freeing himself from servitude and establishing himself as an independent man. In that regard, the movie reminds me of Born Yesterday (1950), which similarly posits that American institutions can be a force for personal (as well as political) liberation. Ruggles of Red Gap lacks the hard edge of Born Yesterday, but it uses … Read the rest

Tales of Manhattan (1942)

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Tales of Manhattan (1942)

Tales of Manhattan (1942). 118 minutes. Directed by Julien Duvivier. Starring Charles Boyer (as Paul Orman), Rita Hayworth (as Ethel Halloway), Thomas Mitchell (as John Halloway), Eugene Pallette (as Luther), Ginger Rogers (as Diane), Henry Fonda (as George), Cesar Romero (as Harry Wilson), Charles Laughton (as Charles Smith), Victor Francen (as Arturo Bellini), Elsa Lanchester (as Elsa Smith), Edward G. Robinson (as Avery “Larry” Browne), George Sanders (as Williams), Harry Davenport (as Professor Lyons), Paul Robeson (as Luke), Ethel Waters (as Esther), and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson (as Rev. Lazarus).

Tales of Manhattan is a compilation of five stories that follow the transference of a black tailcoat from one person to another in New York City. Over the course of the film, the tailcoat is bought new, sold used with a bullet hole in it to a man on his wedding day, torn apart through the exertions of a conductor who is too large for it, repaired for a charity case, … Read the rest