San Francisco (1936)

San Francisco (1936)

San Francisco (1936). 115 minutes. Directed by W. S. Van Dyke. Starring Clark Gable (as Blackie Norton), Jeanette MacDonald (as Mary Blake), Spencer Tracy (as Father Tim Mullin), Jack Holt (as Jack Burley), Jessie Ralph (as Mrs. Burley), Ted Healy (as Mat), Shirley Ross (as Trixie), Edgar Kennedy (as sheriff), Al Shean (as professor), and William Ricciardi (as Signor Baldini). Songs by Walter Jurmann, Bronislaw Kaper, and Edward Ward.

San Francisco has the potential to be a good movie. It has great music, including the song “San Francisco,” which was composed especially for it; features Jeanette MacDonald, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy; makes use of contributions from directors D. W. Griffith and Erich von Stroheim; and is set in one of the greatest cities in the world in the days before its most impressive catastrophe, the 1906 earthquake. Yet San Francisco’s story is both fairly conventional and a strange compilation of genres, with the plot beginning as a familiar story … Read the rest

Duck Soup (1933)

"Duck Soup" (1933): Detail from movie poster

Duck Soup (1933).  68 minutes.  Directed by Leo McCarey.  Starring Groucho Marx (as Rufus T. Firefly), Chico Marx (as Chicolini), Harpo Marx (as Pinky), Zeppo Marx (as Bob Roland), and Margaret Dumont (as Mrs. Teasdale).  Screenplay, music, and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.

If aliens landed on earth tomorrow, and the American Film Institute gave them a copy of Duck Soup to watch as a way of helping them to understand the history of American film culture, I think that these hypothetical aliens would enjoy it, but it might cause them to be perplexed.  If we had to explain to the aliens why Duck Soup is funny, then we might be perplexed.  Duck Soup is funny — in fact, it’s hilarious.  It is the movie, after all, that in a supremely life-affirming moment convinces Woody Allen’s character in Hannah and Her Sisters not to commit suicide, and it is widely considered to be the Marx Brothers’ finest film.  … Read the rest