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

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

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"Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937) featured image

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937). 92 minutes. Directed by Leo McCarey. Starring Victor Moore (as Barkley “Pa” Cooper), Beulah Bondi (as Lucy “Ma” Cooper), Thomas Mitchell (as George Cooper), Fay Bainter (as Anita Cooper), Barbara Read (as Rhoda Cooper), Maurice Moscovitch (as Max Rubens), Elisabeth Risdon (as Cora Payne), Minna Gombell (as Nellie Chase), Porter Hall (as Harvey Chase), Ray Meyer (as Robert Cooper), Ralph Remley (as Bill Payne), Louise Beavers (as Mamie), Paul Stanton (as Mr. Horton), and Dell Henderson (as Ed Weldon).

You may have already heard about the Depression-era film Make Way for Tomorrow, even if you have never seen it. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris called it “the most depressing movie ever made,” and Orson Welles told Peter Bogdanovich that “it would make a stone cry.” It has not achieved the commercial success or popular recognition of other critically acclaimed films of its time but is today considered to be an overlooked classic, an unflinching look … Read the rest

The Marx Brothers’ “Everyone Says ‘I Love You’” and Popular Music

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Synopsis: Erin Elisavet Kozak, “The Marx Brothers’ ‘Everyone Says “I Love You’” in Film and Popular Music.” Published in The Discographer Magazine, vol. 3, no. 5 (April 2016): pp. 3-12.

When Peter Bogdanovich spoke with director Leo McCarey in the late 1960s about McCarey’s film Duck Soup (1933), Bogdanovich remarked: “A lot of people think it’s [the Marx Brothers’] best picture: there’s no harp or piano playing, no interludes, no love interest—those things slowed up their other comedies terribly…” The earlier Marx Brothers picture Horse Feathers (1932) contains all of the elements that Bogdanovich singles out as weaknesses, in particular musical interludes; but while many people might consider Duck Soup to be the Marx Brothers’ greatest cinematic achievement, the musical sequences in Horse Feathers, featuring Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby’s “Everyone Says ‘I Love You,’” boast some of their most memorable material.

In the first half of this article, I argue that the musical interludes of Horse FeathersRead the rest

Duck Soup (1933)

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"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