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Archive for June, 2017

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The_Life_of_Emile_Zola_posterDirected by William Dieterle

Alfred Dreyfus=Dreyfus Affair=Emile Zola=J’acusse. Alfred Dreyfus was Jewish and this whole story has nothing to do with Richard Dreyfuss. This is what I remember from the European history class that I took in high school. I could not have told you what the Dreyfus Affair was about, just that it had happened. I knew Zola was an author who championed the lower and middle classes, but even though I’m a librarian and librarians are supposed to have read every book ever, I have never read anything by him. That is everything I knew about Emile Zola before I watched this movie. Yes, I realize it’s a biopic and therefore full of half-truths or stuff made up to make it more interesting, but I will never forget the intricacies of the Dreyfus Affair or the booming character of Emile Zola.

So what’s the story? The young writer Emile Zola has a penchant for getting into trouble.He writes about prostitutes, oppressed coal miners, and the ineptness of the French army. He loses jobs and gets called into the office of the Censor of Paris more than once on account of his controversial books, but he refuses to stop exposing the uncomfortable truths of French society. However, Zola eventually stops writing. His wealth insulates him from the poverty around him. The story stops following Zola at this point, and switches to the story of Alfred Dreyfus. The higher-ups of the French army discover that someone has been passing secret military information to the Germans. They decide to pin the blame on Alfred Dreyfus, mostly because he’s Jewish. Dreyfus proclaims his innocence, but he is convicted and exiled anyway. Evidence is later found that Dreyfus is not the traitor, but the army doesn’t want to admit their mistake and tries to cover up what they have found. At this point, Anatole French, one of Zola’s writer friends, urges Zola to remember his commitment to social justice and intercede on Dreyfus’s account. Zola is reluctant, but eventually writes what would become his most famous and influential piece: J’accuse.

The Good: Emile Zola was quite the character. It would have been easy to overplay him, to ham it up and turn him into a caricature of the man. Paul Muni, however, plays him with more subtlety. His optimism, his despair, his desire to stand up for the underdog, his self-satisfaction in later life, are all brought out brilliantly by Muni. Muni’s delivery of Zola’s last speech in court was so amazing that it brought me to tears. It’s a truly great example of acting.

Paul Muni is not the only great actor in this film. Joseph Schildkraut plays Alfred Dreyfus to perfection, bewildered as to why his beloved France would do this to him, despairing as he realizes that nothing he can do will convince the army that he’s innocent, joyful when he’s released and reinstated into the army. Gale Sondergaard is Dreyfus’s stalwart wife, determined to do everything in her power to reveal the truth and exonerate her husband. Zola’s defense attorney, played by Donald Crisp (not Claude Rains, even though he looks like Claude Rains here), doesn’t have a large role in the movie, but Crisp does such a good job expressing his exasperation with the court that blocks him at every turn. The brave Colonel Georges Piquart, the only officer to stand up for the truth, was very well portrayed by Henry O’Neill. I love a well-cast movie.

The screenplay was very good. The writers managed to be inspiring without crossing the line into cheesiness, there was enough humor to balance out the drama, and I loved the foreshadowing of the (paraphrased) line that if you get too fat, you can’t see past your own stomach. I assume some of Zola’s words were his own, especially his dramatic last speech, but it’s all woven seamlessly together.

The clothing and makeup were well done. The clothing styles changed as the years passed, giving a hint to how much time had gone by. The makeup captured the real-life people excellently. The movie Dreyfus matches photographs of the real Dreyfus so well it’s almost uncanny. The makeup done to age the actors was also good.  I don’t know what happened in the years between 1937 and 1956 when Giant was made, but makeup artists in the 1930s were wonderful at using makeup to make actors look decades older.

The Bad: The actual words that were spoken were good, but the screenplay was rather disjointed. The story started with Zola’s life, and then completely cut Zola out while it explored the Dreyfus affair. Zola came back eventually, but it just felt odd to change perspectives like that.

It was very hard to tell the many mustachioed army officers apart. I know the mustaches were the fashion of the time, and since they were officers, it makes sense that they were in uniform, but I was never exactly sure who was who. Dreyfus wore glasses and Colonel Piquart had a longer face, which helped, but other than that, I could not tell you which officer was which. It got very confusing.

The Ugly: Although there were some slight problems with The Life of Emile Zola, there was nothing so bad that it fell into the ugly category.

Oscars Won: Best picture; best actor in a supporting role (Joseph Schildkraut); best writing, screenplay.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best actor (Paul Muni); best director; best writing, original story; best art direction; best sound, recording; best assistant director; best music, score.

Mind-boggling Fact: The Dreyfus Affair wasn’t completely resolved until 1906, only 31 years before The Life of Emile Zola was made; Alfred Dreyfus himself died in 1935. That means that the Dreyfus Affair was as close in time to the filmmakers as 1986 is to us. 1986 is not that long ago. Crazy, right?

A Star is Born (1937)

Poster - A Star is Born (1937)_02Directed by William A. Wellman

Surprise! There are extra posts this week! I miscounted the movies, and since I had a specific movie in mind for next week, I needed to finish 1937. So for your reading pleasure, I present The Rest of 1937.

I had a hard time getting hold of this movie, even though there are several copies of it in my library system. I had put it on hold, but it didn’t come in, so I called the customer service line to see what was going on. The lady on the other end said, “Oh, let me place that on hold for you again; it should spark the hold then. So you want A Star is Born? Oh, here it is. I just love Judy Garland in that movie. Wait. You don’t want the one with Judy Garland? You want Janet Gaynor? Are you sure that’s the one you want? It’s rather old.” She still sounded skeptical after I assured her that, yes, I was looking for the version with Janet Gaynor. I ended up having to call a coworker to grab a copy off the shelf at the library I work at so that I could get it. Yes, young people like old movies and just because something has been remade (and remade three times) doesn’t mean that the first one is obsolete.

So what’s the story? Young Esther Blodgett runs away to Hollywood with stars in her eyes, convinced that she will become a famous actress as soon as she gets there. Esther finds that it’s harder than she thought, but soon she catches the eye of the famous actor Norman Maine and finds herself shooting to stardom, even as Norman’s career begins to fail due to alcoholism.

The Good: I had only seen Janet Gaynor in silent movies before I watched A Star is Born. I had to check to make sure it was the same actress; she made such a good crossover to talkies that I felt a little unsure. Gaynor captures the spirit of Esther Blodgett as she goes from starry-eyed girl to mature woman. She also makes sure that the film doesn’t descend into melodrama.  Norman Maine, a man of humor and despair, is played to perfection by Fredric March. In his third role in an Oscar nominated movie in 1937, Adolphe Menjou plays Oliver Niles, Norman and Esther’s sympathetic agent. There was no type-casting for him, by the way. The three (large) roles he played in One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door, and A Star is Born were all completely different. He did an excellent job in each.  I’m always glad to see Andy Devine, and he does a good job (as always) as Esther’s brotherly neighbor Danny (and he looks so young!). May Robson gives a sassy performance as Esther’s strong-willed grandmother Lettie.

The screenplay was co-written by one of my personal heroes: Dorothy Parker. Her trademark wit is scattered throughout. Again, although the story is a good one, A Star is Born could easily have become a melodrama. Thanks to Parker and her colleagues Alan Campbell and Robert Carson, the screenplay was able to help avoid that.

A Star is Born is a study in contrasts. The costuming, art direction, and music all work together to highlight Esther’s rise to stardom. Esther starts out as a girl from the sticks; her family lives in a small, plain house in the freezing mountains. She wears simple, practical clothes. The music that underscores these homely scenes includes familiar melodies, such as “Auld Lang Syne.” When she moves to Hollywood, her simple clothes stay the same, but her poverty is evident through her boardinghouse, which is old, cramped, and falling apart. Her neighbor Danny’s suits are of poor quality and always rumpled. The music here is rather sweet and innocent. The night that Esther goes to waitress at a party for Hollywood’s elite, everything changes. The suits and dresses of the wealthy are of a much better quality and cut, and of course of the highest fashion. The homes of the wealthy are also beautiful and fashionable, clean and open. They even have more modern telephones – and Oliver’s is even gold plated. The music is jazzy and fun, because these wealthy people seem not to have a care in the world. As Esther becomes a star, her clothes become more and more fantastic. At first they are of better quality, but still conservative. They get more fashionable the wealthier she gets. Esther and Norman’s house that they buy together is amazing, too. It has spacious rooms, beautiful gardens, and even a swimming pool. The music becomes much more sweeping and dramatic as Esther’s life fills not only with luxuries, but also difficulties. However, no matter how much life changes for Esther, she is still the simple farm girl inside. She’s obviously sending money home, because when Grandmother Lettie comes to remind Esther that Esther is strong and can get through anything, Grandmother Lettie is wearing fashionable old lady clothes instead of the old-fashioned country clothes she wore before Esther left. As her house empties out around her, the gentle music is a reminder that life can get better. Although not always the flashiest elements, the costuming, art direction, and music subtly add an extra dimension to the movie.

The Bad: The story on its own is a tad melodramatic. The theme of a country girl making it big and marrying the man of her dreams is not unfamiliar, but the story of Norman’s alcoholism could be a story written by a teetotaler in the 1880s. The title would be something like “The Evils of Drinking,” and it would detail the story of a wealthy man who ended up dying broken and alone because of his inability to give up alcohol. The original ending would have ruined the movie. Luckily, due to the screenplay and the excellent acting, A Star is Born avoids becoming a heavy-handed tale; it is instead a sensitive portrayal of an all-too-common issue.

The Ugly: There’s nothing truly horrible about A Star is Born; I had to reach to even find anything bad.

Oscars Won: Best writing, original story.

Honorary Oscar Won: W. Howard Greene, for the color photography.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best actor in a leading role (Fredric March); best actress in a leading role (Janet Gaynor); best director; best writing, screenplay; best assistant director.

Fun Fact: A Star is Born was the first all-color best picture nominee.

 

 

 

 

Stage Door (1937)

ORIGINAL-STAGE-DOOR-MOVIE-POSTERDirected by Gregory LaCava

I feel like the films from 1937 are trying to deceive me. We had a musical that wasn’t a musical (The Awful Truth), a film noir that wasn’t a film noir (Dead End), a historical movie that ended up being set in the present (Captains Courageous). Now with Stage Door, we get a movie that was promoted as a comedy (“The gaiety…glamour…foolishness and fun of showbusiness!”), but which has a too-serious ending.

So What’s the Story? The young women living at the Footlights boarding house all have the same ambition: stardom on the stage. Some are actresses, some dancers, some singers, but they’re all just waiting for that big break. Into this madhouse of laughter and rivalry comes the mysterious Terry Randall, who just doesn’t fit in. She’s too wealthy and too educated to understand these smart-mouthed girls. As she beings to settle in, she begins to see that much more is required for stage work than talent and pluck.

The Good: I have never seen Katharine Hepburn not a good job in a movie, but she is brilliant as Terry Randall. Standoffish and snobby at first, she learns to appreciate what her housemates are going through the longer she’s there. She loves them and sticks up for them. With a lesser actress, Stage Door would not have been the strong movie it is.

Many of the girls living in the boarding house would become famous actresses in later years. Ginger Rogers was already well known, of course. She is fabulous as Jean, Terry’s slightly bitter wise-cracking roommate. Gail Patrick was also famous at the time. She plays Linda, a woman who has decided that accepting advances from a man is better than struggling as an actress. Ann Miller is Annie, an optimistic girl who is Jean’s dance partner in a tap routine. Eve Arden plays Eve, a jaded young woman who wears her cat around her neck like a stole (yes, it sounds silly, but seriously, how did they train that cat?). The name that is perhaps more familiar to people now is that of Lucille Ball. She plays Judy, a girl from Seattle who is more interested in boys than auditions. All of these actresses are so funny; they deliver their quips at a whip-crack pace that somehow manages to seem natural. Each displays a distinct personality even though they all want the same thing.

There is one girl in the boardinghouse who doesn’t join in the fun, but is still sweet and kind. Kay is recognized as a great actress, but she has lost confidence in her abilities because she hasn’t had a part for over a year. Andrea Leeds plays the part with great sensitivity, showing Kay’s determination and desperation as she tries to get the part she was born to play.

Adolphe Menjou is in Stage Door, as well as being One Hundred Men and a Girl. 1937 must have been a busy year for him. However, he is not the sweet father that he played in One Hundred Men and a Girl, but a slimy stage producer who takes advantage of desperate girls who want to be stars. He is really, really good at being gross, unlikable, and debonair. It’s hard to see the kindly father in this smug, wealthy jerk.

The screenplay is quite good. It brings out the personalities and contrasts between each of the characters in a humorous way, but it’s also able to make tragedy personal and realistic. It’s not just a sunny comedic romp through a bustling girls’ boarding house; the screenplay shows the downsides and sadness of show business just as well as it does the humor. There isn’t exactly a happy ending, which makes the movie deeper and truer.

The Bad: With the quips flying quickly from every direction as the girls talk over each other, sometimes the lines get garbled. Everything is so funny that I want to hear everything they say, so it’s a little bit sad that they don’t all come out clearly.

Both Ginger Rogers and Ann Miller are in this movie, and there is no fantastic dance number to show off their skills. It might have been out of place. It may have slowed the movie down. But still. Two great dancers that don’t get a chance to show off their skills? It is a sad waste of talent.

The Ugly: Nope. Stage Door is really a well-done picture.

The Apology: I’m sorry that I kept referring to all the young women as girls. They are (mostly) all adults. I will use the excuse that they are always called “girls” in the movie, and so that’s what is in my head.

Oscars Won: None.

Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best actress in a supporting role (Andrea Leeds); best director; best writing, screenplay.

One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937)

One-Hundred-Men-and-a-Girl-PosterDirected by Henry Koster

Some things are definitely cute. Babies are cute. Puppies are cute. Pikachu is cute. But I hate it when people call other things cute: “That’s a cute book,” or “It was such a cute movie!” When people work hard on an artistic endeavor, they deserve to hear something more specific than the rather generic “cute”. As much as I hate it, though, I am going to have to use it now: One Hundred Men and a Girl is a cute movie.

So what’s the story? John Cardwell is a trombonist struggling to get work during the Great Depression. Every night, he waits outside the concert hall with the hope of meeting the great conductor Leopold Stokowski and getting an audition with him; however, he is never successful. After an encounter with some wealthy arts patrons who carelessly promise financial backing, his young teenaged Patricia decides she will get all the unemployed musicians together to form their own orchestra. Her grit and tenacity, along with much confusion, lead to a happy ending.

The Great: I know I don’t usually do a “great” section, but Deanna Durbin is so amazing that she needs special mention. The girl can sing. And by sing, I don’t mean that she can carry a tune or sing pop songs; Deanna Durbin had a beautiful operatic voice. She was only fifteen when One Hundred Men and a Girl was released in theaters, and it is hard to believe that she does her own singing. Not only could she sing, but Deanna Durbin could also act. She does a beautiful job in One Hundred Men and a Girl. There are moments when she’s talking fast because she’s so excited, but you can understand every word. She is completely convincing at every moment. This was my first experience with Deanna Durbin, and I remain completely blown away.

The Good: Deanna Durbin may have been the standout, but other great actors were involved in this movie. Adolphe Menjou gives a sweet performance of a man who has been ripped apart by the world, but is willing to hope again for his daughter’s sake. He goes from hopeless to grudgingly hopeful to exultant as the movie goes on. Mischa Auer brings enough humor as Michael to offset the hopelessness of the beginning. Frank Jenks brings some happy seriousness as the encouraging taxi driver, and Alice Brady is fabulous, darling as the rather thoughtless Mrs. Frost. Leopold Stokowski is a surprisingly good actor for a conductor. I have seen other real-life conductors/musicians/dancers in movies, and they are often not convincing, but Stokowski was a good actor as well as being a wonderful conductor.

The story was good. It brought the plight of people out of work because of the Depression into the forefront. It showed the good people who wanted to work, but just couldn’t find anything. It also showed the thoughtlessness of the rich. Mrs. Frost makes an impulsive promise to a young girl, then promptly forgets about it and goes out of town. She doesn’t really care about Patricia; she sees Patricia as something interesting and new in her dull, expensive life. The wealthy men who play practical jokes on each other are just as bad. While the poor are playing poker using matchsticks, these rich men bet significant amounts of money on who has the better joke. It idealizes the honest poor while uncovering the faults of the uncaring rich.

The music was awesome. I’m not sure how it was nominated for original score; most of the music was classical music. But it was amazing. I would have given them an award for best use of classical music in a musical score. The music person (not sure who it was, because there’s not really a credit for it) matched the classical music to the action perfectly. I’ve never seen it done better.

 The Bad: As talented as Deanna Durbin is with both singing and acting, she has no talent for lip-syncing. By saying she’s lip-syncing, I in no way mean to imply that she is not doing her own singing. She’s just lip-syncing to her own pre-recorded singing. And she’s bad at it. At first I just thought the audio was off, but no. It’s Deanna Durbin.

Both Patricia and her father are constantly trying to get past the doorman at the theater where Stokowski works. It gets old after a bit. Repeated jokes are not as funny as people think they are.

Why do I call One Hundred Men and a Girl cute? Because it’s a well-done, happy movie with not much depth. It’s too simplistic to be anything but cute. It’s a movie you would watch when you’re feeling down and don’t want to think too much. It’s fun, but not extraordinary. It’s just…cute.

The Ugly: There is nothing ugly about this movie. It’s too cute to be ugly.

Oscar Won: Best music, score.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best writing, original story; best sound, recording; best film editing.

Lost Horizon (1937)

LostHorizon1937_previewDirected by Frank Capra

I read the book Lost Horizon a few years after I read The Good Earth, but it was still a very long time ago. I don’t remember every bit of the plot, but I did like it quite a bit; the adventure appealed to me, as did the idea of a beautiful place of peace. Being a fan of the book and a fan of Frank Capra, I thought the movie would be wonderful. The adventure and the philosophy that I loved in the book were in the movie, but I had a hard time remembering to watch through 1937 glasses. Shangri-La is not a utopia if you watch through 2017 glasses.

So what’s the story? Robert Conway, a British diplomat, is on the last plane out of a war-torn Chinese town with four other people: his brother, George; Lovett, a paleontologist; Barnard, a crook; and Gloria, a prostitute. Instead of heading to Shanghai as expected, the pilot flies the plane deeper into Asia. The plane crash-lands high in the freezing Tibetan mountains, but the group is rescued by a group of people who lead them to the monastery Shangri-La, where everyone is happy and all is well. But all is not as it seems…

The Good: The acting is good for the most part. It’s really quite fun to watch the change in Barnard (Thomas Mitchell), Lovett (Edward Everett Horton, who usually scares me), and Gloria (Isabel Jewell) as they go from frightened, selfish people to people who care about making their world better. Ronald Coleman makes a fine Robert Conway, although I would have liked to see a little more contrast in his character as Shangri-La changes him. That’s the screenwriter’s fault, though. John Howard is miscast as George Conway. He doesn’t even try to do a British accent, even though he is supposed to be the brother of the very British Coleman. That said, Howard did bring a lot of energy to the screen, with his growing impatience a contrast to the others’ peacefulness as everyone else settles in. Sam Jaffe makes a wonderful wise High Lama, even though he was only 46, so the makeup artists did a fantastic job, too.

The production design is great. The designers had to bring the east and west together for Shangri-La, which is in “Tibet” but built by a man from Belgium, with treasures from all over the world inside. The valley needed its own look, too. The end result is beautiful and believably peaceful.

Dmitri Tiomkin wrote a beautiful orchestral score for the film that underscores not only the beauty and peace of the valley but also the mystery and uncertainty that everyone finds there.

The Bad: Jane Wyatt is wooden in her performance as Sondra. She is school-girl giggly when she’s around Conway and sad when she thinks Conway is going. That’s all she’s got. It was a little painful to watch.

Chang is played stiffly by H.B. Warner. It may have been the way he was directed, but almost every time he talks, there’s a pause, almost as if he’s trying to remember his lines. He was nominated for best supporting actor, so some people saw something there. I will freely admit that I am not a professional acting judge, so I could be wrong and the performance could be brilliant, but it annoyed me.

The Ugly: There was nothing really ugly about the movie, except that about seven minutes of the movie are still shots instead of motion picture. The movie was edited from when it was first shown, and the original footage was lost. Film restorers looked in vaults all over the world for the missing minutes. They did find a full sound track and some of the missing moving footage, so they used stills from the filming to fill in the film that was lost. Some of the footage they found, though, was not of the best quality, so the movie is uneven in quality, too. It makes me so sad when movies aren’t taken care of. I hate it when art is lost.

Oscars Won: Best art direction; best film editing

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best actor in a supporting role (H.B. Warner); best sound, recording; best assistant director; best music, score.

Why I would not want to live in the Shangri-La of 1937:

     Women have no rights and get very little respect from men.

  1. Conway asks the High Lama what happens if two men both want the same woman. The Lama replies that their manners are so good, that the man who had the woman first would give her to the second man. No one bothers to ask the woman which man she would rather be with.
  2. Sondra is teaching a class of children English when a child asks to be taken to the bathroom. As soon as she leaves to help the child, Conway simply dismisses the class without asking Sondra if she is done for the day. He assumes that she would be happy to spend her time with him instead of teaching.
  3. When Sondra tries to start a philosophical conversation about why people outside of Shangri-La are the way they are, Conway tells Sondra to stop asking why, saying that it is the most annoying question in the English language. He had a chance to actually think about his culture and discuss it with someone who is generally curious, and instead he shuts it down because he is more interested in Sondra physically than he in in honestly answering her questions.
  4. Barnard takes a shine to Gloria when she stops wearing her makeup, telling her she looks wholesome without and ordering her to never wear it again. When George asks if they would like to leave, Barnard says he isn’t going, and then Gloria says “I’m going to stay, too. Is that right, Barney?” (That’s paraphrased a bit.)

   The people of the monastery have no respect for the native people. 

  1. None of the people living in the monastery of Shangri-La are acolytes of the High Lama. Apparently only Europeans and Chang (who is played by a white man) are allowed to study in the monastery and do whatever they so desire, whether it’s playing the piano or riding horses or reading. The only native people living there are the servants. No one thinks to ask if that’s what they want to be doing.
  2. The people in the valley are basically patted on the heads and told what good people they are. They are not taught what is in the books that are brought into the valley. They farm and mine for the monastery because that’s what they have been taught to do. They are more or less slaves, even though they don’t know it. The High Lama even admits that those who live in the monastery rule those who live in the valley.
  3. Shangri-La was founded by a Christian missionary whose goal is to have the “Christian ideal” win all over the world. No, he doesn’t teach Christianity, but he also doesn’t draw on any tenants of other religions, including whatever the natives believed before he got there. While not stated, I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t allow the native religion to be followed in the valley.

Okay, rant over. I know that Lost Horizon came out 80 years ago, and I freely acknowledge that values have changed a bit over the years. That’s why it’s so important to try to understand where and when the filmmakers were coming from. You can’t judge art from the past with the values of today.

In Old Chicago (1937)

In old chicagoDirected by Henry King

Chicago politics. The Chicago Fire of 1871. Close brothers who become rivals. With all of these elements, what could go wrong? A lot, actually. While there were some exciting scenes, In Old Chicago left much to be desired.

So what’s the story? The O’Leary brothers are polar opposites. Straight-arrow Jack is an attorney who always fights for the underdog. Charmingly roguish Dion runs a saloon, but he has bigger plans. He will use anyone and anything to get what he wants. Jack and Dion’s ideals will be tested for once and all on the night of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The Good: There was some good acting. Alice Brady stole the show as Mrs. O’Leary (yes, THAT Mrs. O’Leary). Don Ameche is strong as Jack, and Alice Faye makes a wonderful singer/saloon owner/woman in love with Dion. Dion’s character is a little inconsistent, but Tyrone Power does an excellent job with what he’s given.

The production design was impressive. There is a huge contrast in all the buildings, from the opulence of the saloons to the humble O’Leary home to the elegance of the Mayor’s office. It brought to life the different factions of Chicago society. Also, the streets were disgustingly muddy. Historical films don’t always remember to put in small details like that. I loved it.

I wasn’t going to be impressed with the actual fire scenes; it was 1937. How convincing could it be? That was a bad call on my part. The fire is amazing, possibly even better than the burning of Atlanta in Gone with the Wind two years later. It was just…wow.

The Bad: While I acknowledge that several scenes take place in saloons and that the producers were trying to showcase Alice Faye’s famous voice, there were too many musical numbers. They slowed down the conniving and the action, and they weren’t particularly entertaining.

While In Old Chicago has a good story with lots of potential drama, the movie felt really shallow. The screenplay left the characters feeling flat and uninteresting, except for Dion. He has the opposite problem. His character changes at the drop of a hat. One minute he’s a rogue with a twinkle in his eye, the next he’s completely evil. Then suddenly, he remembers how much he loves his brother and is perfectly good. It’s just not believable.

The Ugly: Rape isn’t a joke, although they play attempted rape as funny twice. Forcing a girl to kiss you and then threatening to rape her will not get you a business partner or a loving wife. Not cool, 1937.

Oscars Won: Best actress in a supporting role (Alice Brady); best assistant director.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best writing, original story; best sound, recording; best music, score.