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Apr 30, 2012

A Year On Film: 1934



After a couple of weeks covering more recent years like 1984 and 1990, I've gone back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and the original Studio system with 1934.

I was not alive in 1934 (nor were my parents for that matter) so I have had to view most of these films on Home Video - but have been fortunate thanks to living in Los Angeles to be able to screen many of them at venues like the American Cinematheque, The Academy, LACMA and the New Beverly to name a few.

1934 for me is a year where the roughness of the early sound era starts to wear off.  Also in 1934, my favorite romantic screwball comedy was released, and that is Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.




If it wasn't for the fact that Capra's MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) is my all-time favorite film, this would easily be my favorite Capra movie.  The casting of Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert was spot on, and their chemistry just bursts off the screen.  There are also some of the funniest moments ever put on film - with one of the most clever being Gable erecting a blanket between the two of them in a hotel and referring to it as the walls of Jericho and another where Gable attempts to show Colbert how to hitchhike and she shows him up with a little leg.  Also has a great musical moment on a bus.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT was the first movie to sweep the major categories at the Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor (Gable), Actress (Colbert) and Director (Capra).  This has only happened 2 other times in history - ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975) and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991).




I had the opportunity to see IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT in 2002 when the Academy held a 75th Anniversary celebration screening all (then) 75 Best Pictures (which was WINGS through CHICAGO - which when the series started hadn't even been released yet!) every Monday.  The print was gorgeous, and it was one of the best nights in a movie theater I have ever spent (which happened a lot during that series).  Programming Director Randy Haberkamp truly loves films, and it shows at every screening they hold there - and it doesn't hurt that he has the resources of the Academy at his disposal meaning pristine prints and fantastic guests.  Mr. Haberkamp got a much deserved promotion recently, so expect more great screenings at the Academy.  I believe this summer they will be highlighting 70mm spectacles!  But I digress...and back to 1934.

1934 was a great year for comedies.  In addition to IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT there was Howard Hawks' TWENTIETH CENTURY which is a comedy classic.




Unlike the previous weeks - including 1941 and 1959 - my list is a little shorter here as I have not seen as many films from 1934 as I would like.  The great thing about assembling these lists though is the opportunity to put together future screening lists to cover those titles I have not yet seen.

As always this is not intended to be a complete list of releases from 1934, and some titles include comments and noted directors.


BABES IN TOYLAND



BELLE OF THE NINETIES





BROADWAY BILL (Frank Capra)




CLEOPATRA (Cecil B. DeMille)

This was the year of Claudette Colbert for in addition to this and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, she was also in IMITATION OF LIFE.


DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY

MEET JOE BLACK with Brad Pitt has nothing on this original version.


THE GAY DIVORCEE
I doubt a movie could be made in this day and age with the same title and not have a whole other meaning entirely.



THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI





IMITATION OF LIFE
This is an interesting movie in that at the center of it is an African American woman who desperately wants to pass as white - so much so she's willing to disown her own mother.  Although it still has some racist moments, the movie is definitely a bold move for this time period.



IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (Frank Capra)





IT'S A GIFT





THE LOST PATROL (John Ford)





THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (Alfred Hitchcock)

Also remade in the 50s (1956) with Hitchcock remaking his own movie starring James Stewart.



THE MERRY WIDOW (Erich Von Stroheim)





OF HUMAN BONDAGE





THE SCARLET EMPRESS (Josef von Sternberg)





THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL





A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS  (Yasujiro Ozu)






TARZAN AND HIS MATE






THE THIN MAN
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett, THE THIN MAN was one of the great series through the 30s and 40s.  Dick Powell and Myrna Loy made a great pairing, and Asta the dog was also a star in his own right.  A movie where drinking multiple martinis just seems so sophisticated.

THE THIN MAN is currently being developed as a remake with Johnny Depp attached to star.




TREASURE ISLAND





TWENTIETH CENTURY (Howard Hawks)

Truly one of the funniest movies ever made.  

Next up: 1954.