BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (James Whale)
The best of all the Frankensteins. Director Whale, quite openly gay (see GODS AND MONSTERS ) brought in his actor pal Ernest Thesiger and created the role of Dr. Pretorious, which introduced a whole new element with his flamboyant personality. The relationship between the two doctors is the topic of many a cinematic discussion to this day.
In BRIDE, the monster finds a voice and a friend. A whole lot of good that does him.
CAPTAIN BLOOD (Michael Curtiz)
The best of the swahbucklers. This one made Errol Flynn a star. Everybody is perfectly cast and director Curtiz makes it look easy. And for him, it probably was, as he was the master of all genres at Warner Bros.
DAVID COPPERFIELD (George Cukor)
Producer David Selznick loved the classics of literature (GONE WITH THE WIND, anyone?). While at M-G-M, he supervised the production of this Dickens classic. He oversaw everything, from the casting right down to the set design. The choice of director George Cukor was a no-brainer. It worked.
RUGGLES OF RED GAP (Leo McCarey)
Short and sweet, a comedy gem. Timing is everything, and everyone hits the right beats. Thanks to McCarey at the helm and another superb performance by Charles Laughton, who could do anything.
THE 39 STEPS (Alfred Hitchcock)
Hitchcock got himself noticed with this one; a tidy, jaunty spy thriller. In a few years , he would be enticed away from Great Britain, and the Hollywood years would begin.
LES MISERABLES (Richard Boleslawski)
The best dramatic screen version (and I’ve seen them all) of the Victor Hugo classic. Due in no small part to yet another bravura performance by Charles Laughton as Inspector Javert.
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (Frank Lloyd)
This was the big Oscar-winner for the year, and it certainly was an ambitious undertaking. I’m not sure it’s essential to cinema, but once again it is Charles Laughton’s performance as Captain Bligh that puts it on MY essential list. Compare the pairing of him with Gable to all the later versions (Trevor Howard/Marlon Brando, Anthony Hopkins/Mel Gibson)
A TALE OF TWO CITIES (Jack Conway)
Again, the best screen version of THIS Dickens classic, and once again perfectly cast. “It is a far, far better thing I do…”