THE AWFUL TRUTH (Leo McCarey)
McCarey was an improvisational genius whose great comedy instincts always put his actors at ease and often brought out their best. Everybody was loose on a McCarey set, and you can see it in the delightful interplay between stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. This one got McCarey an Oscar.
THE GOOD EARTH (Sidney Franklin)
A sprawling epic of China, Hollywood-style. The underrated (and now mostly forgotten) Paul Muni stars, but it is Luise Rainer and her beautifully understated performance that lingers. Unlike today, there wasn’t much of a controversy then about having two non-Asian actors portray the leads. Those were different times, and watching the film today it’s easier to get over it when you have actors of this caliber. Rainer won her second Oscar in a row.
LA GRANDE ILLUSION (Jean Renoir)
One of the most beloved and revered films ever made, on many critics and filmmakers lists of the best films of all time. Emotionally moving on many levels, LA GRANDE ILLUSION stands as a landmark of pre-war cinema, of Renoir’s career, of French film and of the careers of actors Jean Gabin, Erich Von Stroheim, and many others. There is a quality to this film that can not be described by merely discussing its plot points. It must be seen.
LOST HORIZON (Frank Capra)
From James Hilton’s novel, there is a strange beauty to this film along with its sincere message of compassion and world peace. Unusual and compelling.
A STAR IS BORN (William Wellman)
Hollywood looks at itself, and finds it is not a pretty sight. The first of four different versions and well worth a look.
YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (Fritz Lang)
A young Henry Fonda gets all the bad breaks in Depression-era America. You just hope things don’t go too badly for him and his star-crossed lover, Sylvia Sidney. But this is a Fritz Lang film, so fate will always have the last word.