April was pretty busy for me as I watched 35 titles. Among these, one was a new theater release, one was a new Netflix release, one was a documentary. I saw six silent films, twenty two new to me classic titles including one foreign classic, re-watched six films for at least the second time and viewed three television series.
TCM chose to honor Greta Garbo this month, so I was able to catch seven of her films (including the documentary). My favorite of those was Love, a remake of Anna Karenina with John Gilbert. But I also discovered that I enjoy watching her opposite Nils Asther as well.
Kay Frances was also honored for a day this month and I saw six more of her movies. She was definitely at her best in the pre-code era.
Some of my favorite discoveries this month include Garbo and Asther in The Single Standard, the silent film Souls for Sale, the BBC’s mini-series Mrs. Wilson, The Teahouse of the August Moon and Kay Francis in The House on 56th Street.
Captain Marvel (2019) – Marvel can do no wrong with me. Even though their films are full of special effects, they still do a great job with character and story development. They are a great mix of drama, action and humor and this newest film is no exception. I thought Brie Larson gave a good performance of the Captain. She reminded me of a female blend of Tony Stark and Captain America, a bit cocky and irreverent, but also responsible and patriotic.
Living on Velvet (1935) – I think George Brent and Kay Francis could play siblings, but I prefer their pairing as love interests. This is my second favorite of their films (after The Goose and the Gander). Brent plays a light-hearted live for the moment character and does it well. Francis as usual is gorgeous in her film wardrobe. I love that she makes fun of her real life lisp in this movie. The story is far-fetched, but who cares?
Torrent (1926) – Garbo’s first American film. I found it melodramatic, overly long and a bit hard to sit through. But I thought she had good rapport with co-star Ricardo Cortez. And I discovered I like a disheveled looking Cortez quite a bit.
The Single Standard (1929) – I watched this because I was interested in seeing more of Nils Asther, but found a Garbo silent I actually really liked. Garbo plays a character who is bit lighter and more expressive. For once I appreciated Johnny Mack Brown, perhaps because it is a silent and not a talkie? And I could look at the long tall drink of water, Asther all day. He has a magnetism about him.
Romance (1930) – One of Garbo’s early talkies. The film is beautiful, Garbo is stunning and her costumes gorgeous. But her romantic lead was boring and it seemed ridiculous for her worldly opera star to fall in love with a puritanical New England minister. They had no chemistry. Plus, I found Garbo’s attempted Italian accent terrible and nasally. This one might have been better as a silent. I was glad when it was over.
A Star is Born (2018) – My second time around watching the latest version of this movie and I’m still impressed with the performances of its’ leads. But I forgot how bad the language gets and that bothered me a bit.
Souls for Sale (1923) – I really liked this behind the scenes tale of a young woman trying to make it in 1920’s Hollywood. I’ve seen Eleanor Boardman in The Crowd and was also impressed with her here. Also, I’ve never been a fan of Richard Dix, but maybe that’s because I had never seen him in a silent pictures.
Secrets of Women (1952) – I haven’t really liked many of the foreign classic films I’ve seen and decided to take a break. But this was billed as an Ingmar Bergman comedy, so I gave it a chance. As a story about four sisters in law discussing their marriages I thought it would be a bit like A Letter to Three Wives. But I didn’t think it was that funny or interesting. I prefer a bit more dialogue and a bit less brooding.
Pat and Mike (1952) – It’s been a long time since I saw this Tracy/Hepburn picture. I didn’t remember enjoying it, but couldn’t remember much about it. It’s still not my favorite of their pairings. I don’t like Tracy’s character and there are too many long sports sequences for me.
Wild Orchids (1929) – Another Garbo silent and another pairing with Nils Asther. I didn’t like it as much as The Single Standard. Asther’s character is basically a molesting stalker Indian prince. And I had a hard time believing Garbo was in love with her much older husband played by Lewis Stone, who basically neglects her. Still the picture quality is excellent and the tropical setting keeps it interesting.
The Divine Garbo (1990) – Watched this short documentary hosted by Glenn Close. I feel like I might have seen it before. It didn’t really tell me anything new about Garbo.
No More Orchids (1932) – I’ve always preferred Carole Lombard in dramas over comedies. On viewing this a second time, it still remains one of my favorite Lombard films. Of course, she’s gorgeous in her glowing skin and stunning costumes. The films is enhanced by supporting players Walter Connolly and Louise Closser Hale as her loving father and grandmother. And surprisingly, Lyle Talbot as her love interest is remarkably appealing.
They All Kissed the Bride (1942) – I’m reviewing this Joan Crawford comedy for the upcoming Joan Crawford Blogathon in May. She actually handles the comedic moments pretty well. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that her co-star is Melvyn Douglas who give another great performance as a creative type who challenges Joan’s hard-nosed female boss.
The Notorious Landlady (1962) – I adore a young Jack Lemmon which is why I chose this comedic mystery that also stars Kim Novak and Fred Astaire. Lemmon, as usual, is a charming everyman who falls for a woman who may or may not have killed her husband. Something about this movie didn’t quite work for me. It definitely could have benefitted from some editing.
Mrs. Wilson (2018) – An absolutely compelling and engrossing mini-series about a widow who learns her dead husband was not all that he seemed. It drew out all my emotions, especially since it is based on a true story. Actress Ruth Wilson executive produces and stars as her own grandmother in an amazing performance.
A Place to Call Home Season 1 (2013) – I’ve heard about this Australian series for a while and finally decided to give it a go. I love the 1950’s settings and costumes, the family drama and relationships. It gets slightly soapy at times, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters; love them or hate them.
Guilty Hands (1931) – Aside from the far-fetched ending, I found this short drama rather engrossing. Lionel Barrymore is good as a district attorney who is willing to murder for his daughter. But it is Kay Francis, who really caught my eye in a role which allows her to be something more than a clothes horse. Her scenes facing-off with Barrymore are electric.
Mandalay (1934) – Another Kay Francis vehicle featuring her in outstanding costumes. I found her hairstyle distracting as it looked like a shellacked helmet. I did like seeing her opposite Ricardo Cortez. The plot was a bit thin as is the character development, but that’s not the point of movies like this anyway.
The Perfect Date (2019) – Another cute little YA rom-com from Netflix. Is it sappy, yes. Does it lack a bit on character development, sure. But I appreciate that it is a clean and cute entertainment which is harder and harder to find these days. Plus, I liked the message about finding your own identity and being true to yourself.
Queens of Mystery (2019) – I enjoy cozy British mystery series, so was thrilled to find this one on Acorn TV. It’s adorable, quirky and reminds me of one of my favorite TV series, Pushing Daisies.
I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) – I watched this one based on the recommendation of a reviewer I know and really liked it. Wendy Hiller will always be Mrs. Harris from Anne of Avonlea to me. But it’s fun to see her in a romantic role in her younger years. Her chemistry with Roger Livesay jumps off the screen.
The Actress (1953) – Most reviewers like this film, I found it a bit painful to watch. I adore Teresa Wright and as usual she give an understated performance as the mother. Jean Simmons as the girl who wants to be an actress is really good, but it’s hard to watch her stubborn, selfish pursuit of her dream in the face of the sacrifices every one else makes for her. And yet, she is so earnest and innocent. I wasn’t crazy about Spencer Tracy. He was rather bombastic.
Divorce (1945) – Kay Francis looks a bit haggard in this one. Bruce Cabot as the man who leaves his family for her, is boring. Helen Mack was the only interesting performance as the wronged wife. Not to mention the film is overly preachy in its’ message
The Great Sinner (1949) – I’ve never seen any of Ava Gardner’s and Gregory Peck’s films together before. Gardner is stunning and Peck gives a wonderful heartfelt portrayal of a man who loses his soul to gambling. Melvyn Douglas was totally wasted however.
Angel and the Badman (1947) – This is another film I might not have watched except for the recommendations of two bloggers I trust. They were right. I love John Wayne in this romantic western as a gunfighter who turns over a new leaf after meeting a beautiful Quaker girl. Not to mention, Wayne is at his most handsome.
Love (1927) – Though it’s been a while since I’ve seen the other Garbo and John Gilbert pairing, this may be my favorite, even if it does take liberties with the Anna Karenina story. Garbo comes alive in her scenes with her screen son. Gilbert devours her with his eyes, but is also tender and joyful. I didn’t mind the changed ending at all. It seemed right for this screen team. But I did find the soundtrack distracting. It sounds like the original audience response was recorded. There were laughs in the dramatic scenes between Garbo and Gilbert and random coughs and movements throughout.
One Way Passage (1932) – I’m a huge Powell fan and I like his films with Kay Francis. I remember liking this one the first time I watched it. I was struck again on this re-watch, just how tender and sweet their onscreen relationship is in spite of their doomed romance. I also loved how the film balanced the bittersweet moments with humor provided by Aline McMahon and Frank McHugh. Just a beautiful little film.
A Little Chaos (2014) – What an excellent cast with Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle among others. If you like slower-paced thoughtful dramas, this one about the building of the gardens at Versailles is rather beautiful.
Argo (2012) – This drama about the rescue of some of the Iran hostages was a pretty slow start, but picked up in intensity. There were a lot of familiar faces in the cast. I’m not a fan of Ben Affleck, but thought everyone else did a great job.
The Thrill of Romance (1945) – Van Johnson and Esther Williams look their most beautiful in this pairing. I rather preferred it to some of their other films. Honestly, I didn’t miss all her musical swimming routines, but wasn’t happy they substituted them for singing numbers for others.
The Dark Angel (1935) – This love triangle about three childhood friends was even better the second time around. I’m a huge fan of Herbert Marshall, although he didn’t have much to do in this film. Merle Oberon looked stunning as usual. But it was Frederic March whose performance was the most impressive. His character also displayed the most growth.
The Swan (1956) – Though I’ve seen this film many times, it’s been long enough that I forgot how sensitive and melancholy it can be. Grace Kelly is excellent as the awkwardly shy princess. And I loved all the other supporting actors, Brian Aherne, Agnes Moorehead, Alec Guiness and Jessie Royce Landis.
The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) – I didn’t expect much from this film, but found I really liked it. Marlon Brando completely disappeared into his role as a Japanese interpreter and Glenn Ford was disarmingly charming as a bumbling officer who finds himself assimilating into the native culture. This light comedy is one I wouldn’t mind watching again.
The Mysterious Lady (1928) – Garbo plays a Russian spy who falls for Conrad Nagel’s Austrian officer. Nagel is bland as dry toast and exhibits little chemistry with his leading lady. Garbo carries the film as usual and I loved her bias cut silk dresses. As much as I recognize her talent, I’m afraid she will never be my favorite actress.
The House on 56th Street (1933) – Perhaps one of the most interesting Kay Francis movies, I’ve seen yet. Mostly because it places her in period drama costumes and also because it’s a unique character for her. It also gives her a chance to really act and because it’s more than just another romantic role for her.