So, so many great films were made in the ‘Early’ years of Hollywood. But when I perused my shelves I noticed that I own very few films that predate about 1975. Which is a crime as one of my favourite eras of film, from about 1965-1975, is clearly outside that bracket. And I only stumbled across some of the weird and wonderful, lesser known films of this era during the boredom filled months of lockdown. Which then got me to wondering, what else I may not have discovered yet.
So I have gone back to the beginning, kind of, to 1930, to see where film really began to find it’s feet, movie stars were being made, and some of the great classics were under production.
CITY GIRL (1930)
A Chicago waitress falls in love with a Minnesota farmer, and decides to face a life in the country.
Beautifully restored to its former glory, and now with it’s original score, I watched the silent version of this film instead of the rescored, part talky that was released later on.
A simple story, beautifully told, and with some of the most stunning visuals I have seen from this era. Silent films were starting to be phased out by this stage, I have watched quite a few talkies by this point of my cinema journey, and find it a struggle to now go back to silent film. But the beautiful cinematography here makes this film a breeze to watch.
I am not always a fan of silent film, I find it hard to connect with the stories or characters without the use of dialogue, especially the non comedic ones. Not to mention a lot of them no longer have their original scores, so the music doesn’t always fit what is happening on screen. However, this one manages to tell a coherent story, give us fleshed out characters and give them all the ending that they deserve.
The Rampant Age (1930)
Wealthy playboy Sandy Benton falls for pretty but decidedly less wealthy neighbour Doris Lawrence. She rebuffs his attentions, but scheming gold-digger Estelle has her own plans for Sandy. When Doris hears about Sandy’s wild times with Estelle, she sets out to show him that she, too, can be a “modern” woman. – From IMDB
It isn’t PC in any way, at all. It is immeasurably a product of it’s time, but that I suppose is something that I am just going ton have to live with for the next forty years of cinema or so. But there was a lot about this film that I loved. The comedy was pretty funny, Sandy’s permanently drunk friend Eddie being the main culprit. It also has a surprising amount to say about the double standards in regards to partying and marriage. A man can do whatever he like with whomever he likes, but a woman can’t.
There were a few plot holes that weren’t wrapped up the way I would have liked. For example nothing seems to have said or done about Estelle. It’s revealed she is manipulating Sandy, and then we jump straight to the ridiculous Aeroplane scene, then the film ends. She never really gets her comeuppance. And really, this is a film whose entire plot could have been avoided if two people would have had an adult conversation. But overall, I really enjoyed it.
Anna Christie (1930)
A young woman reunites with her estranged father and falls in love with a sailor, but struggles to tell them about her dark past – From IMDB
Nominated for three Oscars and being Greta Garbo’s first sound film, I am surprised I haven’t heard about this film before. It’s a bit darker than a lot of the other films I have watched of this era, and while it still ends with the happily ever after, you are wondering for a good portion of the film what will happen.
I am amazed/not surprised how many films of this era use women’s sexual and romantic backgrounds as their main plot device. All three of the films reviewed here today use this is a way to either drive or kick start the plot. Women’s sexual freedom wasn’t really a thing until the seventies I know, but could they really not come up with a better villainous character than a morally corrupt woman?
Despite the unoriginality of her character, Garbo does of course give a stunning performance here. The majority of the film takes place in the small kitchen of a barge, so without the use of elaborate sets, the actors really need to sell the story, and they do. Garbo was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, and she truly deserved to be.