The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Monday, January 19, 2009
.38 SPECIAL: 1998:
check. 1988: check. 1978: check. 1968: check. 1958: check. 1948: check. 1938: well...

When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1938, it gave its Best Picture award to Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You. That's a fine film, but I can think of four that are finer:

1. Porky in Wackyland
Directed by Bob Clampett
Written by Warren Foster

The most manic, dense, and Daliesque of Warner's classic cartoons.

2. La Bête Humaine
Directed by Jean Renoir
Written by Renoir and Denise Leblond, from a novel by Emile Zola

Movie historians classify this one as "poetic realism." To me it's a full-fledged film noir, even if it technically appeared a few years too early to qualify.

3. The Lady Vanishes
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Sidney Gilliatt and Frank Launder, from a novel by Ethel Lina White

My favorite of Hitchcock's pre-Hollywood pictures.

4. Port of Shadows
Directed by Marcel Carné
Written by Jacques Prévert

I like Children of Paradise well enough, but I've never comprehended the cult around it. When it comes to Carné/Prévert pictures, I prefer curious, character-driven crime stories like this one.

5. You Can't Take It With You
Directed by Frank Capra
Written by Robert Riskin, from a play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart

Who says there was no counterculture in the '30s?

6. Bringing Up Baby
Directed by Howard Hawks
Written by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde

Cary Grant decides to go gay all of a sudden.

7. Pygmalion
Directed by Anthony Asquith with Leslie Howard
Written by George Bernard Shaw, W.P. Lipscomb, Cecil Lewis, Ian Dalrymple, Anatole de Grunwald, and Kay Walsh, from a play by Shaw

I miss the songs and there's far too much talk at the end, but it's still drenched in Shaw's satiric takes on class, masks, and language. And while I'll probably always prefer Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway to Leslie Howard and Wilfrid Lawson, Audrey Hepburn can't hold a candle to Wendy Hiller.

8. Holiday
Directed by George Cukor
Written by Donald Ogden Stewart and Sidney Buchman, from a play by Philip Barry

"When I find myself in a position like this, I ask myself: What would General Motors do? And then I do the opposite."

9. Goonland
Directed by Dave Fleischer

Like many of the Fleischer Popeye shorts, this feels like something out of Zap Comix.

10. The Adventures of Robin Hood
Directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley
Written by Norman Reilly Raine and Seton I. Miller

The best superhero movie of the '30s. (And don't try to tell me a masked adventurer isn't a superhero unless he has special powers. What about BATMAN, then? Huh? HUH?)

posted by Jesse 11:57 PM
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