When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1933, it gave its Best Picture award to Cavalcade, which isn't nearly as good as a movie based on a Noel Coward play ought to be. When I say "isn't nearly as good," I'm pulling my punches: Aside from a couple of montages and the song "20th Century Blues," Cavalcade is a study in tedium. It isn't on my list.
1. Duck Soup
Directed by Leo McCarey
Written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby with Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin
A cinéma vérité documentary filmed at the White House after the invasion of Iraq.
2. Zero for Conduct
Written and directed by Jean Vigo
Anarchy in the schoolhouse.
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Comparing this to the Disney movie is like comparing an R. Crumb comic to Archie.
4. I'm No Angel
Directed by Wesley Ruggles
Written by Mae West
"I see a man in your life." "What? Only one?"
5. Design for Living
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Written by Ben Hecht, from a play by Noel Coward
"A man can meet two, three, or four women and fall in love with all of them, and then, by a process of interesting elimination, he is able to decide which he prefers. But a woman must decide purely on instinct, guesswork, if she wants to be considered nice."
6. Alice in Wonderland
Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and William Cameron Menzies, from two novels by Lewis Carroll
It was a stroke of genius to cast W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty.
7. International House
Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Written by Neil Brant
Fields is in this one too—and so are Cab Calloway, and Bela Lugosi, and Burns and Allen, and Rudy Vallee, and Col. Stoopnagle, and...
8. 42nd Street
Directed by Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley
Written by Rian James and James Seymour, from a novel by Bradford Ropes
It isn't the first backstage musical of the '30s, but it's the definitive one.
9. Lot in Sodom
Written and directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber
The only entry on this list that is not in some sense a comedy.
10. The Fatal Glass of Beer
Directed by Clyde Bruckman
Written by W.C. Fields
Man. This was Fields' year, wasn't it?
Of the films of 1933 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Ecstasy and Hallelujah, I'm a Bum.