When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1936, it gave its Best Picture award to The Great Ziegfeld, a film I've seen but forgotten virtually everything about. These movies are more memorable:
1. Rose Hobart
Directed by Joseph Cornell
The first and greatest unauthorized reedit of a Hollywood potboiler.
2. Theodora Goes Wild
Directed by Richard Boleslawski
Written by Sidney Buchman and Mary McCarthy
A screwball comedy that mocks small-town prudes and censors, then turns around and also mocks the thinly masked parochialism of the urbanites who look down on small-town prudes and censors.
3. Rainbow Dance
Directed by Len Lye
This animation feels like it's from 1986, not 1936.
4. Modern Times
Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin
Chaplin is usually conspiciously absent from these lists, but even I have to admire this man-vs.-the-machine comedy. And if it owes more than a little to À nous la liberté, at least he's stealing from the best.
5. My Man Godfrey
Directed by Gregory La Cava
Written by Morrie Ryskind and Eric Hatch, from a novel by Eric Hatch
"All you need to start an asylum is an empty room and the right kind of people."
6. Swing Time
Directed by George Stevens
Written by Howard Lindsay and Allan Scott
I always mix this up with Top Hat. But they're both great, so you're safe with either one.
7. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Directed by Frank Capra
Written by Robert Riskin, from a story by Clarence Budington Kelland
There is—I am not kidding—a book published by the American Psychiatric Association that reproaches this film for its "cinematic stereotypes contributing to the stigmatization of psychiatrists."
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Charles Bennett, from a novel by Joseph Conrad
Confusingly, this Hitchcock movie based on Conrad's novel The Secret Agent came out the same year Hitchcock made a movie called Secret Agent that had nothing to do with Conrad at all. (And that one's good too!)
9. Libeled Lady
Directed by Jack Conway
Written by Maurine Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, and George Oppenheimer, from a story by Wallace Sullivan
"You can't build a life on hate, or a marriage on spite. Marriage is too important. Mine only lasted an hour, but...I know."
10. Thru the Mirror
Directed by David Hand
Written by William Cottrell and Joe Grant
Mickey Mouse does Lewis Carroll. I actually prefer this to Disney's feature-length take on the Alice books.
Of the films of 1936 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Wife vs. Secretary and The Crime of Monsieur Lange.