Progress ReportUpdated RankingsThe Patsy
(1928)★ ★ ★ - Okay
Unexpectedly breezy comedy from Vidor. I kept waiting for him to make a dramatic turn, where troublemaker younger sister (Marion Davies) takes things too far with her selfishness. The character’s coming-of-age instability manifests in destructive ways, yet Davies is so charming and the film seems to root for her so you have to step back to notice she’s the villain. Vidor doesn’t even give her character a moment of reflection, where she or anyone tries to rationalize her behavior.Street Scene
(1931)★ ★ ★ - Okay
I was initially worried about the staginess, with the camera so fixed in one direction they might as well have just filmed the play it’s based on. It grew on me, much the same was as Fences and Do the Right Thing, and the climactic moment is handled with minimal dialogue and great editing, so… Cinema!The Champ
(1931)★ ★ ★ - Good
It’s so rare for me to find an old movie that carries with it the weight of a Classic. “So, this is The Champ.” I held off because when I was a kid my mom took me to the 1979 remake with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder and the ending scarred me for life. The weight of that hung over this film, and made me admire even more the sensitive direction. Vidor pulls some obvious melodramatic punches only to surprise you with unexpected moments of darkness. It’s an unorthodox approach that makes the film stand out as more than a classic Hollywood tearjerker. The plot may creak, but the film itself is really well made. As for the ending, I was having flashbacks. Devastating because the cast and crew earn that finale.The Stranger’s Return
(1933)★ ★ ★ - Good
I wasn’t sure there was much I could say about this one. Despite the drama, it’s a very pleasant time spent in the company of actors I enjoy watching. Lionel Barrymore is the lead, playing a Walter Brennan type of grumpy old man in a much different way. He’s just the best every moment he’s on screen, but the cast includes Miriam Hopkins, Franchot Tone, Beulah Bondi and Grant Mitchell. All people I enjoy watching and only Bondi is underused.
Then afterwards, I read this is the favorite film of Yasujiro Ozu, and that’s all I can think about now. There is a lot of Ozu to the story, the way events are light on the surface, but the undertow is pulling everyone into peril. Events move like a handful of short stories that come together in the end to create a lasting impact.Comrade X
(1940)★ ★ ★ - Good
Inverted Ninotchka, with Clark Gable as a brash American reporter looking to smuggle proof of an attempted coup out of Russia. (The assassination attempt is like something out of Death of Stalin.) His best hope is to play spy with Hedy Lamarr, who loves her country to the core. Plot makes a lot of nonsensical choices, but the dialogue is clever, the cast is charming and there’s a wonderfully silly chase involving a few dozen tanks. Few political satires have as brilliant an idea as the one here where the main revolutionary is offered a high cabinet position in exchange for executing all of his followers to show loyalty to the country.H.M. Pulham, Esq.
(1941)★ ★ ★ - Good
This has become one of the most successful Director explorations of the entire Marathon. The story sounds like something told many times before and since. Rich kid (Robert Young) has his traditional values challenged by a progressive woman (Hedy Lamarr), but has trouble standing up to his friends (including Van Heflin) and father (Charles Coburn, for the first time trying to keep the kids apart.) The film is fresh because the script begins at the end so tragedy is sown into every scene and Vidor gets the emotions to pour out of the screen. That’s especially amazing because Young is usually such a passive leading man and Lamarr has never been trusted to do so much beyond looking pretty. Her finest performance by miles.