Quotable Classic: It Happened One Night (1934)

Two of my favorite moments from It Happened One Night (1934), starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

Ellie: By the way, what’s your name?
Peter Warne: What’s that?
Ellie: Who are you?
Peter Warne: Who me? [smiling]
Peter Warne: I’m the whippoorwill that cries in the night. I’m the soft morning breeze that caresses your lovely face.
Ellie: You’ve got a name, haven’t you?
Peter Warne: Yeah, I got a name. Peter Warne.
Ellie: Peter Warne. I don’t like it.
Peter Warne: Don’t let it bother you. You’re giving it back to me in the morning.
Ellie: Pleased to meet you, Mr. Warne.
Peter Warne: The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Warne.

Ellie: I’ll stop that car, and I won’t use my thumb!

[after Ellie stops a car by showing her leg]
Peter Warne: Why didn’t you take off all your clothes? You could have stopped forty cars.

Ellie: Well, ooo, I’ll remember that when we need forty cars.

Review: Grand Hotel (1932)

People come, people go, nothing ever happens.”

This is the opening phrase to the 1932 Best Picture, Grand Hotel, spoken by Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone), one of the hotel’s many guests. An ensemble drama, this film tells the stories of the five guests at Berlin’s most lavish hotel, as their lives overlap and collide.

The always magnificent Greta Garbo receives top-billing as Grusinskaya, a lonely and depressed ballerina reaching the end of her career. The other characters are a ruined aristocrat (John Barrymore), a business tycoon (Wallace Beery), a shady stenographer (Joan Crawford), and a terminally ill clerk (a wonderful Lionel Barrymore).

This film’s landmark achievement, I have to say, is the way the different plotlines come together. No storyline seems forced or extraneous information. Beery’s actions are teh catalyst for most of the film. John Barrymore is the savior attempting to mend the problems. And Crawford’s character seems, at first to only be making everything worse.

But it is Lionel Barrymore who is the standout. Barrymore’s suffering clerk is emotional, heartbreaking, and the only redeeming person in the film. Only a great actor can achieve that.

The film’s overall mood can be summed up the instant Garbo utters the line “I want to be left alone. Grand Hotel is about people who wish to be isolated but cannot escape the kindness of a stranger, even if that kindness may turn sour. So when the legendary actress makes that statement, you can feel her suffering, making you want to jump onto the screen and fix her problems.

A lovely, touching, brilliant movie.

Updated October 10, 2010

Review: King Kong (1933)

I’ll say this now. No King Kong remake can ever top the original Merian C. Cooper version. This is more evident to me after watching the original twice this week.

Producer Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is in search of his next big picture and he decides that this picture needs a leading lady. Enter Anne Darrow (Fay Wray) and the greatest damsel in distress of all time is born. With the leading lady present, Denham and his crew set sail for an island somewhere in the Pacific.

When the crew reaches Skull Island they encounter the natives, who are preparing to sacrifice a young girl to Kong, the giant ape that lurks in the forest. But then the natives notice something new, something that King Kong will like even more… a blonde-haired beauty. At night they capture Anne from the ship and prepare her to be sacrificed.

Kong arrives and, instead of eating Anne, he falls in love with her. As he carries Anne back to his cave, he protects her from a T-Rex (a great action scene) and a giant snake. What Kong doesn’t know is that the ship’s crew, led by Anne’s real lover Jack (Bruce Cabot) has followed him.

Having seen King Kong in all his glory, Carl Denham decides to bring the giant gorilla to New York and put him on display. But Denham, being an idiotic and noncompassionate human, doesn’t understand the true strength of Kong. Kong escapes and causes mayhem in NYC, all to recapture Anne. He carries her to the top of the Empire State Building, where airplanes attack Kong to his death.


Oh no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast

The best part about seeing this King Kong in the theaters was that there were two young boys in the audience. They were about 7 and 9. During the fight scene between King Kong and T-Rex, both boys were sitting on the edge of their seats. When the film ended, I heard one of the boys exclaim to his grandfather, “Cool!” See, there is no need for a remake. The magic of King Kong lives as long as someone is willing to share it.

Even though the dialogue, some of the acting, and most of the action scenes are outdated, there is something magical about King Kong. The best way I can describe it is that it shows a time when movies were great but the magic was greater. Today all of the high tech stuff is expected, but back in 1933 it was new and exciting. Just imagine watching King Kong in 1933. Big budget blockbusters with dazzling effects were a whole new concept, not to mention talkies were still young. King Kong was the start of something outstanding and mindblowing. We owe every current action movie to King Kong. That is something that should not be forgotten.

I’ll eventually see the Peter Jackson remake but I have this strange feeling I’ll just get angry while watching it.

And the Year Was 1939…

I was having a conversation with my friend Austin about movies. Somewhere during this conversation we began chatting about 1939 and it dawned upon me.

1939 was probably the greatest year for American movies ever. Here’s some examples of why:

1) Goodbye, Mr. Chips
2) Stagecoach
3) Ninotchka
4) Wuthering Heights
5) Dark Victory
6) Love Affair
7) Destry Rides Again
8) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
9) Young Mr. Lincoln
10) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
11) Gunga Din
12) Only Angels Have Wings

Oh and there were these two other movies that you may have heard of…

The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.

Yes, I think it was a pretty good year for the film industry in 1939.

Five Reasons to Watch The Thin Man

the thin man
I’m about to watch The Thin Man. If you have never seen this movie, you are definitely missing out. It is one of the funniest movies you may ever see.

William Powell and Myrna Loy star as Nick and Nora Charles, in the first of this 6 film comedy-mystery series. He’s a former dectective and she’s rich and together they solve mysteries just for fun. And their pet dog Asta is along for the ride. The Thin Man is one of the great slapstick comedies from the 1930’s; the jokes are fast and it is full of pratfalls.

Here are my five reasons to watch The Thin Man:

1. It is wildly popular. The Thin Man is based on a Dashiell Hammett novel and it spawned a radio play where Loy and Powell reprised their roles, a television series, and even a musical.

2. The on screen chemistry between Loy and Powell is irresistible. There is reason why this first film led to more than a few sequels (five to be exact.)

3. The dialogue is some of the best ever written. Just watch this video below and you’ll see what I mean. My favorite line comes from Nora: “Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?”

4. Asta is more than just Loy and Powell’s trusty pet dog. In many ways, Asta was the film’s breakout star.

5. It’s influence can be found everywhere. Every time there is bumbling but hilariously witty detective in a movie or on your television screen, thank Nick Charles.

Updated October 6, 2010