Thursday, October 8, 2020

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The Fourth Quarter: 1931-32, Day Seven

These are films released May 1, 1932-July 31, 1932 - the final qualifying quarter for the Fifth Academy Awards:

Attorney for the Defense
May 21st

Former prosecutor becomes pubic defender, runs afoul of former enemies. would be more ridiculous if it wasn't for the sincerity of Edmund Lowe's performance. No love triangles, just Bad People trying to get one over on Good People, and Good People trying to be Better People. That's nice. A very satisfying murder, too.

As You Desire Me
May 28th

Bar singer with, I guess, amnesia is reunited with a man who may have been her husband - but is she who they think she is? A ridiculous film that gets away with its plot acrobatics thanks to expert handling of the material by director Fitzmaurice and his ace ensemble, led by Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. What else can I say? They say you can't make a good movie from bad material, but shit, here's the proof that you can if you've got the talent. Please watch this. I don't want to be alone in this.

Two Seconds
May 28th

A man recalls the events that led to his execution in the two seconds it takes for the electricity to hit him. what drives a man to ruin, to despair, to murder? I'm sure you won't be surprised when the answer is A Bad woman, and honey, Vivienne Osborne is baaaaaad, a woman who starts out Sweet Charity and ends up Delilah. She's dynamite, but I'm sure the impetus behind making this movie was Edward G. Robinson's climactic courtroom speech, begging for mercy with the most pathetic, sickening excuse you've ever heard. The feel-bad movie of the year.

Is My Face Red?
June 17th

Gossip journalist romances a socialite, endangers his own life by blabbing in print about murders and other such. Heh-heh, sure. OK. Imperfect, but entertaining.

Red-Headed Woman
June 25th

A redhead schemes and sleeps her way up the social ladder. Thumbs its nose at men, simple creatures easily led astray by beautiful women, cool with adultery as long as their mistress is faithful, unable to completely unseat an ambitious broad who knows how to get what she wants. A naughty, funny movie.

The Dark Horse
July 16th

Political comedy has fast-talking campaign manager romancing his secretary and dodging his alimony-seeking ex-wife while trying to get a moron elected governor. Madcap, laugh-out-loud antics gives a good goosing to the political process, seeing nothing but charlatans and horndogs on both sides of the aisle. Professional buffoon Guy Kibbee shines as the titular candidate. The anti-hero of the film is Warren William, he of the sonorous speechifying and lightning reflexes. When Bette Davis is the fourth best part of the movie, you're working magic.

White Zombie
July 28th

Voodoo master puts a woman under his spell. The cinematography and sets are wild here: the latter Gothic and decaying, the former lending the film an off-kilter sensibility, as though we are watching it through the dream-inducing powder deployed by the villainous M. Legendre. A weird film with cardboard characters and a problematic plot, but it nails its tone and environment perfectly. Bela Lugosi is terrific.

Other films released this quarter
Lady and Gent
What Price Hollywood?

Tomorrow, a look at the (non-Best Picture) Academy Award nominees of 1931-32.

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