Tag Archives: 1930s

Kongo (1932) William J. Cowen, Walter Huston, Lupe Velez, Conrad Nagel, Drama, Horror

Kongo (1932)
This remake of West of Zanzibar (1928) made four years later tries to outdo the Lon Chaney original in morbidity. From a wheelchair a handicapped white man rules an area of Africa as a living god. He rules the local natives through superstition and stage magic and he rules the few white people through sadism, keeping them virtual prisoners. He lives for the day he can avenge himself horribly on the man who stole his wife and crushed his spine. Strong and macabre stuff in a nearly forgotten horror film.

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Invitation to the Waltz (1935) Paul Merzbach, Lilian Harvey, Wendy Toye, Carl Esmond, Musical

happy-1933
Lilian Harvey, the toast of two continents, is her usual radiant self in Invitation to the Waltz. Harvey plays Jenny Peachey (honest!), a Drury Lane ballerina during the Napoleonic Wars. Swept off her slippers by the handsome Duke of Wurtemberg (Harold Warrender), Jenny gives up her dancing career to become the Duke’s mistress. As the war between England and France intensifies, our heroine uses her influence to persuade the Duke to sign a treaty with England, thereby helping to bring about the downfall of Napoleon (Esme Percy). Through it all, Jenny is worshipped from afar by handsome lieutenant Carl (Carl Esmond). Magnificently produced, Invitation to the Waltz was a lighthearted follow-up to Lillian Harvey’s more serious “ballerina sacrifices all” opus, Schwartze Rosen.

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Glamorous Night (1937) Brian Desmond Hurst, Mary Ellis, Otto Kruger, Victor Jory, Drama

happy-1933
The popular Ivor Novello musical play Glamorous Night was given a conservative film treatment in 1937–minus much of the Novello score that had made it famous. Opera singer Mary Ellis plays an opera singer (why not?) who falls in with a band of roguish but likeable gypsies. Mary manages to convince her Bohemian cohorts to rescue the King from the machinations of his ambitious prime minister. As “cast insurance” to make certain that Glamorous Night would get American bookings, Hollywood character actors Otto Kruger and Victor Jory are given leading roles. The US distributors also sliced the film down from 81 to 65 minutes, through the simple expedient of removing several songs.

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Happy (1933) Frederic Zelnik, Stanley Lupino, Laddie Cliff, Will Fyffe, Comedy, Musical

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Too expensive for a “quota quickie” but not quite costly enough to qualify as an “A” picture, Happy is a shapeless but generally satisfying vehicle for several of England’s top music-hall attractions. Stanley Lupino (Ida’s dad) and Laddie Cliff star as Frank and George, a pair of nightclub musicians living in an attic owned by irascible Scotsman Simmy (Will Fyffe). Hoping to get rich quick, Frank invents a device that, when attached to an automobile, will immediately alert the police if the car is stolen. A millionaire car manufacturer is interested in the device, but agrees to purchase it only after his pretty daughter falls in love with Frank. Balking at the idea of marrying the girl for her money and influence, Frank nearly throws away his chance for true happiness, but it’s all smiles and happy songs at the end.

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Blackmail (1939) H.C. Potter, Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Hussey, Gene Lockhart, Crime, Drama, Thriller

blackmail-1939
John Ingram of Oklahoma has a loving family, loves his work fighting oil fires, and is good at it. But 9 years ago, under another name he escaped from a Southern chain gang. Enter William Ramey, a “friend” from John’s past, who gradually works up to a blackmail attempt under a promise to get Ingram cleared…but instead has him sent back to the old chain gang. Though determined to tough it out this time, circumstances compel Ingram to attempt another escape…

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Horse Feathers (1932) Norman Z. McLeod, Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Comedy, Musical, Romance

horse-feathers-1932
Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff has just been installed as the new president of Huxley College. His cavalier attitude toward education is not reserved for his son Frank, who is seeing the college widow, Connie Bailey. Frank influences Wagstaff to recruit two football players who hang out in a speakeasy, in order to beat rival school Darwin. Unfortunately, Wagstaff mistakenly hires the misfits Baravelli and Pinky. Finding out that Darwin has beaten him to the “real” players, Wagstaff enlists Baravelli and Pinky to kidnap them, which leads to an anarchic football finale.

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Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939) Anatole Litvak, Edward G. Robinson, George Sanders, Francis Lederer, Drama, War

confessions-of-a-nazi-spy-1939
Prior to the United States entry into World War II, Nazi spies try to steal American military secrets. Among those whose passions are roused is Kurt Schneider who was court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the US Army. Schneider is not very bright and is easily swayed by the oratory of Dr. Karl Kassel, a prominent physician who is eventually made the head of the Nazi spy ring. When Schneider’s contact is arrested in Scotland, the US military asks the FBI to root out the spies. Agent Edward Renard is put in charge of the case and they methodically arrest all who have been spying.

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