Good compilation of pre code films
Tonio Gas | 02/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The five films considered separately, I'd give three stars once and four and five stars twice each. But is has to be honored that these pre code films are available in good quality, with subtitles and accompanied by a fascinating documentary and audio commentaries for "Night Nurse" and "The Divorcee". This is what makes me give a five star rating for the entire box. The following may be said to the films:
1. Female (1933, 60 minutes, Warner, dir.: M. Curtiz, starring Ruth Chatterton, co-starring George Brent): She's rich. She's powerful. She's seductive. She runs an automobile company and dominates any man she wants - in business and in bed. She's on the man hunt, taking men as sexual objects and pure trophies, to be hired and fired. This is clearly pre code, hard, fast and beautiful... but why must this wild animal be tamed by someone who declares with a total lack of irony that women are by nature born for love, marriage and children?!? Fascinating film with an unbearable ending, but the first 50 of about 60 minutes are that fresh and witty that I'd still give a four star rating.
2. Three on a Match (1932, 63 minutes, Warner, dir.: Mervyn LeRoy, starring Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell, co-starring Bette Davis and Warren William, featuring Humphrey Bogart): Interesting film about three (female) schoolmates who meet again about ten years later - you'll see a fine little drama about what women can expect from life and from men (and what they can't expect), where Dvoraks adultery will at the end be punished, but the film doesn't condemn her: Women also have a right to strive to happiness, and they have a right to miss something even if their husbands are gentle, kind, loving, noble and wealthy (as is William in the role of Dvoraks husband). This very short and fast-moving film is full of deliberately realistic", fresh down-to-earth-dialogue instead of MGM-polishing, and with many relations to actual events and trends in American History from 1919 to 1932, often shown by newspaper headlines or some semi-documentary footage. Even an allusion to Mussolini is made! The whole movie is a vivid proof for Warner being the studio for realistic sociocritical dramas instead of creating a polished world of its own (as did MGM). Five stars.
3. Night Nurse (1931, 72 minutes, Warner, dir.: William Wellman, starring Barbara Stanwyck, co-starring Clark Gable, Joan Blondell): Thrilling sociocritical drama about nurses' lives under hard conditions, due to prohibition, depression, cynicism, and hypocrisy of some of the doctors. Finally, Stanwyck will need all her courage to prevent two little kids from being slowly murdered by underfeeding. She undoubtedly is the best actress to succeed, sometimes very energetic (but never overacting), sometimes just with a silent facial expression which tells both Gable (as the villain) and the public that this tough lady is just overwhelming. The best movie in the entire collection. Five stars.
4. A Free Soul (1931, Metro, 93 minutes, dir.: Clarence Brown, starring Norma Shearer, co-starring Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard): Drama about a young woman between three men, two of them being potential love interests and one being her father who taught her to be "A Free Soul" - but who won't get along with her being in love with a gangster (Clark Gable). Interesting story, but spoiled by some absolutely silly goofs (such as a man not being killed by machine gun fire although sitting just behind a thin wooden wall) and many pathetic talking, static camerawork and exaggerated mannerisms by Shearer (sometimes) and Barrymore (ALWAYS - his performance is the worst overacting I've ever seen, making Robert De Niro a master of understatement). Three stars.
5. The Divorcee (1930, Metro, 82 minutes, dir.: Robert Z. Leonard, starring Norma Shearer): It's quite better than "A Free Soul"! Shearer has, in some scenes, her mannerisms, obviously imported from the silent era, but she is touching and courageous in most scenes - and so is the script which even advocates sexual equality in adultery!!! Men, and particularly Shearer's husband, are shown as infantile machos, and Shearer clearly points it out, for which we may love her. The last ten minutes, however, are pure cliché, and the audio commentary is absolutely right in stating that the film is very well written and deserved its Oscar nomination for best script - but not because of the last scenes. Nevertheless, I'd give a four star rating."
Nicholas A. Ziinojr | ridge, new york United States | 03/13/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Volume Two of TCM's popular series,and it's even better than the first one.The films vary in quality."Female","Three On A Match",and
"Night Nurse" are typical low-budget WArner Bros.programmers of the
early Thirties-well-made,fast-moving fun."The Divorcee" and "A Free Soul",
on the other hand,are big-budget,full-scale MGM star vehicles-strong scripts,excellent performances,fine direction.Norma Shearer was never better(she won the Oscar for "Divorcee"),Lionel Barrymore was at his peak
(he won an Oscar for "Soul"),and Gable gives a star-making performance.
This is good classic fun!Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume Three (Other Men's Women / The Purchase Price / Frisco Jenny / Midnight Mary / Heroes for Sale / Wild Boys of the Road)TCM Archives - Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 1 (Waterloo Bridge  / Baby Face / Red-Headed Woman)"
More TCM uncenored gems
Stephen61 | Tasmania, Australia | 01/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Five more diverse pictures from a unique period in American film, when the advent of sound, and economic gloom blew away the opulence of the silent screen and left the studios no option but to turn out films with plots full of sex, sin, adultery, often from the female viewpoint.
The installation of sound cameras made the films less cinematic, but stronger in pace and plot.
The Divorcee, with Norma Shearer is a good example of exploring different roles, and displaying society with the flaws that did and still do exist in human relationships.
The moralists, usually Catholics, of the time would have hated such aberrations of the norm, and after they took hold when the economy recovered, art as daring as this took a nosedive, as the limits put on freedom of expression took hold.
Unfortunatley these self-appointed guardians are still out there.
The fact that this collection of gems are not rated reveals how purile their rantings were, and still are today.
Oh and Ted Turner should be knighted for restoring a small but vital slice of great art, in an era lovers of American cinema should be proud of.
Looking forward to the next lot.