Jun 11, 2009

Great Movies from the Warner Bros. Archives

I finally had a chance to look at all the movies available from the Warner Archives collection and I’ve found that I’m almost as excited about the movies I’ve seen before (but on disintegrating library VHS tapes) as I am those I haven’t seen. Here are some titles that I am particularly excited to see available on DVD:

Of the few movies that Margaret Sullavan made, many were very good and at least one, The Shop Around the Corner (1940), is a classic. Still, for some reason, Sullavan seems to have been forgotten by all but highly devoted classic movie lovers. That’s why I am pleased to see two of her best movies, Three Comrades and The Shopworn Angel (both 1938), in the archive collection. The first is a charming tearjerker about a trio of soldiers who all love the same woman the second is. . .a charming tearjerker about a soldier in love with a brassy showgirl. Despite the similarities in set-up, the movies are actually very different and Sullavan demonstrates great versatility in these two roles.

On Borrowed Time (1939) is a delightfully corny supernatural drama about an old man who literally fights off death while he tries to find a proper guardian for his orphaned grandson. With Lionel Barrymore full of piss and vinegar and Bobs Watson demonstrating why he was the go-to child actor when waterworks were required.

Christopher Strong (1933) The most sensual and moody Katharine Hepburn performance you will ever see. Artfully shot by Dorothy Arzner, one of the most prolific female directors in classic Hollywood. And it’s a real heartbreaker to boot.

The Big House (1930) This efficiently-paced pre-code drama about prison life has a satisfyingly hard-edged simplicity. The gritty prison riot scene is both tense and thrilling.

Too Hot to Handle (1938) Myrna Loy and Clark Gable are great sparring partners in this fast-paced screwball comedy about competing newsreel photographers.

Possessed (1931) Joan Crawford and Clark Gable had such intense chemistry as a screen couple (their real life love affair surely helped) that it is surprising that they are not lauded as one of the great romantic partnerships. They were at their most intimate in this sexy pre-code romance about a small town girl who becomes the mistress of a wealthy New York lawyer.

Private Lives (1931) This is a sharp adaptation of the Nöel Coward play about a divorced couple who can quit each other, no matter how badly they get along. If you couldn’t stand Norma Shearer in The Women (1939), try watching her in this before you write her off.

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