What I’ve been watching (January 2015)

This month, I saw…

  • Waterloo Bridge (1931)
  • Dames (1934)
  • Rashomon (1950)
  • The Sun Shines Bright (1953)

And re-watched:

  • Red-headed Woman (1932)
  • Trouble in Paradise (1932)
  • China Seas (1935)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • 12 Angry Men (1957)

Seeing Waterloo Bridge (1931) after I’ve already seen the remake, the 1940 MGM version was a shock. In the former, Myra is already a prostitute working Waterloo Bridge, looking for her next meal. There is no whitewashing the truth–it’s wartime, times are desperate. We find ourselves empathetic to her cause. We cheer her on, even though we may disagree with her lifestyle (not that she had a choice either way, but that is beside the point). She gives up love because she is too ashamed of what she does. She is killed by a bomb on Waterloo Bridge after learning that the solider she loves already knows what she does and doesn’t care. It’s tragic.

The 1940 version is no different in its tragedy, but it differs on how things happen. In this version she is a (respectable) dancer but loses her job. She sees her love go off to war, and she hears the news of his death. From there, because she thinks he is dead and all hope is gone–can she then begin to prostitute herself.  When he comes back alive and well, her shame is unbearable. While she loves him and wants to make it work, she can’t. She runs out into the street and kills herself.

I prefer the grittiness of the 1931 version but I can’t deny the glossy MGM version has its good points. The main difference is that one is dramatic and the other is melodramatic.

Dames (1934) is a fun pre-code musical. I don’t think for the life of me will I ever forget about Dr. Silver’s Golden Elixir.

Rashomon stands up amazingly even all these years later, although that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. I can’t believe I waited this long to watch Rashomon and Vertigo but, there it is. I rewatched it a few days after I first saw it and actually thought that the female lead, Machiko Kyo stole the show. I wonder what the consensus is for those that can’t speak Japanese but rely on subtitles. I think that must have an effect on how enjoys or views a film.

The Sun Shines Bright I had seen this earlier but never wrote a review, so I watched it over my Xmas break. I love John Ford more than any other director so my bias will shine through here. I adored this film. It really felt like a little slice of life in the South at the turn of the century. That of course includes the negative aspects of that, with the overt racism. In the end though, the black characters were some of the most upstanding of anyone.

I re-watched some favorites including two Jean Harlow pictures, Red-headed Woman (1932) and China Seas (1935). The former is the first great performance that she gave.  The latter is a big budget film full of MGM stars, designed to make a lot of money–and it did. Both are important Jean flicks but my favorites lie elsewhere. Those would probably be Bombshell and Red Dust. Libel Lady and Wife vs. Secretary following close behind.

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