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Favorite Movies Made Before 1939 
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Post Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Though it pains me to admit it, none of my favorite films were made before 1960. (Psycho is the oldest film in my Top 25, and it's a film characterized by how much more modern it was than its contemporaries). This makes sense--the more modern a film, the more likely it is to appeal to your sensibilities--and thus most people you talk to have a preponderance of recent films among their favorites. So for my thread today I'm reaching way back. I'm curious which movies you really like that were made before The Wizard of Oz, before Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, before Gone with the Wind. In short:

What are the movies you like most from 1900-1938?

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Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:10 am
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
That's a tough one, I love The Great Dictator and was sure that'd make the cut but apparently that's 1940?

Two other movies I really liked a lot...that are for sure old enough are The Great Train Robbery which was in 1903 or 1904? Oh and The General which was in the mid 1920's...I think 1926? I'm going by memory on these since I can't look up that stuff at work easily...blocked internet crap and all


Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:30 am
Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Nosferatu is still my favourite vampire movie. Saw it with a nonagenerian piano player, who was a trained movie pianist, accompanying it - the most unforgettable and haunting movie experience I've had.

M stands tall to this day next to any other serial killer movie.

I really like Metropolis, although its central message is simplistic to put it mildly. The restored version, that is, the Giorgio Moroder synthpop version is an abomination.

The original King Kong is as good as it gets for monster movies. In comparison, Peter Jackson's remake is positively bloated. (By the time King Kong showed up in the remake for the first time, the original film would have been over.)

Freaks is a one of a kind horror movie, which I admire.

I'm fond of Johnny Weissmüller Tarzan movies, but mostly for nostalgic reasons. They're not really good at all, I'll admit.

Pre-1940ies slapstick comedy has never been bettered. I particularly like The General (Keaton), Modern Times (Chaplin) and, most of all, Laurel and Hardy shorts (e.g. The Music Box).

One or two of the 1930ies Warner Brothers Gangster movies (Little Caesar, The Public Enemy and a third one) are quite good, but I don't remember them very well. I'm planning on re-watching them soon.


Tue Jun 01, 2010 11:07 am
Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Nice list Unke. Definitely Nosferatu.

M.

I had the pleasure of seeing the restored version of Metropolis here at the Gasteig in Munich, with a live orchestra playing the original score. What an experience THAT was!

Freaks is also one of my favorites. Keeping with the monster theme, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein and king Kong, of course.

City Lights, Modern Times Any of the Harold Lloyd films,
Some of the Marx Bros, although they are a bit much for me sometimes.

It Happened One Night

The Thin Man films, most of them.

All Quiet on the Western Front.

Just a few off the top of my head.


Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:35 pm
Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
From my recently updated top 150:

26. City Lights (1931)
33. M (1931)
46. Chelovek s kino-apparatom (1929)
76. Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925)
85. Modern Times (1936)
86. Nosferatu: Eine symphonie des grauens (1922)
102. Duck Soup (1933)

Technically, The Rules of the Game is higher than City Lights, but it was released in 1939 - albeit before the three films Kunz cited in his introductory paragraph.

Others I like that people mentioned: Freaks, It Happened One Night, Metropolis, and King Kong. Others I like that no one mentioned: Grand Hotel, An Andalusian Dog, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (fuck you, Zeppelin), Grand Illusion, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and - I guess - The Birth of a Nation.

Pretty sad selection.


Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:23 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Pedro wrote:
From my recently updated top 150:

26. City Lights (1931)
33. M (1931)
46. Chelovek s kino-apparatom (1929)
76. Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925)
85. Modern Times (1936)
86. Nosferatu: Eine symphonie des grauens (1922)
102. Duck Soup (1933)



I'm surprised to see Man with a Video Camera on here. While it's a marvelous film from a cinematography standpoint, I think of it more of a film to admire than embrace.

Unke wrote:
I particularly like The General (Keaton)


Ugh I hated The General. What a sad day that was when I watched it and the laughs never came...

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Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:28 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Snow White


Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:40 pm
Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
My favorite version of Robin Hood, aka The Adventures of Robin Hood, meets the criteria. From 1938 and featuring the charismatic Errol Flynn in the role that he's likely best known for.

From 1935, A Midsummer Night's Dream is the best version of that particular Shakespeare brought to screen. The more recent version was a travesty.

There's a pretty cool thriller called Night Must Fall from 1937. It's been remade several times under the same name -- the best version isn't the one from '37 but the Albert Finney vehicle from the early '60s.

Sad sad sad. Those are the only ones that come to mind. I have a lot of pre-1940 stuff to catch up on.


Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:34 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Though, as I mentioned, I have no "true" favorite movies in this time period, I'll single out some.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1936) has been bandied about this forum quite a lot but it deserves it. An affecting and wonderful film.

Fury (1936) is a hell of a film, and remains completely underseen. Fritz Lang was a masterful director, and it's an excellent treatise on justice.

Both The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938) are delightfully fun Hitchcock films

I Am A Fugitive From a Chain Gang transcends its "social issue" tag to be quite a film, and has the best last line to any film I can name. Yes, better than "nobody's perfect."

Still and all, few of these are 'favorite' material. Perhaps the 1930s made films to be admired rather than adored.

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Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:10 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
JamesKunz wrote:
Still and all, few of these are 'favorite' material. Perhaps the 1930s made films to be admired rather than adored.


Or pre-1930's film. I really enjoyed Nosferatu and felt it was a great movie but like you said, it wasn't really a favorite. I have however found a place close to my film going heart for Make Way for Tomorrow. Heart breaking, wonderful film.


Tue Jun 01, 2010 10:27 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Sunrise
Modern Times
City Lights
It Happened One Night
The Gold Rush
My Man Godfrey
Mutiny on the Bounty
The Big Parade
The Grand Illusion
Battleship Potemkin
The Thief of Bagdad (the Fairbanks; Sabu's is 1940)
All Quiet on the Western Front
Scarface: The Shame of A Nation
Trouble in Paradise
Twentieth Century
Our Hospitality
The Navigator
The Eagle
The Adventures of Prince Achmed
Frankenstein
King Kong
A Free Soul
The Strange Love of Molly Louvain
Why Worry?
Steamboat Bill Jr.
Wings
Girl Shy
Sherlock Jr.
Five Star Final

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Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:21 am
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
I agree with those German guys: both Nosferatu and Metropolis are on my "perfect" film list.

Same for City Lights which Pedro mentioned first.

Why don't you like more movies from that period though, James? Not really a fan of silent cinema?

JamesKunz wrote:
Fury (1936) is a hell of a film, and remains completely underseen. Fritz Lang was a masterful director, and it's an excellent treatise on justice.


I saw this. Spencer Tracy doesn't die in a fire, right?


Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:31 am
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
ed_metal_head wrote:
Why don't you like more movies from that period though, James? Not really a fan of silent cinema?


Yeah I have to admit that silent films don't really do it for me. Now admittedly I haven't seen that many. Including semi-silent ones, I've got:

Battleship Potemkin (1925) ****
The Jazz Singer (1927) *1/2
Man with a Video Camera (1929) ***
Strike (1925) **1/2
South (1919) **1/2
City Lights (1931) ***
Modern Times (1936) **1/2
Brand Upon the Brain! (2006) **1/2

I wish I could say differently, but they bore me. No matter how accomplished they are, for some reason they just feel dull. I can feel Roger Ebert's heart breaking as I say this, but I can't help it. I saw Strike and Man with a Video Camera in theaters and I almost fell asleep. I'm so sorry Roger!

ed_metal_head wrote:
I saw Fury. Spencer Tracy doesn't die in a fire, right?


Correct

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Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:10 am
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
JamesKunz wrote:
Man with a Video Camera (1929) ***


Somehow this movie has been enchanting people for decades. Maybe it's because I watched it Google Video but I was shocked, SHOCKED! I tell you!, that it protracted 70-minutes into what felt like at least a good half-century.

*makes dismissive jerking-off motion*

Whatever. Apparently it's one of the greatest movies of all time.


Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:07 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
majoraphasia wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
Man with a Video Camera (1929) ***


Somehow this movie has been enchanting people for decades. Maybe it's because I watched it Google Video but I was shocked, SHOCKED! I tell you!, that it protracted 70-minutes into what felt like at least a good half-century.

*makes dismissive jerking-off motion*

Whatever. Apparently it's one of the greatest movies of all time.


Yeah it's a great piece of filmmaking, but not a great movie. Hence the three stars

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Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:11 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Pedro wrote:
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (fuck you, Zeppelin)


I guess if you really want to, but I'm not sure how that's going to solve your problem. I still think it's crap.

Here's some I like/love to varying degrees:

Bringing Up Baby is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and then some.

M is the greatest film noir ever made, a decade before that was even a term. Fritz Lang is a god...

...Which is also why I love Metropolis so. The man could make a film like no one's business. (Destiny is also pretty great, but not up to the level of M and Metropolis)

The Rules of the Game is as good as they say it is and I have nothing else to add on the subject.

JamesKunz's now professed love (like?) of I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang makes me like him a whole lot more than I did beforehand. A hell of film, and as James said the ending makes me want to rip my eyeballs out with glee.

Vampyr makes very, very little sense and is still one of the most atmospheric movies ever made. Perhaps if it made sense it would feel more archaic than it does? An interesting theory I shall think no more on.

The Passion of Joan of Arc is excellent as you all know.

Intolerance has one of the most gripping last thirds of any movie ever made, and the first two-thirds are consistently great even if they feel about 5 hours long. Not recommended to anyone except the super-hardcore.

Foolish Wives (from 1921) feels more modern than most 30s/40s sound films yet there's almost too much to it and is somewhat brain-overloading by the end. Still, some shots and moments are permanently burned in my memory and just for that I'm including it here. I'm both excited and anxious to watch Greed.

The Gold Rush and Modern Times are both very Chaplin comedies (as is City Lights, but of those three it's always felt more maudlin to me). The Gold Rush has the perfect mixture of comedy and pathos, while Modern Times is almost epic in the way it slides through and comments on all the social problems of the 30s. The opening sequence (especially the employee feeding machine) is still horrifyingly prescient today.

The Battleship Potemkin and Strike are both marvelous cinematic experiences. Potemkin more so, but Strike is nearly as thrilling.

Stagecoach is the only one of Ford's I've so far seen that doesn't seem painfully dated (actually, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance didn't, but that ruins my hyperbole). It's actually quite thrilling and light on its feet, with B/W cinematography nearly as beautiful as Citizen Kane is places.

Gone With the Wind is a guilty pleasure of the highest order, but as far as cinematic comfort food goes you could do a hell of a lot worse.

42nd Street is an excellent drama, and makes the good decision of not overloading on musical numbers until the grand finale, when it really pays off.

The 39 Steps is one of Hitchcock's best thrillers in terms of actually thrilling. Gripping start to finish.

And... that's all of got. Post Fin.


Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:23 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Zeppelin wrote:
Stagecoach is the only one of Ford's I've so far seen that doesn't seem painfully dated (actually, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance didn't, but that ruins my hyperbole). It's actually quite thrilling and light on its feet, with B/W cinematography nearly as beautiful as Citizen Kane is places.

Gone With the Wind is a guilty pleasure of the highest order, but as far as cinematic comfort food goes you could do a hell of a lot worse.


Both made in 1939, cheater! I need to see Stagecoach though. At one point I had a choice of either Stagecoach or Young Mr. Lincoln and I picked the latter. Not sure it was the best decision, but I've got plenty of time
hopefully.

Zeppelin wrote:
JamesKunz's now professed love (like?) of I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang makes me like him a whole lot more than I did beforehand. A hell of film, and as James said the ending makes me want to rip my eyeballs out with glee.


Sweeeeet. But what was there not to like? *Doe-eyed look*

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Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:27 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
JamesKunz wrote:
Zeppelin wrote:
Stagecoach is the only one of Ford's I've so far seen that doesn't seem painfully dated (actually, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance didn't, but that ruins my hyperbole). It's actually quite thrilling and light on its feet, with B/W cinematography nearly as beautiful as Citizen Kane is places.

Gone With the Wind is a guilty pleasure of the highest order, but as far as cinematic comfort food goes you could do a hell of a lot worse.


Both made in 1939, cheater! I need to see Stagecoach though. At one point I had a choice of either Stagecoach or Young Mr. Lincoln and I picked the latter. Not sure it was the best decision, but I've got plenty of time
hopefully.

Zeppelin wrote:
JamesKunz's now professed love (like?) of I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang makes me like him a whole lot more than I did beforehand. A hell of film, and as James said the ending makes me want to rip my eyeballs out with glee.


Sweeeeet. But what was there not to like? *Doe-eyed look*


Hmmmmmmmmm. For some reason I read that as 1940. My bad guys. Both good movies though! I haven't seen Young Mr. Lincoln so I can't comment on that particular showdown, but knowing what I know about it (and knowing I hate Ford shoehorning Americana (and shitty humor, but that's another story) into all his films) I probably won't like it as much as Stagecoach. I'll still see it eventually though, as Ford is too good a director to ignore, even if I find him problematic.

And the only thing I didn't like about you were your stunning good looks. Made me look bad in front of the ladies!


Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:36 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
Zeppelin wrote:
Hmmmmmmmmm. For some reason I read that as 1940. My bad guys. Both good movies though! I haven't seen Young Mr. Lincoln so I can't comment on that particular showdown, but knowing what I know about it (and knowing I hate Ford shoehorning Americana (and shitty humor, but that's another story) into all his films) I probably won't like it as much as Stagecoach. I'll still see it eventually though, as Ford is too good a director to ignore, even if I find him problematic.

And the only thing I didn't like about you were your stunning good looks. Made me look bad in front of the ladies!


No worries. 1940 would have been the natural break, but 1939 had a ton of good movies so I thought ruling it out would make a more interesting thread. If you like John Ford, I could recommend to you his little-seen but good The Lost Patrol (1934), which takes the awesome premise of a group of soldiers stranded in the desert, being picked off one at a time, and doesn't ruin it. Young Mr. Lincoln, on the other hand, wasn't bad, but it does suffer from the problems you laid out.

As for my good looks, don't worry. Since I'm married I pose no threat: when we hit the bars I'll act as your wingman and occupy the hot girls' less attractive friends.

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Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:42 pm
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Post Re: Favorite Movies Made Before 1939
I see Syd gave a shout out to Sunrise. That was cool because FW Murnau was the fucking bomb. Imho his worst movie was also his last: Tabu. I still gave that one an 8 though.

They should make a biography about the man. At 7 feet tall he must hold the record for world's tallest homosexual. Of course, he passed on via the car accident route. Turns out that having your 14 year old Filipino lover drive is a bad idea.


Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:16 pm
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