Skip to main content

Top 10 Favourite Films of the 1930s

The 1930s were a decade of great political and economic turmoil. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the entire world was consumed by an economic downfall called the Great Depression, which led to widespread unemployment and poverty. As a result, authoritarian political movements emerged in several countries in South America and Europe. Notorious among them was Adolf Hitler's Third Reich in Germany, whose expansionist policy resulted in the outbreak of World War II a few months before the end of the decade. In between, Gandhi walked to the Arabian Sea in the Salt March, a civil war established an authoritarian dictatorship in Spain, the Hindenburg exploded over New Jersey, Amelia Earhart became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and the Empire of Japan invaded China.

Gandhi and his followers during the Salt March (March-April 1930). Japanese troops entering Manchuria (September 1931). The Hindenburg disaster (May 1937). German troops marching to Poland (September 1939).
 
In such uncertain times as these, the world needed an escape, a pure fantastical escape that made people forget the hardships that were turning their lives upside down. And that was exactly what Hollywood gave them. From spectacular musical extravaganzas to exciting swashbuckling adventures to witty screwball comedies, the 1930s were the decade that made Hollywood. So far, I have watched 209 films produced in the 1930s. From those, I picked out my top 10 favorites. It was not easy, but I think I am happy with my choices.
 
 
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch | Starring Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert and David Niven

An impoverish aristocratic marries a millionaire banker she meets in the French Riviera and decides to teach him a lesson, after discovering that he has already been married seven times. Supreme commedienne Claudette Colbert plays the impoverish aristocrat and All-American Gary Cooper plays the millionaire banker. David Niven and Edward Everett Horton provide even more hilarious comedy bits. Honestly, what's not to like?
 
 
9. Gone with the Wind (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming | Starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Olivia de Havilland
 
Vivien Leigh spends three hours running away from Clark Gable and when she finally realizes that she loves and needs him, he doesn't give a damn about her. Serves her right, too.

 
8. Love is News (1937)
Directed by Tay Garnett | Starring Tyrone Power, Loretta Young and Don Ameche

Tyrone Power and Loretta Young are without a doubt the single most attractive movie pairing that has ever graced our screens. If you don't believe me, just watch Love is News.
Directed by Alfred Santell, Starring Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Red Skelton

Ginger Rogers plays an office girl who falls in love with a law student-turned-waiter while vacationing at a camp in the Catskill Mountains. The waiter is played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., so of course she would fall in love with him. Who wouldn't? Also, Red Skelton and his donuts make their first screen appearance, and Lucille Ball and Eve Arden add some more comedy bits.
 
 
Directed by Howard Hawks | Starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and May Robson

Mix an awkward Cary Grant, a frisky Katharine Hepburn and a cute leopard named Baby and what do you get? One of the kookiest, zaniest comedies of all time. And also one of the best.
 
 
Directed by Frank Capra | Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Claude Rains

James Stewart was nominated for an Academy Award with this film and they gave it to Bob Donuts, I mean, Robert Donat, for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). Well, you can't always get it right.
 
 
4. Vivacious Lady (1938)
Directed by George Stevens | Starring Ginger Rogers, James Stewart and Charles Coburn

James Stewart and Ginger Rogers had a bit of thing going on when they made Vivacious Lady. Watching the film, I kind of wished they had stayed together forever.
 
 
3. Small Town Girl (1936)
Directed by William A. Wellman | Starring Robert Taylor, Janet Gaynor and Binnie Barnes

Robert Taylor and Janet Gaynor in same film. It shouldn't work, but guess what? It does! 
 
 
2. The Thin Man (1934)
Directed by W. S. Van Dyke | Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy and Skippy

If there was ever such a thing as soulmates, I'd say William Powell and Myrna Loy were it. They were just perfectly suited to each other. The Thin Man and its sequels are proof of that.
 
 
Directed by Frank Capra | Starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert and Water Connolly

Watching It Happened One Night and seeing the incredible chemistry and rapport that Frank Capra was able to create between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, I would never have guessed in a million years that neither one of them wanted to make the film in the first place.
 
 
And that's it. These are, as of this moment, my top 10 favorite films of the 1930s. Were you surprised by my choices? Did I mentioned any of your own favorites?
 
__________________________________________
>> MORE FAVOURITE FILMS BY DECADE:

Comments

  1. Hi Catia. I'm not sure if you will receive this comment, as I'm having problems commenting from my Wordpress account, and I can't find a more direct way to contact you. I just thought I would drop by to invite you to participate in my next blogathon. Here is the link below with more details.

    https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/announcing-the-spencer-tracy-katharine-hepburn-blogathon/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great list! It's so hard to get it down to 10 isn't it. I haven't seen 7, 8, or 10.

    Welcome back!!!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Golden Couples: Gary Cooper & Patricia Neal

It was April 1948 when director King Vidor spotted 22-year-old Patricia Neal on the Warner Bros. studio lot. A drama graduate from Northwestern University, she had just arrived in Hollywood following a Tony Award-winning performance in Lillian Hellman's Another Part of the Forest . Impressed by Patricia's looks, Vidor approached the young actress and asked if she would be interested in doing a screen test for the female lead in his newest film, The Fountainhead (1949). Gary Cooper had already signed as the male protagonist, and the studio was then considering Lauren Bacall and Barbara Stanwyck to play his love interest.          Neal liked the script and about two months later, she met with the director for sound and photographic tests. Vidor was enthusiastic about Patricia, but her first audition was a complete disaster. Cooper was apparently watching her from off the set and he was so unimpressed by her performance that he commented, « What's that!? » He tried to con

Golden Couples: Henry Fonda & Barbara Stanwyck

In the mid- and late 1930s, screwball comedy was in vogue and practically every actress in Hollywood tried her hand at it. Barbara Stanwyck never considered herself a naturally funny person or a comedienne per se , but after delivering a heart-wrenching performance in King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937), she decided she needed a « vacation » from emotional dramas. In her search for a role, she stumbled upon a « champagne comedy » called The Mad Miss Manton (1938), originally intended as a Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as Melsa and Peter in The Mad Miss Manton .   Directed by Leigh Jason from a script by Philip G. Epstein, The Mad Miss Manton begins when vivacious Park Avenue socialite Melsa Manton finds a corpse while walking her dogs in the early hours of the morning. She calls the police, but they dismiss the incident — not only because Melsa is a notorious prankster, but also because the body disappears in the meantime. Sarcastic newspaper editor

Films I Saw in 2020

For the past four years, I have shared with you a list of all the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019 , so I thought I would continue the «tradition» and do it again in 2020. This list includes both classic and «modern» films, which make up a total of 161 titles. About three or four of these were re-watches, but I decided to include them anyway. Let me know how many from these you have seen. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favorites. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Starring Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire and Joe Keaton The Crowd (1928) | Starring James Murray, Eleanor Boardman and Bert Roach Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) | Starring Henry Fonda, Alice Brady and Marjorie Weaver Brief Encounter (1945) | Starring Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Stanley Holloway The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) | Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman The Girl He Left Behind (1956) | Starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood Gidget (1959) | Starring Sandra Dee, Cliff Robertson an

Wings of Change: The Story of the First Ever Best Picture Winner

Wings was the first ever film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since then, it has become one of the most influential war dramas, noted for its technical realism and spectacular air-combat sequences. This is the story of how it came to be made.   A man and his story The concept for Wings originated from a writer trying to sell one of his stories. In September 1924, Byron Morgan approached Jesse L. Lasky, vice-president of Famous Players-Lasky, a component of Paramount Pictures, proposing that the studio do an aviation film. Morgan suggested an «incident and plot» focused on the failure of the American aerial effort in World War I and the effect that the country's «aviation unpreparedness» would have in upcoming conflicts. Lasky liked the idea, and approved the project under the working title «The Menace.»   LEFT: Byron Morgan (1889-1963). RIGHT: Jesse L. Lasky (1880-1958).   During his development of the scenario with William Shepherd, a former war correspondent, Morga

80 Reasons Why I Love Classic Films (Part II)

I started this blog six years ago as a way to share my passion for classic films and Old Hollywood. I used to watch dozens of classic films every month, and every time I discovered a new star I liked I would go and watch their entire filmography. But somewhere along the way, that passion dimmed down. For instance, I watched 73 classic films in 2016, and only 10 in 2020. The other day, I found this film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. that I had never heard of — the film is Mimi (1935), by the way — and for some reason it made me really excited about Old Hollywood again. It made me really miss the magic of that era and all the wonderful actors and actresses. And it also made me think of all the reasons why I fell in love with classic films in the first place. I came with 80 reasons, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Most of them are just random little scenes or quirky little quotes, but put them together and they spell Old Hollywood to me. Yesterday I posted part one ; here i

Top 10 Favourite Christmas Films

Christmas has always been a source of inspiration to many artists and writers. Over the years, filmmakers have adapted various Christmas stories into both movies and TV specials, which have become staples during the holiday season all around the world. Even though Christmas is my favourite holiday, I haven't watched a lot of Christmas films. Still, I thought it would be fun to rank my top 10 favourites, based on the ones that I have indeed seen. Here they are.  10. Holiday Affair (1949) Directed by Don Hartman, Holiday Affair tells the story of a young widow (Janet Leigh) torn between a boring attorney (Wendell Corey) and a romantic drifter (Robert Mitchum). She's engaged to marry the boring attorney, but her son (Gordon Gebert) likes the romantic drifter better. Who will she choose? Well, we all know who she will choose.   Holiday Affair is not by any means the greatest Christmas film of all time, but it's still a very enjoyable Yule-tide comedy to watch over the holi

The Gotta Dance! Blogathon: Gene Kelly & Judy Garland

In 1940, up-and-coming Broadway star Gene Kelly was offered the lead role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's new musical Pal Joey , based on the eponymous novel by John O'Hara about an ambitious and manipulative small-time nightclub performer. Opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Christmas Day of that year, the show brought Gene his best reviews up to that date. For instance, John Martin of The New York Times wrote of him: «A tap-dancer who can characterize his routines and turn them into an integral element of an imaginative theatrical whole would seem to be pretty close, indeed, to unique .»   One of Gene's performances in Pal Joey was attended by established Hollywood star Judy Garland , who requested to meet him after the show. Gene agreed and then accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother Ethel and several press agents, to dinner at the newly-opened Copacabana nightclub, at 10 East 60th Street. They sang and danced until 3 a.m., after whi

Films I Saw in July & August

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in July and August, which make up a total of 18 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Resistance (2011) | Starring Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha and Michael Sheen Siberian Education [Educazione siberiana] (2013) | Starring Arnas Fedaravi čius The Last of Robin Hood (2013) | Starring Kevin Kline and Dakota Fanning The Water Diviner (2014) | Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Yılmaz Erdoğan Holding the Man (2015) | Starring Ryan Corr, Craig Stott and Anthony LaPaglia The Last King [Birkebeinerne] (2016) | Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju The Pass (2016) | Starring Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene Access All Areas (2017) | Starring Ella Purnell, Edward Bluemel and Georgie Henle

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon: Frank Sinatra & Gene Kelly

  In January 1944, MGM chief Louis B. Mayer happened to see a young crooner by the name of Frank Sinatra perform at a benefit concert for The Jewish Home for the Aged in Los Angeles. According to Nancy Sinatra, Frank's eldest daughter, Mayer was so moved by her father's soulful rendition of « Ol' Man River » that he made the decision right then and there to sign Frank to his studio. Sinatra had been on the MGM payroll once before, singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Ship Ahoy (1942), although it is very likely that Mayer never bothered to see that film. Now that Frank was «hot,» however, Metro made arrangements to buy half of his contract from RKO, with the final deal being signed in February of that year. Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in  Anchors Aweigh Being a contract player at the studio that boasted «more stars than there are in the heavens» gave Frank a sudden perspective regarding his own talents as a film performer. The «g

Films I Saw in May & June

In the past five years, I shared a year-end list of the films I saw throughout 2016 , 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 . For 2021, I decided to do this monthly and share a list of the films I saw during each month of the year. These are the films I saw in May and June, which make up a total of 16 titles. As always, films marked with a heart ( ❤ ) are my favourites.   Pelle the Conqueror [Pelle Erobreren] (1987) | Starring Pelle Hvenegaard The Elementary School [ Obecná škola] (1991) | Starring Václav Jakoubek Female Agents [Les Femmes de l'ombre] (2008) | Starring Sophie Marceau Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Vor der Morgenröte] (2016) | Starring Josef Hader ❤ Cold War [Zimna wojna] (2018) | Starring Tomasz Kot, Joanna Kulig and Borys Szyc Dreamland (2019) | Starring Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund Mr Jones (2019) | Starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard Official Secrets (2019) | Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith an