1937 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1937.

1. Grand Illusion, directed by Jean Renoir (10/10)

There are some minor flaws but on the whole this is a remarkable movie, especially given the time and place. It was also a huge influence on The Great Escape as they even stole a whole scene from this. (Given the number of times I’ve seen The Great Escape, this made a big impression on me.)

It feels quite epic even though it’s under 2 hours, and that makes it seem even more significant.

There are problems, as I said – how do those German soldiers know who they are? – but they’re all insignificant and the important thing is that this antiwar movie was made on the eve of the largest war ever fought.

2. Un Carnet de bal, directed by Julien Duvivier (9/10)

This trope has been over-used since, but this is the first film version I know of it. A pretty remarkable film given the era. Read the review of Un Carnet de bal.

3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, directed by William Cottrell, David Hand (7/10*)

I think this is unfair of me. I should really re-watch this with a mind to history, instead of remembering what I thought about it as a teen and upgrading the rating.

4. The Awful Truth, directed by Leo McCarey (6/10)

I didn’t write my thoughts down at the time but all I can say is I rarely do screwball. I don’t really feel like they matter all that much to me or to the history of film. I think I can live without seeing another. (This of course begs the question, “Riley, why have you seen so many screwball comedies?”)

5. Stage Door, directed by Gregory La Cava (6/10)

Stage Door has not aged well.

The dialogue is of that rapid-fire quality that critics used to absolutely eat up, but which has no basis in real conversation and which is somewhat overwhelming to the modern viewer.

The plot feels telegraphed, though at that time I’m sure it was a lot less common to have a story like this.

They did try to make it not look like a play, which is commendable, and it certainly avoids the obvious romantic angle, prevalent in so many other movies of this age and type, and so those things make it better than you’d expect.

But I still laughed only four times.

6. Stella Dallas, directed by King Vidor (5/10)

This is a truly great performance by Stanwyck (I would expect no less). As usual, she manages to infuriate me.

But this movie… I don’t really know what to say about a movie that idolizes a woman like this. All so her daughter can marry rich. Wonderful morals these old movies have. I’m glad the world has changed and we don’t have to suffer through things like this any more.

7. Black Legion, directed by Archie L. Mayo (5/10)

Unfortunately I do not remember this movie.

8. Make Way for Tomorrow, directed by Leo McCarey (5/10)

A cinematic guilt trip posing as social comment. Read the review of Make Way for Tomorrow.

9. Lost Horizon, directed by Frank Capra (4/10)

Not being a Capra fan, I have trouble seeing what the restoration adds to the film. Playing the recovered dialogue over stills may be fine for people who are desperate to see something as close to Capra’s cut as possible, but these additions don’t appear to help those of us already bored with the movie.

For one thing, it’s totally silly: the sets, the white people playing Chinese / Tibetan, the dialogue. The whole thing is ridiculous. This should be seen as a precursor to all our ridiculous blockbusters and not as some kind of classic.

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