Great Movies of the Golden Age - Part 1

Posted on 3 Apr 00:00

The golden age of movies began in the 1930s after the invention of films with sound, the 'talkies'.  Musicals dominated the big screen to the early 1950s taking over from silent motion pictures that had caricature as the main theme. The “Golden Age of Hollywood” is an expression that refers to the elegance and the timeless quality of entertainment produced during this era.

1)  Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby is an American film based on the story of a paleontologist who faces many dilemmas involving a careless heiress and a leopard named Baby. The gentle paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is frustrated for the past four years with his project that involves assembling the skeleton of a Brontosaurus. He cannot complete his project because he is missing one bone, which he calls the intercostal clavicle.

David’s stress is amplified by his impending marriage to his fiancée Alice Swallow (Virginia Walker) and the need to impress Elizabeth Random (May Robson). Elizabeth is considering donating one million dollars to David’s museum. A day before his wedding, David meets a young reckless lady, Susan Vance (Kathrine Hepburn), on a golf course. The free-spirited, unreasonable young lady soon causes David to be caught up in several amusing, but frustrating incidents.

Howard Hawks directed the movie produced by the RKO Radio Pictures. Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde wrote the screenplay that was inspired by a short story by Wilde that was published in Collier’s Weekly magazine. The film received positive reviews from the critics because of the screenplays use of humor.

The American Film Institute recognized the movie in several categories that included AFI’s 100 Years Best 100 movies, AFI’s 100 Years Best 100 laughs, and the AFI’s 100 Years 100 Best 100 Passion movies among others.

2)  Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Angels with Dirty Faces is an American gangster movie. The plot revolves around the relationship of a notorious gangster William “Rocky” Sullivan (James Cagney) and a Catholic Father Jerry Connolly (Pat O’Brien). The two are friends since childhood. Rocky spent fifteen years in prison for armed robbery. He intends to collect $100,000 from Jim Frazier (Humphrey Bogart) his co-conspirator in the crime and a mob lawyer.

A few years earlier, Father Connolly makes an effort to warn the youths not to join Rocky’s gang. Rocky and Jim conspire to commit armed robbery. However, when Rocky is arrested, Jim convinces him to take the blame with the promise that he will give him $100,000 when he is released. Rocky agrees to the deal and serves three years in prison. After he is released he goes looking for his childhood friend who is now a Catholic priest.

Michael Curtiz directed the movie produced by Warner Brothers. The movie won two awards that included the Best Actor from the National Board of Review that went to Cagney, and the New York Film Critics Circle award. The film also received three nominations at the 11th Academy Awards ceremony. 

3)  She Done Him Wrong (1933)

She Done Him Wrong is an American crime comedy. The story revolves around the life of a bawdy singer called Lady Lou (Mae West) living in New York City in the 1890s. Lady Lou is employed in a Bowery barroom saloon owned by Gus Jordan (Noah Beery) who is her boss and benefactor. Gus showers her with expensive gifts including diamonds, but Lou has more male friends than the average lady.

However, she doesn’t know that Gus is a classy pimp trafficking prostitutes and counterfeit rings to help finance the expensive diamond rings she buys her. He is also in charge of a ring of young women pickpockets in San Francisco. Gus associates with two other rogue entertainer-assistants that includes Russian Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) and Sergei Stanieff (Gilbert Roland), Rita’s lover.

Lowell Sherman directed the movie produced by William LeBron. The film was a box-office success grossing more than $2,000,000 domestically against a production budget of $200,000. The movie received a negative review from critics, but was nominated for an Academy Award for Outstanding Production. In 1996, the film was selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The movie received the nomination for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.

4)  Teacher’s Pet (1958)

Teacher’s Pet is an American comedy.  The plot is about a journalism instructor, Erica Stone (Doris Day), who requests James Gannon (Clark Gable), a journalist to talk to her night school class. Gannon refuses the invitation through a very rude letter to her. However, he finally accepts the assignment after receiving an order from his managing editor. He arrives at the school late to find Stone reading the letter he had wrote aloud while mocking him.

The humiliation Gannon experiences prompts him to join the class as a student in an attempt to get back at Stone by showing her up for humiliating him. He joins the class by posing as a wallpaper salesman named Jim Gallagher. Stone is soon intrigued by this old charming student who she finds exceptional. Gannon becomes attracted to Stone, but he learns he has to deal with Dr. Pine (Gig Young), a worldly and attractive psychologist and his girlfriend Peggy DeFore (Mamie Van Doren), a nightclub singer.

When Stone learns that Gannon has deceived her, she immediately ends the relationship, but Dr. Pine convinces her to give him another chance. George Seaton directed the film. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Support Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

5)  An American in Paris (1951)

The film is an American musical comedy movie based on an orchestra composition (named An American in Paris) composed in 1928 by George Gershwin. The plot of the movie is based on the story of an American World War II Veteran Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) who is an extravagant expatriate trying to earn a reputation as a painter. Adam Cook (Oscar Levant) is a friend and a neighbor to Jerry. He is a concert pianist who is struggling and a long-term friend to a French singer called Henri Baurel (Georges Guetary). While sitting at a ground-floor bar, Henri tells Adam about his sophisticated and well-mannered girlfriend, Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). 

A lonely rich woman, Milo Roberts (Nina Foch) meets Jerry displaying his art and likes him and his art. She entertains Jerry in her apartment and later invites him to a dinner party she is going to host later in the evening. However, when Jerry shows up to Milo’s apartment, he finds out that it’s a one-on-one date.

Vincente Minnelli directed the movie that won several Academy Awards including the Best Motion Picture, the Best Story Screenplay, the Best Art Director, and the Best Cinematography among others.

6)  The Big Sleep (1946)

The Big Sleep is a fatalistic film adapted from a novel with the same name published in 1939 by Raymond Chandler. The plot centers on the life of a private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart). He is summoned to a mansion by General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) who is interested in resolving a gambling debt that his daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) owes  to a bookseller.

Carmen suspects that the reason her father hired a private detective to help is to locate his apprentice who disappeared without a trace a month earlier. Marlowe visits the bookseller at his store and encounters a woman who minds the shop. He then follows the shop owner home. The detective hears a gunshot and then finds the bookseller dead in the company of a drugged Carmen. And, the plot continues to thicken.

Howard Hawks directed the movie. It received positive reviews from the critiques but didn’t receive any awards. The movie became available on DVDs in the U.S and Canada in 2000.

7)  Singin’ in the Rain (1952)  

The film is an romantic musical comedy whose plot is based on the life of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) who can’t stand his vain, shallow, and conniving romantic partner Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). However, the studio they run together Monumental Pictures has sustained their relationship and increased their popularity as a couple. Lina believes that they are in love even though Don keeps her at bay..

At the opening of his latest film production, The Royal Rascal, Don narrates to a crowd an exaggerated version of his life story including his slogan “dignity, always dignity.” After the premier, flees his fans by jumping into a moving car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops Don off after telling him she is a stage actress and she is not that impressed with his acting.

Gene Kelly directed and choreographed the movie. The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for the Best Original Music Score. The film was published on DVDs in 2002 in a special edition.



The five biggest movie studios were formed up during the golden age, and  included Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros, RKO, and Fox. These studios are responsible for some of the greatest golden age movies. These are seven (7) of the best golden age movies with timeless storylines.


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