Great Movies of the Golden Age – Part 6

Posted on 8 May 00:00

Hollywood’s golden age era is the period when major production companies  were established and movie-making techniques improved. The new age of cinema started in 1920 with the invention of motion pictures with sound. The production of sound led to the growth of the studio system. The studios were large and equipped with resources to manage all aspects of production. Some of the greatest actors in Hollywood also rose to prominence during the golden age era. Most of them were actors and actresses who had worked on independent movies earlier on.

1) To Have and Have Not (1944)

'To Have and Have Not' is a romance adventure film with a plot loosely adapted from a novel by Ernest Hemingway with the same name published in 1937. The plot revolves around the romance between a freelance fisherman and a beautiful American drifter. The fisherman, Harry Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) is running a small fishing-boat called the “Queen Conch.” He lives in Fort-de-France located in the French colony of Martinique.

Harry makes a modest living renting his fishing boat to tourists together with his partner Eddie (Walter Brennan). Eddie is a close friend to Harry and a trusted co-worker, who has become a loud-mouth drunk. The island is occupied by people whose opinions are divided. Some support France while some resented the country.

The owner of the hotel where Harry lives is commonly known as Frenchy.  He wants Harry to assist the French Resistance by smuggling people to the island. Harry strongly rejects the request because he doesn’t want to be involved in politics. While staying at the hotel, Harry meets Marie Slim Brown (Lauren Bacall), a young American wanderer who has just arrived in Martinique. She is an accomplished singer who performs with the pianist Cricket (Hoagy Carmicheal) at the hotel, and intrigue ensues.

Howard Hawks directed the movie that won the National Board of Review Award for the Best Actor that went to Humphrey Bogart.

2)  Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

'Only Angels Have Wings' is an adventure drama whose plot centers on the life of Geoff Carter (Cary Grant). He is the head pilot and manager at Barranca Airways, which is a small company owned by Dutchy Van Ruyter (Sig Ruman). The company specializes in airmail transport moving mail from the fictional port town to Andes Mountains. One day, Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), a piano entertainer arrives in a banana boat.

Bonnie has a crush on Geoff, disregarding his fatalistic attitude towards dangerous flying. Later, pilot Bat MacPherson and his wife Judy (Rita Hayworth) arrive to complicate the situation. Geoff has a crush on Judy. Macpherson has difficulty finding work in the U.S because he once bailed out as a pilot leaving the mechanic to crash the plane.

Dutchy stands to secure a lucrative government contract if he can provide reliable mail services during the six months trial. On the last day of the probation period for the contract, bad weather blocks the route in the mountains. Geoff tries to deliver the mail by flying to Ford Trimotor over the mountains.

Howard Hawks directed the movie that received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

3)  His Girl Friday (1940)

'His Girl Friday' is a comedy-drama with romance being the major theme in the movie. The plot centers on the life of Walter Burns (Cary Grant) who is a blunt editor for The Morning Post. He learns that his ex-wife and a former famous reporter, Hildegard Johnson (Rosalind Russel) is about to marry Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), an insurance man. They plan to settle in Albany, New York to enjoy a quiet life.

Walter is determined to prevent the marriage by trying to convince the reluctant Hildegard to cover one more story. The story was about the upcoming execution of Earl Williams (John Qualen) who is a shy bookkeeper convicted of murdering an African-American policeman. He invites his ex-wife and her fiancée to join him for lunch. Hildegard insists on marrying Baldwin in Albany, New York the following day.

Walter tries to convince Bruce to postpone the marriage because Hildegard is the only one who can write a story that can save the wrongly convicted murderer. Hildegard eventually agrees to stay on one condition, that Walter buys life insurance worth $100,000 from Bruce on which he'll will earn $1,000 in commission.

Howard Hawks directed the film and it has received positive reviews from the contemporary critiques.

4)  To Catch a Thief (1955)

'To Catch a Thief' is a romantic thriller with a plot based on the novel of the same name by David Dodge published in 1952. The plot is based on the life of retired jewel thief, John Robie (Cary Grant), who is suspected of committing several robberies on the French Riviera. The police trace Robie to a hilltop villa to apprehend and question him. However, he evades their capture and heads to a restaurant owned by Bertani, his friend.

The staff in the restaurant were once gang members in Robie’s old gang. They were set free through parole for their service in the Second World War. The gang is angry at Robie because they suspect he is still in the robbery business. The police arrive at the restaurant looking for Robie. However, Danielle (Brigitte Auber), who has a crush on Robie hides him before the police see him.

Robbie realizes that the only way to prove his innocence is to catch the new thief in the act. He consultants with a jewel insurer H.H. Hughson (John Williams). Hughson reluctantly tells him the identities of wealthy people with expensive jewels. They include American tourist Jessie Stevens (Jessie Royce Landis), and the daughter of a wealthy widow Frances (Grace Kelly).

Alfred Hitchcock directed the movie that won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

5)  Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

'Sylvia Scarlett' is a romantic comedy based on the novel “The Early Life and Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett” by Compton MacKenzie published in 1918. The plot is based on the adventures of widower Henry Scarlett (Edmund Gwenn) who is fleeing France because of embezzlement charges. He is accompanied by his daughter Sylvia (Katharine Hepburn), who disguises herself as a boy, Sylvester. They are joined by a charming conman Jimmy Monkley (Cary Grant) with his girlfriend Maudie Tilt. They entertain themselves in a resort town from a caravan.

This results in drama and comedy. Henry embezzled funds from a lace factory as a bookkeeper. He did this after his wife passed on and lost all the money gambling. He decides to evade arrest by traveling to England. Initially, he did not want to bring his daughter, but he agrees after the daughter tells him she will disguise herself as a boy.

George Cukor directed the movie, which was considered the most unsuccessful movie of the 1930s.

6)  Charade (1963)

'Charade' is an romantic comedy whose plot revolves around the life of Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) who confides in her friend Sylvie (Dominique Minot) that she is planning to divorce her husband Charles. Regina also meets a charming stranger by the name of Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). When Regina returns to Paris, she finds her apartment raided to the bare minimum. A police officer tells her that Charles sold her stuff and was murdered trying to leave Paris.

The people who killed Charlie took the money. She has given the travel bag her husband had at the time of the murder. The bag contained a letter addressed to her, a ship ticket to Venezuela, and four passports that bear different names and nationalities. During Charles’s funeral, four men show up to view the body to confirm that he is dead.

Stanley Donen directed the movie that won multiple BAFTA Awards. They included the Best British Actress, the Golden Plate, and the Best Motion picture. The movie is available in the Blu-ray DVD version.

7)  Houseboat (1958)

'Houseboat' is an American romantic comedy whose plot is based on the life of a divorced man Tom Winters (Cary Grant). For more than three years, Tom is separated from his wife and three children. After the death of his wife, Tom returns from Europe to be with his children David (Petersen Paul), Elizabeth (Mimi Gibson), and Robert (Charles Herbert). The children want to live in the countryside with their wealthy grandparents. However, Tom convinces them to come with him to Washington, DC where he is employed in the U.S State Department.

The children didn’t like the new environment, and they resent their father. Later, Tom meete the runaway, Cinzia (Sophia Loren) and offers her a job as the families maid. Due to her love for the children and her desire to get away from her father's restrictions, she accepts.

Melville Shavelson directed the film that won two Academy Awards that included the Best Original Song and the Best Original Screenplay.

Some of the biggest films produced during the golden age era include “Gone with the Wind”, “Wuthering Heights,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” All the films that were produced during the golden age era were advanced in terms of technology, plot, and filming devices.

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