Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Now Playing: APRIL 16, 1933

The eventual Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1933 hits Milwaukee this week.


Frank Lloyd's Cavalcade is one of the few Best Pictures I haven't seen -- I've seen all the films that won before it. It's adapted from a retrospective play by Noel Coward, who's usually identified with less solemn stuff. It was a legitimate hit in 1933 -- Wikipedia says it was No. 2 at the box office for the year -- and it certainly sounds like the sort of picture we've come to identify as Oscar-bait. Cavalcade has a dubious reputation as one of the worst Oscar winners but until it turns up on Fox Movie Channel or TCM it's impossible for me to confirm those dire reports.

Here are a couple I have seen.

William Wellman made six features (and part of a seventh) in 1933, and Central Airport is not the best of them. Nor is it Richard Barthelmess's finest hour of the year. Director and star would click more effectively in Heroes For Sale, while this is a thin tale of a disgraced pilot seeking redemption and competing with his brother for the love of a woman. I remember most about it a bunch of interchangeable shots of model airports, only with the city names changed. Here's a trailer, anyway, from TCM.com

And here's a picture with some local appeal for Milwaukee moviegoers.

Lewis Milestone's experimental musical actually was one of "Milwaukee's Own" Harry Langdon's more high-profile roles from his later career, by which time the onetime rival of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd was doing short subjects for Educational Pictures. The big gimmick was "rhythmic dialogue," the characters speaking a kind of poetic patter between the Rodgers & Hart songs. Langdon has his standard look but plays outside his type as "Egghead," a left-wing would-be intellectual who pressures Jolson to share the wealth. The experiment was deemed a failure at the time but retains interest today.

Returning to the realm of mystery, we encountered ZaSu Pitts and Slim Summerville as a comedy team at the start of the year, and the pairing must have been working, for here they are again.

Of course, with these split bills of vaudeville and movies you never can tell what the main attraction really was.

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