- Mutiny On The Bounty
- The Lives of A Bengal Lancer
- A Night At The Opera
- A Tale Of Two Cities
- Bride Of Frankenstein
- The 39 Steps
- Ruggles of Red Gap
- Top Hat
- Captain Blood
- David Copperfield
It’s tempting to go with Groucho once again, as A Night At The Opera is my favourite film by the Marx Brothers after Duck Soup, but instead I shall go withCharles Laughton‘s most endearing performance. As Ruggles Of Red Gap, he plays the part of the British butler who is abandoned in an American frontier only to become a successful entrepreneur with a level of heartbreaking sympathy and control that was rarely seen in his performances.
Critics were gaga over Katharine Hepburn’s turn in Alice Adams and it’s easy to see why; she’s energetic and effervescent, and the class-conscious bullshit of movies like that one were much easier to swallow at the time. Hepburn’s work in the 30s is really quite silly compared to the depths she would later achieve (even in good comedies like Bringing Up Baby), so for me the female performance from 1935 that has aged the best is Mae West. In one of her greatest roles, she plays a tough-talking gal (what else?) who inherits a fancy ranch and moves up the social stratosphere to the dismay of the bluebloods around her in Goin’ To Town. West delivers some of her best lines with relish as she goes about doing her two favourite things: amassing capital and devouring men.
Honour Roll: Katharine Hepburn, Alice Adams
Mutiny On The Bounty bears the distinction that, as of 2013, is the only film to garner three Oscar nominations in the Best Actor category. Two of them being by supporting performers, it is also the film considered the impetus for the Academy to create the Supporting categories the following year. Of the many wonderful turns in the film, none is better than Franchot Tone‘s blend of adventure and sensitivity, somewhere between Clark Gable’s gusto and Laughton’s unapologetic cruelty.
Old biddy roles are a dime a dozen in cinema history, and are often favourites for awards. Very few actresses pulled them off with the level of spry intelligence that was often on display from Edna May Oliver, and her performance in A Tale Of Two Cities, which might be one of Hollywood’s best adaptations of Dickens, is among the very best.
Drama, adventure, and lots of sun; Mutiny On The Bounty might not be the most accurate period film ever made about a ship, but it’s certainly one of the most gripping, and that’s in no small part thanks to the tightscrew direction provided by Frank Lloyd, here making one of his greatest films.