Storm in a Teacup

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Technically from 1937 but not released in the US until 1938, this movie stars Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison. In a small town in Scotland, Vivien Leigh is the daughter of the Provost (basically the mayor) who has higher political aspirations.  Rex Harrison is an English newspaper reporter recently arrived to work at the local paper. Given an assignment to conduct a softball interview of the Provost, he instead publishes a rebuke of the Provost's treatment of a working-class woman who refused to pay her dog license fee.  All hell breaks loose. Rex Harrison is just as entertainingly smug here as he is with his Henry Higgins.

Sing You Sinners

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It just shows to go you that I can still be surprised. I had never even heard of this movie that stars Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray, and a 12-year-old Donald O'Connor. So far this is the only 1938 movie I've run across with even one of these three actors. This is a musical and not only does Fred MacMurray sing, he sings in drag to a Hoagy Carmichael tune.

Three brothers live with their mother but only staid David (Fred MacMurray) has a job to support them all. David wants to marry his sweetheart but won't propose until layabout Joe (Bing Crosby) gets a job so that Joe can support the family when David moves out. Joe doesn't want a steady job but instead hopes to get rich by "swapping" things. Joe eventually moves to California where a lucky series of racetrack bet swaps gives him a sizable stake, which he eventually converts to ownership of a racehorse. Everyone's fortune depends on the outcome of a single race. After much Sturm und Drang he eventually comes out on top, but then (reluctantly) agrees to a steady gig of nightclub singing with his brothers for future income.

Birthright

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This movie may have been released in 1939, but it may have been released in 1938. I'm going with it.

The first two reels (20 minutes) of this movie are missing and summarized in this print.  It is a movie that was created for the segregated black audiences of the time. It is (almost) all about race issues in the South. It is by the same director as Swing!, which I think is a better movie.

A black man from Hooker's Bend (somewhere in the South) goes to Harvard and then returns to his hometown to start a school for higher education for Negroes. He is met with trickery and bullying from the well-to-do white folk, ridicule from the less-well-to-do whites folk, and open hostility from most of the black folk.

As far as race relations go, this movie seems to aver that all is right in the North, but still horrible in the South.  Also, the forward thinking blacks are all very light skinned.  I am not sure what messages are being sent with this movie.  The race relations had some complex undertones that were probably easily understood by its audience.

Production values were poor.  Here is an interesting exchange (with closed captioning turned on so you can see the dialog):

Let your seed wither in your loin,

A Woman's Face

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I was originally tricked into watching the Joan Crawford remake of this movie, but that was from 1941. I have now -finally- watched the Ingrid Bergman original from 1938. In Swedish. With Subtitles.

I'm a little fuzzy on the remake now but I think it has a more developed plot. This original is more bare-bones. Ingrid Bergman plays a woman who, facially disfigured in a fire in childhood, has become something of a crime boss in a blackmailing ring. Through "work" she makes the acquaintance of a surgeon who has had much success fixing facial scarring in veterans. He agrees to fix her up and then through some previous criminal connections she gets a job as a governess. Although the plan is to cause the "accidental" death of her 6 year old charge to clear the inheritance path for an accomplice, she breaks good.

Before:




After:

Lawless Valley

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This is my fifth George O'Brien Western if I've counted correctly.  In most of them he plays an undercover lawman, but in this one he plays a wrongly convicted parolee. Spoiler alert: there is an undercover lawman in the movie.

Plot: Larry Rhodes has been framed and unjustly convicted of stage robbery. His father was murdered and it was made to look like suicide. Larry gets out of jail early and sets out to make things right.

Chill Wills is in this movie, in apparently his first solo venture away from the Avalon Boys. He plays a feckless deputy. He was later the voice of Francis the Talking Mule.

Swing!

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This is a movie with a black cast created for black audiences. I have seen just a couple of these. The appealing thing is that these movies are pretty much the only films of the time that don't portray black people solely as maids or porters acting in a very stereotypical way. Otherwise, the acting in this movie is pretty weak. The musical numbers, however, are very entertaining. It is a musical drama comedy, about how women get involved with "no good" men. Actually there are some "no good" women here too.

I could say something about the politically incorrect way men and women occasionally treat each other in this movie, but I really want to talk about this one exchange...

To set up the situation: there is a Broadway swing musical being produced by and starring Negroes and the lead has just been replaced with our heroine. The show is good but is in financial difficulty. A Broadway theater owner, the only white person in the movie, shows up to bail out the production. He gives the producer an impassioned speech like so:

You don't need to go trekking off to Atlantic City to open. I'll put a show on in my theater as it is. Now I know just what you're going to say but let me do the talking this time. Now you've worked hard; all producers do that. Now you've got a fair show, but with one exception in your show that you're all afraid of (with the possible exception of Miss Powell here) it's just another colored show, and it'll last about as long on Broadway as the average one that's been brought down from Harlem has been lasting. But you've got in this show one spot that is a constellation. And that one spot is the new woman that you just rushed in at the last minute, Mandy Jenkins. She is the most original and versatile person that I've ever seen. With her in a long term contract you've got the biggest colored possibility since Williams and Walker. And it's because of her and the spot she is in this show that I am ready and willing to open on Broadway without even an out-of-town tryout. And to show you how much I think of it, I am ready and willing to assume all financial obligations of the show from now on and lay in your hands a check for ten thousand dollars advance on your share. And the check can be certified. I'll use the fifty square feet over the top of my theater for the biggest electric sign on Broadway,

This is followed by what caused me to spit take...

My only stipulation is... that the name of the show be changed to Mandy Jenkins in 'Ah Lub's Dat Man!'

And just in case you thought you misheard, it was followed by the new title card for the show:

The Invisible Menace

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An army private smuggles his new wife onto an offshore island military base so that they can have a honeymoon. From there this film turns into a murder mystery, with Boris Karloff as the chief suspect. Boris Karloff plays an engineer, not a monster.

I was googling around about this movie and was struck by descriptions of the female lead, Marie Wilson, who plays a ditsy blonde. Although it wasn't obvious to me from this movie, she must have been built like a brick house. Practically every newspaper article about her uses the words 'buxom', 'endowed', or 'curvaceous'. One of my favorites was 'decollete'.

Familiar face: Frank Faylen who played Ernie in It's a Wonderful Life.

 
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