1776

  • Directors: Peter H Hunt
  • Producers: Jack L Warner
  • Writers: Peter Stone
  • Genres: Drama, Family, History, Musical
  • Actors: William Daniels, Howard Da Silva

The film focuses on the representatives of the thirteen original colonies who participated in the Second Continental Congress. 1776 depicts the three months of deliberation (and, oftentimes, acrimonious debate) that led up to the signing of one of the most important documents in the history of the United States, the Declaration of Independence.

The Two Mrs Carrolls

  • Directors: Peter Godfrey
  • Producers: Excecutive producer, Jack L Warner, Producer, Mark Hellinger
  • Writers: Screenplay, Thomas Job, Story, Martin Vale
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith, Nigel Bruce

An artist Gerry Carroll (Bogart) meets Sally (Stanwyck) while on a vacation in the country. They develop a romance but Carroll doesn’t tell her he’s already married.

Suffering from mental illness, Gerry returns home where he paints an impression of his wife as the angel of death and then promptly poisons her. He then marries Sally but after a while he paints Sally as the angel of death.

Mildred Pierce

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Executive Producer, Jack L Warner, Producer, Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Novel, James M Cain, Screenplay, Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner, Catherine Turney
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden

While the novel is told by a third-person narrator in strict chronological order, the film uses voice-over narration (the voice of Mildred). The story is framed by the questioning of Mildred by police after they discover the body of her second husband, Monte Beragon.

The film in noir fashion opens with Beragon (Scott) being shot. He murmurs the name “Mildred” as he collapses and dies. The police are led to believe that the murderer is restaurant owner Mildred Pierce (Crawford), who under interrogation confesses to the crime. She then relates her life story in flashback.

We see housewife Mildred unhappily married to a newly unemployed Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett). He was originally a real estate partner of Wally Fay (Carson), who propositions Mildred after learning that she and Bert are about to divorce. Mildred keeps custody of her two daughters: Veda (Blyth) and Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe).

Mildred’s principal goal is to provide for eldest daughter Veda, who longs for possessions the family cannot afford. Mildred needs a job and the best she can find is as a waitress — a fact she hides from Veda. One day, Veda gives their maid Lottie (Butterfly McQueen) Mildred’s waitress uniform, thinking nothing of it, until Mildred admits that she is a waitress, infuriating Veda, who thinks it a lowly employ.

When Veda takes up with the scheming Monty, a showdown ensues at the beach house where the film began. We discover what really happened: that Veda, furious over Monte’s unwillingness to take her seriously, is the one who shoots him. Mildred can cover for her daughter no more, and Veda is led off to jail.

To Have and Have Not

  • Directors: Howard Hawks
  • Producers: Howard Hawks, Jack L Warner
  • Writers: Novel, Ernest Hemingway, Screenplay, Jules Furthman, William Faulkner, Cleve F Adams, Whitman Chambers
  • Genres: Adventure, Romance, Thriller, War
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael

The film is set in the Caribbean city of Fort de France, Martinique under the Vichy regime in the summer of 1940, shortly after the fall of France to the Germans. In this exotic location, the world-weary fishing boat captain Harry ‘Steve’ Morgan (Humphrey Bogart) is urged to help the French Resistance smuggle some people onto the island. He refuses, until the client, Johnson (Walter Sande) who has been hiring out his fishing boat (and owes him $825) is accidentally shot before paying him.

The hotel owner Gerard, commonly known as Frenchy (Marcel Dalio) (the leader of the Free French), asks Harry to rent him his boat for one night to transport some members of the resistance underground. Broke, he ends up smuggling onto Martinique Helene (Dolores Moran) and Paul De Bursac (Walter Szurovy). Meanwhile, a romance unfolds between Harry and Marie ‘Slim’ Browning (Lauren Bacall), an American pickpocket who has come to the island.[1]

After picking up Helene and Paul De Bursac, Harry is spotted by a patrol boat, and Paul is wounded before they escape. Harry is surprised to find that Marie stayed in Martinique to be with him. At Frenchy’s request, Harry removes the bullet from De Bursac’s shoulder and learns that the De Bursacs have been assigned to help a man escape from Devil’s Island. De Bursac asks for Harry’s assistance, but Harry turns him down.[2]

Later, the police, who recognized Harry’s boat the previous night, reveal that they have Harry’s buddy, a rummy, Eddie (Walter Brennan) in custody and will coerce him to tell the truth about the boat’s cargo. At gunpoint, Harry forces the police to arrange for Eddie’s release and sign harbor passes, so that he can take the De Bursacs to Devil’s Island. Slim says goodbye to her piano-playing friend Cricket (Hoagy Carmichael). After Eddie returns, he, Harry and Marie leave Martinique for a more committed life together.[3]

My Fair Lady

  • Directors: George Cukor
  • Producers: Jack L Warner
  • Writers: Alan Jay Lerner, George Bernard Shaw
  • Genres: Drama, Family, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Jeremy Brett

In London, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), an arrogant, irascible, misogynistic professor of phonetics, believes that it is the accent and the tone of one’s voice which determines a person’s prospects in society. He boasts to a new acquaintance, Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White), himself an expert in phonetics, that he can teach any woman to speak so “properly” that he could pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball, even Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a young flower seller with a strong Cockney accent.

Eliza goes to Higgins’ house and offers to pay for speech lessons. Her great ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her thick working-class accent makes her unsuitable for such a position. All she can afford to pay is a shilling per lesson. Pickering, who is staying with Higgins, is intrigued by the idea and bets Higgins all the expenses that he will not be able to do it. Higgins accepts.

Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway), a dustman, arrives three days later, ostensibly to protect his daughter’s virtue, but in reality simply to extract some money from Higgins, and is bought off with £5. Higgins is impressed by the man’s genuineness, his natural gift for language, and especially his brazen lack of morals (Doolittle explains, “Can’t afford ’em!”).

Higgins makes his way home, stubbornly predicting that Eliza will be ruined without him and come crawling back. However, his bravado collapses and he comes to the horrified realization that he has “grown accustomed to her face”. He is reduced to playing an old phonograph recording of her voice lessons. Then, to his great delight, Eliza returns.

Gold Diggers of 1933

  • Directors: Mervyn LeRoy
  • Producers: Robert Lord, Jack L Warner
  • Writers: Play, Avery Hopwood, Screenplay, Erwin S Gelsey, James Seymour, Ben Markson, David Boehm
  • Genres: Musical
  • Actors: Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers

The “gold diggers” are four aspiring actresses: Polly the ingenue (Ruby Keeler), Carol the torch singer (Joan Blondell), Trixie the comedienne (Aline MacMahon) and Fay the glamourpuss (Ginger Rogers).

The film was made in 1933 at the nadir of the Great Depression and contains numerous direct references to it. In fact, it begins with a rehearsal for a stage show, which is interrupted by the producer’s creditors who close down the show because of unpaid bills.

At the unglamorous apartment shared by three of the four actresses (Polly, Carol, and Trixie), the producer, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks), is in despair because he has everything he needs to put on a show, except money. Then he accidentally hears Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), the girls’ neighbor and Polly’s boyfriend, playing the piano. Brad is a brilliant songwriter and singer who not only has written the music for a show, but also offers Hopkins $15,000 in cash to back the production. Of course, they all think he’s pulling their legs, but he insists that he’s serious – he’ll back the show, but he refuses to perform in it, despite his talent and voice.

Brad comes through with the money and the show goes into production, but the girls are suspicious that he must be a criminal since he is cagey about his past, and will not appear in the show, even though he is clearly more talented than the aging juvenile lead they’ve hired. It turns out, however, that Brad is in fact a millionaire’s son whose family does not want him associating with the theatre. On opening night, in order to save the show when the juvenile can’t perform (due to his lumbago acting up), Brad is forced to play the lead role.

Lawrence mistakes Carol for Polly, and his heavy-handed effort to dissuade the “cheap and vulgar” showgirl from marrying Brad by buying her off annoys her so much that she goes along with the gag in order to eventually pull the rug out from under him. Trixie meanwhile targets “Fanny” the lawyer as the perfect rich sap ripe for exploitation. But what starts as gold-digging turns into something else, and when the dust settles, Carol and Lawrence are in love and Trixie marries Fanuel, while Brad is free to marry Polly after all. All the “gold diggers” (except Fay) end up married to wealthy men.

Arsenic and Old Lace

  • Directors: Frank Capra
  • Producers: Frank Capra, Jack L Warner
  • Writers: Joseph Kesselring, Julius J Epstein, Philip G Epstein
  • Genres: Comedy, Thriller
  • Actors: Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Raymond Massey

A drama critic and confirmed bachelor, Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), has written a number of books describing marriage as an old-fashioned superstition. Nevertheless, he falls in love with and marries Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), who grew up next door to his old family home in Brooklyn.

Immediately after the wedding – on Halloween, as it happens – Mortimer visits the bizarre relatives who still live there, two elderly aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair) and his brother Teddy (John Alexander). Teddy thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt; each time he goes upstairs he blows a bugle, yells “Charge!”, and takes the stairs at a run (an imitation of Roosevelt’s famous charge up San Juan Hill). He is also digging “The Panama Canal” in their cellar. Mortimer finds a corpse hidden in a window seat, and tells his aunts that Teddy must be sent to an asylum, as he has killed someone.

At this point, Mortimer’s sweet, if misguided, aunts explain that they are responsible (“It’s one of our charities”). They have developed what Mortimer calls the “very bad habit” of ending the presumed suffering of lonely old bachelors by serving them elderberry wine spiked with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch of cyanide”. The bodies are buried in the basement by Teddy, who thinks he is digging locks for the Panama Canal and burying yellow fever victims.

Mortimer makes increasingly frantic attempts to stay on top of the situation as his bride waits for him at her family home next door, including multiple efforts to alert the bumbling local cops to the threat Jonathan poses, as well as have the paperwork filled that will have Teddy declared legally insane and committed (giving him a safe explanation for the bodies should the cops find them). He worries whether he will go insane like the rest of his family. But eventually Jonathan is arrested, while Teddy and the two aunts are safely consigned to an asylum. In the end, Mortimer is overjoyed to learn that he was adopted and is not biologically related to the Brewsters after all. He is actually the son of a sea cook, exclaiming: “Elaine, Elaine, Where are you? Can you hear me? I’m not really a Brewster. I’m a son of a sea cook!” (in the original play, the censored line actually was, “Elaine! Did you hear? Do you understand? Darling, I’m a bastard!”).[2]