I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

  • Directors: Mervyn LeRoy
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Brown Holmes, Howard J Green
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
  • Actors: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Noel Francis

Sergeant James Allen (Paul Muni) returns to civilian life after World War I but has a hard time finding work. He accidentally becomes caught up in a robbery and is sentenced to ten years on a brutal Southern chain gang.

He escapes and makes his way to Chicago, where he becomes a success in the construction business. He becomes involved with the proprietor of his boardinghouse, Marie Woods (Glenda Farrell), who discovers his secret and blackmails him into an unhappy marriage. He then meets and falls in love with Helen (Helen Vinson). When he asks his wife for a divorce, she betrays him to the authorities. He is offered a pardon if he will turn himself in; Allen accepts, only to find that it was just a ruse. He escapes once again.

In the end, Allen visits Helen in the shadows on the street and tells her he is leaving forever. She asks, “Can’t you tell me where you’re going? Will you write? Do you need any money?” James repeats “no” as his answer as he backs away. Finally Helen says, “But you must, Jim. How do you live?” In the film’s final line and shot James replies chillingly, “I steal”, and disappears into the dark. The composition and lighting of the final scene, considered to be one of the best in film history, was reportedly accidental. The lights on the set supposedly either failed or were turned off earlier than intended. The studio liked what it saw and kept the ending.[2]

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.

The Wizard of Oz

  • Directors: Victor Fleming, Uncredited, Mervyn LeRoy, Richard Thorpe, King Vidor
  • Producers: Mervyn LeRoy
  • Writers: Novel, L Frank Baum, Screenplay, Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf
  • Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Musical
  • Actors: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan

The opening and closing credits, as well as the Kansas sequences, were both filmed in black and white and colored in a sepia tone. Orphaned twelve-year-old Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives a simple life in rural Kansas with her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick), Uncle Henry (Charles Grapewin) and three colorful farm hands. Shortly before the movie begins, the irascible townswoman, Miss Almira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) is bitten by Dorothy’s dog, Toto. Dorothy is upset that Ms. Gulch hit Toto over the back of the head with a rake, but her aunt and uncle, as well as the farmhands, are too busy to listen. Miss Gulch shows up with a court order and takes Toto away to be destroyed. Toto escapes and returns to Dorothy, who is momentarily elated. When she realizes that Miss Gulch will soon return, she decides to take Toto and run away. On their journey, Dorothy encounters the charlatan, Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan). He is a kind and lovable man who guesses that Dorothy is running away and feels unappreciated at home, and tricks her into believing Aunt Em is ill, so that she (Dorothy) will return home. As Dorothy leaves, there begin to appear signs of an oncoming storm. She rushes back to the farm’s house just ahead of a sudden tornado. There, she takes shelter inside the house, where she is knocked unconscious by a loose window frame.

For the most part, the movie follows the novel only in a very general way. Many details are omitted or altered, while many of the perils that Dorothy encountered in the novel are not even mentioned in the movie. To take advantage of the new vivid Technicolor process, Dorothy’s silver shoes were changed to ruby slippers for the movie. [5] Due to time restraints, a number of sub-plots from the book, including the China County and the Hammerheads, were cut. The novel also never depicts Dorothy as a damsel in distress to be rescued by her friends, but rather the reverse, with Dorothy, a figure heavily influenced by the feminism of Matilda Joslyn Gage,[citation needed] rescuing her friends. Nevertheless, the film was far more faithful to Baum’s original book than many earlier scripts (see below) or film versions – there were silent versions in 1910 and 1925, and a seven-minute animated cartoon in 1933. The 1939 movie interprets the Oz experience as a dream, in which many of the characters that Dorothy meets represent the people from her home life (such as Miss Gulch, Professor Marvel, and the farmhands, none of which appear in the book). Oz is meant to be a real place in L. Frank Baum’s original novel, one to which Dorothy would return to in the author’s later Oz books, and later provide a refuge for Aunt Em and Uncle Henry when unable to pay the mortgage on the new house that was built after the old one really was carried away by the tornado.