1930s

Love Me Tonight (1932)

Blowing in the wind through the French cities and royal castles of Love Me Tonight, Rouben Mamoulian’s infectious melodic motifs unite distant characters from across class boundaries under stirring expressions of love, carrying a narrative dexterity and formal texture that canonises this early movie-musical as one of cinema’s great fairy tales.

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Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Tragedy marks the beginning and end of the brotherly love between Blackie and Jim in Manhattan Melodrama, touchingly binding them together as soulmates destined for incompatible lives on either side of the law, and by crafting such robust formal connections between them, W.S. van Dyke draws out a pair of internal struggles forcing them to confront their own principles and loyalties.

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Young Mr Lincoln (1939)

The ripples of history that would go on to generate monumental waves can be felt all through Young Mr Lincoln, where John Ford turns the future president’s origins as a judicious Illinoisian lawyer into a historical fable, offering us insight into the storytelling traditions and legal battles that have shaped an entire nation’s values of liberty and justice.

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Design for Living (1933)

The title Design for Living could be the name of some 1930s instructional manual on how to fit one’s life into a pre-set box, but it is exactly those rigid structures which Ernst Lubitsch shuns in his polyamorous rotating of two men around a single woman, playing out unconventional character dynamics that are as honest as they are comical.

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Lost Horizon (1937)

There is a fragility to the precision of Frank Capra’s visual and narrative creations in Lost Horizon, establishing an order in the Eastern utopia of Shangri-La that is threatened by the arrival of cynical British expats, powerfully backing up this grand moral fable with potent mythological archetypes of paradise, innocence, and corruption.

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Scarface (1932)

Within the Prohibition era that Scarface is set, where a coward like Tony Camonte can reign supreme, violence is conducted with secrecy and treachery, intermittently rupturing Howard Hawk’s patient, brooding narrative with bursts of brutality and cutting right to the menacing heart of the gangster genre.

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