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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Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

James Whale steps up the subtext, camp theatrics, and Gothic aesthetic in his sequel, Bride of Frankenstein, delivering not just a lynchpin of horror cinema, but a piece of film that feels even truer to his own humanistic and dramatic sensibilities.

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Le Jour se Leve (1939)

As a man driven to murder reminisces on the sequence of events that has led to this moment, Marcel Carne constructs a bitterly nostalgic narrative through masterful tracking shots and expressionist lighting, turning Le Jour se Leve into an indelibly moving portrait of France’s lost innocence as it heads into World War II.

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