#89 A Night at the Opera (1935)

If there was any means of happiness to anyone who was growing up during the Great Depression era, it was to see comedic movies like ones starring The Marx Brothers that just made you feel good inside. A Night at the Opera is when The Marx Brothers decide to use their wacky, humorous, and spectacular stunt skills to assure two opera singers achieve the fame that the rich snobs of the New York Opera Company try to take away from them.

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The original plan for this film was for The Marx Brothers to commit anarchy to everything and everyone that they cross paths with. But the creators didn’t want this film to reach only male audiences but female audiences as well. After all, what woman likes to see male characters that are unsympathetic throughout the run of a film? If that was the case, they could just watch Curb Your Enthusiasm! Yeah anyways…Groucho, Harpo, and Chico decide to use their powers for good instead and try to help Ricardo and Rosa put their names in the spotlight as well as to use the hook for the snobby Lassparri. I love the musical numbers in this film such as “Alone” where you can hear the real life tenor of Allan Jones and the beautiful soprano of Kitty Carlisle. So happy this wasn’t a case of lip-synching except for the character of Lassparri but who cares about that character anyways?

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I love the clever, witty wordplay that occurs throughout the film. You hear lines such as “What juices do you have here?” “You might have some tomato juice, orange juice, grape juice or pineapple juice.” “Hey, turn off the juice before I get electrocuted!” They come snappy, quick, and hilarious! We also see a lot of impressive stunt work in the finale which is entertaining to see as they treat the opera house like their own personal circus or Tarzan’s jungle. I think of this whole film as the opera being a place of class and bourgeois and the Marx Brothers are the flea in their silver platter. Sticking out like a sore thumb, they make a splash and disrupt this perfect means of existence with their slapstick. It’s just nice once in a while to see a film that will make you laugh and smile. Can you think of any other films that make you feel that way?

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy anywhere online. I know you can rent A Night at the Opera on Amazon for $2.99. Here’s a clip of the infamous stateroom scene:

#88 The 39 Steps (1935)

Our second Alfred Hitchcock film on this list- the film that gave American audiences a taste of who Alfred Hitchcock was! Based on the John Buchan novel, The 39 Steps is when a spy hides out at an innocent man’s (Robert Donat) place, she is murdered there and this man is accused of being her murderer- leaving him on a thrilling chase in a situation that he didn’t mean to get mixed up in.

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Want to know what I like about thrill rides? That you are led on an exciting journey where the stakes and the tension are high. This ride brings you to multiple locations where crazy situations occur. You want this ride to pull to a stop so you can find out how it ends. Hitchcock is brilliant in drawing up the suspense and leaving all of these questions in there that we want answers to. What I love about this film is that we all can identify with the character of Hannay because we know about as much as he does. Hitchcock does his trademark plot line of putting the innocent lead character is unexpectedly in a line of danger that carries him throughout the film. A spy gets murdered in his apartment, has no idea why she was killed, and has to run away from the authorities since they think he killed her. Hannay is looking for answers and so are we. Hannay goes through a lot to get to the bottom of things like pretending to be a milkman, a stranger’s husband, a political speaker, and being handcuffed to a stubborn, icy woman (Madeleine Carroll) who of course is a blonde because that’s how Hitchcock likes them!

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I know that everyone labels the female heroine of the story to be the character of Pamela but I personally think it’s the character of Margaret. Unlike Pamela who tried to blow Hannay’s cover to the police on more than one occasion, Margaret didn’t think twice about helping out Hannay even though she knew she would suffer the devastating consequences that her much older husband would inflict on her. We don’t know Margaret’s story or why she would be married to a cruel man like that. Maybe it was an arranged marriage or maybe she had to do what she can to support herself. Whatever her story is, she’s a heroine in my book. I was very impressed with the acting of Robert Donat in which he plays an unlikely hero who can remain cool under pressure but still able to see the fear in his eyes as he has no idea what his fate will be. Even though it’s not up to Hannay to solve the mystery, he’ll go through it with courage in order to clear his name.

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Another reason that proves Robert Donat was a great actor in this film is that at the time, he had a disease that made him shaky so it was hard to do long takes with him yet he was able to hold it together to do that monologue where he pretends to be a speaker. Hitchcock wanted it to be realistic for the scenes where Donat and Carroll were handcuffed together that he would actually pretend to lose the key! Write in if you would agree to this filmmaking tactic. I’m sure Carroll wasn’t as she had welts on her wrists! There’s also a little something in this film called a Mcguffin where it’s an object that moves the story along. In this film, it would be the 39 steps. What are they? You’ll have to watch the film to find out!

Enter a thrill ride as you watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps:

#87 Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

If there’s anything that can really rile up an audience, it’s being a witness to a revolution. We’ve seen many films on this list such as Battleship Potemkin, Strike!, and October: Ten Days That Shook the World that show how the underdogs rise up and step up to authority. That’s what occurs in Mutiny on the Bounty as Fletcher Christian, ship lieutenant of the H.S. Bounty (Clark Gable) revolts against the tyrannical Captain Bligh.

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Charles Laughton plays the villainous Captain Bligh who is always thirsty for power on his ship. He walks sternly on deck with a sniveling look on his face as he shows no empathy for his crew. When one of his harsh orders lead to the death of a sickly surgeon on deck, that hits a nerve for Christian and he decides that he can’t take it anymore so he leads a mutiny against Captain Bligh. The true suspense occurs when after the mutiny, Captain Bligh returns for his revenge. Laughton gave an intimidating presence as he looked like the type of captain you don’t want to mess with or make enemies with as he doesn’t put up with anything or anyone. I love the way the ships are built with the sails reaching towards the sky and I love the scenes with the beautiful paradise islands of Tahiti.

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Another great scene is during the trial when midshipman Byram gives his speech during trial against the mutiny. It was a complex speech in how even though Byram doesn’t defend the mutiny, he will defend the reasoning behind it as well as his friend. It was very powerful. The behind the scenes facts for this film is very interesting like in how Gable and Laughton were casted together in this film because director Frank Lloyd wanted to the tension between the two of them to be real since Laughton was gay and Gable was a homophobe. He even took Laughton to a brothel before he found out what his sexuality was! And Laughton would get violently seasick during takes. This film is considered one of the best nautical adventure films with this film winning Best PictureDoes it make sense to you that a film can win Best Picture and no other award? Well, that’s how it was with this film. Love revolution and sea-faring adventures? This is a great film to start off with.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the film anywhere online but you can rent it on Amazon for $2.99. Here’s the trailer: