#101 Dodsworth (1936)

In the films we’ve seen so far, we’re used to seeing all lovely couples ride off into the sunset together or to be apart only in death. It was not natural for a couple to split up by choice. That is why it is important to see this next film on the list for taking a chance at raising a social issue to the reality that comes with marriage. Dodsworth is when a automobile millionaire and his wife who wants youthful excitement in her life drift apart after a cruise to Europe.

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We see two people who may have been right for each other at the time when they were married but as time went on, their feelings on their life and of each other change. Sam Dodsworth prefers to live the simple yet unsophisticated life of a big businessman whereas Fran wants a life of adventure and to not be surrounded by people who remind her of her age. Fran meets many young suitors on the trip and Sam meets Edith who makes Sam happier than he’s ever been. Their relationship is like a clutch for the both of them but a sense of duty and promise is the only thing that keeps them together. This film was considered pretty controversial for this subject matter as this was one of the first films to show a marriage break apart and for the man not to get punished for leaving his wife. I loved how the ending reminds me so much of Gone With the Wind without actually saying “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

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To say that art is an imitation of life definitely applies to this film. Mary Astor, who played Edith, was involved in a public scandal in which her husband showed her diary to the media to prove that she was having an affair. She even felt the need to sleep on the set to get away from the press! That’s crazy! I don’t get how mad you are at someone. It’s never right to air someone’s dirty laundry. Here’s another fun fact that doesn’t make sense to me in which Ruth Chatterton wished her character of Fran was all evil whereas Director William Wyler wanted to show a more complex side of Fran where audiences could sympathize with her. Were you able to sympathize with Fran?

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In my opinion, I feel like that point did not come across very well. I was able to sympathize more with Sam than Fran in which they portrayed Fran as shallow and looking to get out of this marriage so she could be with younger guys whereas Sam wanted to be with a woman who made him feel good. Instead of making the ending be a mutual breakup, only one got burned more which I wish could have been handled differently. Turns out that Ruth Chatterton had her own securities about her age just like Fran. Apparently, she was a real monster on set with Wyler where she took out her frustrations on him. Well, at least dealing with their own demons was a great tool in dealing with their character’s demons.

Unfortunately, I could not finding Dodsworth online but you can buy the DVD on Amazon. Here is a clip from the movie that dared to show divorce on the silver screen and comment on what you think:

#100 H.G. Well’s Things to Come (1936)

When there’s a war, it doesn’t affect just the people fighting in it but all of the country’s citizens and the country itself. It doesn’t matter at that point why or who started the war but how to survive it. This next film will give us a theoretical picture that science fiction author H.G. Wells pictured if/when the Second World War was to come. H.G. Well’s Things to Come is when a global war lasts for decades in which we see the fall and eventual rise of civilization.

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This brilliant science fiction film shows two conflicts that can come from war- whether or not we should succumb to the barbaric customs that war may bring and whether the rise in technology is for the good of humanity. We see the mid-1930s version of what the future will look like from the 1940s, the 1960s, the 1970s, until the year 2036 (can you believe that’s only 20 years from now?!). Airplanes are flying throwing poisonous gas, buildings are being blown apart, and a plague threatening civilization. Oh, the madness war can bring! I loved just how visually appealing this whole film is. The best kind of films, in my opinion, is the creativity to construct a whole new world. We see giant buildings and machines bigger than people. An entire metropolis for the scenes in the future which reminded me of the headquarters of Men in Black. The city of Everytown reminds me of Mount Olympus in how epic and historical the sets look. In Modern Times, we saw the conflict between man vs machine in how machines may have been made by men but have the potential to be smarter than humans and can take over our lives. Can that be good or bad?

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How ironic is it that while this film was meant to create a fantasy of what the second world war would be like when the war would come sixteen months later? It got some things right such as airplanes flying around dropping bombs below. And even the poisonous gas even though the Germans said the gas wouldn’t be used for military purposes. Even though H.G. Wells’s name is in the title, he actually had no control over the film. If it was up to him, there would be no resemblance to the classic sci-fi film Metropolis as he detested that film. Luckily, William Cameron Menzies disagreed with Wells’s opinion and used that film as inspiration for the futuristic society. It’s fascinating how their idea of the future is all in machinery whereas today, our depiction of the future is much more virtual. It looks like the film uses some version of virtual technology like the above image of seeing the city from your house or seeing a live handheld video recording. The importance of this film lies in both the visual scenery as well as the ambiguous message this film brings about the future.

Watch this Britain’s first science fiction film and comment what you think. For better quality, the film is also on Hulu: 

#99 Camille (1936)

Greta Garbo was a talented actress who was known very well for her work in silent films. Her first talking picture was Anna Christie (1930) in which the tagline was “Greta Talks!” Well, this upcoming film in her role as Marguerite would be the role that moved audiences to smiles and tears as well as Greta Garbo’s first Academy Award nomination. Camille is about a dying courtesan in 19th century Paris who normally goes out with rich men in order to support her luxurious life until she meets the dashing Armand who makes her reconsider what true love is. 

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Awww! Don’t you love these two? If only they would have made more movies together! Their chemistry was spot on. I love how this was a romance that started with Armand as a crush but then grew stronger and stronger as the film went on. Makes you wish that 21st century men could hold a woman in their arms like Armand did as if he never wanted to let her go. Director George Cukor made the right move in having 25 year-old actor Robert Taylor take on the role considering the role was always previously played by men in their forties. Since the character of Armand does commit naive acts in a youthful passion, it would seem out of place to witness a middle age man do that. We see a courtesan who surrounds herself with shallow, sometimes bitter people to keep up with her luxurious lifestyle until a man who’s had a crush on her previously embarks on a forbidden romance with her. As much as she loves Armand, threats from his father threaten their relationship. It really showed what social expectations of that time were like where a person’s past could be held against her even if she changed her life. When you see the interaction between these two in how they’re willing to do anything to be together, including having to sacrifice their own happiness, you can’t help but cheer them on. 

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This was Greta Garbo’s favorite performance she ever did and mine as well. Here we see Marguerite dying of tuberculosis yet we only see one scene where she’s in such distress as she has a coughing fit while dancing. While everyone pays no attention, Armand is the only one who comes to her rescue to take care of her- a scene that makes us angry in how something that’s taken so lightly now such as social class could matter so much then instead of true love. We see Garbo portray the role as frail but at the same time, someone who can still smile and enjoy her life. She’s trying to live and love despite her tragic fate. She see her as someone who must restrain herself throughout the film in order to hold on for dear life for her love Armand. Even though many adaptations have been made of this story, no actress can dare play this role and not think of Greta Garbo. It’s unavoidable. Raise your hand if you cried just as much as I did when seeing that heartbreaking ending! Believe it or not, I saw this movie when I was little only because they showed important scenes from it in the movie Annie (1982). Do me a favor and please don’t watch Annie if you’ve never seen this movie before. Actually, don’t see Annie just because it was a bad movie (I know, unpopular opinion!)

Watch Greta Garbo’s best performance in the tragic romance of Camille and post your reactions: