Tag Archives: 1938 movie reviews

The Lady Vanishes-1938

The Lady Vanishes-1938

Director-Alfred Hitchcock

Starring Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty

Scott’s Review #1,303

Reviewed September 30, 2022

Grade: A-

The Lady Vanishes (1938) is a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock that I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only seen once. Nonetheless, it resonated well with me after that sole viewing and its influence is palpable.

It’s a film made when Hitchcock was still making films in his native Britain before he took over Hollywood during the 1950s and 1960s. You may wonder why a dusty old film made in the 1930s and not a household name is important but The Lady Vanishes is.

If the film had not been made and more importantly not been a box-office success, films like Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963) might never have been made.

The Lady Vanishes followed three rather unsuccessful efforts by Hitchcock, but whose success assured his new film career in America was a go.

The film is not as brilliant as the others mentioned but is pretty damned close. It serves as a blueprint for other Hitchcock films to come.

The train sequences alone conjure thoughts of Strangers on a Train (1951) and North by Northwest (1959) while the romance between the lead actors would become a staple of Hitchcock films.

Finally, the subdued but noticeable inclusion of gay characters, forever a good debate among cinema lovers, especially Hitchcock fans, as to whether it is or isn’t, is showcased.

So, The Lady Vanishes is to be celebrated for its influence but also holds up well on its own two feet.

On a train headed for England, a group of travelers is delayed by a dangerous avalanche. Forced into a hotel in the lush European country, beautiful young Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) befriends an elderly woman named Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty).

When the train resumes travel, Iris suffers a bout of unconsciousness after being hit by a potted plant and wakes to find the old woman has mysteriously disappeared. The other passengers vehemently deny that Miss Froy ever existed causing Iris to wonder if she has lost her marbles.

Iris determinedly begins to investigate the matter with the help of another traveler, Gilbert, (Michael Redgrave) as the pair begins to search the train to uncover clues. Naturally, the pair fall in love.

They uncover a mystery, political intrigue, and a who’s who of peculiar characters with secrets to keep hidden.

Lockwood and Redgrave have fantastic chemistry. It’s no secret that Hitchcock intends to bring them together even though Iris is to be married when she returns home. Both Lockwood and Redgrave are easy on the eyes which helps make them rootable.

The pacing of The Lady Vanishes is very good but nowhere as astounding as the sequence of events in North by Northwest, the film it most resembles. That’s why the rough cut analogy springs to mind- the film is a perfect warmup act to the 1959 masterpiece.

From an LGBTQ+ perspective, my money is on the characters of Charters and Caldicott. Ferocious cricket enthusiasts, whose only initial concern is to get back to England to see the last days of a Test match. The ‘friends’ proved so popular with audiences that they returned to the film Night Train to Munich 1940, also starring Lockwood.

Needless to say, the revelations at the end of The Lady Vanishes surprise and satisfy with political, and espionage overtones. Frequently, there is a McGuffin or a who cares about the plot element in Hitchcock films.

The plot shouldn’t be overthought in the film as the real fun is the trimmings that makes the suspense so strong. The wit and snappy dialogue make the characters a pleasure to watch.

Providing strong character and stiff upper lip British humor The Lady Vanishes (1938) is a terrific effort and is the most fun to watch to point out the many elements that make up the Hitchcock masterpieces.

Jezebel-1938

Jezebel-1938

Director-William Wyler

Starring-Bette Davis

Scott’s Review #236

220px-Jesebel_movieposter

Reviewed April 18, 2015

Grade: B+

A wonderful showcase for the young and lovely Bette Davis, Jezebel (1938) is a very early film role for Davis that has many similarities to Gone with the Wind, a film that Davis reportedly lost out to Vivian Leigh. One wonders how she would have made the character of Scarlett O’Hara her own and Jezebel is a journey exploring that possibility.

Directed by acclaimed director William Wyler, Jezebel is set in 1852 (pre Civil War) New Orleans. Davis plays spoiled southern belle, Julie Marsden. Julie is engaged to wealthy banker Preston Dillard, played by Henry Fonda. After a dispute in which Julie selfishly feels her needs are not being catered to, she shockingly wears a red dress to a sophisticated ball where unmarried women are expected to wear white. This causes a scandal that results in Preston dumping Julie and leaving town. Cocky Julie expects Preston to return to town and grovel for her forgiveness, but when he does return with a life-changing twist, the drama unfolds. Circumstances include a savage duel, longing love, and atonement.

Fans of Davis will love Jezebel for the sheer excellence that she brings to the screen. Mesmerizing with those soulful, big eyes, and wonderful mannerisms, she exudes confidence and sophistication. Admittedly this is my earliest Davis experience and she shimmers on-screen. Bette Davis is perfectly cast. Interesting to note are the innocent qualities early Davis possessed. Later afflicted with a hoarse, deep voice and ravaged beauty after years of alcohol and cigarette abuse, Davis in Jezebel is virginal and debutante looking.

Interesting to me is Julie’s wardrobe choices- her horseback riding outfit, the vixen-like red dress, the virginal white dress, and the dark raven cape at the climax of the film, and various lighting techniques that Wyler used to showcase Davis’s face- almost look like candlelight.

The film itself has several similarities to Gone with the Wind (which is preceded by a year). Julie, like Scarlett, is a rich, selfish girl who likes to manipulate men and both films feature a love triangle prevalent to the story as well as broken hearts. The slaves in both films resemble each other though are a bit more glamorous in Jezebel. The introduction of the yellow fever storyline and the sick and weak lying around in droves is similar to the wounded and dying soldier scene in Gone with the Wind where the sick and dying lie in pain. The periods, triangle, and southern charms all heavily play in both. It is impossible not to compare the two films.

Melodrama done very well, Jezebel (1938) is to be admired as it is a film featuring a strong female character something lacking in the film then (1938) and shamefully still lacking in film today! Jezebel is a true “ambitious woman’s movie”.

Oscar Nominations: Outstanding Production, Best Actress-Bette Davis (won), Best Supporting Actress-Fay Bainter (won), Best Scoring, Best Cinematography

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-1938

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-1938

Director-Allan Dwan

Starring-Shirley Temple

Scott’s Review #113

70040593

Reviewed July 16, 2014

Grade: B

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) is one of a heap of Shirley Temple films to be released in the 1930s and 1940s.

In this story, Rebecca (Temple) is a confident child singer auditioning for a New York City radio gig with her opportunist Uncle in tow. Through a series of mishaps, Rebecca winds up on a farm outside of the city with her aunt and various other people who live on or near the farm.

The race is on for the radio people to find Rebecca in time and make her a star. Other romantic sub-plots involving the supporting characters occur.

The film is very innocent and cutesy and one needs to be a Shirley Temple fan to truly enjoy the film. If not, one might find it contrived and schmaltzy. It felt somewhere in the middle for me- I enjoyed the Shirley Temple musical numbers and the talent of the star, but the story was, of course, predictable and no surprises were in store. It felt more like a pleasant trip down memory lane.

The film is harmless and contains the standard Temple curls, smile, and joyfulness. The supporting cast includes Jack Haley (The Wizard of Oz) and Gloria Stuart (Titanic-1997).