Monday, October 5, 2009

1930 Year in Review

This turned out to be an extremely weak year for the most part. In fact, I panicked about halfway through, having not seen many films worthy of making the list and worrying that there wouldn't even be 10 films that I really liked. Thankfully, there were a few surprises (Billy the Kid, A Cottage on Dartmoor) that prevented an outright disaster, but this was still the weakest of the years since I started this project.

Part of the problem was technical issues with the early talkies. Many of the directors and actors were still not comfortable with the new format. Examples include the stilted acting from Greta Garbo in Anna Christie, the hideous editing in John Ford's Up the River, and King Vidor's surprisingly static Not So Dumb. It's not a surprise then that 4 of the 10 films on this list were silents, despite the silent era being dead two years earlier.

There were more foreign films this year, but those were also a mixed bag. Most of them were made with admirable skill, but the avant garde and surrealistic films just didn't work for me for the most part. I'll probably scale back on those in future years. There were lots of major directors making films this year, but many of them hadn't quite hit their stride yet (Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford) or had lost it (D.W. Griffith).

Without further delay, here is the top 10 list for 1930...

10. Song O My Heart (Frank Borzage)

A surprisingly skillful performance from John McCormack

9. The White Hell of Pitz Palu (Arnold Fanck, GW Pabst)

Amazing cinematography made this an exciting adventure.

Another of Harold Lloyd's wonderful thrill sequences.

The role that made Marlene Dietrich a star.

Marlene Dietrich's provocative act catches the eye of Gary Cooper.

5. Hell's Angels (Howard Hughes)

The spectacular dogfight sequence.

4. Billy the Kid (King Vidor)

Pat Garret (Wallace Beery) and Billy the Kid (Johnny Mack Brown) face off.

3. A Cottage on Dartmoor (Anthony Asquith)

The brilliantly terrifying face of Uno Henning.

2. City Girl (FW Murnau)

Newlywed bliss, before cultural differences would threaten them.

1. All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone)

This haunting image is one of the best closing shots in cinema history.


Best Picture

*All Quiet on the Western Front
Billy the Kid
City Girl
A Cottage on Dartmoor
Hell's Angels

Best Director

Anthony Asquith, A Cottage on Dartmoor
Howard Hughes, Hell's Angels
*Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front
FW Murnau, City Girl
King Vidor, Billy the Kid

Best Actor

Lew Ayres, All Quiet on the Western Front
Charles Farrell, City Girl
*Uno Henning, A Cottage on Dartmoor
Emil Jannings, The Blue Angel
John McCormack, Song O My Heart

Best Actress

*Marlene Dietrich, Morocco
Marie Dressler, Min and Bill
Mary Duncan, City Girl
Jeanette McDonald, Monte Carlo
Norma Shearer, The Divorcee

Best Supporting Actor

*Wallace Beery, Billy the Kid
Wallace Beery, Min and Bill
David Torrence, City Girl
Louis Wolheim, All Quiet on the Western Front
John Wray, All Quiet on the Western Front

Supporting Actress

*Evelyn Brent, The Silver Horde
Grayce Hampton, The Bat Whispers
Jean Harlow, Hell's Angels
Kay Johnson, Billy the Kid
Maureen O' Sullivan, Song O My Heart

Best Screenplay

*All Quiet on the Western Front (George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews)
Billy the Kid (Wanda Tuchock, Laurence Stallings)
The Blue Angel (Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmoller, Robert Liebman)
City Girl (HH Caldwell, Katherine Hilliker, Marion Orth, Berthold Viertel)
Song O My Heart (Tom Barry, Sonya Levien)

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