Thursday, March 25, 2010

1931: Top 10 and Year in Review

1931 was a definite improvement on the previous year.The two major classics were as good as advertised (City Lights, M) and there were some nice surprises (Miracle Woman, Platinum Blonde, Five Star Final, The Royal Bed). We also had some iconic stars make their mark (James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Barbara Stanwyck).

Favorite directors like Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch, and Josef von Sternberg that populated prior top 10 lists make reappearances this year. Legendary director Frank Capra surprised with two great early films that both appear on the list.

The biggest disappointments were the mostly weak horror entries. Several of them are regarded as classics, but for the most part they were excruciatingly dry films with no life and spent an interminable amount of time on dull exposition. None matched the intensity and excitement of earlir horror entries I loved like The Cat and the Canary or The Unknown.

Very good films that didn't make this year's list include Mervyn LeRoy's scathing media indictment Five Star Final, Rene Clair's political comedy Freedom For Us, Norman Z. McLeod's Marc Bros. entry Monkey Business, and Yasujiro Ozu's delicate workplace dramedy Tokyo Chorus.

Click here for a full list of films I saw in 1931, including capsule reviews.

And now, the top 10 films of 1931...

10. The Royal Bed (Lowell Sherman)

9. Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy)

8. Platinum Blonde (Frank Capra)

7. The Public Enemy (William Wellman)

6. Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg)

5. An American Tragedy (Josef Von Sternberg)

4. Miracle Woman (Frank Capra)

3. The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch)

2. City Lights (Charles Chaplin)

1. M (Fritz Lang)

Awards for 1931:


Frank Capra, Miracle Woman
Charles Chaplin, City Lights
*Fritz Lang, M
Ernst Lubitsch, The Smiling Lieutenant
Josef von Sternberg, An American Tragedy


James Cagney, Public Enemy
Charles Chaplin, City Lights
Maurice Chevalier, The Smiling Lieutenant
*Peter Lorre, M
Edward G. Robinson, Little Caesar


Claudette Colbert, The Smiling Lieutenant
Marlene Dietrich, Dishonored
Sylvia Sidney, An American Tragedy
*Barbara Stanwyck, Miracle Woman
Loretta Young, Platinum Blonde

Supporting Actor

George Barbier, The Smiling Lieutenant
Rudolf Blumner, M
*Dwight Frye, Dracula
Boris Karloff, Five Star Final
David Manners, Miracle Woman

Supporting Actress

Virginia Cherrill, City Lights
Jean Harlow, Platinum Blonde
Jean Harlow, Public Enemy
*Miriam Hopkins, The Smiling Lieutenant
Aline McMahon, Five Star Final

Adapted Screenplay

An American Tragedy (Samuel Hoffenstein)
Miracle Woman (Jo Swerling)
Platinum Blonde (Jo Swerling)
The Public Enemy (Harvey Thew)
*The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernest Vajda, Sam Raphaelson)

Original Screenplay

*City Lights (Charles Chaplin)
Dishonored (Daniel Nathan Rubin, Josef Von Sternberg)
Freedom For Us (Rene Clair)
M (Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang)
Monkey Business (SJ Perelman, Will B. Johnstone)


An American Tragedy
City Lights
Miracle Woman
The Smiling Lieutenant


City Lights
Miracle Woman
Tabu: A Story of the South Seas
Woman in the Moon

Art Direction

*City Lights
Miracle Woman
Woman in the Moon

Costume Design

Mata Hari
Miracle Woman
Platinum Blonde
The Smiling Lieutenant



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