Duck Soup (1933) Leo McCarey

Revolution for the Hell of It, Abbie Hoffman wrote back in the late 1960’s but he was way too late in his call. Some thirty-five years earlier the Marx Brothers blew the lid off turning rebellion into a mischievous art form in Leo McCarey’s masterpiece of mayhem, Duck Soup. Marxist chaos rules in the land of Freedonia.

It is difficult to imagine what a depression era audience, the film was made in 1933, made of the pandemonium being presented to them on screen. Like in all previous films, the Marx Brothers have no respect for anything. All positions of authority are targets for ridicule. Anti-politics, anti-war, anti-authority; as Groucho once sang in an earlier film (Horse Feathers), Whatever It Is, I’m Against It.” To the Marx Brothers it was all fodder for their antics to exploit the self-righteous, the rich, and the pompous and most all themselves. Continue reading

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The Awful Truth (1937) Leo McCarey

 

Along with Howard Hawks and Preston Sturges, Leo McCarey arguably epitomizes the art of the screwball comedy. Of course other filmmakers have dabbled in screwball with winning results like William Wellman (Nothing Sacred),  Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey), Mitchell Leisen (Easy Living) among others but these three men combined made some of the cleverest and funniest works of that period.

Made in 1937, “The Awful Truth” is one of the gems of this, for lack of a better term, sub-genre. Nominated for Best Picture, Leo McCarey managed to snag the Best Director award though the film lost to the more “important” and “esteemed” winner, “The Life of Emile Zola.”  Based on a play by Arthur Richard with an Oscar nominated screenplay by Vina Delmar, though it is said Dorothy Parker had much to do with the script. Continue reading

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) Leo McCarey

With the tough economic times we have faced over the past few years many families have been forced into situations they never envisioned, like grown children moving back in with their now aging parents, or in some cases, the other way around.

There also seems to be certain times when art is in perfect  alignment with the times. Whether a painting, a written work, a song or a film it seems to be exactly in synch with a point in time. Such is the case with the film I am writing about here, only the film happens to be over seventy years old.

The movie is  “Make Way for Tomorrow” which some folks may view as a tear jerker, however calling this film a tear jerker is reducing the significance of  a work that has much more substance and depth than a standard tissue wiper. “Make Way for Tomorrow” earns its emotional pull with honestly in its storytelling and the strength of its characters. Generally, when a  film attempts to tug at your emotions the filmmakers create an emotionally fake situation that  rips open your tear ducts without shame or reason; Arthur Hiller’s film version of Eric Segal’s bestselling waterfall, “Love Story” is prime example.  Here the film earns its sentiment honestly with the passion and love of the two elderly characters facing a crossroads in their final years that is out of their control, yet they still manage to hold on to their dignity.  Orson Welles once said in an interview to Peter Bogdanovich, “only a stone could remain dry” after seeing this film.    Continue reading