best film:  the scarlet express. It doesn’t have the artistic peaks of the blue angel but it’s von sternberg’s most consistently brilliant film and best narrative not to mention being jam pack filled with a gorgeous mise-en-scene for the entire running time.

most overrated:  l’atalante– #18 all-time is hundreds of spots too high for me. It’s been years since I’ve seen it but I’ve seen it multiple times and it didn’t strike me as a masterpiece at all—let alone a top 20 film

most underrated:   scarlet express– #438 all-time is at least 200 spots too low for this film just oozing with rich décor.

gem I want to spotlight:  the thin man  (not to be confused with invisible man) is generously entertaining narrative- very accessible.

trends and notables:  1934 is the birth of screwball comedy (coming one year after slap stick high-water mark duck soup). Hawks twentieth century and capra’s it happened one night carry the banner here of fast paced (with rapid dialogue) entertaining comedies (mainly man/woman). Many would argue it’s another byproduct of the censors and forced writers and directors to be even more creative. 1934 is also the year of both Jean Vigo’s death and release of his best film. He tragically died at 29. There’s certainly a hero-worship surrounding him because of the premature death and the sad promise of what was never realized. This era also gives us more Dick and William Powell films. They aren’t related but Dick had 3 archiveable films in 1933 and William had 2 great turns in 1934 here with Manhattan melodrama and the thin man.

best performance male: Clark Gable gives the best male performance of the year in it happened one night. He’s mesmerizing on screen and the perfect vehicle for the sharp dialogue and swift pace.

best performance female: Colbert is every bit Gable’s equal in it happened one night and has no peer as far as female performances in 1934. She’s great in Cleopatra as well and Dietrich is great in scarlet express.


top 10

  1. The Scarlet Express
  2. It Happened One Night
  3. L’Atalante
  4. The Thin Man
  5. The Black Cat
  6. Manhattan Melodrama
  7. The Lost Patrol
  8. Twentieth Century
  9. It’s a Gift
  10. Cleopatra


Archives, Directors, and Grades

Cleopatra- DeMille R
Imitation of Life R
It Happened One Night- Capra MP
It’s a Gift R
Judge Priest- Ford R
L’Atalante- Vigo MS
Manhattan Melodrama HR
Of Human Bondage R
Our Daily Bread- Vidor R
The Black Cat- Ulmer HR
The Gay Divorce
The Lost Patrol- Ford R/HR
The Merry Widow- Lubitsch R
The Scarlet Empress- Von Sternberg MP
The Scarlet Pimpernel R
The Thin Man HR
Treasure Island- Fleming R
Twentieth Century- Hawks R/HR
Viva Villa! R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives