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[Films are listed according to release date. Best Picture Winners are listed first each year]

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Outstanding Production (1929-1930): All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Release Date: April 21, 1930
Director: Lewis Milestone
Studio: Universal Pictures
Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s popular 1929 novel, All Quiet on the Western Front is an incredible anti-war movie. It begins in an optimistic German town as young boys are sent off to war, but they soon discover the horrors of trench warfare, and Paul, the protagonist, tries to return home but he realizes he has no place. He returns to the trenches where he is killed by a French sniper. A butterfly gently lands on his hand. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture for the 1929-1930 time period.

Menschen Amm Sonntag (People on Sunday) (1930)
Release Date: February 4, 1930
Directors: Robert Siodmak and Edgar Ulmer
“People on the Sunday” is a plotless German film that explores the lives of ordinary citizens on a sunny and hopeful Sunday in pre-war Berlin.


City Girl (1930)
Release Date: February 16, 1930
Director: F.W. Murnau
Studio: Fox Film Corporation
City Girl is Murnau’s penultimate film (prior to Tabu) before his untimely death. It tells the story of a romance between an unhappy waitress working in Chicago and the son of a poor wheat farmer. The film brilliantly conveys the tension between the city and the country, as well as the dreams and realities of young lovers.

Anna Christie (1930)
Release Date: February 21, 1930
Director: Clarence Brown
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
As an adaptation of the Eugene O’Neill play of the same name, Anna Christie was the originator of the famous “Garbo Talks!” marketing campaign. Greta Garbo plays a jaded prostitute who returns home with her father on the New York harbor after living a hard life. She falls in love with a young sailor but tries to keep her dark past a secret.

Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) (1930)
Release Date: April 1, 1930
Director: Josef von Sternberg
A German film, “The Blue Angel” is the first collaboration between von Sternberg and the unknown actress, Marlene Dietrich, which led to contract from Paramount for six more brilliant films. Also starring the great Emil Jannings, the film tells the story of the tragic descent of a once respected professor who falls in love with a cabaret girl, and his station falls to a clown in the cabaret show as he descends into madness. This powerful film has been called the most important film of Josef von Sternberg’s career.

Zemlya (Earth) (1930)
Release Date: April 8, 1930
Director: Alexander Dovzhenko
Zemlaya is a silent Soviet propaganda film, and is Dozhenko’s best known film in the West. It is part three of his “Ukraine trilogy.” The story follows a family of Ukrainian peasant farmers (“Kulaks”) during the era of Soviet collectivization.

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Sous Les Toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris) (1930)
Release Date: May 2, 1930
Director: René Claire
“Under the Roofs of Paris” is one of three early French films for which René Claire is best known, the other two being Le Million (1931), and A nous la liberte (1931). The film is partly a musical about three working class men who all fall in love with the same woman.

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À propos de Nice (1930)
Release Date: May 28, 1930
Director: Jean Vigo
“Concerning Nice” is a plotless, avant-garde documentary-styled film depicting scenes of the middle class lifestyle around Nice, France. It is Jean Vigo’s debut film, though he is perhaps better known for his two later films: Zero for Conduct (1933) and L’Atalante (1934). Vigo tragically died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 in 1934.

The Big House (1930)
Release Date: June 24, 1930
Director: George Hill
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Inspired by a series of well-publicized prison breaks in the 1920s, The Big House tells the story of an imprisoned man who befriends a fellow prisoner, Butch, who stages a huge prison break, but their escape attempt is thwarted by betrayal.


Animal Crackers (1930)
Release Date: August 23, 1930
Director: Victor Heerman
Studio: Paramount Pictures
The second of the Marx Brothers comedy films, this story concerns the chaos that ensues when an aristocrat hosts a private gala, attended by Groucho Marx who has just returned from an African safari, and suddenly a valuable painting goes missing.

The Big Trail (1930)
Release Date: November 1, 1930
Director: Raoul Walsh
Studio: Fox Film Corporation
Starring the young and unknown John Wayne, The Big Trail is a beautiful film about the Oregon Trail pioneers. It follows a wagon caravan as they embark from Missouri and head for Oregon with John Wayne playing the “long ranger” character.

Morocco (1930)
Release Date: November 14, 1930
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Although von Sternberg had previously discovered Marlene Dietrich and featured her in his German film “The Blue Angel,” Morocco was the first of six famous Hollywood productions made for Paramount as a legendary collaboration between von Sternberg and Dietrich. Morocco tells the story of troubled romance between a French soldier in North Africa, played by Gary Cooper, and his paramour, played by Marlene Dietrich.

Hell’s Angels (1930)
Release Date: November 15, 1930
Director: Howard Hughes
Studio: United Artists
Starring the erotic Jean Harlow “The Blond Bombshell” this film tells the story of two English brothers who fight in World War I, and their mutual love interest and betrayal.

L’Age D’Or (The Age of Gold) (1930)
Release Date: November 29, 1930
Director: Luis Buñuel
“The Age of Gold” is Buñuel’s follow-up surrealist film to “The Andalusian Dog.” The film presents a series of vignettes, connected as a woman and a man attempt to consummate their relationship but they are prevented by various repressive institutions, such as the church, high society, and general bourgeois values.

Le sang d’un poète (The Blood of a Poet) (1930-1932)
Release Date: January 20, 1932
Director: Jean Cocteau
This film is an avant-garde, surrealist, and slightly unsettling movie that is first part of Cocteau’s ‘Orphic trilogy,’ followed by Orpheus nearly 20 years later in 1949. It portrays an artist as he brings a statue to life, contemplates killing himself, and a variety of other symbolic scenes.

Top Grossing Films of 1930

1. Whoopee! – $2,600,000

2. Check and Double Check – $1,810,000

3. Common Clay – $1,300,000

4. Hell’s Angels – $1,400,000

5. All Quiet on the Western Front – $1,500,000



Outstanding Production (1930-1931): Cimarron (1931)
Release Date: January 26, 1931
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Studio: RKO
Somehow, Cimarron won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1931, despite other fine films in the running, like Chaplin’s City Lights. The story is based on Edna Ferber’s popular novel about a young couple during the Oklahoma land rush (which took place in 1889). They move to a wild pioneer town, create a muckraking newspaper, and start a family. This choice for Best Picture was eyebrow raising for me because the plot just seems to drag with no arc to the narrative.


Little Caesar (1931)
Release Date: January 9, 1931
Director: Marvin LeRoy
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Little Caesar is the first great crime film in cinematic history. Modeled on the story of Al Capone, the film stars Edward Robinson and the younger, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.


City Lights (1931)
Release Date: January 30, 1931
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Studio: United Artists
Despite the rise of talkies, Chaplin decided to reprise his silent Little Tramp character one more time in the amazing City Lights, which follows the Tramp through his misadventures in the big city. It was the last appearance of the Little Tramp before Chaplin’s Modern Times, the Tramp’s final performance. City Lights is Chaplin’s beautiful meditation on the cinematic art, an homage to the silent era and the final encore of the Little Tramp.


Dracula (1931)
Release Date: February 12, 1931
Director: Tod Browning
Studio: Universal Pictures
Bela Lugosi delivers one of the most memorable horror performances in cinematic history as the reclusive and eccentric Count Dracula. The film is a clear homage to the earlier and superior silent film, Nosferatu. Director, Tod Browning, was primarily known for his Hollywood horror film productions. This was the first of Universal’s classic horror films.


Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931)
Release Date: March 18, 1931
Director: F.W. Murnau
Studio: Paramount
Tabu is the final film made by F.W. Murnau before his tragic and untimely death due to a car accident. Tabu is a pseudo-documentary romance film about natives in the tropics (Tahiti and Bora Bora). In many ways the drama and controversies behind the scenes of Tabu are far more interesting: Murnau and his uncredited co-director Robert Flaherty (of Nanook repute) developed a highly contentious working relationship, and financing was constantly being revoked leading both men to the brink of bankruptcy.

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Dishonored (1931)
Release Date: April 4, 1931
Director: Josef Von Sternberg
Studio: Paramount
Based on the infamous stories of World War I era spy, Mata Hari, Dishonored is the second Hollywood collaboration between Josef Von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich. It tells the dark story of a prostitute turned spy from Austria. She has a romance with a Russian agent, and smuggles secret plans, until she is eventually killed by firing squad. Her allegiance to the state of Austria is the primary question throughout the film.

Le Million (The Million) (1931)
Release Date: April 15, 1931
Director: René Claire
“The Million” is a beautiful little French film about an artist being chased across Paris by his many creditors as he hunts down a winning lottery ticket that can save him. It is one of Claire’s most celebrated films, along with his other musical comedies, Under the Roofs of Paris, and A nous la liberte.


The Public Enemy (1931)
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Studio: Warner Bros.
James Cagney and Jean Harlow star in this classic, early Chicago gangster film about two childhood friends, Irishman Tom Powers (James Cagney) and Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) who grow up and become mixed up in rival mobster gangs. In one controversial scene Cagney’s character smashes a grapefruit in the face of his girlfriend (played by Mae Clark). This was Warner Brothers’s successful follow-up movie to their earlier gangster hit, Little Caesar (1931). It’s apparent advocacy of immorality hastened Hollywood’s advance toward self regulation.


M (1931)
Release Date: May 11, 1931
Director: Fritz Lang
“M – “A City looks for a Murderer” is a marvelous work of cinematic genius starring the great Peter Lorre as a German child murderer who is captured and brought to trial in a dramatic concluding scene. It is a magnificently suspenseful film from “The Master of Darkness” and co-written by his Thea von Harbou. The film was originally released in Weimar Germany.


Limite (1931)
Release Date: May 17, 1931
Director: Mário Peixoto
Limite (meaning “border” or “limit”) is a beautifully shot experimental silent film created by Brazilian director, Mário Peixoto -the only film he ever made. He self-financed the project with the help of his wealthy family. He was 22 years old. It has sometimes been called the greatest Brazilian film ever made. It is a slow-moving film about a man and two women trapped on a boat floating in the open ocean. Each of their backstories are told in flashbacks.

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The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
Release Date: August 1, 1931
Director: Ernst Lubistch
Studio: Paramount
The Smiling Lieutenant stars the great French cabaret actor, Maurice Chevalier, about a lieutenant who falls in love with a woman played by Claudette Colbert but accidentally becomes entangled in a courtship with the royal princess (played by Miriam Hopkins). This film popularized the phrase the “Lubitsch Touch” for the ridiculous joke in the movie -an ending in which the protagonist gets the wrong girl.

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Monkey Business (1931)
Release Date: September 19, 1931
Director: Norman McLeod
Studio: Paramount
Monkey Business is the third Marx Brothers film. They play four “stowaways” (none of them are named in the movie) aboard a cruise liner and they get involved in all manner of mayhem, including with gang members aboard the ship. Funnily enough, the fellow Paramount French cabaret actor Maurice Chevalier makes a small cameo. It is a funny movie, but not my personal favorite Marx Brothers picture.

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Marius (1931)
Release Date: October 10, 1931
Director: Alexander Korda
Marcel Pagnol’s masterful 6+ hour epic French trilogy collectively called the “Marseilles Trilogy” is one of the great feats of early cinema. Part I was directed by Alexander Korda and tells the story of Marius, a young man from Marseilles, who falls in love but abandons his father and lover for a life of adventure on the seas. I thoroughly enjoyed each part of this trilogy. It was distributed by the French division of Paramount. It has since been re-released through Janus Films and its relationship with Criterion.

La Chienne (1931)
Release Date: November 19, 1931
Director: Jean Renoir
Studio: Gaumont
La Chienne (sometimes called “The Bitch”) is a film about an ordinarily but miserable man, Maurice, who aspires to be a painter, but his wife disapproves so he takes a mistress, but when he discovers her with her pimp, he kills her but escapes conviction. His life spirals out of control until he lives like a bum, but his artwork is sold to dealers, though he remains wholly ignorant.


Frankenstein (1931)
Release Date: November 21, 1931
Director: James Hale
Studio: Universal Pictures
In 1931 both directors James Hale and Tod Browning saved Carl Laemmie Jr.’s Universal Pictures from destitution with two classic horror films: Frankenstein and Dracula. Based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein brings to life the frightening but sympathetic monster, played by Boris Karloff, as he causes terror throughout the Bavarian countryside, all while being tragically misunderstood.

À nous la liberté (Freedom for Us) (1931)
Release Date: December 18, 1931
Director: René Claire
“Freedom for us all” is a quirky French musical/comedy about two formerly imprisoned friends, one who starts a successful factory (like Jean Valjean), but he loses it to a wealthier businessman and the factory is taken over by automation. The two friends once again live like bums at the close of the film. This was the first foreign language film to receive an Oscar nomination.

Arrowsmith (1931)
Release Date: December 26, 1931
Director: John Ford
Studio: United Artists
Arrowsmith is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Sinclair Lewis. Sadly, neither the film, nor the novel, are particularly interesting. John Ford, apparently cobbled together this film about the wandering life of the medical researcher-turned-country doctor, Dr. Martin Arrowsmith. The film stars Ronald Coleman as Martin Arrowsmith and Helen Hayes as his wife.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Release Date: December 31, 1931
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Studio: Paramount
1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel in which the eccentric Dr. Henry Jekyll develops a serum that transforms him into the violent Mr Hyde. The film is a surprising delight.

Top Grossing Films of 1931

1. Frankenstein – $12M

2. City Lights – $5,019,181

3. Trader Horn – $3,595,000


Outstanding Production (1931-1932): Grand Hotel (1932)
Release Date: April 12, 1932
Director: Edmund Goulding
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Winner of Best Picture, Grand Hotel boasted an all-star cast including Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore. The film follows the intertwined and overlapping stories of a variety of characters residing in the “Grand Hotel” in Berlin.

Helpmates short (1932)
Release Date: January 23, 1932
Director: James Parrot
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Helpmates is an early short comedy film of Laurel and Hardy. The humor focuses on a married man who throws a house party while his wife is away only to learn she is returning early so he and a friend fall into a number of mishaps while trying to quickly clean the house.

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Freaks (1932)
Release Date: February 12, 1932
Director: Tod Browning
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Freaks is an odd and slightly disturbing B-horror picture by Tod Browning about a trapeze artist who joins a sideshow act in order to feign love with a “midget.” There is a plot steal his money, but it goes terribly awry. This controversial film was significantly censored, edited, banned in many places upon its release.

Shanghai Express (1932)
Release Date: February 12, 1932
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Studio: Paramount
In Shanghai Express, Marlene Dietrich delivers a highly memorable and seductive performance in her fourth of seven films with Josef von Sternberg. The film takes place during the Chinese Civil War as several Western individuals board a train from Peking to Shanghai that gets inspected by government officials, but it is later hijacked by a revolutionary leader and Shanghai Lilly, a seductress, is kidnapped while being torn between the Chinese radical leader and her Western lover. Ultimately, she chooses the former to protect her true love.

Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
Release Date: March 25, 1932
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Based on the famous novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, this 1932 film is the story of a pair of British adventurers traveling to Africa, and the leader’s daughter, Jane, is abducted by a strange jungle dweller, Tarzan, and his ape friends. She falls in love with Tarzan and she must choose between her former life, or a new life in the jungle with Tarzan.


Scarface: The Shame of the Nation (1932)
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
Studio: United Artists
Following from Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, Scarface is one of the great gangster film of all time, famously remade in 1983 starring Al Pacino. It stars Paul Muni in a mimicking the life and times of Al Capone, as the mobster, Tony Camonte.

Vampyr (1932)
Release Date: May 6, 1932
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
“Vampyr: The Dream of Allan Gray” is a horror film that is a fascinating re-telling of the vampiric-Dracula story.

Flowers and Trees short (1932)
Release Date: July 30, 1932
Director: Burt Gillett
Flowers and Trees is the first technicolor sound film that was released as a “Silly Symphony” by Disney.

Horse Feathers (1932)
Release Date: August 10, 1932
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Studio: Paramount
Horse Feathers is the fourth, and perhaps best, of the Marx Brothers films. Groucho Marx plays the anarchic president of Huxley College and he refocuses the college on what matters in higher education: football. It is a hilarious film!

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Love Me Tonight (1932)
Release Date: August 18, 1932
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Studio: Paramount
Love Me Tonight is a terrific little comedy film starring the French actor, Maurice Chevalier (of The Smiling Lieutenant fame). It is about a Parisian tailor who poses as a Baron and falls in love with an heiress, only for her to discover his secret.


Blonde Venus (1932)
Release Date: September 16, 1932
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Studio: Paramount
Blonde Venus tells the story of a poor American soldier who falls in love with a German woman. They return to the United States, but when money becomes tight due to his medical bills, she is forced to become a secret cabaret singer and become bankrolled by a wealthy gentleman. The film is another terrific collaboration between von Sternberg and Dietrich.

The Old Dark House (1932)
Release Date: October 20, 1932
Director: James Whale
Studio: Universal Pictures
James Whale, of Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) repute, also directed this loopy, B-Movie, cult-classic that tells the now cliché story of two lovers who seek shelter in a storm at an old haunted house filled with strange characters, including the great Boris Karloff.

Trouble In Paradise (1932)
Release Date: October 21, 1932
Director: Ernst Lubistch
Studio: Paramount
This film is known for establishing the “Lubistch Touch.” It tells the amusing story of two thieves posing as wealthy aristocrats and they hatch a plan to rob a wealthy heiress.

Red Dust (1932)
Release Date: October 22, 1932
Director: Victor Fleming
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Red Dust is an amusing and scandalous pre-code Hollywood film starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Mary Astor. It tells the story of a prostitute in Indochina, and an American man who is torn between two women.


Fanny (1932)
Release Date: October 28, 1932
Director: Marc Allégret
Part II of Marcel Pagnol’s excellent “Marseilles Trilogy” continues the saga in which Fanny discovers she is pregnant and reluctantly agrees to marry a wealthy businessman, and as time goes by Marius returns to discover the child.


I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932)
Release date: November 10, 1932
Director: Mervyn Leroy
Studio: Warner Bros.
Paul Muni stars in this film about a World War I veteran who returns home with a desire to work in construction but he gets caught up in a robbery. He is arrested and locked into a chain gang (likely in Georgia), but he escapes and flees to Chicago and he becomes a successful engineer. His landlord falls in love with him, but he is in love with someone else. His landlord blackmails him and turns him into the police. Again, he is placed on a chain gang, and again he escapes, living on the road as he appears to his lover one last time at the end.

Boudu Saved From Drowning (Boudu sauvé des eaux) (1932)
Release Date: November 11, 1932
Director: Jean Renoir
Boudu Saved From Drowning is an odd tragic French film about a French flaneur who attempts suicide but is rescued and made to appear as if middle class, only to return to his former lifestyle in the end.

A Farewell to Arms (1932)
Release Date: December 8, 1932
Director: Frank Borzage
Studio: Paramount
Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes star in this interpretation of Hemingway’s famous novel. An ambulance driver is injured in Italy and falls in love with a nurse during the First World War. He deserts his position to find her, but he finds her dying in childbirth at the end of the film.

The Mummy (1932)
Release Date: December 22, 1932
Director: Karl Freund
Studio: Universal Pictures
Starring Boris Karloff, The Mummy is a surprisingly fun film. It tells the story of Imhotep, an ancient Egyptian mummy that is accidentally reincarnated by a group of archeologists.

Top Grossing Films of 1932

1. Shanghai Express – $3,700,000

2. The Kid From Spain – $2,621,000

3. Grand Hotel – $2,594,000

4. Tarzan the Ape Man – $2,540,000

5. Smilin’ Through – $2,033,000


Outstanding Production (1932-1933): Cavalcade (1933)
Release Date: April 15, 1933
Director: Frank Lloyd
Studio: Fox Film Productions
Cavalcade is a biopic that tells the story of a British family living in post-Victorian England as they face various trials and tribulations, including the Boer Wars. It is a good film, though a curious choice as the winner of Best Picture.

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)
Release Date: January 6, 1933
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia Pictures
The Bitter Tea of General Yen tells the story of two missionaries in China who appeal to a powerful warlord, General Yen, for safe passage. He provides them with a silly document and eventually the young bride is kidnapped and she falls in love with General Yen, but he is betrayed and commits suicide while she embraces him.

King Kong (1933)
Release Date: March 2, 1933
Directors: Merian C. Cooper and Enrest B. Shoedsack
Studio: Radio Pictures (RKO)
King Kong is perhaps the most famous adventure flick of all time about a trip to a remote island that turns into a project to capture the massive prehistoric ape. Upon their return to civilization, King Kong escapes and runs amok in New York City as he famously scales a skyscraper until he is shot down. He falls to his death as a bystander says: “It was Beauty killed the Beast.”

42nd Street (1933)
Release Date: March 9, 1933
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Studio: Warner Bros.
42nd Street is an essential “backdoor musical” film set during the Great Depression about a stage director who decides to create one more massive musical stage hit.

Zéro de conduite (Zero For Conduct 1933)
Release date: April 7, 1933
Director: Jean Vigo
Studio: Gaumont
Zero For Conduct is a short, experimental vignette film about boarding school children revolting against their un-amusing and midget headmaster during the commencement day celebrations.

The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
Release Date: August 17, 1933
Director: Alexander Korda
Studio: United Artists
Starring Charles Laughton, this light-hearted film tells the story of Henry VIII beginning with the beheading of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and ending with the killing of his betraying wife, Katherine Howard. At the end of the film, we find an aging Henry VIII gorging himself with food and breaks the fourth wall with the audience, as comedies are wont to do, and says, “six wives, and the best of them’s the worst.”

Morning Glory (1933)
Release Date: August 18, 1933
Director: Lowell Sherman
Studio: RKO
Morning Glory is an excellent film starring Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. with an inspiring score by Max Steiner. Hepburn plays a youthful girl from a small town with big dreams of success on Broadway. She is forced to confront the conflict between fame and love, and risk becoming a mere fading “morning glory.” The film ends as she chooses to be a morning glory shouting, “I’m not afraid” over and over.

Dinner at Eight (1933)
Release Date: August 29, 1933
Director: George Cukor
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Dinner At Eight stars Jon Barrymore, Marie Dressler, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, and others. It tells the story of a businessman and his anxious wife as they throw a dinner party that causes a tremendous drama with the Great Depression as the backdrop.

The Invisible Man (1933)
Release Date: November 13, 1933
Director: James Whale
Studio: Universal
Based on H.G. Wells’s 1897 novel of the same name about a man who is invisible (wrapped in clothes). He rents a hotel room in an effort to discover an antidote but when his secret is revealed, he goes mad all over town until he is killed by the police despite his invisibility.

Little Women (1933)
Release Date: November 16, 1933
Director: George Cukor
Studio: RKO
Little Women is a cinematic triumph based on the 1858 novel by Louisa May Alcott. The story is told in a series of vignettes about the virtuous but poor March family particularly Josephine “Jo” March played by a young Katharine Hepburn.

Duck Soup (1933)
Release Date: November 17, 1933
Director: Leo McCarey
Studio: Paramount
Duck Soup is the brilliant Marx Brothers parody of the fascistic dictatorships of the 1930s (it was banned in Mussolini’s Italy). Groucho Marx plays the ridiculous new leader of the fictional country of “Freedonia,” as he leads the nation into a silly war that ends with throwing fruit at his rival declaring victory. It is an amazing film from the Marx Brothers, my personal favorite.

Queen Christina (1933)
Release Date: December 26, 1933
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Starring the great Greta Garbo, Queen Christina is a historically inaccurate retelling of the story of Queen Christina of Sweden in the 17th Century. The Queen declines to follow the demands of state and produce an heir, and in the end she abdicates her throne in order to fall in love.

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Sons of the Desert (1933)

Footlight Parade (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Les Hurdes (Land Without Bread) (1933)

Top Grossing Films of 1933

1. Cavalcade – $3,500,000

2. Gold Diggers of 1933 – $3,321,000

3. Queen Christina – $2,887,285


Outstanding Production (1934): It Happened One Night (1934)
Release Date: February 22, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia
Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star in this classic film about an heiress who tries to elope despite her father’s misgivings. She encounters a former newspaper writer and they go on an adventure together before eventually falling in love.

L’Atalante (1934)
Release Date: April 25, 1934
Director: Jean Vigo
Studio: Gaumont
L’Atalante is a dreamy film about a ship captain of ‘L’Atalante’ who gets married and becomes jealous of his wife, but they reconcile at the end.

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Release Date: May 4, 1934
Directors: W.S. Van Dyke and George Cukor (interim)
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Starring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and William Powell, Manhattan Melodrama is the first of fourteen on screen pairings between Myrna Low and William Powell. The film tells the story of two young boys who grow up, one becoming governor and the other a mobster. They fall in love with the same woman, and the mobster is condemned to death in the end.

The Thin Man (1934)
Release Date: May 25, 1934
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, The Thin Man is a comic film based on the Dashiell Hammett novel. It is the story of a vanished former client along with his secretary, as the mystery is solved during a dramatic dinner party scene.

The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Release Date: September 15, 1934
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Studio: Paramount
The Scarlet Empress is the beautiful historical retelling of the story of Catherine The Great -her political necessities and liaisons. The film was the sixth of seven collaborations between Dietrich and von Sternberg. It is an incredible film.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)
Release Date: September 21, 1934
Director: Sidney Franklin
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
This biopic tells the story of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, both notable English poets during the Victorian era.

The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Release Date: October 12, 1934
Director: Mark Sandrich
Studio: RKO
The Gay Divorcee is the second of ten classic musical pairings between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in movies.

It’s a Gift (1934)
Release Date: November 17, 1934
Director: Norman McLeod
Studio: Paramount
It’s a Gift is a short W.C. Fields film in which he plays a struggling everyman who suddenly inherits money and buys an orange grove in California.

Imitation of Life (1934)
Release Date: November 26, 1934
Director: John M. Stahl
Studio: Universal
The film tells the story of a white widow and her daughter Jessie, as well as the parallel lives of their black housekeeper and the struggles facing her mixed race daughter. It is a powerful and important film to the history of cinema.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Release Date: December 1934
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Studio: Gaumont
Starring Peter Lorre, this film is one of the more praised of Hitchcock’s British films. It tells the story of a British couple who become embroiled in an international crime when their daughter is abducted by spies plotting a political assassination. Hitchcock later remade this film in 1956.

The Black Cat (1934)

Shen Nu (The Goddess) (1934)

Tarzan And His Mate (1934)

Judge Priest (1934)

The Lost Patrol (1934)

Top Grossing Films of 1934

1. The Merry Widow – $2,608,000

2. The Barretts of Wimpole Street – $2,343,000

3. Treasure Island – $2,264,000

4. Tarzan and His Mate – $2,239,000


Outstanding Production (1935): Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Release Date: November 8, 1935
Director: Frank Lloyd
Studio: MGM
Winner of Best Picture, Mutiny on the Bounty tells the swashbuckling tale of a mutiny aboard a British royal navy vessel during the late 18th century. It is a retelling of true events, with Charles Laughton playing the tyrannical Captain Bligh of the H.M.S. Bounty, and Clark Gable, who plays his mutinous counterpart.

The Little Colonel (1935)
Release Date: February 22, 1935
Director: David Butler
Studio: Fox Film
The first of four films starring Shirley Temple alongside Bill Robinson, The Little Colonel is a fun film of north and south camaraderie in post-civil war America, albeit with controversial portrayals of African Americans in the film.

Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will 1935)
Release Date: March 28, 1935
Director: Leni Riefenstahl
“The Triumph of the Will” is an explicit propaganda film justifying the purpose, and showcasing the grandeur of the Nazi movement shortly pre-World War II. The overarching theme of the film is that Germany has been wronged (with the Treaty of Versailles), that Germany is rising again, and the film encourages the nation to rise with the growing movement. The film takes place over four days in September of 1934 as the Fuhrer goes to speak to a Nazi party rally in Nuremberg.

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Release Date: April 19, 1935
Director: James Whale
Studio: Universal Pictures
Bride of Frankenstein is one of the rare films in which the sequel is widely considered superior to the original. It is one of James Whale’s best comedy/horror films from the 1930s. Again starring Boris Karloff as the monster, Bride of Frankenstein tells the story of both the monster and Henry Frankenstein, as they survived the events of the first film, and a partner is created for the monster.

Les Miserables (1935)
Release Date: April 20, 1935
Director: Richard Boleslawski
Studio: United Artists
The plot of the film loosely follows the novel by Victor Hugo with some notable changes. The film stars Fredric March and Charles Laughton.

The Informer (1935)
Release Date: May 9, 1935
Director: John Ford
Studio: RKO
The Informer takes place during the Irish War of Independence in the 1920s, based on the novel of the same name by Liam O’Flaherty. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won several, including Best Actor and Best Director.

The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935)
Release date: June 6, 1935
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
This Hitchcock classic tells the story of an “everyman” who becomes accidentally caught up in a wild that conspiracy that begins and ends with a stage show of the “memory man,” who is asked the describe in detail the “39 Steps,” an international espionage ring with the schematic of a silent aircraft.

Curly Top (1935)
Release Date: July 26, 1935
Director: Irving Cummings
Studio: Fox Film Corporation
Curly Top is a classic Shirley Temple film – one of her best. It features one of her best known sing-a-long songs: “Animal Crackers In My Soup.” It tells the story of a young orphan as she and her sister are rescued by an older, wealthier gentleman who is in love with her older sister.

Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935)
Release Date: August 3, 1935
Director: Clyde Bruckman
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Starring W.C. Fields, Man on the Flying Trapeze is a hilarious film as Fields plays a “memory expert” who is caught in one terrible situation after another, from his house being robbed and then he gets caught in a lie with his boss and his wife.

Alice Adams (1935)
Release Date: August 15, 1935
Director: George Stevens
Studio: RKO
Based on Booth Tarkington’s Pulitzer-Prize winning 1921 novel, Alice Adams is about a lower-middle class, midwestern girl (brilliantly played by Katharine Hepburn) who is pursued by an aristocratic gentleman. The Adams family hosts this gentleman for dinner, where just about everything goes awry.

Top Hat (1935)
Release Date: August 29, 1935
Director: Mark Sandrich
Studio: RKO
Top Hat is the most famous of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical screwball comedies. Astaire and Rogers play a musical duo, with Astaire’s character falling for Rogers’s character and following her from London to Venice.

A Night at the Opera (1935)
Release Date: November 15, 1935
Director: Sam Wood
Studio: MGM
Groucho Marx’s favorite Marx Brothers film, this absurd, comedy picture is another hilarious jaunt by the Marx Brothers (minus Zeppo who had recently left the act) as they lampoon bourgeois more, like an evening at the opera.

The Littlest Rebel (1935)
Release Date: November 22, 1935
Director: David Butler
Studio: 20th Century Fox
The film is a beautiful and classically heart-warming tale of a Southern plantation family during the American Civil War, despite showing tired depictions of black slaves as unintelligent, silly, and mostly defenders of the Confederacy.

A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
Release Date: December 27, 1935
Director: Jack Conway
Studio: MGM
A Tale of Two Cities is the great film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s great novel about two lovers, one English and one French, during the French Revolution.

Captain Blood (1935)
Release Date: December 28, 1935
Director: Michael Curtiz
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Captain Blood, starring Errol Flynn, is wonderfully entertaining film. It tells the story of Peter Blood, a physician who is imprisoned for treating a rebel to the English crown so he is imprisoned but he works his way up out of slavery and is praised in the end for leading a ship that helps rescue Port Royal from a French invasion.

Carnival in Flanders (1935)

David Copperfield (1935)

The Devil Is A Woman (1935)

Peter Ibbetsen (1935)

Top Grossing Films of 1935

1. Mutiny on the Bounty – $2,250,000

2. Top Hat – $1,782,000

3. China Seas – $1,710,000


Outstanding Production (1936): The Great Ziegfield (1936)
Release Date: March 22, 1936
Director: Hunt Stromberg
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Starring Myrna Loy and William Powell in one of their 14 films together, The Great Ziegfield represents the height of Golden Age Hollywood luxury. It is a three hour musical about Flo Ziegfield and his famous Broadway dancers.

Modern Times (1936)
Release Date: February 5, 1936
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Studio: United Artists
Chaplin’s iconic film is, in many ways, a commentary on the absurdity of humans beings in the modern age of technological efficiency. Appropriately, it is also a social protest against the advent of synchronized sound in “talkie” films. It is Chaplin’s last ‘silent’ film and is set against the backdrop of the Great Depression.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
Release Date: April 12, 1936
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Starring Gary Cooper and Arthur Jean, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is a charming tale of small town dreams and big city delusions. Gary Cooper plays Longfellow Deeds who suddenly inherits a vast sum of wealth and when he travels to New York to claim his inheritance, he realizes everyone in the city is either trying to take his money or laugh at him so he decides to give it all away to help the poor farmers during the Great Depression.

Swing Time (1936)
Release Date: September 4, 1936
Director: George Stevens
Studio: RKO Pictures
Swing Time is a wonderful film, and may be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’s finest movie. Together they made ten Hollywood films, nine of which were musicals for RKO (Swing Time was their sixth film together). While the plot leaves some things to be desired, and has a dated and unfortunate scene of blackface, Swing Time is nevertheless a marvelous and joyous film filled with wonderful song and dance routines, such as the famous “The Way You Look Tonight.”

My Man Godfrey (1936)
Release Date: September 6, 1936
Director: Gregory La Cava
Studio: Universal Pictures
This amusing and chaotic screwball comedy stars William Powell and Carole Lombard (who were previously married). Powell plays Godfrey Parke, a Harvard graduate who has become homeless during the Great Depression. He is brought into a fancy party as a joke but he is soon hired as the butler for a chaotic but wealthy family.

Dodsworth (1936)
Release Date: September 23, 1936
Director: William Wyler
Studio: United Artists
Dodsworth is a bittersweet film about a failing upper-class marriage on the brink of retirement. The story is derived from Sinclair Lewis’s famous novel of the same name. It stars Walter Huston and Mary Astor, among others.

Poster for César 1936 showing Fanny and Marius .jpg

César (1936)
Release Date: October 27, 1936
Director: Marcel Pagnol
César is the cathartic, happy ending to the Pagnol’s “Marseilles Trilogy.” It takes place about twenty years after the events of Fanny, where her husband is dying. Her son, Césariot, discovers the truth of his biological father and opens the door for Fanny and Marius to finally be together.

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Rembrandt (1936)
Release Date: November 6, 1936
Director: Alexandra Korda
The great Charles Laughton plays Rembrandt, the famous Flemish painter in this British fictionalized biopic. The film is a kind of tragedy. It begins with Rembrandt vin Rijn at the height of his success and power. He is respected and honored everywhere he goes. As the film progresses, Rembrandt descends into obscurity, loneliness, and despair.

Sabatoge (1936)
Release Date: December 2, 1936
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Sabatoge is a classic British, Hitchcock thriller. The story follows Karl Verloc as he becomes entangled in an organized crime group in London, presumably of Nazis. Unlike some of Hitchcock’s later films, which typically follow an innocent “everyman” who is falsely accused of a crime, in Sabotage, Hitchcock explores another narrative style, in which a wife slowly realizes the true nature of her husband. The most iconic scene in the film occurs when Karl asks a young boy to carry a box, but the audience knows a bomb is set to detonate inside the box.

Camille (1936)
Release Date: December 12, 1936
Director: George Cukor
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Camille is an elegant and beautiful MGM film starring Greta Garbo. The plot is based on an 1842 story by Alexandre Dumas fils (the Younger). The film tells the tragic story of Marguerite Gautier, a lower class woman of Paris who rubs shoulders with wealthy elite men. She is caught between a life of love and luxury, while suffering from consumption.

Partie de Campagne (A Day in the Country 1936)
Release Date: 1936 (the film was shot in 1936, and actually released 10 years later in 1946)
Director: Jean Renoir
A Day in the Country is an unfinished masterpiece. It tells a simple story about a shop-owner from Paris who takes his family on a trip to the French countryside one afternoon in 1860 to celebrate their mother’s birthday. A secret tryst occurs, and years later we return to the same spot, just for a brief moment.

Fury (1936)

Le Roman d’un tricheur (The Story of a Cheat) (1936)

The Only Son (1936)

Romeo and Juliet (1936)

Things To Come (1936)

Top Grossing Films of 1936

1. The Great Ziegfeld – $3,089,000

2. San Francisco. -$2,868,000

3. Lloyd’s of London – $2,000,000

4. After The Thin Man – $1,992,000

5. Modern Times – $1,800,000


Image result for the life of emile zola (1937)

Outstanding Production (1937): The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
Release Date: August 11, 1937
Director: William Dieterle
Studio: Warner Bros.
The Life of Emile Zola is the remarkable, yet dry and lengthy biographical film of Émile Zola, the great French writer and critic. Paul Muni, of Scarface (1932) and The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) fame, delivers a terrific performance of Zola.

The Good Earth

The Good Earth (1937)
Release Date: January 29, 1937
Directors: Sidney Franklin, Victor Fleming (uncredited), Gustav Machety (uncredited)
Studio: MGM
This is the film version of a play based on the Pulitzer Prize winning 1931 novel of the same name by Pearl S. Buck (she later also won the Nobel Prize). It stars Paul Muni as Wang Lung, a poor Chinese farmer struggling as a wheat farmer around the turn of the 20th century.

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Le Grande Illusion (1937)
Release Date: June 8, 1937
Director: Jean Renoir
Starring the great eccentric film director, Erich von Stroheim, as well as the renowned French actor, Jean Gabin, “The Grand Illusion” is one of Jean Renoir’s masterpieces. The first half of the film is about two French soldiers who are captured as German prisoners of war as the old aristocracy begins to crumble, and the second half of the film details their escape to Switzerland with an unexpected romance along the way. It is an amazing film.

Snow White 1937 poster.png

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Release Date: December 21, 1937
Director: David Hand et al.
Studio: Disney/RKO
Snow White is the first feature-length Disney cartoon film. The story is loosely based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale but it weaves in several classic musical numbers, including “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Heigh Ho” and “Whistle While You Work.”


The Spanish Earth (1937)
Release Date: July 11, 1937
Director: Joris Ivens
The Spanish Earth is a powerful panoramic film of Spanish Civil War, written by Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos (two writers whose relationship had deteriorated), and it was directed by Dutch independent filmmaker, Joris Ivens. The narration for the film was originally set to be completed by Orson Welles, however Ernest Hemingway completed the narration in the final version. The Spanish Earth is a fascinating glimpse into an often overlooked yet highly destructive and influential war in the 1930s. The most powerful parts of the film are the faces of the soldiers, peasants, farmers, and civilians fighting to defend the Spanish Republic against a military regime.

A Day at the Races (1937)

A Star Is Born (1937)

The Awful Truth (1937)

Captains Courageous (1937)

Dead End (1937)

Heidi (1937)

Lost Horizon (1937)

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

Pearls of the Crown (1937)

Pépé le Moko (1937)

Shall We Dance (1937)

Stage Door (1937)

Song At Midnight (1937)

Stella Dallas (1937)

Way Out West short (1937)

Top Grossing Films of 1937

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – $8,000,000

2. Saratoga – $2432,000

3. Maytime – $2,183,000

4. The Good Earth – $2,002,000


You Can't Take It with You 1938 Poster.jpg

Outstanding Production (1938): You Can’t Take It With You (1938)
Release Date: August 23, 1938
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Frank Capra was the king of the Academy Awards in the 1930s – winning Best Director for his films It Happened One Night in 1934, and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town in 1936, and then You Can’t Take It With You in 1938. You Can’t Take It With You is a delightfully charming comedy film starring Lionel Barrymore, Jean Arthur, and Jimmy Stewart. It tells the story of a blossoming romance between a stuffy businessman’s son, and the daughter of an eccentric but altruistic older gentleman. Chaos ensues when the two worlds collide set against the backdrop of a pending real estate deal.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938 poster).jpg

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Release Date: May 14, 1938
Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
The Adventures of Robin Hood is a beautiful technicolor adventure film featuring the great Tazmanian gymnast-turned swashbuckling star, Errol Flynn. Olivia de Havilland of Gone with the Wind fame, plays Marian. This gem from the ’30s is truly one of the great adventure films of all time.

La Bête humaine 1938 film poster.jpg

La Bête Humaine (1938)
Release Date: December 23, 1938
Director: Jean Renoir
“The Human Beast” is loosely based on the successful 1890 Emile Zola novel of the same name. The film stars Jean Gabin who is the sole witness to a murder on a train, and has an affair with the culprit, the wife of a darkly tragic train engineer, but their relationship ends in suffering.

Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Alexander’s Rag Time Band (1938)

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Holiday (1938)

Jezebel (1938)

La Femme Boulanger (The Baker’s Wife 1938)

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations (1938)

Le Quai des brumes (Port of Shadows 1938)

Pygmalion (1938)

Top Grossing Films of 1938

1. Alexander’s Rag Time Band – $3,500,000

2. Boys Town – $2,828,000

3. In Old Chicago – $2,500,000


gone w the wind

Outstanding Production (1939): Gone With the Wind (1939)
Release Date: December 15, 1939
Director: Victor Fleming
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Gone with the Wind is a tale of nostalgia for a time that has literally “gone with the wind.” This now controversial epic film, is the biggest blockbuster of all time. It swept the Academy Awards in 1939, a year known for quite possibly being the greatest in all of cinematic history. Starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, the film tells the massive story of romance, war, and the decline of a once prominent Southern Plantation family.

Image result for stagecoach 1939

Stagecoach (1939)
Release Date: February 2, 1939
Director: John Ford
Studio: United Artists
Orson Welles once pronounced Stagecoach to be a textbook perfect film. With it, John Ford brought about a revival in the Western genre and effectively launched the career of John Wayne. The film is about a group of strangers in the 1880s who each board a stagecoach for a dangerous trip from Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Stagecoach is a hopeful and redemptive glimpse into a unified America, a nation that overcomes hidden divisions through chivalry, honor, and a shared destination.

Wuthering Heights (1939 poster).jpg

Wuthering Heights (1939)
Release Date: March 24, 1939
Director: William Wyler
Studio: United Artists
Starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, Wuthering Heights, is drawn from Emily Brontë’s great 1847 Gothic novel that tells the tortured love story of Heathcliff and Cathy, two unlikely lovers and their attachment to the home of their youth, Wuthering Heights.

Image result for La Regle de Jeu (1939)

La Regle de Jeu (1939)
Release Date: July 7, 1939
Director: Jean Renoir
“The Rules of the Game” is sometimes considered Jean Renoir’s greatest film (it is frequently listed among the greatest of all time). The film tells a sort of chaotic story about aristocrats as they attend a party at a rural country estate, while each of them has romantic attachments toward one another, but they publicly keep up a fanciful charade of normalcy.

Image result for wizard of oz

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Release Date: August 25, 1939
Director: Victor Fleming, Kind Vidor (uncredited) et al
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
In total, there were four directors who worked The Wizard of Oz. Starring Judy Garland, this now mythic film from the Golden Age of Hollywood tells the story of Dorothy who is poorly treated by a neighbor in her grey (or rather sepia) home in Kansas. She dreams of a far away place “over the rainbow,” and suddenly when a tornado strikes, she is magically transported to a technicolor world of witches, castles, and wonder. She walks with three friends (a lion, a scarecrow, and a tin man) along the yellow brick road to the land of Oz where Dorothy hopes she can return home.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939 poster).jpg

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Release Date: October 17, 1939
Director: Frank Capra
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is another brilliant film from Frank Capra’s in the 1930s. It is the natural parallel to his earlier Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Jimmy Stewart plays a young and idealistic, small-town man who is suddenly elected to Congress. He hopes to pass a bill to help scout campers across the nation, but he is met with ridicule and jadedness from corrupt congressional leaders.

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Ninotchka (1939)
Release Date: November 9, 1939
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Ninotchka is one of Greta Garbo’s seminal roles. In this brilliant little comedy film, Garbo plays a robotic Soviet Russian official who is sent to France to retrieve jewelry to help pay for food to feed the people of Russia and along the way she falls in love with a Count (played by Melvyn Douglas). The film brilliantly portrays two worlds: the warm, free, lavish and colorful society of Paris, in contrast to the cold, restricted, robotic, and gray society of Soviet Russia.

Babes in Arms (1939)

Dark Victory (1939)

Destry Rides Again (1939)

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Gunga Din (1939)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Le Jour Se Lève (Daybreak 1939)

The Little Princess (1939)

Love Affair (1939)

Of Mice and Men (1939)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Remorques (1939)

The Roaring Twenties (1939)

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (1939)

Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Top Grossing Films of 1939

1. Gone With The Wind – $31,000,000

2. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – $3,500,000

3. Jesse James – $3,000,000

4. Babes In Arms – $2,311,000

5. The Wizard of Oz – $2,048,000

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