The Kid Brother (1927) Review

The Kid Brother (1927) Director: Ted Wilde (though there were several directors)


The Kid Brother is the story of the Hickory family, respected rural gentry with three sons. The patriarch is the local sheriff. Both elder brothers do not respect the youngest (Harold Lloyd) and they call him weak. A traveling medicine show comes to town, and Harold, who is wearing his father’s gear, is mistaken for the local sheriff. A young woman, Mary, is part of the traveling show (since her father died) and Harold, posing as his father, allows the show to proceed.

Harold then gets into a fight with Hank, his arch-nemesis who starts a fire and burns down the medicine show wagon. Harold invites Mary to stay the night at his family’s home, in part so that she can avoid any unwanted attention from a lurking creeper named Sandoni. The next day, Farrell and Sandoni are found missing as are the funds for building the town dam, and the sheriff, Harold’s father, is blamed. He sends his two older sons after Farrell and Sandoni but they turn up empty-handed. Mary is then accused of the theft, as well, and Harold is knocked out where he falls into a row boat while trying to defend her. He is then sent adrift until he awakens and happens upon a boat where he discovers the missing men and money. He recovers the money and returns it to Hickory, thus freeing his father. In the end, he finally becomes a celebrated Hickory family member.

Lewis Milestone originally directed this film, but he abandoned the project due to an internal dispute. Then Ted Wilde took it over, as Lloyd’s friend, but he ultimately quit as a result of pneumonia and died in 1929, and so Lloyd ultimately finished directing the project himself. After watching this film, I learned that in the 1970s Lloyd eventually had his own show, featuring clips from his silent films. In his heyday he made more than 300 films. He retired after completing six talkies and proceeded to preserve the original negatives for his films, though many were lost in a tragic fire in 1943 at his private studio –the destruction tore Lloyd apart. He died in 1971 and since then his films have steadily been re-appraised thanks to the efforts of the Criterion Collection and others.

The Littlest Rebel (1935) Review

The Littlest Rebel (1935) Director: David Butler


The film is a beautiful and classically heart-warming tale of a Southern plantation family during the American Civil War. It was released in 1935, and became a top box-office film, along with Shirley Temple’s signature performance in Curly Top, which was also released in 1935. Shirley Temple stars alongside Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the dancer and musical performer who was the top paid African American entertainer in the 20th century. The film was the second of four films in which Robinson and Temple co-starred. Additionally, the film has found criticism in modern spaces for its tired depictions of black slaves as unintelligent, silly, and mostly defenders of the Confederacy. Bill Robinson would later be criticized for his portrayals in films, though personally he helped to challenge racial barriers for black people. He died a penniless man in 1949, despite being the top paid African American of the 20th century.

The film opens in an idyllic and peaceful plantation during a party, in which Shirley Temple’s character is the main hit and is celebrating her birthday. However, the party abruptly ends with the outbreak of the civil war and the attack on Fort Sumter. The Union invades the south and her father becomes a spy for the Confederacy, often going behind enemy lines. Eventually, their beautiful is burnt to the ground and the family’s mother tragically dies of an illness. Their father escapes back behind Union lines to try to save his daughter, but he is caught. However, the Union solider decides to help him escape with his daughter in a fake coat with a fraudulent note. In their escape they are all caught by Union soldiers and both men, the Union and Confederate soldiers, are condemned to death. The young daughter and their slave decide to go to Washington where they appeal to Abraham Lincoln for their freedom, which nobly grants in a memorable scene. In the end, young Shirley Temple is seen singing happily to a group of soldiers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

The film is a joy, albeit more than slightly uncomfortable, but it is filled with wonderful scenes of music, including “Polly Wally Doodle.” It is also an early example of color film. It has been suggested that the opening scenes of a peaceful Southern plantation later influenced Margaret Mitchell’s portrayal of the Antebellum South in Gone With The Wind. Though the bulk of the novel was completed in early 1935, the early portions were completed later in the year.

The Invisible Man (1933) Review

The Invisible Man (1934) Director: James Whale

“An invisible man can rule the world. Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret. He can rob, and wreck, and kill!”


The Invisible Man surprised me –these Universal horror flicks are the stuff of legend! The Invisible Man was based on H.G. Wells’s 1897 novel of the same name, though there are some notable differences between the film and the novel, for example in the book, Griffin is naturally a-moral and insane, whereas in the film he consumes chemicals which make him both crazy as well as invisible. H.G. Wells later commented at a dinner in honor of the film that he was disappointed in the way his “brilliant scientist” was portrayed. The success of the film would later launch a number of sequels. It stars Claude Rains as the invisible man, though his role mostly encompassed the portrayal of the disembodied voice of an invisible man. Initially Boris Karloff was set to play the lead, as he did in other famous James Whale films, but he left after Carl Laemmle Jr. cut his salary one too many times.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Invisible Man. Here, the “invisibility” effects are remarkable for the time and though the plot is simple, it is gratifying to watch the invisible man covertly attack his doubters, then promptly go insane, and become trapped in his own ploy.

In a beautiful, snowy stage-set, a man wrapped in full bandages appears at an inn in England to stay for the night. He frightens the staff and guests who soon discover his horrible secret, that he is invisible under his bandages. He hides away in his room to try to find an antidote, away from his fiancee Flora and teacher Dr. Cranley. However his experiments are interrupted and he terrorizes the innkeepers and the police before fleeing. He goes to the home of an associate who he intimidates into being his partner as part of his “reign of terror” to take over supreme over the world by killing prominent people. He has gone insane. When his associate contacts the authorities, the invisible man goes into a rage and threatens to kill him, which he eventually does by driving him off a cliff in a car. However, soon an old farmer alerts the police that the invisible man has fallen asleep in his barn so the police arrive and burn down the barn and watch his footsteps in the snow on the ground. One of the policemen shoots the invisible man. With his dying breath, he expresses regret to Flora. At the end he dies and becomes visible again.

Trouble In Paradise (1932) Review

Trouble In Paradise (1932) Director: Ernst Lubistch


Trouble In Paradise is a fun and well-crafted film by Ernst Lubitsch. It is a departure from the typical hero story -it is a strange experience for the audience to be rooting for two thieving pickpockets, but nevertheless the film is charming and worth watching for lovers of great cinema.

The film is popularly considered Lubitsch’s greatest film and was one of his own favorites. It was honored with the moniker for the “Lubitsch Touch” -the otherworldly quality of his comedy films, like Ninotchka (1939) and The Love Parade (1929) Wes Anderson later credited Trouble In Paradise film as one inspiration behind The Grand Budapest Hotel in 2014.

The story is based on the 1931 play The Honest Finder by the Hungarian playwright, Laszlo Aladar. It takes place in Europe, between Venice and Paris, and it tells the story of two charming thieves, who encounter one another, fall in love, and flee together in the end. They encounter Mariette, the heiress to a reputable perfume company and pose as a count and countess in order to rob her. They are nearly caught on several occasions when other individuals they have robbed appear to recognize them. In the end, they flee in a taxi together after Mariette discovers who they truly are. As a parting gift, they rob Mariette of her prized pearl necklace.

Image result for trouble in paradise 1932

The film is rife with sexual innuendo and suggestive dialogue. In 1943, Paramount wanted to make a musical version of the film but was rejected based on the new production code enforced by Hollywood, often called the “Hays Code” as a result of Will H. Hays, president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA). The code lasted in effect from 1930, though it began being rigidly enforced in 1934, and lasted until 1968, though it stopped being rigidly enforced around 1954.

Ernst Lubitsch was born in 1892 in Berlin to a Jewish family. His father was a tailor, but when Ernst was old enough, he turned his back on tailoring and entered theatre. At first he was an actor before moving into his role as a director. He left Germany for Hollywood in 1922 to become the contracted director for Mary Pickford. He landed a remarkable contract with Warner Bros for a three year, six picture contract that gave Lubitsch full control of his early silent films, and other later celebrated films with the advent of talkies, such as The Smiling Lieutenant in 1931, and his most famous and cynical comedy film Trouble In Paradise in 1931 which could not have been made after the enforcement of the production code and which earned him the moniker of the “Lubitsch Touch”. He continued to direct comedies, including Ninotchka with Greta Garbo in 1939. He died of a heart attack in 1947 in Hollywood.