Showing posts with label 1932. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1932. Show all posts

Friday, 11 April 2014


Based on a 1929 novel and inspired by real events, 1932’s Scarface was one of a series of pre-code gangster pictures which shocked and enthralled its viewers. Opening with a written disclaimer, damming the government for their lack of action regarding the threat that modern gangsters pose, the film nonetheless glamorises the life of crime while shaking a stick in its vague direction. It follows the ascent of young arrogant Italian immigrant Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) as he rises through the Chicago underworld by bumping off bosses and rivals who stand in his way and intimidating speakeasy proprietors into taking his booze. Aided by his right hand man, the quiet coin flicking Guino Rinaldo (George Raft), Tony reaches the heights of underworld overlord but finds that being at the top is even more dangerous than the climb to the summit.

Arriving two years before the Hays Office began imposing much stricter censorship on Hollywood; Scarface was able to get away with a lot more than many films which followed it. Inside its ninety minutes you’ll find brutal murders, gunplay and revealing costumes worn by the female characters, things which just wouldn’t be permissible from 1934 onwards. Even still, the film troubled the censors and the ending was changed to suit their tastes. Overall the movie contains a ‘crime doesn’t pay’ theme, something which you expect from the opening credits disclaimer but it’s slow in coming. For the most part, the theme appears to be ‘crime gets you everything you want’ and it’s this which the censors must have taken issue with. The glorification of the central character is also something which the Hays Office was unhappy with. This is something which film makers and censors would lock horns over for the next forty years.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Grand Hotel

For a while now I’ve been trying to review every single winner of the Best Picture Academy Award. It’s harder than you’d imagine to get hold of some of these films but I managed to track down Grand Hotel in New York recently. I chose it over 1927’s Wings by price alone but now wish I’d opted for the latter. Grand Hotel won the Best Picture award at 5th Academy Awards and is to this day the only film in history to be nominated for BestPicture and nothing else. The film is based on a play which is in turn based on a novel and is set entirely within the grounds of Berlin’s Grand Hotel at the end of the Weimar Republic’s Roaring Twenties. The film is full of glamour and charm but left me feeling rather bored for almost its entire one hour and fifty minutes.

Grand Hotel became the model for many films that followed and for its time was unique for blending various characters and storylines into a coherent narrative. The film follows some of the guests at the hotel over the course of a couple of nights following a statement from permanent resident Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) that “People come and go. Nothing ever happens”. Before Grand Hotel films weren’t as bold as to mix so many stories and characters in such abundance but the idea continues to this day with the likes of Babel and Crash.