2021: Year In Review + Top 10 Movies Watched

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, everybody, and it’s time to take a look back at the year 2021. Like the rest of life, change happens here as well, so let’s dig into a couple of things that did change. We’ll start off with one relatively minor one that you probably wouldn’t notice if I didn’t mention it: I’m now making this post an annual thing for New Year’s Eve. Sure, I also did it on New Year’s Eve last year, but the reality is that, apart from my first year when I posted it on Thanksgiving alongside that year’s Top 10 Disc Release post (although it was technically a Top 5 post to start with), I was generally doing it the day after my last review for the year. Plain and simple, I felt this year that it needed to be a New Year’s Eve post every year. Simple as that. I’ve also been working here and there on logos for my various series, and renamed a couple (with one more renamed column making its debut in 2022). I’ve changed a few minor details with my review designs, and made some changes to my homepage’s look.

And there are a few more changes in store going into 2022. I don’t know if many noticed, but I had a HUGE number of posts this year, with my regular Sunday posts, almost every Wednesday (until the last couple of months) for my posts on new physical media releases, plus my newly named Film Legends Of Yesteryear column once a month, as well as entries in my series of The Long And The Short (Series) Of It, Original Vs. Remake, Coming Up Shorts! and Screen Team Edition. It was nice trying to push my limits, just to see how far I could go, but I can’t deny that, for the last few months, I’ve been feeling like I pushed it too far, with too many posts (normally, I like to have my regular Sunday posts written almost two months before they are published, but the last few months, I’ve been finishing a few within the last day before my scheduled publishing date). So, going ahead, I will be pulling back a little. As I mentioned in my last Film Legends Of Yesteryear post, that series will no longer be an extra one, and will instead be part of my regular Sunday or Wednesday posts (whenever I have films that are from 1939, include actress Rita Hayworth amongst the cast, feature screen teams or whatever else I decide to add down the line). I will also no longer be doing any more than two or three posts a month in my What’s Old Is A New Release Again series (if I have more, I’ll just lump all of them into one post with brief descriptions, with a later post to follow in November for titles included in my “Top 10 Disc Release Of The Year” post). How much I do for any of the other non-Sunday series will vary, but the main idea is that I want (and need) to pull back a little for now.

Of course, what we were all here for was the movies, and that didn’t change much. Most of the year has been focused on my various Star Of The Month blogathons, featuring actors and actresses like Doris Day (January), Clark Gable (February), Gene Kelly (March), Cary Grant (May), Claudette Colbert (June), James Cagney (July), Barbara Stanwyck (August) and Humphrey Bogart (November), with one detour in September focusing on the musical genre. Besides all those, I also saw a number of films from writer/director Preston Sturges, with a general emphasis on the comedies, and also had a once-a-month focus on actress Rita Hayworth. My biggest discovery for this year, though, would be the films of child star Deanna Durbin. I had barely heard of her before (but hadn’t seen any of her films), and now, I’ve seen at least six of her films (all of which I thoroughly enjoyed)! I think that more or less sums up my year of movie watching!

And with all that said, here’s my list of the top 10 movies that I watched/reviewed for the year 2021, culled from the list of 2021 reviews, plus 2020 releases reviewed after January 1, 2021 and 2021 releases reviewed before December 31, 2021 (also a few films released on disc in 2018 and 2019, but obviously they’re included in the 2021 reviews).  While I was able to enjoy watching a great many movies, some new and some I’ve seen before, the movies on this list are those I enjoyed the most, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon and support this site!

  1. Singin’ In The Rain (1952) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Taking the top spot for 2021 is the rather obvious choice of Singin’ In The Rain! Very much a tribute to the film’s producer Arthur Freed and his songwriting partner Nacio Herb Brown, this film makes use of some of their best songs, while giving us a story set in the end of the silent film era (close to the time when the tunes were originally written)! Of course, with a cast that includes Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, the whole affair is top-notch, from the acting to the singing (and especially the dancing!) and always worth seeing (or even just listening to)!
  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this biographical musical, James Cagney plays George M. Cohan as he rises to become a famous songwriter and producer. Much of Cohan’s music is here, including the likes of “You’re A Grand Old Flag,” “Over There,” Give My Regards To Broadway” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” which adds to the fun! But it’s Cagney (in his only Oscar win) that makes the film, as he proves how good he was as a song-and-dance man! Always worth seeing (especially around July 4)!
  1. Naughty Marietta (1934) (Warner Archive, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The film that brought America’s “Singing Sweethearts” together for the first time! Jeanette MacDonald plays a princess who escapes to the New World to avoid an arranged marriage, and falls in love with the leader of a group of mercenaries (played by Nelson Eddy, of course). Their chemistry makes the film (especially when they sing the classic “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life”), with aid from Frank Morgan and Elsa Lanchester as the Governor and his wife. An easy to recommend classic!
  1. Animal Crackers (1930) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The Marx Brothers are back after the success of The Cocoanuts! Groucho plays Captain Spaulding (“Hooray for Captain Spaulding! The African explorer!”), who is the guest of honor at a weekend party hosted by Mrs. Rittenhouse (played by usual Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont). With hilarious comic bits from the Brothers, including “Take A Letter,” Harpo’s thievery, the bridge game and the interactions between Groucho and Chico, this is one of their funniest and most anarchic films (and highly recommended)!
  1. (Tie) It Started With Eve (1941) (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Now we have a three-way tie for fifth spot on the list! In It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin stars alongside Charles Laughton and Robert Cummings in one of her earlier adult roles! She has to pretend to be the girlfriend of Robert Cummings’ Johhny Reynolds, Jr. when his father (Laughton) is on his deathbed (and Johhny’s real girlfriend can’t be found), but she has to maintain the charade when the elder Reynolds recovers! It’s a very heartwarming film, with the song “When I Sing” as its biggest standout tune, and one that I have no trouble recommending for a bit of fun!
  1. (Tie) Mad About Music (1938) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the second film from the three-way tie, Deanna Durbin is the secret daughter of a Hollywood actress, who can’t tell anybody about her mother, and makes up lies about her father. Her lies catch up with her when, to meet a boy, she says she is meeting her father at the train station, and then has to pick somebody out to maintain her lie! It’s another fun musical from Deanna, with the song “I Love To Whistle” as the film’s big standout! Of course, the comedy works well, too, especially with Herbert Marshall’s composer who must “fill in” as the father! Overall, very fun, and worth seeing!
  1. (Tie) Nice Girl? (1941) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this third film of the three-way tie, Deanna stars as the middle daughter of a high school principal (played by Robert Benchley). She’s tired of her “nice girl” image, and when a handsome field man (played by Franchot Tone) comes to see whether her father merits a fellowship, she decides to try to do something about her reputation. There’s more fun here with the music, as Deanna sings songs like “Perhaps” and especially “Swanee River.” The comedy works well, especially as she (and her other sisters) try to make up to the field man! Like the other two Deanna Durbin films on this list, it’s a lot of fun, and I think it’s well worth giving a chance!
  1. Roman Holiday (1953) (Paramount Pictures, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role! She stars as an over-worked princess who decides to take a day to herself. Gregory Peck co-stars as a reporter who figures out that the girl he helped out is the princess, giving him a potentially big story. An overall very heartwarming film. Audrey’s Oscar win is well-deserved, and the film’s place as a classic certainly merits being on this list!
  1. San Francisco (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • San Francisco features the “team” of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald in their only film together (with Clark being paired up with Spencer Tracy for the first of three films together). In the lead-up to the infamous San Francisco earthquake on April 18, 1906, nightclub owner Blackie Norton (Gable) falls for his new singer, Mary Blake (MacDonald). The earthquake finale is well-done, as we see the city torn apart by mother nature. The movie has some fun musical moments throughout, including the title tune, “Would You” (later used in Singin’ In The Rain) and beautiful renditions by MacDonald of the hymns “Nearer My God To Thee” and “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” Overall, a wonderful classic that I love to periodically revisit!
  1. Bringing Up Baby (1938) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn star in this classic screwball comedy about a paleontologist who gets mixed up with a crazy young woman! I took to the film quite well the first time I saw it nearly a decade ago, and after seeing it for the first time since that initial viewing (and newly restored on Blu-ray, to boot!), I think the comedy holds up quite well! From a buried brontosaurus bone to panthers on the loose to time in jail, this film jut gets screwier and screwier (and ever more hilarious), making it one of the better films that I’ve seen this year!

Honorable mentions: The Lady Eve (1941) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray), It Happened On Fifth Avenue (1947) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray), Libeled Lady (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray)

So thank you all for sticking with me in 2021, and I wish you a Happy New Year as we head into 2022! And please let me know what movies you’ve enjoyed this year as well (whether those you’ve seen or whatever movies I’ve reviewed, whatever works for you)!

Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 (which starts tomorrow) featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up (or you can wait a few days to see who my star for February will be)!

Previous Years

2020

2019

2018

Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

By now, I think it’s safe to say that most of you know that I enjoy watching classic movies via physical media like Blu-ray and DVD (I’m not trying to knock streaming necessarily, it’s just that most of what I like is more readily available on disc).  2021 has been another really good year for seeing fantastic movies given the bump up to Blu-ray, so here’s my list of what I personally think are the best releases of the year!  As usual, I must remind everyone that I do NOT receive screeners of any kind (nor, quite frankly, would I want to, as I prefer to support the movies I like in the hopes of more of them being made available), so I can only work with what I have seen.  I am making this list from all the 2021 releases I have seen as of 12/1/2021.  Much like my list for 2020, I am working mainly from movies released on disc through October 2021 (due to my own constraints of budget and time, plus the fact that, without being given screeners, I have no way to comment on December releases ahead of time). So, this list is what it is (but, I will give a shout-out to some other releases afterwards).  I’m experimenting by changing the format a little this year, so if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie on the left side to use my affiliate links to go to Amazon and buy them (or, if you want to read the reviews, click on the movie titles to go there)!!

  1. Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy star in this last entry of the Broadway Melody series. A case of mistaken identity results in the wrong member of a dance team getting his big chance on the Broadway stage (but, when the team is two men and Fred Astaire was the other partner, you KNOW that he’ll get his chance as well). Working from a 4K scan of nitrate preservation elements, the good people at Warner Archive have given us a new and improved transfer that shows off this film’s detail and really allows us to enjoy these spectacular dancers looking better than they have in a long time! Great movie, great transfer!
  1. San Francisco (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this film that teams up Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy, we have a nightclub owner (Gable) who runs for town supervisor to help the people on the Barbary Coast, while falling for his new singer (MacDonald) (and all ahead of the infamous 1906 San Francisco earthquake). Another Warner Archive release, making use of a French-dubbed nitrate fine grain second generation element (and some domestic elements as well), which amounts to this movie looking better than it has in a long time! Throw in the original 1936 ending (with the 1948 reissue ending as an extra), and this is one release that is well worth it!
  1. Show Boat (1951) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In 2020, we got the 1936 version of Show Boat (from Criterion Collection). For 2021, we got the 1951 version with Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel. Kathryn Grayson stars as the daughter of showboat owner Cap’n Andy (Joe E. Brown), who falls for riverboat gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel). Long in need of restoration (as much as the film relies on its Technicolor imagery), Warner Archive created a new 4K master from the original three-strip Technicolor negatives, and it looks SUPERB!! Compared to how it has looked before, I still think this is the restoration of the year, making the Blu-ray well worth it for fans of the film!
  1. Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams and Gene Kelly star in this classic musical! The returning baseball champs find themselves with a new owner (Williams), with two of the players falling for her. Warner Archive has given this movie a new restoration, and it looks to be one of the best-looking examples of the three-strip Technicolor process, as the color just pops, revealing all the wonderful details of the picture!
  1. A Night At The Opera (1935) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the first Marx Brothers film from MGM, the trio find themselves helping a couple of operatic singers to make it big in America. The film was cut for re-release during World War II (removing references to Italy), with the deleted scenes supposedly destroyed. Warner Archive haven’t located any of those deleted scenes, but they’ve given us a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements, and this film looks great! Until any of the deleted scenes are found in any usable form (if that ever happens), this is the best release one can hope for on this film!
  1. In The Good Old Summertime (1949) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Judy Garland and Van Johnson star in this musical remake of The Shop Around The Corner. They play the bickering co-workers who are unknowingly falling for each other as pen pals. Another Yuletide classic featuring Judy singing the holiday tune “Merry Christmas!” Working from 4K scans of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives and preservation separations, this film looks great, and is a wonderful movie to watch around the holidays (or during the summer, too, I suppose 😉 )!
  1. Annie Get Your Gun (1950) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Betty Hutton and Howard Keel star in this film version of the Broadway show (with music by Irving Berlin)! In this movie, Annie Oakley (Hutton) rises from a nobody to being an internationally renowned sharpshooter! This release features a 4K scan of most of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives (with two reels’ worth coming from positive safety separations due to those reels being burned in the infamous Eastman house fire), which brings out the color and detail!
  1. Bringing Up Baby (1938) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In 2021, one of the biggest and best-known screwball comedies FINALLY made it to Blu-ray! In this movie, Cary Grant is an engaged paleontologist who accidentally gets mixed up with a flighty young woman (Katharine Hepburn). Madcap adventures ensue, including panthers, buried dinosaur bones, and jail time! The original camera negative may be long gone, but this transfer came from 4K scans of a 35 mm nitrate duplicate negative (from the British Film Institute) and a 35 mm safety fine-grain positive, resulting in a better transfer than what’s been available for a long time (and is certainly worth recommending)!
  1. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Screen legends Cary Grant and Myrna Loy are paired up for the third and final time, with Melvyn Douglas joining. Grant plays an advertising executive who wants a full-sized house for his family (instead of a cramped apartment), but when he remodels his new place, the costs start to skyrocket! Working from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, Warner Archive has another superlative release on their hands with a fantastic transfer!
  1. After The Thin Man (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • After releasing the first film in the Thin Man series on Blu-ray in 2019, Warner Archive has finally continued the series, starting with that film’s (kinda-sorta) direct sequel! William Powell and Myrna Loy return as Nick and Nora Charles, who have arrived in San Francisco, only to find themselves trying to solve the murder of Nora’s cousin’s husband! Warner Archive made use of a 4K scan of safety fine grain film elements for this transfer, and it looks quite good! Certainly a worthy follow-up release after the first film was treated so well on Blu-ray!

Special Honorable Mention:

  • The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3
    • For the most part, my list tends towards movie releases, as those are the vast majority of what I buy. However, as you may have seen, I also enjoy looking into various theatrical short collections. In 2020, ClassicFlix announced (via crowdfunding campaign) their desire to restore the Hal Roach-owned Little Rascals shorts. While their campaign fell short, they went through with their plans anyway. They now have three volumes of Little Rascals shorts available on Blu-ray, uncut and fully restored. I’ve seen the first two volumes, which each contain eleven shorts starting with their first talkie, and continuing on from there. The shorts in these first two volumes look absolutely fantastic, and while I haven’t gotten around to the third volume yet, I’ve heard it looks just as good (if not even better)! With more on the way, I have a hard time not wanting to call these sets the releases of the year!

Honorable Mentions: Another Thin Man (1939) (Warner Archive, Blu-ray), Dinner At Eight (1933) (Warner Archive, Blu-ray), (tie) Mad About Music (1938) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray), (tie) Nice Girl? (1941) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray)

While the pandemic has still been raging on in places throughout 2021, physical media enthusiasts have had quite a good year! I would have to say that, once again, Warner Archive has won the year amongst the various labels. They continued to release a slew of musicals (with actress Doris Day getting well-represented), three-strip Technicolor films and various other classics, finally digging into more of Errol Flynn’s filmography (including the public domain Santa Fe Trail from 1940) and continuing the Thin Man series! Like I already said, I haven’t gotten any farther than their October releases, but November releases include the second-to-last film in the Thin Man series (The Thin Man Goes Home), another Doris Day musical (Lullaby Of Broadway), a Barbara Stanwyck pre-Code (Ladies They Talk About), a Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin film (Some Came Running), National Velvet and several others, with December seeing the long-awaited Angels With Dirty Faces (previously held back from being released because of right issues that popped up within the last decade) and Ivanhoe. Personally, I’m thrilled with their musical output for the year (especially with TWO Fred Astaire musicals represented). Honestly, the only complaint I have is that there was a rumor that at least one of the Astaire-Rogers films would be coming (but nothing showed up). I know, I know, internet rumors and all that, but when the source of that rumor claimed that there would be some Arthur Freed musicals (there were), some Val Lewtons (again, there were) and some Marx Brothers (and we got one), it’s disappointing that what I wanted most of the bunch was what DIDN’T come out (but, hopefully 2022 will bring at least one of them out on Blu-ray). Like last year, I want to throw in a plug for a film that, while I personally am not interested in it due to its genre, certainly is appealing for others: the 1932 horror film Dr. X, which, like 2020’s release of The Mystery Of The Wax Museum, was filmed in the Two-Color Technicolor process, with those elements nearly gone. But, in collaboration with UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Film Foundation, the film has been restored in the process (and the black-and-white version is included as well) for the Blu-ray release, which, from what I have heard, is highly recommended for those interested in that aspect of film history!

Personally, I would say that, apart from Warner Archives, I have mixed feelings about this year. Kino Lorber has been continuing to make deals with Universal and MGM, bringing out a lot of films (some of which they have remastered/restored themselves). I’m thrilled to see more W. C. Fields movies (four this year) that came from them (especially after having seen their Insider talking on multiple forums in the past about how their previous W. C. Field releases weren’t great sellers), with three more being worked on for next year (plus a few other non-W. C. Fields titles that were announced but are getting new 2K or 4K remasters that have pushed them into next year). We also got more Bob Hope from Kino, although I’m disappointed that their release of Nothing But The Truth was missing some of the film’s footage that had previously been included on Universal’s DVD, and the missing stereo sound on Thoroughly Modern Millie (for its overture, entr’acte and exit music) is also disappointing (and there have been a handful of other releases from them with a few mistakes this year as far as I’ve heard). And while I’m disappointed that Kino’s three-film set of Deanna Durbin films from the previous year was a poor seller (enough so that they dropped the other six films of hers that they had licensed, which I can’t say as I blame them for doing), I was thrilled to see Universal step up with their own MOD Blu-ray releases and release all six of those films (plus one more that I didn’t see coming!), along with the likes of State Of The Union and a Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection in what was their most appealing lineup (to me) since their first year of releasing anything on Blu-ray via that line! Criterion has finally gotten into the UHD game, but (since I haven’t upgraded to that technology yet), they’ve really only had two releases this year that appealed to me (Bringing Up Baby and High Sierra). To be fair, with their higher prices, I don’t mind, given how much Warner Archive and others have been releasing. ClassicFlix has mainly been focusing a lot of their time, money and effort in their restorations of the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts, but they’ve also finished out their DVD-only run of Hal Roach streamliners, along with a few other DVD-only films (due to lack of decent film elements), along with their Blu-ray and DVD of International Lady (they also announced a Blu-ray and DVD release for the 1949 Black Magic that was originally scheduled to come out this fall, but has since been delayed into next year). Overall, I think that 2021 has been filled with a great many releases on disc (too many in my book, both in terms of budget and time to watch everything), and what I’m hearing/seeing coming in 2022 looks to be just as good (if not better)!

Previous years:

2020

2019

2018

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… San Francisco (1936)

We’re back again for the classic 1936 movie San Francisco, starring Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald! Now, I had originally planned to post this back on February 14 as part of my Star Of The Month blogathon on Clark Gable, but then it was announced for release on Blu-ray, so I decided to delay it until I could see the new Blu-ray (and wrote about Mogambo instead). Still, most of what I had to say hasn’t changed, so here it is! Of course, we still have a few theatrical shorts to start things off with!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Bottles (1936)

(available as an extra on the San Francisco Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 10 minutes, 16 seconds)

When a druggist falls asleep one night, all the bottles in his shop come to life. This one is part of MGM’s “Happy Harmonies” series of shorts, and a fun one. In usual fashion for cartoons of the era, there isn’t a lot of story, but just stuff going on with a lot of characters singing various songs. While not as much fun as some of the Disney shorts of the era (in my opinion), this one was still enjoyable, and worth seeing every now and then.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Cavalcade Of San Francisco (1940)

(available as an extra on the San Francisco Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 55 seconds)

This is a short from MGM’s TravelTalk series narrated by James A. FitzPatrick, which focuses on the Californian city of San Francisco. We get a bit of a view of the city’s landmarks (from about 1940), as well as a few bits about its history. It ends with some scenes from a World’s Fair exposition showing the history of the American West. It’s an interesting short, especially to see San Francisco from that time period, but, without any personal connections to the city myself, I find this to be one that I will probably not be revisiting any time soon.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Night Descends On Treasure Island (1940)

(available as an extra on the San Francisco Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 8 minutes, 6 seconds)

Another short from the TravelTalk series, this one focuses on the Golden Gate International Exposition at night time. We see a lot of the lit-up fountains, and various light shows, along with a number of paintings from the Palace Of Fine And Decorative Arts. Supposedly a follow-up to another short in the series that was filmed during the daytime. It’s another interesting one that allows us a view into that part of history when the Exposition was there, before the lights and everything would be turned off (like the short itself keeps emphasizing).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Our story starts in the waning hours of 1905 in San Francisco. Blackie Norton (Clark Gable), the owner of the Paradise Cafe in the Barbary Coast, is celebrating the New Year when he sees firetrucks heading towards the Barbary Coast. He watches the firefighters put out the fire before heading back to his place. While he’s there, he meets singer Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald), who just lost her living quarters due to the fire. He takes a liking to her and offers her a two-year contract to sing at the Paradise. As a result of the fire, a group of citizens band together and ask Blackie to run for supervisor, in the hope that he will help improve many of the unsafe buildings in the area. With the support of his friend, Father Tim Mullin (Spencer Tracy), Blackie decides to run. His opponent, Jack Burley (Jack Holt), decides to pay him a visit and convince him to withdraw. He also brings along Señor Baldini (William Riccardi), the maestro at the Tivoli Opera House (which Burley owns). The two of them hear Mary singing, and try to convince her to come sing at the Tivoli. Although it’s her dream to sing there, she is stuck at the Paradise, since Blackie won’t let her out of her contract. However, Burley isn’t willing to give up, and keeps trying to make an offer. One night, Blackie, feeling confident she wouldn’t take up the offer, tells Burley that he will let her go, if she wants to. Without knowing this, she at first decides to stick with Blackie. However, when he throws a party to celebrate their “relationship,” she realizes she doesn’t mean that much to him, and leaves, taking him up on his offer to let her out of his contract. On opening night at the Tivoli, Blackie comes with a process server, intending to stop the show. However, he finds himself mesmerized by her singing, and decides to let the show go on. Afterwards, he goes to meet her backstage. Happy to see him again, Mary proposes marriage, and he accepts. However, when Burley comes backstage, Blackie makes his acceptance of her proposal depend upon her return to the Paradise Cafe. She decides to come back to the Paradise, but Father Tim objects to how Blackie is exploiting her in a revealing costume. Infuriated, Blackie punches his friend, and Mary decides to leave and go back to the Tivoli, which really angers Blackie. Even with this victory (and Mary accepting his proposal of marriage), Burley still insists on revoking Blackie’s liquor license and jailing his performers. Of course, this happens on the night of the Chickens Ball, a party where Blackie’s performers had been winning an entertainment competition in previous years (with a cash prize that Blackie sorely needed this time for his campaign fund). When Mary finds out what Burley did, she volunteers to go on for the Paradise, and wins easily. However, Blackie is furious with her and throws away the cash. Before anything else can happen, the city is hit with a very powerful earthquake, which makes a huge mess of things. Blackie manages to crawl out of the rubble, but Mary is nowhere to be seen. Can Blackie find her, or has the earthquake claimed the woman he loves?

While the posters proudly proclaimed that this movie was the first time that Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald shared the screen (and, to the best of my knowledge, would be the only time), the real team here was Gable and Spencer Tracy, in the first of three films they made together. Not only that, it helped Spencer Tracy’s career start to take off, after he had struggled at 20th Century Fox (who didn’t know what to do with him) and had signed with MGM. It ended up being the first of his nine nominations for the Best Actor Oscar. It was also a career changer for Jeanette MacDonald, who had mainly done some light operettas up to that point. Of course, the earthquake from the final twenty minutes or so is probably what this movie is best-known for, supposedly done by MGM’s special effects artist James Basevi (although Arnold Gillespie is given the credit).

Ah, Clark Gable. Where to begin? As best as I can tell, the film’s writers (Anita Loos and Robert Hopkins) based Clark’s character of Blackie Norton on real-life figure Wilson Mizner. Now, I know very little (if anything) about Wilson Mizner, but I do know that I like Clark Gable’s performance here. He does a great job portraying a character who, as Spencer Tracy’s Father Mullin puts it, is ashamed of his good deeds the way others would be ashamed of their bad deeds. Besides him giving the organ to his friend’s church, we also see it in his treatment of Jeanette MacDonald’s Mary, especially when she proposes to him, as he makes it clear it’s her idea, and then he later asks if they can postpone it until after the election, since he had long derided the institution of marriage. But, more than that, his character seems to have parallels to the city of San Francisco (at least, as it is portrayed in this movie). The city is described by some characters as being quite “wicked” and ungodly, as he is. We watch as things get worse for the city and him as everyone’s pride increases, until his rejection of goodness (when he turns down her help at the Ball), at which point the earthquake strikes. Then, we see the citizens of the city (and him) start to reform. However you look at it, his performance has certainly made the movie easy to watch!

Now, when I first saw this movie, I had had no prior experience with actress and singer Jeanette MacDonald (outside of whatever clips were used in the That’s Entertainment film series). I still enjoyed the movie then, with all the performances working quite well, and the religious elements of the story certainly appealed to me. Having seen some of her other films in the time since I first watched the movie, I can appreciate her performance even more here. Of course, her rendition of the title song by Bronislau Kaper and Walter Jurmann is quite memorable, as is her introduction of the Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed song “Would You” (later used in the classic Singin’ In The Rain). But, I find myself also enjoying hearing her sing several hymns near the end of the movie, including “Nearer My God To Thee” and “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” All in all, whether it’s for Clark, Jeanette, Spencer, the earthquake sequence (which was done quite well, in my opinion), or any of a number of other reasons, this is a movie I enjoy watching every now and then! Certainly one you’ll find me having no hesitation about recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The original camera negative was lost in the infamous MGM fire, so they were working from a combination of a nitrate fine grain second generation film elements (that were dubbed in French) and some more domestic elements. The results are fantastic (but, of course, this is WAC, so that’s nothing new). For those that don’t know, this movie has had two different endings. The film’s original ending had a montage of footage from then-modern day San Francisco (which included a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, then under construction), and a 1948 re-issue removed that, showing instead a freeze frame of then-current San Francisco. The DVD had the ending from the 1948 re-issue (and the original as an extra), whereas the new Blu-ray has the original 1936 ending restored to the movie (and the other included as a silent extra). Overall, I’m thrilled with this release, and would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

**ranked #9 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)Clark GableMogambo (1953)

Rose-Marie (1936)Jeanette MacDonaldMaytime (1937)

Spencer Tracy – Libeled Lady (1936)

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