Greatest Films of the 1930s
Greatest Films of the 1930s

Greatest Films of the 1930s
1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939


Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), 106 minutes, D: Michael Curtiz
One of the best of Hollywood's swashbuckler adventure films. The legendary hero of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood/Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn) robs from the rich and gives to the poor, woos Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland), and confronts adversaries evil Prince John (Claude Rains) and his ruthless henchman Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone), who attempt to take over England during King Richard's (Ian Hunter) absence. With beautiful Technicolor sets, pageantry and costumes, dashing sword fighting, sparkling dialogue, and exciting action.

Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), 105 minutes, D: Henry King
A nostalgic musical comedy set in the days of vaudeville on Broadway, a enjoyable backstage musical. The film follows the ups and downs of Alexander's Ragtime Band led by Roger Grant (Tyrone Power) with lead young singer Stella Kirby (Alice Faye), and later with powerful vocalist Jerry Allen (Ethel Merman). Roger fights for the love of Stella over a period of about 25 years with songwriter Charlie Dwyer (Don Ameche). This film includes 26 Irving Berlin songs, including "I'm Marching Along with Time," "My Walking Stick," and "Now It Can Be Told."

Algiers (1938), 95 minutes, D: John Cromwell
Crafty international jewel thief Pepe Le Moko (Charles Boyer, in his most famous role) flees to the notorious Casbah district (with dark twisting alleyways) in French Algiers to escape from pursuing North African police. There, he meets and falls in love with beautiful, sultry Parisian tourist Gaby (Hedy Lamarr in her American film debut) in a story of intrigue and romance. "Come, let me take you to the Casbah" was never spoken in this film.

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), 97 minutes, D: Michael Curtiz
One of Cagney's greatest roles. Two kids from Brooklyn grow up together and follow very different paths in life, one becoming Father Jerry Connelly (William Tracey as youth, Pat O'Brien as adult), the other big-time gangster/convict Rocky Sullivan (Frankie Burke as youth, James Cagney as adult). Conflict arises when Rocky is idolized by a group of tough neighborhood boys (future Dead End kids) who are led by the priest. After Rocky is captured and sentenced to death in the gas chamber after murdering local rivals, Father Jerry asks Rocky for a favor - to die like a coward and not appear as a hero to the boys.

The Baker's Wife (1938, Fr.) (aka La Femme du Boulanger), 133 minutes, D: Marcel Pagnol

Boys Town (1938), 96 minutes, D: Norman Taurog
The portrayal of real-life Father Edward Flanagan (Spencer Tracy) who develops the Boys Town project near Omaha Nebraska to bring orphans and juvenile delinquents from the inner city to an environment for a second chance where they can be educated and reformed. The greatest challenge to his belief that "There's no such thing as a bad boy" is from one of the new arrivals, tough kid, poolhall shark Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney), a loveable but difficult and disruptive bad boy, who ultimately is reformed by Flanagan's efforts.

Bringing Up Baby (1938), 102 minutes, D: Howard Hawks
One of the greatest of Hollywood's fast-paced screwball comedies. An absent-minded, mild-mannered, shy paleontologist David Huxley (Cary Grant) is in search of a missing dinosaur bone, stolen by a dog (Asta of The Thin Man series) owned by fast-talking, eccentric heiress Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn), who also has a pet leopard named Baby. Comic, chaotic situations arise when she sets her sights on him and sends his life into turmoil, eventually throwing them both in the local jail.

The Citadel (1938, UK), 110 minutes, D: King Vidor
A film adaptation from A. J. Cronin's novel. A poor, but idealistic, dedicated Scottish doctor Andrew Manson (Robert Donat) treats Welsh mining town miners who are infected with TB. He forsakes his ideals and noble goals when he begins to treat aristocratic, rich hypochondriacs instead, and casts aside his faithful wife Christine (Rosalind Russell) and his best friend Denny (Ralph Richardson) for the more lucrative practice in London. When his friend dies and his wife convinces him to restore his true goals in life, he returns to minister to the people of the poor village.

Four Daughters (1938), 90 minutes, D: Michael Curtiz
A tearjerker and soap-opera-ish romantic drama from a story by Fannie Hurst. A music professor and widower Adam Lemp (Claude Rains) raises his four daughters Ann (Priscilla Lane), Thea (Lola Lane), Kay (Rosemary Lane) and Emma (Gale Page) in a small town with the help of their elderly Aunt Etta (May Robson). All four daughters fall in love with boarder and pupil Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn), who chooses to be engaged to Ann. On the eve of their wedding, realizing that Emma is really in love with Felix, Ann sacrifices her love and runs off with surly, tough and bitter Mickey Borden (John Garfield in his film debut). When poverty makes their relationship difficult and he commits suicide, Ann returns home to be reunited with Felix.

Holiday (1938), 93 minutes, D: George Cukor
A film adaptation from a Broadway play written by Phillip Barry. A non-conformist, poor, young man Johnny Case (Cary Grant), is pressured to please his rich socialite fiancee Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) and her stuffy family and join her father Edward's (Henry Kolker) banking firm. He refuses to conform to the family's demands, but he realizes that Julia's free-thinking sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn) is the only one who understands and loves him for his independent ways. A wonderful pairing of Grant and Hepburn.

Jezebel (1938), 104 minutes, D: William Wyler
Bette Davis in a magnificent performance often compared to Gone With The Wind - offered to her as consolation by Warner Bros. because she was denied the role of Scarlett O'Hara. Headstrong, spoiled, self-centered Southern belle daughter Julie Morrison (Bette Davis) of a Southern aristocratic family in pre-Civil War New Orleans loses her fiancee Preston Dillard (Henry Fonda) when she stubbornly defies the convention of the day by wearing a scandalous red dress to the Olympus Ball. Embarrassed, he leaves and unbeknownst to her marries a Northerner Amy (Margaret Lindsay). When Preston returns three years later, she begs forgiveness but it is too late, and she suffers hurt and rejection. When an epidemic of yellow jack strikes, she begs Amy to accompany the mortally ill Preston to an island for quarantine and care for him. Davis won her second Best Actress Award for her performance.

The Lady Vanishes (1938, UK), 97 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
Set just before WW II, a young woman (Margaret Lockwood) traveling on a train moving through Europe returning to England, with the help of fellow passenger Gilbert Redman (Michael Redgrave), seeks to locate a charming elderly lady Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) who has suddenly disappeared. A suspenseful film, when it is discovered that no one is willing to believe or accept that the lady has disappeared or that she even existed, and when her missing is linked to an espionage plot.

Olympia (1938, Germ.), 118 and 107 minutes (in two parts: Festival of the Nations, and Festival of Beauty, aka Olympia 1. Teil: Fest der Volker, and Olympia 2. Teil: Fest der Schonheit), D: Leni Riefenstahl

Pygmalion (1938, UK), 96 minutes, D: Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard
A delightful romantic comedy, the first film version of George Bernard Shaw's stageplay and screenplay. A stuffy diction/phonetics teacher, Professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) makes a bet with a friend Col. Pickering (Scott Sunderland) that he can educate and transform a common, coarse Cockney flower seller Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) to pass as a captivating English lady/duchess of upper class breeding - within three months - at the Ambassador's Ball. In the process of transforming her, he falls in love with her.

Test Pilot (1938), 118 minutes, D: Victor Fleming
An exciting aviation drama, the story of a daredevil test pilot Jim Lane (Clark Gable) who tests planes manufactured by Howard Drake (Lionel Barrymore), aided by mechanic Gunner Sloane (Spencer Tracy). When testing a plane and forced to land in a Kansas cornfield, he meets and falls in love with farm girl Ann Barton (Myrna Loy), and they marry. Lane is a brilliant test pilot but unpredictable and uneasy about settling down into domestic life as a husband. He obviously enjoys the risks of his profession, which makes it difficult for his wife to sit and watch. With stunningly-photographed aerial sequences.

You Can't Take It With You (1938), 126 minutes, D: Frank Capra
A great, Best Picture-winning screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play from Hart and Kaufman. Receptionist/secretary Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) is the beautiful and sane daughter of an eccentric, poor but happy family, run by philosophical patriarch/grandfather Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore). Family members are involved in free-wheeling activities including painting, sculpture, ballet, fireworks invention, and more. Alice works in the offices of capitalist Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold), a rich conservative banker. She becomes engaged to Kirby's son Tony (James Stewart), the down-to-earth son. Problems erupt when the two incompatible families are to meet for dinner at the Sycamore's house before the wedding. The Kirbys mistakenly arrive one day early, fireworks are accidently set off, everyone is carted off to jail, and the relationship between Tony and Alice is quickly put in serious jeopardy.

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