How Robert Wise's 1949 boxing film The Set-Up underscores the impossibility of the Great American Dream
The Set-Up (1949) centres on Stoker, a 35-year-old boxer riding on a string of failures, getting ready for what may be his last shot at success.
Adapted from Wessel Smitter’s novel F.O.B. Detroit, Reaching for the Sun follows Russ, a backwoods clam-digger who moves to Detroit to work in a car factory so he can afford an outboard motor for his boat.
In Heroes for Sale, William A Wellman presents discontentment with the old and hope for the new, steeped in govt propaganda
Heroes for Sale was made just after Roosevelt swore in as the 32nd president of the United States. As though symptomatic of this particular time, the film embodies both a discontentment with the preceding Hoover administration and a hope for the new one, the duality manifesting as an incongruity between plot and character.
How The Scarlet Empress deftly explores the duality of evil and innocence while mapping the rise of Catherine the Great
Nothing, not even Josef von Sternberg’s earlier films with Marlene Dietrich, anticipates the stylistic aggression of The Scarlet Empress, a box-office bomb.
How Hollywood classic Hellzapoppin' defied categorisation, rejoiced in playing with possibilities of the medium
It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to state that there’s nothing quite like Hellzapoppin' in classical Hollywood.
Cecil B DeMille’s This Day and Age portrayed the tensions of its era as well as the dynamics of Hollywood film production
This Day and Age capitalises on a certain hopefulness about the younger generation pervading the air.
Kiss Me Deadly: Robert Aldrich's crime movie classic is less detective story, more myth with a physical presence
The first to consider Robert Aldrich as a serious artist—and this film a masterpiece—were the young critics at the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma.
In Moonrise, Frank Borzage sheds his ethereal aesthetic to foreground man as a product of circumstances
In Moonrise, director Frank Borzage accentuates his protagonist Danny’s shadowed existence by holding him at a distance from the viewer.
John Ford's Young Mr Lincoln was no prestige biopic, but a humane portrayal of the American icon as an inexperienced lawyer
In John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, Abe is the son of the soil, a herculean figure as adept at working an axe as debating in a courtroom. Throughout, he is associated with nature, the trees and the river, his understanding of law deriving from the intuitive understanding of right and wrong | Srikanth Srinivasan writes in 'At the Movies'
Remembering Kirk Douglas — an emblem of classical, rugged masculinity — through Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole
Made by Paramount studios and starring Kirk Douglas who passed away this month, Ace in the Hole (1951) is one of Billy Wilder’s best-known pictures.
The Fountainhead: How Ayn Rand's wildly popular novel got made into 1949 Gary Cooper-Patricia Neal film
Warner Brothers had bought the rights to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead during World War II, but it couldn’t be made into a film because of America’s pro-Russia stance at the time. In 1949, however, things were markedly different.
How Rebel Without a Cause depicted a generation devoid of spiritual lives, coming of age at a time of peace
One of the most prominent examples of CinemaScope, Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause sought to shake up the tranquillity of suburban life by exploring the disquiet simmering beneath its apparent peace and propriety
John Ford's Stagecoach responded to socialist spirit of 30s America, pitted outcasts against the respectable
As with any story of people confined in a space, Stagecoach depicts the changing group dynamics, shifting allegiances and the formation of a chain of command among the passengers. In their own way, the nine represent a microcosm of America, their eventual cooperation demonstrating that it takes all kinds to make a world | Srikanth Srinivasan in this edition of 'At the Movies'
Jean Renoir's The Southerner has no heroes or villains, only courage and optimism in the face of hostility
The Southerner, the third of the five films Renoir made in America, tells the story of the Tucker family, plantation workers who decide to grow their own cotton as tenant farmers on a piece of leased land.
Arguably the greatest Hollywood comedy of the sound era, To Be or Not to Be is a daring, intellectually provocative work that stands testament to the power of life-sustaining humour in face of unspeakable horror.
Gold Diggers of 1933 was a racy backstage musical — and Hollywood’s response to the Great Depression
The Warner production Gold Diggers of 1933, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, is a racy backstage musical rife with the kind of elements that the censors would veto in the following years: women in underwear and skimpy stage costumes, or as sexy silhouettes changing clothes, their bottoms spanked by men, dialogue with double entendre, and a gleefully amoral scenario.
In Fritz Lang’s 1946 classic Cloak and Dagger, a prescient and thrilling fable about the loss of innocence
In its own way, Cloak and Dagger attests to the passing of the baton from Hollywood’s left wing, in the ascendant since the Great Depression, to the conservatives, who would dominate the industry in the subsequent decade.
All that Heaven Allows: How Douglas Sirk's 1955 film critiqued an American malaise through trope of forbidden love
All That Heaven Allows is a highly moving work about the anxiety of having to live up to societal standards and the programmed fear of rejecting them
Revisiting King Vidor's Our Daily Bread: 1934 Great Depression film idealised community, self-sufficiency
In the first scene of Our Daily Bread, Mary (Karen Morley) wards off debtors as John (Tom Keene) returns after a fruitless day looking for jobs, his days of dreaming big far behind him. So begins King Vidor's 1934 classic on the Great Depression.
Revisiting Sergeant York: Why the 1941 Gary Cooper-starrer, while flawed, exemplifies Golden Era Hollywood
Howard Hawks’ Sergeant York (1941), starring Gary Cooper as World War I hero Alvin C York, was the biggest box-office draw of the year and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. Even so, it isn’t cherished the same way the classics of the period are.