Thursday, October 1, 2009

Great Films of the Golden Age Part 1: Warner Bros.

I've recently read a few books about the so-called "Golden Years" of Hollywood, the days when the studios held immense power over their stars and guided the film making top-down. One book in particular which got me thinking was Richard Jewell's Golden Age of Cinema, which examined films from the late silent to era to 1949, concerned mainly with the genres of film and the differences between studios.

What got me thinking was the elaboration of how certain studios differed in output. I had only slightly considered how some films from that era feel the stamp of their home studio, but the more I read the more I thought about each classic studio. And so, over the next few days I'm going to think about the various film studios of the day, up to releases from 1949.

It seems appropriate to begin with the Warner Bros. Most film historians rank MGM as the king of Golden Age Hollywood, but I rather prefer Warner. In my mind, Warner had bigger stars (I'm not a huge fan of musicals). Warner definitely had a unique feel when you look at their gangster pictures and at socially conscious films like I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. There were also so many stars whose presence made it feel like a Warner picture: Bogart, Davis, de Havilland, Cagney, Flynn, and especially the supporting players who turned up frequently like Veidt, Lorre, Hale and Greenstreet.

My 10 favorite Warner Bros. pre-1949 films are, in chronological order:

My list contains 1 socially conscious film, 2 adventure films, 1 gangster picture, 1 detective film, 2 comedies, 1 romance, 1 musical and 1 thriller. Also, 40% have Bogart.

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