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Frank Capra: The Early Collection (Ladies of Leisure / Rain or Shine / The Miracle Woman / Forbidden / Bitter Tea of General Yen)
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Columbia release of famous director Frank Capra's early works. Five films included are all Pre-Code and include "Ladies of Leisure (1930", "Rain Or Shine" (1930) "The Miracle Woman" 1931, "Forbidden" (1932) and "The Bitter Tea Of General Yen" (1933). Four of Five Films (all but "Rain or Shine") star Barbara Stanwyck in a variety of roles. The set gives us a very interesting look at pre code films made by one of our greatest directors. "The Bitter Tea of General Yen" was especially controversial for violating common mores of the day about sex between people of different races i.e. miscegenation. In 1950 Columbia sought to reissue the film, however, the PCA (Production Code Administration) was adamantly opposed, thus it was not re-released.
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- "Ladies of Leisure" is "The Woman in Red", 1930 style. Ralph Graves plays an artist who paints Barbara Stanwyck. He is from a wealthy family, of course, and she is from the streets. This was the film in which Frank Capra "discovered" Stanwyck and the film is a loving tribute to her talents. She was not a trained actress and brought a natural raw talent to the screen. Capra was able to nurture and guide her and his direction is impeccable. Stanwyck is superb and runs the gamut. She should have been nominated for an Oscar. Graves is a stiff leading man but Marie Prevost plays her common flat mate and steals every scene in which she appears.
- "Rise and Shine" was a musical on Broadway but Capra removed the songs to keep the budget down,the film being a showcase for the vaudeville comedian, Joe Cook. The story is of a circus and its survival and Cook is a likeable and funny comedian. At one point, he performs as a "one man circus" and his act is stunning.
- "Miracle Woman" is an unusual expose of preachers, based maybe on Aimee Semple McPherson. The film raises many provocative ideas but Capra himself said he "copped out" with the ending, too nervous that the audience would reject the premise. They did and it was a flop but it remains of interest not the least because Stanwyck stars again and is excellent. Her leading man, playing a blind aviator, is David Manners. He was a handsome and popular leading man of the period. Under Capra's direction, he is much better than usual and his relationship with Stanwyck is touching.
- "Forbidden" is a "woman's picture", one of a number of the period in which a woman suffered for her man, living in the "back streets" of his life. The cliches are beautifully put together and Adolphe Menjou, Stanwyck and Ralph Bellamy in his film debut are excellent.
- With the "The Bitter Tea of General Yen", Capra really went out on a limb, exploring the role of missionaries and miscegenation. Nils Asther, a tall Swedish actor, stars as a Chinese warlord and Stanwyck plays the missionary who struggles with her attraction to Yen. The ending is particularly memorable with Walter Connelly deserved of a best Supporting Oscar.
Two commentaries are provided - one masterful on "Ladies of Leisure" and one much less so by Jeanine Basinger on "Forbidden". I was disappointed the same was not provided for "General Yen", a film so ahead of its time. There are lots of other extras - stills, advertising, some pleasant interviews with directors such as Ron Howard and each film has an excellent essay from the TCM website. I would have preferred if they had appeared in a booklet but that may have increased the price. Best of all, the prints are immaculate.
The appearance of a nicely packaged set, complete with commentaries and extras, is a return to the "good old days" instead of the often dreadful prints of the DVD "on demand" titles now usually issued. The price is reasonable too. Thanks TCM.
My favorites were Ladies of Leisure and The Miracle Woman. Ladies of Leisure stars a very young Barbara Stanwyck playing a party girl who hitchhikes a ride home from a wild party one night with a straight laced (and wealthy) young artist (played by Ralph Graves).
Barbara lives with Marie Prevost and there are some great scenes and lines exchanged between Prevost and Lowell Sherman.
Sherman plays the perpetual drunk (comic relief) but the film concentrates mainly on the love affair that develops between Barbara and Ralph Grave's characters. Ralph Grave's mother tries to break up their amour but love will triumph in the somewhat surprising
end to this film.
I think I actually liked the Miracle Woman the best of all the films in this set.
Stanwyk's father dies suddenly just before his sermon to the congregation and here we see a young Stanwyck full of emotion and
standing up to the men of the church who took him for granted. A travelling no good scam artist happens to be watching the
heated verbal exchanges between Stanwyck and the church members from the back of the church and he convinces her to come with him and he will transform her into a world famous evangelist.
This is exactly what happens to her but she never has any fun or time to enjoy herself without this Scam Bum around her with a big cigar hanging out of his mouth.
Then one night when Stanwyck goes out on the stage, instead of the regular "actors and actresses that fake their ailments and claim to be miraculously cured, up jumps a young man who has been blinded in World War 1 (David Manners). He gets into the lion cage with her and after the show he invites her into his apartment.
She is smitten with his charming, but innocent good looks and humble appeal.
He also is entertaining (an amateur ventriloquist) and she starts going back to visit him and falls in love with him.
I'm not going to give away what happens in the end.
You will enjoy this film. I watch it over and over again.
I am happy to be able to get these films. Ms Stanwyck is great and it is special to see her early work. To think how long she survived in Hollywood is incredible in itself.
I will never get over how this Country allowed the god squad to decided what they were going to watch. The themes in these early movies, Silents included, was reality of life as it was then. I resent the fact that so many are just not available anymore for any price. Sad to me.
I also purchased Baby Peggy-another great silent star that almost went by the wayside. She was a fine actress. I recommend her movies to any silent fan out there who does not know about her.
Oh and I am looking for The Scarlett Letter-1926 if anyone knows where to get it.
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Films worthy, but at such a price could be and subtitles!Read more
I can't say enough good things about this Capra collection. This product is in excellent condition and I'm enjoying every minute of it.Read more