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Jan 14th 2015

The 5 Best Hollywood Films of the 1930s

When Luise Rainer passed away on December 30, many thought that there was no living actor from Hollywood's golden era. Olivia de Havilland is 98 years of age, while Kirk Douglas will be a year shy of a hundred this December. But Rainer didn't enjoy a longer career that these two did.

Rainer was born in Düsseldorf, Germany on January 12, 1910. She fled to the US during the rise of the Nazi Party. Her arrival in Hollywood coincided with the beginning of the golden age in American Cinema. She became the first actor to win the Academy Award consecutively. "The Great Ziegfeld" was a tribute to the musical, but her Anna Held stood out. (Who could forget the telephone scene?) On the other hand, the adaptation of Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth" happened when Hollywood studios were far from being politically correct. But Rainer not only looked like a Chinese peasant, but she also played the part well.

Rainer could've have been a leading lady, along with Bette Davis and Greta Garbo, but she wasn't the type of actress that the studio honchos were looking for. And she refused to compromise. Nonetheless, her works (and two Oscars) sealed her legacy. There were other films, produced during the 1930s, which became culturally and historically significant. Here are the five films:

City Lights (1931) by Charlie Chaplin. This was released during the end of the silent film era. It was Chaplin's most heartwarming feature, about a tramp who fell in love with a blind flower girl on the tough city streets. Only the cold-hearted viewers won't be moved.

The Awful Truth (1937) by Leo McCarey. Many would point out that Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" paved the way for the screwball comedy. There was truth to it, but this one was the finest of its kind. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne played a married couple who doubted each other's fidelity, but there was no question about their affection for each other. Skippy, their pet terrier, would agree.

Gone with the Wind (1939) by Victor Fleming. This adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer-winning novel set a trend, as big-budget epics would be the norm during the next three decades. The movie is almost four hours long, which some moviegoers may find too much. But it was hard to miss Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh (as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara respectively).

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) by Frank Capra. Cynics would smirk at this film, about an ordinary Joe who made a dent on American politics. But Capra's optimism was infectious. In fact, this was his trademark. It was a reflection of a long-gone era, when everything was good and simple. No need to be wistful about it.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) by Victor Fleming. This is the most successful adaptation of L. Frank Baum's beloved novel. Judy Garland, who played Dorothy Gale, was the main reason. (Some would insist she was the only reason.)

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