Art Vs Commerce: Beginnings (20s/30s)

1933

And The Oscar Goes To…

What, you couldn’t fit in 1000 elephants? And that “Cast of 3500” is almost entirely extras in crowd scenes.

It’s about one family facing the “Cavalcade of History,” signified by a parade that marks the passing of years. So, in essence, its central thesis is that “The years start coming and they don’t stop coming.”

What we have here is the major events for Britain over the first third of the 20th century: the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the Titanic, the first World War, and the dawn of the Jazz Age, and that list is both chronological and in order of how bad the movie thinks they are. Seriously, the last few minutes come at Jazz Morals with all the subtlety of Reefer Madness. We experience these events through two families: the high class family of Lord and Lady Protagonist (I could not be bothered to learn a lot of names) and a lower class family who initially works for the fancy folk. So… by and large, instead of actually seeing these major events, we watch this bland, milquetoast upstairs/downstairs situation react to them in often over-the-top dramatics.

So it’s kinda dull is what I’m saying. It’s Boring Cimarron. They manage to cover 34 years, two wars, and a disaster that filled its own movie 64 years later, and it still rarely feels like anything is happening. There’s a star-crossed romance between the two families that is hard to care about because it exists in exactly two scenes and has about 80 seconds of actual conflict because it happens during World War One so guess what happens to the son of the nobility couple. And after two wars, a notorious shipwreck, losing multiple children and friends, the movie acts like the darkest thing to befall Britain is 20th century notions like socialism, atheism, and… gulp, sob… jazz. A dizzying and very weird montage combines ranting communists, atheist professors, and headlines warning of things like “vice orgies,” and you know what, don’t threaten me with a good time, Cavalcade.

Definitely the worst movie to touch on WW1 so far. No wonder it’s free on YouTube. Here’s a Twitter thread where I complain that I’m bored.

And Rotten Tomatoes Says: Unsurprisingly, Cavalcade resumes the Golden Age Slump, coming in at 89/93, with an adjusted score of 63.991%. Honestly, still too high, this was like if Cimarron had been exclusively about the times when Yancey Cravat wasn’t in town.

What Would Yancey Cravat Do: A lot more, for one thing. Yancey Cravat doesn’t sit around reacting to things in a melancholy way, Yancey Cravat makes things happen.

Well, here’s hoping the general populace had better taste than the Oscar voters. What did they–

The Box Office Champ

GOD DAMN YOU EDDIE CANTOR WHY WON’T YOU JUST DIE

[Deep breath]

Okay. Okay. I may as well watch one Eddie Cantor movie if they’re gonna keep coming up. This one’s set in ancient Rome, maybe this one’s not so racist.

So. Eddie Cantor. Eddie Cantor movies combine the steady stream of witticisms one might find in a Marx Brothers movie with multiple musical numbers, often sung by Cantor and featuring a large number of scantily clad dancing girls (the “Goldwyn Girls” mentioned on the poster). Cantor gets in a misunderstanding, hijinks ensue, sexy results optional. Sounds fine, sure, but there’s a problem, and it’s Eddie Cantor. He delivers wave after wave of B-grade Groucho Marx jokes without Groucho’s delivery. His perpetual sad-sack, bug-eyed, kicked-puppy energy just doesn’t work with the material, and I found I laughed exactly once in all 90 minutes.

In this case, Cantor is a freelance mildly homeless handyman in a town called West Rome who gets driven out of town by a corrupt real estate tycoon. He wishes he was in Ancient Rome… and then somehow ends up there, trying to help a man of the people named Josephus and a captive British princess named Sylvia (Gloria Stuart from Titanic? What the hey?) escape the Emperor, whose wife wants to kill him. There are shenanigans and at one point Eddie (his character is also named “Eddie” because he’s one of those people) gets covered in skin-care mud so he can do a blackface number wait there’s more a blackface number about why women need to stay youthful and pretty to deserve love, that is a double-whammy of bad looks for any project.

I just… I just do not understand how, in a time when Charlie Chaplin was doing better physical comedy, the Marx Brothers were doing funnier quips, and many movies had songs, Eddie flipping Cantor rules the box office for most of the early 30s. Was it just the dancing girls? If the Goldwyn Girls had teamed with the Marx Brothers, would Cantor be a footnote in film history? I mean he already is a little. Only crazed, obsessed, self-hating web writers watch or talk about his movies now. Crazed, obsessed self-hating web writers and also me, I mean. Thankfully, while Cantor kept doing movies into the late 40s before just cameoing on TV shows as himself until retirement, he never ruled the box office again, so we can all just go back to forgetting him.

And Rotten Tomatoes Says: Only five reviews but somehow four of them are favourable, I do not understand this world sometimes.

What Would Yancey Cravat Do: That crooked real estate man trying to bulldoze houses to build a jail wouldn’t have lasted three minutes against a scathing Yancey Cravat editorial. Also Yancey wouldn’t have told a bunch of slave girls to “stay young and beautiful if you want to be loved.” Yancey, like Mr. Rogers, loves the good of heart exactly as they are.

Other Events in Film

  • A certain monster movie by the name of King Kong premiered at Radio City Music Hall.
  • Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts teamed up for the first time in Flying Down to Rio.
  • 42nd Street revived the movie musical.

Man. There were so many better things happening than Roman Scandals. Bad job all around, 1933, do not make me regret not skipping to the 40s.

Next Page: All Hail Claudette Colbert

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