1934: 2 movies

(Last updated 16 October 2013)

The Cat's Paw

Directed by Sam Taylor and Harold Lloyd
Writing by Sam Taylor and Clyde Bruckman
Cinematography by Walter Lundin
Editing by Bernard W. Burton
Starring Harold Lloyd, Una Merkel,
and George Barbier

   Goodness gracious, but this movie is a knockout! It's a comedic fantasy about ethics in politics, a premise which can result just as badly as it can well. But Harold Lloyd uses the opportunity to slaughter his critics and doubting fans by proving his cinematic worth in one giant bound. Apparently, Lloyd did not take kindly to the popular sentiments that he was outdated and too goody-two-shoes to be enjoyable. It seems as if he did not want to forever be an example of a talented silent actor who couldn't transfer his success over to sound movies. His reaction is not to deny himself and undergo radical transformation, but instead he buckles down and underlines his squareness, plays a character who is literally foreign to his environment and shows that his old world morality may be just what the America needs. The movie's treatment of race is hugely advanced for the climate in Hollywood during the era in which it was released. That's how good this movie is! Harold Lloyd uses his corny gags and dopey persona to turn around the insults flung at him and prove that he's actually intellectually superior to his naysayers, doing so by exposing their arrogant ignorance of other cultures and their merciless capitalism. He literally slaughters his enemies in this movie! How's that for square?! On top of that, Una Merkel is just dreamy, the script is genius, and the editing rocks!

Ha! Ha! Ha!
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Starring Mae Questel
Produced by Max Fleischer and Adolph Zukor
Animated by Roland Crandall and Seymour Kneitel

   There are earlier movies about madness and many made by mad geniuses, but this one deserves kudos for capturing the madness of 1934 so well and for exhibiting it in a way that introduces us to a new technique. First, we get to spend a little time with old favorite characters cutie Betty Boop and silly Koko the Clown, and then we witness some of the terror involved in a visit to the dentist's office. That's when things get out of hand. To express this, the movie shows us live images, animated images, and then blends them together sometimes by drawing over the live images. In this way, we lose track of what it is we're watching. Is this real or invented? - we seem to ask. We wonder about the sanity of the movie makers and we wonder about our own sanity. We wonder about how chemicals can affect our minds. We wonder about the struggle of pliers versus teeth. We wonder about a whole lot of things. Through it all, it's not a happy warm humor rolling everything along but rather a wild cruel humor, that tends to detract from how fun this movie could have been, but it's an interesting feeling nevertheless and there's also sufficient else to admire.

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