NEW YORK (CNS) — All films made prior to 1925 have fallen out of copyright due to the passage of time. But numerous more recent movies also have lost their protection for a variety of reasons.
Following, in alphabetical order, are capsule reviews of 15 pictures from Hollywood’s golden age that are currently in the public domain, along with links for viewing them online. Unless otherwise noted, they have not been rated by the Motion Picture Association.
Exotic romance set in the Casbah, the native quarter in French Algiers, where a suave Paris crook (Charles Boyer) takes refuge until a policeman (Joseph Calleia) uses a woman (Hedy Lamarr) to lure him out into the open. Directed by John Cromwell, this remake of “Pepe Le Moko” relies on moody visuals, tense emotions and a fine cast to hold interest in the melodramatic story of a criminal undone by love. Stylized violence, unsavory characters and romantic situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
“Angel and the Badman” (1947)
Enjoyable low-key Western in which a wounded outlaw (John Wayne) is nursed back to health by a Quaker family whose daughter (Gail Russell) tries to get him to hang up his guns rather than square accounts with a bushwhacker (Bruce Cabot). Directed by James Edward Grant, the unpretentious yet thoughtful story features a very likable cast, including Harry Carey as the sage sheriff. Solid social values with some meaningful stylized violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.
Black romantic comedy about a rich widow (Audrey Hepburn) who is hounded by criminals (James Coburn and Walter Matthau) and seeks help from a mysterious, debonair stranger (Cary Grant) whom she must learn to trust. Director Stanley Donen makes exquisite use of the Parisian locales and Henry Mancini’s memorable score. Stylized violence, menacing situations and romantic complications. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
Involving thriller in which a vacationing accountant (Edmond O’Brien) discovers he has been given a lethal dose of a toxic poison, then backtracks trying to find his killer before he dies. Directed by Rudolph Mate, the premise is simple but effective, with O’Brien’s frantic performance as the doomed man adding a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Stylized violence and emotionally intense situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
“The Front Page” (1931)
Fast-paced comedy from the Charles MacArthur-Ben Hecht play in which a top Chicago reporter (Pat O’Brien) quits his job to get married, then keeps his fiancee (Mary Brian) waiting after his scheming editor (Adolphe Menjou) tricks him into covering the escape of a convicted killer (George E. Stone). Director Lewis Milestone punctuates the action with the cynical wisecracking of reporters at the city jail while highlighting the battle between the crafty editor and his shrewd reporter, with hilarious results despite the poor quality of the soundtrack. Stylized violence, sexual innuendo and comic cynicism. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.
“Gulliver’s Travels” (1939)
Max Fleischer’s classic version of Jonathan Swift’s tale of the shipwrecked Englishman who is washed ashore in Lilliput, a diminutive land by whose scale Gulliver is a full-blown giant. The adaptation — a landmark in animation — still goes over well with youngsters bemused by the images of tiny people coping with an oversized man, the movie’s comic invention more than compensates for the subplot of neighboring kingdoms warring over a royal wedding and the songs, including the Oscar-nominated “Faithful Forever,” are quite nice. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.
“Life With Father” (1947)
Fine adaptation of the Howard Lindsay-Russel Crouse play about the domineering head (William Powell) of a New York City household at the turn of the century who sees no need of baptism to be a good Episcopalian, until his wife (Irene Dunne) makes him see the light. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the droll proceedings are based on the reminiscences of Clarence Day Jr., who recalls his father’s foibles as well as his own adolescent antics with nostalgic fondness and much good-natured irony. Domestic tensions and youthful hijinks. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
“The Little Princess” (1949)
Delightfully sentimental children’s story of a poor little rich girl (Shirley Temple) put to work as a servant in a ritzy boarding school when her father (Ian Hunter) is reported dead during the Boer War but she persists in searching for him among the convoys of wounded. Directed by Walter Lang, the story is not only a good heart-tugger but gives Shirley a chance to sing, dance and dream of being a queen. Charming family movie. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association rating is G — general audiences. All ages admitted.
“Love Affair” (1939)
Buoyant romance between a suave French playboy (Charles Boyer) and a sprightly American (Irene Dunne) blossoms aboard an ocean liner, but matters take a tragic turn when their plans to meet at the Empire State Building are disrupted by a serious accident. Director Leo McCarey lightens the sentimental story with humorous situations, brisk pacing and lively dialogue, but what makes the movie memorable are the truly affecting performances of the leads. Romantic complications. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
“March of the Wooden Soldiers” (1934)
Classic screen version of the Victor Herbert operetta “Babes in Toyland,” features Laurel and Hardy as toyshop workers who rescue the winsome Bo-Peep (Charlotte Henry) from the evil Barnaby (Henry Brandon) and save Toyland from invading Bogeymen. Produced by Hal Roach and directed by Gus Meins and Charles Rogers, the antic silliness of the bumbling duo adds to the fun of a musical fantasy whose nursery-rhyme characters, sentimental songs and fanciful story line will entertain the youngsters while charming their elders. Delightful family fare. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.
“My Favorite Brunette” (1947)
Bob Hope is in top comic form as a baby photographer mistaken for a private eye by a desperate woman (Dorothy Lamour) on the run from crooks (Charles Dingle, Peter Lorre, Jack La Rue and Lon Chaney Jr.) after her uncle’s uranium mine. Director Elliott Nugent paces the comedy with suitable menace and suspense, amusing cameos (Bing Crosby and Alan Ladd) and some very funny routines. Stylized violence and romantic situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
“My Man Godfrey” (1936)
Classic screwball comedy in which an empty-headed socialite (Carole Lombard) wins a posh scavenger hunt with the help of a jobless, homeless “forgotten man” (William Powell) who’s then hired as butler for her wacky rich family and in the process transforms them and himself. Director Gregory La Cava has a lot of fun with a top cast but the Depression-era story is treated with social conscience as well as comic wit in its portrayal of a person’s worth as more than wealth or position. Some romantic situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.
“Of Human Bondage” (1934)
Tragic romance from W. Somerset Maugham’s novel about a wealthy English medical student (Leslie Howard) whose infatuation for a devious waitress (Bette Davis) ruins his life. Directed by John Cromwell, the story creaks but the performances are still compelling, especially Davis’ heartless heartbreaker. Sexual situations and innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults.
“Our Town” (1948)
Fine adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play about two families in a small New Hampshire town circa World War I, centering in the romance between the daughter (Martha Scott) of one family and the son (William Holden) of the other. Directed by Sam Wood, the result is prime Americana, with the narrator (Frank Craven) pointing out the virtues of the community and the values of its individual members. The whole family can enjoy this look back at a simpler age and more wholesome way of life. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage.
“Royal Wedding” (1951)
Genial musical in which a brother-sister song-and-dance duo (Fred Astaire and Jane Powell) take their show to London on the eve of Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding, then get caught up in the spirit of the occasion and find mates of their own in a dancer (Sarah Churchill) and an aristocrat (Peter Lawford). Directed by Stanley Donen, the lightweight plot is helped by some pleasant songs and agreeable dance numbers, but what’s most memorable is the eye-popping sequence in which Astaire dances on the walls and ceiling of his hotel room. Romantic complications. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents.
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