Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Early 30’s Capra

The early thirties seem like a good place to go for insight in today’s world of economic hardship and increased paranoia. If nothing else, it is surprising to see how compelling, current and entertaining stories conceived and crafted 80 years ago can still be.

Two of the stories Frank Capra worked on in the years before he hit his incredible run of critical success are “Platinum Blond” in 1931 and “American Madness” in 1932.

“Platinum Blond” is a bit of an eye opener for those who think morals have dropped off in the past 80 years. The story revolves around a reporter who casually enters into a Kardashian-style marriage with a rich socialite. She sees him as a project but he takes it as a point of pride not to have the money or the wife change him. All the while his good friend (and female) reporter has been carrying a torch for him. When he decides to leave his wife for his Girl Friday the audience presumably left the theaters relieved. The fun thing to see here is the beginnings of the Capra-esque bullet fast dialogue and wit.

“American Madness” saw Hollywood begin to focus on the hard times that had finally begun to impact the studios. In it, a bank is the victim of that scary evil of society: the rumor-mill. The way Capra portrays the gossip growing and spreading; and the way that the people in mass begin to act mindlessly and violently is truly disturbing. It is a good reminder of the danger society faces from itself. Especially the way gossip has gone global and techno. (Once again, the moral ambiguity of the early thirties reminds us that we haven’t changed all that much, despite the way we filter our memories of the “good old days.”)

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