Sunday, 26 July 2020

The Movies In 1932

Some screen greats began their careers in 1932. 

Cary Grant made his feature film debut in This is the Night, in which he played an Olympic javelin thrower. 

Katharine Hepburn made her first Hollywood movie, The Bill of Divorcement, havng spent the previous four years in theatre. Her career went on to span 60 years. 

Shirley Temple made her first feature length film, The Red-Haired Alibi. She was four years old. 

She also made a short film called War Babies, which featured child actors dressed and acting as adults. It featured Shirley Temple's first onscreen kiss! In her autobiography, Temple describes the Baby Burlesks series of films as a "cynical exploitation of our childish innocence."

It's wrong and sexist and kinda creepy, but you can watch the whole nine minute film here if you want to!

The 5th Academy Awards were held on November 18 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Films screened in Los Angeles between August 1 1931 and July 31 1932 were eligible to enter. Prior to 1933, the awards were not based on calendar years so the 1932 films mainly missed out on awards. When the dates were changed in 1932, any movies screened in the second half of 1932 didn't fit into the awards calendar any more so missed out entirely on being eligible. 

Best Picture for 1932 was Grand Hotel by Metro Goldwyn Mayer. This was the only 1932 movie to win an award. It is also the only movie to date to have won Best Picture without being nominated in any other category.

It contains the famous lines delivered by Greta Garbo - "I want to be alone . . . I just want to be alone."

This was later seen as a foreshadowing of her reclusive behaviour, but she said, "I never said I want to be along; I only said I want to be let alone. There is all the difference."

Best Director went to Frank Borzage for Bad Girl. The film featured two previously unknown actors and follows their courtship and marriage.

The award for Best Actor produced a tie between Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Wallace Beery for The Champ.

Fredric March's work in this movie is still considered one of the great horror performances.

In The Champ, Wallace Beery plays a washed-up, alcoholic boxer who wants to get his act together for the sake of his son.

Best Actress was awarded to Helen Hayes for The Sin of Madelon Claudet. It tells the story of a wrongly imprisoned woman who turns to theft and prostitution to support her son. 

These movies are all Pre-Code. There was a brief era in Hollywood between 1929 when sound came to movies and 1934 with the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code when there were no taboos in movies. Subjects such as sexual relationships, abortion, prostitution, illegal drug use, infidelity and homosexuality were all allowed in the movies. Once the code was introduced in mid-1934, the censorship guidelines would ensure that these topics would not be covered by Hollywood for decades to come.

Other well-known movies released in 1932 include:

Shanghai Express, starring Marlene Dietrich

Tarzan the Ape Man, starring Johnny Weissmuller in his first of twelve Tarzan movies.
Post-code, there would not be this much bare flesh shown in the movies for a LONG time!

The Man Who Played God, which stars a then little-known Bette Davis. 

Scarface, which is regarded as one of the most significant gangster movies. Even in these more lenient times, the movie was considered too violent and had to undergone many changes. After release, it was still banned in some states. The originally released movie had an alternate ending. The original ending has been discovered and some DVD releases now contain both endings. There is no complete unaltered version known to exist however. 

Pack Up Your Troubles, the second Laurel and Hardy movie.

The top-grossing film of 1932 was The Kid From Spain. This was a comedy musical and the best scenes are the musical ones involving the Goldwyn Girls which included future stars Betty Grable and Jane Wyman.

And of course there are the flops!

Despite having a wonderful comedic cast, The Passionate Plumber was not successful. Critics said the cast were constantly fighting against the flimsy plot and in the end the plot won out. 
Jewel Robbery also received a lukewarm response, with critics called it 'a nervous, brittle comedy', blaming Kay Francis' lacklustre performance.

And that is 1932 in the movies! Obviously not all, as there were many more movies released. For a full list, you can take a look here

Some of these movies are available on DVD. I have found an Australian seller, Play Me Movies, on Etsy who has movies back to 1924. They are Region 0, so will play in any DVD player around the world. 

But there are also many excerpts from these movies on Youtube and sometimes even the whole movie. Just search the title of the movie and I have found that something will generally come up! 

I will leave you then with this clip from The Kid From Spain, featuring a young Betty Grable.



  1. What a great post! That Shirley Temple clip was both adorable and horrible all at the same time. Definitely sexist and definitely exploitation, they are all just babies! I hope you will come over to link this one up on my Throwback Thursday next week :)

    1. Oops, I have been away from my blog for a bit so I missed doing this. I will try and make it there next time!

  2. I used to be a Shirley Temple fanatic when I was little. I was given a Shirley Temple doll for my eighth birthday that I kept for decades, until she became brittle and split across her back. I do still enjoy watching the Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer every few years which sees Shirley Temple in one of her teenage roles.

    1. I would have loved to have seen your doll. I just cannot decide whether I like her child roles or not! I do like her later movies better.

  3. I have enjoyed strolling down memory lane of all the movies of 1932, Jayne. I can hear Greta Garbo in my mind saying these famous lines in her thick accent. Thank you for the link of purchasing old movie dvds. As a movie buff of the Golden Years of Hollywood I am going to love perusing through the many titles.

    1. I hope you find some you like! I am definitely buying some more of the 1940s ones.

  4. I owned that Cary Grant film I think. I definitely own some of his others, as I always thought he was a great actor. Operation Petticoat (with Tony Curtis)and How to steal a million (with Audrey Hepburn) are my favourites.

    1. Oh yes, he was wonderful. And Audrey Hepburn is just divine.

  5. Those were some of the greatest of the greats!