3 from the 30s

Posted by on Dec 13 2011 | Motion Pictures, Other

There are 15 films being presented by Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, December 14. All of them come from the archives of the George Eastman House— a result of decades of acquisition, conservation and preservation. For this blog entry,  I am highlighting the ‘30s films being shown that day.


PAYMENT DEFERRED (1932) is one of my personal favorites in the TCM lineup. I consider it a proto-noir, in that the protagonist (the fabulous Charles Laughton) experiences the same type of dilemma, decision and destruction that characters such as Walter Neff of DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) and Christopher Cross of SCARLET STREET (1945) endured in the golden age of noir. The plot follows Laughton, a bank clerk, as he struggles to keep his family financially afloat. He has news about an impending shift in the money markets but has no capital to take advantage of it. A long-lost nephew (an early appearance by Ray Milland) shows up on his doorstep but has no interest in Laughton’s proposal. Before Milland leaves, Laughton plans and executes a cold-blooded murder, stealing Milland’s money and burying him in the back yard. Laughton makes a killing on his investment, but is haunted by the body in the garden. It has little of the stylistic effects that are the hallmarks of the noir look, but the themes are the same and Laughton’s performance is grand. Like many of the MGM films we have here, the originals came to us early in our professional life. A nitrate picture negative and a nitrate track negative were received in 1967 and our print was taken directly from these in the 1970s, as was a new Fine Grain Master. Airs at 6:15 pm.


In 2007 Fox produced the mammoth and impressive “Ford at Fox” DVD Box Set, boasting 24 of the director’s films in one beautiful package. One of the films in the set, THE WORLD MOVES ON (1934), came directly from our material. We received a nitrate positive from Fox in 1972 and performed our own preservation in 1989, creating new pic and track negs and a new print. For the new preservation, Fox decided to use the old track neg, but went back to the nitrate to create a new pic neg and, with those elements, a new print. The story starts in 1825 New Orleans and follows the lives and loves of the Girard family over several generations, through the first World War and the stock market collapse to the present day. The cast is led by Madeleine Carroll, Franchot Tone and Reginald Denny. Airs at 2:45 am.


The shortest film featured is a 1937 documentary entitled THE SPANISH EARTH and directed by Joris Ivens, a well-known Dutch director that was deeply influenced by Russian greats Eisenstein and Pudovkin. The company that sponsored this film, Contemporary Historians, was formed by group of American writers and intellectuals, including Ernest Hemingway, Lillian Hellman, John Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker and Archibald MacLeish. The film follows loyalist forces and the land-working people of Spain as they struggle to survive the onslaught of Franco’s army, and as released was narrated by Ernest Hemingway. Our print was a pre-release positive that still retained the narration by a 21-year-old Orson Welles. We got our original material, a nitrate positive print, back in 1958, and performed a standard preservation, creating new pic and track negs and a new print in 1985. Airs at 9:00 am


We’ve covered nearly 20 years of film history, from an early feature released in 1918 to a documentary released solidly within the sound era. The last four films will take us all the way into the mid-‘60s, rounding out a fascinating slate of preserved wonders.

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    Jared Case is the Head of Collection Information and Access for the Motion Picture Department and one of the most popular instructors at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. He graduated from the school himself in 2002 and has been with George Eastman House ever since. He is a film noir aficionado and can be found at film festivals, mystery conventions and noir conferences around the country.

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