What to Stream: The Greatest Directors From Hollywood’s Golden Age of the Studio System
“Dance, Girl, Dance” (Apple TV, Prime Video and other services)
“The Bride Wore Red” (Apple TV and Prime Video)
* “Happy We’re Going to Hell”
Wrongly considered a simple ornamentalist – even worse, sometimes mistaken for a fascist – Busby Berkeley was an erotic sociobiologist, an illiterate philosopher of visual music. It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to see sex in his dance numbers featuring a wedding night or giant bananas, but the virtuosity of Berkeley’s rhythmic method aimed at more: the formation of personality, the emergence of traits of character in society, as representations of desire. In his giddy, garish way, Berkeley pursued his obsessions in a style that reflected his own thrill in his visions – and their inseparability from thought and instinct.
“The Gang’s All Here” (Apple TV, Prime Video and other services)
“42nd Street” (HBO Max, Prime Video and other services)
“Checkers” (Apple TV, Prime Video and other services)
An emaciated and stern moralist, Budd Boetticher adapted the images to the bare necessities and constructed stories of an austere and didactic clarity, as in “7 Men from Now”, a tale of revenge that is as much a question of self-discipline and principle than raw stories. ferocity. Plus, he pulled off a rare symbiotic collaboration with Randolph Scott, a great but recessive actor whose introverted greatness blossomed in the series of seven westerns they collaborated on.
“7 Men from Now” (Google Play, Prime Video and other services)
“The Tall T” (Plex, Prime Video, Tubi and other services)
* “The killer is cowardly”
Hollywood’s supreme romantic idealist cast a sacramental purity on sexual love – and on the whole realm of ordinary yearnings, for family and the security, peace and freedom, that go with it. Frank Borzage’s graceful and ravishing black and white palette evokes the elusive dream of heaven on earth; its actors deliver lively yet warm performances; its brave characters serve themselves without waiting for God, nowhere more so than in “Man’s Castle,” a Depression-era drama set primarily in a New York City slum where homeless people house themselves. His silent 1925 “Lazybones” is a breathtaking love story made with folksy humor that sees rural romance through the global historical disruptions of World War I and the devastating power of haunting secrets.
* “Man’s Castle”
“Moonrise” (Apple TV, Kanopy and other services)
“Lazybones” (Public Domain Movies)
*”Living on velvet”
One of the most original directors was also one of the most paradoxical. John Cassavetes, who started out as an actor, became an independent filmmaker as his acting career in Hollywood took off. He made a pair of excellent and idiosyncratic Hollywood features amid interference from prying producers – and when he went into exile and became independent again, it was with a brassy new strength and a sense of expanded reach. which borrowed from the big-budget studio scene while repudiating it in the inventive freedom of its narratives and imagery, in the power and depth of the performances (first and foremost, from Gena Rowlands, his wife and close collaborator). Rather than walk away from the industry, where he continued to work as an actor, Cassavetes stuck to its fringes and beat it at its own game.
“Faces” (Canal Criterion, HBO Max, Prime Video and other services)
“Too Late Blues” (Kanopy, Prime Video and other services)
“A Child Waits” (ScreenPix and Hoopla)
The Shakespeare of the movies, Charlie Chaplin, raised in desperate poverty, maintained his fury at the arrogance of power all his life, and he made films which, with theatrical extravagance, colossal humor, pugnacious ingenuity and anguished tenderness, defied and defied the world’s greatest tyrants in his bawdy mockery of Hitler, in his overt sympathy for the Jews of Europe in the midst of their terrible persecution, and in his impassioned vision of an entire world threatened by tyrants – by the crude feelings they expressed, stirred up and manipulated. Chaplin had his own Hollywood studio, and his powerful and insolent artistry had the complexity, precision and refinement of a Swiss watch.
“The Great Dictator” (Criterion Channel, HBO Max, Kanopy, Prime Video and other services)
“The Gold Rush” (Criterion Channel, Freevee, HBO Max and other services)
“A King in New York” (Criterion Channel and HBO Max)
George Cukor was Hollywood’s most responsive acting manager. He elicited performances that combined warmth, intensity, freedom and poignant spotlight-lit detail, and developed an attentive and ardent image-making style. In his remake of “A Star Is Born” (and his own 1932 film “What Price Hollywood?”), he gave Judy Garland an unparalleled showcase, largely because it reflected her own experience as a as a star whose rise has come at the cost of great personal sacrifice. Throughout his career, Cukor has emphasized the irresistible appeal and devastating power of the media; an openly gay man in the Hollywood community, at a time when one could hardly be an openly gay person in general public life, he also relentlessly filmed dramas of public figures and the abyssal gap between their public images and their private life.