Happy sets do not always result in happy movies. Nor do miserable sets invariably produce cinematic dreck. For proof of that one need look no further than the career of William Wyler, one of the most prolific and honored filmmakers ever.
RKO's prodcution of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not only the best version of the tale ever committed to celluloid, it’s a remarkable artistic achievement – hugely emotional, entertaining, and filled with great performances.
The Man in the Iron Mask is the sort of rousing historical swashbuckler that Hollywood turned out with regularity during its so-called Golden Era. It's also the last great gasp in the career of director James Whale.
Only Angels Have Wings was made under studio conditions. Yet it doesn’t seem artificial. The emotions feel real, the dialogue sharp and authentic, the characters interesting. It’s a classic example of how “Hollywood phony” can be more satisfying than realism.
Idiot’s Delight features Clark Gable’s only on-screen singing/dancing performance. It was very timely film in 1939. Today, not so much. Still, as one of that year’s hits it’s part of our year-long film series Hollywood’s Greatest Year.