Movies under an hour

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Hal Erickson

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Movies under an hour

PostTue Mar 24, 2009 12:14 pm

The recent William Wellman festival on TCM impressed me if no other reason than how much story and entertainment value Wellman (and other directors of his era) were able to pack into running times of 60-70 minutes.

Which in turn reminded me of the sound feature films I've enjoyed in my lifetime that ran even less than one hour--but were just as worthwhile as any 90-minute "special."

Here in no particular order is a partial list of my own "under-60" favorites:

BLOCK-HEADS (Roach 1938)
NIGHT WORLD (Universal 1932)
THE SPIDER (Fox 1931)
THE MEANEST MAN IN THE WORLD (20th CF 1943)
SECRETS OF THE FRENCH POLICE (RKO 1932)
KING OF ALCATRAZ (Paramount 1938)
MAN-MADE MONSTER (Universal 1940)
THIRTEEN WOMEN (RKO 1933)
FATHER IS A PRINCE (WB 1940)
NO OTHER WOMAN (RKO 1933)


Discounting "series" westerns, how many 50-59 minute talkies can the rest
of you recommend?
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Mike Gebert

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 12:28 pm

I think one of the things that really accelerated my appreciation for 30s and 40s movies (at least 40s B movies) was the fact that, by the time you got to watching a movie at night, the prospect of 70 minutes with Warren William just seemed so much easier to take than 140 minutes of a contemporary movie. Sure, some movies justify the running time, but there's nothing about the average John Grisham adaptation, say, that wouldn't be improved by Roy Del Ruth breezing through it instead of being treated as if it were Ben-Hur.

Yes, I know that wasn't an answer to your actual question.
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Daniel Eagan

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 2:24 pm

One hour is a pretty strict cut-off for sound films, limiting you almost exclusively to programmers, series films, and lower-rung B-movies. Extend your limit ten minutes or so and you can include some film noir titles like Detour, most of Val Lewton's output, those peppy late thirties Paramount B's like Daughter of Shanghai, even sci-fi like The Man From Planet X.
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boblipton

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 2:35 pm

Most of the Roach features in the 1940s were 'streamliners', timing in at under 60 minutes, intended for triple bills. A number of Warner Bs from the late 1930s also time in at almost exactly an hour, like MYSTERY HOUSE, which, I seem to recall, is from a Mignon Eberhardt story. And CRACK-UP starring Brian Donleavy from Fox shows up occasionally at an hour, although its original length was close to 80 minutes.

Bob
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Michael O'Regan

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 4:54 pm

THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG - Karloff

This has gotta be near enough 60 mins - its on a 2200ft reel. Its one of my favourite of Karloffs Mad Doctor films.

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Ian Elliot

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 6:39 pm

There's two by William K. Howard: the amazing, staccato THE TRIAL OF VIVIENNE WARE (1932), which I believe is short film (56 minutes) intrinsically, not by studio "programmer length" imposition. BULLETS FOR O'HARA (1941) at 50 minutes is good fun and moves at a impressive clip too, showing Howard scrounging something of value from an end-of-contract B remake. It's stretching the parameter but if the credits were lopped off Rowland Brown's terrific HELL'S HIGHWAY it might clock in at under 60.
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boblipton

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 7:15 pm

THE TRIAL OF VIVIENNE WARE makes use of a bit of very rare technique -- the swish cut, where they rapidly pan the camera, cut in the middle of the pan and continue the pan on the next shot until it slows down. Tremendously exciting, but I don't know where else I've seen it.

Bob
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Harold Aherne

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PostTue Mar 24, 2009 8:19 pm

I believe the shortest film MGM ever released was The Longest Night from 1936, with Robert Young and Florence Rice and clocking in at just 51 minutes (some of their late 20s Tim McCoy westerns would also come to about 52-54 minutes at 24 fps). During the 30s the major studios clearly weren't opposed to releasing programmers less than an hour long, but it does seem that their product became less and less succinct as the decades went on. The Red Badge of Courage from 1951 was previewed at 130 minutes, but negative audience reaction led to its being cut to 69, a length that was by then reserved for B- westerns!

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Chris Snowden

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Re: Movies under an hour

PostTue Mar 24, 2009 8:44 pm

Hal Erickson wrote:Discounting "series" westerns, how many 50-59 minute talkies can the rest of you recommend?


Not sure that I'd recommend these... but I like 'em, and they're all 60 minutes or less:

The Naughty Flirt (1930) with Alice White
Play-Girl (1932) with Winnie Lightner
Female (1933) with Ruth Chatterton
The Widow from Monte Carlo (1936) with Warren William
Smart Blonde (1937) with Glenda Farrell
Behind the Headlines (1937) with Lee Tracy
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Salty Dog

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PostWed Mar 25, 2009 8:08 am

The version of Dr. Monica that Turner shows is 53 minutes long. Per IMDB, it was at one time 61 minutes. I do remember reading that the film was edited down for censorship reasons, I believe there were references to abortion in the original version, though I don't have an references to check that.
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Ray Faiola

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PostThu Mar 26, 2009 6:12 am

Well, aside from George O'Brien's RKO westerns, the under-60 film I think of most often is THE MONKEY'S PAW. Of course, I've never seen it. But I'd gladly sacrifice 58 minutes of my life for the chance!!!

THIRTEEN WOMEN is also under 60. But, apparently, only after an unsuccessful preview (at 74 minutes).
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CoffeeDan

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PostMon Apr 06, 2009 6:17 am

boblipton wrote:THE TRIAL OF VIVIENNE WARE makes use of a bit of very rare technique -- the swish cut, where they rapidly pan the camera, cut in the middle of the pan and continue the pan on the next shot until it slows down. Tremendously exciting, but I don't know where else I've seen it.


Another film that uses the swish cut effectively is THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (1933).
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CoffeeDan

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PostMon Apr 06, 2009 6:59 am

Back on topic, some other effective pictures in the 60-minute range:

SINNERS' HOLIDAY (1930) -- Grant Withers and Evelyn Knapp are the stars of this amusement park drama, but this film is more notable for the film debuts of James Cagney and Joan Blondell.

MAN WANTED (1932) -- Kay Francis's first film under contract to Warner Brothers. Also stars David Manners, Andy Devine, Una Merkel, and some very impressive cinematography from Gregg Toland.

MEN OF AMERICA (1932) -- With William Boyd, Charles "Chic" Sale, and Dorothy Wilson. Nail-biting cowboys vs. gangsters tale.

CENTRAL PARK (1932) -- A night full of gangsters, an escaped lion, a raving lunatic, an almost-retired policeman, and Wallace Ford and Joan Blondell meeting cute in New York's Central Park.

BIG CITY BLUES (1932) -- Local yokel Eric Linden seeks his fortune in the big city. Some sharpies (including an unbilled Humphrey Bogart) take advantage of him, but Joan Blondell sets things straight and sends him home. But Eric vows he'll be back . . .
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precode

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PostMon Apr 06, 2009 3:48 pm

And don't forget the greatest motion picture ever made:

SH! THE OCTOPUS

Clocking in at a snappy 54 minutes.

Mike S.
(you thought I'd forgotten, didn't you?)
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boblipton

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PostMon Apr 06, 2009 4:12 pm

Well, hoping.

Bob
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silentfilm

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PostTue Apr 07, 2009 8:05 am

precode wrote:And don't forget the greatest motion picture ever made:

SH! THE OCTOPUS

Clocking in at a snappy 54 minutes.



Sh! The Octopus seemed so long that I really needed an intermission in the middle.
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FrankFay

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PostTue Apr 07, 2009 2:48 pm

CoffeeDan wrote:
boblipton wrote:THE TRIAL OF VIVIENNE WARE makes use of a bit of very rare technique -- the swish cut, where they rapidly pan the camera, cut in the middle of the pan and continue the pan on the next shot until it slows down. Tremendously exciting, but I don't know where else I've seen it.


Another film that uses the swish cut effectively is THE KENNEL MURDER CASE (1933).


The technique is used for the flashbacks in THE PHANTOM OF CRESTWOOD (1932). It's quite eye catching, and might have been easier to manage than an in-camera face.
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JB Kaufman

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PostTue Apr 07, 2009 5:41 pm

I'll enthusiastically endorse some of the less-than-60-minute titles that have already been nominated -- but can't believe that no one has mentioned another personal fave: Tillie and Gus.
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PostTue Apr 07, 2009 6:37 pm

silentfilm wrote:
precode wrote:And don't forget the greatest motion picture ever made:

SH! THE OCTOPUS

Clocking in at a snappy 54 minutes.



Sh! The Octopus seemed so long that I really needed an intermission in the middle.


I thought there was an intermission in the middle! Or maybe that was just me, napping.

Fred
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precode

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PostFri Apr 10, 2009 5:26 pm

Frederica wrote:
silentfilm wrote:
precode wrote:And don't forget the greatest motion picture ever made:

SH! THE OCTOPUS

Clocking in at a snappy 54 minutes.



Sh! The Octopus seemed so long that I really needed an intermission in the middle.


I thought there was an intermission in the middle! Or maybe that was just me, napping.

Fred


Philistines, all of you. :x

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Christopher Jacobs

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PostSat Apr 11, 2009 1:43 pm

Well, I don't by any stretch consider it "the greatest film ever made," but I've always been fond of Sh! The Octopus as a pleasantly goofy mystery with a fun cast (that you can get through in less than an hour).

There are lots of minor but entertaining films running an hour or less. At least one of the Fox Charlie Chans is only 60 minutes. I think it's Dead Men Tell (1941). And two of the four Nancy Drews run only 60 minutes (arguably the two best of that unfortunately short-lived series: Nancy Drew, Detective and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase).

Of course there are tons of B-westerns under an hour, but their ratings on "greatness" (or even entertainment value) will depend on one's fanatacism for the genre. A reasonably entertaining and competent example that comes to mind is Edward Dmytryk's no-budget first feature, The Hawk (1935), also known as Trail of the Hawk (1936).

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Marr&Colton

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PostMon Apr 13, 2009 5:46 am

In my revival theatre operating days, always enjoyed a feature that came in on 3-2000 foot reels...it meant a fast-moving entertaining show.

One that comes to mind is Ronald Reagan's GIRLS ON PROBATION (1938)

Wish someone would release the extant Roach Streamliners on DVD!
I think they're all public domain and were "states rights" releases so there may still be prints in old collections.
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Hal Erickson

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PostMon Apr 13, 2009 7:51 am

All of the Roach "streamliners" of the 1940s were released by United Artists.

In the 1950s there were two "Sgt. Doubleday" short features produced by Hal Roach Jr. and released by Lippert: AS YOU WERE and MR. WALKY TALKY.

Possibly some of the 40s streamliners have slipped into PD due to their reissue titles: FIESTA was renamed GAIETY for TV to avoid confusion with the later MGM Esther Williams musical, while the two Bobby Watson "Hitler" comedies, DEVIL WITH HITLER and THE NAZTY NUISANCE, showed up on TV and in foreign markets as FURIOUS PHONY and DOUBLE-CROSSED FOOL, respectively (the Internet Archive version of NAZTY NUISANCE is also a reissue, renamed THE LAST THREE).

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boblipton

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PostMon Apr 13, 2009 8:39 am

The Sergeant Doubleday and the Noah Beery-Jimmy Rodgers (sp?) streamliners have played on TCM.

Bob
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Hal Erickson

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PostMon Apr 13, 2009 9:24 am

TCM has run virtually all of the streamliners, including the two Bobby Watson Hitler farces and the William Bendix-Joe Sawyer "taxi driver" group.

ALL-AMERICAN CO-ED has gotten several showings. It contains one of my all-time favorite Harry Langdon scenes, in which his face "melts", muscle by muscle, from a smile to a frown.




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Ray Faiola

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PostMon Apr 13, 2009 12:03 pm

Not to mention Dudley's super struttin'! Speaking of Dudley, has TCM run PRAIRIE CHICKENS? A VERY funny Beery-Rogers entry with Dudley.
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boblipton

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PostMon Apr 13, 2009 2:57 pm

Yes, they have.

Bob
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