Get ready, vintage film fans, because the doors to the Universal Vault are swinging open for the first time in 2015 this week, and this time out you’ll find a Spring spectacle of classic movies from the Universal Pictures and pre-1949 Paramount Pictures libraries. Some of these films are new to home video, while others had only been available before in multi-disc collections. From early screen appearances by Henry Fonda and Cary Grant and jungle dramas with Dorothy Lamour and Carole Lombard to epic historical sagas that only Cecil B. DeMille could direct, there’s something here for all tastes. Want to see Tony Curtis as a Middle Eastern rogue who says “This is my father’s palace, and yonder (not ‘yonda’) lies the Valley of the Sun?” Want to see George C. Scott as a judge who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes? We’ve got ’em here!.
Below we’re offering sneak peeks at 20 of the most popular selections (we’ll have more information of the horror/sci-fi features on Thursday and four Mae West films next week), but you can see the complete list of Universal Vault releases–along with the week’s other new titles–by clicking here:
All My Sons (1948) — Powerful performances by Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster drive this screen adaptation of the Arthur Miller drama. Robinson is Joe Keller, a successful arms manufacturer who may have been responsible for sending defective parts to the military during World War II, and surviving son Chris (Lancaster), whose brother was killed in combat, sets out to find the truth. Louisa Horton, Mady Christians, Howard Duff also star.
The Cheat (1931) — Pampered Long Island socialite Elsa Carlyle (Tallulah Bankhead) had a loving husband (Harvey Stephens)…and a compulsive gambling habit. Having dropped $10,000, she embezzles from a charity fund, and her scheme to make it all back on the market fails. An oily importer (Irving Pichel) is willing to bail her out…but is the marker going to be her marriage? Steamy remake of the 1915 DeMille silent co-stars Jay Fassett.
China (1943) — Set in China during pre-Pearl Harbor World War II, this rousing action tale stars Alan Ladd as a mercenary trader who deals with both Chinese nationals and the invading Japanese with an equal lack of conscience, until he comes to the aid of an American teacher (Loretta Young) and a group of refugee schoolgirls. With William Bendix and Philip Ahn.
The Crusades (1935) — The master of cinematic historical spectacle, Cecil B. DeMille, turned his attention to medieval times with this sweeping drama of England’s King Richard the Lionheart (Henry Wilcoxon) leading his armies into battle in the Holy Land against the forces of Muslim leader Saladin (Ian Keith). Loretta Young, Joseph Schildkraut, and Catherine DeMille also star.
Her Jungle Love (1938) — Scouring the South Pacific skies for a missing aviator, pilots Bob Mitchell (Ray Milland) and Jimmy Wallace (Lynne Overman) seemed destined to become statistics themselves when a typhoon downs them over an uncharted jungle island. To their shock, they find an exotic maiden (Dorothy Lamour)…and a tribal chieftain (J. Carrol Naish) with no intention of letting them leave with her. Technicolor adventure co-stars Virginia Vale
High, Wide and Handsome (1937) — Pennsylvania farmer Peter Cortlandt (Randolph Scott) had hoped he’d get lucky with his humble oil-drilling operation…and was soon feeling the same about charming medicine showgirl Sally Waterson (Irene Dunne), newly stranded in town. When he strikes a vein, they find themselves up against determined land-grabbers. Unusual Kern-Hammerstein musical co-stars Dorothy Lamour, Charles Bickford, Akim Tamiroff; score includes “Can I Forget You?,” “The Things I Want.”
Hot Saturday (1932) — Diligent small-town bank clerk Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll) had looked forward to the lake-house shindig thrown by wealthy playboy Romer Sheffield (Cary Grant), and didn’t mind being the focus of his attentions. However, it only took a few gossiping tongues in the aftermath for her reputation to be in tatters, and leaving her to a desperate decision. Pre-Code potboiler co-stars Randolph Scott, Jane Darwell, Edward Woods.
Love Letters (1945) — In the trenches of WW II, sensitive British soldier Allen Quinton (Joseph Cotten) is exhorted by his crass comrade Morland (Robert Sully) to ghost-write moving missives to the girl Morland left behind. Back home and disillusioned, Quinton has a chance meeting with the lovely, troubled amnesiac Victoria Singleton (Jennifer Jones)…and soon learns the stunning truth underlying her trauma. Lush romantic melodrama co-stars Gladys Cooper, Ann Richards, Anita Louise.
Men with Wings (1938) — Best friends Pat Falconer (Fred MacMurray) and Scott Barnes (Ray Milland) were just boys when the Wright Brothers’ triumph at Kitty Hawk sent their imaginations soaring…and both resolved that the skies would hold their future. While Scott became an aeronautical engineer, Pat found his calling as a pilot…and his taste for adventure might cost him the wife (Louise Campbell) that Scott stood aside for. Another paean to flight from William Wellman co-stars Andy Devine, Walter Abel.
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) — Heiress Joan Prentice (Sylvia Sidney) was charmed enough by handsome but hard-drinking reporter Jerry Corbett (Fredric March) to steer him to the altar. She believed that she could get him to embrace his dream of being a playwright–and to let go of the bottle–but her plans seem destined to end in heartbreak. Pre-Code meller co-stars Adrianne Allen, George Irving, and, in a small early role, Cary Grant; Dorothy Arzner directs.
The Moon’s Our Home (1936) — It was mad love at first sight for actress Cherry Chester (Margaret Sullavan) and novelist Anthony Amberton (Henry Fonda). Trouble is, they were each traveling incognito at the time to hold off gold-diggers. There’ll be fireworks aplenty after the wedding, when both decide it’s time to come clean about their identities, in this screwball vehicle for the real-life ex-marrieds. Charles Butterworth, Beulah Bondi, Walter Brennan co-star.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) — The famous unfinished last work of Charles Dickens served as the basis for this moody and suspenseful Universal thriller. Claude Rains stars as a respected choirmaster whose secret life includes opium addiction and unrequited love for the fiancee of his nephew Edwin, an obsession that leads to murder. With Heather Angel, David Manners
The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942) — Popular Parisian torch singer Marie Roget (Maria Montez) didn’t have much affection for her younger sister Camille (Nell O’Day), and was quietly plotting her demise. When Marie goes missing–and a maimed corpse of her build turns up–a vexing mystery awaits amateur detective Paul Dupin (Patric Knowles). Tight little take on the Edgar Allan Poe tale co-stars Maria Ouspenskaya, Lloyd Corrigan, John Litel. AKA: “Phantom of Paris.”
The Restless Years (1958) — As the illegitimate child of an emotionally unstable mother (Teresa Wright), teenager Melinda Grant (Sandra Dee) had to weather every cruelty that an upbringing in her small, judgmental town had to offer. A bright spot finally emerges in the form of Will Henderson (John Saxon), the new boy in school–with his own private burdens to bear. The two misfits form a tender bond in this sensational soaper; James Whitmore, Margaret Lindsay, Virginia Grey also star.
Secret of the Blue Room (1933) — With three suitors vying for her hand, heiress Irene von Helldorf (Gloria Stuart) playfully suggests a contest to determine who’s worthy–with each having to spend a night in her ancestral castle’s “blue room,” where a trio of murders were committed a generation before. As the entrants begin to vanish, however, it becomes apparent it’s no game. Tidy thriller co-stars Edward Arnold, Paul Lukas, Lionel Atwill, Onslow Stevens.
The Smiling Lieutenant (1931) — It might have not been the best idea for dashing Austrian guardsman Niki von Preyn (Maurice Chevalier) to have openly flirted with cute violinist Franzi (Claudette Colbert) at a military review–as the dowdy Princess Anna (Miriam Hopkins) thought the wink was meant for her, and a shotgun wedding followed apace. Franzi steps in and coaches the frowzy royal in how to hold her disgruntled man in this saucy Lubitsch musical; Charles Ruggles, George Barbier co-star.
Son of Ali Baba (1952) — In ancient Persia, Kashma Baba (Tony Curtis), son of the legendary thief, pursued a rather undistinguished career as a military cadet. His fortunes would change when he met the beautiful Kiki (Piper Laurie), who claimed to have escaped slavery from an evil caliph (Victor Jory). While swearing to protect her, he finds there’s much more to her tale in this lush Technicolor adventure. Susan Cabot, Hugh O’Brian, William Reynolds also star.
They Might Be Giants (1971) — Manhattan psychiatrist Mildred Watson (Joanne Woodward) took on a most intriguing case; evaluate Justin Playfair (George C. Scott), a retired, wealthy judge who believes he’s Sherlock Holmes–and whose grasping family wants control of his holdings. Against her better judgment, the doctor finds herself drawn into Playfair’s elaborate fantasy life, in this charming comedy from James Goldman’s play; directed by Anthony Harvey. Lester Rawlins, Jack Gilford, Rue McClanahan also star.
Union Pacific (1939) — Following one of President Lincoln’s last directives, troubleshooter Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea) is determined to see the Union Pacific Railroad pushed through to California. Unfortunately, there’re lots of obstructionists with a stake in scuttling the project–including Dick Allen (Robert Preston), Jeff’s old war buddy and rival for the attentions of postmistress Mollie Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck). Cecil B. DeMille’s sweeping opus co-stars Anthony Quinn, Brian Donlevy.
White Woman (1933) — With deportation from Malaysia–or worse–staring her in the face, fallen woman/nightclub singer Judith Denning (Carole Lombard) has little choice but to accept the marriage proposal of rubber planter Horace Prin (Charles Laughton). Exposed to the depths of her new husband’s cruelty, she must conceal her mutual attraction with laborer David von Elst (Kent Taylor) if either is to survive. Steamy opus co-stars Charles Bickford, Percy Kilbride.