Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

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bradleyem

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Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostMon Jun 16, 2014 7:35 am

Can someone tell me if the 1933 Fox science-fiction musical comedy "It's Great to Be Alive" is available for viewing archivally? Thanks in advance.
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Brooksie

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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostMon Jun 16, 2014 12:27 pm

No, only the trailer survives. It was shown at Cinecon last year, along with the silent film based on the same story, The Last Man on Earth (1924).

Don't be distracted by the fact that it's got a review on IMDb. It's by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, who often put together fake reviews of lost films he pretended to have seen.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostTue Jun 17, 2014 7:02 am

MOMA has a nitrate print of IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE; but it's not available for viewing.
William K. Everson also had a print, but god knows what happened to it (check with GEH and NYU).
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostWed Jun 25, 2014 1:55 pm

if it is "not for viewing" what is it for? are they using it as a highly flamable door stop?
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostWed Jun 25, 2014 2:25 pm

louie wrote:if it is "not for viewing" what is it for? are they using it as a highly flamable door stop?

It hasn't been preserved yet, and the archive isn't going to risk damage or loss of the print (possibly the only one) by allowing it to be viewed.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 06, 2017 9:16 am

Has anyone seen this film?

Going to screening tonight at MoMa...have never even heard of it. Excited to see it, as the plot summary sounds a bit insane. Their site says it was preserved from that remaining Nitrate print mentioned above.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostFri Jul 07, 2017 7:35 am

J. Hoberman of the New York Times on IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE (and its earlier silent version THE LAST MAN ON EARTH).

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/movies/its-great-to-be-alive-the-last-man-on-earth-moma.html

“It’s Great to Be Alive” may not be the nuttiest Hollywood musical of 1933 — a year that brought the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup” — but it’s surely the only one to end with a production number in which the women of Cuba, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia compete for the affections of the last man on earth.

Restored by the Museum of Modern Art, where it screens this week, “It’s Great to Be Alive” posits a plague called masculitis, which has decimated the world’s male population. The sole survivor is Carlos, a cheerful ladies’ man (the Brazilian actor Raul Roulien) who has dodged the disease thanks to his jealous fiancée (Gloria Stuart). After being dumped, Carlos — who is a pilot as well as a polo player — sets off on a trans-Pacific solo flight, is forced to land on an uninhabited island and disappears for five years.

Carlos’s re-emergence into a manless world sets off an international furor. He is abducted by a group of female gangsters led by a cigar-smoking Dorothy Burgess (who had just been seen competing with Jean Harlow for the affections of Clark Gable in “Hold Your Man”). Her gang puts Carlos up for auction only to be raided by the police, who claim him as “government property.” He is given a ticker-tape parade, during which he sings the movie’s title song, but he is not yet free to marry.

Slow to start, “It’s Great to Be Alive” profits from the presence of the acerbic character actress Edna May Oliver, in a role that requires her to be variously the world’s greatest scientist (at one point introducing a short-lived “synthetic man”) and the diplomat presiding over a world congress to decide Carlos’s fate.

Some reviews complained that the movie failed to live up to its premise. (The Hays Office denuded the script of numerous innuendos.) Others recalled an earlier version of the same story, “The Last Man on Earth,” a silent film from 1924 also restored by and screening at MoMA.

While “The Last Man on Earth” may take longer to hit its stride than “It’s Great to Be Alive,” once it vaults from the present to the future post-masculitis world of 1950, it is less decorous and more suggestive of changing social norms. Again, the male protagonist (Earle Foxe) is captured by lady gangsters (“a real live bimbo!” one exclaims). Here, however, he seems to have no idea what these females would like to do to — or with — him.

Mr. Foxe cowers as he is surrounded by a prancing horde of pert young gang members in skimpy sunsuits. The scene might almost be a documentary of rambunctious on-set behavior, and the movie veers still closer to exploitation territory when the “Senatoress from Massachusetts” and the “Senatoress from California” engage in a prolonged boxing match for possession of this sorry specimen’s hand.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostFri Jul 07, 2017 4:53 pm

It’s Great to Be Alive sounds very off the wall, humor-wise. I have not heard of this one, but with the film description and MoMA's restoration - what are the chances of this being available on DVD?
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostFri Jul 07, 2017 8:37 pm

It was better than I'd anticipated. Nice to share laughs with an audience of faithful pre-code fans who schlepped over to the Museum of Modern Art to see such an obscure title.

This is one weird Fox musical...mixing Lubitsch-style musical comedy with science fiction/fantasy. Raul Roulien spends the film being chased by beautiful girls (Including Toby Wing!) and one point he even gets auctioned off to the highest bidder. Edna May Oliver tries to make a synthetic man in a laboratory (impressive special effects). Dorothy Burgess butches it up a gangster dressed in a man's suit. Gloria Stuart just sort of stands around and looks pretty.

Pretty bizarre production number at the end...chorines representing different countries do their thing....of course the Americans take off their clothes and dance in their underwear.

The print was really beautiful.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostWed Jul 12, 2017 9:38 pm

I saw It’s Great to Be Alive at MoMA this evening. Keeping my expectations low, I found it fun over all. The build-up in first 20 minutes or so is rather too deliberate, but once the sci-fi elements kick in it improves considerably, especially when Edna May Oliver is onscreen. (Tonight she received a smattering of applause on her first appearance.)

However, Raul Roulien is not the ideal leading man for this sort of thing. I got the sense he was trying hard to be charming, but fell short. It’s particularly a problem in those early scenes, when they emphasize how popular he is with the ladies—and that’s before he’s the last man on earth. Maurice Chevalier could have pulled it off, but Roulien just didn’t have the charisma or sufficient cockiness.

What this film really needed was more go-for-broke craziness, a la Million Dollar Legs. As it stands, It’s Great to be Alive is pretty wacky, but not nearly wacky enough.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 9:46 am

I've taken a look at some contemporary reviews of this film, and they're pretty much what you'd expect: it's offbeat, gets better as it goes along, lightweight summer fun, etc. The review signed "W.B." from the New York World-Telegram says "while It's Great to Be Alive is not the picture it could have been and should have been, it is a good show. At least it will cause you to laugh if you are not too depressed in these down-in-the-mouth days . . .But the high spot of the film is the acting of Edna May Oliver, who has seldom been more amusing. As played, then, by Miss Oliver and a cast of capable players, It's Great to Be Alive is at least worthy of your consideration."

Just to emphasize the point, the headline for that review reads: MISS OLIVER HIT IN AMUSING FILM. Sorry, Raul.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 10:48 am

agree...while watching I was thinking how natural Maurice Chevalier would have been in the role.

I only knew Raul from Flying Down to Rio...where he is literally invisible compared to his supporting cast. Compared to that...I kind of appreciated what amounts to an over-the-top performance from him.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 4:27 pm

Perhaps the film drifted between the concept stage and execution? In The Last Man on Earth (1924), the last man is a hapless milquetoast. A lot of the comedy comes from the fact that this shy little guy suddenly has every woman clamouring for his affections. Changing him into a lothario changes that dynamic completely, and I can't imagine it was for the better, comedy-wise.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 5:25 pm

Brooksie wrote:Perhaps the film drifted between the concept stage and execution? In The Last Man on Earth (1924), the last man is a hapless milquetoast. A lot of the comedy comes from the fact that this shy little guy suddenly has every woman clamouring for his affections. Changing him into a lothario changes that dynamic completely, and I can't imagine it was for the better, comedy-wise.


Unfortunately I wasn't able to see The Last Man on Earth, also showing at MoMA in recent days, though I hope to catch up with it at some point. But I can imagine making the little guy a milquetoast rather than a tomcat would be funnier, and at least one friend of mine who has seen both says the silent film is decidedly the better of the two.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 5:27 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:Unfortunately I wasn't able to see The Last Man on Earth, also showing at MoMA in recent days, though I hope to catch up with it at some point. But I can imagine making the little guy a milquetoast rather than a tomcat would be funnier, and at least one friend of mine who has seen both says the silent film is decidedly the better of the two.


I happened to catch both films during their MOMA run, and I would agree with your friend. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH was definitely the funnier of the two.
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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 5:33 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
Brooksie wrote:Perhaps the film drifted between the concept stage and execution? In The Last Man on Earth (1924), the last man is a hapless milquetoast. A lot of the comedy comes from the fact that this shy little guy suddenly has every woman clamouring for his affections. Changing him into a lothario changes that dynamic completely, and I can't imagine it was for the better, comedy-wise.


Unfortunately I wasn't able to see The Last Man on Earth, also showing at MoMA in recent days, though I hope to catch up with it at some point. But I can imagine making the little guy a milquetoast rather than a tomcat would be funnier, and at least one friend of mine who has seen both says the silent film is decidedly the better of the two.


Yeah. The Last Man on Earth has some weaknesses through cultural issues, but it's put together better and the idea that the last man is a wimp is funnier than he is a reformed lothario.

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Re: Question about It's Great to Be Alive (1933)

PostThu Jul 13, 2017 11:00 pm

I saw The Last Man on Earth when it played at Cinecon a few years ago (at which point, I believe, it wasn't even clear that It's Great To Be Alive was a surviving film). I thought it was a lot of fun, but felt that the concept didn't quite last the distance, and the film ran out of steam towards the end. The wacky fashions from the 'future' years were a particular highlight.

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