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Mary Pickford Theater

2017 Archive of Screened Films


Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 7:00pm

THE DOORWAY TO HELL (Warner Bros., 1930).
Directed by Archie Mayo. Screenplay & Dialogue by George Rosener, from the short story “A Handful of Clouds” by Rowland Brown. With Lew Ayres, Dorothy Mathews, Leon Janney, Robert Elliott, James Cagney, Kenneth Thomson. (78 min, black & white, 35mm)

A Chicago gangster decides to retire and moves to Florida, but is forced to go back after his younger brother is kidnapped. The film that started the Warner Bros. “ripped from the headlines” gangster cycle is today largely forgotten, its landmark status having been usurped by “Little Caesar” and “Public Enemy,” released two and seven months later respectively. Lew Ayres, fresh from his breakout role in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” plays the baby-faced gangster, while James Cagney, in only his second film appearance, provides a tantalizing preview of his talents as Ayres’ right-hand man. Preserved by the Packard Campus Film Preservation Lab from the original nitrate negatives in the United Artists Collection.

Preceded by

INSURANCE (Paramount, 1930).
Directed by Mort Blumenstock. With Eddie Cantor, Charles C. Wilson. (9 min, black & white, 35mm)

A vaudeville routine built around a visit to a doctor’s office for a physical, originally performed by Eddie Cantor as part of the 1920 musical comedy review "Midnight Rounders."


NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY

Each year, the Librarian of Congress selects 25 films of enduring importance to American culture for inclusion in the National Film Registry. The selection takes into account thousands of titles nominated annually by the public, as well as recommendations of the National Film Preservation Board and the Library film curators. Once a film is inducted into the Registry, the Library determines if it has already been preserved, and, if not, seeks to ensure that it eventually will be preserved by the institution or individual holding the best master material. This month, the Pickford Theater will showcase two titles deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" for inclusion into the Registry, both in new 35mm prints made from the studios’ preservation elements for the Library’s National Film Registry Collection.

Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 7:00pm

SHAFT (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1971). Directed by Gordon Parks. Written by Ernest Tidyman, John D. F. Black, from the novel of the same name by Ernest Tidyman. With Richard Roundtree. Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Gwenn Mitchell, Lawrence Pressman. (100 min, color, 35mm)

A private detective is recruited by a Harlem crime boss to find his daughter who has been kidnapped by the Mafia. The film that defined the Blaxploitation genre and expanded the representation of African Americans in mainstream commercial cinema was a modestly budgeted affair ($500,000), shot on New York City streets in the winter and featuring a cast of little known stage actors and bit players. Its success at the box office (grossing $13 million in the U.S. alone) saved MGM from financial ruin and spawned a host of sequels and imitations across the pop culture spectrum. The memorable score was composed by Isaac Hayes, who won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Theme from Shaft,” making him the first African American composer to win an Oscar. Selected for the National Film Registry in 2000.

Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 7:00pm

THE MARK OF ZORRO (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1940). Directed by Rouben Mamoulian. Written by John Taintor Foote (screenplay), Garrett Fort & Bess Meredith (adaptation), from the story “The Curse of Capistrano” by Johnston McCulley. With Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Basil Rathbone, Gale Sondergaard, Eugene Pallette, J. Edward Bromberg, Montagu Love. (93 min, black & white, 35mm)

Johnston McCulley’s tale of a masked swordsman who becomes the scourge of Spanish oppressors in 1800’s California was first published as a serial in the “All-Story Weekly” magazine in August-September 1919. Among the many films and TV shows based on the story or using the character of Zorro, are the 1920 blockbuster with Douglas Fairbanks in the title role, the Walt Disney-produced 1950’s TV series, and two recent (1998 and 2005) Columbia releases starring Antonio Banderas. None, however, have approached the elegance and visual sophistication of Rouben Mamoulian’s 1940 version, which brought the director’s sublime sense of movement and rhythm to the swashbuckler’s traditional mix of action, romance and humor. Selected for the National Film Registry in 2009.


THE GREAT WAR

As we look forward to the April 4th opening of the exhibition "Echoes of the Great War," one in a series of Library events to mark the First World War Centenary, the Pickford Theater presents a couple of lesser known cinematic treatments of the "war to end all wars." Made thirty years apart, the two films inevitably have very different perspectives on the conflict. The first is an action spy yarn produced at the time when war movies were stretched between the cynicism of "M*A*S*H" (1969) and the epic sweep of "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (1970), while the second is a flag-waving drama released on the eve of America’s entrance into World War II.

Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 7:00pm

ZEPPELIN (Getty and Fromkess Picture Corp. / Warner Bros., 1971). Directed by Etienne Perier. Screenplay by Arthur Rowe & Donald Churchill. Story by Owen Crump. With Michael York, Elke Sommer, Peter Carsten, Marius Goring, Anton Diffring. (101 min, Technicolor, Panavision, 35mm)

In 1915, a British spy tries to thwart a German plan to use a new type of airship to steal Britain’s treasured historical documents from a castle in Scotland. Produced in England by the partnership of businessman J. Ronald Getty and film and TV producer Leon Fromkess. "Zeppelin" was the brainchild of screenwriter and director Owen Crump, whose association with aviation pictures dated back to the early 1940’s and his stint as the head of the film production unit of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Well cast, efficiently directed, and with both the airship and the period itself meticulously recreated by a team led by Wally Veevers, who three years earlier supervised the special photographic effects on "2001: A Space Odyssey," the film was made to "delight small boys of all ages" (Kevin Thomas, LA Times).

Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 7:00pm

THE FIGHTING 69th (Warner Bros., 1940). Directed by William Keighley. Written by Norman Reilly Raine, Fred Niblo, Jr. and Dean Franklin. With James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, George Brent, Jeffrey Lynn, Alan Hale, Frank McHugh, Dennis Morgan. (89 min, black & white, 35mm)

Two years after they appeared together in "Angels with Dirty Faces" (1938), James Cagney and Pat O’Brien were again cast, respectively, as a cocky troublemaker and the clergyman who tries to bring him back into the fold. In "The Fighting 69th," the two go head to head on the battlefields of France during World War I, where Jerry Plunkett (Cagney), an arrogant braggart who refuses to follow orders, is court-martialed when his cowardice in battle causes the deaths of his fellow soldiers. O’Brien plays Francis P. Duffy (1871-1932), who served as chaplain for the 69th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the New York Army National Guard composed primarily of Irish immigrants from New York City. Two additional members of the original regiment portrayed in the film are William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan (1883-1959), a decorated World War I veteran and head of the Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War, and journalist and poet Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), killed by sniper fire in the Second Battle of the Marne.


Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 7:00pm

THE UNSUSPECTED (Michael Curtiz Productions / Warner Bros., 1947). Directed by Michael Curtiz. Written by Ranald MacDougall (screenplay), Bess Meredyth (adaptation), from the novel of the same name by Charlotte Armstrong. With Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield. (103 min, black & white, 35mm)

Claude Rains is at his suave best as the host of a true crime radio show who finds himself at the center of his own murder mystery after his secretary is found hanged in his office. Michael Curtiz’s first film for his own production company is a stylish thriller with virtuoso black & white photography by Elwood "Woody" Bredell, who a year earlier worked as cinematographer on Robert Siodmak’s noir classic "The Killers." A rare opportunity to see this masterful but underappreciated film in a brand new 35mm print generated by the Packard Campus Film Preservation Lab from the original nitrate negatives in the United Artists Collection.


Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 7:00pm

THE COMMISSIONER (Metropolis Filmproduktion – New Era Vision – Saga Films – RTBF, Germany/U.K./Belgium, 1998). Directed by George Sluizer. Screenplay by Christina Kallas, George Sluizer, from the novel of the same name by Stanley Johnson. With John Hurt, Rosana Pastor, Alice Krige, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Simon Chandler, James Faulkner. (108 min, color, 35mm)

A scandal-plagued British cabinet minister is exiled from the U.K. to Brussels where he begrudgingly assumes the post of European Union’s Commissioner for Industry. Barely in office, he receives an anonymous tip about a criminal conspiracy in one of Europe’s top chemical concerns… A political thriller made in the tradition of hard-hitting American cinematic exposés of government institutions, the film was based on a novel by British writer, politician and environmentalist Stanley Johnson, who himself had served in the European Commission as head of the Prevention of Pollution Division. Directed by Dutch filmmaker George Sluizer ("Vanishing") and starring a multi-European cast led by the late great John Hurt. Never released in the U.S.!


Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 6:30pm

PRE-CODE DOUBLE BILL

THE MATRIMONIAL BED (Warner Bros., 1930). Directed by Michael Curtiz. Screenplay by Harvey Thew and Seymour Hicks, based on the play by Hicks. With Frank Fay, Lilyan Tashman, James Gleason, Beryl Mercer, Marion Byron, Vivian Oakland. (69 min, black & white, 35mm).

After recovering from long-term memory loss, a man finds that he has a multitude of conflicting relationships, including two wives and four children. Seymour Hicks‘s play, which opened in New York City in October 1927, was based on the French farce "To the First of These Gentlemen" (Au Premier de ces Messieurs, Paris, May 1926) by Yves Mirande and André Mouëzy-Éon. Typical of the racy escapism popular during the Great Depression, the film is very much a product of its time, as witnessed by the markedly "tamer" remake released by Warner Bros. in 1941 under the title "Kisses for Breakfast." Preserved in 2012 by the Packard Campus Film Preservation Lab from the original negatives in the United Artists Collection.

With

PARTY HUSBAND (First National, 1931). Directed by Clarence Badger. Screenplay by Charles Kenyon, based on the novel by Geoffrey Barnes. With Dorothy Mackaill, James Rennie, Dorothy Peterson, Joe Donahue, Donald Cook, Helen Ware. (74 min, black & white, 35mm).

A young married couple decide to pursue a modern relationship by maintaining their independence and freely associating with the opposite sex. Despite having made a smooth transition to sound, both director Clarence Badger and star Dorothy Mackaill were nearing the end of their careers when they made this saucy marital drama, the likes of which became extinct after the motion picture industry started enforcing its moral guidelines in 1934. Preserved in 2015 by the Packard Campus Film Preservation Lab from the original negatives in the United Artists Collection.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 7:00pm

BRITISH INVASION

FERRY CROSS THE MERSEY (Subafilms, U.K., 1964).  Directed by Jeremy Summers. Screenplay by David Franden from an original story by Tony Warren.  With Gerry and the Pacemakers (Gerry Marsden, Fred Marsden, Les Chadwick, Les Maguire), Julie Samuel, T. P. McKenna, Mona Washbourne. (86 min, black & white, 35mm).

A slight plot about a group of art students moonlighting as rock musicians serves as a framework for this charming look at 1960’s Liverpool and its famed beat scene.  Featuring the band Gerry and the Pacemakers, whose Merseyside contemporaries, The Beatles, made their big screen debut a few months earlier with “A Hard Day’s Night.”  The bands shared the same manager (Brian Epstein) and producer (George Martin), and the two films are similar in their playful tone and cinéma vérité look.  Includes appearances by The Black Knights, The Blackwells, Earl Royce and the Olympics, and Cilla Black.

Preceded by

RHYTHM ‘N GREENS (Inter-State Films, U.K., 1964).  Directed and written by Christopher Miles.  Narrated by Robert Morley.  With The Shadows (Brian Bennett, John Rostill, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch). (32 min, Technicolor, 35mm).

The British instrumental rock group The Shadows acts out the history of mankind while frolicking on the beach.  “A gay piece of nonsense… but flashes of comic invention and good jokes make it fun” (Punch magazine).


Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 7:00pm

THIS ISLAND EARTH (Universal-International, 1955). Directed by Joseph Newman. Screenplay by Franklin Coen & Edward G. O’Callaghan, from the novel of the same name by Raymond F. Jones. With Jeff Morrow, Faith Domergue, Rex Reason, Lance Fuller, Russell Johnson. (88 min, Technicolor, 35mm)

Two scientists are kidnapped by aliens and taken to a distant planet to help them win a war. A classic of 1950’s sci-fi cinema with all the ingredients of a space opera, including interplanetary warfare and bug-eyed monsters, and for its time spectacular visuals which brought to the screen “scenes that had previously only existed in the minds of SF pulp writers” (John Brosnan). Archival Technicolor print from the Library’s Copyright Collection.


Thursday, September 21st at 7:00 p.m.

SON OF PALEFACE (Hope Enterprises – Paramount, 1952). Directed by Frank Tashlin. Written by Frank Tashlin, Robert L. Welch, and Joseph Quillan. With Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Roy Rogers, Trigger, Bill Williams, Lloyd Corrigan, Paul E. Burns. (94 min, Technicolor, 35mm)

Preceded by: PORKY’S ROMANCE (Warner Bros., 1937). Looney Tunes. Produced by Leon Schlesinger. Supervised by Frank Tashlin. (8 min, black & white, 35mm)

A wild, at times surreal, Technicolor farce that critics compared favorably with the most antic of the Hope/Crosby "Road" pictures, Son of Paleface casts Bob Hope again with Jane Russell in a sequel to their great box office hit "The Paleface." "Son of Paleface" adds the broader comic style of director and former animator Frank Tashlin, who masterfully infuses outrageously cartoonish gags into the Western spoof. Preceded by Tashlin’s classic Warner Bros. cartoon from fifteen years earlier.


Thursday, October 5th at 7:00 p.m.

THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF (Excalibur Films, United Kingdom, 1970). Directed by Basil Dearden. Screenplay by Basil Dearden and Michael Relph, from the short story “The Case of Mr. Pelham” by Anthony Armstrong. With Roger Moore, Anton Rodgers, Olga Georges-Picot, Hildegarde Neil, Thorley Walters. (89 min, Technicolor, 35mm)

After recovering from a car crash, a prim and proper London businessman finds his life turned upside down by an apparent doppelganger. The late Roger Moore considered this his favorite role, and it certainly provided him more opportunity to showcase his acting chops than the character of Simon Templar in the popular TV series "The Saint," which had concluded its six season run a year earlier. "The Man Who Haunted Himself" was also the last film of British director Basil Dearden ("The League of Gentleman," "Sapphire," "All Night Long"), who, in an eerie coincidence, died in a road accident a little less than a year after the film’s release. Archival print from the Library’s Copyright Collection.

Thursday, October 19th at 6:30 p.m.

THE DARK EYES OF LONDON = THE HUMAN MONSTER (John Argyle Productions, United Kingdom, 1939). Directed by Walter Summers. Screenplay by Patrick Kirwan, Walter Summers and J. F. Argyle, from the novel of the same name by Edgar Wallace. With Bela Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt, Edmon Ryan, Wilfred Walter. (75 min, black & white, 35mm)

With

THE APE (Monogram, 1940). Directed by William Nigh. Written by Richard Carroll (screenplay) and Kurt Siodmak (screenplay & adaptation), suggested by the play of the same name by Adam Hull Shirk. With Boris Karloff, Maris Wrixon, Gertrude W. Hoffman, Henry Hall, Gene O’Donnell. (61 min, black & white, 35mm)

What better way to slip into the mood for Halloween than with a pair of films featuring the two giants of cinematic horror, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. First, Lugosi stars as Dr. Orloff, the head of a London insurance agency whose customers start showing up dead in the River Thames. Next, Karloff takes over as a mad scientist who, in need of spinal fluid for his anti-polio serum, concocts a macabre plan involving a circus ape. "The Dark Eyes of London" was preserved by the Library in 2014 from a safety print in the Kino International Collection. The 2012 preservation of "The Ape" was sourced from nitrate negatives in the MGM Collection.

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