Friday, June 30, 2006

"Paradise" by the Off-Broadway Lights

A stage version of one of the best Pre-Code films has extended its Off-Broadway run in New York through July 22nd. This well-received musical adaptation of the Ernst Lubitsch film "Trouble in Paradise" is playing at the Hudson Guild Theater on West 26th St. See Gaston and Lily try to con Madame Colet LIVE while you have the chance! Unfortunately, Kay Francis and Miriam Hopkins will not be reprising their film roles.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

13th Festival of Preservation in Los Angeles

The UCLA Film and Television Archive shows off some of its recent restoration handiwork with the 13th Festival of Preservation at the James Bridges Theater from July 20th-August 19th. The festival runs the gamut from well-known titles to forgotten films, silent movies to TV episodes.

The month-long program schedule includes a few pre-code features and shorts:

Vitaphone Varieties (July 27th, 7:30pm): Early sound shorts from 1927-1930 feature music and vaudeville acts from the era.

The Barker (7/27): This 1928 early talkie starring Dorothy Mackaill, Milton Sills, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was a silent film that had Vitaphone sound sequences added into finished product for its official premiere.

Dynamite (July 30th, 7pm): Cecil B. DeMille's first sound feature.

Many silent rarities are also being presented with live accompaniment.

Two films based on Thorne Smith's comedic fantasy novels also get dusted off during the festival. The better known of these is the original "Topper," Hal Roach Studio's whimsical screwball comedy featuring Cary Grant and Constance Bennett as the two of the wittiest and most stylish ghosts you'd ever meet. But the real buried treasure is "Turnabout." This 1940 comedy, was directed by Roach and stars the lovely Carole Landis and a very funny turn by John Hubbard. This gender-bending comedy holds up well thanks to a great supporting cast (Franklin Pangborn, Marjorie Main, Mary Astor, and Donald Meek). I got a sneak preview of "Turnabout" at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April, and I can tell you the 35mm print looks wonderful.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Joan Is Busting Out All Over

Sorry I have been remiss about posting to my blog. I could make up an excuse that I didn't have a lot of pre-code news to report or movies to review, but that is not necessarily the case (I have a backlog of TCM movies on my TiVo and a Busby Berkeley box set to get to). So as long as you accept my apologies, I will move on!

Joan Crawford is (perhaps unfairly) remembered more for her alleged failings as a mother (see this month's "Mommie Dearest: Hollywood Royalty Edition") or her camp classics (see the new 2-Disc Special Edition of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"). While both films are entertaining to say the least, I think Joan would rather we remember her when she was young and beautiful and one of MGM's biggest stars. We get a glimpse of that Joan in the pre-code musical "Dancing Lady" (available on DVD 6/20 both individually and as part of the new "Clark Gable: The Signature Collection" box set). Though I have not yet seen the film, I love seeing early Clark Gable films since the studio didn't quite know what to do with its rising star, casting him in "heavy" roles instead of suave leading man. Here, he gets to show a comedic side in this backstage musical featuring Crawford's future husband Franchot Tone as his romantic rival. This film features an amazing supporting cast: Fred Astaire (in his first sound feature), May Robson, writer Robert Benchley, Eve Arden (in a bit part), and even The Three Stooges! If that lineup is not incentive to seek out this film, I don't know what is!

And speaking of Joan, I bet she would also be quite proud of her Oscar-winning performance in "Mildred Pierce." This noir classic will be shown at a very special screening on July 21st at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Hold on to your pie plates, because this benefit screening will feature a live appearance by Ann Blyth (who played Veda, Mildred's ingrate daughter, to perfection)! Noir czar Eddie Muller will interview Miss Blyth prior to the screening in what promises to be a fascinating evening. Tickets are available by calling 415-863-0611 or at Hope to see you there!