By Using this site, you agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

YOURS, MINE AND OURS

Numbers mean nothing when love is present in this romantic comedy about a widow with eight children who marries a widower with ten. Star Lucille Ball learned of Helen Beardsley’s story before the Beardsley wrote her memoir, Who Gets the Drumstick? She snapped up the rights and went through a large list of possible co-stars—including ex-husband Desi Arnaz, James Stewart and John Wayne—before Henry Fonda pitched himself for the role. The two had worked well together in The Big Street (1942), so she jumped at the prospect. Ball already had a script by her TV writers, Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Davis, but it was too much like her television persona. When she hired Melville Shavelson, who had worked on several Bob Hope films, to direct, he brought in another Hope writer, Mort Lachman, to help with the re-write. The result still gave Ball the chance for physical comedy, but it was much more rooted in character and situation, with comic scenes about Fonda’s rebellious sons getting Ball drunk and a focus on the logistics of raising 18 children together. The result was a surprise hit that grossed more than $11 million on a $2.5 million investment. Its success even convinced ABC to pick up a new TV series, The Brady Bunch. (d. Melville Shavelson, 111m, 35mm)

WUTHERING HEIGHTS

It’s strange to think that what has often been called the definitive interpretation of Emily Brontë’s tale of doomed love on the British moors departed so much from her novel in so many ways. When Samuel Goldwyn hired Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur to adapt the book, they knew they were wrestling with a sprawling, unwieldy narrative. They cut more than half the novel—an entire generation descended from Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Cathy (Merle Oberon)—and moved the action from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Yet the film perfectly captured the feel of the original source. Part of that was Gregg Toland’s cinematography, who used high-speed film and high-intensity lights to create a candlelit look that won him an Oscar. Composer Alfred Newman also captured much of the story’s romance in his poignant music. The other major contributor to the film’s power was Olivier. Although he hated director William Wyler’s practice of demanding repeated takes with no specific notes, he would later say it wore down his stage-based over-acting. He also used a psychological approach to Heathcliff, the outsider who makes good to avenge Cathy’s rejection of him. Instead of playing a stereotypical dreamy lover, he brought a brooding intensity to the film that audiences still find incredibly sexy today. (d. William Wyler, 104m, DCP)

WORKING GIRL

One of the rewards of being a casting director is matching the perfect actor with the perfect role. That’s what happened when Juliet Taylor helped land Melanie Griffith her first big box-office hit as the Staten Island secretary who dreams of rising to the top in business. Twentieth Century Fox was on board with Kevin Wade’s script featuring a leading lady, both Pygmalion and Galatea, as she transforms herself into the perfect executive type. But the studios had hoped to use a box-office name in the leading role. Director Mike Nichols convinced them to go with Griffith but not without a cost. The downside of casting is having to disappoint someone you believe in. Taylor and Nichols had originally wanted Alec Baldwin, who was just getting started in movies, as the leading man, but Fox insisted they needed a box-office draw in that role. Baldwin graciously accepted a smaller role as Griffith’s unfaithful boyfriend so Harrison Ford could take the lead. With Sigourney Weaver as Griffith’s duplicitous boss and Joan Cusack as Griffith’s best friend, the movie had the perfect cast. The film scored with both critics and audiences and brought Griffith, Weaver, Cusack and Nichols Oscar nominations. It also won Carly Simon Best Song for “Let the River Run.” (d. Mike Nichols, 113m, DCP)

A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

John Cassavetes’ seventh film as a director was a true labor of love and a showcase for his wife, Gena Rowlands. Originally, he wrote this tale of a blue-collar wife struggling with mental issues as a play because Rowlands wanted to find a play about women’s lives. The role was so powerful, however, that she convinced him to make it as a film instead, arguing that no actress could live through the story eight times a week. Cassavetes mortgaged their home and borrowed money from friends, including leading man Peter Falk, who put some of his Columbo money into the picture. When Cassavetes couldn’t find a distributor, Martin Scorsese, a big fan of his work, threatened to pull his own Italianamerican (1974) from the New York Film Festival unless they screened Cassavetes’ picture as well. Even with a successful festival showing, Cassavetes had to rent out movie theaters with his own money in order to get the film in front of audiences. Then he took it around the country to art houses and college campuses, where he and Falk often spoke to audiences after the film. Before long, it had become a critical darling, earning Rowlands her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The film eventually made $6.1 million dollars at the box office, all of which went back to Cassavetes, his investors and the cast and crew. (d. John Cassavetes, 146m, 35mm)

35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restoration funding provided by The Film Foundation and GUCCI.

A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS

Forbidden love is at the heart of this silent feature and third film to team Greta Garbo with off-screen lover John Gilbert. They star as childhood sweethearts Diana and Neville, kept apart by Neville’s snobbish father. When the pair finally reunite years later, Neville is married to another woman who is so mired in scandal that their love becomes impossible. The Garbo-Gilbert romance was pretty impossible, too. They quarreled a great deal during filming and broke up shortly after making the film. MGM had bought the rights to Michael Arlen’s notorious novel The Green Hat despite the Hays Office’s objections. To adapt it for the screen, MGM had to change the title, the characters’ names and several plot elements; for instance, Diana’s husband, David (Johnny Mack Brown), commits suicide because he has syphilis in the novel, but in the film it’s over embezzlement. Also, a night of passion between the leads was only hinted at in the film, and a character’s miscarriage is labeled as an unspecified illness. Another censored element was the unrequited love Diana’s brother (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) possesses for David (though it still reads that way on screen). Nevertheless, the film was a smash hit upon its release, as fans flocked to see the legendary Garbo-Gilbert duo romancing each other on screen unknowingly for the final time in a silent picture. Film preservationist and director Kevin Brownlow revived the film through his company Photoplay in 2002. This film will be accompanied by a live orchestra performing a score composed and conducted by Carl Davis. (d. Clarence Brown, 98m, 35mm)

WINCHESTER ’73

Along with Henry King’s The Gunfighter (also 1950), this film ushered in a new era of the Western. Gone was the squeaky clean, white-hatted hero; in his place was a flawed, very human protagonist as driven by violence as the outlaws he hunts down. The casting of James Stewart in that role was a revolution in itself. No one at the time expected him to get down and dirty, and preview audiences gasped when he brutally beat up Dan Duryea in a barroom brawl. Stewart had worked with director Anthony Mann in 1930s theater and admired his earlier films. When Fritz Lang pulled out as director, Stewart recommended Mann, who turned this tale of a prized Winchester rifle, “the gun that won the West,” into a big hit that led to seven other films for Stewart and Mann, most of them Westerns. This was also revolutionary because it was the first film for which the star received a percentage of the profits. Universal couldn’t afford to pay Stewart’s $200,000 fee at the time, so they gave him a 50-percent interest in the production. It ended up making him about $600,000, leading to a new era of actor-producers. The beautifully shot film (by MGM veteran William Daniels) looks better than ever in this U.S. premiere restoration. (d. Anthony Mann, 92m, DCP)

Restored by Universal Pictures in collaboration with The Film Foundation. Special thanks to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg for their consultation on this restoration.

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

This 1951 science fiction epic was the rare film to ignore the threat of nuclear proliferation and focus on science as mankind’s salvation. When scientists discover Earth is on a collision course with a wandering star, it falls to a group of humanitarians and one evil tycoon (John Hoyt) to finance a space ark to save at least a small portion of the human race. There’s the inevitable romance between pilot Richard Derr and scientist daughter Barbara Rush, but that hardly gets in the way of the Oscar-winning special effects (by Harry Barndollar and Gordon Jennings), as the approaching star triggers earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and a tidal wave that floods New York City. Paramount Pictures had bought the rights to the Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer novel for Cecil B. DeMille in 1933 but never got around to producing a screenplay. Producer George Pal bought the rights from them and then sold them back when his independently produced Destination Moon (1950) became a hit, and Paramount signed him to a producing contract. Pal wanted to film the novel’s sequel, After Worlds Collide, but the failure of his Conquest of Space (1955) put an end to that. (d. Rudolph Maté, 83m, DCP)

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY…

For 30 years this deftly written film has been the benchmark for romantic comedies. Inspired by director Rob Reiner’s experiences after his divorce, the picture uses elements of his personality to craft the male lead, while screenwriter Nora Ephron based Sally on herself, particularly her reputation as a picky eater. The friendship between the title characters was based on Reiner’s relationship with leading man Billy Crystal, although he only got the part after it was turned down by everyone from Tom Hanks to Harrison Ford. Meg Ryan lobbied for the female lead, which made her a star. The film also had a major impact on singer Harry Connick Jr.’s career. It was the first to feature his voice on the soundtrack, singing standards like “It Had to Be You,” “I Could Write a Book” and “Autumn in New York,” and won him his first Grammy Award. The most famous scene, in which Sally fakes an orgasm, was filmed in Katz’s Deli in New York. Ryan suggested the faked orgasm and Crystal added the punch line, which Reiner gave to his mother, Estelle. The deli now has a plaque at the table where they sat: “Where Harry met Sally…hope you have what she had!” (d. Rob Reiner, 95m, DCP)

WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT REPUBLIC SERIALS?

How do you know when you’ve met a Martian? Well if he’s wearing a sequined hoodie and a medallion like in Zombies of the Stratosphere, you’ll know that Mars does not produce many good guys. How do you know if Tiger Woman is real? Her costume is made from Leopard print. How do you know Commander Cody knows how to stop the Cosmic Ray? Well you just know. Republic serials have been called the best of a low-budget / high action short subject genre that brought people–okay mostly boys–back to the movie theater week after week. This clip show from the Paramount Archives recent preservation work focuses on the amazing work done by stunt men and women, special effects wizards and the amazingly innovative re-use of costumes, props and full sequences from other movies. There are so many lessons to learn from the serials, and so many reasons to love them. (DCP)

WATERLOO BRIDGE

Although lesser known than the 1940 film starring Vivien Leigh, the first screen version of Robert E. Sherwood’s play is in many ways deserves equal recognition. Not only is it well directed by James Whale, but it also features a surprising performance by Mae Clarke, who stars as a down-at-heel chorus girl that turns to prostitution during World War I only to fall for an American soldier (Kent Douglass, aka Douglass Montgomery), knowing her profession will always keep them apart. After viewing Whale’s work on another war story, Journey’s End (1930), Universal’s head of production, Carl Laemmle Jr., knew he’d found the perfect director. Clarke was cast on the strength of her performance as the streetwalker in The Front Page (1931), and working closely with Whale, she delivered the performance of her career. With its adult subject matter, the film was heavily edited in some areas and was pulled from circulation when strict Production Code enforcement arrived in 1934. MGM bought the story rights for its own version and put the original in the vaults until it was rediscovered in 1975. A dispute over rights kept it out of view for another two decades. (d. James Whale, 81m, 35mm)

icon-dots
GET THE FREE FESTIVAL APP
Download Now!