Friday, January 29, 2010

Revival: Footlight Parade

The revival this week is FOOTLIGHT PARADE


1933 Lloyd Bacon. James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell. 104m. bw.

"The last--and to some aficionados, the best--of choreographer Busby Berkeley's three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he'll stage musical "prologues" for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd and the covetous misbehavior of Cagney's ex-wife Renee Whitney. Joan Blondell plays Jimmy's faithful girl-friday, who loves him from afar; Ruby Keeler is the secretary who takes off her glasses and is instantly transformed into a glamorous stage star; Dick Powell is the "protege" of wealthy Ruth Donnelly, who makes good despite this handicap; Frank McHugh is Cagney's assistant, who spends all his time moaning "It'll never work"; and Hugh Herbert is a self-righteous censor, who ends up in a censurable position. The last half-hour of Footlight Parade is a nonstop display of Busby Berkeley at his most spectacular: the three big production numbers, all written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, are "By a Waterfall", "Honeymoon Hotel", and "Shanghai Lil", the latter featuring some delicious pre-code scatology, a tap-dance duet by Cagney and Keeler, and an out-of-left-field climactic salute to FDR and the NRA!" (Hal Erickson)

"The fastest moving of all musical films."
– Richard Barrios

"Busby Berkeley never did anything more splendid."
– J. Hoberman, Village Voice

"Sexual daydream (has) found its medium."
-- David Thomson

"A marvelous cinematic wonder"
-- Classic FIlm Guide

Friday, January 22, 2010

Next CTWU Art Exhibit

Revival: Swing Time

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers star in George Stevens' legendary SWING TIME showing three times this week at the Charles.

Saturday, January 23 at Noon
Monday, January 25 at 7PM
Thursday, January 28 at 9PM

1936 George Stevens. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore. 103m. bw.

"...The score by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields is peerless – ‘A Fine Romance’, ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, ‘Pick Yourself Up’, and Fred’s turn with Berkeley-esque trimmings, ‘Bojangles of Harlem’. And nothing Fred and Ginger did together surpasses their lengthy, climactic duet, taking off from ‘Never Gonna Dance’, which reminds you that dance is the most perfect sexual metaphor of them all."
-- Time Out, London

"...TOP HAT and SWINGTIME...see these before you die!"
--Mel Brooks

"The plot is strictly secondary to dancing, which is beautiful and elegant to the point of being otherworldly."
--Chris Kaltenbach

"The best of the Astaire-Rogers films."
– Roger Ebert

"A jaunty little masterpiece."
– Time Out New York

"The pinnacle of the Astaire-Rogers series."
--Film Forum

"There are many reasons why Swing Time is the best of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies. This film, unlike their others, has a director with a point of view, the talented George Stevens, who recognizes and amplifies the emotion in their pairing...The music by Jerome Kern (with lyrics by Dorothy Fields) is much darker and more complex than their previous Irving Berlin scores.... great deal of thought has been put into Swing Time. Everyone knows what works for this team, and everyone is taking chances.....(The) ending took close to 50 takes to complete. In the last few, Rogers's feet were bleeding and had to be bandaged under her shoes. The pain of Swing Time lies in the apotheosis of its dances, the fact that it has a fine director who cares about what he's doing, and the wrenching feeling that Astaire and Rogers have reached the height of their historic partnership right at the moment when it's coming to an end."
-- Slant

"When you see anyone--an athlete, a musician, a dancer, a craftsman--doing something difficult and making it look easy and a joy, you feel enhanced. It is a victory for the human side, over the enemies of clumsiness, timidity and exhaustion. The cynical line on Astaire and Rogers was, 'She gave him sex; he gave her class.' Actually, they both had class, and sex was never the point. The chemistry between Fred and Ginger was not simply erotic, but intellectual and physical: They were two thoroughbreds who could dance better than anyone else, and knew it. Astaire's later dance partners danced in his spotlight, but Ginger Rogers, the dance critic Arlene Croce wrote, 'shed her own light.'....
The best of the Astaire-Rogers films is their fifth, ``Swing Time'' (1936), directed by George Stevens at a time when he was a king at RKO Radio Pictures (his other credits in that period included 'Alice Adams' and 'Gunga Din'). The plot, with its sly drolleries, is based like 'Top Hat' on mistaken identities, but it's wittier and more cleverly written; it could have been devised by P.G. Wodehouse. It serves to link the great dance sequences, built around Jerome Kern songs, including the climactic 'Never Gonna Dance' number that may be the high point of the Astaire-Rogers partnership."
-- Roger Ebert

Friday, January 15, 2010

Revival: Gold Diggers of 1933

The revival this week is GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933

Saturday, January 16 at Noon
Monday, January 18 at 7 PM
Thursday, January 21 at 9PM.

1933. Dir. Mervyn LeRoy. Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks, Ginger Rogers. 96m. bw.

Second of the archetypal backstage musicals from Warners (it followed hard on the success of 42nd Street) which established the idiosyncratic geometrics of Busby Berkeley. Some semblance of a plot (songwriter Powell turns against his wealthy parents in wishing to marry chorus girl Keeler), and much Depression wisecracking from Blondell, MacMahon and Rogers; but most notable is the vulgar, absurd and wonderfully surreal Berkeley choreography. Great numbers: Ginger Rogers adorned in dollars singing 'We're in the Money'; young lovers interrupted by rain while 'Pettin' in the Park'; and on a strangely bleak note, the files of unemployed ex-servicemen during 'Remember My Forgotten Man'. Delirious and delightful. (Time Out)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Revival: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? will be screened three times this week as the Charles' revival film.

Show Times:
Saturday, January 9 at Noon
Monday, January 11 at 7 PM
Thursday, January 14 at 9PM

1966 Mike Nichols. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis. Written by Edward Albee (play) and Ernest Lehman (screenplay). Winner of five Oscars: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction (bw), Best Cinematography (bw), Best Costume Design (bw). 131m. bw.

"Outstanding direction by Mike Nichols in his feature debut, and four topflight performances score an artistic bullseye.

Elizabeth Taylor's...chacterization is at once sensual, spiteful, cynical, pitiable, loathsome, lustful and tender.

Richard Burton delivers a smash portrayal. He evokes sympathy during the public degradations to which his wife subjects him, and his outrage, as well as his deliberate vengeance, are totally believable.

Provoking the exercise in exorcism is the late-night visit of Dennis and Segal. Latter is the all-American boy type who, in the course of one night, is seduced by his hostess, exposed by his host, but enlightened as to more mature aspects of love and marriage. Segal is able to evoke sympathy, then hatred, then pity, in a first-rate performance.

Dennis makes an impressive screen debut as the young bride, her delivery rounded with the intended subtlety of a not-so-Dumb Dora." (Variety)

Saturday, January 2, 2010