Monthly Archives: March 2013

See Mary Pickford in Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall
Hear Christel Schmidt Talk About the Queen of the Movies

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Wednesday, April 3 @ 7:30pm
DOROTHY VERNON OF HADDON HALL
Directed by Marshall Neilan • 1924
With live organ accompaniment by Jay Warren!
Mary Pickford wanted to grow up, and so she embarked on a spate of “adult” projects with unimpeachable credentials. America’s Sweetheart showed her (mildly) naughty side in Ernst Lubitsch’s American debut, Rosita, and followed it with Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, an elaborate sixteenth-century drama adapted from a popular novel by Charles Major that boasts exquisite photography from Pickford’s regular cameraman, Charles Rosher, and an armada of authentic (and expensive!) costumes designed by future director Mitchell Leisen. Pickford stars as Dorothy, the headstrong daughter of a noble family with no interest in abiding by a betrothal to her hapless cousin. Instead, she has her eyes on Allan Forest, the son of a rival house (and, in real life, Pickford’s own brother-in-law, so doubly forbidden fruit). Familial strife soon gives way to court intrigue (it’s not every thwarted marriage that arouses the enmity of Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots) and scenes of galloping derring-do that rival the work of Douglas Fairbanks. (In fact, film historian Kevin Brownlow has speculated that Fairbanks stood in for his wife for a few of Dorothy Vernon’s more difficult stunts!) A tremendously personal project for Pickford, she even directed a few scenes herself when Marshall Neilan proved too drunk to hold up the reins. Received indifferently by an American public that pigeon-holed Pickford as an eternal juvenile and later dismissed and buried by Pickford herself, Dorothy Vernon has been difficult to re-evaluate.  Finally restored by Belgium’s Cinémathèque Royale from complementary French and Russian nitrate copies, with English intertitles recreated through the assistance of the Academy Film Archive, Dorothy Vernon cries out for rediscovery. (KW)
Presented in conjunction with Library of Congress and the Silent Film Society of Chicago
120 min • United Artists • 35mm from Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique

Introduced by film scholar Christel Schmidt, who will sign copies of her new book, Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies, following the screening.

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Hear Christel Schmidt Talk About the Queen of the Movies

Irving Lerner: A Career in Context

CITY OF FEAR (1)
The Director as Commodity

I couldn’t help chuckling over a poster glimpsed in the Cinemark lobby recently—an advertisement that boasted that only RealD’s 3D system allowed the audience to see the movie exactly “as the director intended.”

You probably don’t need a stereoscopic slogan to recognize that director is routinely and reflexively held up as a film’s author, its artist, and its true voice. Between director’s commentaries and director’s cuts, the fledging auteurism of the ’60s has become commodified and thoroughly unremarkable. Indeed, we’re so inured to the director cult that we often neglect to examine some of the critical assumptions that underpin auteurism. Continue reading

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“A City in Terror … Chills for Millions” – Irving Lerner’s
Rare Noir City of Fear This Wednesday in 35mm

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Wednesday, March 27 @ 7:30pm
CITY OF FEAR
Directed by Irving Lerner • 1959
A bargain-basement film noir that locates downbeat nightmares in the stucco bungalows of working-class Los Angeles, City of Fear is a tense, atomic-age white knuckler.  Following up their hepcat hit man saga Murder by Contract, director Irving Lerner and actor Vince Edwards craft another B-picture suffused with seedy, West Coast nihilism. (A filmmaker who cut his teeth on projects for the left-wing Film & Photo League in the 1930s, Lerner had a mysterious and knotty career, which will be further illuminated by two documentary shorts preceding the feature.) Edwards plays a San Quentin escapee with nothing but a thermos of pure heroin to his name; in fact, he’s unwittingly shepherding a canister of radioactive Cobalt-60 that could level the city.  As the police dragnet led by no-nonsense genre mainstay Lyle Talbot tightens, the isolated Edwards delivers a kind of total performance—a pumice-faced, poor man’s Burt Lancaster with a laggard body.  Features superb off-the-cuff location photography from Lucien Ballard and an early jazz score by maestro Jerry Goldsmith. (KW)
75 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm Vault Print from Sony Pictures Repertory
Shorts: “Muscle Beach” (Joseph Strick & Irving Lerner, 1948) – 35mm – 9 min
“A Place to Live” (Irving Lerner, 1941) – 16mm – 17 min – Both shorts preserved by the Academy Film Archive

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Rare Noir City of Fear This Wednesday in 35mm

Love and Nitroglycerin: Howard Hawks’s Only Angels Have Wings – 35mm Vault Print This Wednesday at the Portage

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Wednesday, March 20 @ 7:30pm
ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS
Directed by Howard Hawks • 1939
Night after night Cary Grant and his dog-eared group of fliers plunge into the stormy Peruvian Andes to deliver the mail, nitroglycerin, or whatever else is tossed off the back of the truck. The trip is long and cold and wet and lonesome, the airplanes are in terrible condition, the weather is often so bad that birds won’t leave the ground, and the job itself is so ridiculously dangerous that death is almost inevitable. Few films with such a strong sense of mortality are able to handle it with the surefooted grace of Only Angels Have Wings, one of Howard Hawks’ most expressive and visceral efforts, and an extremely touching portrait of man and machine. Jean Arthur plays Bonnie Lee, a piano player on a Peruvian layover who gradually falls for Grant despite his ignorantly suicidal tendencies. With Thomas Mitchell, Richard Barthelmess, and Rita Hayworth in her first starring role, plus a Hamilton Metalplane, Ford Trimotor and Pilgrim Model 100-B. (JA)
121 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm Vault Print from Sony Pictures Repertory
Cartoon: Popeye the Sailor in “I Never Changes My Altitude” (Fleischer Studios, 1937) – 16mm – 6 min

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The Picture with the Page One Punch!
Samuel Fuller’s Park Row in 35mm!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Monday, March 18 @ 7:30pm
PARK ROW
Directed by Samuel Fuller • 1952
After being fired from New York newspaper The Star for criticizing its corrupt SOPs, Gene Evans takes his life savings and starts The Globe with the assistance of veteran journalist Herbert Heyes. Star heiress Mary Welch sets out to destroy The Globe, but Evans is relentless. As the story goes, Sam Fuller brought up Park Row with 20th Century Fox production head Darryl Zanuck after convincing him to shoot two rounds of ammunition off the walls of Fox’s screening room to prove that bullets really ricocheted off cement walls like in Fixed Bayonets! Zanuck loved the script, but proposed the picture be shot in color and star Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. It could even be a musical. “To hell with Zanuck and Fox!” said Fuller, and funded the whole thing himself. Park Row was his $200,000 gift to American journalism and a war movie with printing presses for ammunition. (JA)
83 min • Samuel Fuller Productions thru United Artists • 35mm from Park Circus
Serial: Captain Marvel: “Captain Marvel’s Secret” (John English & William Witney, 1941) – 35mm – 16 min
Cartoon: Bugs Bunny in “Baseball Bugs (Friz Freleng, 1946) – 16mm – 8 min

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Not enough cinema for you? Come back on Wednesday for an all-time classic

Wednesday, March 20 @ 7:30pm
ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS
Directed by Howard Hawks • 1939
Night after night Cary Grant and his dog-eared group of fliers plunge into the stormy Peruvian Andes to deliver the mail, nitroglycerin, or whatever else is tossed off the back of the truck. The trip is long and cold and wet and lonesome, the airplanes are in terrible condition, the weather is often so bad that birds won’t leave the ground, and the job itself is so ridiculously dangerous that death is almost inevitable. Few films with such a strong sense of mortality are able to handle it with the surefooted grace of Only Angels Have Wings, one of Howard Hawks’ most expressive and visceral efforts, and an extremely touching portrait of man and machine. Jean Arthur plays Bonnie Lee, a piano player on a Peruvian layover who gradually falls for Grant despite his ignorantly suicidal tendencies. With Thomas Mitchell, Richard Barthelmess, and Rita Hayworth in her first starring role, plus a Hamilton Metalplane, Ford Trimotor and Pilgrim Model 100-B. (JA)
121 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm Vault Print from Sony Pictures Repertory
Cartoon: Popeye the Sailor in “I Never Changes My Altitude” (Fleischer Studios, 1937) – 16mm – 6 min

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Samuel Fuller’s Park Row in 35mm!

“The White Man’s Song Was On His Lips … But An Indian War Cry Was in His Heart!” – Elvis Presley in Flaming Star

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Wednesday, March 13 @ 7:30pm
FLAMING STAR
Directed by Don Siegel • 1960
Elvis Presley sings two songs in the first reel of Flaming Star, but don’t mistake this hard-edged Western for a musical. Half-breed Pacer Burton (Presley) doesn’t have much to croon about after a neighboring family is massacred by local war chief Buffalo Horn. The settlers question the loyalty of Pacer’s Kiowa mother (Dolores Del Rio!) and fan the flames of race hate. Best known today as the source of the six-guns production still that Andy Warhol appropriated for his canvas Double Elvis, Flaming Star is actually already a thoroughly pop creation with sincere progressive ideas. Siegel’s crisp action film suggests The Searchers in reverse: while the Ford-Wayne bigotry-renouncing classic inspired Buddy Holly to pen “That’ll Be the Day,” Flaming Star begins with an irresistible rockabilly hook and proceeds to spin a harrowing account of a frontier society thoroughly undone by ethnic division. As Variety observed, “Flaming Star has Indians-on-the-warpath for the youngsters, Elvis Presley for the teenagers and socio-psychological ramifications for adults who prefer a mild dose of sage in their sagebrushers.” (KW)
92 min • 20th Century-Fox • 35mm Vault Print from Fox
Serial: Captain Marvel: “Valley of Death” (John English & William Witney, 1941) – 35mm – 16 min

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