It’s All Over Icky: Erich von Stroheim as The Great Gabbo in 35mm from the Library of Congress!

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30pm – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

Wednesday, September 26th
Directed by James Cruze • 1929
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have the privilege to appear before you in what I might call, with all due modesty, the greatest ventril-o-quil exhibition of all times.” So intones Erich von Stroheim and we’re inclined to believe him. It’s certainly kinkier than Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy: Stroheim’s demanding Gabbo pushes away his girlfriend (Betty Compson) but tries to win her back with his seductive dummy Otto. A one-of-a-kind collaboration between two titans of silent cinema, The Great Gabbo shows Cruze and Stroheim groping their way through the wooly world of experimental sound filmmaking. (That the film was released by short-lived Sono Art tells you all you need to know about their respective positions in the industry, which was then using the talkie revolution as a pretext for shunting aside difficult talent.) What with its delirious musical numbers (including “Icky” and the arachnophilic “Web of Love”) and satanic molasses pacing, The Great Gabbo makes a mighty peculiar case for the talkies—but then, how could a wisecracking dummy work in a silent picture? (KW)
96 min • Sono Art-World Wide Pictures • 35mm from Library of Congress
Cartoon: “Ventriloquist Cat” (Tex Avery, 1954) – 16mm – 7 min


What’s that? You’re a Gabboholic and need another early talkie fix? Like, real soon?

Lucky for you, this Sunday we’ll be screening The Great Gabbo‘s only real rival for the title of Most Bizarre Early Talkie Semi-Musical: Just Imagine, the operetta-rocket not taken in our alternative history of tunesmithing.

Cinema Borealis in Wicker Park • 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 4th Floor
Suggested Donation: $10

Sunday, September 30 @ 6:00pm & 8:30pm
Directed by David Butler • 1930
A lavish science fiction musical from a band of Broadway braggarts with largely nominal interest in the rockets and biotech innovations depicted herein, Just Imagine is nothing if not a singular cinematic experience. In this speculative rendition of 1980, citizens are identified only by alphanumeric codes and love is regulated through the government marriage tribunal. (It plays equally well as a show-stopper for 1930 and a Tea Party fever dream for 2012.) When aristocratic dead weight MT-3 wins a marriage judgment for the hand of LN-18 (Maureen O’Sullivan), her sweetheart J-21 (John Garrick) must undertake an experimental trip to Mars to prove his social worth. He’s joined by Single O (El Brendel), a lightning victim from “the good ol’ days” of 1930 recently revived by the miracle of modern science. (As an instantly perishable artifact of 1930, El Brendel’s dumb Swede vaudeville shtick can’t be bettered.) With its inimitable blend of creditable Art Deco set design, a varied score from De Sylva, Brown, and Henderson (Good News, Sunnyside Up), and a terrifyingly guttural cohort of Martian chorines, Just Imagine leaves nothing to the imagination.  (KW)
109 min. • Fox Film Corp. • 35mm from Criterion Pictures, USA

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