“Honor — and Betrayal — Among Thugs”: Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky in 35mm – Nov. 12 at the Music Box

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $10 •  Advance Tickets Here

Monday, November 12 @ 7:00 PM
Directed by Elaine May • 1976
Riding high on the critical and commercial success of The Heartbreak Kid, Elaine May was given the chance to write and direct a gangster story she’d been contemplating for two decades. Shot in the scuzziest and least brotherly corners of Philadelphia and steeped in the desiccated dreams of its low-level hoodlums, Mikey and Nicky emerged as a decidedly unromantic addition to the genre. Nicky (John Cassavetes) owes a small sum to the mafia and turns to his childhood friend Mikey (Peter Falk) to find the light at the end of the tunnel. In keeping with the rambling, low-key vibe, even the hired gun tracking them down (Ned Beatty) looks more like a cheesed-off storefront accountant than a fearsome assassin. May is an acute observer of tiresome masculinity and keeps Mikey and Nicky moving sideways towards its sad-sack, seemingly inevitable conclusion. After two years of editing, Paramount soured on May’s free-spending ways (over a million feet of film had been exposed during production) and gave a compromised version of Mikey and Nicky a cursory theatrical release. Comedian and May admirer Patton Oswalt memorably summed up the rest of the story: “She stole the print from the studio, hid it in her garage like a punk-fucking-rocker, and stared the studio down to put out the version she wanted. Avert your gaze as she passes by! That’s Elaine May, goddammit!” (KW)
119 min • Paramount Pictures • 35mm from Julian Schlossberg
Short: “Where It All Began: Philadelphia” (Michael E. Smith, 1975) – 10 min – 16mm


Music Box Theatre – 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $11 •  Advance Tickets Here

Saturday, November 17 @ 11:30 AM
Directed by Frank Borzage • 1928
Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott
Auteurist critics who rediscovered the work of Frank Borzage in the 1970s grasped for superlatives, but none fashioned as succinct a thesis statement as the opening titles of Street Angel, perhaps the director’s best silent effort: “Everywhere … in every town … in every street … we pass unknowing human souls made great by love and adversity.” The beatification of common people with everyday problems reaches a resplendent apex in Street Angel, in which Neapolitan urchin Angela (Janet Gaynor) turns amateur streetwalker after her mother falls ill. Fleeing the police, she joins a gypsy circus and meets romantic painter Gino (Charles Farrell). When the authorities finally catch up with the lovers, Gino’s portrait of Angela becomes a transcendent conduit for two souls blooming in adversity’s shadow. A follow-up to the Borzage/Gaynor/Farrell smash 7th Heaven, with a heavy helping of Expressionist visual finesse creatively cribbed from Fox’s star director F.W. Murnau, Street Angel is the rare popular success whose appeal is still readily apparent ninety years on. That potential was not always evident: Ernest Palmer’s highly diffused, near-ineffable cinematography was initially rejected by the Fox lab as unprintable, but luckily more poetic heads prevailed. (KW)
102 min • Fox Film Corp • 35mm from Fox Library Services
Short: “Rain” (Joris Ivens, 1929) – 12 min – 16mm

 Check out the full schedule here!

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