Lillian Gish Ablaze with the Puritan Spirit in The Scarlet Letter – July 6 at the Music Box – 35mm Archival Print

Music Box Theatre – 3733 N Southport Ave
Tickets: $11

Saturday, July 6 at 11:30 AM
Directed by Victor Sjöström • 1926
Live organ accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott!
A project instigated by Lillian Gish when the actress’s stature and clout exceeded that of her collaborators both in front of and behind the camera, The Scarlet Letter is that rarest of things: a movie adapted from a great work of American literature that doesn’t embarrass the source material. Indeed, this tale of adultery, hypocrisy, and mutilation purportedly reached the screen only because Gish’s wholesome bona fides, not Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary reputation, assuaged church group skepticism. Gish stars as Hester Prynne, the Puritan woman whose affair with pastor Dimmesdale (Lars Hanson) brings an out-of-wedlock birth and the injunction that the adulterous wife be forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ affixed to her dress. The director, Victor Sjöström, had made his reputation with Swedish classics such as Ingeborg Holm and Terje Vigen, and that seems to have been the main thing that recommended him for this quintessentially American story. (In the US, his name was Anglicized to Seastrom.) “The Swedish people are closer to what our Pilgrims were, or what we consider them to have been, than our present day Americans,” mused Gish, who would work with Sjöström and Hanson again on The Wind. Beautifully photographed by Hendrik Sartov, who had spent much of the decade as D.W. Griffith’s cameraman, The Scarlet Letter was a critical success that played for five months in New York but found little traction in the still-Puritan American Heartland. (KW)
100 min • M-G-M • 35mm from UCLA Film & Television Archive, permission Warner Bros.

Short: Felix the Cat in “Roameo” (Otto Mesmer, 1927) – 6 min – 16mm



The Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University – Building E, 3701 W Bryn Mawr Ave
General Admission: $7 • NEIU Students: $3

Wednesday, July 10 at 7:30 PM
Directed by John M. Stahl • 1939
If virtually the entire corpus of Hollywood melodrama vanished overnight and had to be reconstructed from some representative specimens, John M. Stahl’s cycle of big-budget Universal weepers—Back Street (1932), Only Yesterday (1933), Imitation of Life (1934), and this 1939 straggler—would be more than sufficient. Achingly sincere, undoubtedly earnest, and charged with a feeling for the precariousness of working people’s lives, Stahl’s films will make you think twice before using ‘melodramatic’ as an epithet ever again. Recent retrospectives at Cinema Ritrovata in Bologna and the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone attest that the re-evaluation of Stahl’s career has only just begun. Derided in its time as a quick cash-in riding the coattails of Love Affair, When Tomorrow Comes came out five months later and did indeed find Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer playing impossible lovers once more. She’s a hash house waitress and labor activist and he’s a suave pianist who may as well be from another planet. Problem is, he’s married and she’ll never find “Solidarity Forever” in his arms. Like Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life, When Tomorrow Comes was later remade by Douglas Sirk in a glossy, widescreen, color version (Interlude), but their virtues are divergent and ultimately complementary. (KW)
90 min • Universal Pictures • 35mm from Universal

Short: Assorted Musical “Soundies” – 10 min – 16mm

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