A Movie That Really Swings: Robert Altman’s Jazz ’34 – Rare 35mm Screening on October 22 at the Music Box

Music Box Theatre / 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $10

Tuesday, October 22 @ 7:00 PM
Directed by Robert Altman • 1997
Don’t ask us how, but one way or another Robert Altman, patron saint of anarchist stoners everywhere for gifting the world Brewster McCloud and O.C. and Stiggs, once wound up directing an episode of the PBS culture-vulture staple Great Performances. (The series would get back to business the following season with Henry V and an opening-night gala from the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.) Jazz ’34 was conceived as an exploratory footnote to Altman’s 1996 narrative feature Kansas City, reusing its sets and some of its cast to fashion a memory piece based on the director’s boyhood recollections of his hometown’s hottest clubs. Harry Belafonte narrates, but mostly stays out of the way of the performances, which need no elaboration. Employing some of the finest jazz interpreters of the ’90s (including Joshua Redman, James Carter, Geri Allen, and David “Fathead” Newman) as stand-ins, surrogates, and reanimators of the ’30s sound, Jazz ’34 is a concert film of ghostly exuberance. Originally stuffed into an hour-long TV slot, Jazz ’34 was expanded slightly to a ‘theatrical’ version that never actually saw theatrical release in the US; nevertheless, the VHS release of the extended version was greeted by a lengthy celebration in the Chicago Reader from Jonathan Rosenbaum, who regarded this “awesome existential endeavor” as “the best Robert Altman feature in more years than I care to remember.” (KW)
72 min • Sandcastle 5 Productions/CiBy 2000 • 35mm from the Robert Altman Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archives, permission Sandcastle 5

Preceded by: Betty Boop & Cab Calloway in “Minnie the Moocher” (Fleischer Studios, 1932) – 35mm – 8 min

Presented with the Jazz Institute of Chicago as part of their 50th Anniversary.

Coming Soon

Music Box Theatre / 3733 N. Southport Ave.
General Admission: $11

Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott
Saturday, October 26 @ 11:00 AM
Directed by Erle C. Kenton • 1928
One of a handful of surviving silent features from Columbia Pictures, and made when Frank Capra was just another name on the call sheet and not yet the Poverty Row studio’s ticket to respectability, The Sideshow is the kind of unpretentious, bread-and-butter entertainment that regularly tumbled out of the Gower Gulch assembly line to meet the demands of small-town exhibitors. After the dissolution of her family’s trapeze act, Queenie (Marie Prevost) takes up with the traveling sideshow troupe of P. W. Melrose (“Little Billy” Rhodes), a circle of social outcasts harboring a saboteur. Melrose suspects carnival barker Ted Rogers (Ralph Graves) to be the culprit, an accusation that could also serve as a swift resolution to their mutual pursuit of Queenie. The Sideshow offered a role with rare dramatic shading for Rhodes, a little person who built his career on stereotyped gigs in The Wizard of Oz and The Terror of Tiny Town. Alas, the uncommon respect went little noticed because the film itself was treated like a sideshow on the fringe of a changing industry. “Here is a picture made last winter by Columbia before the talking era really hit,” observed Motion Picture News. “It’s too bad. [The] story and scenario … would go across strong with dialogue …. The picture should go over quite well in those houses which are denied the feature talkies.” (KW)
67 min • Columbia Pictures • 35mm from Sony Pictures Repertory

Preceded by: “Felix the Cat Trumps the Ace” (Otto Mesmer, 1926) – 8 min – 16mm

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