Music Box Theatre
3733 N Southport Ave
Sunday, December 5 @ 11:30 AM / Music Box Theatre
PAVEMENT BUTTERFLY (Großstadtschmetterling)
Directed by Richard Eichberg • 1929
Live musical accompaniment by Dennis Scott
Anna May Wong landed a starring role in the pioneering Technicolor production The Toll of the Sea (1922) at the age of seventeen, but found limited opportunities in Hollywood afterwards. Often cast in thinly-conceived supporting roles, Wong was both held back by Orientalist stereotypes and prevented from making a unique contribution by Hollywood’s dubious pan-ethnic casting practices. “There seems little for me in Hollywood,” Wong lamented, “because, rather than real Chinese [actors], producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.” So it was hardly surprising when she jumped at the opportunity to work in Europe, signing a five-picture deal with German director Richard Eichberg, a commercially-minded filmmaker who had shepherded Lillian Harvey to stardom. Backed by British International Pictures and their German subsidiary Suedfilm but set on the French Riviera, Pavement Butterfly is an exemplar of the eclectic internationalism of the late silent era. Wong stars as a circus acrobat whose partner is murdered, setting off a roundelay of melodramatic incidents, including gambling, blackmail, and the faint promise of love. Released in the US under the title City Butterfly, this delicate and atmospheric film was scarcely noticed as the talkies’ market share marched on. Wong soon returned to Hollywood, co-starring in Shanghai Express and anchoring a series of low-budget thrillers at Paramount, but her British films continue to loom large as the apex of her screen stardom. Piccadilly was restored and rediscovered two decades ago, but the rest remain nearly impossible to see. We are proud to be presenting this extremely rare screening in an imported archival print. (KW)
90 min • British International Pictures • 35mm from BFI National Film Archive
Preceded by: Koko the Clown in “Vaudeville” (Dave Fleischer, 1924) – 8 min – 16mm
**All visitors to the Music Box Theatre will need to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test. This includes Chicago Film Society screenings. Please read their guidelines before purchasing tickets.**
Monday, December 13 @ 7 PM / Music Box Theatre
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
Directed by Vincente Minnelli • 1944
In the world of classic Hollywood, few studio runs are as legendary as the string of musicals (including On the Town, The Band Wagon, Singin’ in the Rain, and past CFS favorites Yolanda and the Thief and Easter Parade) former Tin Pan Alley songwriter Arthur Freed produced at M-G-M. It was Freed who was responsible for casting Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and bringing director Vincente Minnelli to Hollywood and it was Freed who paired the two future spouses in one of the Film Society’s favorite movies, an unlikely musical adaptation of Sally Benson’s naturalistic short story collection Meet Me in St. Louis. Beginning in the summer of 1903 and ending in the following spring, Meet Me in St. Louis chronicles a very busy year in the lives of the Smith family amidst the excitement leading up to the 1904 World’s Fair. Oldest daughter Rose waits in vain for a marriage proposal from her flakey beau, youngest daughter Tootie (Margaret O’Brien, delivering the best child screen performance ever) runs afoul of the whole neighborhood, their sister Esther (Garland) awkwardly woos the boy next door while working overtime as her family’s emotional rock, and Grandpa Joe does his best to be an anchor for her. A treasure trove of iconic musical numbers, unforgettable supporting performances, wistfully beautiful images, gently disquieting nostalgia, and all manner of other things sweet and bitter, we can say no less of Meet Me in St. Louis than that it’s a film very dear to our hearts, and that, at the end of a year no less difficult for cinema than 2020 was, we relish the possibility of watching it with you in a movie theater. (CW)
113 min • M-G-M • 35mm from Chicago Film Society Collections, permission Warner Bros.
Preceded by: “Movie Pests” (Will Jason, 1944) – 11 min – 16mm
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