Monday, August 27, 2018

Screening of "Theodora Goes Wild" at Daystar Center September 8

Theodora Goes Wild (1936)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street, Room 102
When: September 1, 2018
Time: 6:45 p.m
Hosted by Stephen Reginald

Imagine you’re a small-town girl from New England, raised by two maiden aunts. Imagine you’re a Sunday school teacher and the church organist. Imagine that you can barely sneeze without the entire community knowing about it. Then imagine that in the midst of all this, you’ve written a racy best-selling novel that has taken the world by storm under a pseudonym. How do you manage to live your life while keeping the truth from everyone you know? That’s the plot of Theodora Goes Wild, one of the great screwball comedies of the 1930s.


Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas

Backstory: Star Irene Dunne had carved out a successful movie career as a dramatic actress. She was reluctant to do comedy, afraid that a flop in a comedy could possibly ruin her career.

To avoid doing the movie, Dunne stayed in Europe on vacation  for an extra month! Unfortunately, for Dunne, she had a contract deal with Columbia Pictures and if she didn’t come back to do the movie, she would have been put on suspension.

Dunne need not have worried. When Theodora Goes Wild was released, it was an immediate box office and critical hit. Dunne received her second Best Actress nomination (she earned a total of five) and she became a screwball comedy icon. In an interview with film historian James Harvey, Dunne said, “That film [Theodora Goes Wild]…was the biggest surprise of my life. I still don’t see how it was so successful…”

General admission $5, students and seniors $3.


Douglas and Dunne on location for Theodora Goes Wild
Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Review of “All My Sons” at #NoirCityChicago


Monday night the A Film at Noir City Chicago was the film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s award-winning play, All My Sons (1948). The film starred Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster as father and son respectively.



The movie was introduced by Alan K. Rode, film historian and author of Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film. He made it clear that this film didn’t fit the film noir category, but because of its dark thematic elements thought it would be appreciated by a film noir crowd. He was right. The film was dark and somber, but it was also superbly acted. Rode noted that photographer-turned-playwright-turned director Irving Reis overall did a good job directing the film, but thought the cinematography was a bit static. To be honest, I didn’t notice this (maybe I need to see it again); I found the subject matter and the performances compelling enough.

As the father, Edward G. Robinson was terrific. His characterization was multidimensional, which made Joe Keller a flesh and blood human being. Joe is flawed for sure, but not entirely unsympathetic. As Joe’s son, Chris, Burt Lancaster was solid. Physically, he doesn’t resemble Robinson at all, but his characterization was very strong without any of the screen chewing that he displayed in I Walk Alone, released the same year. The other cast members: Louisa Horton, Mady Christians, Howard Duff, and Arlene Francis were also very good.
 
A tense scene between Howard Duff, Burt Lancaster, and Louisa Horton
All My Sons was definitely not a film noir, but it was engrossing cinema nonetheless.

The #NoirCityChicago film festival, wraps up on Thursday, August 23, 2018. Looking forward to this festival coming to Chicago again in 2019.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Summer Under the Stars with Dana Andrews—August 22, 2018


I’m always a little depressed in August because I know the summer is nearing an end. But TCM helps make it better with their annual “Summer Under the Stars” tributes.

My favorite movie actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood is Dana Andrews. I’ve always felt that his style was so natural and contemporary. He created some film characters that will live on forever. Like Donald Martin in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), Detective Mark McPherson in Laura (1944), Eric Stanton in Fallen Angel. Pat Gilbert in State Fair, Logan Stuart in A Walk in the Sun (all 1945), and perhaps his most well know, Fred Derry in The Best Years of Our Lives. Other memorable roles include, State’s Attorney Henry L. Harvey in Boomerang!, Walt Dreiser in My Foolish Heart (1949), and Detective Mark Dixon in Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950).
 
Dana Andrews
Unfortunately, not all of the films mentioned above are included in Dana’s day. One picture that I wish was on the schedule is Daisy Kenyon (1947). Considered a vehicle for Joan Crawford, Andrews gives a tour-de-force performance as the conflicted lawyer Dan O’Mara. It’s a multilayered characterization that has been overlooked, in my opinion.

Of the Andrew films they’re screening tomorrow, here are my picks, in broadcast order.

Curse of the Demon (1958)—Andrews plays scientist out to prove that the occult and witchcraft is all superstition and hysteria. While taking part in a seminar in England, he begins to have doubts about his earlier conclusions.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)—This is perhaps Andrews’s finest screen performance. Returning veteran Fred Derry comes face-to-face with the reality of being a civilian in post-World War II America. I can’t believe the Academy overlooked his performance in this classic film.

The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)—Andrews plays doomed rancher Donald Martin in this film adaptation of Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s classic novel. This was a real breakout performance, again no nod from the Academy.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)—As Mark Dixon, a compromised city copy, Andrews is pitch perfect. This film features his last screen pairing with Gene Tierney.


Fallen Angel ( 1945)—As a conman out to swindle Alice Faye of her family fortune, Andrews’s characterization of Eric Stanton is tinged with sadness, which makes his character all too human and surprisingly sympathetic.

A Walk in the Sun (1946)—Another overlooked performance in a film that today is credited with having a direct influence on Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. (1998).

For the complete schedule of the films of Dana Andrews, click here.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Review of “I Walk Alone” at #NoirCityChicago


I spent Sunday evening taking in a screening of I Walk Alone at Noir City Chicago at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. I hadn’t seen this film before so it was a real treat. Another treat was the restored digital transfer, which was virtually flawless.

Introduced by Eddie Muller, Film Noir Foundation Founder and President, and host of Noir Alley on Turner Classic Movies, Muller said that this Hal Wallis independent production (released through Paramount) was a way to showcase the stars—Burt Lancaster, Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey, and Kirk Douglas—he had under contract.
 
Burt Lancaster, Lizabeth Scott, and Kirk Douglas
The plot is a simple one: Lancaster and Douglas were partners selling booze during prohibition. During a run, the two were followed by the police so they decide to split up, thinking one of them would be able to make it to safety, but vowing that they would help the other if caught and profits would be split 50/50.

Well, 14 years later, Lancaster is out of prison and anxious to get his share of the profits from the business. Douglas who now runs a successful, but shady, nightclub, dissolved their old partnership and claims that Lancaster’s share amounts to less than $3000. This news sends Lancaster into a rage threatening to kill Wendell Corey, who set up the new corporation and does the books for the club.

In the middle of all this is Lizabeth Scott, a singer at the nightclub. Douglas has been stringing her along, all the while romancing a rich socialite. He plans on marrying her because he thinks she can help bring a higher class clientele to the club. Once this is revealed to Scott, her sympathies end up with Lancaster. She wants to help him, but doesn’t want him to resort to anything that would send him back to jail.



Like all classic films noir, the dialogue is sharp and snappy and delivered by a cast of pros. As the club singer, Scott wears a variety of fashions designed by the legendary Edith Head, and she wears them very well, I might add. Additionally, I don’t think one hair on Scott’s head was out of place through the entire movie, which is remarkable since she gets pushed around a bit.

It was fun to see Lancaster, Scott, and Douglas (Douglas is the only one still with us at 101!) so young. Muller said it looked like there was a bit of a competition between Lancaster and Douglas as to who could chew more scenery! And chew they do, and that’s what makes the movie so enjoyable.

I Walk Alone is now available on DVD in a restored version produced by the Paramount Pictures Archive.

The Chicago Noir City film festival continues through Thursday, August 23. For the remaining films scheduled, click here.     

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review of “The Blue Dahlia” at #NoirCityChicago

I went to see The Blue Dahlia, at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, last night. The 1946 Paramount release, directed by George Marshall was presented in a clean 35mm print. The original screenplay from detective story legend, Raymond Chandler is just a tad less confusing than Howard Hawks’s The Big Sleep released the same year. But like that Bogie and Bacall classic, The Blue Dahlia is just as enjoyable nonetheless.

Terrific publicity shot of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
Introduced by Film Noir Foundation Founder and President, Eddie Muller, who provided some interesting background information, as well as putting the film in context. For example, the film was rushed into production before star Alan Ladd was off to serve in the Navy toward the end of World War II. Muller also noted that Ladd’s Dahlia and frequent costar, Veronica Lake, was never a femme fatale, at least not in the films she made with Ladd. Muller said Lake, by contrast, was always a self-confident woman, a positive example to the women watching her on the big screen. Muller said that Ladd and Lake were the 1940s most popular acting team. Judging from the box office success of their films, one could reasonably make that argument.

Seeing the film with an audience was a delight. The best part of the film was the snappy dialogue between all the major characters. Some of the situations portrayed were laugh-out-loud funny, but probably weren’t meant to be so in 1946. Besides the top-billed Ladd and Lake, there’s great support from William Bendix, Doris Dowling, Howard Da Silva, and Hugh Beaumont (yes, Ward Cleaver before Leave it to Beaver fame).

Lobby card for The Blue Dahlia featuring Ladd and Lake
The plot surrounds the murder of Ladd’s wife after he returns home from military service. When Ladd discovers that his wife has been unfaithful and was responsible for the death of their young son, he walks out on her. Their arguing overheard by the house detective at Dowling’s bungalow, casts suspicion on Ladd when Dowling ends up dead. Ladd goes on the run when he realizes he’s a murder suspect. Lake picks up Ladd in her car when she finds him walking in the rain. Lake befriends Ladd and the two strike up an uneasy friendship. When it is revealed that Lake is the estranged wife of Da Silva, the nightclub-owning-gambler and Dowling’s boyfriend and potential murderer, things get complicated. Just about everyone in the movie has a motive to bump off Miss Dowling, which holds your suspense, but also makes the plot difficult to follow at times. But no matter, it’s the dialogue between Ladd and Lake and the other cast members (as Muller noted in his introduction) that really make this movie hum.

Without giving in to spoilers, let’s say that everything makes sense in the end.

The Blue Dahlia was a big hit for Paramount and one of the most popular of Ladd and Lake’s films. Ladd’s career continued to climb, but Lake’s was pretty much over by the end of the decade.

The Noir City Chicago film festival runs through August 23. The see the remaining films on the schedule, click here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Screening of "Stage Door" at Daystar Center August 11

Stage Door (1937)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street, Room 102
When: August 11, 2018
Time: 6:45 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald

Stage Door (1937) is a comedy/drama about aspiring actresses trying to make it big on Broadway. The actresses all live in the same theatrical boarding house, which is the setting for some of the wittiest dialogue ever put on film. The all-star cast includes Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Andrea Leeds, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, and Ann Miller. This is the movie where Hepburn actually says, “the calla lilies are in bloom again.”

Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, and Katharine Hepburn

Directed by the great Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey 1936) who manages to get magnificent performances from all the players. One of the great movies from the 1930s.

Backstory: In 1937, Katharine Hepburn’s career was in decline. She had starred in several back-to-back box office failures. On the on the other hand, Ginger Roger’s career was exploding. Having become a superstar as Fred Astaire’s premier dancing partner, she had begun to branch out in dramatic and comedy roles on her own. Hepburn’s role was initially diminished to that of a supporting player with Rogers being the main star. Hepburn complained to the bosses at RKO and director La Cava and she eventually got her part increased and shared equal billing with Rogers on screen and in publicity materials. After the release of Bringing Up Baby (1938), which was another box office flop, Hepburn was out at RKO and off the screen for two years until her triumph in The Philadelphia Story (1940).


Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Screening of "The Little Foxes" at Daystar Center July 24

The Little Foxes (1941)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street, Room 102
When: July 24, 2018
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald


During the turn of the 20th century in the Deep South, the Hubbard family is fighting for control of a cotton mill predicted to earn them millions. Bette Davis stars as Regina who is more calculating and crafty than her brothers. Directed by the legendary William Wyler, The Little Foxes was nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.


General Admission is $5. $3 for Students and Seniors.

Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.


Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.
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