Saturday, June 8, 2013
WHAT: This Ansco Color musical is not my favorite or my least favorite film in the ouvre of the director of Singin' in the Rain and Arabesque, (hint hint), but it's certainly unforgettable and made for the big screen. It was MGM's biggest commercial success of 1954, and its advertising campaign included an endorsement by none other than sitting President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "If you haven't seen it, you should see it." Not exactly "like writing history with lightning" but even a bland quote is a reminder that the 1950s were very different cinematically and politically than today. I can't imagine a major studio promoting any film with an Obama quote. Especially not this week.
WHERE/WHEN: Today and tomorrow at 3:40 and 7:30 at the Stanford Theatre
WHY: The Stanford's Spring calendar is winding down, with only one more weekend of screenings (Anatomy of a Murder June 13-14 and The Ten Commandments June 15-16) after this one. Last night I had a tremendous experience watching Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running there; this is a film I've been wanting to see for well over a decade, but always resisted the idea of seeing it on home video before experiencing it the way it was intended to be seen: in its Cinemascope, Technicolor glory on a big screen. It lived up to its reputation as a masterpiece. Unlike Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, which feels like a (mostly delightful) time capsule of the 1950s, Some Came Running is both of its time and a critique of its false fronts and hypocrisies, and ultimately (I feel) far more universal. I'm still processing all of its complexities, and I suspect I will continue to do so for years to come; I hope I don't have to wait another decade to see it on the big screen, but at least now that I've done so once I'm more willing to revisit it on a home format.
Though it's not on their website yet, the Stanford made copies of its summer calendar available to attendees last night. Three months of movies start June 19-25 with a pair of fifties favorites frequently screened at the venue: Roman Holiday and Sabrina. After focusing so heavily on that decade during the spring, the summer will turn most of its attention to the 1930s and 40s, with an assortment of pre-codes starring Bette Davis and others, Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers pairings, Val Lewton horror movies, and more. The summer brings encore screenings from some of the Stanford's more unique series of late, including four titles (Bank Holiday, The Wicked Lady, The Brothers and Madonna of the Seven Moons) from its 2008 Rare Treasures of British Cinema seriesm and six late August and early September selections from last winter's Deanna Durbin Festival (unfortunately not including two of my favorites His Butler's Sister or the Amazing Mrs. Holliday, but fortunately including my third favorite Christmas Holiday as well as some I haven't seen yet.)
The best thing about this summer calendar is that the Stanford will remain open for as many days of the week as there are brides or brothers in Donen's film. It's welcome for those of us who've been disappointed that the theatre has been shut Mondays through Wednesdays since January, though those are also the days with fewer special cinemagoing options here in San Francisco or across the Bridges to my East or North.
The worst thing about the series is that its reach doesn't go back to the 1910s and 20s. No silent screenings have made use of the Stanford's Wurlitzer Organ since Dennis James appeared three times last Fall, and 2013 will join 2009 and 2010 as the only summers without silent screenings in at least the last fifteen years at the Stanford.
One final note: another Stanley Donen musical screens at a Frisco Bay venue this week: his 1949 co-directorial debut (with Gene Kelly) On the Town, at the Cerrito Theatre in El Cerrito. Unfortunately, as Lincoln Spector reports, this will be a projected-DVD screening. Something that would never happen at the Stanford.
HOW: Seven Brides For Seven Brothers screens on a double-bill with another musical starring Howard Keel, Calamity Jane. All Stanford Theatre screenings use 35mm prints.