Twentieth Century Fox Fridays

On six Friday evenings this January and February we'll feature newly struck 35mm prints of beloved classics and underappreciated gems produced during the heyday of Twentieth Century Fox. In the wake of the 1935 merger between Twentieth Century Pictures and the Fox Film Corporation, the new studio filled its slate with a mix of serious-minded dramas, ambitious musicals, and star power-driven comedies. During the three decades that followed, the studio’s directorial line-up included such luminaries as Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, and Elia Kazan. Selections from this series include the noir hit Leave Her To Heaven (Fox’s highest grossing film of the 1940s), the star-making Marilyn Monroe vehicle Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and director Nicholas Ray’s darkly stylized melodrama Bigger Than Life.

Leave Her to Heaven

Friday, January 14, 2011 7:00 PM
(John M. Stahl, 1945, US, 35mm, 119 min.)

On six Friday evenings this January and February we'll feature newly struck 35mm prints of beloved classics and underappreciated gems produced during the heyday of Twentieth Century Fox. In the wake of the 1935 merger between Twentieth Century Pictures and the Fox Film Corporation, the new studio filled its slate with a mix of serious-minded dramas, ambitious musicals, and star power-driven comedies. During the three decades that followed, the studio’s directorial line-up included such luminaries as Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, and Elia Kazan. Selections from this series include the noir hit Leave Her To Heaven (Fox’s highest grossing film of the 1940s), the star-making Marilyn Monroe vehicle Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and director Nicholas Ray’s darkly stylized melodrama Bigger Than Life.

Cluny Brown

Friday, January 28, 2011 7:00 PM
(Ernst Lubitsch, 1946, US, 35mm, 100 min)

Jennifer Jones plays the titular Cluny, a plucky young maid with a penchant for plumbing. A new job at an English country estate soon finds Cluny caught between the affections of a pair of stuffy Brits and a handsome Czech refugee (Charles Boyer). While the delightful Cluny Brown (the final film Lubitsch completed) fits snugly into the director’s oeuvre of sophisticated comedies, the film’s wartime setting and class-conscious satire provide an unexpected dash of social commentary. Not on DVD.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Friday, February 4, 2011 7:00 PM
(Howard Hawks, 1953, US, 35mm, 91 min)

The supremely versatile Howard Hawks fills this bombastic 1953 musical with enough color, choreography, and quirk to dazzle audiences of any decade. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell star as a pair of adventurous showgirls (Lorelei and Dorothy) living it up on a transatlantic cruise. The plot throws the vacationing duo a screwball when Lorelei’s fiancé hires a private investigator to keep tabs on his flirtatious bride-to-be. Monroe’s iconic musical number, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” has earned generations of admirers as varied as Rainer Fassbinder and Madonna.

The Hustler

Friday, February 11, 2011 7:00 PM
(Robert Rossen, 1961, US, 35mm, 134 min.)

In his signature role, Paul Newman plays “Fast” Eddie Felson, a pool shark whose brilliant stick skills are matched only by the strength of his inner demons. Eddie grinds through dingy halls and bars, winning small payoffs while taking dangerous bets, all in the hopes of landing a showdown with Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). He also begins a tortured romance with Sarah, an alcoholic given wounded grace by Piper Laurie’s remarkably sensitive portrayal. The Hustler remains a bracing investigation of characters driven to self-destruction but searching desperately for reasons to hang on.

Bigger Than Life

Friday, February 18, 2011 7:00 PM
(Nicholas Ray, 1956, US, 35mm, 95 min)

Stylish and subversive, Ray’s domestic melodrama stars James Mason (who also produced and co-wrote the script) as Ed Avery, a suburban milquetoast diagnosed with a rare and seemingly fatal disease. Enter cortisone, a miracle drug that gives Ed his life back – for a price. As addiction and drug-induced megalomania gnaw at Ed’s sanity and relationships, the dark side of better living through chemistry becomes all too clear. Ray and cinematographer Joseph MacDonald's expressionist horror movie aesthetic – looming shadows and anxiety-inducing angles – make full and striking use of the CinemaScope lens.

Wild River

Friday, February 25, 2011 7:00 PM
(Elia Kazan, 1960, US, 35mm, 110 min)

Wild River stars Montgomery Clift as an idealistic Tennessee Valley Authority administrator dispatched to rural Appalachia to convince an elderly woman to leave her family homestead before the land is flooded. As tensions rise between the locals and the federal government, Clift’s administrator finds himself falling for the old woman’s widowed granddaughter (Lee Remick, in a remarkable performance). Overlooked by general audiences upon release, this film remains an underappreciated gem from one of Hollywood’s most iconic directors.