Monthly Archives: June 2011

Wednesday, July 6th: “Native Son” at the Portage Theater

Join us this Wednesday, July 6th, for a rare screening of the 1951 film adaptation of Richard Wright’s classic, devastating novel NATIVE SON – with Wright himself in the leading role!
35mm print from the Library of Congress, read about the restoration and the film on our blog.
The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket

Native Son lobby card

Pierre Chenal • 1951
Some films simply exist and demand to be seen. This is one such thing. An independently produced adaptation of Richard Wright’s landmark novel, Native Son has the distinction of a screenplay co-concocted by Wright and the mind-blowing possible-distinction of Wright himself playing Bigger Thomas. Though the novel had been well-received and already mounted as a Broadway show by no less than Orson Welles, the inflammatory story—Bigger works as a chauffeur for a rich white family and inadvertently kills the privileged daughter on his first night of service, later pinning the murder on a radical labor activist—faced obvious obstacles on the way to the screen. A Chicago story that had no chance of being shot in our city aside from some insert footage, it was instead produced on the cheap in Argentina, in English, with French director Pierre Chenal (best known for his 1935 version of Crime and Punishment and lately self-exiled from Occupied France) at the helm. The rest of the cast is amateur and local talent and the film as a whole was intended as demonstration of the country’s fitness as a production center. Suffice it to say, Native Son encountered censorship trouble during its brief release and American filmmakers did not flock to Buenos Aires. (KW)
90 min • Argentina Sono Films S.A.C.I. • 35mm
Preserved by the Library of Congress, special thanks to Rob Stone
Serial: Daredevils of Red Circle: Sabotage (William Witney and John English, 1939) 16mm

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Qui êtes-vous, Daisy Kenyon?

What do genres matter anyway? Today we call It Happened One Night the prototypical screwball comedy—a classification unknown and unknowable to its original audience. Indeed, Hollywood lore has it that Columbia regarded it as a poor prospect because an unnamed recent bus picture had flopped. If genre has anything to do with the rote categories that distributors and exhibitors used to keep the machinery of industry grinding on, then perhaps we can learn more about that film by thinking of it as a bus picture.

But this is about Daisy Kenyon, not the bus picture. To go by 20th Century-Fox’s pressbook—which served as readymade copy for harried newspapers and thus doubled as the proverbial first draft of history—Daisy Kenyon was a ‘romantic drama,’ but it’s a limpid love story, with self-aware summation often triumphing over romantic abandon. Broadly speaking, it’s a woman’s picture and, sure enough, has a woman at its center, but it defies nearly every expectation of that genre—it views love wearily and refuses moral schemas, never succumbing to the wrenching emotional and psychic investment that’s part and parcel of the best melodrama. Continue reading

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Wednesday, June 29th: “Daisy Kenyon” at the Portage Theater

Join us this Wednesday June 29th for Otto Peminger’s DAISY KENYON
The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
Watch the trailer here!

Otto Preminger • 1947
A love triangle between a fragile fashion designer (Joan Crawford), a sweet-but cynical ex-soldier (Henry Fonda), and a smarmy-but-sincere (and married) lawyer (Dana Andrews) threatens to explode the complacency of all involved. Nowadays misleadingly (and ineffectually) sold as a film noir, Daisy Kenyon is really a low key women’s picture with intimations of emotional depravity darker and deeper than we’ve come to expect from 1947 studio product. Probably the least hysterical film in the largely exasperating Crawford canon and definitely the apex of Preminger’s Fox efforts, though the director claimed to have forgotten it. No matter—as a genre defying romance that questions the possibility of selflessness and the value of sacrifice, Daisy Kenyon practically defines the much-vaunted ‘objective’ Preminger style. (KW)
99 min • 20th Century-Fox • 35mm
Print from Criterion Pictures USA, special thanks to Brian Block
Serial: Daredevils of Red Circle: The Executioner (William Witney and John English, 1939) 16mm

Chicago Reader (Dave Kehr)

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Wednesday, June 22nd: “5th Avenue Girl” at the Portage Theater

Join us this Wednesday June 22nd for Ginger Rogers in 5TH AVENUE GIRL
The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket

Gregory La Cava •1939
Abandoned by his degenerate, polo-playing children and unfaithful wife on his birthday, pudgy Walter Connolly picks up Ginger Rogers in central park where she’s about to “throw herself into the pool and see if the seals might throw her a fish.” Hoping his family will pay a little more attention to him, Connolly adopts Rodgers as his mistress. When it opened at The Music Hall, Frank Nugent of the New York Times wrote the film off as something cheerful and cheerfully unimportant, but in retrospect the film takes quite a few admirable jabs at our country’s bumbling aristocratic upper class, even if it’s only in cute-as-a-button exchanges between Rogers and Tim Holt, and the inclusion of a communist chauffeur named Mike (James Ellison), who spends much of the film mumbling something-or-other about capitalist pigs. (JA)
83 min • RKO Radio Pictures • 16mm
Print from the Radio Cinema Film Archive, Permission Warner Brothers
Serial: Daredevils of Red Circle: The Mysterious Friend (William Witney and John English, 1939)
Cartoon: The Cat’s Canary (Mannie Davis, John Foster, 1932)
16mm from the Chicago Film Archives, special thanks to Anne Wells

For more on the film, please read Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s piece on Cine-File (scroll down to the Also Recommended)

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No film Wednesday June, 15th

Don’t forget there is no film June 15th.

the cinema will be DARK

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June 8th, 2011: “Comanche Station” at the Portage Theater

Join us this Wednesday June 8th for Budd Boetticher’s COMANCHE STATION
The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket

Also, our new schedule is up and running. Check it out here.
Printed programs will be available at the COMANCHE STATION screening.

Budd Boetticher • 1960
Randolph Scott sets out to rescue Nancy Gates after she’s kidnapped by Comanches and then sold to a pair of outlaws for all of five dollars. This is the last time Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott would make a picture together, and in many ways it’s both of their best work (afterwards Boetticher went south of the border to work on his epic bullfighting documentary Arruza but suffered bankruptcy and confinement in prison and asylum over eleven years to complete it – a tough life for a man whose films knew more about dignity than any in the latter half of the twentieth century). Comanche Station is made up of mostly of long shots that make it seem like some beautiful older-than-dirt fable for the west, but every time there is a closeup, especially of Scott, the expanse of Boetticher’s western landscapes feels all the more immediate, as if he’s put it all under Randolph Scott’s hat. (JA)
74 min • Ranown Pictures Corp. • 35mm CinemaScope
Print from Sony Pictures Repertory, special thanks to Katie Fry and Christopher Lane
Serial: Daredevils of Red Circle: The Monstrous Plot (William Witney and John English, 1939)

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