Many movie buffs consider 1939 to be Hollywood’s greatest year, with releases like Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, and Wizard of Oz. But 1940 wasn’t too bad either, and in 2011, visitors to the Detroit Movie Palaces enjoyed some of the highlights of that release year.
These films included The Grapes of Wrath, The Shop Around the Corner, The Great Dictator, and the Oscar-winning Best Picture, Rebecca.
The year of 1957 provided a rich variety of international movies for the Detroit Film Theatre, Michigan Theater, and Redford Theatre. These included Nights of Cabiria, Throne of Blood, A King in New York, Paths of Glory, and another Oscar-winning Best Picture, The Bridge on the River Kwai.
It was the 40th anniversary of many screenings from 1971, including the family classics Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Fiddler on the Roof, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, along with the definitely-not-family film A Clockwork Orange.
Fans of great supporting performances had much to enjoy at the Detroit Movie Palaces in 2011. Oscar-winning supporting actors and actresses included Thomas Mitchell (Stagecoach, 1939); Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940); Anne Revere (National Velvet, 1945); Edmund Gwenn (Miracle on 34th Street, 1947); Walter Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948); Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra (From Here to Eternity, 1953); Anthony Quinn (Lust for Life, 1956); Peter Ustinov (Spartacus, 1960); George Chakiris and Rita Moreno (West Side Story, 1961); and Robert De Niro (The Godfather Part II, 1974).
Retrospectives at the Michigan Theater on Charles Chaplin and Stanley Kubrick made them the most-represented directors of old movies at the Detroit Movie Palaces in 2011. After them came the always popular Alfred Hitchcock, who was represented by four films with single-word titles from four different decades: Blackmail (1929), Rebecca (1940), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). The retrospective on Mexican film at the Detroit Film Theatre brought us multiple movies from Luis Buñuel, Emilio Fernández, and Julio Bracho.
Other directors with multiple appearances included John Ford (Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath); Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music); John Huston (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen); Frank Capra (Arsenic and Old Lace, It’s a Wonderful Life); Federico Fellini (Nights of Cabiria, La Dolce Vita); F. W. Murnau (Nosferatu, Faust); Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II); Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, F for Fake); William Wyler (Roman Holiday, Funny Girl); and Richard Thorpe (Tarzan’s Secret Treasure, Tarzan’s New York Adventure).
Actors and Actresses
Fans of Angela Lansbury’s work got to see her in three movies in 2011: National Velvet, The Harvey Girls, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. National Velvet also helped the Michigan Theater and the Redford Theatre pay tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, who died in 2011. Other old movies making appearances at multiple theaters included The Battleship Potemkin, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Other actors and actresses making triple appearances included Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s); Humphrey Bogart (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The African Queen, Sabrina); and, interestingly, John Carradine (Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, and Munster, Go Home!).
If you like your classic cinema in small chunks, there was much to appreciate in 2011. Short comedy came from Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the Three Stooges, and all three theaters presented old cartoons and other animated delights.
And in a year when the silent film made a comeback with the new movie The Artist, all three theaters continued to provide the kind of silent movie entertainment that helps tie them together as a combined preservation group for this unique art form.
Silent movies with live accompaniment included The Battleship Potemkin, Blackmail, Clash of the Wolves, Sherlock, Jr., From Morning to Midnight, Nosferatu, Foolish Wives, Faust, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Special mention should also be given to two films that used old footage from the World War II period, as part of documentaries of that time. After an August 6, 2011 DFT showing of the film Nuremberg, about the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, Sandra Schulberg talked about this film which had been originally directed by her father Stuart Schulberg. An audience member asked her if any similar documentaries had been made recently, and Sandra mentioned A Film Unfinished, a film about life in the Warsaw Ghetto that was screened at the Michigan Theater on August 29, 2011.
Copyright © 2012 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.