Playing Fri Aug 24 at 9:00 & Sun Aug 26 at 4:15 at Film Society of Lincoln Center [Program & Tix]
The Film Society of Lincoln Center treats audiences to a weekend of Ocean Liner-set adventures, a jaunty little series featuring lots of fun titles: the Marx Brothers’ madcap variety show, A Night at The Opera; Leo McCarey’s misty-eyed (and truly great) romantic melodrama Love Affair; Preston Sturges’ irresistably witty conmen caper The Lady Eve (which boasts an unbeatable performance by Barbara Stanwyck). Oh, and James Cameron’s blockbusting Titanic, which, if you’re going to watch, you should watch on the big screen.
The canonical must-see is Howard Hawks’ musical adaptation of Anita Loos’ novel and stageplay, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Here’s hoping FSLC screens the recently restored print in all its 50s-Technicolor glory, as reports from its Film Forum debut last year were glowing.
The opening shot—Russell and Monroe in sequins standing against a screaming red drape—is enough to knock you out of your seat, and the audacity barely lets up from there, as Russell romances the entire U.S. Olympic team to the tune of “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Love?” and Hawks keeps topping perversity with perversity. A landmark encounter in the battle of the sexes.
It is part romp, part druggie-surrealist masterpiece, and a complete joy. Monkey Business is undervalued by some, on account of its alleged inferiority to the master’s 30s pictures, and the accident of sharing a title with a film by the Marx Brothers. I can only say that this film whizzes joyfully along with touches of pure genius: at once sublimely innocent and entirely worldly. Cary Grant plays Dr Barnaby Fulton, a mild-mannered, bespectacled industrial scientist working on a “rejuvenation” elixir for his tetchy boss Mr Oxley (Charles Coburn). One of Dr Fulton’s test chimps escapes and mixes up the lab chemicals in a random way so as to create the perfect “eternal youth” recipe – somewhere between Viagra and LSD – and dumps it in the water supply.
Dr Fulton drinks it; his short sight is cured and he instantly gets a new youthful haircut, jacket, and snazzy roadster, in which he takes smitten secretary Lois (Marilyn Monroe) for a day’s adventures. (The memory of Grant with his Coke-bottle glasses exchanging dialogue with the entranced Marilyn was revived eight years later by Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot.) His wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) and Mr Oxley drink it too, with anarchic results. I think the role of Edwina in this film has been misread by some critics. It isn’t simply that she becomes a wacky, carefree schoolgirl under the influence. She takes her husband to a hotel and is chemically compelled to recreate her wedding night, becoming the terrified young woman she was on that occasion: frightened of seeing her groom’s naked body, overwhelmed with sadness at the thought of leaving her mother, querulous at the thought of Barnaby’s ex-girlfriends. It is a brilliant and subtle invention – and like everything else packed with gags.
Playing thru Thurs, June 23 at 1:00, 3:15*, 5:30, 7:45**, 10:00 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
** Introduction by Cary Grant’s daughter Jennifer on Fri, June 17 7:45 show
* Q&A with Jennifer Grant following the Sun, June 19 3:15 show (no 5:30 screening)
Today, Film Forum begins a one-week run of Bringing up Baby, Howard Hawks’ 1938 screwball classic. [There’s some disagreement within Alt Screen over whether Baby is the greatest screwball comedy of all time, or second to Leo McCarey’s The Awful Truth (1937).] Dismissed on its first release, Baby has since gained quite a strong reputation. Some evidence below:
Bringing up Baby (1938) is undeniably the screwiest of the screwball comedies. Even Hawks has never equaled the rocketing pace of this demented farce in which Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made Barrymore and Lombard in Twentieth Century seem as feverish as Victoria and Albert. This film passes beyond the customary lunacy of the period into a bestial Walpurgisnacht during which man, doc, and leopard pursue each other over the Connecticut countryside until the behavior patterns of men and animals become indistinguishable…. The regression of man to a lower order will henceforth be one of the dominant motifs of Hawksian comedy.