Summer Film Series at Tampa Theatre: The ones to see at the movies!

Tampa Theatre
Interior of Tampa Theatre

Tampa Theatre has released their Summer Film Series. I was a bit disappointed with the selections this year, but there are a few notables coming… These are the ones I would recommend as “must see” theatre viewing for those who’ve never seen them on the big screen.
Forbidden Planet is coming in June. A campy science fiction classic,  this one was made in the heyday of fifties Golden Age studio films. The plot loosely follows the story of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with Walter Pidgeon playing the Prospero part (Dr. Morbius) and his daughter, played by the ingénue Anne Francis. Leslie Nielson is in a perfectly straight role pre-Airplane, starring as the astronaut-hero who is out to stop the madness and woo the girl. Robby the Robot is the memorable sci-fi staple, and the movie is filmed in gorgeous fifties Cinemascope color.
Notorious is one of Hitchcock’s best films. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman give memorable performances in this classic thriller. One of the greatest lines in film history is delivered by Madame Sebastian, the cold and calculating mother of villainous Claude Rains. “You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity” is the classic line. Never has a put-down been delivered with such precision and flair.
The Wizard of Oz is a film that everyone should see on the big screen. There has never been anything to match it in art and simplistic style. It still easily makes the top ten lists of most of the film critics worth their salt.
Casablanca is another film that stays with you. It’s a classic B-movie, with another memorable performance from Ingrid Bergman. But this film belongs to Bogart. It’s his signature role and he achieves iconic film status in the part of the loner Rick, who hides his secrets and his sentiments from the world in his café in Casablanca.
These films were made for big-screen viewing, and if you have the time, should be seen in the theatre. It’s definitely my opinion, (which is shared by many veteran critics), that most of the films made in the modern era can’t touch these cinema classics.
Here’s the schedule for these classics at Tampa Theatre. I have to note that this is not the complete line up, but rather the line up from 6 Degrees of the films worth seeing at the movies! Drop me a line to give me your line up of films that should be seen in the theatre. I’ve got a list & definitely have opinions as to which films make the cut.

 Sunday June 26: Forbidden Planet review
  Sunday July 10: Notorious review
  Sunday Sep 4: Wizard of Oz
  Casablanca Sep 18th: Casablanca

Three things you should know about…My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady

 

1. Leslie Howard starred in Pygmalion, the George Bernard Shaw adaptation from which the musical is based, in 1938 with Wendy Hiller, and it is worth seeing to compare and contrast with the more flowery musical.
2. Rex Harrison is probably the best reason to see the musical version of this. The music is memorable, and many of the songs became hits and are still sung today, but Harrison shines in the film and the cadence and half-talking, half singing quality of his numbers suited him perfectly as the composers, Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, wrote the songs with him in mind to play the lead on Broadway.
3. At the time, the big controversy was the decision to snub Julie Andrews and give the lead to the well-known star, Audrey Hepburn. And Julie Andrews responded with one of the best known ripostes in Hollywood as she thanked Jack Warner for being “the man who made all this possible” after he passed her over for the part in the film version, which gave her the chance to win an Oscar for Best Actress in Mary Poppins.
Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorite actresses, and she does justice to the part although Marni Nixon actually sang the songs in My Fair Lady. Hepburn looks beautiful, as always, and holds her own with Harrison’s commanding presence as the iconic professor Harold Higgins.

Hepburn is seen on TCM later this week in one of her Oscar winning performances, starring in The Nun’s Story with Peter Finch. Her quiet dignity and ability to combine the strength of an iron will with grace and beauty have always made her best performances stand out.

She shines in “Funny Face, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, How to Steal a Million” and so many more. Set your TV to record any of her leading roles if you appreciate the glamour of Old Hollywood combined with brains and sophistication, and that is the whole package that was Audrey Hepburn.

Tampa Theatre is screening My Fair Lady Sunday, January 24th at 3:00 pm.

6 Degrees: Holiday Films Recommended

MIracle 47

 

As our local art house, Tampa Theatre, is gearing up for the Holidays by showing the original 1947 “Miracle on 34th Street”, we’ve decided to begin with this one too. It’s a great film to kick off the holidays as the action unfolds at the start of the annual Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.

Things to know about “Miracle on 34th Street”

*Cary Grant turned the part down. Perhaps with his innate sense of comedy and marketing of his own character, he knew that the strongest leads in this film weren’t for the males!

*Natalie Wood debuts with one of the best performances by a child in film for that era or any other era to date. Her young and slightly cynical persona as Susie, the young level-headed and sensible little girl who dreams of living in a real house someday, is the glue that makes the film work. Had the part gone to a sickly sweet child without any patina of sophistication or age beyond her years, then the film would have made no sense. The point was to create a strong motivation for Kris (Edmund Gwenn) to convert the non-believers.

*It’s still the Best of the Series-no remake has come close to the original 1947 film.

*Fem Flicks: It’s one of the earliest films that portrays a working, divorced mother even with a semblance of realism. Maureen O’Hara does a brilliant job with this part.

*Santa on Film: Edmund Gwenn gives a pivotal performance as the Macy’s Santa on trial

Fred Mertz Foreshadowed: The small role for William Frawley was also pivotal. His cynical and worldly views underscore the Capra-esque overtones seen in the courtroom scenes.

*Capitalism is featured front and center in the plot. But the real heart of the story is the human elements of faith and forgiveness that bind the main characters together. The weakest link is the male lead given to John Payne. Although Payne does quite a good job in the role, his part is not the essential one for the success of the story.

Miracle on 34th Street is definitely recommended viewing for all who have not seen the original. The black and white film needs no colorized version to give it life. To kick off the Holiday Season, it should be the first on everyone’s list.

As mentioned above, Tampa Theatre is showing Miracle on 34th Street this week. They are going to show other films in their Holiday Film Series, including It’s a Wonderful Life from 1946, Holiday Inn from 1942, White Christmas 1954, and Home Alone from 1990.

The List of Holiday films featured in 6 Degrees is essentially an American Christmas Story. Americans seem to embody all of the elements that comprise the best and the worst parts of the Christmas season.

White Xmas

The 6 Degrees List varies slightly from the Tampa Theatre list. I would definitely recommend seeing White Christmas on the big screen. It was a VistaVision Creation of the fifties, and the colors and the pageantry are all part of the lost era which was the Golden Age of Hollywood.

a xmas story

But instead of showing Holiday Inn, 6 Degrees includes for week 3, A Christmas Story. It’s a nostalgic look at a bygone era. The saga of Ralphie and his quest to own a Red Ryder Rifle at Christmas still rings true for many of us.

Xmas Vacation

For week 4, Christmas Vacation. It’s the modern day classic comedy that embodies so much of the silliness of a Saturday Night Live ensemble with the heartwarming feel of a true Hallmark Christmas classic. Chevy Chase is never better than in this role of Clark Griswold.

a xmas carol

 

For Christmas, Eve some version of the Nutcracker is always worthwhile. My personal favorite is still the Baryshnikov version. And for Christmas day, the Dickens story of A Christmas Carol is still the best of stories to savor and to dissect. We are all Scrooge’s in some part, as we enter into the Christmas season. So it is fitting and appropriate to spend at least part of your Holiday with the Dickensian model of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is the perfect vessel to reflect and to identify with all of our inner ambivalence and anger over the commercially created Christmas season.

Happy Holidays to all our 6 Degrees Readers and we’ll see you @ the movies!

On the subject of Casablanca

 

Editor’s Note: Casablanca is playing this Sunday, September 18th at Tampa Theatre as part of the Summer Film Series. The film begins at 3:00 pm.

 

Casablanca

 

Casablanca is one of the best B movies ever made. The local paper here in Tampa had a dispute over whether it should be designated as a “Chick Flick” or simply a classic film. In my role as a film critic, I’m moving away from the term “Chick Flick” in describing movies. There are Fem flicks-defined as films for women, by women and about women…I would not put Casablanca in this genre.

Casablanca is much more than just a chick flick. It was a film written with quite a convoluted history of authorship, as you can tell in the following excerpt. No one really knew how it was going to turn out even when they were shooting it!

The following is an excerpt from “6 Degrees of Film: The future of film in the Global Village” by Mary L Johnson. The book is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

Casablanca
Script authorship of Casablanca also was disputed, only this time it was writer versus writer who vied for the lone credits. Someone said about this B movie classic, “One of the charms of Casablanca lies in its awkwardness. Not only do the politics and romance sit side by side, but that there are two or three contrasting manners of style. There’s the comic-cynical, the soppy-elegiac, and the solemn-propagandist … [It’s] not so much a story as a stringing together of great moments to remember. How, and in what order we remember them is left to us, and this is part of why we like the film so much.”
Four authors claim to be the true author of Casablanca. There is Howard Koch, who claimed he was brought in “to shape the film’s politics”; the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, who wrote as a team; and Casey Robinson. Robinson said that he had the idea for a film “out of a ‘lousy play’ called Everybody Comes to Rick’s.”
According to Koch, the story was, “So they start shooting and Hal comes to me and says, ‘We need some help. There’s a little trouble.’ Bogart had said, ‘I won’t shoot this __________’; and he had used a very nasty word and gone home.”
Ingrid Bergman on the Casablanca shoot said this: “Every day, we were shooting off the cuff; every day they were handing out dialogue, and we were trying to make sense of it. No one knew where the picture was going, and no one knew how it was going to end … We said, “Well, who are we?” … and Curtiz would say, “We’re not quite sure … It was ridiculous. Just awful … Bogart didn’t know what was going on, so he retired to his trailer … I wanted to know who I was supposed to be in love with, Paul Henreid or Humphrey Bogart?”
The Epstein brothers had gone on to another project for Frank Capra and were not available, so they sent the script in from Washington page by page. Two scripts were floating around, one from the Epsteins and one from Howard Koch. Robinson was brought in to add the love-interest angle. It was apparent that “none of them knew he was working on a movie that would turn out to be something to boast about; all the signs were that Casablanca would be a stinker.”
The facts are this: The film used some lines from the play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, including the line “Then play it, Sam” and the song As Time Goes By. The irony was that Julius Epstein was not proud of his part in scripting Casablanca. He called it “slick shit,” and said, “Casablanca is one of my least favorite pictures. I’m tired of talking about it after thirty years. I can explain its success only by the Bogie cult … I can recognize that the picture is entertaining and that people love it. The whole thing was shot in the back lot. Furthermore, there were never any such things as letters of transit around which the entire plot revolved. The movie is completely phony.”

Excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village

 

 

Shakespeare at the Movies: West Side Story at Tampa Theatre

N wood moreno wsidestory

 

West Side Story is playing this Sunday at Tampa Theatre. This 1964 Musical is yet another modern re-telling of the Shakespearean tale of Romeo & Juliet. In this version, a young and beautiful Natalie Wood stands out in the part of Maria. Rita Moreno plays Anita, the confidante of young Maria. Moreno won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story. Although the critics have written that the portrayal of New York gangs “are about as threatening as a charging group of kittens”, still, this is a worthy adaptation of Romeo & Juliet set in a different place and time. West Side Story is part of Tampa Theatre’s continuing Summer Film Series.

Shakespeare at the Movies

Shakespeare has been the featured screenwriter for countless numbers of film adaptations of his plays. Many of the most famous ones have seen several rounds and variations on a theme. Romeo & Juliet has gone from the streets of Verona in Italy to the streets of New York and down to the beach. Macbeth has moved from Scotland to Japan and The Tempest has travelled into space in “Forbidden Planet”.

Some of the best adaptations are ones that have faithfully adapted Shakespeare’s incomparable dialogue and story-telling genius in the heart and soul of the re-telling. Here are a few of the modern adaptations of Shakespeare:

10 things

10 Things I Hate about you: One of the best re-works of the Taming of the Shrew plot. This film was made in 1999 and stars Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Another good version of the original play was made in 1967 by Franco Zefferelli with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the lead roles.

Romeo & Jul 1968

Romeo & Juliet: The 1996 film by Director Baz Luhrmann moves the story to Verona Beach with rival gangs. Franco Zefferelli made a beautifully photographed classical version of the story in 1968, with a cast of young stars including Olivia Hussey as Juliet.

Hamlet branagh

Hamlet: There are many good versions of Shakespeare’s most well-known play. The classic Olivier film was made in 1948. Director Franco Zefferelli made a version starring Mel Gibson in 1990 that was generally well received. And Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was released in 1996.

Macbeth 2015

Macbeth: The film by famed director Kurosawa, Throne of Blood was made in 1957. He transferred the story of Macbeth to feudal Japan. Director Roman Polanski made a film version in 1971 of Macbeth. And yet another Macbeth has been re-made in 2015 with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the lead roles.

Henry V

Most critics agree that Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V was one of the best adaptations of Shakespeare ever made into a movie. Branagh also made a good version of Much Ado about Nothing in 1993 starring his wife at the time, Emma Thompson. Films that loosely adapt the story in a fresh and innovative way are the most difficult to pull off, but if successful, are some of the best films to watch. Shakespeare’s endless supply of ideas and commentary on the human condition provide a limitless storyboard for creative directors.

my own private

Films like My Own Private Idaho, Chimes at Midnight, Men of Respect, Hamlet at Elsinore, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Prospero’s Books are proof of just a few of the turns that Shakespeare’s stories may take.

Romeo & Juliet has been adapted many times for film, with at least 13 – 14 major film productions. As You Like it and The Merchant of Venice have been adapted at least 12 times. King Lear and The Tempest are almost as popular as Hamlet, with 13 – 14 major adaptations to date. But the plays most adapted to film of all of Shakespeare’s works would be either Macbeth or Othello, both with between 15-17 major film adaptations of the Shakespearean tragedies.

Defining Screwball Comedy: Top Hat this Sunday at Tampa Theatre

top hat 2

Screwball Comedy is defined as a “principally American” genre of comedy. Born out of the Great Depression, these comedies originated in the early thirties and continued into the forties. Many of the films created some of the best “Battles of the Sexes” duos ever seen on film. Cary Grant shoving Katherine Hepburn backwards in “The Philadelphia Story” is just one example that comes to mind.

Some of the best of the genre were films like It Happened One Night, The Awful Truth, The Thin Man, My Man Godfrey, Nothing Sacred, Bringing up Baby, His Girl Friday and To Be or Not to Be. Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, and Katherine Hepburn all made their mark in this genre. The women were characterized as being flighty and vapid, but the times they were living in called for characters looking for instant gratification and immediate results. Thus the formula included cases of mistaken identity, lots of complications and constant motion with frenetic hand gestures and plenty of light comic relief. Anything to take the audiences mind off the depressing conditions outside the movie theatre.

Top Hat was made in 1935, and definitely qualified as a screwball comedy. Yet it was not only a screwball comedy, it was a musical as well. And it was one of the best films that Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire made together. It included all of the necessary conditions that comprised a screwball comedy, and to top it off, the beautiful set decorations and costuming synced perfectly with the effortless dancing of Fred and Ginger. The icing on the cake for this film would be the Irving Berlin tunes that included the famous “Cheek to Cheek” number. Top Hat was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1935.

Top Hat is showing this Sunday at Tampa Theatre at 3:00 pm as part of the Summer Film series. After the film, University of South Florida film professor Harriet Deer will be leading a discussion about the movie. The session is free and open to the public.

Memories of the historic Tampa Theatre

 

Tampa Theatre

My personal history of Tampa Theatre dates to the reopening of the theatre in the seventies. January of 1977 was the debut of the refurbished downtown landmark theatre. I remember seeing Blondie on tour at Tampa Theatre, plus holiday showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and other classic films. In addition to small venue concerts and classics, innovative films like “Pulp Fiction” were (and still are) screened there.

One of the funniest experiences I remember at the theatre was a unique showing of “13 Ghosts”, a film by director William Castle, whose trademark was using lots of gimmicks and that included personally introducing his films to the audience before they screened. The theatre provided the 3D glasses as Castle explained that one side of the glass lens would show the film without the ghosts, and the other lens projected the image of the ghosts streaming past. It did work!

The mighty Wurlitzer organ is a staple of the auditorium and classic films are still screened at Tampa Theatre. This year, they are featuring a Summer Film Series with screenings of:

The Wizard of Oz-June 7
Key Largo-June 14
Caddyshack-June 21
Vertigo-June 28
Back to the Future-July 5
Top Hat-July 12
Breakfast at Tiffany’s-July 19
Sing a long Sound of Music-July 26

The history of the theatre remains a rich and unique one. Tampa Theatre was built in 1926, at the height of an era where lavish movie palaces flourished throughout the states. Well known theater architect John Eberson designed the interior, where the moviegoer was transported into an old-world style of Mediterranean architecture, replete with gilded statuary and gargoyles. The signature characteristic of the theater is the beautiful night sky that encompasses the venue and surrounds the patrons with twinkling stars. (I’ll admit there have been a few “clunkers” of movies that were made bearable by simply sitting back and taking in the aura of the unique night vista that surrounds you!)

For the average movie goer of the late 1920’s, it would have been a glorious treat to go to a movie palace for 25 cents and escape into the wonderland that is imagined in one of these beautiful old theaters. Tampa Theatre was but one of several elegant movie palaces that were built in downtown Tampa. The first time I saw “The Sound of Music” was at the old Florida theatre where we watched the film in one of the beautiful balcony seats. Sadly, the Florida is no more. So many of these places were knocked down to make way for modern buildings. But the good news is that many of these places out of time have been preserved throughout the United States.

The history of the renovation of Tampa Theatre is well documented. But the history of all of these old movie palaces is preserved in the League of Historic American Theatres. (LHAT). The website showcases and documents an impressive number of old movie palaces and wonderful restorations from a bygone era. The League is active throughout the United States and even in Canada!

In Tampa, there was a listing of at least 67 landmark theatres and buildings listed on a website called Cinematreasures.org. They included theatres that were demolished and some that are still in use. Drive in movies are also on the list in keeping with our American heritage which includes going to the movies.

Residents of the Tampa Bay area may be interested in checking out some of the other sites preserved in the area, the Cuban Club and the Ritz theatre in nearby Ybor City, and the Friday Morning Musicale in Hyde Park, which still hosts small musical performances and events.

Please let me know if you have fond memories of a particular film or event at Tampa Theatre in years past. The Tampa Natives group in particular may have some stories to tell of special times at the Theatre! Leave your comments here or e-mail me at mljtpa@6degreeswriter.com. Look forward to hearing from you!