Reeling in cinema classics

Series: Marvelous Movies and More in Columbia showcases black-and-white films from the 1930s, '40s and '50s

Howard Live

September 02, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

The Marvelous Movies and More film series in Columbia is featuring big stars this season, including the Marx brothers, Bela Lugosi, Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and W.C. Fields.

Such matinee idols of the past are exactly what audiences expect of the series, held at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center. The film series starts its 13th season Sept. 10.

Each year, organizers offer films from the 1930s, '40s and '50s -- shown in the original black-and-white on 16 mm film -- followed by discussions, desserts and coffee.

Some seasons, the series has focused on showing obscure films that are not found on video. This year, leader Mike Giuliano said, "What we're hoping to get is just a nice mix of really well-known classic films and more obscure films."

"With any film series like this, you do have the opportunity for interaction and participation and really making it a communal experience," he said.

Watching older films on television and digital video disc is not the same as sharing them with others, said Giuliano, of Baltimore, who is an arts journalist for Patuxent Publishing and other publications and an adjunct teacher of film at Howard Community College and Goucher College.

Bernice Kish, Wilde Lake's village manager, helped start the series in 1992 with David Pierce, a film historian who chose films and led discussions for more than a decade. Kish asked Giuliano to take over when Pierce moved to England two years ago.

"We started small," Kish said. "We only had three movies the first season. We had interest, though, and we thought, `Well, let's go for broke.' "

Now the series draws about 100 viewers on average, Kish said, with larger audiences for the evenings with silent films accompanied by live piano.

Picture shows

This year, the November installment will include two silent films -- one titled Dog Shy and one titled Girl Shy -- with music by Ray Brubacher, a Washington-area musician who has accompanied films for the American Film Institute and other venues.

The other eight films were chosen by Giuliano, who said he was emphasizing a couple of major American film directors, including Sidney Lumet, who directed 12 Angry Men in 1957, and John Huston, who directed The Maltese Falcon in 1941.

By choosing films from early in the directors' careers, "You can really see their concerns and their styles from an early point," Giuliano said.

Also among his choices this year, he said, "there are certain classic American comedians I wanted to present." He chose the Marx brothers in the 1935 film A Night at the Opera and W.C. Fields and Mae West in My Little Chickadee, from 1940.

"Those are iconic figures in entertainment history," he said. And, he added, "You enjoy them even more when you have people laughing around you."

Giuliano said he is a fan of Sunset Boulevard, scheduled for June 24.

"I think Sunset Boulevard is the greatest Hollywood movie ever made about Hollywood," he said. "I am looking forward to being with an audience ... to talk about the whole studio era which the film is celebrating and sending up."

He said all ages are welcome, but the film series draws a predominantly older crowd, including people who can talk about seeing the films when they were first released.

"It is the talking about [the films] that I think is part of the charm of the series," Kish said. "Mike has been absolutely delightful" in leading discussions, she said. "He's very knowledgeable, and people like him, which is very important."

Bob Kramer, who has attended several of the film series said, "I think [audience members] are very comfortable. A lot of people have things to say. A lot of it is very interesting."

Kramer, a Columbia artist, said, "This season, I think, is going to be one of the best ever. It's got a lot of pictures I'd like to see again or see for the first time."

`Different perspective'

He recalls how after the Depression, when people had no televisions and little money, they went to the movies frequently.

He said he saw My Little Chickadee when it came out in 1940. "I was just a child," he said, "but I do remember."

And now, he said, "You look at it from a different perspective ... It's kind of fun to see how things have changed a lot."

He also said he is looking forward to seeing Roman Holiday again in March, noting, "You can never see Audrey Hepburn too often."

The Marvelous Movies and More series shows films at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia. Tickets are $7 for adults and $6 for senior citizens and students with identification. Information: 410-730-3987.

Marvelous Movies and More

All films are shown at 7:30 p.m. Fridays, except Nov. 7, a Sunday, at 3 p.m. The schedule for the 2004-2005 season:

Sept. 10: A Night at the Opera (1935). A Marx brothers' comedy directed by Sam Wood.

Oct. 15: Dracula (1931). A horror movie directed by Tod Browning, starring Bela Lugosi.

Nov. 7: Dog Shy (1926) and Girl Shy (1924). Two silent films with live piano accompaniment by Ray Brubacher.

Jan. 21: The Maltese Falcon (1941). A detective story directed by John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor.

Feb. 18:12 Angry Men (1957). A courtroom drama directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb.

Mar. 18: Roman Holiday (1953). A romance directed by William Wyler, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.

April 15: The Thin Man (1934). A detective story directed by W.S. Van Dyke, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

May 13: My Little Chickadee (1940). A comedy directed by Eddie Cline, starring W.C. Fields and Mae West.

June 24: Sunset Boulevard (1950). A drama directed by Billy Wilder, starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden.

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