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American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre Presents...
Movies on the Big Screen Since 1940!
1328 Montana Avenue at 14th Street in Santa Monica

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Series compiled by: Chris D.

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Sold out programs will be indicated here if sold out 24 hours in advance of screening date.

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Tickets are $10 general admission unless noted otherwise.
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The American Cinematheque is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization.
The Film Programs of the American Cinematheque are presented at the newly re-opened and renovated Aero Theatre at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and at the magnificently renovated, historic 1922 Grauman's Hollywood Egyptian Theatre. Located at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard.
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<< March 15 - 21, 2007 >>>

Douglas Sirk: The Far Side of Paradise


Discuss this series with other film fans on:
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This Series will also take place at the Egyptian Theatre March 1 - 4!

 

 

Like many other early Hollywood filmmakers, Douglas Sirk was an European expatriate, a German citizen born of Danish parents who had grown to be one of the most respected directors of theater and film in his home nation. By the time he left Germany in 1937, he had directed eight films for UFA, was highly admired by the public and by his colleagues, as well as German propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels. But he was denounced by his first wife, a devout Nazi, for having taken a Jewish actress as his second spouse. Sirk and his mate, Hilde Jary made it to America in 1941, and by 1943, Sirk directed his first American movie, HITLER’S MADMAN, with John Carradine as Reinhardt Heydrich. Sirk subsequently turned out a few films – amongst them SHOCKPROOF – for Columbia before tiring of his inability to keep his boss, mogul Harry Cohn, from interfering with his productions, and he was soon released from his contract. Between 1944 and 1951, Sirk helmed such unexpectedly remarkable little pictures as LURED, SUMMER STORM, SCANDAL IN PARIS and THE FIRST LEGION, independent productions released through United Artists. He signed on as a contract director at Universal in 1951 with THUNDER ON THE HILL, continued with warm, unassumingly great family dramas and comedies like ALL I DESIRE, TAKE ME TO TOWN and WEEKEND WITH FATHER - the rest is cinematic history. Sirk was also largely responsible for helping Universal to mold supporting player Rock Hudson into a genuine, top box office star, showcasing the actor’s talents in early lead roles in such underrated classics as CAPTAIN LIGHTFOOT and TAZA, SON OF COCHISE, then in burgeoning glossy soaps such as MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, and WRITTEN ON THE WIND. Because of Sirk’s association with producer Ross Hunter, the filmmaker became inextricably bound up with the reputation of the melodrama master, something which reached its zenith in Sirk’s final Hollywood film IMITATION OF LIFE. Due to his ability to transform often ludicrous material into sublime, multi-layered narratives, Sirk has influenced countless filmmakers who have followed in his wake – directors from R.W. Fassbinder to Todd Haynes have acknowledged his influence. Sirk also directed films like A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE (which mirrored Sirk’s autobiographical anguish searching for his own alienated, lost son who had died as a German soldier during WWII) and the Albert Zugsmith-produced TARNISHED ANGELS (based on William Faulkner’s Pylon).

"…the word ‘melodrama’ has rather lost its meaning nowadays: people tend to lose the ‘melos’ in it, the music…Most great plays are based on melodrama situations, or have melodramatic endings…but craziness is very important…This is the dialectic – there is a very short distance between high art and trash, and trash that contains the element of craziness is by this very quality nearer to art." – Douglas Sirk, from Sirk on Sirk: Conversations with Jon Halliday

 

 

Thursday, March 15 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

TARNISHED ANGELS, 1958, Universal, 91 min. Director Douglas Sirk re-united three of his WRITTEN ON THE WIND stars for what is probably the best adaptation ever of a William Faulkner novel (the master writer’s Pylon). Rock Hudson is a hard-drinking, idealistic reporter in 1930’s New Orleans who becomes intrigued with former war ace and current air show stunt pilot, Robert Stack, an obsessed man living hand-to-mouth with his dissatisified wife (Dorothy Malone), son (Chris Olsen) and sad-eyed mechanic (Jack Carson). Fascinated Hudson befriends the bunch, but is soon chagrined at his powerlessness as he witnesses self-destructive Stack’s inner demons tear his family apart. Robert Middleton is wonderfully venal as the air show competitor who offers Stack an impossible choice that will stoke the furnace of tragedy to the bursting point.

TAKE ME TO TOWN, 1953, Universal, 81 min. Delectable saloon-singer Ann Sheridan is on the run from the law (sheriff Larry Gates) with her partner-in-crime (Phillip Reed) when they land in a small, northwestern lumber town. Coincidentally, the children of lumberjack preacher Sterling Hayden take it on themselves to find their dad a new wife. They pick Sheridan, and, before she knows it, she finds herself unexpectedly warming to the idea of hearth, home and leaving behind her shady lifestyle. Hayden decides it’s a good idea, too, but he and Sheridan must still contend with a few scandalized citizens as well as a jealous widow (Phyllis Stanley) and villain, Reed. Director Douglas Sirk brings a lighthearted, Old World charm as he works a variation on his theme of accepting people for who they are, an issue he dramatized more seriously the same year in ALL I DESIRE with Barbara Stanwyck. "Since Sheridan is a saloon singer, there is ample reason for the sight values of the costumes she wears for display purposes. She does justice to them, as well as furnishing the situations and dialog with a well-charged humorous worldliness that's a big help to the picture. Hayden is excellent as the logger-preacher."Variety

 

 

Friday, March 16 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

IMITATION OF LIFE, 1959, Universal, 124 min. Based on Fannie Hurst's best-selling novel, director Douglas Sirk's film dramatizes two mother-daughter relationships, one white, the other black. Lora Meredith, an ambitious, self-involved actress (Lana Turner in her greatest performance), clashes with her cheery, all-American daughter (Sandra Dee - who else?) over the same persistent beau, Steve Archer (the improbably good-looking John Gavin). Meanwhile, Lora's loyal servant Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore) faces heartache as her light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner), struggles to pass as white. Dropping her movie-star mask in the shattering climax, Turner performs a scene that would have aroused the admiration and envy of Sarah Bernhardt; and the sublime, Oscar-nominated Moore and Kohner offer one of the best-acted mother-daughter relationships in the history of American film. Under the supervision of master showman, producer Ross Hunter, IMITATION OF LIFE is a virtuoso display of late-era studio mannerism, from the alternately lustrous and moody cinematography of Russell Metty, to the lush and sometimes wrenching Frank Skinner score, to the cunning sets, filled with mirrors and looming stairs. This knockout melodrama that delivers the goods, to a degree no other film of its genre ever has, is a shrewd comment by Sirk (an acerbic emigre German director) about Hollywood melodrama, as well as about such crucial issues as race, gender, and materialism in l950’s America. A feast to be savored again and again. (Program Notes: courtesy Foster Hirsch).

ALL I DESIRE, 1953, Universal, 79 min. Director Douglas Sirk’s subtly subversive drama finds independent Barbara Stanwyck, a failed actress and "wayward" mother in 1910 midwestern America returning to visit her family after a ten year absence. Despite the alternately excited and bewildered reactions of her estranged husband, school principal Richard Carlson, and her children (Lori Nelson, Marcia Henderson, Billy Gray), the small town community is scandalized. To complicate matters, Stanwyck’s old beau, Lyle Bettger is more than eager to re-stoke the flames of carnal passion."Sirk transforms the material through a careful and ironic subversion of the conventions; what emerges is a biting assessment of the value of survival in the face of small-town meanness and prejudice…" - Don Druker, Chicago Reader; "Sirk's delineation of the manners and 'morality' of bourgeois middle America is devastating; and the precision with which he dissects the repressions, jealousies and joys that permeate a family has never been rivalled". - Time Out Film Guide (UK) NOT ON DVD.

 

 

Saturday, March 17 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION, 1954, Universal, 108 min. Possibly director Douglas Sirk’s most outlandishly improbable melodrama – and that’s saying something. Although Sirk had directed Rock Hudson in films before, this was the first collaboration between Sirk, Hudson and master producer Ross Hunter on a "weepie." Equally iconoclastic director John M. Stahl (LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN) had helmed the original adaptation of the Lloyd Douglas bestseller in 1935 with Irene Dunne, and as here, it catapulted its male lead (Robert Taylor) to stardom. Hudson is a carefree playboy who blinds a young widow (Jane Wyman) in a boating accident and consequently mends his ways, becoming an eminent surgeon, dedicating his life to restoring Wyman’s sight! The ultimate in dated soap opera, but somehow Sirk makes it gel, achieving a baroque surrealism, transcending genre by deftly accentuating the offbeat, then judiciously downplaying or pushing-over-the-top the sentimentality endemic to the material, all depending on the individual scene. With Barbara Rush, Agnes Moorehead. "…Sirk's film is up there with the industry's best melodramas, rivaling other highlights of his impressive canon such as WRITTEN ON THE WIND and ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS." Channel 4 Film (UK)

WEEKEND WITH FATHER, 1951, Universal, 83 min. Before Douglas Sirk embarked on his final Hollywood foray into transcendental, zen soap opera, he made several sublime little comedies, and this is one of them. Sirk always touched on family dynamics in all his pictures, and here we see his light European touch with middle-aged romance between single parents. When Van Heflin drops his daughters (Gigi Perreau, Janine Perreau) at the train station on their way to camp, he meets Patricia Neal, there for the same reason with her young boys (Tommy Rettig, Jimmy Hunt). There is obvious chemistry, but also complications: Heflin’s present high maintenance girlfriend (Virginia Field) expects marriage, and an over-zealous, health-conscious camp counselor (Richard Denning) has designs on Neal. NOT ON DVD.

 

 

Sunday, March 18 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW, 1956, Universal, 84 min. Hard-working toy manufacturer, Cliff (Fred MacMurray) thinks he has a fairly idyllic family life until old flame, Norma (Barbara Stanwyck) blows back into town, still carrying the torch. Cliff suddenly realizes his wife (Joan Bennett) and teenage kids (William Reynolds, Gigi Perreau) alternate between being insensitive, judgemental and oblivious to him, and that his own inner emotional life is decidedly barren. Maestro Douglas Sirk brilliantly and compassionately looks at a common mid-life crisis and draws a heartbreaking picture, showing just how painful inner growth can be and what maturity is all about.

THE FIRST LEGION, 1951, 86 min. Charles Boyer is an intelligent, savvy Jesuit priest who sometimes wonders why he didn’t go on to his original ambition as a lawyer. When a terminally ill, elderly priest (H. B. Warner) at the seminary makes a sudden recovery and claims to have spoken to long dead Jesuit founder, Joseph Martin, the institution’s other clerics all believe it’s a miracle. Boyer is very skeptical, and clouding the issue is Warner’s atheist ex-student and attending physician (Lyle Bettger). Boyer soon learns what spurred Warner’s recovery but is unable to reveal it due to the seal of the confessional. Full of subtle ironies, director Douglas Sirk’s film of Emmet Lavery’s play is a wise, penetrating and often humorous study of the nature of faith and man’s need to believe in something. With William Demarest, Leo G. Carroll, Barbara Rush. NOT ON DVD.

 

 

Wednesday, March 21 – 7:30 PM

A TIME TO LOVE AND A TIME TO DIE, 1958, Universal, 132 min. Director Douglas Sirk’s penultimate Hollywood film, an adaptation of the novel by Erich Maria Remarque (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, THREE COMRADES), might be one of his lesser-known later pictures. Neverthess, it remains one of his most affecting, moving masterworks. John Gavin, a German foot soldier on an all-too-brief leave from the Eastern Front during WWII, returns to his hometown to find it a bombed-out shell. But he comes across unexpected tenderness amongst the ruins in the form of grown childhood friend, Liselotte Pulver. A classic evocation of the fleeting quality of a fragile, precious love soon to be immolated in a barbaric world consumed by flames. Legendary writer Remarque himself appears in a supporting role as Professor Pohlmann and Don Defore and Keenan Wynn are Gavin’s hapless comrades. Co-starring underrated performers Jock Mahoney and John Van Dreelen in prime supporting roles; and keep your eyes peeled for Klaus Kinski in one of his rare appearances in a 1950’s Hollywood film. "A masterpiece of mise-en-scene… a haunting story of the search for beauty in a dead world… happiness hovers just beyond reach in Sirk's metaphysically charged CinemaScope images. A stunning triumph of form…" - Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader. NOT ON DVD.