FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Margot Gerber amcin@msn.com

March 1, 2001

 

THE AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE PRESENTS THE FIRST EVER U.S. RETROSPECTIVE OF THE FILMS OF ACTRESS MARIA MONTEZ,

"THE QUEEN OF TECHNICOLOR"

 

Featuring a once-in-a-lifetimes opportunity to see original

35 mm Nitrate Technicolor Prints

Presented in collaboration with Sabucat Productions

March 30 – April 1, 2001

HOLLYWOOD –. The American Cinematheque, in collaboration with Sabucat Productions, presents QUEEN OF TECHNICOLOR: THE DELIRIOUS GLAMOUR OF MARIA MONTEZ (March 30 – April 1, 2001), the first U.S. retrospective of her films ever mounted. This series provides audiences with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the original, 35 mm nitrate, Technicolor prints of her films. Her reign was brief – for a few short years during the early 1940’s, Dominican-born actress Maria Montez (1920 – 1951) ruled over a fabulous kingdom of sarongs, silken turbans, artificial flowers, plaster and paint in films like COBRA WOMAN, WHITE SAVAGE and ARABIAN NIGHTS. One of the few Latina stars in Hollywood at the time (along with Lupe Velez, Carmen Miranda and Dolores Del Rio), La Montez overcame her admittedly-limited acting ability, using her savvy determination and sensual charms to become Universal’s "Queen of Technicolor", starring opposite Jon Hall, Sabu and Turhan Bey in a series of riotously colored Far East/South Pacific/Egyptian fantasias. To celebrate the sheer camp and glamour of Montez’ films we encourage patrons to slink on down to the Egyptian in their most glamorous Maria Montez get-up to enter our Montez look-a-like contest. Keep an eye on our website for details. to All guests are subject to their availability. All screenings are at the newly renovated Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the historic Egyptian (6712 Hollywood Boulevard between Highland and Las Palmas) in Hollywood.

Born as Maria Africa Gracia Vidal (the "de Santo Silas" tagged on after Vidal is apparently an invention of the studio to make her seem more exotic), the daughter of a Spanish diplomat and a Dominican mother, Montez took her stage name from legendary courtesan Lola Montes. After a stint in New York as a model, Montez signed a contract with Universal Pictures in 1940, appearing in walk-on roles in westerns and mysteries – until producer Walter Wanger cast her as the silken-robed Scheherezade in ARABIAN NIGHTS. While critics sharpened their claws on her (the N.Y. Times’ Bosley Crowther once sniffed,

"Montez plays the beauteous dancer with the hauteur of a tired nightclub showgirl"), audiences flocked to her films, until the end of World War II spelled doom for her brand of escapist fantasies. Montez continued her acting career in Europe in the late 1940’s, until she died tragically at the age of 31. Stories conflict on the cause of her death. She drowned in her bath tub, but did she faint as a result of  over-dieting? In one of the strangest twists in film history, Montez was resurrected as an icon by New York avant-garde filmmakers and performance artists in the late 1950’s, including Ken Jacobs and Jack Smith, who wrote in the brilliant manifesto The Perfect Film Appositeness of Maria Montez: "Her eye saw not just beauty but incredible, delirious, drug-like hallucinatory beauty ... one of her atrocious acting sighs suffused a thousand tons of dead plaster with imaginative life and truth." He also said, "At least in America a Maria Montez could believe she was the Cobra Woman, the Siren of Atlantis, Scheherezade, etc. She believed and thereby made the people who went to her movies believe."

 

Friday, March 30 – 7:00 PM: 35 mm. Nitrate Technicolor Print!!

COBRA WOMAN, 1944, Universal, 70 min. Dir. Robert Siodmak. "Geef me that Coparah chewel!" Montez demands, as she shimmies, shakes and snakes her way through one of the most hilariously demented films ever made in Hollywood. Montez appears in a dual role as twin sisters -- one good and one VERY bad -- who cat-fight for control of snake-worshipping, volcano-trembling Cobra Island, while hunky Jon Hall and sidekick Sabu try to avoid eternal torment in the Pit of Vipers. Astounding, gonzo entertainment. "Montez was a great personality and believed completely in her roles – if she was to play a princess you had to treat her like one all through lunch ... method acting before its time, you might say!" – Robert Siodmak.

 

Friday, March 30 – 8:45 PM: Maria Montez/Jack Smith Extravaganza!!

35 mm. Nitrate Technicolor Print!! ARABIAN NIGHTS, 1942, Universal, 86 min. Dir. John Rawlins. "I think you are sublimely worthy ... you are a woman to make men dream!" swoons caliph-in-exile Jon Hall, as dancing girl Scheherezade (Montez) charms and seduces everyone in sight, including Hall’s wicked half-brother Kamar (Leif Erikson), the camels and the desert itself. ARABIAN NIGHTS set the standard for all of Montez’s films to come, with its gorgeous Technicolor photography and tantalizing glimpes of La Montez swathed in silken veils. Co-starring Shemp Howard (of the 3 Stooges), Sabu and Turhan Bey.

FLAMING CREATURES, 1963, Filmmakers Cooperative, 42 min. "Today ... Ali Baba comes today!" trumpets the opening of filmmaker/performance artist Jack Smith’s orgiastic celebration of transvestitism, male genitalia, sexual and political freedom, and all things Montez. Arguably the most scandalous underground film ever made in America – then-Senator Charles Keating groused, "That movie was so sick I couldn’t even get aroused!" – FLAMING CREATURES became the center of a highly-publicized trial in 1964, after Jonas Mekas, theatre manager Ken Jacobs and a ticket-taker were arrested for screening the film. "A landmark in the underground cinema – simultaneously funny and sad, and wonderfully exuberant ... the decor is dime store, and the transvestites dress in moldy Goodwill finery with a heavy accent on 1940’s padded shoulders and turbans." – Kevin Thomas, L.A. Times. Plus, BLONDE COBRA, 1959-63, Filmmakers Cooperative, 33 min. Dir. Ken Jacobs and Bob Fleischner. Starring Jack Smith.

 

Saturday, March 31 – 6:00 PM: 35 mm. Nitrate Technicolor Print!!

WHITE SAVAGE, 1943, Universal, 75 min. Dir. Arthur Lubin. Insanely-colorful South Seas entertainment, as Princess Tahia (Montez) alternately purrs and pouts with fisherman Jon Hall, while trading post operator Thomas Gomez manipulates Montez’s gambling-mad brother Turhan Bey to gain control of the gold-lined Sacred Pool on Temple Island. Scripted by future IN COLD BLOOD director Richard Brooks. "Those gorgeous white clouds over blue sea, the underwater scenes, the dynamiting of the sacred pool and the final thrilling earthquake make WHITE SAVAGE a spectacularly beautiful thing." – Variety.

Q&A following with actor Turhan Bey (schedule permitting).

 

Saturday, March 31 – 8:15 PM: 35 mm. Nitrate Technicolor Prints!!

ALI BABA & THE FORTY THIEVES, 1944, Universal, 87 min. Dir. Arthur Lubin. More robust khans-and-robbers adventure, with caliph-turned-thief Jon Hall struggling to regain control of his throne while sparring with feisty Khan’s daughter Amara (Montez). ALI BABA features some of the most wildly exotic sets in the entire Universal series, including the Cavern of the Forty Thieves and the Pool of Midnight – where La Montez sensually bathes not once, but twice – "thus setting a cleanly example for the small boys in the audience." (L.A. Times).

GYPSY WILDCAT, 1944, Universal, 75 min. Dir. Roy William Neill. Why change the plot when you can change the sets? Montez stars as black-haired gypsy dancer Carla, unjustly accused of murdering the local count – until soldier-of-fortune Jon Hall gets involved, in this deranged medieval adventure co-scripted (are you ready for this??) by writer James M. Cain. "These were light films ... weak technique, true, but rich imagery. They had a stilted, phony imagery that we choose to object to, but why react against phoniness? ... Because it holds a mirror to our own, possibly." – Jack Smith.

 

Sunday, April 1 – 5:00 PM: Double-Feature! 35 mm. Nitrate Technicolor Print!

SUDAN, 1945, Universal, 76 min. Dir. John Rawlins. "Sudan ... Oasis of forbidden excitement! Land of lawless lips and love!!" The last of the Montez-Hall films is set in ancient Egypt, with La Montez starring as Naila, spirited daughter of the assassinated King of Khemmis, bent on taking revenge on the bandit leader (Turhan Bey) she mistakenly holds responsible for her father’s murder. With his popularity (like Montez’s) already waning, Jon Hall co-stars as a desert vagabond who helps the two mis-matched lovers unite. Shot in Gallup, New Mexico, with local Navajos standing in for the ancient Egyptians.

Original Sepia-Toned B&W Print! THE EXILE, 1948, Universal, 90 min. A rarely-seen treat from master-director Max Ophüls (who ironically directed LOLA MONTES, based on the life of the courtesan who inspired La Montez’s stage name), THE EXILE stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Charles II, exiled in Holland while he plots to regain the English throne stolen by Oliver Cromwell. Montez appears in one brief-but- crucial scene (played in a bathtub, of course) as one of the King’s former flames. This screening features one of the original sepia-toned prints of THE EXILE. "We did have great fun making the film – perhaps a little too much, because frequently I found myself shooting a scene without knowing who was drawing a sword against whom, why they were fighting, why killing ...!" – Max Ophuls.

Double features include both films for one admission price of $8 general. There is a 5-minute intermission between films. Running times are provided to figure out the approximate start time of the second film in the double bill.

 

Discussions between films in a double feature are generally about 20 minutes long.

 

* BLACK & WHITE PHOTOS ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST *

WE DO NOT HAVE GUARANTEED PRESS PASSES TO PUBLIC SCREENINGS. IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE ADVANCE PRESS SCREENINGS.

 

A complete calendar/flyer listing of these films has been mailed to you.

SOME FILMS WILL BE AVAILABLE ON VIDEOTAPE (NTSC) COMMERCIALLY AT THE LOCAL VIDEO STORES LISTED BELOW. CALL FOR DETAILS ON THEATRICAL ADVANCE SCREENINGS OR TAPES AVAILABLE IN OUR OFFICE. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CALL MARGOT GERBER 323.461.2020, ext. 115. ANK YOU

Tapes of the following films are available at the stores listed below:

Cobra Woman - Jerry's Video
Arabian Nights - Videoactive, Rocket Video, Cinefile
Flaming Creatures - Videoactive
Blonde Cobra - Jerry's Video
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves - Videoactive, Jerry's Video, Vidiots
Sudan - Jerry's Video
The Exile - Vidiots

Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee (Burbank) Walk in only no phone.

Jerry’s Video (1904 Hillhurst, Los Feliz - 323.666.7471)

Rocket Video (726 N. La Brea - 323.965.1100)

Cinefile (11280 Santa Monica Blvd. - Corner of Sawtelle Ave. - 310.312.8836)

Vidiots (302 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica - 310/392-8508)

 

REQUESTS FOR PRESS TICKETS TO PUBLIC SCREENINGS MUST BE IN WRITING. FAX TO 323.461.9737 ATTN: MARGOT GERBER, 24 HOURS PRIOR TO SHOW TIME. FRIDAY AT NOON IS THE ABSOLUTE DEADLINE FOR WEEKEND OR HOLIDAY SCREENINGS. JOURNALISTS WISHING TO AUDIO OR VIDEOTAPE DISCUSSIONS MUST ALSO SEND A WRITTEN REQUEST. YOUR NAME WILL THEN BE ON A LIST AT THE BOX OFFICE.

THE PROGRAM IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.

Please note that our ticket prices increase as of Feb. 15, 2001. New Prices: $8 General; $6 Cinematheque Members. $7 Seniors (65+ years) and students with

valid ID card. Must be shown at box office at time of purchase.

Our permanent daily attraction film FOREVER HOLLYWOOD is now open. For press passes to see it for review purposes, please call Margot Gerber at 323.461.2020, ext. 115.

 

American Cinematheque, 1800 North Highland Avenue, Suite 717, Hollywood, CA 90028

(tel) 323.466-FILM u (fax) 323.461.9737 On the web: http://www.egyptiantheatre.com

 

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