|A Wonderful Legacy: Treasures
from MGM and United Artists
Stars may rise and fall, executives come and go, but the
studios remain forever at least thats the accepted wisdom in town. For this
reason, the impending sale of fabled Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (which includes the equally
celebrated United Artists among its divisions) has spawned much soul-searching in
Hollywood. MGM was born in 1924 out of the merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and
Louis B. Mayer Pictures. Under the control of Mayer and associate Irving Thalberg, MGM
quickly grew to become arguably the most glamorous of the Golden Age Hollywood studios,
with such stars as Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, the Barrymores, Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy,
Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor on its roster, and filmmakers including Erich Von
Stroheim, Victor Fleming, King Vidor, Fritz Lang, Ernst Lubitsch and Gregory La Cava. The
list of MGM classics is legendary: BEN-HUR, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, GRAND HOTEL, DINNER AT
EIGHT, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and the crown jewel, GONE WITH THE WIND
(sadly unavailable for this series).
United Artists came from an even more prestigious pedigree, formed
in 1919 by four giants of the industry, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford and
Douglas Fairbanks. During the 1920s and into the 30s, U.A. prospered by releasing its
founders films along with outside productions from Samuel Goldwyn and Alexander
Korda among others. After falling on hard times in the 1940s, when it served mainly as a
clearing house for low-budget films produced by others, U.A. returned in the 1950s under
the leadership of Arthur Krim and Robert Benjamin. The next two decades were the
studios creative heyday, producing and/or distributing such films as SOME LIKE IT
HOT, THE APARTMENT, TOM JONES, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, MARTY, the
Pink Panther films, Sergio Leones Spaghetti Westerns, and most famous of all, the
James Bond 007 franchise. The company continued flying high into the 1970s with such
critical and commercial successes as ROCKY and ANNIE HALL, but stumbled badly in the wake
of HEAVENS GATE in 1980, and was sold by corporate owner Transamerica to MGM the
In reality, the MGM and United Artists of today are far different
companies from their predecesors. (The library of classic MGM titles has in fact been
owned by Warner Bros. for a number of years now.) So while their future may be uncertain,
one thing is not: the glorious legacy of cinematic treasures produced by both studios and
the immensely talented artists who worked there.
Thursday, November 11 - 7:00 PM
THE WIZARD OF OZ, 1939, MGM
(Warner Bros.), 101 min. Dir. Victor Fleming. Judy Garland is Dorothy in this
sublime, candy-colored adaptation of L. Frank Baums childrens favorite and one
of the most beloved film classics of all time. Take a surreal stroll down the yellow brick
road with Dorothy as she encounters the Tin Man (Jack Haley), the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger),
the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), Glinda, the Good Witch (Billie Burke) and the Wicked Witch
Of The West (Margaret Hamilton). With the amazing Frank Morgan doing multiple duties in a
variety of roles, including the Wizard. Song "Over The Rainbow" was an Oscar
winner. Watch out for the Flying Monkeys!
Thursday, November 11 - 9:15 PM
THE GOOD, THE BAD &
THE UGLY, 1966, MGM/UA, 179 min. Dir. Sergio Leone. From the opening
whistle-and-whipcrack theme, to the final images of a vast cemetery stretching almost to
infinity, THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY is surely one of the bloodiest, funniest and
most wickedly entertaining portraits of human corruption ever made. Leones surreal
masterpiece of the American West during the last days of the Civil War follows a trio of
equally violent and unrepentant gunslingers (Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee
van Cleef) who engage in a jawdropping series of double- and triple-crosses to get
their hands on a fortune in stolen Confederate gold. Newly restored by 18 minutes to
its original, longer European running-time!
Friday, November 12 - 7:00 PM
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS,
1951, MGM (Warner Bros.), 115 min. Director Vincente Minnellis most
popular musical and 1951s Oscar Best Picture winner features irrepressible Gene
Kelly as a struggling-to-make-it painter in Paris, caught between the romantic
aspirations of a wealthy patron (Nina Foch) and his true love, the young Leslie
Caron. Kelly sings, dances and cracks wise with his smart-aleck buddy, pianist Oscar
Levant while trying to decide what to do. Also received Academy Awards for Best
Screenplay, Best Score, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.
Friday, November 12 - 9:15 PM
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS,
1957, MGM/UA, 96 min. Tony Curtis gives his greatest
performance as cutthroat press agent Sidney Falco, willing to sell his soul to syndicated
columnist Burt Lancaster for a few lines of copy, in director Alexander
MacKendricks dark, glittering gem of a movie -- one of the most frightening and
seductive films of the 1950s. Brilliantly scripted by Clifford Odets and Ernest
Lehman, with stunning, mood-drenched b&w photography by the legendary James
Wong Howe. Match me, Sidney
TOM JONES, 1963, MGM/UA, 129 min.
Director Tony Richardsons suberbly funny adaptation of Henry Fieldings
bawdy 18th century classic. Then-newcomer, Albert Finney as foundling
Tom, embarks on a Rabelaisian romp through the rustic English countryside, trying to make
his way in the world but distracted by the delights of all manner of womanhood, both couth
and uncouth, represented by the lovely and sexy Susannah York, Joan Greenwood
and Diane Cilento. With a magnificently inebriated Hugh Griffith. Winner of
numerous Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.
Saturday, November 13 - 4:00 PM
BEN-HUR, 1959, MGM (Warner Bros.), 212
min. Director William Wylers grand epic adapted from the novel by Lew Wallace
tells the timeless saga of two boyhood comrades, Charlton Heston and Stephen
Boyd, who grow up to be fierce enemies in the time of Christ. The grueling chariot
race is worth the price of admission alone. Winner of 11 Oscars including Best Picture.
Originally premiered at the Egyptian Theatre!
Saturday, November 13 - 8:15 PM
GOLDFINGER, 1964, MGM/UA, 111 min.
Dir. Guy Hamilton. "Do you expect me to talk,
Goldfinger?" "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die
homicidal villain Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), as he prepares to re-arrange 007s
personal equipment with a laser beam, in what is widely considered to be the best of the
classic Sean Connery Bond pictures. Co-starring the saucy Honor Blackman as
Bonds nemesis-turned-partner Pussy Galore, with Shirley Eaton as the gold-painted
girl, Harold Sakata as mute assassin Oddjob, and the venerable home office team of Bernard
Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn. Terrific production design by Ken Adam, and
cinematography by Ted Moore (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, THUNDERBALL).
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, 1968, MGM (Warner
Bros.), 139 min. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. "Im sorry, Dave, Im
afraid I cant do that," murmurs supercomputer HAL 9000 as it
attempts to eliminate bothersome human astronaut Keir Dullea in master filmmaker Stanley
Kubricks literally mind-blowing meditation on the inherent dangers (and wonders)
of technology, the limitless vistas of space, and the future of the human race itself.
Based on a 1948 short story "The Sentinel" by Arthur C. Clarke,
"2001" was reconceived by Kubrick himself, working with author Clarke to create
the ultimate Journey into the Unknown. But if you think youve seen "2001,"
think again until recently, the film was only available in a 35 mm. version that
reduced Kubricks legendary visuals (and the spectacular 6-track stereo sound) to a
pale shadow of their true glory. Before his death, Kubrick oversaw a painstaking,
frame-by-frame restoration of the film in 70 mm. resulting in a version that looks
and sounds as good (if not better) than the original 1968 release!!