|Otto Preminger: The Man Who
Would Be King
Some films in this series also play at the Aero Theatre.
Otto Preminger (1905-1986), Hollywoods first truly independent
producer/director, was a controversial, polarizing figure throughout his life. He was
famous as a flamboyant, outspoken personality no filmmaker other than Alfred
Hitchcock had a more recognizable public persona. A savvy showman and self-promoter whose
frequent on-set tantrums were widely reported, Preminger also achieved fame on screen
playing Nazis (STALAG 17) and as Mr. Freeze on televisions "Batman". But
behind the colorful "characters" he invented and performed with great skill,
Preminger was a fearless advocate of free speech. His defiance of the MPAA Production Code
and the Catholic Legion of Decency he released THE MOON IS BLUE and THE
MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM without the Production Codes Seal of Approval -- struck
fatal blows against censorship. He broke the blacklist when he revealed that Dalton
Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, had written the screenplay for EXODUS. In CARMEN
JONES and PORGY AND BESS, he gave more employment to black actors than any
other filmmaker of his era. He was the first director to deal with "forbidden"
subjects like virginity, drug addiction, homosexuality, rape, and corruption in
Washington. Often overlooked or underrated amidst the furor of his personality, his
skirmishes, and his sometimes sensational subject matter was his high achievement as a
filmmaker. Otto Preminger was one of the great masters of American film who worked in a
remarkable variety of forms: musicals (PORGY AND BESS), film noir (LAURA, ANGEL FACE,
THE THIRTEENTH LETTER, BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING), epic (EXODUS, HURRY SUNDOWN),
romantic comedy (THE MOON IS BLUE), courtroom drama (ANATOMY OF A MURDER) and
political exposé (ADVISE AND CONSENT). And though his relations with them may
often have been tempestuous, he drew consistently superb performances from his players. Were delighted to welcome in-person various actors who did
some of their finest work under Premingers direction: Carol Lynley (BUNNY LAKE IS
MISSING), John Phillip Law and Robert Hooks (HURRY SUNDOWN), Don Murray (ADVISE AND
CONSENT) and Eva Marie Saint (EXODUS). Author Foster Hirsch will also be selling and
signing his new biography Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King on most nights
of the series at both theatres.
Thursday, January 24 7:30 PM
Film Noir Double Feature:
ANGEL FACE, 1953, Warner Bros., 91 min. Director Otto
Premingers most perversely disturbing film noir finds rich spider-girl Jean
Simmons casting her sexy and sinister spell on ambulance driver Robert Mitchum.
By the time Mitchum realizes he should be sticking to his down-to-earth nurse girlfriend (Mona
Freeman), the deceptively lovely (and psychotic) velvet trap has already slammed shut,
snaring him with faint chance of escape. Preminger imbues his saga with an undeniably
hypnotic quality and, along with actress Simmons, gives the damaged rich girl a
recognizable humanity that makes the unfolding tragic events all the more nightmarish.
With Herbert Marshall.
LAURA, 1944, 20th Century Fox, 88 min. Dir. Otto
Preminger. Investigating a murder, chain-smoking Detective McPherson (Dana Andrews)
falls in love with the dead woman only to find out that it wasn't her that was
murdered. Even in a genre known for its convoluted twists, LAURA is a film noir
one-of-a-kind. The brilliant cast includes: Gene Tierney as the gorgeous Laura, Clifton
Webb as Waldo Lydecker, and Vincent Price as Laura's fiancée, Shelby
Carpenter. The famous haunted and nostalgic musical theme by David Raskin is
unforgettable. Yet another film that was influential on David Lynchs development of
Friday, January 25 7:30 PM
Ultra-Rare! HURRY SUNDOWN, 1967, Paramount, 142 min. Dir. Otto
Preminger. The heart of this rich Southern Gothic panorama, swarming with an
assortment of racists and crackpots, is a paean to racial integration. Two farmers, one
white and one black, with adjoining land, claim their place in the sun fighting off the
invasion of corporate capitalists. Sprawling, episodic, and compelling, the film was
derided as an old-fashioned epic when in fact Preminger was ahead of the curve,
anticipating such late-1960s films about race relations as IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and TO
SIR WITH LOVE. John Phillip Law and Robert Hooks are excellent as the
farmers, and Jane Fonda as a rich Southerner who gradually rejects her inheritance
gives one of her finest performances. There is vivid support from Michael Caine (playing
a saxophone!), Faye Dunaway, Burgess Meredith, Beah Richards and Madeleine
Sherwood. Discussion following film with actors John
Philip Law and Robert Hooks. NOT ON DVD
Saturday, January 26 7:30 PM
BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING, 1967, Sony Repertory,
107 min. Director Otto Premingers haunting, rarely-seen mystery
thriller has become something of a cult legend since its initial release. Carol Lynley
is an American in London whose daughter is kidnapped on the childs first day at
school. The only trouble is: no one else there has ever seen the girl, and before long
some are wondering if she truly exists. Laurence Olivier is excellent as the police
inspector who investigates, with support from Keir Dullea and Martita Hunt.
Look for Noel Cowards perversely funny cameo, along with a rare appearance by
rock group The Zombies.
Ultra-Rare! THE 13TH LETTER, 1951, 85 min. Otto Premingers
eerie, unfairly neglected film noir about a spate of poison pen letters was shot on
location in a small Canadian town with bleak weather and odd architecture. Adapting the
1943 French thriller, LE CORBEAU directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Preminger and his
screenwriter Howard Koch downplay the originals political allegory, about the
treachery of collaboration during the German occupation, and focus instead on the sexual
pathologies of a group of repressed characters. As the finger of guilt points toward a
number of possible culprits, the audience is kept guessing until the chilling denouement.
With former matinee idol Charles Boyer as a doctor of fading charms, Michael
Rennie as a frostbitten new physician, and Linda Darnell as a woman with hungry
eyes and a clubfoot. Hypnotic and unmissable! NOT ON DVD Discussion
in between films with actress Carol Lynley.
Sunday, January 27 7:30 PM
ADVISE AND CONSENT, 1962, Preminger Films, 139
min. Using the Allen Drury bestseller as a springboard, director Otto Preminger
blazed new trails of frankness in this skewering of American politics, pulling back the
curtain to reveal the behind-the-scenes skullduggery and cutthroat scandal-mongering
endemic to the system. This is a long way from the black-and-white palette of MR. SMITH
GOES TO WASHINGTON! There is a smorgasbord of delicious performances by such greats as Henry
Fonda, Franchot Tone, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Lew Ayres and,
of special note, Don Murray as a bisexual politician outed with tragic results.
Discussion following film with actor Don Murray.
Wednesday, January 30 7:30 PM
Otto Preminger/Jean Seberg Double Feature:
BONJOUR TRISTESSE, 1958, Sony Repertory, 94 min. In
Otto Premingers haunting film, (which was adapted by Arthur Laurents from
Francoise Sagans novel), the underrated Jean Seberg plays a
precociously spoiled teen whose wealthy reprobate father (David Niven)
decides to settle down, marrying repressed Deborah Kerr, with
catastrophic results. Exquisitely filmed (by Georges Perinal) in cinemascope and shifting
between B&W and deeply saturated color, Preminger sensitively manifests the mysteries
of growing up. When Sebergs character finally makes the difficult transition from
teenager to adult, it is with a tragic resonance that gives poignant meaning to the
films title (which translates, "Good Day, Sadness").
SAINT JOAN, 1957, Preminger Films, 110 min. After a
casting hunt rivaling that for Scarlett OHara, Otto Preminger chose Jean
Seberg, an unknown, inexperienced eighteen-year-old from Marhsalltown, Iowa to play
Shaws inspired heroine. Though widely dismissed by critics at the time, Seberg is
quite touching in the role, and its easy to see why the filmmaker selected her.
Preminger surrounded the novice with the cream of British theatrical royalty (John
Gielgud, Anton Walbrook, Richard Todd, Kenneth Haigh), though his casting of Richard
Widmark as a childlike Dauphin was as controversial as his choice of leading lady.
Graham Greenes adaptation is trim and intelligent, and the beautifully designed and
photographed film is much sturdier than its reputation. NOT ON
Thursday, January 31 - 7:30 PM
Production Code Breaker Double Feature:
Restored by the Academy Film Archive with funding from the Andrew J.
Rare! THE MOON
IS BLUE, 1953, Preminger Films, 99 min. Otto Premingers first
independent production created a major furor because of the use of such then-taboo words
as "virgin," "seduce," "mistress," and "pregnant"
and because the filmmaker dared to release the film without the Production Code Seal of
Approval. Widely condemned and banned from major theatre chains, the film opened in only a
few theatres but went on to become a huge box office success. For the time, this romantic
comedy about a bachelor (William Holden) who picks up a virginal actress (Maggie
McNamara, pert and winsome) on the observation deck of the Empire State Building took
a disarmingly casual attitude toward sex. Over fifty years on, the film retains a risqué
charm that is enhanced by David Nivens expert performance as an aging man
about town. NOT ON DVD
Restored by the Academy Film Archive with funding from the Film
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, 1955, Preminger
Films, 119 min. Otto Preminger defied the Production Code for the second time with
this first American film about drug addiction. Frank Sinatra, in the performance of
his career, plays a junkie jazz drummer and card sharp torn between love for his
girlfriend (Kim Novak), a sad-eyed cashier in a strip club, and loyalty to his
crippled wife (Eleanor Parker). Darren McGavin ("The Night
Stalker") is the villainous heroin pusher. Shooting in the studio rather than on
location Preminger creates a richly atmospheric, lower-depths milieu. Elmer
Bernsteins moody, compelling jazz score and Saul Bass seductive opening titles
are memorable. Discussion in between films with Diana Herbert, daughter of screenwriter
F. Hugh Herbert (THE MOON IS BLUE).