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Mal's Movies

Virginian Pilot Film Critic Mal Vincent

A series of classic films hosted by Mal Vincent on Monday nights in July and August (also Tuesday afternoons without Mal, with matinee showtimes to be announced each week)

What began over a decade ago as an unlikely venture to show a few classic films on the Naro's big screen, programmed and hosted by movie critic Mal Vincent, now enters its 14th year and has sold well over 35,000 tickets to an audience hungry for real movies and real memories. The summer classic film festival has become an unexpected local institution. Mostly recognized as a movie critic, it is often forgotten that Mal Vincent was Entertainment Editor for the Virginian-Pilot for over 20 years and worked with all the arts groups during the formative years of the area's symphony, opera and stage companies - reviewing opera, theater, television and ballet as much as movies. He is now in his 52nd year as a local and national critic of the arts with reviews that have been argued about and syndicated both nationally and internationally. (His reviews were translated into Spanish for South American markets at one time). Since last year's festival, he has won the Alli Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts (presented by the Cultural Alliance of Greater Hampton Roads) and is nominated for inclusion in the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame. He has won awards for critical writing from the Virginia Press Association and has expanded into radio as a part of WHRO-FM and can be called up online via or via the podcast Mal's World on National Public Radio. His bits on show biz are broadcast on a mini-network of six stations, complete with what he says "has happened in spite of my Southern accent. Gotta keep it. It's me."

This year's selections, he points out, are "a little on the populist side and with no theme-except to entertain." The first festival, 14 years ago, centered on "Mal's Favorite Women." Other "themes" have included the films of Jennifer Jones and a festival of Ava Garner and Ernest Hemingway films (they were pals). He has decided, though, that "it's best to go with a little of everything. I'm getting kidded about choosing Tammy and Pharoahs, but you'll see. You'll enjoy them." Every evening includes his personal memories of meeting members of the cast. He's been there - and he has a long memory. Last year's festival set a record with four total sellouts. One can only wonder how long this can last. Hopefully forever.

Take your choice, but don't wait. We remind you that, to date, no film has EVER been repeated in the ensuing festivals, so you only get one screening of each with Mal. All are on Monday nights at 7:15pm, provided that Mal makes it through the traffic jam from Virginia Beach.

Awards for the four best performances of the festival are voted upon by the audience at the final gala evening, with a "party" at Ynot Pizza to follow.


Each film in the series will have a Monday evening show at 7:15 (that's when Mal starts his introduction) and a Tuesday matinee at showtimes to be determined. Mal will only be present at the Monday night presentations. On Mondays, tickets go on sale at the box office at 6:00 and doors open at 6:30. The line starts early and may look very long, but we seat over 500 and everyone usually gets in. Your Naro Discount Ticket Book (available at the Cinema, Naro Video, Birdland Music, or mail order at 757-625-6276 or 625-6275) is valid for any of the films, but does not guarantee you a seat if you show up at the last minute, so arriving early is advised. If you have a Ticket Book you can come earlier in the day before 6:00 when we are open to exchange it for a "guaranteed-seat ticket."

Monday, July 10 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, July 11)

WRITTEN ON THE WIND Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone and Robert Stack star in a way-over-the-top movie about rich folks who are mightily interested in money and sex, not necessarily in that order. If you liked "Dallas," you’ll love this classier take on rich Texans. The movie begins with The Ames Brothers singing the lyrics of the Oscar-nominated title song: "A faithless lover’s kiss is written on the wind" and "a night of stolen bliss is also written on the wind." Fun, and melodramatic to the core, this is our choice as THE film to represent the checkered career of director Douglas Sirk, who made a series of films that were laughed at initially but have now become cult favorites (Magnificent Obsession, Imitation of Life). Sirk asks us to take them seriously, and we have a great time doing so. Dorothy Malone, a Texas girl herself, won the Academy Award in one of the best "bad girl" roles in all filmdom. Also nominated was Robert Stack, who plays her drunken brother. It's a night of movie bliss, but not stolen. After all, you need a ticket. (1956, 99 mins)

Monday, July 17 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, July 18)

TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR A banjo theme opens this delightfully underrated bit of Americana that we screen as a tribute to the adorable Debbie Reynolds, mother of Princess Leah, and Tammy forever. Co-starring is three-time Academy Award winner Walter Brennan along with King Kong's girl friend, Fay Wray, and North Carolinian Sidney Blackmer, Mildred Natwick (of the John Ford company of regulars) and glamorous starlet Mala Powers. The bachelor of the title is played by Leslie Nielsen, who later became one of the movies' funniest guys in the wild Airplane and Naked Gun comedies. The title song remains one of the top-selling records of all time, in its day right up there with Elvis and the Beatles. Debbie sings it one more time. In fact, it is one of three Oscar-nominated songs featured in this year's festival, making music something of a theme. ("Tammy" joins "Written on the Wind" and the Oscar-winning "Windmills of Your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair. Not to be confused with its clichéd sequels, this Tammy is essential escapist fare, a movie that exudes pure Americana charm with a homespun philosophy that is more needed in 2017 than in 1957. It's in Cinemascope and color. Mal tells about his long-running friendship with Debbie, which dates back to a time when Princess Leah was her love-child on the Yellow Brick Road in North Carolina. (1957, 89 mins)

Monday, July 24 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, July 25)

WUTHERING HEIGHTS The dark and foggy moors of England are the settting for one of the most famous love stories in all of literature - and the movies. From the novel by Emily Bronte, it stars Sir Laurence Olivier as the wild gypsy, Heathcliff, who dares to love the lofty Catherine Earnshaw, played by a haughty Merle Oberon. Released in 1939, the most glorious year in American movie history, it competed with Gone with the Wind for Best Picture and was also nominated for Olivier's performance. Other nominations include Geraldine Fitzgerald (Best Supporting Actress), William Wyler (Best Director) and Cinematography, Screenplay, Sets and Alfred Newman's music score. Also look for David Niven in the cast. A great novel becomes a great movie and is way overdue for the festival. Mal tells about Laurence Olivier visiting Norfolk and the unexpected fights between the "lovers" during the filming. They weren't acting; actually, they couldn't stand each other. (1939, 104 mins)

Helen of Troy

Monday, July 31 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, Aug 1)

LAND OF THE PHAROAHS Directed by Howard Hawks from a script by William Faulkner, this is in widescreen color with a cast of thousands (and that's counting just the camels). As an example of what movies used to look like before digital cheating, it follows in the tradition of such past festival spectaculars as Ivanhoe and last year's Helen of Troy. Joan Collins (Dynasty) and Jack Hawkins (Ben-Hur) star in a cast that includes the hunk Dewey Martin for the ladies. Filmed on location in Egypt, it boasts 10,000 extras in a single scene. Mal has plenty to tell about having dinner with Joan Collins, who claimed she had a file on his reviews and wanted to compare her jewels to those of Elizabeth Taylor. It's a big show - as big as the pyramids themselves. (1955, 106 mins)

Monday, Aug 7 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, Aug 8)

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE Lana Turner, in a white turban and white short-shorts, became an indelible image of the '40s movie era as she plans to kill her husband with the help of her lover, played by John Garfield. It's the festival's "film noir" nod and it was daring in its day: an adaptation of the racy novel by James M. Cain that censors claimed could not be filmed. Directed by Tay Garnett, this is the original MGM version, not the overripe 1981 remake. Lana Turner is appearing in the festival for only the second time, after the surprise hit Green Dolphin Street. This outing may introduce the unique John Garfield to a new generation. Mal will talk about the film's history and about how Lana Turner once came to Virginia Beach to announce she had found religion, some years after she was exonerated from the suspicion of having stabbed her real-life lover to death. How could you miss this? (1946, 113 mins)

Monday, Aug 14 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, Aug 15)

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR Among the most stylish movies ever made, this has "style" written all over it, especially in the outfits modeled by Faye Dunaway that were designed for her by Theodora Van Runkle, who also designed her clothes for Bonnie and Clyde. Steve McQueen, the movies' susperstar at the time, cleaned up nicely to wear expensive suits and play a bad-boy millionaire. In this supreme heist movie, he is the mastermind of a major robbery and she is the insurance investigator who is after him. The chess scene is regarded as one of the sexiest of its era, even though it involves just playing chess. The song "Windmills of Your Mind" won the Oscar and is one of Mal's favorite movie songs. Directed by Norman Jewison, this is the original, not the remake. Mal will talk about becoming friends with the usually gruff Steve McQueen and the always haughty Faye Dunaway. Real life meets screen life in an evening of high style - and suspense. (1968, R, 102 mins)

Monday, Aug 21 at 7:15 (also Tues matinee, Aug 22)

TEACHER'S PET This comedy about newspapers and newspapering stars the unusual pairing of Doris Day and Clark Gable. Who could ask for anything more? Well, maybe Mamie Van Doren as "the girl who invented rock 'n roll" and Gig Young in an Oscar-nominated supporting role. It's funny all right, and it has something to say about how newspapers operated in their glory, when everyone read a newspaper every day. Clark Gable plays a tough city editor who has no use for journalism teachers, even one portrayed by Doris Day. Oscar-nominated for its screenplay, it's one of our proud "discoveries" that have been somewhat underrated and overlooked. It's closing night for another year - and a night for comedy. (1958, 120 mins)

Following Teacher's Pet, audience members will vote for the four top performances of the festival and participate in the presentation of awards, followed by a get-together at Ynot Pizza next door.

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