THE EIGHTH ANNUAL SUMMER FESTIVAL - MAL VINCENT AND THE CLASSICS
For the eighth year, summertime in Norfolk is the home of a film festival that is drawing attention nationally as well as locally to movies that are not likely ever to be seen again on the big theatrical screen. The event is programmed and hosted by Mal Vincent, film and theater critic for the Virginian-Pilot. In bringing home the stars to Hampton Roads, Mal has traveled around the world in search of movie sets and celebrities. In the process, he has won awards from both the Associated Press and the Virginia Press Association. He says, "The audience at the Naro makes me feel that this is the one place I can loosen up and, for a few moments, not be such a serious critic but just talk about it the way it was." Claiming that he is not a "speaker," he admits that he will still willingly talk about his life behind the scenes at the movies. The festival has consecutively played to sold out audiences for the past seven years. Rather than a theme, Mal has chosen a mixture of classics, both famous and not so famous.
A two-film tribute to former Virginian Elizabeth Taylor includes two from her younger career, Ivanhoe and A Place in the Sun. A restored 35mm print of The African Queen opens the festival, and the raucous comedy The Producers closes it. In between, the long-forgotten great mystery film My Cousin Rachel gets an outing, and Mal is finally brave enough to reveal what happened the night he had dinner with the legendary Mae West with a screening of I'm No Angel.
The screenings are on consecutive Monday nights. (Note, that the series skips July 18 after opening July 11 but then runs for the next six Mondays). As usual, closing night will feature the audiences' vote for the best performances of the festival, along with a closing night party. (Luise Rainier in "The Good Earth" was the best actress winner last year and former winners have included Jennifer Jones in "Song of Bernadette" and Ava Gardner in "Mogambo"). This is one of the more unpredictable years.
Monday, July 11 and Tuesday afternoon July 12
THE AFRICAN QUEEN To quote Katharine Hepburn, "I never dreamed that any mere physical experience could be so stimulating." Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, the American Film Institute's choices as the top two stars of all time, star as a Methodist missionary and a boozing boat captain who cross Africa in a high adventure based on the novel by C. S. Forester. In a poll of Virginian-Pilot readers, The African Queen was chosen as the best film of all time. Directed by John Huston, it was produced by Sam Spiegel, whose widow, Betty Spiegel, currently lives in Virginia Beach. Beyond the Movie: Mal talks about attempts to interview Hepburn and Bogart and determine their connection to Norfolk. (1951, 105 mins)
Sunday afternoon, July 17 and Tuesday, July 18 at 7:15 THE GENERAL
Monday, July 25 at 7:15 and Tuesday afternoon, July 26
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD This adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel remains one of the best-loved movies of all time. Gregory Peck stars as Atticus Finch, the smalltown lawyer who, in a national poll conducted by the American Film Institute, emerged as the top movie hero of all time. Virginia resident Mary Badham was Oscar-nominated for her role as the tomboy Scout. Robert Duvall made his screen debut as Boo Radley, the town's mystery man. In the annals of Southern literature, this remains a book and a film chronicling the changing face of a people and a region. Beyond the Movie: Mal talks about Gregory Peck's visit to Norfolk. (1962, 129 mins)
Monday, Aug. 1 at 7:15 and Tuesday afternoon, Aug 2
I'M NO ANGEL And they're not angels, either?for the first time in any theater anywhere, it's Mae and Mal. At long last, Mal has become brave enough to tell about the night he had dinner with Mae West in Los Angeles. Miss West remains one of the most enigmatic legends in the history of American pop culture?until now. You've heard about her, but few have ?come up to see her some time.? In fact, many have never seen even one of her films, even though the Navy named its life vest in her honor. Here she plays Tira, a lion tamer, co-starring with Cary Grant. She sings her hits "They Call Me Sister Honky Tonk" and "I Found a New Way to Go to Town." To quote Miss West, "When I'm good, I'm very good - but when I'm bad... I'm better." Warning: This event may be raided by the police. (1933, 87 mins)
Monday, Aug. 8 at 7:15 and Tuesday afternoon, Aug 9
A PLACE IN THE SUN A two-film tribute to former Virginian Elizabeth Taylor begins with this winner of six Academy Awards, including George Stevens as best director. Based on the classic novel An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, it discusses the class war in America more than any other film of its era. The subject is still timely. Co-stars are Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters, both Oscar-nominated for their performances here. Beyond the Movie: Mal tells about a tumultuous evening when he visited the Beverly Hills home of star Shelley Winters. (1951, 122 mins)
Monday, Aug. 15 at 7:15 and Tuesday afternoon, Aug 16
IVANHOE Based on the classic novel by Sir Walter Scott, this costume adventure is MGM Technicolor excitement at its most rousing. One of the best action scenes ever is the storming of the castle. Robin Hood is in the background here with Ivanhoe, as played by Robert Taylor, supported by the breathtaking beauty of Elizabeth Taylor at age 18. The cast includes Joan Fontaine and George Sanders. With a script co-written by former Virginia Beach resident Noel Langley, it was nominated for three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Score for the music of Miklos Rozsa. Beyond the Movie: Mal talks about Elizabeth Taylor's political and personal life in Virginia. (1952, 106 mins)
Monday, Aug. 22 at 7:15 and Tuesday afternoon, Aug 23
MY COUSIN RACHEL One of Mal's favorite mystery films is this almost-forgotten adaptation of the novel by Daphne du Maurier (authoress of Rebecca). It stars Olivia de Havilland as the title character, with Richard Burton in the first of his seven Academy Award-nominated roles. The film received four Academy Award nominations. Burton won a Golden Globe as the New Star of the Year for this, his Hollywood debut. Beyond the Movie: Mal talks about meeting Miss de Havilland, and the audience is asked to vote on the guilt or innocence of cousin Rachel. (1952, 98 mins)
Monday, Aug. 29 at 7:15 and Tuesday afternoon, Aug 30
THE PRODUCERS Mel Brooks won the Academy Award for his riotous script for what is often regarded as one of the best comedies ever made. Two con men set out to produce the worst Broadway play ever so it will fail that they can keep their inverstors? money. But the play, "Springtime for Hitler," ends up being a hit. With lines like "Don't be a Smarty. Come and join the Nazi party," it is tastelessly funny in the extreme. Zero Mostel co-stars with Gene Wilder (who was Oscar-nominated for his performance as a befuddled accountant). Elderly Estelle Winwood willingly invests with a check made out to "Cash" after she urges producer Mostel to "Hold me! Thrill me! Kiss me!" (1968, 88 mins)
Following the film, the audience will vote on the best performances of the festival and are then invited to attend a closing-night party at neighboring No Frill Bar & Grill.