Mal’s Movies 2021
A series of classic films in July & August hosted by Mal Vincent on Monday evenings (also Tuesday afternoons without Mal)
The all-new, never-give-up, 17th Classic Film Festival, programmed and hosted by critic Mal Vincent, has surprises galore, designed particularly to bring us back to the wide screen we love. Goodbye to Spider Man and hello to Norfolkian Margaret Sullavan. What began in 2004 as an unlikely experiment at screening vintage movies has sold over 43,000 tickets at this theater, becoming a familiar Monday-night tradition during summers in Hampton Roads.
Again making the choices and offering background on each film, within this series Mal Vincent has lined up a three-film homage to the Navy; a long overdue tribute to Norfolk’s own, largely forgotten, star Margaret Sullavan; and an opening celebration that is literally singing in the rain. The scheduled films have won over 27 Academy Award nominations (as well as a Pulitzer Prize) but have not been seen on local big screens for decades. To many, they will be “new” finds.
Vincent’s radio segment, “This Week in Mal’s World,” won the Virginia Broadcast Award for the “Best Human Interest Series.” It debuted on the Cathy Lewis Show on WHRO and was subsequently syndicated on six other Public Broadcasting stations, highlighting Mal’s adventures in meeting and interviewing many stars featured in the festival. Some 76 shows are archived and can be heard on the Internet. Vincent has also won awards for Feature Writing from the Associated Press and for Critical Writing from the Virginia Press Association. He is the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Alliance of the Arts for the greater Hampton Roads area for his tireless work in promoting the arts (and demeaning the shabby non-art that sometimes sneaks in).
This year’s festival will feature Mister Roberts, The Caine Mutiny and On the Town, all in a tribute to the Navy; a visit with the British Royal family in Young Bess, starring Jean Simmons; a tribute to Margaret Sullavan, who co-stars with James Stewart; as well as the surprise—a visit to the scandalous Peyton Place—which was nominated for nine Academy Awards.
For the 17th time, it’s the place to be on Monday nights. Big Screen. Big Sound, Cinemascope. Movies the way they used to make them. And lots of gossip, including when Queen Elizabeth II snubbed two local Scottie dogs when she visited Williamsburg.
2021 Film Calendar
All films in the series show Monday evenings at 7:00 pm (that’s when Mal starts his introduction) and a Tuesday matinee at 2:00pm. 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 6:20. The line may look very long, but we seat over 500 and everyone usually gets in. Your Naro Discount Ticket Book (available online, at the theater, 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 when we’re open anytime over the weekend and up to 6:00 pm Mondays to exchange it for a “guaranteed-seat ticket.”
Mal Vincent hosts Singin’ In The Rain
The perfect movie to bring us out of the doldrums back to the movies, and life at its best. As the song goes: “What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again!” Gene Kelly performs the most famous “splash routine” in movie history as he sings, and dances, in the rain. Some critics call it the best movie musical ever made: others just enjoy it. With the action set in 1927 amid Hollywood’s adjustment to the talkies, its songs include “You Were Meant for Me,’ “Fit as a Fiddle,” “You Are my Lucky Star” and more, including Kelly dancing with Cyd Charisse in the stunning Broadway Ballet (“Gotta Dance”). Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor co-star, with the “Make Em Laugh” number a highlight. And look for Jean Hagen’s Oscar-nominated performance as Lina Lamont, a fictional movie star who can’t talk normally. In spite of that, she assures us, “It ain’t been all in vain for nuthin’.” She is right, of course. (1952, 103 mins)
Mal Vincent hosts Peyton Place
Nominated for nine Academy Awards, this is the movie that chronicles the foibles and superficialities of a small American town, a film that has remained famous for more than six decades, based on the book that sold over 60,000 copies in its first four days in stores—and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 60 weeks. It is an example of a movie that is so much better than the novel that preceded it. Those who didn’t read it couldn’t escape from hearing about it, and everyone seemed to agree that it could never be made into a movie. But here it is, if much tamer than expected. Five of its actors were Oscar-nominated, tying a record that has never been matched. Lana Turner received her only Best Actress nomination, creating huge box office when she was involved in a real-life murder in the same week the movie was released. The nominees also included Diane Varsi and Hope Lange as Supporting Actresses; Russ Tamblyn and Arthur Kennedy as Supporting Actors. Directed by Mark Robson with a memorable musical score, it spawned a hit nighttime TV series and two TV movies, but this is the only version with class. The cast also includes Mildred Dunnock, Terry Moore and David Nelson. Mal will talk about the behind-the-scenes scandals which were more salacious than the movie itself. (1957, 157 mins)
Mal Vincent hosts Young Bess
The British royal family is as much in the news today as it was in 1584 when “Good Queen Bess” was the monarch. Elizabeth I ascended to the throne at the age of 25 and reigned for 44 years, against all the odds. Her mother, Anne Boleyn (played by Elaine Stewart) , was beheaded, thus she was branded a bastard but lived to rule. Designed as a star vehicle for Jean Simmons, the movie is a tapestry of set and costume design, with Oscar nominations in those categories. Stewart Granger (Simmons’ real-life husband at the time) plays her (largely ficxtional) love interest. The cast includes Deborah Kerr, with Charles Laughton recreating the role of King Henry VIII for which he had won an Oscar 30 years earlier. Mal brings things up to date with stories of how he attended a movie in the presence of Princess Charles and Princess Diana in London and attempted to introduce his Scottish Terriers to Elizabeth II during her latest visit to Williamsburg. Lots of royalty and lots of entertaining intrigue is involved in dealing with Bess’s childhood and ascension to the throne. There’s nothing like the royals for pomp. (1953, 112 mins)
Mal Vincent hosts The Shop Around The Corner
When the history of Norfolk’s entertainment world is written, Margaret Sullavan should reign, perhaps as the city’s most famous native actress. The daughter of a wealthy stockbroker, she first acted at Norfolk Little Theater before becoming a legendary star both on Broadway and in Hollywood; marrying four wealthy men, being nominated for an Oscar, standing up to all the ruling forces of Hollywood, including Louis B. Mayer. Off screen, she married Henry Fonda and Oscar-winning director William Wyler. She was considered a major contender to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind but she preferred the stage. Here she is in her most popular film, co-starring James Stewart, who was in love with her for most of his life. The Shop Around the Corner is considered one of the romantic comedy treasures of director Ernst Lubitsch, who called it his best film. So good in fact that it has been remade twice. (The last was You’ve Got Mail, with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks). The two lead characters hate each other while they work in the same shop together, not knowing that they are writing secret love letters to each other. Mal faces the task of explaining her tragic ending; before that, the movie is a joy. Work is underway for a biography of the star by a writer who recently visited locally to do research. (1940, 99 mins)
Mal Vincent hosts Mr. Roberts
No movie has so poignantly captured life behind the Pacific battle lines of the Pacific in World War II as this unusual mixture of drama and comedy. It ran for two years on Broadway before being made into this 1955 movie in color and Cinemascope that became a box-office hit. Henry Fonda plays an officer who yearns to get into the war but is stuck on a rusted freighter delivering toilet paper behind the scenes. James Cagney is the somewhat crazed captain who treasures his palm tree and hides it from the rest of the Navy. Jack Lemmon won an Oscar—and became a star—by playing the wacky slacker who also hides on board and learns how to make Scotch with iodine. Betsy Palmer adds her portrayal of a sexy nurse, and it all adds up to a movie that should be in a wartime comedy hall of fame. Veteran William Powell’s last movie actually stars a rusty U. S. Navy freighter, the Hewell, as the ship that houses it all. There are as many laughs as tears, but it all reminds us of how much we owe those who served—particularly behind the scenes. Mal talks about meeting Fonda and Lemmon and how different they were from each other. (1955, 123 mins)
Mal Vincent hosts The Caine Mutiny
The Navy was reluctant to work with the moviemakers because it didn’t like the word “mutiny” in the title or the character of the cowardly and disturbed Captain Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart in of his best roles. Bogie finally won the festival’s Actor award for Casablanca but only after he lost for The African Queen and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. This received seven Academy Award nominations, including Bogart as Best Actor and Tom Tully as Supporting Actor. The U. S. Navy, incidentally, has never had a mutiny. A lively music score by Max Steiner (Gone with the Wind) is notable. The cast includes Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and new star Robert Francis. Produced by Stanley Kramer, it was a surprise box office hit. (1954, 124 mins)
Mal Vincent hosts On The Town
Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly are among three sailors who have a one-day shore leave in New York City and turn it into one of MGM’s most delightful musicals. Based on Jerome Robbins’ ballet “Fancy Free’’ most of the Leonard Bernstein score was cut in favor of crustier movie music, but it still has that memorable opening, “New York, New York.” The city is hailed as a “wonderful” town, not a ‘helluva” town (the censors cut it). It made history as the first Hollywood musical to be shot on location rather than on a movie set. Gene Kelly fought to have it partially shot in the real New York City. The girls, all hoofers supreme, are played by Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen and Betty Garrett. Sinatra had not yet met Ava Gardner but was still a star. Kelly taught him the dance routine. (1949, 98 mins)
This is also the night when the audience votes on its choices for the top performances of the festival. So be prepared and don’t forget, too, the earlier films shown.