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 15th 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 whro.org/MalsWorld 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, 15 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 Pharaohs, 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.
2018 Film Calendar
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.”
The Maltese Falcon
Monday, July 9 & Tuesday, July 10
Humphrey Bogart, past winner of the Naro’s festival award for The African Queen, returns in the most famous detective movie of them all. He plays Sam Spade in a murder yarn based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett and featuring his co-stars from Casablanca, Sidney Greenstreet as Casper Gutman and the unforgettable bug-eyed Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo. This was the directorial debut of John Huston, who went on to become one of the film making greats (and to direct this festival’s Moulin Rouge. Mary Astor is a revelation as the saucy leading lady who may have to serve time. The plot is all about greed and the search for a jeweled black bird that according to Bogart, is “the stuff that dreams are made of.” That, too, is the stuff that movies are made of. Movies, that is, like this one. Mal’s part of the evening will be about meeting John Huston and behind-the-scenes notes about Bogart. (1941, 100 mins)
Seven Days in May
July 16 & 17
Directed by John Frankenheimer and written by Rod Serling, this is a political thriller that keeps things tense all the way. It is about nothing less than the attempted overthrow of the United States government. The all-star cast includes Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Fredric March, and Edmond O’Brien in an Oscar-nominated performance as a Southern senator. A U.S. president, beset by endless press and polls, faces a possible overthrow by the military, led by Lancaster. It’s a fascinating “What if?” drama that is uncomfortably close to the unrest in today’s capital. Mal talks, particularly, about meeting Burt Lancaster, who always had a reputation for being difficult with the press, but in this instance proved, to the contrary, to be one of the friendliest. The reason? Ava! You’ll learn why Gardner was lured to make the trip from Spain for her small role. Could this kind of political drama actually happen? You may be convinced that it can indeed. (1964, 118 mins)
Witness for the Prosecution
July 23 & 24 Only Agatha Christie could dream up a murder mystery this baffling. If you know the surprise ending, you are advised not to tell, as the consequences could be fatal from your fellow theater mates. Marlene Dietrich, in arguably her best screen performance, stars with Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton, and Elsa Lanchester in a courtroom drama that sizzles. (Both Laughton and his wife, Ms. Lanchester, were Oscar nominated.) Mal will talk, mostly, about the bizarre superstar behavior of Marlene Dietrich off camera—some of which he witnessed in person. It’s directed by Billy Wilder, who usually went for laughs. If you’ve seen it before and “know,” you need to see it again and spot all the clues you missed. (1957, 116 mins)
With a Song In My Heart
JULY 30 & 31 At long last, and way overdue, the fiery redhead Susan Hayward makes her festival debut. This was the third of her five Academy Award nominations before finally winning with I Want to Live. We passed over the gas chamber in favor of this year’s lone musical. Hayward plays the real-life singer Jane Froman who overcame personal obstacles to sing “With a Song in My Heart” as well as such pop standards as “Blue Moon,” “I’ll Walk Alone,” “Embraceable You,” and “I’m Through With Love” among many others. Every song is a golden oldie. Set in World War II, the film also has one of her six Academy Award nominations for everyone’s favorite character actress, Thelma Ritter. The cast also includes Rory Calhoun, David Wayne, and Robert Wagner in a star-making cameo. It was the fifth of nine Oscar wins for composer Alfred Newman. Mal will talk about Susan Hayward, whom he feels is way overdue for the festival. (1952, 117 mins)
AUGUST 6 & 7 Zsa Zsa Gabor makes her festival debut and it is, at the least, a bizarre mixture of an evening. She comes down the steps of the Moulin Rouge lip synching “The Song from Moulin Rouge,” which became the number one song in America for 24 weeks. Set in Paris’s wild Left Bank of a past century, this is the movie that certainly can can-can. And it has art, too. Based on the life of Toulouse-Lautrec, it features an Oscar-nominated performance by Jose Ferrer (who, literally, walks on his knees for most of the movie). Directed by John Huston, who scored here in The Maltese Falcon, the film attempts, brilliantly, to capture the golden hues of Lautrec’s paintting. (You can prepare by seeing some of them at the Chrysler Museum.) The film won Oscars for its costumes and sets, but Mal, with some guilt, admits that the real reason he programmed the film was to get to tell the stories of Zsa Zsa Gabor in Norfolk. Yes, she was here, and frequented many local jewelry stores (as well as made quite a fuss about his negative review). This is an evening not to miss. And, yes, plenty of can-can dancers too! (1952, 119 mins)
AUGUST 13 & 14 For many years, a poll of critics named it the best movie ever made, and many hold to that opinion. Mal, until now, thought it was “too obvious” to program it, but our 15th year will be the one that spotlights the life and times of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper publisher in another era of journalism. It is fascinating to look back on the awesome former power wielded by newspapers. For Mal, of particular interest is the subplot involving a critic, played by Virginia’s own Joseph Cotton. The cast also includes Agnes Morehead and “Rosebud.” And, yes, Mal DID meet Orson Welles, the actor, director, producer, and writer of this still-controversial curiosity. (1941, 119 mins)
The Egg and I
AUGUST 20 & 21 Traditionally, the festival ends with a comedy, and this is one of the most appealing, headlined by the highly likable Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray as a city couple who try to run an egg farm in the country. Pamper the pullets but keep the roosters out. It is a riotous culture clash especially enjoyable by all those tho made Tammy a surprise hit a year ago. Based on a best-selling novel by Betty MacDonald, it features an Academy-nominated performance by Marjorie Main as raspy-voiced Ma Kettle. (She and Percy Kilbride subsequently co-starred in nine hit sequels that virtually kept Universal Studios in business). This is the night, too, that we vote, choosing the best four performances of the festival: actor, actress and supporting actor and actress. It goes in the record book so, be careful. The closing-night party, to which all ticketholders are invited, will again take place next door at YNot Italian—and why not? A 15-year run is something to celebrate. (1947, 108 mins)