Mal's Movies 2018

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Moulin Rouge

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)

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