For nearly two decades, Mal Vincent stood in front of crowds each summer at Norfolk’s Naro Expanded Cinema just before the lights dimmed and classic films rolled onto the screen.
The Virginian-Pilot’s movie critic introduced each movie as part of his film festival, “Mal’s Movies,” in an inimitable and rich Southern accent.
He’d talk about dating Bob Hope’s daughter, meeting Andy Griffith and Debbie Reynolds, or how he knew stars in the upcoming film from his more than 50-year career as a reporter.
In 2021, at 83, he died, but the Naro has continued his film festival. “Mal’s Movies in Memoriam” starts Monday.
For seven weeks, the Naro will play a classic film every Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, beginning with the 1953 film “Roman Holiday,” starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
“His festival was always such a hit,” said Theresa Schindler, a managing partner at the Naro who loved hearing Vincent reminisce, such as when he mentioned a particular young director.
That kid, Steven Spielberg, divulged he was considering a movie about some shark or something called “Jaws,” Vincent said.
When Laurence Olivier was to play a Southerner, Vincent liked recalling, the esteemed British actor went to him for authenticity.
When Hepburn got nervous before a speaking engagement, the story went, it was Vincent’s hand she held to feel calm.
“He was such a hit,” Schindler said.
A North Carolina native, Vincent started at The Pilot in 1965. He “retired” in 2014, becoming a freelancer and appearing on WHRO public radio’s “HearSay with Cathy Lewis” with radio producer Danny Epperson.
Epperson has kept Vincent’s voicemail messages and listens to them from time to time. He said Vincent became a grandfather figure to him.
Epperson and other friends will take his place introducing the screenings for “Mal’s Movies in Memoriam.”
“I look forward to seeing the crowds back again at the festival,” Epperson said. “His family was the movies whose families were all the Hollywood stars that he’s shining with right now.”
Colin Warren-Hicks, 919-818-8139, firstname.lastname@example.org