Imagine seeing Carole Lombard in that ethereal gown from "My Man Godfrey" in a downtown movie palace's huge screen in the fall of 1936. Now imagine that on original nitrate film stock, whose sparkling black-and-white images led to the term "silver screen." (It was also used for color film, including early three-strip Technicolor.)
Unfortunately, such film was terribly volatile, easy to set aflame. Many movies fell victim to fire, including all of Lombard's Fox silents in 1937. While film stock was subsequently preserved on the much safer acetate, it often lacked the crisp, subtle imagery of the original versions.
This weekend in Hollywood, you can see five films from original nitrate prints at one of only four venues in the U.S. legally allowed to show such movies...
...the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The program, titled "Nitrate Nights," promises to be both informative and alluring.
It begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday with this color rarity from British masters Powell and Pressburger:
"Gone To Earth" (1950), a relatively rare Jennifer Jones vehicle. It was released in America as the 82-minute "The Wild Heart," whereas the UK original lasted 110 minutes. This print, from the George Eastman Museum, was donated to the Rochester, N.Y., facility by David O. Selznick's son Daniel in 1999. Jared Case, curator of film exhibitions at the Eastman, will introduce the film.
Two Alfred Hitchcock gems are slated for Saturday.
At 4 p.m., it's "Spellbound" (1945), Hitch at his most surrealistic. starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, not to mention a dream sequence from, of all people, Salvador Dali. That's followed at 7:30 by this gothic gem...
..."Rebecca," Hitchcock's first U.S. project and winner of Best Picture for 1940. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier star. Case and acclaimed director Christopher Nolan will introduce the film.
Two different versions of film noir are on tap Sunday. At 4...
...the terrific "Laura," with Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price, introduced by Michael Pogorzelski of the Academy Film Archive (it's their print). To close the program, we travel from chic Manhattan to the carny circuit.
"Nightmare Alley" (1947), at 7:30, as '30s stars Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell play against type in the anti-hero postwar environment; both are brilliant. Noted director Alexander Payne will introduce the latter film.
For more information and to order tickets, visit http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/nitrate-nights-2019.