Two filmland legends -- one who directed Carole Lombard's final film, the other who Lombard unsuccessfully auditioned for what would have been among her first -- are being honored with theater presentations of their classic movies on each coast this week. And so, for that fact, is Carole herself.
We'll begin in the west, specifically the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. On Wednesday, the American Cinematheque will show two films directed by Ernst Lubitsch, shown above on the lot with Lombard -- "Ninotchka," the 1939 classic with Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas, at 7:30, followed by a restored version of "Design For Living," the 1933 pre-Code gem starring Miriam Hopkins, Gary Cooper and Fredric March. (Both will be shown in 35mm prints, the way classic movies are meant to be seen. But there's more: All ticket holders also have a chance to win a DVD of the Criterion Collection's restored "Design." According to the Aero, the DVD "features a high-definition digital restoration plus a 1932 short film by Lubitsch, selected-scene commentary, a British television version of Coward’s original play, and more." Plus, both films will be introduced by Lubitsch's daughter, Nicola.
This kicks off a series at the Aero called "Screwball Comedy Classics," though, to be fair, neither of the Lubitsch films really fits the strict screwball definition. But two days later, at 7:30 p.m., two from our favorite lady that definitely meet the criteria will be shown:
"My Man Godfrey" at 7:30, followed by...
..."Twentieth Century." If you've never seen either of these masterpieces with a theater audience, you haven't had the full Lombard film experience. For more on the series, visit http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/screwball-comedy-classics-0.
What if you're on the other coast, specifically the New York metropolitan area? Don't fret -- there's something exciting lined up for you, particularly if you're a Charlie Chaplin fan. Get to see one of his gems in a way you've probably never seen it before, unless you're at least an octogenarian.
We're referring to "The Gold Rush," his 1925 feature that is at or near the top of virtually every critic's list of Chaplin masterpieces. But in 1942, Chaplin re-edited it, adding narration, a new score he composed himself and altering the ending to make it more romantic and upbeat. This has been the version audiences have seen for nearly 70 years.
Now, "The Gold Rush" is back, restored in its original 1925 incarnation. As the New York Times' Dave Kehr noted,
When Charlie Chaplin decided to reissue his silent classic in 1942, he extensively re-edited the original 1925 version, adding narration and resurrecting a rejected happy ending. For decades that’s been the only version in official release, but now the Chaplin estate has authorized a restoration of the first version in all of its impressive scale and emotional complexity. The film was Chaplin’s biggest commercial success (which is saying something) and features frequently anthologized moments like one with Charlie, as an impoverished prospector during the Klondike gold rush, gallantly trying to make a gourmet meal out of a shoe. And there’s a dance performed with a pair of dinner rolls. But the emotional center of the film is the Tramp’s one-sided infatuation with a dance-hall girl (Georgia Hale), a doomed romance that regains its full poignancy in the original cut."
It's playing through Thursday at Film Forum on West Houston Street in Greenwich Village, a great venue for classic movie buffs; find out more at http://www.filmforum.org/films/goldrush.html. (Incidentally, at 8 tonight, watch one of Chaplin's contemporary rivals, Buster Keaton, when Film Forum shows "The Cameraman" as part of its "The Silent Roar" series on MGM's silents.)
Where's the Lombard connection, some of you may be wondering? In 1924, she was one of many teen girls who auditioned for Chaplin to play the dance-hall girl (and love interest), but lost out (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/125415.html). Lita Grey, who won the part, became pregnant by him, and in turn was succeeded by Georgia Hale:
Seeing the original version perhaps gives a better idea of what might have been expected of Lombard had she been cast (though legend has it that the 16-year-old was rejected because Chaplin deemed her "too pretty").
With the new year coming up, this week's header shows Lombard and James Stewart in a New Year's Eve party scene from "Made For Each Other." The scene had real-life tragic overtones, as one of the prop workers handling the release of balloons fell from a scaffold and died in October 1938 (http://carole-and-co.livejournal.com/169187.html).