At the close of 1937, Carole Lombard's final film for Paramount, "True Confession," played Sid Grauman's famed Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. The venue looks considerably different nearly eight decades later, restored to much of its 1920s luster...
...but tomorrow evening, Lombard returns to the Egyptian -- a place she almost certainly visited as a teen when it opened in the 1920s (heck, she probably saw future friend Myrna Loy dance in one of Grauman's stage shows) -- for what would be her final film, Ernst Lubitsch's magnificent dark comedy "To Be Or Not To Be."
Lombard, Jack Benny and Robert Stack head a superb cast in this story of wartime intrigue in German-occupied Poland, as Lubitsch brilliantly skewers the banality of the Nazis. It initially played at Grauman's Chinese on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard.
"To Be Or Not To Be" understandably wasn't well received when it opened 75 years ago this spring. It was the darkest period of World War II -- even had Carole's premature passing not cast a pall over the production, audiences simply weren't in a mood to see Nazis as buffoons -- but in ensuing years, it's rightly been hailed as a superb example of political satire. (It played for more than a year at a Paris moviehouse in 1960-61.)
Also on the Egyptian's twin bill is an early film from the man who directed Lombard's next-to-last movie, Alfred Hitchcock:
"The 39 Steps" was made in Great Britain in 1935 and arguably was the first movie to introduce the Hitchcock style to American audiences. Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, who like Hitch soon would jump to the other side of the pond, star in this suspense thriller. Here's the director on the set with Donat and Lucie Mannheim:
Both films will be shown in 35mm. If you've never seen either, or both, on the big screen (and even if you have), it's a wonderful experience. Some would argue in the light of recent events, these movies are essential viewing.
The double feature begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Alas, I have a prior commitment to a script reading, but if you're in SoCal, you should go -- the Egyptian is a wonderful venue. The theater is at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, not far from the Hollywood/Highland Red Line subway station.
For tickets (which are $12) and more information, go to https://tickets.fandango.com/transaction/ticketing/express/ticketboxoffice.aspx?row_count=159248385&mid=198787&tid=AAOFX.