Fall Films 2016


Art Deco, an exuberant style encompassing 1920s Modernism, Streamline Moderne, International Style, Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism, was a portmanteau term coined to describe a 1966 Musee des Arts Decoratifs retrospective of the 1925 Paris Exposition.  Cinema designers of the 1920s and 30s enthusiastically embraced and popularized these related styles on screen, especially when depicting the wealthy, the corrupt, the cultured, and the glamorous woman of the world.  Whether it is the feminine kaleidoscopes of Busby Berkeley, the haunted Bauhaus mansion on the hill inhabited by Boris Karloff or the stylized feminine glamour of Marlene Dietrich or Joan Crawford, our fall film series jumps thrillingly from angle to curve.

September 16:

Dames (1934) Directed by Ray Enright. Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler (91 min). 35mm archival print from the Library of Congress.

A millionaire creates The Ounce Foundation for the Elevation of American Morals.  Too bad his niece is set to star in “Sweet and Hot” on Broadway.  A swan song (or raspberry) to the encroaching Production Code, this Busby Berkeley-choreographed gem highlights his signature geometric eroticism.  “Nowhere will you find a more paralyzing succession of archetypal 1930s pop culture moments. This much fun is usually illegal…” (Bright Lights Film Journal). Film notes for Dames.


September 23:

The Crowd Roars (1932) Directed by Howard Hawks. James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ann Dvorak, Frank McHugh. (85 min). 35mm archival print from the Library of Congress.

A champion driver tries to keep his kid brother away from fast cars and fast women.  Penned by the scribes who wrote Cagney’s Public Enemy, and directed by Scarface’s Howard Hawks, 1930 Indy 500 winner Billy Arnold is in the driver’s seat for the thrilling action and fiery crashes.  “This is no movie for weak-hearted people” (New York Graphic). Introduced by NC State Film Studies Professor Marsha Gordon. Film Notes for The Crowd Roars.

September 30:

Five Star Final (1931) Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Edward G. Robinson, Marian Marsh, H.B. Warner (89 min.) 35mm archival print from the Library of Congress.

A hard-boiled tabloid editor has a crisis of conscience when he’s forced to resurrect an old sex and murder scandal as a circulation stunt.  Self-loathing battles cynicism after he sends a reporter to callously wreck the lives of a happy family. “The tabloid depicted in 1931’s Five Star Final may lack YouTube, but its craven sense of exploitation would still put it in the running.”  (pre-code.com). Film Notes for Five Star Final.


October 7:

So This is Paris (1926) Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.  Monte Blue, Patsy Ruth Miller, Lilyan Tashman (80 min). 35mm archival print from the Library of Congress. Silent film with live music by David Drazin. Film notes for So This is Paris

Lubitsch applies his naughty touch to a sexual roundelay, as two sophisticated, straying couples flirt their way towards a mammoth dance contest, “a good-natured send-up of sheikhs, jazz babies and would-be wife swappers, replete with binge drinking, outrageous Freudian symbolism and a writhing kaleidoscope that must be the ultimate Charleston scene.” (J Hoberman NY Times).

October 14:

Shanghai Express (1932) Directed by Josef von Sternberg.  Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, Anna May Wong (82 min) 35mm print from Universal Studio Archive

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.” A tumultuous train trip from Peking to Shanghai, commandeered by revolutionaries, and lensed in lush, stylized chiaroscuro was the top grossing film of 1932. Two reunited lovers face death, and two women with checkered pasts entwine fates as Chinese American silent star Wong holds her own against smoldering Dietrich. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Film Notes for Shanghai Express

October 21:

Possessed (1931) Directed by Clarence Brown.  Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Wallace Ford. (76 min) DVD

Box factory girl Crawford trades on her allure to sleep her way into Gable’s Manhattan penthouse, but when he runs for governor, her days as his kept woman are numbered. Surprisingly frank about the one commodity beauty has to offer in the Depression marketplace, filming this rags-to-riches saga sparked a torrid affair between the stars. “Their extramarital chemistry amplified the power of Possessed” (Mark A. Viera: Sin in Soft Focus). Film notes for Possessed.

October 28:

The Black Cat (1934) Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.  Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners (65 min) 35mm print from Universal Studio Archive

A courtly doctor (Lugosi) befriends a honeymooning couple, and after an accident in death-haunted Europe, must extract them from the clutches of Karloff, a Satan-worshipping architect. Vaguely suggested by a Poe story, and bubbling with inter-war fascist angst,  “My favorite Halloween movie is low on gore but high on disturbance” (Richard Brody The New Yorker). Film notes for The Black Cat

November 4:

Madam Satan (1930) Directed by Cecil B. De Mille. Kay Johnson, Reginald Denny, Lillian Roth, Roland Young. (114 min.) DVD

"Who wants to go to Hell with Madam Satan?" A stale society marriage is jolted when a wronged wife realizes love is "a battery that needs to be recharged every day." During a mad masquerade on a zeppelin moored over Manhattan, the missus and a tootsie named Trixie clash. "A twilight zone wherein musical comedy meets disaster epic, all designed and costumed (by Adrian) with the farthest out Art Deco affectation." (Richard Barrios). Film notes for Madam Satan.

The galleries and Iris Restaurant will be open prior to screenings

Tickets: NCMA Box Office: (919) 715-5923

Introductions are by Film Curator Laura Boyes unless otherwise noted.

For more information about the NC Museum of Art: ncartmuseum.org

c.moviedivaSeptember 2016