Summaries written by David Thomson
Thursday and Friday
The Hard Way (1943)
In truth, there are Warners glories that not everyone knows about. So The Hard Way is a women’s picture (if you like) that is really a masterpiece on sibling rivalry and emotional pressure in a family. Jerry Wald produced it and he turned the script over to two outstanding writers, Daniel Fuchs and Peter Viertel. Vincent Sherman directed (he served at Warners for years), and he drew excellent work from Joan Leslie, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson, but the center of the film—ambiguous, tortured and tricky—is Ida Lupino (who won the New York critics award for best actress).
New 35mm print from the UCLA Film Archive/PHI Stoa.
Plays Thursday and Friday (August 17-18) at 7:30.
They Won't Forget (1937)
A pretty girl is murdered in a Southern town on Confederate Memorial Day. Robert Rossen and Aben Kandel wrote the script from a novel based on the Leo Frank/Mary Phagan lynching in Atlanta in 1913. Mervyn LeRoy’s direction plays up the melodrama, but you can’t miss the jaundiced portrait of small-town bigotry. So often a loyal supporting actor, Claude Rains has a feast as the unscrupulous district attorney, and there is fine work from Gloria Dickson, Edward Norris and Otto Kruger. Don’t overlook the murdered girl: she’s 16-year-old Lana Turner in her debut.
Plays Thursday and Friday (August 17-18) at 5:35 and 9:40.
Saturday through Monday
Book Signing by David Thomson Saturday at 7:00 PM
The Letter (1940)
Why does Leslie Crosbie put six bullets in the body of a man on a sultry Malayan night? Because she’s Bette Davis in her masterpiece? The Letter was scripted by Howard Koch from a Somerset Maugham play, and William Wyler was the director. It’s a spellbinding story about a passionate and ruthless woman. Bette seldom looked more ordinary, yet she’s riveting, and the rest of the cast know they’re working with a champion—Herbert Marshall, the brilliant James Stephenson, Sen Yung, and don’t forget Gale Sondergaard.
Plays Saturday through Monday (August 19-21) at 7:30, plus 3:35 Sat/Sun.
Mildred Pierce (1945)
A time came when MGM and Joan Crawford decided to go their separate ways. It was typical of Jack Warner to take advantage of that divorce. So he scooped up Crawford and decided to put her in James M. Cain’s 1941 novel, Mildred Pierce. Jerry Wald was in charge of production, Ranald MacDougall tidied up the book for a script, and the endlessly resourceful Michael Curtiz handled direction. Crawford won her Oscar, but the melodrama works because of all the craftsmen and the indelible contributions of Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott and Eve Arden.
Plays Saturday through Monday (August 19-21) at 5:30 and 9:25.
Tuesday and Wednesday
Capt. Horatio Hornblower (1951)
This is a throwback adventure, taken from the novels of C.S. Forester, about an English sea captain fighting Napoleon. It’s done in gorgeous color (photographed by Guy Green), and director Walsh knows how to handle the battle scenes. But Greg- ory Peck makes an intriguing introvert out of Hornblower and the love story (with Virginia Mayo, as an aristocrat) is unexpectedly touching. Adventure films were fading away by then, but this film hasn’t been told about the change.
Plays Tuesday and Wednesday (August 22-23) at 7:30.
One Way Passage (1932)
The idea for this film (from Wilson Mizner and Robert Lord) was enough to win an Oscar: a man and a woman meet on an ocean-going liner; they fall in love, without realizing that they are both under sentence of death—she is ill, and he is a convicted murderer on the way to execution. It makes for a classic weepie and a vehicle for William Powell and Kay Francis, who was an important star at Warners in the early ’30s. Tay Garnett directed a cast that includes Aline MacMahon and Frank McHugh.
Plays Tuesday and Wednesday (August 22-23) at 6:10 and 9:45.