Summaries written by David Thomson

Thursday and Friday

Don Juan (1926)

This is a stepping stone in Warners’ advance on sound, with music and sound effects more or less in synch thanks to the Vitaphone project. Moreover, this is a vehicle for John Barrymore who had a strange heyday at Warners when he and Rin Tin Tin were the studio’s top attractions—if only they had worked together. Bess Meredyth did the script and Alan Crosland directed, but one feels Barrymore ran the show. The parade of women includes Jane Winton, Estelle Taylor and Mary Astor, and legend says there are 127 kisses. Start counting.

Plays Thursday and Friday (July 20-21) at 7:30.

Other Men's Women (1931)

This is nothing less than a story of ordinary adultery in which Grant Withers plays a rough guy who moves in with man and wife, Regis Toomey and Mary Astor, and falls for the wife. The picture was directed by William Wellman with a script by William Wells. As such, it is a mark of how candid and uncompromising some pre-Code films could be. But Other Men’s Women has another claim to fame: it has Joan Blondell and James Cagney in smaller parts, on their way to stardom.

Plays Thursday and Friday (July 20-21) at 6:05 and 9:40.


Saturday through Monday

The Public Enemy (1931)

As this classic started shooting, Edward Woods was playing the bad guy and Jimmy Cagney was the gentler man. But director William Wellman looked at the early footage, knew it wasn’t clicking and guessed the answer. The two actors switched roles and Cagney’s empire began. He moved like a dancer, talked like a fighter poet, and was lyric self-destruction. Jean Harlow is involved, but it’s Mae Clarke who gets lasting attention, including that grapefruit in the kisser. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, but we love it!

Plays Saturday through Monday (July 22-24) at 7:30, with an additional weekend matinee at 4:20.

Little Caesar (1931)

Opening in January 1931, this was a landmark for the Warners gangster film, taken from a novel by W.R. Burnett, with Darryl Zanuck and Robert Lord on the writing team, and Mervyn LeRoy directing. We know from the start that Rico Bandelli is doomed, but that’s how gangster films worked: on their way to destruction, these hoodlums could get away with murder and showing off. With Edward G. Robinson as Rico, strutting, gloating, snarling and ripping up the scenery, Little Caesar won huge audiences and launched a genre. With Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Glenda Farrell.

Plays Saturday through Monday (July 22-24) at 6:00 and 9:10.


Tuesday and Wednesday

20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932)

What might have been: this is the only time Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy worked together—and they had chemistry. The film comes from a memoir by Lewis Lawes, the warden of Sing Sing for over twenty years. Zanuck and Robert Lord produced it and did the script, and a Warners mainstay, Michael Curtiz, directs. Tracy is a prisoner with some good instincts, and Bette is his girl. Arthur Byron plays the warden, and Lyle Talbot and Louis Calhern are in the cast. Bette stayed at Warners, but Tracy went to Fox (with Zanuck).

Plays Tuesday and Wednesday (July 25-26) at 7:30.

Wild Boys of the Road (1933)

Sometimes the studio went for broke, letting marginal underworld stories turn into authentic social commentary. So Edwin Phillips and Frankie Darro are kids desperate for some hope who take to the road in Depression America. Earl Baldwin wrote the script and William Wellman directed, and if this seems like a “big” picture still they managed it in 67 minutes. Darryl Zanuck was about to leave Warners, but he had fashioned a genre of headline sensationalism. With Rochelle Hudson, Minna Gombell and a young Ward Bond.

Plays Tuesday and Wednesday (July 25-26) at 6:05 and 9:05.