The summer film season can be the best — or worst — of times. Some moviegoers prefer the blockbuster, while others keep things independent. Whatever your preference, the next few months will provide the cinema fan a second (or first) chance to experience classic films on the big screen, the way they were meant to be seen.
Ann Arbor’s historic Michigan Theater (603 E. Liberty — 734-668-8480) offers an impressive schedule. Each film will be preceded by a short concert on the Barton organ.
June 3, a series of 15 classic films commences with It Happened One Night (directed by Frank Capra, and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert). This winner of five Academy Awards is one of the most celebrated romantic comedies of all time.
June 7: The theater concludes its “Sex in the Silents!” series with Pandora’s Box (directed by G.W. Pabst and starring Louise Brooks, an icon of the Jazz Age). It features live orchestral accompaniment by the Michigan Sinfonietta and silent-era film music specialist Gillian Anderson (not the “X-Files” actress) conducting a new score. The story of a chorus girl-nymphomaniac whose sexual desires ultimately result in her death in the arms of Jack the Ripper, it made waves with its lesbian undertones.
June 8 & 10: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps is considered by many to be his first real masterpiece and the film that exposed him to U.S. audiences. One of many Hitchcock stories about an everyman placed in circumstances out of his control, it adds a beautiful blonde for good measure.
Not to be outdone, Royal Oak’s Main Art Theater (118 N. Main — 248-542-0180) is running “Midnight Madness at the Main Art.” They’ve already shown the Evil Dead trilogy. However, you still have a chance to catch what many think is the scariest film of all time. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining will have a midnight screening June 13-14.
June 15 & 17 at the Michigan Theater: While Swing Time may be the fifth time that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers paired up, it’s by far their best work. Listen for the Gershwin classics “Pick Yourself Up,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Never Gonna Dance” (which took 47 takes in a single day) and “A Fine Romance.” Astaire is at the top of his craft.
June 22 & 24: Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep. Adapted from Raymond Chandler’s first novel, Sleep introduced moviegoers to detective Philip Marlowe (who would return in The Long Goodbye, Murder, My Sweet and Farewell, My Lovely). While not the easiest film to understand, its prominence in the film noir genre lives on.
June 29 & July 1: The Harvey Girls, the 1946 Judy Garland Old West musical — wow!
July 6 & 8: The greatest film musical of all time, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, with great dance numbers to “Make ’em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes.” No more clues necessary: Just go see Singin’ in the Rain.
July 13 & 15: Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, Seven Samurai, is one the best films ever (and was reincarnated as The Magnificent Seven). A group of samurai is hired to protect a defenseless village from merciless bandits in 16th century Japan.
The University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies’ free summer film series, “J-Horror: Four Modern Horror Films from Japan,” begins July 18 with The Happiness of the Katakuris (dir. Takashi Miike, 2001) and continues the following three Fridays (1080 S. University, Ann Arbor — 734-764-6307).
July 20 & 22: Is High Noon the best Western? You be the judge. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, with an all-star cast led by Gary Cooper (who suffered a bleeding ulcer throughout the production), Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges.
July 27 & 29: See the role immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Truman Capote’s work brought to life by Blake Edwards). Can you imagine John Frankenheimer directing with Marilyn Monroe starring? That was the original plan.
August 3 & 5: It was the biggest Broadway hit two years ago; now The Producers returns in its original form. Talk about perfect casting with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder — and three little words: “Springtime for Hitler.”
August 10 & 12: Easy Rider made household names of Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. For the trivia junkies, that’s marijuana the boys are smoking on camera. A quote from the film seems entirely appropriate today: “This used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.”
August 17 & 19: The story of a hooker with a heart of greed, 1969’s Midnight Cowboy pairs Texan prostitute Jon Voight with New York’s tubercular, homeless con artist Dustin Hoffman, in a painfully realistic portrayal of life in the dirty apple. The only X-rated film to ever win an Academy Award.
August 24 & 26: The French Connection, with its famous chase sequence, comes back to the Michigan Theater. Are you as disappointed with Gene Hackman’s performance as he was? This is your chance to rekindle your dislike for the French, while picking your feet in Poughkeepsie.
August 31 & September 2: Don’t miss the return of Gene Wilder in Mel Brooks’ homage-parody, Young Frankenstein.
September 1: This Labor Day screening of Psycho caps off a memorable season of classic films. Forget the sequels and the Gus Van Sant version, and see the original that spawned a genre of awful wannabes (the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer franchises, among countless others). Who can possibly forget the shower scene?
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