NOTE: SCREENINGS AT THE CAPITOL UNTIL WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH
It has been trying times over the last two years and hopefully this year will be better. As an acknowledgement of the difficulties, we are beginning the year with two comedies directed by Mitchel Leisen and written by Preston Sturges. This is also a primer for our Sturges’ season which screens in March.
From the mid-30s into the late 40s Leisen was a much-respected A-grade Paramount Studio director and worked with many of the industry’s greatest artists including actors Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Jean Arthur, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, Paulette Goddard, and Dorothy Lamour (all of whom he worked with multiple times) and writers like Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett & Preston Sturges.
These writers are all well-known for writing & directing some of Hollywood’s great comedies, but where in their hands the comedy was fast, slapstick, dark, bitter, and cynical, Leisen moulded their scripts, removing some of the more outré material and slowing the pace to create works of humanistic melancholia with real physical and emotional attraction between his principal characters.
As a footnote, Leisen was ostensibly married to Stella Yeager, but as is suggested by the list of performers he worked with (a women’s director!), he was another of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s queer directors, along with Friedrich Murnau, James Whale, George Cukor, Dorothy Arzner and Nicholas Ray. He had a very long relationship with dancer/actor/choreographer Billy Daniel until the 1950s.
Please keep safe and keep others safe. You will need to wear masks at the Cinémathèque screenings and produce documentation of your vaccination status. Also, try to remain in the foyer for as short a time as possible, and minimise eating during the screenings. Two reasons, it can be noisy and it means you will not be wearing a mask.
Enjoy, and let’s have a fantastic year,
On behalf of The Melbourne Cinémathèque
NOTE: SCREENINGS AT THE CAPITOL UNTIL WEDNESDAY MARCH 16
7pm EASY LIVING
Mitchell Leisen (1937) 88 mins – PG
One of the defining works of Hollywood romantic comedy, Leisen’s deftly calibrated and beautifully staged tale of a young working girl (the extraordinary Jean Arthur) who chances upon an expensive sable coat when it is flung from the high-rise apartment of a wealthy banker (Edward Arnold) was Preston Sturges’ first major script for Paramount. Ray Milland features as the millionaire’s son who ends up courting Arthur. Sturges’ screenplay highlights the themes of success and fast-paced modern life that would define his later work and gives space to a wonderful stock company of character actors who would go on to define his cinema (Franklin Pangborn, Robert Greig, William Demarest and so on).
8.45pm REMEMBER THE NIGHT
Mitchell Leisen (1940) 94 mins – Unclassified 15 +
Beautifully directed by Leisen from a brilliant screenplay by Preston Sturges – the last before starting his directorial career – this luminous film conveys the sentimental gleam of new-found love but goes well beyond the hide-bound conventions of romantic comedy. Leisen’s handling of the romance between prosecutor Fred MacMurray and the savvy shoplifter (Barbara Stanwyck) he falls for, caught stealing a diamond bracelet during the Christmas rush, is surprisingly complex and unexpectedly moving. A knowing follow up to the director and writer’s Easy Living, it also features Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson and Sterling Holloway.