Tonight at Loew’s Jersey: Two Theatrical Film Classics
Tonight at the Loew’s Jersey cinema palace, a double header of classic movies that demonstrate the thesis that, as Lou Reed put it, “A life in the theatre is certainly fraught with many spills and chills.” New Yorkers, you MUST go. A trip to this beautiful old atmospheric movie house is ALWAYS worth a 15 minute jaunt on the PATH train. Tonight they are showing:
6:00 pm: Footlight Parade (1933)
Cagney plays a producer of musical theater prologues which are presented in cinemas before movies (much like Fanchon and Marco). He is an inspiration man, constantly in motion, dependent on gimmicks. He is always working, yet others are working against him. A competitor has been employing spies to steal his ideas. His own partners doctor the books and withhold profits. In the first scene he signs a divorce paper with his gold-digging wife. His secretary Joan Blondell loves him, but he falls for a phony dame from Hollywood who turns out to be just as scheming as his wife was. Ruby Keeler is a repressed office type who turns out to be a brilliant tap dancer. Powell is a backer’s sinecure who turns out to be a brilliant singer. The finish is insane. They have three days to come up with three big shows to impress a producer. He locks the entire cast in the studio (so no one will leak the ideas). When he presents the numbers, they are Busby Berkley fantasias on such a scale that (were they presented live) they would dwarf any film they were introducing…with crazy sets….a water number, a Chinese number with hundreds of coolies and sailors. Little person Billy Barty is in one of these numbers!
8:15pm: All About Eve (1950)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s classic is multi-leveled, functioning simultaneously as a love poem to the theatre, and a comedy of manners worthy of Goldsmith or Wilde. It also set the template for the scheming show biz soap opera. Would The Oscar (1966), or Valley of the Dolls (1967) have been possible without it? Or for that matter, Sam Shepard’s Tooth of Crime? Here a sociopathic aspirant (Anne Baxter at the height of her hotness) ingratiates herself into the life of established but aging star Margot Channing (Bette Davis) only to unseat her and replace at her at the top of the show biz pyramid. Davis is equally arch and wicked, and only receives our sympathy because she is vulnerable and has been wronged. More evil than all of them is the critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). The more you know about theatre lore and history, the better it gets as the dialogue is rich in allusion to long-forgotten stars and traditions. Vaudeville fans should pay close attention to Channing’s personal assistant played by the great Thelma Ritter, who drops a line or two about her experiences (as I referenced in my book No Applause). And look for a hilarious walk-on by Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest roles. Gary Merill and Celeste Holme as relatively sane voices of reason round out the cast. A must see — but surely you’ve seen it already? Yes, but not at Loew’s Jersey!
Tickets and information are here.