LOC August 2016 Screenings: Comedy, Adventure and Romance

The Vagabond King 1930 poster


Adventure films, operetta, comedy and silent movies are all part of the August film schedule at the Library of Congress Packard Campus theater in Culpeper, Virginia. David March, a preservation specialist in the Library’s Moving Image Section and one of the theater’s three projectionists, is a guest programmer for the month. Among his picks are three fictionalized film versions depicting the adventures of legendary 15th-century French poet François Villon, beginning with a rarely seen early Technicolor print of the operetta "The Vagabond King," followed by the 1927 silent film "The Beloved Rogue" and finally "If I Were King," starring Ronald Colman.

Mike Leigh’s 1999 feature "Topsy-Turvy," about renowned operetta composers W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan (Gilbert and Sullivan), and the 1983 film production of their famed comic operetta "The Pirates of Penzance" will be shown on the same weekend. Two films each by multiple Oscar-nominated directors Robert Altman and Wes Anderson will be screened during the month. They include Altman’s ensemble comedy-mystery "Gosford Park" and "Popeye," starring Robin Williams, and Anderson’s "The Royal Tenenbaums" and the animated adaptation of the children’s novel "Fantastic Mr. Fox," by Roald Dahl.

Also on the August program are comedies "Doc Hollywood" and "Married to the Mob," the Depression-era coming-of-age story "King of the Hill," Oscar-nominated best foreign language film "Raise the Red Lantern" and the rarely seen silent version of "Captain Blood."

All Packard Campus programs are free and open to the public, but children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Seating at the screenings is on a first-come, first-served basis. For general Packard Campus Theater information, call (540) 827-1079 ext. 79994 or (202) 707-9994. For further information on the theater and film series, visit loc.gov/avconservation/theater/. In case of inclement weather, call the theater information line no more than three hours before showtime to confirm cancellations.

The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation is a state-of-the-art facility funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute. The Packard Campus is the site where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of motion pictures, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (loc.gov/avconservation/). The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board (loc.gov/film/), the National Recording Preservation Board (loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb/) and the national registries for film and recorded sound.

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Library of Congress Packard Campus Theater Schedule

Thursday, Aug. 4 (7:30 p.m.)
"Doc Hollywood" (Warner Bros., 1991)

Michael J. Fox stars as young Dr. Benjamin Stone, bound for Hollywood and a lucrative plastic surgery practice. His plans are sidelined when a fender bender lands him in a small South Carolina town and he is sentenced to community service. There he meets Lou (Julie Warner), who just might be the woman of his dreams, a number of quirky locals and is befriended by a pig. Woody Harrelson, Bridget Fonda and David Ogden Stiers are also featured in this romantic comedy, directed by Michael Caton-Jones.

Friday, Aug. 5 (7:30 p.m.)
"The Vagabond King" (Paramount, 1930)

Justin Huntly McCarthy dramatized the legend of 15th-century renegade French poet Francois Villon in the 1901 play "If I Were King." The play inspired several films, as well as the Rudolph Friml-Brian Hooker operetta, "The Vagabond King," which opened on Broadway in 1925. In this first celluloid version of the operetta, Dennis King recreated his original stage role as Villon, with Jeanette MacDonald as the high-born girl he pines for and Lillian Roth as the street urchin who gives up her life to save her beloved poet. The film was photographed entirely in early two-color Technicolor and was nominated for an Academy Award for best art direction. For many years, it was seen only in black-and-white prints made for television release in the 1950s. UCLA Film and Television Archive restored and preserved the only known nitrate Technicolor print, which was found in its collection in 1990, and provided the 35 mm safety print for the screening. Film historian David Pierce, co-author of "The Dawn of Technicolor: 1915-1935," will introduce the program.

Saturday, Aug. 6 (2 p.m.)
"The Beloved Rogue" (United Artists, 1927)

Stage and screen superstar John Barrymore portrays François Villon in the second feature-film depiction of the renowned poet’s life. This lavish production, directed by Alan Crosland, features set designs by Academy Award-winning production designer William Cameron Menzies ("Gone With the Wind") and an adventurous, fast-paced screenplay by Paul Bern. Villon is introduced as a "poet, pickpocket, patriot—loving France earnestly, Frenchwomen excessively, French wine exclusively." The supporting cast includes Conrad Veidt ("Casablanca") making his American film debut as the sinister King Louis XI, Marceline Day as Charlotte de Vauxcelles, and veteran character actors Slim Summerville and Mack Swain as Villon’s loyal cohorts. Andrew Simpson will provide live musical accompaniment.

Saturday, Aug. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
"If I Were King" (Paramount, 1938)

Ronald Colman (with his velvet voice) is perfectly cast as the French poet-rogue François Villon in this entertaining and critically praised adaptation of Justin Huntly McCarthy’s 1901 play. Villon matches wits with the wily King Louis XI (Basil Rathbone) and falls hopelessly in love with a beautiful lady-in-waiting (Frances Dee). Directed by Frank Lloyd, with a screenplay adaptation by the legendary Preston Sturges, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, best supporting actor for Rathbone, best original score for Richard Hageman, best art direction and best sound recording. Frank Nugent in his New York Times review wrote of his "ungrudging admiration for Mr. Lloyd’s mastery of scene and transparent delight of the picturesque." The 35 mm print is courtesy of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Thursday, Aug. 11 (7:30 p.m.)
"Raise the Red Lantern" (Orion Classics, 1991)

This spectacularly photographed drama, set in Northern China in the 1920s, tells the story of 19-year-old Songlian (Gong Li) who marries the much older Chen Zuoqian, becoming the latest concubine in Chen’s harem and finding herself at the bottom of a repressive hierarchy. Though the film was politically controversial in China upon its release, it received many international awards as well as an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film. The remarkable success and critical acclaim of "Raise the Red Lantern" assured director Zhang Yimou’s status as a leading figure in world cinema and made Gong Li China’s leading star. The film is in Chinese with English subtitles.

Friday, Aug. 12 (7:30 p.m.)
"Married to the Mob" (Orion, 1988, R-rated *)

Undercover FBI agent Mike Downey (Matthew Modine) falls in love with recently widowed mafia wife, tough-as-nails Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is trying to start a new life after her husband’s murder. Angela also is pursued by a slippery mob boss (in an Oscar-nominated performance by Dean Stockwell) who wants to claim her for himself. Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs") directed this romantic crime-comedy. It also stars Mercedes Ruehl and Joan Cusack. Janet Maslin in The New York Times wrote that "‘Married to the Mob’ works best as a wildly over decorated screwball farce … it also plays as a gentle romance, and as the story of a woman trying to re-invent her life."
*No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.

Saturday, Aug. 13 (7:30 p.m.)
"King of the Hill" (Gramercy, 1993)

Steven Soderbergh wrote and directed this atmospheric and critically acclaimed Depression-era drama in which 12-year-old Aaron (Jesse Bradford) suddenly finds himself alone at a rundown hotel after his father leaves the family and his mother is committed to a sanatorium. Aaron soon finds that his gift of gab and creative ability to lie make it possible to support himself and even attend a prestigious local school. The supporting cast includes Jeroen Krabbé, Karen Allen, Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern, Katherine Heigl and Adrien Brody. Film critic Leonard Maltin called it, "One of the most vivid depictions of the Depression ever captured on film. Exceptional in every way." The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.

Thursday, Aug. 18 (7:30 p.m.)
"Gosford Park" (USA Films, 2001, R-rated *)

A weekend hunting party at the home of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) turns into a murder mystery when the host is found dead. This witty whodunit, directed by Robert Altman ("M*A*S*H") and written by Julian Fellowes, follows the subsequent investigation from the perspectives of the guests and their servants. The film stars a large ensemble cast, including Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Watson. "Gosford Park" was nominated for seven Academy Awards, with Julian Fellowes winning for best original screenplay.
*No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.

Friday, Aug. 19 (7:30 p.m.)
"Popeye" (Paramount, 1980)

This live-action film adaptation of E. C. Segar’s Popeye comic strip was directed by Robert Altman and stars Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. Jules Feiffer’s screenplay finds the super-strong Popeye washed ashore in the seaside town of Sweethaven where he meets Olive, the girl of his dreams, but must contend with her fiancé, Bluto (Paul L. Smith) before winning her heart. "Popeye" will be introduced by film historian and preservationist Bruce Lawton, who recently donated clips and outtakes from the film to the Library of Congress from his personal collection.

Saturday, Aug. 20 (2 p.m.)
"The Pirates of Penzance" (Universal, 1983)

The original Broadway cast reprised their roles in this film adaptation of Joseph Papp’s 1980 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular comic opera. The tale has orphan Frederic (Rex Smith), leaving the band of pirates who has raised him when he turns 21. He soon meets the daughters of Major-General Stanley and quickly falls in love with one of them, Mabel (Grammy Award-winning Linda Ronstadt). Pirate King (Kevin Kline), however, is not about to let Frederic go straight so easily. Angela Lansbury plays Fredric’s nursemaid, Ruth.

Saturday, Aug. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
"Topsy-Turvy" (USA Films, 1999, R-rated *)

Mike Leigh directed this portrayal of composers Sir Arthur Sullivan (Allan Corduner) and W.S. Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) who collaborated on 14 enduring comic operas between 1871 and 1896. Several numbers from the operetta are featured in the film with all of the actors. The film received Academy Awards for best costume design and best makeup, and was nominated for art direction and original screenplay.
*No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.

Friday, Aug. 26 (7:30 p.m.)
"The Royal Tenenbaums" (Buena Vista, 2001, R-rated *)

Wes Anderson followed his great success of "Rushmore" (1998) with this serio-comic tale about the dysfunctional Tenebaum family. Down on his luck, the scoundrel patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) returns after a 22-year absence to try and win back his family’s affection. Finding himself not at all welcome by wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) or their three children, he pretends to have a terminal illness and stealthily moves in with a hospital bed. Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson co-star as the Tenenbaum offspring. Film critic Roger Ebert found the film "at heart profoundly silly, and loving." The screenplay by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson was nominated for an Academy Award.
*No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.

Saturday, Aug. 27 (2 p.m.)
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" (Fox, 2009)

Mr. and Mrs. Fox (George Clooney and Meryl Streep) live a serene and comfortable life with their son Ash and nephew Kristopherson. Eventually Mr. Fox’s wild animal instincts cause him to slip back into his old ways as a sneaky chicken thief and he endangers not only his much-loved family, but the entire neighboring animal community. Trapped underground with not enough food for everyone, the animals band together to fight against the evil farmers. Wes Anderson directed and co-wrote the screenplay for this animated family adventure-comedy, based on Roald Dahl’s children’s novel of the same name. The voice cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Eric Anderson, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson. Time magazine named "Fantastic Mr. Fox" as one of the 10 best films of the year. Alexandre Desplat’s music received an Academy Award nomination for best original score and the film was nominated for best animated feature.

Saturday, Aug. 27 (7:30 p.m.)
"Captain Blood" (Vitagraph, 1924)

Early silent film hero J. Warren Kerrigan stars as the title character in this first film adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s adventure novel, "Captain Blood, His Odyssey." Set during the Revolution of 1688, sharp-witted Irish physician Dr. Peter Blood is arrested for treason and sold into slavery. He is purchased by Colonel Bishop at the behest of his niece Arabella (Jean Paige). With the other slaves, Blood captures a Spanish galleon and becomes the terror of the Caribbean privateers until he is offered a commission in the English Navy. The film’s big budget is evident in the battle finale featuring explosions, sinking ships and sword fights. The popular remake of "Captain Blood," starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, was released in 1935. The original film, which ran 110 minutes (11 reels), no longer exists in its entirety. The version that will be screened is the most complete print known to exist. Andrew Simpson will provide live musical accompaniment.

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