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Turnabout (1940);
One Million Years B.C. (1940)

One Million Years B.C. (1940)
August 6, 2006 - 7:00 pm

Preservation funded by The Film Foundation

Turnabout (1940)

Directed by Hal Roach

Turnabout will enlighten anyone who thinks that gender identity, same-sex attraction and homophobia were off-limits as subject matter in American movies before the general loosening of sexual taboos that flowered in the 1960s. In this 1940 screwball comedy, well-off New Yorkers Tim and Sally Willows (John Hubbard and Carole Landis) bicker constantly because each believes the other leads a more satisfying life, until one night a Hindu idol switches their personalities, voices and mannerisms. Chaos ensues when a now ultra-feminine Tim swishes into the office of his advertising agency, while Sally clumps around their apartment making household repairs. By nightfall, husband and wife are begging the idol to return them to their rightful sex, but he has one more surprise in store for them.

Veteran producer-director Hal Roach had critical and popular hits with two previous comedies based on novels by humorist and fantasist Thorne Smith: Topper (1937) and Topper Takes a Trip (1939). (Roach also released a third well-received installment in the series, Topper Returns, in 1941.) But reviewers complained that Turnabout, also based on a Smith novel, lacked the sophistication of the Topper films, and "Variety" warned that "audiences in the hinterlands and family houses might take offense" at Hubbard's assumed feminine mannerisms.

Today, we can relax and enjoy the film for its often delightful silliness, enhanced by the playing of skilled comedians like Adolphe Menjou, Marjorie Main, Donald Meek, and fluttery Franklin Pangborn as one of Tim's clients, a women's stocking manufacturer who doesn't mind his feminine mannerisms one bit. Turnabout was one of the first major Hollywood films to be broadcast on network television. Tonight's screening will be accompanied by the original network opening and close from the summer of 1951.

–Charles Hopkins

Hal Roach Studios, Inc/ United Artists Producer: Hal Roach Screenwriters: Mickell Novak, Berne Giler, John McClain Based on the novel "Turnabout" by Thorne Smith Cinematographer: Norbert Brodine Editor: Bert Jordan Cast: Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis, John Hubbard, William Gargan, Mary Astor

35mm, 83 min.

Preserved from the 35mm nitrate original picture and soundtrack negatives and a 35mm nitrate fine grain master positive. Laboratory services by Cinetech, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio.

Preservation funded by the American Film Institute/National Endowment for the Arts Film Preservation Grants Program

One Million B.C. (1940)

Directed by Hal Roach and Hal Roach, Jr.

Employing his knack for tapping into trends, the "King Of Comedy" Hal Roach had moved strictly into the feature business by the mid-'30s with wide commercial success. His trademark whimsical zaniness was still quite evident in productions like Topper and Turnabout, but pictures such as Of Mice and Men and One Million B.C. cemented his exit from self-prescribed conventions. Although Roach and his son are both credited as directors, the legendary D.W. Griffith was part of the pre-production process and was rumored to have directed some scenes, as well.

With its campy mix of geological opulence and cartoonish paleontology, One Million B.C. confused most critics. Resembling a primeval rivalry between the Capulets and the Montagues, the film's story line careens from tender scenes between lovers from opposing clans to explosive volcanic eruptions, rock slides and epic clashes. In his breakout lead role, Victor Mature re-invents caveman tradition with clean-shaven masculinity while lovingly-coiffed newcomer Carole Landis (selected by Griffith because of her "deer-like" running skills) teaches primordial table manners with a charming Max Factor glow instead of Darwinian realism.

Ultimately, the Oscar-nominated special effects elevate this cinematic grab bag. Trick photography and costumes transform ordinary lizards and elephants into terrifying dinosaurs and woolly mammoths that battle each other and the hapless humans. Starkly beautiful locations in Overton, Nevada and Agua Dulce, California provide excellent prehistoric backdrops for what the "New York Times" described as a "most delightfully amusing tableau from a museum of unnatural history."

–Todd Wiener

Hal Roach Studios. Inc./United Artists Screenwriter: Mickell Novak, George Baker. Joseph Frickert Cinematographer: Norbert Brodine Editor: Ray Snyder Narration: Conrad Nagel Cast: Victor Mature. Carole Landis, Lon Chaney, Jr .. John Hubbard, Mama Clark

35mm, 80 min.

Preserved in cooperation with the Library of Congress and Hal Roach Studios from the original 35mm picture and soundtrack negatives. Laboratory services by Film Technology Company, Inc.