From the Director
This year's UCLA Festival of Preservation again presents a mix of classic Hollywood and independent features, documentaries, and television work, reflecting the Archive's many stellar collections of film and video material.
We open the Festival with Ernst Lubitsch's Trouble in Paradise (1932), one of the most sophisticated and complex adult comedies ever made in the old studio system. Lubitsch is, in fact, a master of the double entendre, nowhere more clearly than in this pre-Code romantic comedy that parodies every other romantic comedy, creating layer upon layer of ironic distance to the emotions expressed. Second on the bill is I Take This Woman (dir. Marion Gering, 1931), a romance with Carole Lombard and Gary Cooper that has been unavailable for decades, due to underlying rights issues.
Our featured silent film restoration for this year, Good References (dir. Roy William Neill, 1920), stars Constance Talmadge in a romantic comedy. Talmadge, the younger sister of Norma Talmadge, was a gifted comedian, as this film demonstrates, but few of her silent films survive. A single nitrate print of Good References was found in Prague, Czech Republic, then repatriated to UCLA for this restoration. This may be the first public screening of this film in this country since its original release.
As in past years, we are proud to present new restorations of a number of film noirs, not just from Hollywood, but also from Latin America. The Argentine film, Los tallos amargos (dir. Fernando Ayala, 1956), features noirish cinematography and a surrealistic dream sequence straight out of German expressionism, while John Alton, the master cameraman of Hollywood noir, shot He Walked by Night (Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann, 1948), a crime drama filmed on the streets of Los Angeles. John Reinhardt, whose low budget noirs are masterpieces of narrative economy, directed another classic, Open Secret (1948). We close the Festival with The Lost Moment (dir. Martin Gabel, 1947), a psychological noir thriller, based on Henry James' novella The Aspern Papers. Both Los tallos amargos and the Mexican feature, She-Devil Island (dir. Raphael J. Sevilla, 1936), are also previews of the massive Latin American cinema series we are planning for fall 2017 as part of the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, supported through grants from the Getty Foundation.
There is also a strong emphasis at this year's Festival on programmers, films from the 1930s designed to play on the top or bottom of double bills, whether comedies, dramas or horror. The Vampire Bat (dir. Frank Strayer, 1933), for example, is a quickie, pre-Code horror film produced by Majestic Pictures to exploit the popularity of its stars, Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill, while She Devil (dir. Arthur Hoerl, 1934) was made for the so-called “race film” market, as was Oscar Micheaux's God's Step Children (1938). Another programmer not seen for decades is John Auer's sci-fi, crime drama S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939), about the power of the new medium of television to disseminate false information, while Infernal Machine (dir. Marcel Varnel, 1933) is another pre-Code crime drama, in which a bomb threatens to explode an ocean liner.
Another title from the 1930s that we are very excited about is Mamba (dir. Albert S. Rogell, 1930), a Tiffany production starring Jean Hersholt as a truly disgusting colonial plantation owner in German East Africa, shot completely in two-color Technicolor. The film was considered lost for more than seven decades until an original nitrate print turned up in Australia.
Apart from classic Hollywood, we are also presenting restorations of a number of independent films. Juleen Compton, an unjustly forgotten, pioneering woman director from the 1960s, will see two of her idiosyncratic titles screened: Stranded (1965) and The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean (1966). We are also proud to premiere the new restoration of The Murder of Fred Hampton (dir. Howard Alk, 1971), a hard-hitting documentary about the assassination by the police of the leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party. Finally, we are screening two Sundance favorites, River of Grass (dir. Kelly Reichardt, 1994) and The Watermelon Woman (1996), the latter Cheryl Dunye's meditation on the image of African Americans in classic Hollywood.
Finally, the Festival will include three television programs, beginning with “Seven Times Monday” (1960), a Play of the Week, starring Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Our second program includes three shows focusing on popular music from 1965, starring the George Shearing Quintet, Mel Tormé, Nancy Wilson and Lou Rawls, among others. The third program features episodes from the innovative shows, Visions (1976) and The CBS Children's Hour (1969), both produced by television pioneer Barbara Schultz.
We are looking more than ever to our audiences to help support the vitally important work of the Archive. Donations from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies are extremely important for us, and I personally want to thank the many funders listed in the credits that accompany our program notes. We are most thankful for the generosity of these organizations and individuals and hope you will join them in supporting us.
Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak
Director, UCLA Film & Television Archive