Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Seattle Screens

Seattle Screens: American Classics at SIFF Film Center

Into the Vaults: Celebrating the Library of Congress moves to the SIFF Film Center for the weekend showings of eight classic films on archival 35mm prints. The collection includes some of the greatest films of the thirties and forties – Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street (1945), Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey (1936), and Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941) – along with some rarely screened silent classics.

Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin in ‘The Man Who Laughs’

The rarest of the batch is The Flying Ace (1926), a low-budget, black-cast adventure made for the “race circuit,” segregated theaters that served exclusively black audiences. Curiously, for a film about an African American freelance pilot with his own airplane, there are no actual flying scenes (they’re all faked, and rather poorly at that). But beyond simple curiosity and historical interest, it’s worth it just for Steve “Peg” Reynolds, a one-legged performer who plays the sidekick and comic relief. He only appeared in a handful of films, most of them for The Flying Ace director/producer Richard E. Norman (a white Canadian) but he uses his crutch so brilliantly and creatively, he must have mastered his act on the vaudeville circuit, but regardless of his origins, he delivers an inventively acrobatic performance and makes it look effortless.

Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928) is marvelously grotesque a Gothic horror starring Conrad Veidt as a tortured hero whose face has been carved into a hideous grin by a sadistic king. Adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo, it’s a piece of gothic romance with macabre details in the manner reminiscent of Lon Chaney films of the time (Veidt’s eerie make-up recalls some of Chaney’s elaborate facades) but with a more accomplished direction than most of Chaney’s efforts. It’s the best Hollywood film of German emigre Paul Leni, and his German Expressionist-influenced gothic treatment laid the foundation for Universal’s run of horror classics in the 1930s.

So’s Your Old Man (1926) shows that W.C. Fields was just as gifted a silent performer as he was in the sound era. He’s in top form here, the first collaboration between Fields and director Gregory La Cava, not the curmudgeon or the spiteful sourpuss we’re used to but a put-upon schlub oblivious to what a schlub he is. And yes, he’s very funny, a master physical comic with a grace that his girth belies.

Donald Sosin accompanies all four silent films (King Vidor’s 1928 The Patsy, with Marion Davies, is the fourth) on piano. Complete schedule below, and more information at SIFF website here.

Friday July 27: High Adventure
6:30 The Flying Ace (Silent, 1926)
8:30 Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Saturday July 28: Chills and Thrills
6:00 The Man Who Laughs (Silent, 1928)
8:30 Scarlet Street (1945)

Sunday July 29: Screwball Comedy
2:15 So’s Your Old Man (Silent, 1926)
4:00 The Patsy (Silent, 1928)
6:00 My Man Godfrey (1936)
8:00 Sullivan’s Travels (1941)


Easy Money, the Swedish gangster thriller starring Joel Kinnaman (currently carving out an America career), opens at the Varsity. Kathleen Murphy reviews it for MSN Movies: “This Swedish gangster flick blasts out from under you like a high-octane muscle car, swerving through prison breakout to thug violence in a john to rich kids at play in an upscale club. Connections are yet to be made, but that red-line narrative momentum has already propelled us into a toxic world of crime and punishment, haves and have-nots.”

Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell My Queen, starring Léa Seydoux as lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) in the final days before the outbreak of the French Revolution, opens at Seven Gables.

Sacrifice, Chen Kaige’s take on the Chinese opera Orphan of Zhao, opens at the Uptown. Also at the Uptown: the animated A Cat in Paris and the concert film Shut Up and Play the Hits: The Final Days of LCD Soundsystem. More at SIFF Cinemas here.

Alps, from Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos, opens for a week at Grand Illusion (playing on a digital print).

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases and reviews.

Repertory / Revival

Three Dollar Bill Cinema’s free outdoor movie series returns to Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park on Friday, July 27 with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, the first of four weeks of free screenings for the whole family. The road movie series continues through the next three Fridays with his Elvisness in Viva Las Vegas (Aug 3), the original Technicolor dream The Wizard of Oz (Aug 10), and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Aug 17). This screenings are, as mentioned, free and will begin at sunset (approximately 8:30 p.m.). Complete schedule and details here.

Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman in ‘The Graduate’

King of Kings, the original 1927 version of the story of Christ, shows Cecil B. DeMille discovering his affinity for Biblical epics. It plays at The Paramount on Monday, July 30, as the final film in the summer “Silent Movie Mondays” series, with Jim Riggs accompanying on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

The Graduate gets a week-long revival showing at Northwest Film Forum on an archival 35mm print.

The Seattle Art Museum’s “Queen of Screwball: The Films of Jean Arthur” summer series continues with George Stevens’ marvelous 1943 comedy The More the Merrier on Thursday, August 2. All screenings are, of course, in 35mm.

“Rare Films from the Baseball Hall of Fame” is a one-night-only program curated by David Filipi, Director of film/video, Wexner Center for the Arts. It screens at NWFF on Thursday, August 2.

“Sports, Leisure & Videotape” is a one-night-only collection of video oddities culled from the VHS collection of Scarecrow Video. Saturday, July 28 at Grand Illusion, 21+ only.

For more alternative screenings, read Moira Macdonald’s At A Theater Near You roundup at The Seattle Times.

Schedules and Showtimes

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, orFandango, pick the interface of your choice.

You can check your favorite independent cinemas, neighborhood theaters and multiplexes here.

Independent theaters:
SIFF Cinema
Northwest Film Forum
Grand Illusion
Seattle Art Museum
Central Cinema
The Big Picture
Majestic Bay Theatres

Multiplexes and Chains
Sundance Cinema
Landmark Theatres (Egyptian, Guild 45, Harvard Exit, Varsity)
Regal Cinemas (Meridian 16, Thornton Place and others)
AMC Cinemas (Pacific Place, Oak Tree, Alderwood and others)
Kirland Park Place
Lincoln Square Cinemas
Village Roadshow Gold Class Cinemas