By Regina Ta
This summer, grab a large bucket of popcorn, stroll through a gallery of old Hollywood memorabilia and check out these top three must-see films at Stanford Theater.
(Oh, did I mention the theater’s live organ performance? It’s a gem. Arrive early before each movie starts, or stick around after the credits to listen to it.)
#1: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
“Arsenic and Old Lace” masterfully blends horror with slapstick comedy, and features a healthy dose of crazy relatives, family secrets and just “a pinch of cyanide.” On a visit to his ancestral home, protagonist Mortimer Brewster discovers a corpse (or several) — courtesy of his lovable aunts who’ve done away with one too many bachelors. Hollywood’s leading man, Cary Grant, doesn’t disappoint as Mortimer — although he later revealed that he felt mortified by his performance in the film, I thoroughly enjoyed his exaggerated reactions as he uncovers one stunning revelation after another in the film.
This movie also touches on serious subjects pertinent to contemporary life — for instance, mental health — and offers commentary on American family life. The film manages to dig deep into core social questions while still participating in some good ol’ fun. For me, that’s what establishes “Arsenic and Old Lace” as a timeless classic.
Follow the adventures of the nuttiest family in Brooklyn — or the world, for that matter — and catch their shenanigans on the big screen.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” will play Tuesday, July 3 to Thursday, July 5 at 7:30 p.m.
#2: Christmas in July (1940)
Preston Sturges, an acclaimed playwright and director, knows how to pack plenty of laughs and life lessons in a span of just 67 minutes. In “Christmas in July,” office-worker Jimmy MacDonald finally hits the jackpot when he wins $25,000 from a contest … or so he thinks. An ordinary prank by Jimmy’s coworkers leads to some not-so-ordinary consequences that extend beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.
As melodramatic and fictional as the characters may be, their hopes and dreams resonate with viewers of all backgrounds. By establishing such a connection with the audience, Sturges’ heartwarming comedy accomplishes the extraordinary.
“Christmas in July” will play from Tuesday, June 26 to Thursday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m.
#3: Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1943)
“Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” also directed by Preston Sturges, enjoyed immediate popularity upon release in the 40s. Betty Hutton stars as Trudy Kockenlocker, a small-town girl impregnated by an unknown soldier. When Trudy’s longtime admirer offers his help, he works to overcome the doubts of her suspicious, overprotective father to great comic effect.
As film critic Dave Kehr puts it, “Caustic and chaotic in the arch Sturges manner, [this film] is probably his funniest and most smilingly malicious film.” “Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” tackles sensitive topics all while maintaining a charming lightheartedness — nothing short of a miracle. But as for Trudy’s miracle? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
“Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” will play Friday, June 29 to Sunday, July 1 at 5:40 p.m. and 9:25 p.m.
Contact Regina Ta at rta.19 ‘at’ Presentationhs.org.