Reel Estate: The American Home on Film
February 9–April 18
“There’s no place like home.” – Dorothy, THE WIZARD OF OZ
The idea of what makes a house a home, and explorations of how and where Americans live, have powerfully informed many significant films over the years, in ways both subtly thought-provoking and farcically over-the-top. In conjunction with the National Building Museum's current exhibition, "House & Home," AFI Silver presents this wide-ranging series of films focusing on the American home. Selections range from nostalgic classics like GONE WITH THE WIND and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS to post-WWII suburban melodramas like NO DOWN PAYMENT and STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET to subversive comedies like Hal Ashby’s THE LANDLORD, Albert Brooks’ REAL LIFE and Tamara Jenkins’ SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS.
Co-presented by AFI Silver and the National Building Museum. Special thanks to the National Building Museum for its collaboration, including Curator Deborah Sorensen, Director of Public Programs Paul Killmer and Vice President for Education Scott Kratz. For more information on the National Building Museum's "House & Home" exhibition, visit nbm.org.
Select shows feature introductions by Museum staff and distinguished guests. Details in listings below.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all screenings in the Reel Estate series.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
* Introduction by Sarah Leavitt (Curator of "House and Home," National Building Museum; author of "From Catharine Beecher to Martha Stewart: A Cultural History of Domestic Advice") on the Victorian parlor in the American home (Feb 9 show only).
#10 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Musicals
Vincente Minnelli's classic musical is a nostalgic portrait of turn-of- the-twentieth century American life, centered around a prosperous family living in a stately Victorian mansion (Cedric Gibbons, Jack Martin Smith and Lemuel Ayers collaborated on the art direction). The story turns on the powerful childhood fear of change—of losing one’s home, friends and family. Daughters Lucille Bremer and Judy Garland scheme to land boyfriends, while youngest Margaret O’Brien schemes to raise hell on Halloween. When their father receives a job offer that would mean leaving St. Louis for New York, the children act out—in ways large and small, funny and frightful.
DIR Vincente Minnelli; SCR Irving Brecher, Fred F. Finklehoffe, from the novel by Sally Benson; PROD Arthur Freed. US, 1944, color, 113 min. NOT RATED
MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE
* Introduction by Chrysanthe B. Broikos (Curator of "Do-It-Yourself: Home Improvement in 20th Century America," National Building Museum) on DIY aspirations post-WWII, and the reality of knowing when to hire a professional (Feb 16 show only).
Sat, Feb 9, 3:00*; Tue, Feb 12, 7:15
With his cramped New York apartment crimping his style, advertising exec Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) decides to move his wife (Myrna Loy), two daughters and housekeeper (Louise Beavers) to a more spacious home in Connecticut. Foolishly overpaying for a crumbling old farmhouse, Blandings soon discovers that his “dream” home cannot be repaired but must be rebuilt, setting into motion a series of increasingly expensive—and hilarious—events as he must hire contractors to fix problem after problem.
DIR H. C. Potter; SCR/PROD Norman Panama, Melvin Frank, from the novel by Eric Hodgins. US, 1948, b&w, 94 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Feb 16, 3:00*; Tue, Feb 19, 5:15
Almost as flamboyant as Auntie Mame herself, the apartment at 3 Beekman Place in New York provides many of the film’s best opportunities for humor as its interiors constantly evolve to mirror the many moods, and fashions, of Rosalind Russell’s flamboyant Mame Dennis. Embracing far-ranging motifs— from East to West, traditional to ultra-modern—the sets are an extreme reflection of design trends from the 1930s to '50s. Russell is indefatigably funny as the madcap Mame, as are Coral Browne as her boozy best pal and Peggy Cass, Russell’s Tony-winning costar from the stage play, as her personal secretary.
DIR/PROD Morton DaCosta; SCR Betty Comden, Adolph Green, from the novel by Patrick Dennis. US, 1958, color, 143 min. NOT RATED
GONE WITH THE WIND
#2 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions
#6 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies
David O. Selznick's superproduction about the Old South,
the Civil War and the indomitable Scarlett O'Hara was the culmination of a bidding war for the rights to Margaret Mitchell's bestseller, a wildly successful publicity campaign to cast Scarlett, endless script revisions, four different directors and obsessive tinkering by the tireless Selznick. The result was the most successful film in Hollywood history (adjusted for inflation, it still comes out on top). Among the film’s 13 Oscar nominations and 8 wins, Lyle Wheeler won Best Art Direction for designing Tara, the O’Hara family’s iconic Southern mansion, and the war-torn Atlanta streetscape, all created on the RKO backlot.
DIR Victor Fleming; SCR Sidney Howard, from the novel by Margaret Mitchell; PROD David O. Selznick. US, 1939, color, 238 min plus 15 min intermission. NOT RATED
THE MORE THE MERRIER
* Introduction by G. Martin Moeller, Jr. (Senior Curator, National Building Museum; author of "AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, DC") on the growth of DC during WWII.
Sat, Mar 2, 3:30; Sun, Mar 3, 3:00
When the bureaucratic buildup of WWII creates a housing shortage in Washington, DC, working girl Jean Arthur advertises for a female roommate. Unable to check into his hotel when he arrives in town, millionaire Charles Coburn charms (and flimflams) his way into Arthur's spacious apartment, where he's flummoxed by her regimented routines and rules and unimpressed by her wet blanket fiancé,
Richard Gaines. So Coburn sublets half of his space to Joel McCrea, with matchmaking in mind. Director George Stevens works comic magic with the cramped quarters and stellar performances. Six Oscar nominations, including Arthur for Best Actress and a win for Best Supporting Actor Coburn.
DIR/PROD George Stevens; SCR Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster, Frank Ross, Robert Russell. US, 1943, b&w, 104 min. NOT RATED
NO DOWN PAYMENT
In stark contrast to the smiling families of 1950s TV, director Martin Ritt (blacklisted at the time from television work) turns
a critical eye on suburban America. New to the southern California suburb of Sunrise Hills, Jeffrey Hunter and wife Patricia Owens attend a neighborhood barbeque. There they meet alcoholic, amoral Tony Randall and his long-suffering wife Sheree North, and crude Cameron Mitchell and his embittered wife Joanne Woodward. Hunter had considered himself lucky to buy a house in the neighborhood, but has second thoughts given the anger, resentment, racism, snobbishness, substance abuse and violence he and his wife discover there.
DIR Martin Ritt; SCR Philip Yordan, Ben Maddow, from the novel by John McPartland; PROD Jerry Wald. US, 1957, b&w, 105 min. NOT RATED
A SUMMER PLACE
* Introduction by Deborah Sorensen (Assistant Curator, National Building Museum) on the use of Frank Lloyd Wright's Walker Residence (Carmel, California).
This sensitive and passionate film opens in a crumbling Victorian house, disgraced by its conversion to a tourist hotel and the unhappy marriage of its owners. Teens Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue fall madly in love, unaware that her father and his mother were lovers themselves, 20 years before—and are now once again, though each is married to someone else. By the film’s conclusion, pairs have been re-matched, East coast traded for West, and the promise of a better day is capped by the announcement that “Frank Lloyd Wright designed our house.” Exteriors of Wright’s Walker Residence in Carmel were used extensively, while its angular, stone-filled interiors were recreated on a sound stage. The unusual beachfront house signals not only the new couple’s progressive attitude toward architecture but also their determination to buck tradition when it comes to love.
DIR/SCR/PROD Delmer Daves, from the novel by Sloan Wilson. US, 1959, color, 130 min. NOT RATED
STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET
This bittersweet melodrama, beautifully lensed in CinemaScope by Charles Lang, enjoys a devoted following for its emotional sophistication and nuance. Unhappy with his wife's desire
that he pursue more lucrative contracts, architect Kirk Douglas pours his soul into the unconventional home he is creating for novelist Ernie Kovacs in Bel Air. In contrast to his own open-plan suburban rambler, the new multi-level residence incorporates Japanese-style screens, romantic jewel-tones and warm wood surfaces—a bold design, with further inspiration provided by the affair Douglas begins with new neighbor Kim Novak. The actual residence was designed by Carl Anderson with Ross Bellah, studio artists whose rattan furnishings were honored by MoMA 20 years earlier in a competition judged by architect Marcel Breuer, among others.
DIR/PROD Richard Quine; SCR Evan Hunter, from his novel. US, 1960, color, 117 min. NOT RATED
* Introduction by Deborah Sorensen (Assistant Curator, National Building Museum) on the filming in 1960s Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York (Apr 6 show only).
Sat, Mar 30, 3:15; Tue, Apr 2, 7:00
What begins as an oddball farce—a privileged young man buys a tenement building, intending to convert it into a psychedelic bachelor pad—evolves into something much more complex as the naïve Beau Bridges spends time getting to know the African-American tenants he had planned to evict. Oscar-winning editor Hal Ashby’s directorial debut boasts bold visuals, with Bridges’ overlit, whiter-than-white family estate contrasting with the shadowy, well-worn apartment building in the pre-gentrified neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn (the cinematography is by Gordon Willis, soon to become a legend for THE GODFATHER). The detailed production design is by Robert Boyle, master of stagebound illusion for Alfred Hitchcock, here transitioning to more location-based work.
DIR Hal Ashby; SCR Bill Gunn, from the novel by Kristin Hunter; PROD Norman Jewison. US, 1970, color, 112 min. RATED PG
* Introduction by Laura B. Schiavo, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Museum Studies, George Washington University) on Albert Brooks' satire of proto-reality television (Apr 7 show only).
Sat, Apr 6, 3:30*; Thu, Apr 11, 9:00
“The most hilarious comedy, the most gripping drama, the most suspenseful disasters—they don’t happen on the movie screen, they happen in my backyard and yours!” Albert Brooks’ directorial debut takes the groundbreaking 1973 PBS documentary series AN AMERICAN FAMILY as inspiration, but the film rapidly becomes much darker, as Brooks (playing a narcissistic version of himself) begins a round-the-clock documentation of a family whose patriarch Charles Grodin struggles between playing to the cameras and keeping his family together. This whip-smart black comedy presciently tackles what would come to be known as “reality television.”
DIR/SCR Albert Brooks; SCR Monica Mcgowan Johnson, Harry Shearer; PROD Penelope Spheeris. US, 1979, color, 99 min. RATED PG Digital presentation
SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS
Sun, Apr 7, 7:20*; Tue, Apr 9, 9:15
Director Tamara Jenkins’ semi-autobiographical film follows the Abromowitz clan in 1976, as father Murray (Alan Arkin) hustles his kids from one low-rent apartment to another so that they
can attend Beverly Hills schools. A sharply observed coming- of-age comedy that examines the awkwardness of being financially out of place. Excellent period detail abounds—late 1970s-era funky threads, gas guzzlers, shag carpet and delightfully oddball southern California “dingbat architecture”— downmarket garden apartments and garage-centric houses. With Natasha Lyonne, David Krumholtz, Marisa Tomei, Jessica Walter, Carl Reiner and Rita Moreno.
DIR/SCR Tamara Jenkins; PROD Michael Nozik, Stan Wlodkowski. US, 1998, color, 91 min. RATED R
OVER THE EDGE
Fri, Apr 12, 7:30; Tue, Apr 16, 9:15
“[OVER THE EDGE] pretty much defined my whole personality. It was really cool. Total anarchy.” –Kurt Cobain
“They were old enough to know better, but too young to care. And now this town is...Over the Edge.” In the planned community of New Granada, Colorado, (“Tomorrow’s City... Today”), the bored and aimless youth have taken to drink, drugs and violent pranks in alarming numbers. In the wake of a senseless tragedy—the gunning down of a teenager (Matt Dillon, in his screen debut) by cop Harry Northup, the town leaders shut down the teen rec center while the president of the homeowners association warns that “a community with a teen crime problem isn't a community with a high resale value.” Thus provoked, the kids take to the streets to wage all-out war on the city’s grownups. Barely released in 1979, enthusiastic word-of- mouth got the film shown in repertory houses and eventually on cable, where it earned a passionate cult following.
DIR Jonathan Kaplan; SCR Charlie Haas, Tim Hunter; PROD George Litto. US, 1979/1981, color, 95 min. RATED PG Digital presentation
Sat, Apr 13, 5:30; Mon, Apr 15, 9:30
"They're heeere." Directed by THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE's Tobe Hooper, but overwhelmingly bearing the stylistic fingerprints of writer/producer Steven Spielberg, POLTERGEIST represents an unholy marriage of family film and intense horror cinema. The haunted house genre moves to the suburbs, as a family discovers that the mysterious occurrences in their new tract home—at first amusing bits of mischievous telekinesis, later more terrifying acts of deadly violence—may have something to do with the Native American burial ground underneath their southern California subdivision.
DIR Tobe Hooper; SCR/PROD Steven Spielberg; SCR Michael Grais, Mark Victor; PROD Frank Marshall. US, 1982, color, 114 min. RATED PG
Sat, Apr 13, 10:30; Thu, Apr 18, 9:30