Jimmy Stewart Centennial
May 20 through July 3
Movie stars are adored, admired, desired and even worshipped by fans, but very few can be said to be "beloved." Jimmy Stewart is one of the few. Always billed as James Stewart, but almost always "Jimmy" to movie fans, James Maitland Stewart, born May 20, 1908, in Indiana, PA, brought an utterly unique personality and acting style to the screen. He was unique in that he registered as a "regular guy," "All-American," "friendly" and "trustworthy" on-screen, never cloying, insincere or too smart-which is to say, he didn't seem like he was acting at all. People still want to believe he was being himself up there. In the early part of his career, it was said that all the men wanted to be pals with him, and all the women wanted to mother him-a lack of sex appeal that was a cause of concern for the studios. But director Frank Capra saw the upside to the boyishness, the provincial authenticity, as well as-crucially-the fight in him. Watching his performance as Jefferson Smith in 1939's MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON is still a galvanizing experience, knowing how few actors are able to pull off playing idealists believably, how much real suffering necessarily goes into such a performance.
Stewart became a top star overnight, and nearly as quickly had to hang it up for army service in WWII. Frustrated with his initial assignment of stateside publicity tours, the avid pilot agitated to fly in the air corps, and eventually participated in over a dozen combat missions over Nazi Germany. Though Stewart was at first unsure how to make his return to Hollywood, Capra again guided him to greatness in 1946's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, putting his good nature on display with darker qualities of angst, anger, frustration and despair. Stewart used these traits to reinvent himself in the coming years, most notably in the action-heavy, psychologically intense westerns he made with Anthony Mann, and the conflicted heroes he played for Alfred Hitchcock. He aged gracefully, and just as gracefully knew when to step away from full-time acting, but his frequent television appearances on THE TONIGHT SHOW continued to draw viewers, as if happy for a visit from their favorite relative. Stewart was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1980. Most fitting for this most cherished of American actors, Stewart is the star of five films on AFI's list of the 100 Years...100 Movies-more than any other leading actor.
Where's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE? Because the Christmas classic just played to packed houses at AFI Silver this past December, we're keeping it out of this spring's Jimmy Stewart centennial series. [But look for it again at AFI Silver in December 2008.]
AFI member passes will be accepted at all screenings in the Jimmy Stewart Centennial Series.
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
Adroitly cast and directed by his mentor Frank Capra, this is the film that made Stewart a star, playing a good-hearted naif put up for a vacant Senate seat who wises up to the political machinery controlling him and fights for what's right. Nominated for 11 Oscars, but a hard-luck loser to GONE WITH THE WIND in most categories. Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold and Thomas Mitchell all shine in supporting roles.
DIR/PROD Frank Capra; SCR Sidney Buchman, based on the story by Lewis R. Foster. US, 1939, b&w, 129 min. NOT RATED
Tuesday, May 20, 7:00; Saturday, May 24, 1:00; Monday, May 26, 1:00
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER
"Close to perfection-one of the most beautifully acted and paced romantic comedies ever made in this country"-critic Pauline Kael. On a Hollywood backlot Ernst Lubitsch recreates Budapest-at least the parts of it that can be seen out the window of Frank Morgan's gift shop, where Stewart and Margaret Sullavan play two store clerks who have loathed each other from the day they met. But when Sullavan answers Stewart's personal ad from the newspaper's lonely hearts column, they begin an anonymous love affair by mail.
DIR/PROD Ernst Lubitsch; SCR Samson Raphaelson, based on the play by Miklós László. US, 1940, b&w, 99 min. NOT RATED
Wednesday, May 21, 7:00; Thursday, May 22, 7:00; Saturday, May 24, 3:35
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
Six Academy Award nominations, including Stewart's sole Oscar win for Supporting Actor. Katharine Hepburn plays Main Line socialite Tracy Lord, once married to debonair Cary Grant but now planning to marry staid John Howard. When Grant discovers that Spy Magazine is about to run an embarrassing story on Lord's father, he brokers a deal to kill the story in exchange for getting their reporter (Stewart) an exclusive on the society wedding. But then Stewart becomes smitten with Hepburn, too!
DIR George Cukor; SCR Donald Ogden Stewart, based on the play by Philip Barry; PROD Joseph L. Mankiewicz. US, 1940, b&w, 112 min. NOT RATED
Friday, May 23, 4:45; Sunday, May 25, 3:00; Monday, May 26, 3:35
DESTRY RIDES AGAIN
George Marshall's comedy-western gets much mileage out of Stewart's tenderfoot deputy attempting to tame the wild town of Bottleneck, while Marlene Dietrich's saloon singer "Frenchy" sets to taming him. Fans of BLAZING SADDLES will have a new appreciation for Madeline Kahn's Lili Von Shtupp after hearing Dietrich belt out See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have and You've Got That Look. Stewart and Dietrich, two stars of seemingly opposite polarities, created real heat on screen and off.
DIR George Marshall; SCR Max Brand, Felix Jackson, Gertrude Purcell and Henry Myers. US, 1939, b&w, 94 min. NOT RATED
Sunday, May 25, 1:00, Tuesday, May 27, 7:00
Stewart re-creates his Broadway triumph, Elwood P. Dowd, a well-to-do drunk and lovable eccentric whose best friend is an invisible six-foot rabbit named Harvey. When his sister Josephine Hull decides Elwood's eccentricities are harming her daughter Victoria Horne's chances of marrying into society, she conspires to have him committed-with unintended comedic consequences. Oscar nominations for Stewart and Hull, with Hull winning for Best Supporting Actress.
DIR Henry Koster; SCR Oscar Brodney and Mary Chase, based on her play; PROD John Beck. US, 1950, b&w, 104 min. NOT RATED
Friday, May 30, 5:00; Sunday, June 1, 1:00; Monday, June 2, 7:00
Stewart's first of seven films with director Anthony Mann was arguably the best of the bunch, and a smash hit that reestablished Stewart as a box office draw after his service in WWII and uncertain return to Hollywood. Stewart wins the titular rifle in a 4th of July shooting contest, but has it stolen by sore loser Stephen McNally. The flinty Stewart then embarks on a dogged quest to get back what's his. The top-notch supporting cast includes Dan Duryea, Shelley Winters, Millard Mitchell, and very early appearances by Rock Hudson and "Anthony" Curtis.
DIR Anthony Mann; SCR Borden Chase and Robert L. Richards, based on the story by Stuart N. Lake; PROD Aaron Rosenberg. US, 1950, b&w, 92 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, May 31, 1:00; Sunday, June 1, 5:25; Tuesday, June 3, 7:00
THE MAN FROM LARAMIE
Mysterious stranger Stewart unsettles the residents of Coronado, New Mexico, when he asks too many questions about a recent Apache attack that wiped out the local cavalry unit. But a run-in with vicious Alex Nicol, the hotheaded son of the local cattle baron, sets him on the path to getting some answers-and also to a deadly showdown. The last of the Mann-Stewart westerns, and the only one filmed in CinemaScope, the film combines epic western grandeur with some of the most down-and-dirty screen violence of its era.
DIR Anthony Mann; SCR Frank Burt and Philip Yordan, based on Philip Yordan's story; PROD William Goetz. US, 1955, color, 104 min. NOT RATED
Friday, June 6, 4:45; Sunday, June 8, 1:00; Monday, June 9, 7:00
THE NAKED SPUR
Stewart is a failed farmer turned embittered bounty hunter, tracking down crafty outlaw Robert Ryan in a bid for a big payday to get back on his feet. But he didn't count on acquiring an impromptu posse consisting of old prospector Millard Mitchell and dishonorably discharged cavalryman Ralph Meeker. Nor did he plan on falling for Ryan's tomboy sidekick, Janet Leigh. The entire cast gives top performances in one of the finest of the Mann-Stewart westerns, and perhaps the most psychologically intense.
DIR Anthony Mann; SCR Harold Jack Bloom and Sam Rolfe; PROD William H. Wright. US, 1953, color, 91 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, June 7, 1:00; Sunday, June 8, 5:15; Tuesday, June 10, 7:00
Perhaps Hitchcock's most suspenseful film, masterful in its visual storytelling, with Stewart giving one of the best performances of the 1950s. Having broken his leg on assignment, Stewart's globetrotting photojournalist is laid up in his Manhattan apartment and bored stiff. Despite admonitions from his glamorous girlfriend Grace Kelly, his favorite diversion is to spy on his neighbors, framed screen-like in their windows across the courtyard from his. But when one half of a constantly bickering couple mysteriously disappears, Stewart suspects he may be witness to a murder.
DIR/SCR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR John Michael Hayes, based on Cornell Woolrich's short story "It Had to be Murder." US, 1954, color, 112 min. RATED PG
Thursday, June 12, 7:00; Friday, June 13, 4:30, 7:00; Saturday, June 14, 12:45, 7:00; Sunday, June 15, 1:00
ANATOMY OF A MURDER
Country lawyer Stewart takes time out from fishing to take on what seems an impossible case: defending bad-tempered Army Lt. Ben Gazzara for murdering the bartender who allegedly raped Gazzara's loose-reputation wife, Lee Remick. And Gazzara's already confessed to the crime! Otto Preminger's tour-de-force courtroom drama also stars George C. Scott as a young hotshot prosecutor, Eve Arden as Stewart's wise-cracking secretary, real-life Army-McCarthy hearing lawyer Joseph N. Welch as the presiding judge, and the film's Grammy-winning composer, Duke Ellington, cameos as a nightclub pianist. Filmed entirely on location in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the film has a powerful sense of place and lived-in realism. Despite seven Oscar nominations, the film went home empty-handed that year, but Stewart was named Best Actor by both the NY Film Critics and the Venice Film Festival.
DIR/PROD Otto Preminger; SCR Wendell Mayes, based on the novel by John D. Voelker. US, 1960, b&w, 160 min. NOT RATED.
Tuesday, June 24, 6:30; Wednesday, June 25, 6:30; Thursday, June 26, 6:30; Friday, June 27, 3:20; Monday, June 30, 4:00; Tuesday, July 1, 4:00
50th Anniversary Restored Version!
Perennially on Top 10 lists as one of the greatest films ever made, VERTIGO is Alfred Hitchcock's supreme achievement, the fullest expression of his cinematic obsessions and the one that goes the furthest in pursuit of them. On a leave of absence after his spell of acrophobia led to the death of a beat cop, Stewart's San Francisco detective accepts an unusual assignment from old college classmate Tom Helmore: follow wife Kim Novak, not because she's cheating, but because she's possessed! The truth is much more mundane, duplicitous, and deadly, with Stewart spiraling first into devastation, then revenge-fueled obsession.
DIR Alfred Hitchcock; SCR Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor, based on the novel d'Entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. US, 1958, color, 126 min. RATED PG
Tuesday, June 24, 9:30; Wednesday, June 25, 9:30; Thursday, June 26, 7:00, 9:20 -- Added Show!; Friday, June 27, 8:20; Saturday, June 28, 3:00, 9:45 - Added Show!; Sunday, June 29, 7:30 - Added Show!; Tuesday, July 1, 7:00; Wednesday, July 2, 7:00 - Added Show!; Thursday, July 3, 7:00
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE
Restored Archival Print!
"This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." US Senator Stewart returns to the town of Shinbone, where he made his reputation as a lawman, for his friend John Wayne's funeral. Revisiting the early days in flashback, it turns out that the town's famous shootout between Stewart and marauding outlaw Lee Marvin went down a bit differently than history has it, thanks to the rough'n'tumble Wayne's noble self-sacrifice. John Ford's elegiac tribute to the making and "closing" of the West may be his most intelligent and moving film, with standout performances by Stewart, Wayne and Vera Miles as the woman who loves them both, plus a western "Who's Who" that includes Edmond O'Brien, John Carradine, Woody Strode, Denver Pyle, Strother Martin and Lee Van Cleef.
DIR John Ford; SCR James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, based on the story by Dorothy M. Johnson; PROD Willis Goldbeck. US, 1962, b&w, 123 min. NOT RATED
Saturday, June 28, 12:30; Sunday, June 29, 5:00; Monday, June 30, 7:00; Wednesday, July 2, 4:30; Thursday, July 3, 4:30