VINCENTE MINNELLI: A MAN OF MANY MOODS (AND SOME OF THEM WERE NOT AS UPBEAT AS THE MOOD OF 'MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS')
BAMcinématek presents The Complete VincenteMinnelli, the first full New York retrospective of the Hollywood master in more than 20 years, September 23—November 2 (32 days, 35 films)
SCHEDULE AND DESCRIPTION OF FILMS TO BE SHOWN IN THE SERIES
An American in Paris (1951) 113 min.
With Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant.
An Ex-GI turned bohemian (Kelly) soaks up the local culture while trying to make his name as a painter on the Left Bank in Minnelli’s splashy Best Picture Oscar winner, featuring the songs of George Gershwin—including “I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.” The ecstatic, tour-de-force climax is a 16-minute ballet set to the titular Gershwin tone poem with art direction inspired by Renoir, Dufy, and the Impressionists. The film also features the debut of Minnelli discovery Leslie Caron, playing Kelly’s Parisian love interest.
Sat, Oct 8 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
The Bad and the Beautiful (1953) 118 min.
With Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon. Try and spot the real-life referents (from Selznick to von Stroheim) in Minnelli’s cynical skewering of Tinseltown, as unscrupulous producer Jonathan
Shields (Kirk Douglas) claws his way up from B-movie maven to Hollywood A-lister. Minnelli’s five-Oscar winner (including Best Supporting actress Gloria Grahame) is highlighted by Shields’ production The Doom of the Cat Men (obvious Val Lewton send-up) and Lana Turner’s meltdown in a moving vehicle, “one of the great melodramatic arias ever staged for a film” (Tom Shales).
Sat, Sep 24 at 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30pm
The Band Wagon (1953) 112 min.
With Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant.
Widely considered one of the finest musicals ever made, Minnelli’s MGM showstopper stars a post-Ginger Fred Astaire as a version of himself--an aging movie star looking to make a Broadway comeback in what turns out to be a ridiculously avant-garde musical production of Faust. The exuberant production numbers--which feature Astaire, alternately, as a disarmingly violent toddler in “Triplets,” a moonlit charmer in the intoxicatingly romantic “Dancing in the Dark,” and a Mike Hammer- type gumshoe in Mickey Spillane spoof “The Girl Hunt Ballet,” among others--come fast and furious in this utterly joyous musical masterpiece.
Fri, Sep 30 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Bells Are Ringing (1960) 126 min.
With Judy Holliday, Dean Martin, Fred Clark.
Minnelli’s penultimate musical is a delight, thanks in large part to Judy Holliday’s bravura performance (her last, as it would turn out) as a meddling telephone operator for “Susanswerphone” who gets too involved in the lives of her New York City clients—including an unemployed method actor, a tunesmith dentist, and, in particular, an in-need-of-inspiration playwright (Martin). Bells Are Ringing also marked the last MGM musical produced by frequent Minnelli collaborator, the famed Arthur Freed.
Fri, Oct 29 at 6:50, 9:30pm
Brigadoon (1954) 108 min.
With Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, Cyd Charisse.
An American tourist (Kelly) stumbles upon the mythical Scottish village of Brigadoon—which appears for only one day every century—where he falls in love with a local lass (Charisse) in “the classic Minnelli musical” (Time Out London). Minnelli rapturously evokes the seductive dream world that Kelly’s disaffected New Yorker finds himself increasingly drawn to, the showdown between fantasy and reality forming the thematic core of many of the director’s most personal works. With a haunting Frederick Loewe score. “Overlooked among 1950s musicals…has its own quiet charm, and lovely score.”—Leonard Maltin
Wed, Nov 2 at 6:50, 9:15pm
Cabin in the Sky (1943) 98 min.
With Ethel Waters, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Lena Horne, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, John Bubbles, Rex Ingram...A who’s-who of black entertainers light up Minnelli’s first film as Waters and “Lucifer Jr.” Ingram battle for control of recently-deceased Anderson’s soul in this musical version of the Faust legend. Minnelli’s direction is notable for both the stunning, dream-like sets he created as well as for the then-remarkable compassion with which he treats the all-black cast. “One of the best musicals ever made in this country. It becomes even better with the years because it's so exciting to see legendary artists, such as Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, and Bubbles, as they were
in the 40s.”—Pauline Kael
Fri, Sep 23 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
The Clock (1945) 90 min.
With Judy Garland, Robert Walker.
While on leave, GI Robert Walker has just 48 hours in Gotham to fall in love with Judy Garland (never shot more beautifully or lovingly than by Minnelli), accompany her as they take over an indisposed milkman’s graveyard shift, and find her again when he’s separated in a subway snafu, all before racing furiously up and down Manhattan to get a marriage license. Minnelli crafts one of the most achingly romantic scenes of all time as the couple swoons to an urban sound collage in Central Park that builds to an ecstatic first kiss.
Thu, Sep 29 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
The Cobweb (1955) 134 min.
With Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, Gloria Grahame.
One of the best films of Minnelli's middle period, this rich drama is set in the microcosm of an upscale mental clinic where the patients seem only a tad less loopy than the personnel. Widmark gives one of his most indelible performances as the analyst whose own life is breaking up. The director's subtle use of décor serves the story brilliantly, and the great cast also includes Gloria Grahame, Lillian Gish, Charles Boyer, and Susan Strasberg.
Wed, Oct 26 at 7:30pm
Cinemachat with Elliott Stein and photo archivist Howard Mandelbaum
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963) 118 min.
With Glenn Ford, Ron Howard, Shirley Jones.
Following the commercial failure of The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, its director, star, and screenwriter (John Gay) reunited for something completely different: this Manhattan-set comedic melodrama in which a widower’s precocious son (Howard) sets out to find his father (Ford) a new wife. Per usual, Minnelli locates genuine pathos in the seemingly light material as well as occasion for his trademark displays of outsized emotion—most notably in eight-year-old Ron Howard’s hysterics over his dead goldfish.
Thu, Oct 28 at 2, 6:50pm
Designing Woman (1957) 118 min.
With Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Gray.
Opposites attract and then subsequently duke it out, when an average Joe sportswriter (Peck)
impulsively marries a sophisticated fashion designer (Bacall) in this battle-of-the-sexes farce (an update of the 1942 Tracy-Hepburn vehicle, Woman of the Year). A comedy about taste, Minnelli’s inventive camerawork and chic sensibility is on ample display here, including one particularly flamboyant Minnelli-ism: the blue LA skies going magenta through the eyes of a hungover Peck.
Wed, Oct 5 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Father of the Bride (1950) 92 min.
With Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor.
Papa’s (Tracy) got separation anxiety as he braces himself for his daughter’s (Taylor) impending nuptials—and the complications and costs for the lavish affair are only mounting. On the surface, a charming family comedy, but Minnelli infuses the lighthearted goings-on with a surprisingly bleak subtext, as the father grapples with universal fears of public humiliation and growing old—culminating
in an expressionistic nightmare sequence that lays bare the underlying horror of the proceedings. One of Minnelli’s greatest popular successes, with Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Tracy) and Best Picture.
Screening with Father's Little Dividend (1951) 82 min.
With Spencer Tracy, Joan Bennett, Elizabeth Taylor.
The cast and crew of the hit Father of the Bride reunited for this sequel (turned out very quickly during a break in the filming of An American in Paris to capitalize on the original’s success), in which the neurotic father played by Tracy must now come to grips with the revelation that he is going to be a grandfather. Like Bride (though sweeter and with less underlying vitriol) this domestic comedy offers an unexpectedly perceptive take on family life and proved another popular success for Minnelli.
Tue, Oct 11 at 7pm—DOUBLE FEATURE
The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962) 153 min.
With Glenn Ford, Ingrid Thulin, Charles Boyer.
MGM’s ravishing CinemaScope updated remake of the classic Rudolph Valentino silent boasts a
multinational cast in this epic about a family whose members fight on opposite sides during World War II. From a technical standpoint, this tale of the disintegration of a proud dynasty and doomed love in bad times, is one of the most accomplished productions Minnelli ever directed.
Tue, Nov 1 at 6:30, 9:30pm
Gigi (1958) 115 min.
With Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan.
In this musical adaptation of Colette’s novella, a roué (Chevalier) belts out “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” while quintessential Minnelli misfit Leslie Caron captivates in the title role, a French schoolgirl groomed by her courtesan aunt to enter the family business—until romance comes along in the form of a suitor (Jourdan). This utterly enchanting Lerner and Loewe production earned a whopping nine Oscars (including Best Picture and Director) and was art-directed to the hilt by Minnelli and costume and production designer Cecil Beaton, who brilliantly evoke fin-de-siècle Paris.
Sat, Oct 30 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Goodbye Charlie (1964) 116 min.
With Tony Curtis, Debbie Reynolds, Pat Boone.
A philandering Hollywood screenwriter bites the dust and is reincarnated as blonde cutie (Reynolds, in a role originated onstage by Lauren Bacall and originally slated for Marilyn Monroe) in Minnelli’s adaptation of George Axelrod’s (The Seven Year Itch) sex farce. As in Minnelli’s earlier The Bad and the Beautiful, the Malibu setting allows for ample Tinseltown skewering, while the gender-bending
antics are occasion for one of Minnelli’s most peculiar riffs on the theme of identity that recurs throughout his work.
Mon, Oct 17 at 6:50, 9:15pm
Home from the Hill (1960)
With Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker, George Peppard, George Hamilton.
Oedipal hysterics in small town Texas. Minnelli continued his explorations of young misfits with this powerful male melodrama about sensitive teenager George Hamilton who is torn between overprotective mother Eleanor Parker and domineering, ultra-macho father Robert Mitchum. The closest thing to a Minnelli Western, the director imbues the Texas backwoods locales with an ethereal, almost mystical, quality. “Explosive viewing.”—Rod McShane, Time Out London
I Dood It (1943) 102 min. 16mm
With Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell.
On the heels of Minnelli’s successful debut Cabin in the Sky, his second Hollywood assignment was this zany Red Skelton vehicle (an update of Buster Keaton’s Spite Marriage) in which the comedian stars as a pants presser enamored with a Broadway star (Powell). The film’s highlights include interludes by Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra and a show-stopping musical showdown between divas Lena Horne and Hazel Scott. Watch for a cameo by Minnelli’s French poodle, Baba, as Butterfly McQueen’s canine companion.
Fri, Oct 14 at 6:50pm
Kismet (1955) 103 min.
With Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray.
This fourth screen adaptation of the hit Broadway Arabian fantasy—with melodies (including standards “Stranger in Paradise” and “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads”) based on Borodin—is the most opulent. Full of romantic intrigue and set against an exotic backdrop, the story follows poet Hadji (Keel) as he goes from beggar to millionaire in the course of a day. Minnelli’s Baghdad is a triumph of set and costume design, with a smoldering performance by Dolores Gray.
Fri, Oct 14 at 2, 4:30, 9:15pm
The Long, Long Trailer (1953) 103 min.
With Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz.
Minnelli teamed up with television’s ultimate power couple, Lucy and Desi (amplifying their small-screen personas to near caricature), for this farce about a husband and wife who travel the country in an enormous, unwieldy RV, instigating a string of comic pratfalls along the way. Broad slapstick on the surface, but look closer and it’s a wildly subversive deconstruction of 1950s domestic complacency and crass consumerism, “one of the most brilliant and thorough dissections of this peculiarly American idiom on film” (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader).
Thu, Oct 6 at 7:20, 9:30pm
Lust for Life (1956) 122 min.
With Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn.
Minnelli thrilled at the opportunity to direct this biopic of iconoclastic painter (and fellow outsider and dreamer) Vincent van Gogh (Douglas, whose manic on-screen energy was seldom harnessed more effectively). Reflecting the color palettes of the Dutch artist’s canvases, Minnelli’s film is “alive with the same kind of passion, sensuousness, and mastery of color” (Minnelli biographer Mark Griffin). With Quinn as van Gogh’s friend and rival, Paul Gauguin.
Sun, Oct 9 at 2, 4:30, 7, 9:30pm
Madame Bovary (1949) 114 min.
With Jennifer Jones, Van Heflin, Louis Jourdan, James Mason.
Consummate dreamer Minnelli likely saw more than a little of himself in Flaubert’s tale of discontented housewife Emma Bovary (Jones), who yearns for the romance and beauty she reads about in novels—precipitating a tragic string of adulterous affairs. MGM appeased censors wary of the novel’s racy content by adding the framing story in which James Mason as Flaubert defends his novel in court against charges of indecency. The much-admired ballroom sequence, in which “the swirling camera and mounting, vertiginous hysteria keep pace with Emma’s spiraling ambition” (Armond White, New York Press), “is among the greatest set pieces of Minnelli’s—or anyone else’s—career” (Leonard Maltin).
Fri, Oct 7 at 3, 6, 9pm
A Matter of Time (1976) 97 min.
With Ingrid Bergman, Liza Minnelli, Charles Boyer.
Minelli's rarely-shown final film, shot on location in Italy, was mutilated and re-cut by a ruthless AIP studio but retains magical moments. It's based on a novel about the last days of an eccentric countess, a muse of great artists who had once seduced a generation of financiers and crowned heads. Bergman at 60 was still a radiant screen personality, looks eight feet tall and every inch a star. Her glamour in this role surpasses anything she’s had before as a woman who only cared about being attractive to men, and now, has nothing left but memories of her conquests.
Tue, Oct 25 at 6:50, 9:15pm
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) 113 min.
With Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor.
Minnelli transformed Sally Benson’s slice-of-Americana New Yorker short stories into a beloved musical classic and career-defining vehicle for his soon-to-be-wife Judy Garland (whom he met on the set). Set in turn-of-the-century St. Louis, the film follows the middle-class Smith family through the changing seasons and times as they anticipate the coming of the 1904 World’s Fair. Minnelli’s
characteristically ravishing mise-en-scène poignantly evokes an era gone by, while Garland’s debuting of now standards like “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” retains its freshness. One of the most spellbinding set-pieces was the one dearest to Minnelli (which he fought to have saved from the cutting from floor)—the fantastical Halloween sequence as seen through the eyes of young Margaret O’Brien.
Sat, Oct 1 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) 129 min.
With Barbra Streisand, Yves Montand, Bob Newhart.
Minnelli’s last musical was this sumptuous Alan Jay Lerner adaptation. Streisand stars as eccentric Brooklyn girl Daisy Gamble, who undergoes hypnosis and reveals a colorful past life as Melinda, a free-spirited 19th-century British coquette—whom her psychiatrist (Montand) finds himself falling for. A high point of the director’s late career, the flashbacks are among Minnelli’s greatest visual triumphs. Watch for a young Jack Nicholson as Streisand’s stepbrother. Film critic Stuart Byron called it “an authentic masterpiece, a unique personal statement—perhaps Minnelli’s most personal statement.”
Mon, Oct 24 at 6:50, 9:30pm
The Pirate (1948) 102 min.
With Judy Garland, Gene Kelly.
Minnelli’s at his splashiest in this swashbuckling Caribbean-set musical with songs by Cole Porter. Determined to win the affections of a damsel played by Judy Garland, a traveling player (Kelly, spoofing Douglas Fairbanks) disguises himself as her romantic idol: mythical pirate “Mack the Black.” “Lively, colorful, and lyrical—Minnelli was married to Garland at the time, and it shows in some of the most romantic close-ups ever put on film.” —Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
Sun, Oct 16 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
The Reluctant Debutante (1958) 94 min.
With Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, Sandra Dee.
Harrison and Kendall are “a madcap delight” (Minnelli biographer Mark Griffin) as upper-crust Brits endeavoring to introduce their daughter Jane (Dee) to high society and Mr. Right. But Jane’s only got eyes for an American drummer (John Saxon). For “one of his purest and airiest comedies” (film critic and Minnelli biographer Emanuel Levy), Minnelli was his own art director, relishing the opportunity to design the posh British drawing rooms that contain the action. With a marvelous Angela Lansbury as Kendall’s caustic confidante.
Thu, Oct 28 at 4:30, 9:15pm
The Sandpiper (1965) 117 min.
With Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Eva Marie Saint.
Celebrity power couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lent their megawatt marquee value to this deliriously sudsy romantic soap opera, with a script co-authored by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. A free-spirited beatnik painter (Taylor) with an illegitimate child falls in love with a minister (Burton)—who is already married to a devoted wife (Saint). Set on the beach in California’s Big Sur with Minnelli capturing stunning seaside vistas. The film won an Oscar for its haunting theme song “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
Thu, Oct 13 at 7:20, 9:40pm
The Seventh Sin (1957) 94 min.
Directed by Ronald Neame.
With Eleanor Parker, Bill Travers, George Sanders.
An uncredited Minnelli inherited this assignment from original director Ronald Neame, who walked off the troubled production—a remake of the 1934 Greta Garbo vehicle The Painted Veil, adapted from Somerset Maugham’s novel about an adulterous doctor’s wife (Parker) set during the cholera epidemic in China. Though he was responsible for only a few scenes and some retakes, Minnelli’s visual panache shines through in key moments. Miklos Rosza’s memorable Madame Bovary waltz also makes a reappearance.
Thu, Oct 27 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Some Came Running (1958) 137 min.
With Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine.
Hard drinking writer Frank Sinatra (the last in the long line of loners and dreamers at the center of Minnelli’s remarkable 50s melodramas) returns home from the war to Parkman, Indiana with good-hearted floozy Shirley MacLaine in tow, where he butts up against 50s suburban conformism and small town hypocrisy. Capped by perhaps the most explosive set-piece the director ever constructed outside of his musicals—a climactic shootout at a carnival that’s an expressionistic riot of color and dizzying camera angles. Describing the sequence Minnelli remarked, “It should be like the inside of a jukebox.” “One of Minnelli’s great films, perhaps even his masterpiece.”—Joe McElhaney
Sun, Oct 2 at 3, 6, 9pm
The Story of Three Loves (1953) 122 min.
Directed by Vincente Minnelli, Gottfried Reinhardt.
With Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Leslie Caron, Farley Granger. In “Mademoiselle,” the fantastical, Minnelli-helmed middle segment of this omnibus film, a 12-year-old boy (Ricky Nelson) is transformed into a hunky young man (Granger)—and finds love with his Verlaine-reading French governess (Caron). This is high-gloss MGM at its most entertaining, with grande dame Ethel Barrymore as the sorceress who engineers the improbable switcheroo. The lovers in the other two segments directed by Gottfried Reinhardt are James Mason as a choreographer smitten with ill-fated dancer Moira Shearer, and Kirk Douglas and Pier Angeli as a pair of daredevil trapeze artists.
Tue, Oct 18 at 4:30, 7, 9:30pm
Tea and Sympathy (1956) 122 min.
With Deborah Kerr, John Kerr, Leif Erickson.
Adapted from Robert Anderson’s Broadway play, this melodrama—one of Minnelli’s most personal (and underrated)—tackled the then-taboo subject of homosexuality with remarkable empathy. More interested in theater and classical music than sports and the opposite sex, an effeminate teenager (John Kerr) struggles to survive in an all-male prep school—where he is ridiculed by his peers as “sister boy”—while forging a too-close connection with the empathetic housemaster’s wife (Deborah Kerr). One of the most anguished expressions of Minnelli’s eternal outsiderhood.
Wed, Oct 19 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) 107 min.
With Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson, Cyd Charisse.
A companion to The Bad and the Beautiful but even more perverse and all pitched at an ever greater level of hysteria, features troubled Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas looking for redemption by re-teaming with once-great director Edward G. Robinson in Rome. But then old flame Cyd Charisse re-enters the picture and it looks like he’s headed straight for another nervous breakdown. The orgy scene that Minnelli intended to rival the one in La Dolce Vita was mercilessly cut by the studio but remains one of Minnelli’s most lavish set pieces, culminating in a wild midnight car ride that feels like the anguished howl of a great artist.
Sun, Sep 25 at 2, 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Undercurrent (1946) 116 min. 16mm
With Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, Robert Mitchum.
This stylish MGM noir-melodrama (in the vein of similar menaced-bride thrillers Rebecca and Gaslight) cast Hepburn against type as a plain young bride who seeks refuge from her wealthy psychotic husband (Taylor) and into the arms of his sensitive half-brother (Mitchum). Karl Freund’s shadowy cinematography and Minnelli’s complex mise-en-scène transform this low-key suspense yarn into “a haunting and subtle study of malevolence and gullibility” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out London).
Tue, Oct 4 at 7pm
Yolanda and the Thief (1945) 108 min.
With Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan.
Minnelli unleashed. Inspired by Dalí, Minnelli crafted what he described as “the first surrealist ballet ever used in pictures” for this dreamlike musical fantasy—one of the director’s most outlandishly experimental exercises in pure style. A con artist (Astaire) sets out to fleece a South American heiress (Bremer)—but then love gets in the way. Highlighted by the exuberant “Coffee Time” dance number—which takes place on an optical illusion floor!
Mon, Oct 3 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm
Ziegfeld Follies (1945) 100 min.
With William Powell, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire.
MGM’s galaxy of stars light up this Technicolor hodgepodge of comedy and music as impresario Ziegfeld (Powell) conjures up a fantastical imaginary revue, in which Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly share the screen for the only time in their careers, Judy Garland spoofs Greer Garson, and Lucille Ball uses her whip to tame a bevy of chorine tigers. Minnelli outdoes himself with the dreamy, foggy London-set “Limehouse Blues” number, featuring Astaire and Lucille Bremer.
Mon, Oct 10 at 4:30, 6:50, 9:15pm