The Kentucky Theatre has announced the lineup for the 2016 Summer Classics series, which boasts seven series premieres, including the May 25 kickoff feature, John Ford’s classic western, The Searchers, and one of the late David Bowie’s most memorable roles. Also, the theater announced September’s Rosa Goddard International Film Festival, which begins right after the Summer Classics wrap up.
Here’s the lineup, with comments from Kentucky Theatre film booker Larry Thomas. (An asterisk * indicates a series premiere.)
May 25: The Searchers * (1956), directed by John Ford. Arguably one of the five best westerns ever made, The Searchers is a crowning achievement for both John Ford and John Wayne. The drama is intense, the scenery stunning, and several of the lines have become very quotable. Also with Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood, Harry Carey Jr. and Ward Bond.
June 1: Singin’ in the Rain (1952), directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. A legendary musical-comedy about the switch to sound movies in the 1920s, there are laughs, songs, and dances with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. And don’t forget the fantastic Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. What a role! What a performance! What? No Oscar? Like Casablanca, this is a film that can be watched over and over again.
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June 8: The Maltese Falcon (1941), directed by John Huston. Humphrey Bogart gained A-list stardom by playing hard-boiled detective Sam Spade in this adaptation of Dashiell Hammet’s novel. Come see a new digital restoration of a true movie classic, which also features Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook Jr., and a treasure trove of 1940s character players.
June 15: The King and I * (1956), directed by Walter Lang. One of the most fondly remembered Rodgers and Hammerstein films has, until recently, been one of the hardest to see. For years there were no 35mm prints, and that hasn’t changed. Then there were no digital restorations. Now there is, so you can enjoy all the engaging music and performances by Yul Brynner (in his most famous role; he kept playing it on stage until he died), Deborah Kerr, and Rita Moreno. Shall we dance?
June 22: Labyrinth * (1986), directed by Jim Henson. A major box office flop in its initial release, Labyrinth is fast becoming a cult favorite. Not to mention we’ll never see the likes of Jim Henson directing David Bowie again. A young Jennifer Connelly co-stars, and George Lucas was executive producer.
June 29: Spartacus (1960), directed by Stanley Kubrick. There are two really terrific reasons to show this again. We just had Trumbo, the biopic of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. His hiring and screen credit on this film helped bring about the end of that shameful event. And the cherry on this cake is that 2016 is the 100th birthday (December 9th) of producer-star Kirk Douglas, who is still with us. The dream cast also includes Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, and Tony Curtis.
July 6: The Best Years of Our Lives * (1947), directed by William Wyler. Winner of seven Academy Awards (eight if you count an honorary Oscar) for best picture, director, screenwriter, actor, supporting actor, and music score should be seen more often. What better way to honor our returning troops than with our first series screening of this most heartfelt drama of WWII vets readjusting to civilian life in peacetime. Starring are Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, Theresa Wright, and Hoagy Carmichael. Actual wounded soldier Harold Russell won both best supporting actor, and that honorary Oscar for bringing attention to the difficulties faced by his fellow veterans.
July 13: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), directed by Blake Edwards. Other than the awful miscasting of Mickey Rooney, this is a truly special film for many, based on the book by Truman Capote, and starring Audrey Hepburn in her signature role, George Peppard, and Kentucky’s own Patricia Neal. It features Oscar winning music by Henry Mancini, but garnered no such honor for The Cat.
July 20: The Birds (1963), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. After all these years, it still seems strange that Hitchcock didn’t cast Gregory Peck. However, Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy will keep you ducking for cover. And once you see it, you’ll forever keep watching the trees!
July 27: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), directed by Frank Capra. In the good old days, when even crooked politicians had some honor, Jimmy Stewart shines as the freshman senator coping with his ideals being tarnished. The great cast includes Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, and Harry Carey. Forget the current sewer crawl going on in our country, this is a political adventure that will leave you smiling.
Aug. 3: Hud (1963), directed by Martin Ritt. Paul Newman serves up one of his most memorable characters as a narcissistic heel who rides roughshod over everyone, including his family. With Brandon DeWilde, Oscar-winners Melvyn Douglas and Kentuckian Patricia Neal, and two smaller roles for B-movie faves of the day: John Ashley and Yvette Vickers.
Aug. 10: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade * (1989), directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s gonna be a long time between the last Indiana Jones saga and the next one, so it seems to be the time to bring you the third in the series. Sean Connery plays Indiana’s father and there is more than enough action, plus plenty of thrills, to share. If you choose to see this, you will have “chosen wisely.”
Aug. 17: Way Out West * (1937), directed by James Horne, plus Another Nice Mess: The Restored Laurel and Hardy * (1932), various directors. This is a really big deal! For the first time since the Summer Classics Series began, there are finally Laurel and Hardy films available for showing, and in brand-new digital restorations. Way Out West is one of their two best features, and the four short subjects, which are total in length to another feature, are Helpmates, Their First Mistake, County Hospital, and the Oscar-winning The Music Box. This is your chance to enjoy a very special program and support the classic comedy of two of the greats.
Aug. 24: The Princess Bride (1987), directed by Rob Reiner. Yeah, I know … it played last year. But it was also one of the biggest hits ever, so it’s worth another go for the fans of this charming tale of a grandpa (Peter Falk) reading the tale of The Princess Bride to his grandson (Fred Savage). The ensuing film will captivate you with characters created by Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Andre the Giant, Carol Kane and Billy Crystal.
Aug. 31: Sunset Boulevard (1950), directed by Billy Wilder. Here is the dark side of how movies changed from silent to sound in a grim film noir about a faded movie star and a desperate screenwriter who will do anything to make his career. The cast includes William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, and Jack Webb, and includes cameos by the likes of Cecil B. DeMille and Buster Keaton. Are you ready for your close-up?
Sept. 7: One more classic, title TBA. Keep watching for an announcement.
And, as in past years, sQecial media bookstore will follow with the three-film Rosa Goddard Film Festival:
Sept. 14: Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped (1956)
Sept. 21: Mathieu Kassovitz’ La Haine (1995)
Sept. 28: Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987)