Movie News & Reviews

Age doesn't dull great films

Not happy with the current slate of Hollywood films? Looking for big stars? Academy Award-winning productions?

The Fresno Art Museum has set its 2008 lineup for its Golden Age film series. Each movie can boast of at least one legendary A-lister -- Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, just to name a few -- and at least one Oscar statuette.

The films play at 2 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month in the Bonner Auditorium at the museum, 2233 N. First St. near Clinton Avenue.

The cost is $4; $2 for seniors and students. The first film is on Wednesday.

Museum officials also encourage visitors to take time to view the art galleries before or after the movie. Here's the schedule.

February: "An American in Paris" (1951). Oscar winner for Best Picture, it beat out classic heavy-hitting dramas "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "A Place in the Sun." Why? Perhaps it's the irresistible music of George and Ira Gershwin, the dynamism of star Gene Kelly, the most romantic city in the world, the lush colors, and a young Leslie Caron as Kelly's love interest.

March: "Easter Parade" (1948). Judy Garland and Fred Astaire pair up for this musical that carries a touch of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion." Astaire is a Broadway star bickering with his on-the-rise dancing partner. She wants a solo career. He wants to prove he can make anyone a star ... enter Garland. The film won its lone Oscar for musical picture score.

April: "It Happened One Night" (1934). A romantic comedy that went five for five at the Academy Awards. We're talking major awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Gable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra). Oh, and a Best Writing win. It's about a spoiled socialite on the run and the out-of-work newspaper reporter who falls in her path. Adventures ensue.

May: "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Perhaps the classic Hollywood film about Hollywood. Gloria Swanson made a memorable Norma Desmond, a movie star has-been bent on a comeback. William Holden, a struggling writer, accidentally enters her deranged world and stays for the writing gig. Bad decision. The film, shot in film noir style, scored 11 Oscar nominations and won three for writing, musical score and art direction. It was directed and co-written by the inimitable Billy Wilder.

June: "Boys Town" (1938). Spencer Tracy won his second consecutive Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the real Father Edward J. Flanagan, founder of the Boys Town orphanage in Nebraska. (The film also earned a writing Oscar.) The movie is a fictionalized account of Flanagan trying to keep his young charges on the right path. Mickey Rooney plays a troubled, tough teenager.

July: "The Third Man" (1949). A film noir classic known for its plot and distinctive zither film score by Anton Karas. It's also noted for its black-and-white cinematography, which won an Oscar for Robert Krasker. The post-World War II plot is this: Harry Lime (Orson Welles) invites his friend Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) to visit him in Vienna. When Martins arrives, he's told Lime is dead ... or is he?

August: "The Awful Truth" (1937). Romantic comedy takes center stage again. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star in this romp about a couple about to divorce. But aren't they really still in love with each other? Why do they keep sabotaging each other's chances with someone else? This film -- with an Oscar-winning directorial turn from Leo McCarey -- earned five other Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and a Best Actress nod for Dunne.

September: "Harvey" (1950). This is the one about the invisible 6-foot, 3 1/2-inch rabbit, specifically a "pooka" named Harvey. James Stewart plays Elwood P. Dowd, an eccentric who wants everyone to meet his friend, Harvey. Though it's a comedy, the film does raise questions about mental illness. Should Elwood continue as he is, or should he take a "serum" that straightens him out? Stewart copped a Best Actor nomination, but Josephine Hull, playing Elwood's concerned sister, won a statuette for Best Supporting Actress.

October: "Suspicion" (1941). Directed by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, this romantic psychological thriller stars Grant and Joan Fontaine. An heiress falls for a charming man, marries him and then starts to find out about his background ... could he be a murderer? The film was nominated for Best Picture; Fontaine won for Best Actress.

November: "Gentleman's Agreement" (1947). A Best Picture winner that tackles the subject of anti-Semitism. Gregory Peck, who earned a Best Actor nomination, plays journalist Philip Schuyler Green. He decides to adopt a Jewish identity to write an article about anti-Semitism. What follows is a disturbing, eye-opening experience. The film earned six other nominations, including a Best Director win for Elia Kazan and Best Supporting Actress award for Celeste Holm.

December: "Holiday Inn" (1942). Astaire, Bing Crosby, and musical numbers. What else do you need? The premise is simple: Irving Berlin songs set in an inn that only opens for holidays. Add a love triangle to the plot for good measure. The film includes the classic song "White Christmas," which won the movie's sole Oscar for Best Song. Some people mistakenly believe the tune premiered in the 1954 movie called "White Christmas," perhaps because Crosby starred in that one as well.