The following is a guest post by Jenny Paxson, an Administrative Assistant at the Packard Campus.
Thursday, November 12 (7:30 p.m.)
William Wellman Double Feature
Wild Boys of the Road (Warner Bros., First National, 1933)
Historians estimate that more than 250,000 American teens were living on the road at the height of the Great Depression, criss-crossing the country risking life, limb and incarceration while hopping freight trains. William Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road portrays these young adults as determined kids matching wits and strength in numbers with railroad detectives as they shuttle from city to city unable to find work. Wellman’s “Wild Bill” persona is most evident in the action-packed train sequences. Strong performances by the young actors, particularly Frankie Darrow and Dorothy Coonan, the future Mrs. Wellman, round out this exemplary model of the gritty “social conscience” dramas popularized by Warner Bros. in the early 1930s. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 2013.
The Purchase Price (Warner Bros., 1932)
Barbara Stanwyck, who counted William Wellman as one of her favorite directors, stars as hard-edged nightclub singer Joan Gordon. To escape from her bootlegger boyfriend Ed Fields (Lyle Talbot), she becomes the mail-order bride of a North Dakota wheat farmer (George Brent). In his new book “Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel,” William Wellman Jr., who will be introducing both films, reports that as an example of Stanwyck’s “ready to work” attitude that Wellman loved, she refused to let a stand-in take her place in a thrilling wheat-burning scene. She suffered multiple burns on both of her legs as a result and never complained to the director.
Friday, November 13 (7:30 p.m.)
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (Universal, 1939)
W.C. Fields stars as Larson E. Whipsnade, the proprietor of a seedy carnival that is constantly on the lamb from the law. Fields also wrote the comedy (under the name Charles Bogle) which features the famous comedy “team” of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy. A steady stream of comic vignettes highlighted by a hilarious ping-pong game holds together the lightweight plot. The film exhibits some of the unpleasant and racist typecasting of its day, from Charlie McCarthy appearing in blackface, to the butt-of-the-joke clowning of black character actor Eddie “Rochester” Anderson as Whipsnade’s dim, obedient lackey “Cheerful.” Also on the program is the 1930 comedy short “The Golf Specialist,” W.C. Fields’ first talkie. Fields’ granddaughter, global health advocate Dr. Harriet Fields, will introduce the program.
Saturday, November 14 (2 p.m.)
W.C. Fields Double Feature
It’s a Gift (Paramount, 1934)
W.C. Fields stars as long-suffering New Jersey grocer Harold Bissonette, who must contend with an overbearing wife (Kathleen Howard), annoying children, an incompetent assistant, demanding customers and salesmen as he makes plans to move to California to grow oranges. Norman Z. McLeod directed the comedy that was based on several stage sketches from Fields’ Broadway years. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 2010.
The Bank Dick (Universal, 1940)
In his second-to-last feature, Fields stars as unemployed layabout Egbert Souse–Soosay, if you don’t mind –who replaces drunken movie director A. Pismo Clam on a location shoot in his hometown of Lompoc, California, before random chance lands him in the job of bank detective. After that, the movie becomes a riff on the comic possibilities of his new-found notoriety. The stellar comic supporting cast includes sometime Stooge Shemp Howard as the bartender at Fields’ regular haunt, The Black Pussy, and Preston Sturges regular Franklin Pangborn as bank examiner J. Pinkerton Snoopington. The comedy was added to the National Film Registry in 1992. Fields’ granddaughter, global health advocate Dr. Harriet Fields, will introduce the films.
Saturday, November 14 (7:30 p.m.)
W.C. Fields Double Feature
Running Wild (Paramount, 1927)
Meek Elmer Finch (W.C. Fields), browbeaten both at home and at work, volunteers to subject himself to a vaudeville hypnotist. While under the mesmerizing spell, his personality undergoes a dramatic and aggressive transformation. After reverting to his old docile self, Finch discovers that his go-getting “alter ego” worked to his advantage. Gregory La Cava directed the silent comedy that features Mary Brian as Finch’s daughter, the only one who truly cares about him, and Claude Buchanan as her handsome beau.
So’s Your Old Man (Paramount, 1926)
W.C. Fields began his career as a vaudevillian juggler and that humor and dexterity shines through in “So’s Your Old Man.” The on-screen craziness is aided immeasurably by the deft comic touches of director Gregory LaCava. In the film, Fields plays inventor Samuel Bisbee, who is considered a vulgarian by the town’s elite. His road to financial success takes many hilarious detours including a disastrous demo for potential investors, a bungled suicide attempt, a foray into his classic “golf game” routine and an inspired pantomime to a Spanish princess. Named to the National Film Registry in 2008, this silent comedy also stars Alice Joyce, Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Kittens Reichert. The silent comedies will be shown with live musical accompaniment.
For more information on our programs, please visit the website at: www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/.