The following is a guest post by Jenny Paxson, an Administrative Assistant at the Packard Campus.
Friday, May 6 (7:30 p.m.)
Pay or Die (Allied Artists, 1960)
After he scored a big hit with the 1959 picture Al Capone, Allied Artists hired director/producer Richard Wilson for another Italian mobster movie, this one set in early twentieth-century New York City. The story is based on the actual account of New York Police Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (played with gritty realism by Ernest Borgnine), an Italian American police detective who earned the respect of the immigrants in Little Italy and formed the Italian Squad of the police department in 1905 to battle “The Black Hand,” the old Sicilian term for the Mafia. Borgnine spoke fluent Italian so had no trouble with the Italian dialogue used throughout the film. Wilson directs in a docu-realist style and Lucien Ballard’s unobtrusive black and white photography brings out the period detail in the street scene sets. 111 minutes.
Saturday, May 7 (2 p.m.)
Hester Street (Midwest Films, 1975)
Writer-director Joan Micklin Silver’s first feature-length film, Hester Street was an adaption of preeminent Yiddish author Abraham Cahan’s 1896 well-received first novel Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto. The film brought to the screen a portrait of Eastern European Jewish life in America that historians have praised for its accuracy of detail and sensitivity to the challenges immigrants faced during their acculturation process. Shot in black-and-white and partly in Yiddish with English subtitles, the independent production focuses on stresses that occur when a “greenhorn” wife, played by Carol Kane (nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal), and her young son arrive in New York City to join her Americanized husband. Silver, one of the first women directors of American features to emerge during the women’s liberation movement, shifted the story’s emphasis from the husband, as in the novel, to the wife. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 2011. 89 minutes.
Saturday, May 7 (7:30 p.m.)
Ragtime (Paramount, 1981)
Based on E.L. Doctorow’s best-selling historical novel of the same name, this multifaceted story, set in the New York City area, 1902 to 1912, weaves together the stories of both fictional and historically prominent characters such as Stanford White, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Houdini, and Booker T. Washington. Perhaps it is best remembered today as the film that brought James Cagney back to the big screen after a twenty-year absence. The huge ensemble cast includes such other seasoned veterans as Donald O’Connor and Pat O’Brien, as well as a number of actors in the early days of their careers, such as Mandy Patinkin, Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, and Jeff Daniels in his screen debut. Elizabeth McGovern and Howard E. Rollins Jr. both received Best Supporting Acting nominations. Directed by Milos Forman, the film garnered six additional Oscar nominations including Randy Newman for Best Original Score, Miroslav Ondrícek for Best Cinematography and Michael Weller for Best Adapted Screenplay. 155 minutes.
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