October 19, 2015 Beatles, W.C. Fields, William Wellman Films Highlighted in November
Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456
Public Contact: Rob Stone (202) 707-0851
The career of William “Wild Bill” Wellman, who directed “Wings” (1927)—the first film to win an Academy Award for best picture—will be celebrated at the Library of Congress Packard Campus Theater in Culpeper, Virginia, in November. William Wellman Jr., author of “Wild Bill Wellman: Hollywood Rebel” (Pantheon, 2015), and Frank Thompson, author of “William A. Wellman” (Scarecrow Press, 1983), will introduce select screenings of Wellman’s films during the month.
November’s lineup will also showcase six comedies starring and written by W.C. Fields, who is often described as an icon of American culture and humor. Three of the titles included in the lineup are on the National Film Registry. Fields’ granddaughter, global health advocate Harriet Fields, will introduce two of the programs. For more information about the National Film Registry, visit loc.gov/film/.
The final week of the November schedule is devoted to music of the 1970s and will include the rarely seen Beatles documentary “Let It Be.” An evening of clips from the celebrated PBS program “Soul!”—many of the programs have not been seen since their original broadcast—will be introduced by Gayle Wald, author of “It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television” (Duke University Press, 2015).
Short subjects will be presented before select programs. Titles are subject to change without notice. Screenings at the Packard Campus are preceded by an informative slide presentation about the film, with music selected by the Library’s Recorded Sound Section.
All Packard Campus programs are free and open to the public, but children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Seating at the screenings is on a first-come, first-serve basis. For general Packard Campus Theater information, call (540) 827-1079 ext. 79994 or (202) 707-9994 during regular business hours. For further information on the theater and film series, visit loc.gov/avconservation/theater/. In case of inclement weather, call the theater information line no more than three hours before showtime to confirm cancellations.
The Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation is a state-of-the-art facility funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute. The Packard Campus is the site where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of motion pictures, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (loc.gov/avconservation). The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board (loc.gov/film), the National Recording Preservation Board (loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb) and the national registries for film and recorded sound.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at loc.gov.
Library of Congress Packard Campus Theater ScheduleThursday, Nov. 5 (7:30 p.m.)
“Lafayette Escadrille” (Warner Bros., 1958)
Director William A. Wellman wrote the original story for this movie based on his own World War I service in the Lafayette Flying Corps. It became the final film released in his nearly four-decade career. Tab Hunter stars as Thad Walker, a young American who joins the European war effort and falls in love with a French prostitute. Joining the Escadrille with Walker are fellow expatriates Tom Hitchcock (Jody McCrea), Duke Sinclaire (David Janssen), George Moseley (Clint Eastwood) and “Wild Bill” Wellman (played by the director’s son, Bill Wellman Jr.). Though the director was unhappy with the film because of studio interference, the spectacular aerial sequences, reminiscent of those in Wellman’s Academy Award-winning silent epic “Wings,” were well received.
Friday, Nov. 6 (7:30 p.m.)
“Island in the Sky” (Warner Bros., 1953)
John Wayne stars as Captain Dooley, a seasoned World War II civilian transport pilot who is forced to make an emergency landing in uncharted wildlands near the Quebec-Labrador border. Dooley must keep his four crewmen alive in sub-zero and deadly conditions while waiting for rescue. William A. Wellman directed this dramatic adventure film based on the novel by Ernest K. Gann, who also served as technical adviser. Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness and Andy Devine turn in stellar supporting performances. Variety praised the film: “[It] moves back and forth very smoothly from the tight action at the crash site to the planning and execution of the search. It’s a slick job by all concerned.”
Saturday, Nov. 7 (7:30 p.m.)
William A. Wellman Double Feature
“Buffalo Bill” (20th Century-Fox, 1944)
Better known as “Buffalo Bill,” William F. Cody—buffalo hunter, Indian scout and Wild West showman—is portrayed by Joel McCrea in this entertaining fictionalized biopic, shot in Technicolor and directed by Wellman. Maureen O’Hara co-stars as Cody’s well-bred wife Louisa. The cast also includes Linda Darnell, Thomas Mitchell, Anthony Quinn, Edgar Buchanan and Chief Thundercloud in supporting roles. According to Wellman biographer Frank Thompson, who will be introducing the film, the “centerpiece of the film is the amazing battle scene at War Bonnet Gorge. Wellman had a particular talent for filming battles in such a way that the action is felt rather than seen.” The battle footage was so well done that Fox reused it in at least two later films.
“Maybe It’s Love” (Warner Bros., 1930)
William A. Wellman’s first film under his contract with Warner Bros. was this Pre-Code musical comedy based on a story by Darryl Zanuck. Joan Bennett heads the cast as the daughter of a college president who is about to lose his job unless the school’s football team rallies from its slump. Joe E. Brown steals the show as a goofy gridiron football star who emits a loud and long yell whenever scoring a touchdown. Members of the 1929 All-American football team appear as themselves.
Thursday, Nov. 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, crisscrossing the country risking life, limb and incarceration while hopping freight trains. 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, Nov. 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 lam 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 meager semblance of a 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 Harriet Fields, will introduce the program.
Saturday, Nov. 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 Field’s 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 plays unemployed layabout Egbert Souse—Soosay, if you don’t mind—who replaces a drunk movie director on a location shoot in his hometown before chance lands him in the job of bank detective. The movie becomes a riff on the comic possibilities of his newly found notoriety. The stellar supporting cast includes Three Stooges' Shemp Howard and Preston Sturges. The comedy was added to the National Film Registry in 1992. Fields’ granddaughter will introduce the films.
Saturday, Nov. 14 (7:30 p.m.)
W.C. Fields Double Feature - Live accompaniment provided by Jeff Rapsis
“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 docile self, Finch discovers that his go-getting “alter ego” worked to his advantage. Gregory La Cava directed this silent comedy, which features Mary Brian as Finch’s daughter—the only one who truly cares about him—and Claude Buchanan as her handsome beau. Jeff Rapsis will provide live musical accompaniment for both films.
“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 craziness is aided immeasurably through 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.
Thursday, Nov. 19 (7:30 p.m.)
“Gimme Shelter” (Cinema 5 Distributing, 1970, R-rated*)
This documentary follows the Rolling Stones on the last 10 days of their 1969 North American tour, which ended with a disastrous day-long free concert in northern California. Filmmakers Albert and David Maysles (whose 1976 documentary “Grey Gardens” is on the National Film Registry), along with Charlotte Zwerin, began shooting at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving weekend. The anticipated concert-tour documentary soon turned into something more complicated and disturbing when a camera caught the stabbing of a concert-goer by one of a group of Hells Angels, who were acting as security guards. Film essayist Amy Taubin calls “Gimme Shelter” a masterpiece of restraint and understatement.
*No one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.
Friday, Nov. 20 (7:30 p.m.)
“Soul!” (WNET/PBS, 1967-1971)
A pioneering variety television series showcasing African-American music, dance and literature, “Soul!” was produced by public television station WNET in New York City. Performances selected for this program were drawn from 14 different episodes of “Soul!” and many have not been seen since their original broadcast. They include Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Al Green, McCoy Tyner, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Gayle Wald, author of “It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television” (Duke University Press, 2015), will introduce the program.
Saturday, Nov. 21 (7:30 p.m.)
“Let It Be” (United Artists, 1970)
In this rarely-seen documentary, the Beatles are shown rehearsing songs for their album “Let it Be” at Twickenham Film Studios, followed by an unannounced concert on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters in London. Joined by Billy Preston, they perform “Get Back,” “Don't Let Me Down,” “I've Got a Feeling,” “One After 909” and “Dig a Pony,” intercut with reactions and comments from surprised Londoners gathering on the streets below. It would be the last time the Beatles ever performed together in public. Although the film does not dwell on the discord within the group at the time, it provides some glimpses into the dynamics that would lead to the Beatles’ break-up. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr collectively won an Academy Award for best original song score for the film.