2nd Annual Season: 2013-2014
Dec. 6 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) - 108 mins.
Dec. 10 - Library at Noon
Conversation: Shadow of a Doubt
The Master of Suspense often said this film was his own personal favorite. In the midst of a series of more overt propaganda films about WWII, Hitchcock released this genre-bending noir comedy about peaceful, small-town America invaded by the spirit of evil in the guise of friendly Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton). The script is by Thornton Wilder, Pulitzer award-winning playwright of Our Town, in his first foray into Hollywood screenwriting after having established himself as an important voice of the American stage. Teresa Wright gives one of the greatest performances of an underrated career as Charlie, the small-town girl yearning for something to "shake up" sleepy little Santa Rosa...and Hitchcock reminds us all to be careful what we wish for.
Jan. 24 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood, 1935) - 96 mins.
Jan. 28 - Library at Noon
Conversation: A Night at the Opera
The Marx Brothers made one of their greatest comedies - about immigration and employment and class-consciousness - during the depths of the Great Depression. In one of their most deliriously absurd set-pieces, Groucho and Chico gleefully deconstruct the legalese of performance contracts. Harpo gleefully deconstructs just about everything else, using a large mallet (and other blunt instruments). Kitty Carlisle and Alan Jones play the talented young singers kept apart by the towering ego of a small-minded tenor. Naturally, all of them are upstaged by Chico's piano and Harpo's, well, harp. Somehow, opera is both trashed and celebrated in the same film, while baseball is purely celebrated. A sparkling time of music and comedy will be had by all.
Apr. 25 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939) - 96 mins.
Apr. 29 - Library at Noon
John Ford made films that won more awards, but he never made any film more accomplished or critically esteemed than this spectacular Western, his first in the Sound era and the first filmed on location in his beloved Monument Valley. John Wayne stars as the Ringo Kid, and audiences ever after have labored under the misassumption that this was his screen debut, or at the very least his first starring role (it was neither). Instead, it was the first time Wayne exploded into the American imagination, and national iconography. A cross-section of frontier society - a gambler, a banker, a lawman, a gentlewoman, a drummer, a prostitute, a doctor, and a fugitive (Ringo) - make their way across hostile Territories of the Southwest as Ford redefines the meaning of "civilization."
May 24 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m. (Special Saturday Night Screening)
Screening: Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) - 124 mins.
May 27 - Library at Noon
Steven Spielberg's blockbuster would be important if for no other reason because of changing forever the way Hollywood does business: it did for beaches what Hitchcock had once done for showers, and it did for cash registers even more than The Godfather had done. Yet to think about Jaws merely as a Hollywood thrill ride calculated to drum up dollars is to miss Spielberg's artful adoption of many of the cinematic storytelling conventions learned studying Hollywood auteurs like Hitchcock and Ford. Spielberg's film divides neatly, almost to the second, into two genres: the noir conspiracy thriller (a la Hitchcock) and the threatened-community Western (a la Ford). In hindsight, of course, we understand Jaws for what it truly is: Spielberg's first masterpiece.
Inaugural Season: 2012-2013
Oct. 23 - Library at noon
Introduction to the Season
The Wheeling Film Society (WFS) announces its inaugural season with a sneak preview of the four classic films to be screened during the year. WFS Host John Whitehead, professor of film studies at Wheeling Jesuit University and author of Appraising The Graduate: The Mike Nichols Classic and Its Impact in Hollywood, will present the screening/conversation format for WFS offerings as well as provide a specific introduction to the first offering of the season, to be screened later the same week: Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.
Oct. 26 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) - 102 mins.
Oct. 30 - Library at Noon
One of the most heartbreakingly romantic films ever made, Casablanca is a miracle of the Hollywood Golden Age and its assembly-line production model - a B-movie of foreign intrigue that transcends the limitations of its genre. Humphrey Bogart is Rick Blaine in the most iconic role of an iconic career, an American expatriate whose cool and detached intentions to remain uncommitted, both personally and patriotically, melt away in the heat of Ingrid Bergman's vulnerable presence. Filled with great character acting from America and particularly from European refugees fleeing Hitler, Casablanca is propaganda that became art.
Nov. 30 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: Play It Again, Sam (Herbert Ross, 1972) - 85 mins.
Dec. 4 - Library at Noon
Conversation: Play It Again, Sam
Woody Allen originally wrote his relationship-comedy fantasia on Humphrey Bogart's persona in Casablanca and other films as a stage play, adapted here for the cinema exactly three decades after the Bogart-Bergman classic as the first of many screen-pairings of Allen and Diane Keaton. Allen's character, pushed around by his ex-wife and hapless in a series of blind dates, becomes so obsessed with trying to "be like Bogart" that he conjures a Bogie avatar by his side to advise him on his romantic moves and missteps. Allen's legendary love of cinema was first introduced on screen in this early film, which pointed the way to Annie Hall and Manhattan later in the 70s.
Jan. 25 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) - 175 mins.
Jan. 29 - Library at Noon
Conversation: The Godfather
Debates about The Great American Movie usually vacillate between Coppola's blockbuster (which won the "Big Three" Oscars for a filmmaker - Picture, Director, and Screenplay) and Orson Welles' 1941 Citizen Kane. Each is an epic panorama that both reflects and critiques the values of the American political and economic systems. Each is ultimately a tragic masterpiece. Coppola's depiction of the promise and problems of post-WWII prosperity are brought to life by one of the great ensemble casts of Hollywood history, including Marlon Brando, who won Best Actor for the title role; James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino, all of whom were nominated for Best Supporting Actor; and Diane Keaton, scandalously neglected in the nominations.
Apr. 19 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening: The Natural (Barry Levinson, 1984) - 134 mins.
Apr. 23 - Library at Noon
Conversation: The Natural
In honor of the return of spring and a new baseball season, our final screening of 2012-2013 is the adaptation of Bernard Malamud's modernist novel updating the Fisher King legend to the world of mid-century baseball. Both novel and film are based in the 1949 scandal of a promising major league ballplayer whose career was altered when he was shot and wounded in his team hotel room by a mystery woman. Levinson's film was controversial upon its release: the novel's downbeat ending received a spectacular Hollywood "makeover," complete with Randy Newman's greatest soundtrack score, climactic slow-motion fireworks, and Robert Redford getting the girl.