Film Past Events

6th Annual Season: 2017-2018

Sept. 15 - Towngate at 7:30
Screening:  Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952) - 103 mins.
Sept. 19 – Library at Noon
Conversation:  Singin’ in the Rain
One of the most beloved and influential musicals in Hollywood history turns 65 this year, but it is nowhere near “retirement.”  Gene Kelly began making this film a mere six months after finishing An American in Paris, and the reverberations of those landmark years in Kelly’s career were still vibrating in Damien Chazelle’s 2016 Oscar winner, La La LandSingin’ in the Rain would be noteworthy of discussion simply for its iconic routines, including the long surrealist “Broadway Ballet,” Donald O’Connor’s chiropractor-defying “Make ‘em Laugh,” and the title sequence, featuring a man and his (mostly useless) umbrella.  An added dimension of this film is its wonderful glimpse into Hollywood’s own past, a celebration of silent, talking, and SINGING pictures.

Nov. 10 - Towngate at 7:30
Screening:  Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977) - 93 mins.
Nov. 14 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  Annie Hall
Annie Hall marked a turning point in the career of Woody Allen, as he moved from the pure silliness of his early slapstick, one-liner movies to the invention of a new genre, the “dramedy.”  Originally conceived as yet another star-vehicle for the writer-director, the film evolved during production, in which hours of scenes were shot and discarded; Allen finally “found” his multiple-Oscar-winning film in the editing room, when he shifted more of the focus from his own character to that of his co-star, Diane Keaton, who won Best Actress for a woman finding herself during the era of women’s rights.  Allen would subsequently write several more Oscar-winning roles for actresses.  Come for the laughs, but leave with a wistful sense of the difficulty of relationships. 

Mar. 9 - Towngate at 7:30
Screening:  Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) - 128 mins.
Mar. 13 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  Vertigo
Every ten years, the venerable British film journal Sight and Sound conducted a poll of critics and scholars about the world’s best films.  For half a century the poll always named Citizen Kane, until the most recent poll in 2014 identified Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo.  The film initially bombed at the box office, and Hitchcock, stung after pouring so much emotion into the film, literally suppressed its re-release for decades.  Finally returned to theaters in the 1980s after Hitchcock’s death, it has grown in prestige ever since.  A ravishingly romantic view of America’s most beautiful city, San Francisco, is the backdrop for a devastating view of romantic obsession, starring Jimmy Stewart as a nice guy driven mad by longing for a lost woman.  See it with someone you love!

Apr. 20 - Towngate at 7:30
Screening: 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) - 149 mins.
Apr. 24 - Library at Noon
Conversation: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Wheeling Film Society exists to provide the opportunity to see cinema classics as they were intended, on the big screen.  There will never be a more apt choice for this series than Kubrick’s mind-blowing epic, with its Homeric allusions and spectacular special effects one year before the first human being set foot on the moon.  Nor will the Film Society ever choose a film that so clearly requires conversation!  With its long, “pure-cinema” passages of bravura filmmaking, its elliptical narrative stretching from “the dawn of man” into a future in which interplanetary travel is a given, and its strange, other-worldly epilogue, 2001 is a cultural enigma which nonetheless still speaks profoundly to a world always racing to keep up with the moral implications of its latest technology.

5th Annual Season: 2016-2017

Sept. 27 – Library at Noon
Conversation: Introduction to the New Hollywood and Wheeling Film Society’s 5 th Season
In 1967, the Golden Age of Hollywood, which had ruled international pop culture since the 1920s, was exhausted.  The old studio system still cranked out epics, but they were more likely to be notorious disasters like Cleopatra (1963) than blockbusters like The Sound of Music (1964).  A new culture – what we know as the Sixties Revolution – was emerging beyond the walls of the studios.  The Baby-Boom generation was now old enough to buy its own movie tickets, and they wanted to see something new.  In this introduction to a special anniversary season of the Wheeling Film Society, we’ll time-travel 50 years to revisit 1967 – the year that gave us Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Summer of Love, and the dawn of a new era of Hollywood movie-making. 

Sept. 30 - Towngate at 7
Screening:  In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967) - 109 mins.
Conversation:  In the Heat of the Night
If you think Hollywood has a race problem in 2016 (and it does, as the boycott of the 2016 Oscars by most prominent African-American actors demonstrated), consider 1966, when Norman Jewison was developing his groundbreaking film about racial confrontation in the deep South.  He needed a strong, heroic, but complex presence for his African-American detective from Philadelphia, and at that moment in Hollywood, there was only room for one strong, heroic, but complex black actor: Sidney Poitier. What emerged was one of the most memorable dual performances of the racially fraught 1960s, as Poiteir dueled with Rod Steiger’s unreconstructed sheriff, provoking Poitier’s defiant line, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”  The film won the hotly contested Oscar for Best Picture.  [Please note: the Conversation about this film will be held immediately after the screening.]

Oct. 28 - Towngate at 7
Screening:  The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966) - 161 mins.
Nov. 1 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
In this, the culminating film of the trilogy of “Spaghetti-Westerns” that the Italian director Leone made with Clint Eastwood (following 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars and 1965’s For a Few Dollars More), the American mythology of Manifest Destiny so romanticized in traditional Westerns of Hollywood’s Golden Era devolves into the brute picaresque of a more likely vision of the West.  Eastwood would remember all the lessons he learned from Leone when he made his Oscar-winning 1993 film, UnforgivenThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is an epic of the widescreen era with one of the era’s most iconic characters (Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”) and one of the most hauntingly memorable soundtracks in Hollywood history.  See this film as it was meant to be seen! 

Mar. 10 - Towngate at 7
Screening:  Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967) - 111 mins.
Mar. 14 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  Bonnie and Clyde
The Wheeling Film Society’s special anniversary season saves the best for its last two screenings and conversations, beginning with Arthur Penn’s masterpiece about the Depression-era criminals who became folk heroes – Robin Hoods to the impoverished multitudes of the 1930s; Revolutionaries to the politicized students of the 1960s.  Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are unforgettable as the leaders of a misfit gang of bank robbers (which includes Gene Hackman and, in an Oscar-winning performance, Estelle Parsons).  The film’s uneasy mix of humor, tenderness, and raw violence was shocking to its first audiences, and remains memorable 50 years later.  Does Bonnie and Clyde romanticize its anti-heroes, or do they get what they deserve?  You decide.  

Apr. 7 - Towngate at 7
Screening: The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967) - 106 mins.
Apr. 11 - Library at Noon
Conversation: The Graduate
When Mike Nichols agreed to direct The Graduate, and when Dustin Hoffman first read the script that would change his life, both had the same thought about the title character, Benjamin Braddock: That’s me.  Millions of others agreed: Benjamin and his girlfriend Elaine Robinson became representatives of a generation of people discontented by materialist values and empty relationships.  There are so many angles from which to talk about this film, from the life-advice Benjamin receives (“Plastics”) to Anne Bancroft as the intimidating Mrs. Robinson to the revolutionary use of Simon and Garfunkel’s folk-rock anthems on the soundtrack – and there are few endings more ambiguous and thought provoking in Hollywood blockbuster history.  Come experience “The Sounds of Silence,” then we’ll talk.

4th Annual Season: 2015-2016

Sept. 11 - Towngate at 7
Screening:  Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936) - 87 mins.
Sept. 15 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  Modern Times
The world’s most famous movie star for the first quarter-century of motion pictures and still one of the most familiar icons of cinema, Charlie Chaplin was so powerful a director-star that, nearly a decade into the sound era, he still had the power to deliver a film like Modern Times, a hybrid of the silent and sound eras, in which his character never speaks a word.  Set during the Depression that still raged in the country (and around the world), Chaplin’s classic comedy satirizes industrialization, as Chaplin’s Little Tramp literally becomes a human cog in the machine.  You’ll never forget the daredevil stunts Chaplin performs on roller-skates next to an abyss, nor will you forget the film debut of the Little Tramp’s love interest, Paulette Goddard, glowing as “the Gamin.”

Oct. 30 - Towngate at 7
Screening:  Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) - 109 mins.
Nov. 3 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  Psycho
It is one of the most notorious films of the 20 th century, still a sure bet to raise pulses because of what Hitchcock understood better than any of his “slasher”-imitators: the most effective access to our fears is to make us imagine the worst – certainly far worse than he could have captured on camera in 1960.  The subject matter of Robert Bloch’s original novel (inspired by a true story of serial-killer Ed Gein) was deemed so offensive no Hollywood studio would fund the production, so Hitchcock, flush from the box-office success of 1959’s Technicolor extravaganza North by Northwest, wrote the checks himself and kept costs down by using his TV-show crew.  The result is one of the great films of his career – and a must for “Mischief Night.”  Parental discretion advised. 

Apr. 1 - Towngate at 7
Screening:  M*A*S*H* (Robert Altman, 1970) - 116 mins.
Apr. 5 - Library at Noon
Conversation:  M*A*S*H*
Before the TV series that ran for 11 seasons, there was the anarchic celluloid original, adapted from Richard Hooker’s bestselling novel about a Korean-War surgical hospital.  Created by the great improvisatory director Robert Altman, the film stars Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce and Elliott Gould as Trapper John, but he real star is Altman’s style, slip-sliding between the tragic inhumanity of war and a black-comic satire of bureaucratic absurdity.  Like its characters, the film teeters on the edge of chaos and always manages to maintain its balance because of its humor.  While he depicts no combat in this film, Altman deftly uses a high-stakes football game between two rival units as a hilarious send-up of the military mind.  Parental discretion strongly advised.  

May 1 - Towngate at 3, with an intermission at 5 for dinner, reconvening at 6:30
Screening: Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh, 1996) - 242 mins.
May 3 - Library at Noon
Conversation: Hamlet
The last of the Wheeling Film Society screenings for 2015-2016 also serves as a grand introduction to the “Shakespeare and His First Folio” exhibition traveling to Wheeling from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, with additional programs including a mini-festival of cinematic adaptations of First Folio plays offered during the full run of the exhibition, May 9-June 12.  Hamlet will be the initial screening of the First Folio mini-festival of films, which will present the extraordinary work of the actor-director Kenneth Branagh, who has assumed the mantle of such luminaries as Orson Welles and Lawrence Olivier to interpret Shakespeare for his generation.  A lush cinematic epic, featuring a galaxy of beloved Hollywood and English stars, Hamlet is a rare production not only for its quality but also because it remains entirely faithful to the full breadth of the original text, cutting no important lines or scenes.  Whether or not you have seen Shakespeare's most famous tragedy on stage at some point in your life (or even if you have seen Branagh's version on television), you must see this film on Towngate's big screen.  Also: more information will be forthcoming about a special opportunity to join us for dinner during intermission!

May 22 – Towngate at 3
Screening: Henry V (Kenneth Branagh, 1989) - 137 mins.
May 24 – Library at Noon
Conversation: Henry V
Branagh announced his intention to be his generation's premier interpreter of Shakespeare for cinematic audiences with this breathtaking adaptation of one of Shakespeare's greatest history plays, in which Prince Hal moves out of Falstaff's enormous (in every sense) shadow to become England's leader at Agincourt and in subsequent peace with France.  While it is a bloody, muddy medieval battle epic, Henry V is also the climax of a multi-play coming-of-age story (which begins in Henry IV, Parts I & II), and the story ends, against all odds, as the tenderest of romances.  Announcing the Branagh style he would revisit in all five of his subsequent Shakespearean productions, Henry V is lushly cinematic without sacrificing any of Shakespeare's original intentions for the stage.  Dr. Peter Staffel of West Liberty University's English department will lead the conversation on May 24.

June 12 – Towngate at 3
Screening: Much Ado About Nothing (Kenneth Branagh, 1993) - 111 mins.
June 14 – Library at Noon
Conversation: Much Ado About Nothing
There would be no rom-com without Shakespeare.   Much Ado About Nothing (and other First-Folio comedies like  Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and As You Like It) introduced to theatrical audiences conventions of romantic storytelling that we continue to follow faithfully in the latest Reese Witherspoon film – but which were just as likely to be the formula for Katharine Hepburn (or Audrey Hepburn, or Julia Roberts).  With Emma Thompson playing opposite Branagh as the contentious lover-haters Beatrice and Benedick, there is no shortage of romantic voltage either when they're hurling comically hyperbolic insults at one another or finally admitting what the rest of us have known all along: that they were meant for each other.  Filmed in golden Tuscan light with another astounding cast of Hollywood and English actors, this will be our fond Adieu to the First Folio's visit to Wheeling.

3rd Annual Season: 2014-2015

Oct. 17 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening:  North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) - 136 mins.
Oct. 21 - Library at Noon
Conversation: North by Northwest
Unsurprisingly, when Hitchcock approached the National Park Service about dangling Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint from Abraham Lincoln's nose, Park officials declined. So Hitchcock filmed on location at the Visitor's Center and built a studio replica of the monument for his stars to climb on. As justly famous as this climactic scene is, it is less celebrated than the one in which Grant battles a crop duster in a cornfield. The spectacular success of North by Northwest, a love story masquerading as a spy thriller, made possible Hitchcock's next, riskier project, Psycho. Beloved but often marginalized as a mere entertainment, North by Northwest explores the same preoccupations with existential identity and intimacy as "serious" films like 1958's Vertigo.

Jan. 23 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969) - 110 mins.
Jan. 27 - Library at Noon
Conversation: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid The star power of pairing Paul Newman and Robert Redford (Butch and Sundance, respectively) was irresistible: never did villainy look more fun or charismatic. Nor was the film ideologically out of sync with its era: the Closing of the West became a provocative metaphor for paranoia about nationalist overreaching both within and beyond our borders. Butch and Sundance swiftly assumed a counter-cultural status that made them not only romantic idols but political icons of the late 1960s. Whether you'll be delighted or annoyed to have "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" bouncing around your brain for several days, don't miss the opportunity to see Utah's canyon country (nearly) as large as life and Newman and Redford (much) larger than life!

Mar. 27 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening:  Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935) - 101 mins. Mar. 31 - Library at Noon
Conversation: Top Hat "Heaven - I'm in heaven, and the cares that hung around me through the week seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak when we're out together dancing . . ." So Fred Astaire sings in this most iconic of his 10 collaborations with Ginger Rogers, a mistaken-identity musical comedy with delirious dance numbers. Maybe even more ecstatic than his ballroom flourishes with Rogers during Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek" is his duet with his own walking cane. Nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, Top Hat was a gift from Hollywood's fantasia factory during a decade when American (and international) audiences, both of whom attended in record numbers, needed all the fantasy they could get.

Apr. 24 - Towngate at 7:00 p.m.
Screening:  The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985) - 82 mins.
Apr. 28 - Library at Noon
Conversation: The Purple Rose of Cairo Woody Allen's hybrid of romantic comedy and fantasy set in 1935 in a small, Depression-gripped New Jersey town, centers on Cecilia, who prefers the movies to her real life with an abusive, out-of-work husband. One of the two movies she goes to see during the film is Top Hat; the other is an equally frothy Hollywood confection, set in Egypt and Manhattan, called The Purple Rose of Cairo. Cecilia becomes unusually absorbed in this movie: one of the characters literally comes down from the screen to meet and fall in love with her, and eventually takes her back into his luminous black-and-white world of nightclubs and penthouse apartments. Allen has long maintained that this comes closest of all his films to accomplishing exactly what he'd set out to make.

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
Conversation: Stagecoach 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
Conversation: Jaws 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
Conversation: Casablanca 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.