Two landmark dramas of the 1960s: ‘Judgment at Nuremberg & ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ at the Packard Theater
Five 2013 National Film Registry additions will be screened in January 2014 at the U.S. Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theater in Culpeper, Virginia. They’re the following: Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Roger & Me (1989), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Ella Cinders (1926).
Just obeying orders?: ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’
Directed by the perennially well-intentioned Stanley Kramer from a screenplay by Oscar winner Abby Mann (adapting his own teleplay), Judgment at Nuremberg is a surprisingly effective – sober, thoughtful, generally well-acted, beautifully shot (cinematography by Ernest Laszlo) – real-life-inspired dramatization of a post-World War II U.S. military trial of four Nazi Germany power players accused of committing crimes against humanity.
The all-star cast includes Best Actor Academy Award winner Maximilian Schell, Best Actor nominee Spencer Tracy, Best Supporting Actor nominee Montgomery Clift (who reportedly worked for free), and Best Supporting Actress nominee Judy Garland, in addition to Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, and a pre-Star Trek William Shatner.
The key ethical question permeating Judgment at Nuremberg is: Whether in Nazi Germany or at your local courthouse/law enforcement agency, can “Just obeying orders” be used to justify the perpetration of cruel, heinous acts?
Dysfunctional heterosexuals: ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’
Centering on two dysfunctional heterosexual couples getting together for a night of fun, games, and disturbing personal revelations, Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the older couple and the evening’s hosts, and George Segal and Sandy Dennis as the younger visiting couple.
All four actors were nominated for Academy Awards. Elizabeth Taylor, delivering what is surely the most multilayered performance of her career, was the year’s Best Actress. For her flawless characterization, Sandy Dennis was awarded the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Based on Edward Albee’s Tony-winning play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was adapted by Ernest Lehmann (The King and I, North by Northwest). Not surprisingly, this raw and provocative psychological drama lost the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars to Academy-friendlier fare: Fred Zinnemann’s sedate, good-looking, serious-minded A Man for All Seasons, adapted by Robert Bolt from his own play.
Silent era superstar & controversial documentarian + what passes for ‘hip’ filmmaking
Toplining Colleen Moore, one of the biggest film stars of the 1920s, Alfred E. Green’s Ella Cinders follows a small-town beauty contest winner on her way to Hollywood. The movie itself isn’t the greatest, but Moore is fun to watch. Lloyd Hughes is her handsome leading man.
Michael Moore’s Roger & Me caused quite a stir after it failed to be nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award. In the film, Moore persistently attempts to talk to General Motors CEO Roger Smith following the closing of several auto plants in the director’s hometown, Flint, Michigan.
Considered the epitome of cool in some quarters, Quentin Tarantino’s highly influential, Los Angeles-set Pulp Fiction (1994) features an unnecessarily non-linear narrative; stilted dialogue about French fries, mayo, and other equally profound topics; some kinky same-sex rape (tinged with some rabid anti-gay bigotry); and, worst of all, a deliberate, sadistic exhibition of firearm violence.
On the positive side, Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Uma Thurman is excellent as a resurrected drug addict, Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson is appropriately sinister as a Bible-quoting hitman, and there’s a groovy dance sequence that allows John Travolta to relive his Saturday Night Fever days.
Remembering Joan Fontaine
Joan Fontaine, who died last weekend, will be remembered with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941). In the suspense drama, Fontaine plays the innocent-looking but not-all-that-innocent wife of a suave, handsome man (Cary Grant) who may well be a cold-blooded killer.
Suspicion earned Fontaine, 24 at the time, that year’s Best Actress Academy Award. She thus not only beat her older sister Olivia de Havilland – in the running for Mitchell Leisen’s Hold Back the Dawn – but she also became the only performer to win an Oscar for a Hitchcock film.
There were two other Best Actress nominations in Fontaine’s career: for Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), in which she has a similar role to the one she played in Suspicion (the potential husband/murderer in Rebecca is Laurence Olivier), and Edmund Goulding’s The Constant Nymph (1943), screened at the Packard Theater a few years ago.
Winter Olympics homage & Martin Luther King Jr.
Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics have been mired in controversy – among the few who give a damn – following that country’s recently enacted anti-gay laws. But controversy or no, the Packard Theater will be showing two Winter Olympics-related movies:
- The Walt Disney Studios’ Miracle (2004), a “true story” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team beating them Red Russians.
- Michael Ritchie’s Downhill Racer (1969), starring Robert Redford as an ambitious, arrogant, egocentric skier who joins the U.S. Olympic ski team. Gene Hackman is his coach.
Also in January, the Packard Theater will present two made-for-TV Civil Rights documentaries in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day: CBS Reports’ “Who Speaks for Birmingham?” and ABC Close-Up‘s “Walk in My Shoes,” both first aired in 1961.
Remembering Eleanor Parker
And finally, as part of “The Library of Congress Presents” film series, Culpeper’s historic State Theatre will screen Robert Wise’s 1965 Best Picture Oscar winner The Sound of Music, an Alpine musical starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and Eleanor Parker.
Like Joan Fontaine, three-time Best Actress Oscar nominee Parker (Caged, 1950; Detective Story, 1951; Interrupted Melody, 1955) also died earlier this month.
See below the full list of Packard Campus January 2014 screenings.
Packard Campus: January 2014 movies
Friday, Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m.
SUSPICION (RKO, 1941).
Dir.: Alfred Hitchcock.
Cast: Cary Grant. Joan Fontaine.
Saturday, Jan. 4, 2:00 p.m.
THE LION KING (Disney, 1994).
Dir.: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff.
Voice Cast: Matthew Broderick. Jeremy Irons. James Earl Jones. Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
Songs: Elton John & Tim Rice.
Friday, Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m.
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (UA, 1961).
Dir.: Stanley Kramer.
Cast: Maximilian Schell. Spencer Tracy. Marlene Dietrich. Burt Lancaster. Richard Widmark. Montgomery Clift. Judy Garland. Werner Klemperer. William Shatner.
Saturday, Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (Warner Bros., 1966).
Dir.: Mike Nichols.
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor. Richard Burton. George Segal. Sandy Dennis.
Thursday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m.
CIVIL RIGHTS TELEVISION DOCUMENTARIES (1961).
Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m.
ROGER & ME (Warner Bros., 1989).
Dir.: Michael Moore.
Friday, Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.
ELLA CINDERS (First National, 1926).
Dir.: Alfred E. Green.
Cast: Colleen Moore. Lloyd Hughes. Vera Lewis.
Thursday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.
MIRACLE (Disney, 2004).
Dir.: Gavin O’Connor.
Cast: Kurt Russell. Patricia Clarkson. Noah Emmerich. Sean McCann.
Friday, Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m.
DOWNHILL RACER (Paramount, 1969).
Dir.: Michael Ritchie.
Cast: Robert Redford. Gene Hackman.
‘Library of Congress Presents’ State Theatre screenings
Sunday, Jan. 5, 2:00 p.m.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC (20th Century Fox, 1965).
Dir.: Robert Wise.
Cast: Julie Andrews. Christopher Plummer. Eleanor Parker.
Sunday, Jan. 1, 2:00 p.m.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Paramount, 1981).
Dir.: Steven Spielberg.
Cast: Harrison Ford. Karen Allen.
Sunday, Jan. 19, 2:00 p.m.
ICE AGE (20th Century Fox, 2002).
Voice Cast: Ray Romano. Denis Leary. John Leguizamo.
Sunday, Jan. 26, 2:00 p.m.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (EMI, 1975).
Dir.: Terry Jones & Terry Gilliam.
Cast: Terry Jones. Terry Gilliam. Graham Chapman. John Cleese. Eric Idle. Michael Palin.
Screenings are free at the Packard Theater. There is a $6 admission charge for the “Library of Congress Presents” film programs at the State Theater. For more information, click here.
Maximilian Schell Judgment at Nuremberg image: United Artists.
Robert Redford Downhill Racer image: Paramount Pictures.
“Judgment at Nuremberg & Joan Fontaine: Kramer’s Best ‘Message Movie’ & Only Hitchcock Acting Oscar Winner” last updated in July 2018.