Pioneering woman director Lois Weber socially conscious drama 'Shoes' screening
In February 2015, National Film Registry titles will be showcased at the Library of Congress' Packard Campus Theater – a.k.a. the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation – in Culpeper, Virginia. These range from pioneering woman director Lois Weber's socially conscious 1916 drama Shoes to Robert Zemeckis' 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future.
Another Packard Theater highlight next month is Sam Peckinpah's ultra-violent Western The Wild Bunch (1969), starring William Holden and Ernest Borgnine. Also, Howard Hawks' “anti-High Noon” Western Rio Bravo (1959), toplining John Wayne and Dean Martin. And George Cukor's costly remake of A Star Is Born (1954), featuring Academy Award nominees Judy Garland and James Mason in the old Janet Gaynor and Fredric March roles.
There's more: Jeff Bridges delivers a colorful performance in Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski (1998), also featuring this year's Best Actress Oscar nominee Julianne Moore (Still Alice). Yet, the Dude feels quite lifeless indeed when compared to Carmen Miranda singing “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” in another Packard Theater February highlight: Busby Berkeley's BananaScope musical The Gang's All Here (1943).
Woman director Lois Weber
About a week ago, there was much ado about the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Directors Branch having bypassed Ava DuVernay for her generally well-received historical drama Selma, starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr.
In fact, Hollywood as a whole was accused of being nothing more than an overgrown Boy's Club. One in which male studio executives do their best to keep women far away from jobs behind the camera. (See also: “Honorary Oscars and Women.”)
Well, if so, then apparently the world of filmmaking used to be much more inclusive back in the more enlightened … 1910s. After all, long before Ava DuVernay, Kathryn Bigelow, and Barbra Streisand there was Lois Weber (among others). Released nearly a century ago, Woman Director Weber's Shoes features Mary MacLaren (the less famous sister of American Beauty Katherine MacDonald) as a working girl who, in order to help her family, turns to a fate worse than death.
If you think this sounds cliched, then you might want to remember that, however more enlightened and inclusive than our early 21st century, the 1910s were still the 1910s. Women, for instance, didn't even have the right to vote in the United States.
And in all fairness, is the basic plot of Shoes all that different from, to name one recent title, that of Sam Garbarski's Irina Palm? For those who haven't seen this 2007 Marianne Faithfull comedy-drama, the '60s icon plays a platinum-hearted granny who, in order to help her family, becomes a sex-shop worker of the – quite literally – hands-on kind.
Oscar winner Alice Brady in her final screen role
At the Packard Theater, Presidents Day will be celebrated a few days earlier, with the Feb. 12 screening of Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). As made clear by its title, this “imaginative” John Ford-directed biopic focuses on the early years of U.S. president-to-be Abraham Lincoln, with a heavily made-up Henry Fonda in the title role. Young Mr. Lincoln could thus be seen as a precursor of sorts to Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which earned Daniel Day-Lewis his third Best Actor Academy Award a couple of years ago.*
Nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Screenplay category, the somewhat ponderous Lamar Trotti-written Young Mr. Lincoln comes to life whenever veteran Alice Brady is on screen. As the mother of accused killers Richard Cromwell and Eddie Quillan, Brady delivers the film's most well-rounded and – by far – most moving performance.
Unfortunately, Young Mr. Lincoln turned out to be her final film. Brady, who had won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Henry King's In Old Chicago (1937), died of cancer on Oct. 28, 1939, less than a week before her 47th birthday.
Two early Pixar shorts
Also notable among the Packard Theater's February 2015 films are two John Lasseter-directed Pixar shorts, which will accompany the screening of Back to the Future: Luxo Jr. (1986) and Tin Toy (1988). The former was reportedly the first three-dimensional, computer-animated film nominated for an Oscar.
All Packard Theater screenings are free. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/avconservation/theater/. And check out the full February 2015 movie schedule below.
* For the record, prior to Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor Academy Awards for Jim Sheridan's My Left Foot (1989) and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007).
Packard Theater movie schedule: Feb. 2015
Unless otherwise stated, all Packard Theater screenings will be held at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 5. Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000). Directed by Mark Jonathan Harris.
Friday, Feb. 6. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). Directed by John Hughes.
Cast: Matthew Broderick. Mia Sara. Alan Ruck. Jeffrey Jones. Jennifer Grey.
Saturday, Feb. 7. A Star is Born (1954). Directed by George Cukor.
Cast: Judy Garland. James Mason. Charles Bickford. Jack Carson. Tommy Noonan. Amanda Blake. Lucy Marlow. Irving Bacon. James Brown. Gertrude Astor. Don Beddoe. Sheila Bromley. Ross Carmichael. Franklyn Farnum. Bess Flowers. Sam Harris. Louis Jean Heydt. Stuart Holmes. Nancy Kulp. Mae Marsh. Louis Mason. Strother Martin. Don McKay. Charles Morton. Barry Norton. Pat O'Malley. Ron Nyman. Barbara Pepper. Jack Pepper. Frank Puglia. Riza Royce. John Saxon. Robert Stevenson. Grady Sutton. Dub Taylor. Ruth Warren. Richard Webb. Frank Wilcox.
Thursday, Feb. 12. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). Directed by John Ford.
Cast: Henry Fonda. Alice Brady. Marjorie Weaver. Arleen Whelan. Richard Cromwell. Eddie Quillan.
Thursday, Feb. 19. The Big Lebowski (1998). Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Cast: Jeff Bridges. John Goodman. Julianne Moore. Steve Buscemi. David Huddleston. Tara Reid. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Mark Pellegrino. Philip Moon. Peter Stormare. Flea. John Turturro. David Thewlis. Sam Elliott. Ben Gazzara. Jon Polito. Marshall Manesh.
Friday, Feb. 20. Rio Bravo (1959). Directed by Howard Hawks.
Cast: John Wayne. Dean Martin. Angie Dickinson. Ricky Nelson. Walter Brennan.
Saturday, Feb. 21 (2:00 p.m.). Back to the Future (1985). Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Cast: Michael J. Fox. Christopher Lloyd. Lea Thompson. Crispin Glover. Claudia Wells. Thomas F. Wilson. Wendie Jo Sperber. Marc McClure. George DiCenzo. Frances Lee McCain. James Tolkan. J.J. Cohen (a.k.a. Jeffrey Jay Cohen). Billy Zane. Norman Alden. Huey Lewis. Arthur Tovey.
Saturday, Feb. 21. The Dragon Painter (1919). Directed by William Worthington.
Cast: Sessue Hayakawa. Tsuru Aoki. Edward Peil. Toyo Fujita.
Thursday, Feb. 26. The Gang's All Here (1943). Directed by Busby Berkeley.
Cast: Alice Faye. Carmen Miranda. James Ellison. Phil Baker. Charlotte Greenwood. Edward Everett Horton. Eugene Pallette. Benny Goodman. Cobina Wright Jr. Sheila Ryan. Tony De Marco. Dave Willock. Bando da Lua. Jeanne Crain. June Haver. Brooks Benedict. Frank Faylen. Adele Jergens. Virginia Sale. Lillian Yarbo. Jean O'Donnell. Al Murphy.
Friday, Feb. 27. The Wild Bunch (1969). Directed by Sam Peckinpah.
Cast: William Holden. Ernest Borgnine. Robert Ryan. Edmond O'Brien. Warren Oates. Ben Johnson. Albert Dekker. Strother Martin. Emilio Fernández. Jaime Sánchez. L.Q. Jones. Bo Hopkins. Dub Taylor. Paul Harper. Alfonso Arau. Jorge Russek. Chano Urueta. Bill Hart. Elsa Cárdenas. Rayford Barnes.
Saturday, Feb. 28. Shoes (1916). Directed by Lois Weber.
Cast: Mary MacLaren. Harry Griffith. Mattie Witting. Jessie Arnold. William V. Mong. Lina Basquette. Violet Schram.
Image of Mary MacLaren in pioneering woman director Lois Weber's Shoes: Bluebird Photoplays / Universal.
Alice Brady photo via the blog “It's the Pictures That Got Small.”