A “retro” new year courtesy of RiverRun
The RiverRun International Film Festival rings in 2018 with, not one, but two upcoming “RiverRun Retro” events – one an Oscar-winning best picture, the other an acknowledged comedy classic.
Based on Laura Z. Hobson’s best-seller, Gentleman’s Agreement was adapted into a film by Twentieth Century Fox in 1947, with noted playwright Moss Hart penning the screenplay and Elia Kazan directing. The film stars Gregory Peck as an idealistic journalist who poses as a Jew in order to ascertain the level of antisemitism in society – only to discover that it’s more widespread than he could ever have imagined.
The film became one of the year’s biggest box-office hits and also one of the most acclaimed, winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holm) – with additional nominations for Best Actor, Best Actress (Dorothy McGuire), Best Supporting Actress (Anne Revere), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. The star-studded cast also included John Garfield, Sam Jaffe, Jane Wyatt, June Havoc, Albert Dekker, and young Dean Stockwell (as Peck’s son).
Ironically, given that many Hollywood studios were founded by Jews, it was Darryl F. Zanuck (a gentile) who pressed forward with the project at Fox, ignoring the pleadings and warnings of his fellow moguls that the impact of such a film could only be destructive. On the contrary, Gentleman’s Agreement became the studio’s biggest hit of that year while shedding light on the subject of antisemitism.
There will be a special screening of Gentleman’s Agreement on Jan. 13, with special guests Christopher Hart, the son of screenwriter Moss Hart, and noted film professor, historian and author Foster Hirsch (Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King, A Method to Their Madness: The History of The Actor’s Studio). They will discuss the controversy surrounding both the novel and the film, as well as the illustrious career of Moss Hart, who only wrote a handful of screenplays (including 1952’s Hans Christian Andersen, starring Danny Kaye in the title role, and the 1954 version of A Star is Born), but is best known for his stage career, which included such smash hits as My Fair Lady, Porgy and Bess, and Camelot.
The next day, Hart and Hirsch will reconvene at the RED Cinemas in Greensboro for a special screening of the 1935 MGM comedy classic A Night at the Opera, which paired the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Chico and Harpo) with Broadway ingenue Kitty Carlisle, popular crooner Allen Jones, and the perennially nonplussed Margaret Dumont (a much-beloved foil for the Marx Brothers).
Billed at the time of its release as “the funniest picture ever made,” A Night at the Opera sees the Marx Brothers at their zany zenith, and Groucho Marx subsequently cited this film as his personal favorite of all the ones he and his brothers made.
In 1946, Carlisle would marry Moss Hart and they had two children: Christopher and Catherine. Christopher Hart will discuss memories of his mother, who would later become a frequent member of game-show panels, but more significantly a tireless, lifelong proponent of the arts.
The 20th annual RiverRun International Film Festival is scheduled for April 19-29.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2018, Mark Burger.
The “RiverRun Retro” screening of Gentleman’s Agreement will take place 7 pm, Jan. 13 at Temple Emanuel, 201 Oakwood Drive, Winston-Salem. Admission is free. A Night at the Opera will be screened 5 pm, January 14 at RED Cinemas, 1305 Battleground Ave., Greensboro. Tickets are $12. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.230.1620 or visit the official RED Cinemas website. For more information about this or other RiverRun International Film Festival events, call 336.724.1502 or visit the official RiverRun website.