June 2021 – Dream State: California in the Movies
June at CinemaLit highlights classic films set in California, with the Golden State figuring prominently in plot and ambiance. We start with the first A Star is Born (1937), steeped as it is in the most mythologized of all California industries – moviemaking. From there we venture back to a CinemaLit favorite: film noir. Too Late for Tears (1949) and D.O.A. (1950) are two pulpy, taut crime shockers, both taking great advantage of their settings in Los Angeles and San Francisco. We finish with the great Chinatown (1974), a neo noir so indelible it now flows through our collective movie-watching bloodstream.
Each of these films figure in the new book Dream State: California in the Movies by San Francisco Chronicle's film critic Mick LaSalle. Mr. LaSalle will be on hand for the discussion on June 4 of A Star is Born. Join us for what promises to be a lively dialogue on California, its meanings and symbols to a global audience of filmgoers.
June 11 – Too Late for Tears (1949) – 102 minutes
Like many film noirs, Too Late for Tears delights in a snappy set-up. Jane (Lizbeth Scott) and Alan (Arthur Kennedy) are on their way to a party in the Hollywood Hills. Then - "whomp!" – a bag drops into the backseat of their convertible from an oncoming car. It contains $60,000 in cash. She wants to keep it; he doesn't. Soon blackmailer Danny (a properly unctuous Dan Duryea) shows up looking for the loot.
The making of Too Late for Tears illustrates the juggling needed to get a film off the ground. Independent producer Hunt Stromberg assembled cast and crew like a jigsaw puzzle. He bought the script, based on a Saturday Evening Post serial by Roy Huggins, from another producer. He then employed Huggins to write the screen adaptation. He meanwhile made a deal with a third producer, Hal Wallis, to hire Byron Haskin to direct, with Wallis' contract actors Scott, Kennedy, and Don DeFore signed to star. Duryea required separate negotiations, and a reduction in production expenses to meet his asking price. Stromberg secured Republic Pictures for financial backing and facilities, with United Artists handling distribution, and the two studios splitting profits.
Too Late for Tears was a box office success, though some critics and audiences carped of a contrived plot and dense script. But almost everyone agreed the film was packed with intrigue, suspense, and good old-fashioned entertainment value. Haskins directed on a tiny budget, and made excellent use of LA's Union Station (site of this year's Academy Awards) and Echo Park Lake, a location that also figures significantly in 1974's Chinatown. Lizbeth Scott is a wicked delight as she grows evermore consumed by greed, while she and Duryea crackle with sneering malevolence. Too Late for Tears ultimately arrives at a Biblical cliché, that "love of money is the root of all evils," but it certainly is fun watching it get there.
Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies.
“I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."
“Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”
INSTRUCTIONS FOR JOINING THE CINEMALIT SALON
First watch the selected film on Kanopy. All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation for our CinemaLit Salon as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom one day in advance, and then an additional reminder roughly two hours in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.
If you do not receive a Zoom Link by 4:00 PM on the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]
Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:
1. Click on THIS LINK.
2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”
3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card
4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.
5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.
You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.
If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click HERE to join online:
Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.
Register with Eventbrite below.
If the green TICKET button is not immediately visible, scroll down on the right in the Eventbrite window until it appears.
Future CinemaLit Films
Jun 25 - 6:00pm
Jul 9 - 6:00pm
Jul 16 - 6:00pm
Jul 23 - 6:00pm
Jul 30 - 6:00pm