The 13th Festival of Preservation
The UCLA Film and Television Archive’s invaluable semiannual survey of recently restored work from the past century of moving pictures rolls into its fourth week with a WWII double-header and a long-forgotten precursor to a modern musical hit. You could hardly ask for a film with a more glittering Hollywood-liberal pedigree than Home of the Brave (1949), director Mark Robson’s portrait of racism in the American military. The script is credited to the soon-thereafter-blacklisted Carl Foreman (The Bridge on the River Kwai); the source material is a play by Arthur Laurents (who would go on to pen that other paean to tolerance, West Side Story) and the producer is none other than Stanley Kramer, who brought a similarly leaden touch to at least a half dozen other such social-issue pictures (On the Beach and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? among them) over the course of his career. The result is, not surprisingly, a self-righteous message movie (complete with the de rigueur “nice” white guy, played by Lloyd Bridges) in which one can see the seeds of such latter-day Kramer-esque boondoggles as Crash and Hotel Rwanda. A far tougher, terser and more affecting portrait of men in war is offered by Lewis Milestone’s A Walk in the Sun (1946), in which a company of Texas infantrymen land on the beaches of Salerno and proceed to make their way inland under heavy enemy fire. Milestone, who won an Oscar directing the WWI-era All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and whose inspired Of Mice and Men adaptation kicked off this year’s Preservation fest, subverts many conventions of the WWII war picture, emphasizing the group over the individual and the stark brutality of combat over sentimentalized male bonding. Bridges appears here too, in an altogether less caricatured role, alongside Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, John Ireland and the great Norman Lloyd (who will appear for a Q&A after the screening). Last but certainly not least, UCLA offers a rare revival of the 1927 film version of Chicago — yes, that Chicago — in which Roxie and Velma don’t sing, or even speak! The silent film will be screened in a 35mm nitrate print, complete with live jazz-age musical accompaniment. (UCLA Film and Television Archive; through Aug. 19. www.cinema.ucla.edu)
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