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April 11-17, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Bad Day at Black Rock/The Blue Dahlia
(1954/1946) In a dusty Arizona town, a stranger (Spencer Tracy) is opposed when he tries to bring a medal to the father of a dead vet—a Japanese-American. Robert Ryan does the stalling but fails to hide the ugly truth. It has a B-movie's frankness in an A-movie package; despite the then-dangerous subject matter, it's in CinemaScope and boasts an impressive roster of Western riff-raff, including Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Walter Brennan. BILLED WITH The Blue Dahlia. Two Army buddies return from World War II. Alan Ladd's wife (Doris Dowling) is sleeping around, and his child is dead thanks to her negligence; his buddy Buzz (William Bendix, never better) has a plate in his head that gives him potentially murderous spells. The script is by Raymond Chandler, but the cop-out ending is strictly from Hollywood. (Plays Apr 18-20 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Gun Crazy/This Gun For Hire
(1949/1942) We've seen some smooth, pale and impassive actresses over the decades, but none were as genuinely skull-faced as Peggy Cummins' Annie Laurie Starr, a psycho with dead aim. Her newest victim is Bart Tare (John Dall)—service vet and grade-A neurotic. The matter-of-factness of the subsequent crime spree was sourced everywhere from Bonnie and Clyde to Natural Born Killers. BILLED WITH This Gun for Hire. The small but fierce Alan Ladd plays a cat-loving hit man who goes up against Nazi collaborators under the nervous protection of ace villain Laird Cregar. A little and amoral blonde singer at Cregar's joint (Veronica Lake) confuses matters. (Plays Apr 11-13 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Topper/Shall We Dance
(Both 1937) Meek banker Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) is haunted by the spirits of his dead playboy friends, the Kirbys (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett). "That the living dead are always facetious may be shocking to sensibilities," Variety warned at the time but to no avail; the film was a hit, spawning two sequels and a pretty good TV show. BILLED WITH Shall We Dance. He says "po-tat-to," she says "po-tay-to"; the whole thing almost gets called off in this Rogers and Astaire musical with tunes by the Gershwin brothers. Fred is a ballet star, and Ginger is more at home at the Follies; tunes include "They All Laughed," "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and of course, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off." (Play Apr 14-15 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

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