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[whitespace] Lubitsch at MAH

By Richard von Busack

ALL SCREENINGS take place at 7pm at the Museum of Art & History, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. The series is curated by Morton Marcus, co-host with Richard von Busack of Cinema Scene on Ch. 3. Admission is $5 general and $4 museum members and students. Call 429.1964 for details. (Full disclosure: Metro Santa Cruz is the media sponsor of this series.)

So This Is Paris (1926) It's nearly time for Paris' famously sinful Artists and Models' Ball, and a Parisian doctor and his wife (Monte Blue and Patsy Ruth) are distracted by a pair of apache dancers (Lilyan Tashman and Andre Beranger) rehearsing for the event. Lubitsch's scintillating comedy is capped with the ball itself, an expressionist whirl. Silent. (Jan. 27)

Trouble in Paradise (1932) A pair of jewel thieves (Miriam Hopkins and Herbert Marshall) fall in love in Venice after the understandable mistake of confusing one another for rich marks. In Paris, their next job is somewhat more complex: stealing from a perfume heiress (Kay Francis) who attracts our hero with dangerous notions of love and hard work. "Captivating" isn't the word for this comedy--pure artifice, yes, but the film hums with elegance. Co-starring Edward Everett Horton and Charles Ruggles as a pair of aging, pusillanimous swains contending for Francis' hand, and C. Aubrey Smith as a wattle-shaking old fraud of a family retainer. (Feb. 24)

The Merry Widow (1934) The popular operetta, which lent its name to both a waltz and a corset, is about roguish Prince Danilo (Maurice Chevalier) courting a millionaire widow (Jeanette MacDonald) to keep his tiny nation solvent. (The plot is parodied in Duck Soup, with hefty Margaret Dumont as the widow and a certain mustachioed slouching reprobate as the suitor.) (Mar. 23)

Ninotchka (1939) "Garbo Laughs!" boasted the ads; well, she also laughed in Camille, but here she satirizes her persona to show us a humorless woman melted by frivolity. Despite a slow third act, Garbo is genuinely funny as a highly placed Soviet official seduced by the attractions of Paris. She has one especially memorable bit as a pretty commissar in a scratching contest with a conceited old cat of a White Russian (Ina Claire, star of stage, screen and crossword puzzles). The uninspiring Melvyn Douglas is a strange choice for Garbo's love object in her last good film--apparently William Powell was considered but not used. Where was Cary Grant? Co-written by Billy Wilder. (April 27)

To Be or Not to Be (1942) Ernst Lubitsch's best work--matters of life and death give it a slight edge over The Shop Around the Corner, Lubitsch's brilliant comedy of the working week. The Shakespearean Joseph Tura, "that great Polish actor" (Jack Benny), should have followed Iago's advice, "Look to your wife." His own spouse (Carol Lombard) is being courted by a callow air force pilot (Robert Stack) when suddenly, war intervenes, and the ham turns patriot. Felix Bressart recites Shylock's speech to the court; and Sig Ruman plays the man they call "Concentration Camp Erhardt." (May 28)

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From the January 26-February 2, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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