Musical and Comic Legends
“Rhapsody in Blue: The George Gershwin Story,” withRobert Alda as Gershwin and Joan Leslie as a fictional loveinterest.
If all you knew about composer George Gershwin washis body of work — “An American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue,””Porgy and Bess,” plus countless enduring melodies — you would thinkhe lived to a ripe old age. But, in fact, the musical legend was only38 when he died.
Gershwin was born to Russian immigrant parents in1898, and, beginning in 1931, he and lyricist brother Ira composedscores for four Hollywood musicals — until George’s death six yearslater. This week, the UCLA Film and Television Archive brings backthese movies, as well as seven other films either based on thebrothers’ theatrical works or original musicals with the scorescompiled posthumously from George’s surviving work.
The series, “Strike Up the Band! George Gershwinon Film,” begins on Thursday, May 21, with the 1945 biography”Rhapsody in Blue: The George Gershwin Story.” With Robert Alda asGershwin and Joan Leslie as a fictional love interest, many of Gershwin’s contemporaries appear as themselves, including Al Jolson.There is also a full-length performance of “Rhapsody in Blue,” led byits original conductor, Paul Whiteman.
Among the other films in the series: the 1937 FredAstaire-Ginger Rogers vehicle “Shall We Dance?” which screens with “ADamsel in Distress,” featuring Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allenon Saturday, May 23. The 1959 feature version of “Porgy and Bess,”directed by Otto Preminger and starring Sidney Poitier, Sammy DavisJr. and Pearl Bailey, will show on Sunday, May 24.
Two versions of “Girl Crazy” will screen: the 1943production, with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and the lesser-knownfilm made a decade earlier. “The Goldwyn Follies,” the final filmthat George and Ira worked on, plays with the Rooney-Garland “Crazy”on Thursday, May 28; it features Adolphe Menjou, a screenplay by BenHecht and cinematography by Gregg Toland, best known for his workwith Orson Welles. A double feature of “An American in Paris,” withGene Kelly, and “Funny Face,” with Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, closethings out on Saturday, May 30.
All programs begin at 7:30 p.m. in the JamesBridges Theater on the UCLA campus, with the exception of “Porgy,”which will begin at 7 p.m. For a detailed schedule, call (310)206-FILM.
The Nuart Theatre pays homage to another legendthis week: French funnyman Jacques Tati. “Jour de Fete,” his firstfeature, with Tati portraying a village postman inspired to save timeafter seeing a newsreel of the American postal system, will playthrough Wednesday, May 20. Originally shot with two cameras — oneusing an experimental type of color film and a backup shootingblack-and-white — the color version will now screen for the firsttime in a newly struck print, taking advantage of more recenttechnology.
On Saturday, May 16, and Sunday, May 17, at noon,the Nuart will present Tati’s best-known classic, “Mr. Hulot’sHoliday.” A double feature of “Playtime,” with Monsieur Hulot tryingto survive Paris, and “Mon Oncle,” a silent Hulot gem in color, willshow on Thursday, May 21, only.
The Nuart is at 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., LosAngeles. Call (310) 478-6379 for show times.