Last Saturday night the Alex Film Society hosted a screening of “The Philadelphia Story” the 1940s romantic comedy starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart. The evening included an Academy Award winning Bugs Bunny cartoon, a newsreel and two industry insiders who shared stories of the golden era of the Hollywood and director George Cukor.
Before the film began, Pauline Wagner McCourtney, an actress that was on contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1930s and 1940s and Richard Stanley, Cukor’s assistant from 1970 to his death in 1983, spoke to the audience about the film, director and what Hollywood was really like in those days.
McCourtney, who will be 99 in August, shared stories of her missed encounter with Cary Grant and how lovely Katharine Hepburn was. Stanley told of walking into a movie theater with Cukor as the audience laughed at a scene of “Dinner at Eight” another film he directed.
Then the lights went down and this magnificent film filled the screen. I took my 9-year-old daughter, who had seen the film before on television but never on the big screen. She was thrilled with the opening cartoon and laughed along with the audience as Elmer Fudd hunted that “wascally wabbit.” She was amazed at the newsreel, leaning over to ask if those people she was seeing on screen were still alive. Then the film, from the opening to the end the audience was laughing and enthralled.
With its film screenings the Alex Film Society offers a historical look back at the country through the newsreels and a full film experience at the Alex Theatre in Glendale that cannot compare to anything any classical cable movie channel can offer.
The next film to be screened by the society will be “The Time Machine” on April 25. Information can be found at the website www.alextheatre.org.