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May 3o-June 5, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack


Movie Times State of the Union/Born Yesterday
(1948/1950) Frank Capra directs Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in a story of a presidential candidate who needs his wife back for photo ops. Capra had intended a reteaming of Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in this film based on the little-known marital woes of Wendell Wilkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for president. But the result is "Capra's elegy for his abandonment of socially conscious filmmaking," observes biography Joseph McBride. It was a hit; part of the success must be due to the ever-underrated Angela Lansbury as the candidate's mistress. XXX: State of the Union was not the sequel. BILLED WITH Born Yesterday. About the wising-up of a kept woman. Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday) has been towed to Washington, D.C., by Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford), a vulgarian who has made a mint in the scrap business. Billie's lack of refinement is enough to embarrass even Brock, so he hires Paul (William Holden), a reporter, to tutor the woman. Since they're in D.C., Paul gives her a crash course in the history of the American Revolution. The Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol Dome inspire Billie to rebel against her own tyrant. At the end, Kanin drags in the soapbox to have Holden make some speeches about democracy triumphant—as if we hadn't already got the picture perfectly. It's A Doll's House played for screwball comedy, and Holliday skunked Bette Davis (for All About Eve) and Gloria Swanson (for Sunset Boulevard) at the Oscars that year. (Plays June 1-3 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Without Love/Full of Life
(1945/1956) Washington widow (Katharine Hepburn) takes in a new border (Spencer Tracy) a gruffster aeronautical inventor who sleepwalks. Because of the wartime D.C. housing shortage the two have to share bunk beds, so they decide to embark on a in-name-only marriage. It's based on a play by The Philadelphia Story's playwright Philip Barry but isn't remembered as fondly as that hit. Keenan Wynn and Lucille Ball co-star. BILLED WITH Full of Life. Attention John Fante fans! The L.A. writer whose autobiographical novel Ask the Dust was made into a lamentably miscast movie recently scripted this Richard Quine comedy-drama about a newlywed couple dealing with a lovably pesky old-world father-in-law (Metropolitan opera star Salvatore Baccaloni). Richard Conte, taking time out from his usual activity of shooting squealers, plays husband to Judy Holliday's wife. (Plays June 6-7 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Woman of the Year/Song of Love
(1942/1947) "I knew from the first day of working with Spence ... that I had met my match—and then some." On the success of The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn arranged this vehicle for herself, bringing in her director George Stevens and co-starring for the first time with Spencer Tracy. Hepburn plays a political reporter who becomes involved with a sportswriter (Tracy); though the Oscar-winning script gives the pair plenty of parry and thrust, it's also marred by some creaky slapstick, with what critic Otis Ferguson called "one of the most embarrassing sequences of Mrs. Newlywed-in-Kitchen" ever. BILLED WITH Song of Love. Hepburn stars as Clara Schumann, wife of the composer (Paul Henreid) and a composer herself, as well as an intimate of Brahms (Robert Walker) and Liszt (Henry Daniell). Artur Rubinstein did the keyboards. The public stayed away in droves: some because they preferred "Beer Barrel Polka" and some because they believed Hepburn was soft on communism (the film was picketed by the American Legion). (Plays May 30-31 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre)


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