When LaSalle Bank got devoured by Bank of America earlier this year, I wondered if it would finally mean the end of the Classic Film Series, which has been presenting weekly screenings of Hollywood relics in Irving Park since 1972. But the series’ new schedule, which begins Saturday with Nicholas Ray’s haunting noir In a Lonely Place (1950) and runs through the end of the year, proves that B of A is making good on its promise to preserve the series.
Mike King, who began programming the CFS in 2003, departed in May to take a job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s cinematheque, but Michael Phillips (not the Chicago Tribune critic), who came on as a projectionist in 2004 and became coprogrammer two years later, is staying on. (His film-related writing can be found at Goatdog.)
The new schedule includes series on Joan Crawford (Dancing Lady, 9/6; Sudden Fear, 9/13; Humoresque, 9/20) and John Ford (Judge Priest, 8/2; Young Mr. Lincoln, 8/9; Steamboat Round the Bend, 8/16), as well as revivals of Chaplin’s City Lights (8/30), George Sidney’s Pal Joey (8/23), Jacques Tourneur’s Stars in My Crown (10/25), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Stairway to Heaven (also known as A Matter of Life and Death) (11/22), and the original version of 3:10 to Yuma (7/26).
I’m always glad for the chance to see titles like these screened in a theater, but the real value of the series has always been its esoterica. Among the rare titles being screened through the end of 2008 are John Frankenheimer’s 1965 thriller The Train, with Burt Lancaster (7/12), Rouben Mamoulian’s 1936 bandito adventure The Gay Desperado (9/27), Terence Young’s 1948 costume drama Corridor of Mirrors (10/18), and Val Guest’s 1959 satire of the British teen-idol racket, Expresso Bongo (11/8).
Last but not least, the programmers launch every show with a short, newsreel, or serial episode, which is sometimes more rare and worthwhile than the feature. Coming soon are the Laurel & Hardy short Scram! (8/2), Buster Keaton’s multiple-exposure experiment The Playhouse (8/30), the rare early Three Stooges short Plane Nuts (9/6), and cartoons by Tex Avery, Rudy Isling, Chuck Jones, and Dave Fleischer.
The series doesn’t have a web site, but you can pick up a print copy of its reliably handsome and well-written schedule at the weekly screening on Saturday night, or request one by leaving a message with your mailing address at 312-904-9442. The theater is located at 4901 W. Irving Park, and there’s free parking in the bank’s back lot, which is where the theater entrance is hidden. What you want to do is turn south on Lavergne and then hang a left into the lot.