The historic Camelot Theatre at the Palm Springs Cultural Center is one of the jewels of the desert. Among its great programs are its film retrospectives. This year features perhaps its best ever lineup. I attended the madcap comedy Libeled Lady during the theatre’s Screwball Sundays series. For great laughs and also insight on this amazing depression era movie making check out any of the other four films that will be shown each Sunday from now till June 18.
At the conclusion of each film is a wonderful discussion about the making of the film and the genre. This discussion was lead by Lauren Wolfer the Program Director with expert insight and analysis by Aliece Pickett of the Film Society Of Screwball Comedy. Much was learned about the great actors in this film including Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy. For instance even though William Powell and Myrna Loy were romantically linked in their many screen roles, in particular the Thin Man series, Powell and Loy were actually just good friends in real life. Powell and Harlow however were real life lovers and when Harlow died of kidney failure at age 26 Powell had a marble crypt built for her at cost of $25,000.
Other great insights provided by historian Pickett included the background of many of the writers of the screwball comedies. Numerous writers came not from playwrite’s or novelists but from actual journalists. This is why so many of these comedies are centered around a big city newspaper. These writers knew the business, both the dark and heroic side of the press.
Being a fan of the arts I was especially impressed with the history told about the great art director of Libeled Lady, Cedric Gibbons. I’ve followed his career for years as I’ve watched classic 1930s/40s films. I didn’t know however that he attended the 1925 Paris Art Expo where he saw Art Deco in abundance. He took what he saw back to Hollywood and incorporated this new look in his films. He received well over 1000 film credits primarily for MGM. He was a founding member of the Academy and designed the Oscar. You can see one of the eleven Oscars he was awarded at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.
Coming up soon at the Camelot is the Summer of Scorsese. Beginning on June 10 with his film Mean Streets featuring a young Robert De Niro.