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March 1 - March 8

9 x Quine

A prolific director of over thirty Hollywood features made between 1948 and 1979, Richard Quine’s (1920-1989) career achieved a sustained peak during the 1950s and 1960s while working at Columbia Pictures. A specialist in comedy who was instrumental in launching the careers of Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon and Blake Edwards, Quine has long been overshadowed by the other great directors of late studio era comedy: Billy Wilder, Frank Tashlin and Edwards himself. Only recently has Quine been rediscovered as a filmmaker of equal rank, an artist able to infuse studio comedy and melodrama with unexpected warmth and melancholy.

Born in Detroit in 1920, Quine was already acting in Hollywood and on Broadway by the mid-1930s. After serving in the Coast Guard during World War Two, he turned to directing and quickly secured a contract at Columbia, where he began by filming a string of comedy shorts before turning to a series of musicals. During the 1950s, Quine hit his stride with such hit comedies as The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956) and Bell, Book and Candle (1959), commercial success that continued well into the 1960s, after Quine had left Columbia.

Quine is perhaps best understood placed between two other celebrated directors of 1950s comedy: Billy Wilder and Frank Tashlin. More understated than Tashlin, Quine replaces Tashlin’s manic energy with understated charm. Although Quine shares a number of Wilder’s favorite actors, most notably Jack Lemmon, and often echoes Wilder’s striking visual realism, Quine’s films are less sour than Wilder’s. Where Wilder’s films deliver a jaundiced, biting critique of postwar America, Quine’s work thoughtfully examines the melancholy underside of American life, the drifting world of the so-called “lonely crowd.”

This unique combination of charm and melancholy, with an emphasis on the lonely heart of American society, reaches a poignant apex with Strangers When We Meet (1960), a melodrama of suburban adultery that is remarkably restrained for late Hollywood. While Quine’s later comedies grow more manic and cynical, his greatest work from the 1950s and 1960s—the focus of this series—reveal the talent of a consummate storyteller and restrained stylist.

Special thanks to Sony Pictures for providing beautifully restored and newly struck prints of Quine’s films.


Sunday March 1 at 7pm

Kim Novak with a black catBell, Book and Candle

Directed by Richard Quine.
With James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon
US 1959, 35mm, color, 106 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Quine’s sensitive adaptation of John van Druten’s popular Broadway comedy offers a touching statement on the transformative power of love and its ability to bridge different worlds. A curious and often overlooked sequel of sorts to Vertigo, Bell, Book and Candle reunites Hitchcock’s stars, with James Stewart as a Manhattanite mortal who falls in love and under the spell of a witch played by the beguiling Kim Novak. The rich character comedy involving the supporting cast frames the true heart of the film—the dilemmas faced by Novak’s witch, who must keep her magic powers a secret and above all, not fall in love under the risk of losing her powers. Behind the occasional silliness lies the age-old notion of love as a necessary—but not necessarily easy—sacrifice. Quine’s talent for fusing charm and melancholy makes this message believable, with the help of Novak’s poignant performance.

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Sunday March 1 at 9pm

Kim Novak and Kirk Douglas driving togetherStrangers When We Meet

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Kirk Douglas, Kim Novak, Ernie Kovacs
US 1960, 35mm, color, 117 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

During the recent rediscovery of Quine, Strangers When We Meet has been almost unanimously declared the director’s masterpiece. Although this adult melodrama of infidelity is clearly set in Sirk territory, it replaces Sirk’s pointed artificiality with a biting urgency, understated realism and palpable sadness. A fascinating cross between Sirk and Cheever, then, Strangers is a poignant last sunset of the Hollywood melodrama in the twilight of the classical studio era. Kirk Douglas and Quine favorite Kim Novak play suburbanites drawn into an adulterous and inevitably ill-fated affair. After his comedies and musicals, in which character and tone take precedence over plot, Quine gives further evidence of his ability (as in his film noirs) to maintain narrative drive even while privileging his keenly observant eye for human behavior.

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Monday March 2 at 7pm

Kim Novak and Jack LemmonThe Notorious Landlady

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Fred Astaire
US 1962, 35mm, b/w, 123 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

As Quine’s last film for his first “home,” Columbia Pictures—and his final work with a number of frequent collaborators, including Blake Edwards and Kim Novak—The Notorious Landlady is touched with an angularity and autumnal wistfulness seemingly at odds with the farcical elements in the screenplay. Jack Lemmon plays a U.S. diplomat who rents a London flat from the title character, Kim Novak’s “black widow,” who is suspected in the recent disappearance of her husband. While Quine’s earlier comedies ultimately affirm a benign view of their protagonists, darker tones creep into The Notorious Landlady, resulting in a confusion of genres between farce, romance and slapstick that paved the way for Quine’s more sharply cynical 1960s comedies.

soldiers with an Army nurseOperation Mad Ball

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Kathryn Grant
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 105 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Richard Quine served as something of a mentor to Blake Edwards, who scripted several of Quine’s first feature films at Columbia, including Operation Mad Ball, one of Edwards’ earliest works to point towards his signature: A mixture of broad farce and social satire, combined in the service of a preoccupation with evolving sexual mores. Here, despite the opposition of their choleric captain, a group of enlisted men seek to have a party in order to fraternize with a group of Army nurses—who, as it happens, outrank them.

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Friday March 6 at 7pm

man unconscious in a carPushover

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Fred MacMurray, Phil Carey, Kim Novak
US 1954, 35mm, b/w, 88 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Pushover is the second in a pair of film noirs that are the turning point between Quine’s early frothy musicals and his mature films. Pushover looks back to Double Indemnity in its use of a hardboiled Fred MacMurray falling fast for a femme fatale while also looking forward to Quine’s later films in its casting of Kim Novak as the fatal object of desire. The film’s plot centers on a bank heist by the boyfriend of Novak’s character; MacMurray is the cop who falls for her while keeping her under surveillance. Godard is known to have been a champion of this film and claimed it as a determining influence on Breathless.

mickey rooney driving a race carDrive a Crooked Road

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster, Kevin McCarthy
US 1954, 35mm, b/w, 83 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

The acute sense of isolation that is a hallmark of film noir is central to Drive a Crooked Road, one of Quine’s first non-musicals, and the film which introduced loneliness—as a subject and a mood—into the director’s work, where it remained a central idea. After directing Mickey Rooney in two musicals, Quine offered the actor one of his first dramatic roles, as a shy mechanic who is drawn into a heist by thieves looking for a getaway driver, and using a gorgeous woman as the bait. Eschewing the expressionist excess of classic 1940s noir, Drive a Crooked Road favors a straightforward realism in its depiction of the film’s Southern California setting.

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Saturday March 7 at 7pm

judy holliday and paul douglasThe Solid Gold Cadillac

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Judy Holliday, Paul Douglas, Fred Clark
US 1956, 35mm, b/w and color, 100 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Over the course of the 1950s, Quine was offered increasingly prestigious projects at Columbia. Under producer Fred Kohlmar, he was assigned to direct The Solid Gold Cadillac, an adaptation of the hit Broadway play and a star vehicle for Judy Holliday, cast as a lowly shareholder whose common sense derails a nefarious corporation’s stockholder meetings. While the play is obviously a satiric fairy tale on the ability of the “little guys” to outwit corporate bigwigs, the heart of Quine’s film is clearly with the two lovelorn couples that the plot intrigues to unite.

pregnant judy holliday getting marriedFull of Life

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Judy Holliday, Richard Conte, Salvatore Baccaloni
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 91 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Author John Fante worked in Hollywood to support the writing of his novels, despite his low opinion of the studios as a creative environment. Quine however gained Fante’s trust and affection with this sensitive, seriocomic adaptation of the author’s semi-autobiographical book, about a young couple facing the birth of their first child. Though the film has earned a place in history as one of the most frank Hollywood depictions of pregnancy (a topic that the Production Code virtually required the studios to ignore), today Full of Life is most noteworthy for the gentle pleasures of its depictions of the joys and discontents of family life, and for the rare opportunity it affords Judy Holliday to step outside the persona of the “dumb blonde.”

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Sunday March 8 at 3pm

Janet Leigh at a soda counterMy Sister Eileen

Directed by Richard Quine.
With Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Betty Garrett
US 1955, 35mm, color, 108 min.
Print from Sony Pictures

Arguably Quine’s most delightful film, My Sister Eileen is a musical scored by Jule Styne and Leo Robin and based on the same source material as Comden and Green’s irresistible Broadway show Wonderful Town. The film follows two sisters from Ohio newly transplanted to Greenwich Village and struggling to find work and love in the big city. As so often in Quine’s work, story is secondary to mood and character. The first film for which Bob Fosse received screen credit as a choreographer, My Sister Eileen is also perhaps the film in which Fosse appears onscreen for the greatest amount of time. A welcome alternative to the somewhat more formal MGM musicals of the period, My Sister Eileen possesses a charm and intimacy of scale that remains as appealing today as it was at its first release.

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