In the 1940s, Preston Sturges wrote and directed a series of comedies with a uniquely frenetic pace and eccentric originality, together with a barely disguised love for the humanity his films make such fun of. Before directing his own films he was a major screenwriter. His pictures employ a marvelous group of supporting actors you will enjoy seeing week after week.
By the time the Marx Brothers reached the screen in 1929 they were major stars on Broadway. Their first movie, The Cocoanuts, was filmed during the day while they were still performing on stage every evening. They arrived in Hollywood in 1930, bringing their comedic brand of anarchy with them.
As usual, we present Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life at 9:00 PM on Christmas Eve. Advance tickets available December 7.
The Stanford Theatre is dedicated to bringing back the movie-going experience of Hollywood's Golden Age. Great classic films were not made to be watched on a video screen in your living room. They depend on a larger-than-life image, and the shared reactions of a real audience.
The Stanford Theatre first opened in June of 1925. For decades nearly every important Hollywood picture played there on its first release. The people of Palo Alto saw them all for the very first time in this theatre.
In 1987 the Packard Foundation bought the theatre and restored it to its original condition. It quickly became America's most popular classic movie house. More people saw Casablanca there on its 50th anniverary in 1992 than at any other theatre in America.
The non-profit Stanford Theatre Foundation is dedicated to the preservation and public exhibition of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. This means classic movies in a classic movie palace, complete with Wurlitzer organ rising from the orchestra pit.
Note: This is an unofficial posting of the Stanford Theatre schedules, from published information. This site is in no way connected with the Stanford Theatre nor the Stanford Theatre Foundation. Please check out the official site at http://www.stanfordtheatre.org in case this schedule isn't quite up-to-date! Programs are subject to change. For information, call (650) 324-3700.
(Showtimes in parentheses are for the Saturday and Sunday screenings.)
Brian Donlevy, Akim Tamiroff, Muriel Angelus, Louis Jean Heydt, Arthur Hoyt.
In this satire on corruption in politics, a bum who voted 37 times in one day rises all the way to the statehouse but falls just as quickly when he decides to go straight.
Preston Sturges was already a famous Hollywood screenwriter when he directed this, his first film.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Aug 23, 1940; last played Nov 2010
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, & Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Oscar Shaw, Mary Eaton, Kay Francis, Basil Ruysdael, Cyril Ring.
Groucho plays Hammer, a wily entrepeneur and real estate speculator on the side, whose giant Hotel de Cocoanut is filled with guests but has only one paying customer. While he schemes to pull himself out of his financial woes, Harpo and Chico pickpocket and pilfer to pay their bill.
The Marx Brothers' first feature, adapted from their Broadway musical comedy about the Florida land boom. It was filmed at Astoria Studios.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Oct 20, 1929; last played June 2008
Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Ernest Truex, Al Bridge, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest.
In this charmingly offbeat romantic comedy, a young man mistakenly believes he has won $25,000 in a slogan contest.
"Probably Sturges' warmest comedy, and a fine illustration of the 'common man' touch which tempered his worldly sophistication." Baseline Movie Guide.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Jan 16, 1941; last played Feb 2009
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, & Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Lillian Roth, Louis Sorin, Robert Greig, Hal Thompson.
Fearless African explorer Capt. Jeffrey Spaulding (Groucho) and his secretary Horatio (Zeppo) join a society party in progress. On their heels are Signor Emanuel Revelli (Chico) and the Professor (Harpo).
Like The Cocoanuts, this was originally a Broadway musical comedy.
The songs, including Hooray for Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer, are by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby (played by Fred Astaire and Red Skelton in Three Little Words).
first played at the Stanford Theatre Sep 24, 1930; last played Jul 2008
Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest, Eric Blore, Melville Cooper, Martha O'Driscoll, Janet Beecher, Robert Greig, Luis Alberni, Jimmy Conlin.
Sturges' masterpiece, in which herpetologist Fonda is pursued by snake-in-the-grass Stanwyck, with the help of her father Coburn ("we must be crooked but never common"). The New York Times rated this the best film of 1941 (Citizen Kane was second).
"A frivolous masterpiece… it represents the dizzy high point of Sturges' comedic writing" Pauline Kael.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Apr 12, 1941; last played July 2009
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, & Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd, Rockliffe Fellowes, Ruth Hall, Harry Woods, Tom Kennedy.
The boys are stowaways on board a luxury liner. They become entangled in the affairs of rival bootleggers. Groucho and Zeppo are hired as bodyguards for Alky Briggs, while Harpo and Chico are hired as guards by his rival, Joe Helton.
The first Marx Brothers film written directly for the screen.
"Heavenly, corny, nonsense." Pauline Kael.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Oct 6, 1931; last played Mar 2005
Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Byron Foulger, Eric Blore, Robert Greig, Torben Meyer, Jimmy Conlin, Margaret Hayes.
A Hollywood director, ashamed of his frivolous work, determines to make a serious, socially relevant film. Dressed as a tramp, he sets out to experience the real world with ten cents in his pocket. In the end, he discovers that comedy is divine after all.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Apr 2, 1942; last played Mar 2005
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, & Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd, Robert Greig, David Landau.
Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho) is made president of Huxley College. His son Frank (Zeppo) convinces him that Huxley needs a football team, and that he knows where to hire a couple of star athletes. Unfortunately the stars are hired by rival Darwin College while Frank mistakenly hires Chico (Baravelli, the ice man) and Harpo (Pinky, a dog catcher).
first played at the Stanford Theatre Sep 4, 1932; last played Aug 2008
Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Diana Lynn, Porter Hall, Akim Tamiroff, Brian Donlevy, Alan Bridge.
In one of the zaniest screwball comedies, Betty Hutton attends a wild, all-night party for departing soldiers, but the next day she cannot remember the name of the man she apparently married. James Agee said that watching this film is "like taking a nun on a roller coaster... one of the most violently funny comedies that ever came out of Hollywood."
"There's that flawless comic rhythm that is uniquely Sturges." Peter Bogdanovich
first played at the Stanford Theatre Nov 17, 1944; last played Feb 2009
Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Edgar Kennedy, Louis Calhern, Raquel Torres.
Arguably the Marx Brothers' best film, yet poorly received when released and criticized for being unconventional. The story is a somewhat surreal farce about war and international diplomacy.
"The Marx Brothers made the trip from vaudeville to Hollywood, and it's liek Neil Armstrong stepping down onto the moon and landing on a banana peel." David Thomson
first played at the Stanford Theatre Dec 10, 1933; last played July 2008
w/d Preston Sturges. ph Victor Milner. m Victor Young. Paramount. 88 min.
Claudette Colbert, Joel McRea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor, Sig Arno, Robert Warwick, Torben Meyer, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Jack Norton, Robert Grieg, Roscoe Ates, Chester Conklin, Franklin Pangborn, Alan Bridge, Robert Dudley.
In one of the zaniest screwball comedies ever made, Claudette Colbert abandons husband Joel McRae and heads for a Palm Beach divorce. She encounters the Wienie King and boards a train, where she falls in with the wealthy members of the Ale and Quail Club. Rudy Vallee was a surprise sensation as the timid millionaire Hackensacker.
"One of the giddiest and most chaotic of Preston Sturges' satiric orgies." Pauline Kael
first played at the Stanford Theatre Feb 1, 1943; last played Apr 2010
Groucho, Harpo, and Chico Marx, Margaret Dumont, Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Siegfried Rumann, Walter Woolf King, Edward Keane, Robert Emmet O'Connor, Lorraine Bridges.
Wealthy Mrs. Claypool (Margaret Dumont) hires Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho) in Milan to help her enter high society. Through Driftwood she becomes involved in a New York production of Il Trovatore. Chico (Fiorello) and Harpo (Tomasso) stow away in Driftwood's cabin when the opera company sails for America.
The Brothers' first film with MGM and Irving Thalberg.
"It would seem a little irrelevant to speak of art in connection with, say A Night at the Opera. But I will say this, that if I were given the choice of one and only one film, to take with me to that desert island, I would go for a Marx film without a moment's hesitation." Satyajit Ray
first played at the Stanford Theatre Dec 15, 1935; last played Feb 2012
James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bond, Gloria Grahame, H. B. Warner, Frank Albertson, Samuel S. Hinds, Mary Treen.
The traditional Christmas Eve screening of what Frank Capra modestly called "the greatest movie anybody ever made." Advance tickets are recommended.
Every Christmas Eve more than 1000 people watch George Bailey's Odyssey at The Stanford Theatre. It's our most important tradition.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Apr 27, 1947; last played Dec 2012
Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Ella Raines, Franklin Pangborn, Elizabeth Patterson, Raymond Walburn, Alan Bridge, Georgia Caine, Freddie Steele, Jimmy Conlin, Torben Meyer.
Discharged from the marines because of hay fever, a soldier is mistaken for a war hero when he returns to his home town.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Jan 25, 1945; last played Nov 2010
Groucho, Chico, & Harpo Marx, Margaret Dumont, Maureen O'Sullivan, Allan Jones, Douglas Dumbrille, Esther Muir, Sig Rumann.
Dr. Hugo Z. Hackenbush (Groucho), a horse doctor, is made chief of staff at Standish Sanitarium after beig mistaken for the neurologist of the wealthiest patient.
first played at the Stanford Theatre July 1, 1937; last played Jul. 1993