The Stanford Theatre

The Best of Ernst Lubitsch (and other favorites)

The Stanford Theatre is dedicated to bringing back the movie-going experience of Hollywood's Golden Age. It is one of the few places where you can still watch movies on a big screen projected the way they were intended — in 35mm prints. 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 every night before and after the 7:30 show, or providing the accompaniment to “silent” films.

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 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.)

Dec 25 – Jan 5: closed

Jan 6 – 8:
The Pleasure of His Company (1961) (3:40), 7:30
d George Seaton. w Samuel A. Taylor, from the play by Taylor and Cornelia Otis Skinner. ph Robert Burks. m Alfred Newman. Paramount. 115 min.

Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Lilli Palmer, Tab Hunter, Gary Merrill, Charles Ruggles, Harold Fong.

San Francisco debutante Debbie Reynolds is marrying Napa Valley rancher Tab Hunter. Her long-absent playboy father (Fred Astaire) returns for the wedding and disrupts the dull, domestic scene (her mother has remarried).

This was a successful Broadway play that ran for 474 performances in 1958–59. In the film, Charlie Ruggles repeats his role from the original stage play, for which he won a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Play.

first played at the Stanford Theatre July 7, 1961; first showing by the Stanford Theatre Foundation

The Catered Affair (1956) 5:45, 9:35
d Richard Brooks. w Paddy Chayefsky, Gore Vidal. ph John Alton. m André Previn. MGM. 94 min.

Bette Davis, Debbie Reynolds, Ernest Borgnine, Barry Fitzgerald, Rod Taylor.

Debbie Reynolds and Rod Taylor are getting married. All they want is a small simple wedding. But her mother (Bette Davis) wants a big affair they can't afford, especially since her father has been saving money for years to buy his own cab.

first showing at the Stanford Theatre

Jan 9 – Jan 12: closed

Jan 13 – 20:
"So they call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt!"
To Be or Not To Be (1942) (3:45), 7:30
d Ernst Lubitsch. w Edwin Justus Meyer, story by Ernst Lubitsch & Melchior Lengyel. ph Rudolph Maté. m Werner Heymann. United Artists. 99 min.

Jack Benny, Carole Lombard, Robert Stack, Stanley Ridges, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Sig Rumann, Tom Dugan, Charles Halton.

Carole Lombard's last and greatest film, an outrageously unique comedy about a troupe of ham actors in the Polish underground, trying to save Warsaw from Hitler. While Jack Benny ("that great, great Polish actor Joseph Tura") recites Hamlet's soliloquy on stage, his wife (Lombard) arranges for a young aviator to come to her dressing room. As the Nazi Colonel Ehrhardt later remarks, "What he did to Shakespeare, we ar now doing to Poland."

Lombard's tragic death shortly after the completion of this extraodinary film may have been the greatest single loss ever suffered by Hollywood. Imagine what films there might have been (Lombard was younger than Katharine Hepburn)!

To Be or Not To Be has been the sixty-third most widely attended film at the Stanford Theatre — 17,533 tickets since 1989.
first played at the Stanford Theatre May 7, 1942; last played Aug 2016

"With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But not everybody could get to Lisbon directly; and so, a tortuous, round-about refugee trail sprang up: Paris to Marseilles, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, or auto, or foot, across the rim of Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here the fortunate ones, through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca... and wait... and wait... and wait."
Casablanca (1942) 5:35, 9:20
d Michael Curtiz. w Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch, from the play Everybody Comes to Rick's by Murray Burnett & Joan Alison. m Max Steiner. ph Arthur Edeson. Warner Bros. 102 min.

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Konrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S. Z. Sakall, Madeline Le Beau, Dooley Wilson, Joy Page, John Qualen, Leonid Kinsky, Helmut Dantine, Curt Bois, Marcel Dalio, Corinna Mura, Ludwig Stossel, Ilka Gruning, Charles La Torre, Frank Puglia, Dan Seymour.

Everybody comes to Rick's café — exiles from the Nazis, corrupt officials, and Ilsa Lund, the great lost love of Rick's life.

We can debate whether Casablanca is the best movie ever made. It may be. Certainly few other movies are so universally recognized as expressing the deepest truths about human life — and are also so much fun.

As time goes by, it becomes increasingly unlikely that anyone will ever make a movie better than Casablanca. On its 50th anniversary in 1992, more people saw Casablanca at the Stanford Theatre than anywhere else in the world.

"Of all the movie theatres in all the towns in all the world, they walk into ours."

Casablanca has been the most widely attended film at the Stanford Theatre — 109,595 tickets since 1989.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Feb 24, 1943; last played Jan 2016

January 21:
The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) 7:30
d Ernst Lubitsch. w Hans Kraly, from the play Old Heidelberg by W. Meyerforster and the operetta by Dorothy Donelly and Sigmund Romberg. ph John Mescall. MGM. 10 reels.

Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer, Jean Hersholt, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Philippe De Lacy, Edgar Norton, Bobby Mack, Edward Connelly, Otis Harlan.

Dennis James at the mighty Wurlitzer.

In this eloquent, bittersweet film, the young prince leaves his sheltered life to attend the university and falls in love. Duty calls, however, and he must accept his crown.

first played at the Stanford Theatre Jan 19, 1992; last played Aug 2001

January 22:
Madame DuBarry (1919) 3:00
d Ernst Lubitsch. w Fred Orbing [Norbert Falk], Hanns Kraly. ph Theodor Sparkuhl, Kurt Waschneck. Union-UFA. 85 m.

Pola Negri, Emil Jannings, Harry Liedtke, Eduard von Winterstein, Reinhold Schünzel.

Dennis James at the mighty Wurlitzer.

first showing at the Stanford Theatre