The Stanford Theatre

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

Plus the Marx Brothers, every Fri–Sun

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.)

Nov 14 – 17: closed

Nov 18 – 20:
Top Hat (1935) (4:00), 7:30
d Mark Sandrich. w Dwight Taylor, Allan Scott. ph David Abel. m Irving Berlin. RKO. 99 min.

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick.

In their most popular film together (set in London and Venice), Ginger mistakes Fred for the husband of her best friend. In addition to the unforgettable dances, sensational score, and brilliant comedy script, Top Hat is notable for its gorgeous Art Deco sets.

World wide, Top Hat was the second most popular film in 1935. All five Irving Berlin songs became top hits and remain standards to this day: "Cheek to Cheek", "Isn't This a Lovely Day (to be Caught in the Rain)", "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails", "No Strings", and "The Piccolino".

"Fred Astaire did not advance the art of film making. He only justified its right to exist." Satyajit Ray
Top Hat has been the nineteenth most widely attended film at the Stanford Theatre — 34,029 tickets since 1989.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Oct 2, 1935; last played Aug 2016

"The familiar strains of Verdi's music will come back to you tonight, and Mrs. Claypool's checks will probably come back in the morning."
A Night at the Opera (1935) 5:50, 9:20
d Sam Wood. w George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind. ph Merrit Gerstad. m Herbert Stothart. MGM. 90 min.

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 Dec 2013

Nov 21 – 24: closed

Nov 25 – 25:
Follow the Fleet (1936) (4:10), 7:30
d Mark Sandrich. w Dwight Taylor, Allan Scott. ph David Abel. m/ly Irving Berlin. RKO. 110 min.

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, Astrid Allwyn, Betty Grable, Lucille Ball.

Two sailors on leave in San Francisco find romance with two sisters.

The story perhaps dwells a little too long on the romance between Randolph Scott and Harriet Hillyard (later Harriet Nelson); but Ginger and Fred have plenty to do, including their marvelous dances to Let's Face the Music and Dance and I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket.

Songs by Irving Berlin: We Saw the Sea; Let Yourself Go; Get Thee Behind Me, Satan; I'd Rather Lead a Band; But Where Are You?; Let's Face the Music and Dance; and I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket.

first played at the Stanford Theatre Mar 11, 1936; last played June 2014

Horse Feathers (1932) 6:10, 9:30
d Norman Z. Mcleod. w Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S. J. Perelman, Will B. Johnstone. ph Ray June. m/ly Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby. Paramount. 69 min.

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 Dec 2013

Nov 28 – Dec 1: closed

Dec 2 – 4:
The Gay Divorcee (1934) (3:40), 7:30
d Mark Sandrich. w George Marion, Jr., Dorothy Yost, Edward Kaufman. ph David Abel. md Max Steiner. RKO. 107 min.

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Alice Brady, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Lillian Miles, Betty Grable.

The first film made specially for Fred and Ginger (it was their second film together) was a tremendous box office success. It was based on Cole Porter's 1932 Broadway musical, but kept only one original song, Night and Day. A new song, The Continental, won the first Oscar ever given for Best Song.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers perform their first true romantic dance to Night and Day. To call it a dance of seduction could give entirely the wrong impression, but that is nonetheless what it is. Although Ginger had begun as a Charleston dancer in Texas, she had an innate understanding of the dramatic and emotional richness of the new style Astaire was creating.

The script is bright and fast-paced, and several supporting actors (Eric Blore, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes) would return in future films as a kind of Astaire-Rogers stock company.

Songs: Night and Day, music and lyrics by Cole Porter; Let's K-nock K-nees and Don't Let It Bother You, music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel; A Needle in a Haystack and The Continental, music and lyrics by Con Conrad and Herb Magidson.

All in all, The Gay Divorcee remains after nearly 80 years one of the very best musical pictures ever made.

This was the very first film we showed in our original Fred Astaire Festival in 1987. Some people said that watching Fred Astaire in a real theatre was pointless because everybody could see his films on late-night television. But our 1175-seat theatre was nearly sold out for two solid weeks. Many people came every night, and we received 700 fan letters. This is why the Stanford Theatre still exists.

The Gay Divorcee has been the twenty-seventh most widely attended film at the Stanford Theatre — 29,009 tickets since 1989.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Nov 11, 1934; last played Aug 2016

Animal Crackers (1930) 5:40, 9:30
d Victor Heerman. w Morrie Ryskind, from the musical play by Ryskind & George F. Kaufman. ph George Folsey. m/ly Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby. Paramount. 98 min.

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 Sep 2016

Dec 5 – 8: closed

Dec 9 – 11:
Swing Time (1936) (3:50), 7:30
d George Stevens. w Howard Lindsay, Allan Scott. ph David Abel. m Jerome Kern. RKO. 105 min.

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Betty Furness, George Metaxa.

The slim plot, with Fred as a professional dancer (and gambler) and Ginger as a dance instructor, provides a vehicle for the most sublime dancing ever recorded on film. If you could spend just three minutes of your life in a movie theatre, a good choice might be to watch Fred and Ginger dancing Pick Yourself Up in Swing Time.

Because of the dances, and Ginger's fine performance, some regard this as the greatest of the ten Astaire-Rogers pictures; it was Ginger's favorite.

The classic songs by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields include The Way You Look Tonight (which won an Oscar for Best Song), A Fine Romance, Pick Yourself Up, Never Gonna Dance, and Bojangles of Harlem.

first played at the Stanford Theatre Oct 18, 1936; last played June 2014

"Why a duck?"
The Cocoanuts (1929) 5:45, 9:25
d Robert Florey, Joseph Santley. w George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind. ph George Folsey. m/ly Irving Berlin. Paramount. 96 min.

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 November 2013

Dec 12 – 15: closed

Dec 16 – 18:
"Ochi chornie"
Shall We Dance? (1937) (4:00), 7:30
d Mark Sandrich. w Allan Scott, Ernest Pagano. ph David Abel. m/ly George & Ira Gershwin. RKO. 116 min.

Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore, Jerome Cowan, Harriet Hoctor, Ketti Gallian, Ann Shoemaker.

Number seven in the series of nine Astaire-Rogers musicals made at RKO. A famous ballet dancer (Astaire) posing as a Russian falls in love with an American musical comedy star (Rogers). The implausible plot (only possible with music) is helped greatly by the marvelous Gershwin songs: Beginner's Luck, Slap That Bass, Walking the Dog, They All Laughed, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, They Can't Take That Away From Me, and Shall We Dance. The Gershwin score was the only one written for Astaire and Rogers.

first played at the Stanford Theatre June 1, 1937; last played May 2014

Monkey Business (1931) 6:00, 9:30
d Norman Z. McLeod. w S. J. Perelman, Will B. Johnstone, Arthur Sheekman. ph Arthur L. Todd. Paramount. 81 min.

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 Nov 2013

Dec 19 – 23:
"I want your opinion, your honest opinion."
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) 7:30
d Ernst Lubitsch. w Samuel Raphaelson, from the play by Nikolaus Laszlo. ph William Daniels. m Werner Heymann. MGM. 97 min.

James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, Felix Bressart, William Tracy.

In the days before Christmas. a new sales clerk (Margaret Sullavan) is hired by a Budapest shop. She and the manager (Jimmy Stewart) have a stressful relationship on the job, unaware that they have been conducting a romance as pen pals who have never met in person.

"Among the greatest of films... The cafe conversation may be the best meeting in American Film." David Thomson
"One of the most beautifully acted and paced romantic comedies ever made." Pauline Kael
"Never did I make a picture in which the atmosphere and the characters were truer than in this picture." Ernst Lubitsch

first played at the Stanford Theatre Feb 4, 1940; last played Dec 2015

"We're off to see..."
The Wizard of Oz (1939) 5:35, 9:20
d Victor Fleming & King Vidor. w Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Wolfe, from the book by L. Frank Baum. ph Harold Rosson. songs E. Y. Harburg & Harold Arlen. MGM. 102 min.

Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick.

One of the most beloved films of Hollywood's Golden Age, The Wizard of Oz continues to enchant adiences more than 70 years after its premiere. You haven't really been to Oz until you've seen it on our big screen in glorious Technicolor, with an audience.

The Wizard of Oz has been the fourteenth most widely attended film at the Stanford Theatre — 42,741 tickets since 1989.
first played at the Stanford Theatre Sep 3, 1939; last played Dec 2015

Dec 24:
"All you can take with you is that which you've given away."
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 9:00
d Frank Capra. w Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra, based on the short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. ph Joseph Walker, Joseph Biroc. m Dimitri Tiomkin. Liberty. 130 min.

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 go on sale Dec. 9.

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 2015