Classic films, unique art exhibitions and the best in jazz are just a part of the exciting presentations scheduled this winter through spring at the Palmdale Playhouse.
The Winter Classic Movie Series will feature some of the most critically acclaimed fan favorites of the silver screen and will be presented the way the directors intended them to be seen: on the big screen. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “Psycho” leads off the series of matinees on Sunday, Feb. 14. Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh and Martin Balsam star in arguably the first “horror-slasher” film centering around an encounter between secretary-gone-embezeller Marion Crane (Leigh), who find herself at a secluded motel managed by a disturbed young man, Norman Bates, portrayed by Perkins.
Academy Award winners
The film was a departure from Hitchcock’s previous film, “North by Northwest,” and it didn’t have a particularly high budget. Shot in black and white, “Psycho” early on received somewhat mixed reviews because of its images of disturbing violence, deviant behavior and sexual innuendo. It had outstanding box office returns and received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock. After it came to television, “Psycho” became one of Hitchcock’s most watched films. After Hitchcock’s death in 1980, Universal Studios began producing follow-ups: three film sequels, a television film spin-off, and even a TV series. “Psycho” is included in the National Film Registry. Local film buffs will also remember the old, creepy Bates Motel as part of the Universal Studios Tour.
“Double Indemnity” will be shown on Sunday, Feb. 21. Billy Wilder’s 1944 drama stars Fred McMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. McMurray and Stanwyck are believed to be happily married, but the wife wants her insurance-salesman husband dead. Robinson portrays a claims adjuster whose job is to find phony claims. The term “double indemnity” refers to a clause in a life insurance policy that doubles the amount paid in cases when death is caused while, for instance, traveling on public transportation such as a streetcar, train, bus or an airplane.
“Double Indemnity” received seven Oscar nominations but didn’t win any trophies. The film is regarded as a classic in American “film noir” and is widely believed to have set to the standards for the films that follow in that genre. In 1992, the U.S. Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998, “Double Indemnity” was ranked No. 38 on the American Film Institute’s list of the “100 Best Americans Films of the 20th Century.”
One of Brando’s best
For more than 60 years, film fans have often pointed to “On The Waterfront” as their favorite Marlon Brando movie. It will run on March 13. Brando originally declined the role of boxer Terry Malloy, and Karl Malden’s role as Father Barry was initially offered to Frank Sinatra. Director Elia Kazan gathered an outstanding cast, including Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint and an early film appearance by Fred Gwynne. Leonard Bernstein did the music. The taxicab discussion between Brando and Steiger is considered one of the most memorable—and replayed—scenes in film history. Martin Scorsese years later borrowed from Steiger’s hanging death scene for his mob flick “Goodfellas.”
Based on a New York Sun series called “Crime on the Waterfront,” the film focuses on union violence and intimidation amongst longshoremen while detailing widespread corruption, extortion and racketeering on the often violent waterfronts of Hoboken, N.J. The film was an immediate box office success, winning eight of 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor (Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Saint) and Best Director (Kazan). The American Film Institute ranked “On the Waterfront” as the eighth-greatest American film of all time. This film is also included in the United States National Film Registry.
Matinees for $5
Rounding out the series of classic films is another Billy Wilder masterpiece, “Sunset Boulevard,” scheduled for March 20. The 1950 comedy/drama is set along the famous winding road traveling west of the Sunset Strip and stars Gloria Swanson, William Holden and Erich Von Stroheim. Swanson portrays aging, deranged silent film star Norma Desmond who dreams of a Technicolor comeback. Holden is Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful screenwriter who gets drawn into Desmond’s fantasy world. The film was novel for its day because Swanson really was a silent film star—flashbacks of her career 30 years prior are replayed for the audience—and her faithful butler, Max Von Mayerling, was portrayed by Von Stroheim, another “pre-talkie” star. There are a number of cameo appearances, including one of Swanson’s old directors, the legendary Cecil B. DeMille, as well as comic Buster Keaton, and H.B. Warner (Mr. Gower from “It’s A Wonderful Life”).
“Sunset Boulevard” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards (including recognition in all four acting categories) and received three trophies. The film is a classic presentation of the “Golden Age of Hollywood” and was included in the first group of movies selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The American Film Institute ranks it at No. 12.
Doors open at 1 p.m. and the movies will begin at 2 p.m. Organizers suggest you arrive early and enjoy an complementary dessert and beverage with paid admission. Tickets are $5 for general admission, and $4 for students with a current school ID. A family four-pack with one general admission ticket per movie is available for $15.
Unique art exhibitions
Classic movies aren’t the only story about the new season at the Palmdale Playhouse. Two art exhibits will be on display, the first of which “Fractured Landscapes and Joshua Trees” opens on Feb. 18 with a special reception at 6:30 p.m. in honor of artists Rose Gonella and Kris Holladay-Fregoso. Gonella creates her pieces using pictures clipped from calendars and magazines. Some pieces are inspired by song lyrics, others are color studies and some are simply constructed with a particular theme in mind. The second exhibit runs from April 21-June 12 and is titled “My Favorite Things in the Spring.” Created by the Juanita McWilliams Art Team, the exhibit features the work of McWilliams’ students who range anywhere from 5 years old to adult. McWilliams is a veteran fine arts teacher and has sold her art at the Palmdale Playhouse, and has been featured at the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. For many of the students, it will be their first art exhibition. A reception begins the show at 6:30 p.m. April 21.
‘The Wizard of Oz’
“The Wizard of Oz” will be presented at 8 p.m. March 4 and 5 and at 2 p.m. March 6. Auditions for the show began last fall, and now it’s curtain time as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the West—and Toto, too—will bring alive L. Frank Baum’s magical tale. The show is presented in a special arrangement with Tams Witmark Music Library. All the favorite songs will be performed, including “Over the Rainbow,” “Munchkinland-Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard” and “The Merry Old Land of Oz.”
Palmdale Recreation Supervisor Anne M. Pagliaro invites the public to “Come join us and travel the universe of Dorothy’s imagination on her journey to the land of Oz.” Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students, seniors, military (with ID), and children 12 years and under.
West Coast Classical will appear at 6:30 p.m. March 12 and again at 7:30 p.m. on April 1 and 2. The first show will be a presentation of “An Evening of Musical Inspiration” featuring musical solos, duets and ensemble pieces. Tickets are $12. The second two performances will be a “Tribute to Disney” featuring songs from “Frozen,” “Aladdin,” “Snow White,” “The Lion King” and “Monsters Inc.” Tickets are $15.
Palmdale School District Honor Band
The Palmdale School District will present two programs on the weekend of April 28 and 29. The first show at 6 p.m. will feature the Palmdale School District Honor Band, Orchestra and Mariachi/Jazz Band in a performance of “The Jim Rosenquist Honor Spring Concert.” The music will feature classical, pop, jazz and mariachi music of famous composers like Beethoven, John Williams as well as a few songs by the Beatles. Tickets are $8. At 6 p.m. the following evening, students will present “A Folklorico Music and Dance Celebration” which will be a celebratory concert of mariachi music and traditional folorico dance. Tickets are $8.
Live theater returns in May with a presentation of “Cheaper By the Dozen” from the Palmdale Reperatory Theatre. Showtime is at 8 p.m. May 20 and 21, and at 2 p.m. May 22. Produced by special arrangement with the Dramatic Publishing Company, “Cheaper By the Dozen” is based on the real-life story of the Gilbreth family of which its patriarch, Frank, once worked in the field of motion study and often used his family as “guinea pigs.” This often produced amusing and sometimes embarrassing results. Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy starred in the 1950 film.
“Suppose you’re an attractive high school girl and you’re not only a member of a large and unique family, but your father is, in fact, one of the great pioneers of industrial efficiency,” muses Paglario. “Then suppose he decides, for no apparent reason, to apply his unorthodox methods to you and the rest of your big family. The results are terribly embarrassing, funny and—it must be admitted—extremely effective.” Tickets for “Cheaper By the Dozen” are $18 for adults, and $15 for students, seniors, military (with ID) and children under 12 years.
“An Evening of Jazz” will culminate the Palmdale Playhouse winter/spring schedule at 7:30 p.m. May 28. The evening will feature the West Coast Classical Jazz Combo which will pay tribute to jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, George Gershwin, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins and Charlie Parker. Tickets are $15.
Tickets for all Palmdale Playhouse events may be purchased online at www.cityofpalmdale.org/playhouse, or at the box office beginning two hours before each show. The box office is located at 38334 10th St. East. For more details about Palmdale Playhouse events, call (661) 267-5684.