As I’m playing catch-up, I’ve noticed the big United Artists 90 Anniversary series at the Castro. Ten programs, nine of them double bills, of movies released by UA.
Actually, there’s considerably more. The current Castro listings (from April 2nd through May 8th) have an additional seven double bills of exclusively United Artist releases. I have no idea why these aren’t officially part of the series.
Both the official and unofficial UA double bills give a pretty good idea of the excellent product that company was putting out in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The titles include Annie Hall, West Side Story, The Manchurian Candidate, Raging Bull, A Shot in the Dark, and Some Like It Hot.
A lot is missing, of course, including any James Bond or Beatles movies. Also, for a 90th Anniversary celebration, it’s kind of weird that there isn’t a single film in the program more than 53 years old.
Weird, but explainable. Before the early 1950s, United Artists pretty much just released films financed and made by independent producers (including the four artists who united to create it: Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D. W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford). The producers held onto the rights, so UA never didn’t acquire a library. And that means that the current owners of UA–last I checked, it’s a subsidiary of MGM, recently bought by Columbia Pictures, which is owned by Sony)–has no reason to promote them.
Still, if you really want to celebrate United Artists, you should include City Lights, The Thief of Baghdad (actually, both versions), Broken Blossoms, Stagecoach, and many more.