Is COVID over? The Stanford is opening in July

The Stanford was the first Bay Area movie theater to close because of COVID-19. And now, 29 months later, it’s opening again.

This isn’t just any cinema. The Stanford is a grand palace built in 1925. From 1987 on, it only showed old movies, and mostly with double-features. Insisting on being old-fashioned, the Stanford refuses digital projection. On the other hand, it can screen very old nitrate prints. It also has a Wurlitzer organ for silent films.

The Stanford

Before COVID, only the Stanford and the Castro regularly showed double bills. And now, only the Stanford consistently gives you two movies for one ticket.

The Stanford’s Summer 2022 series will open for business on July 9. It will mostly play double bills every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until September 16. Hopefully, another list of movies will be up by then.

The best double bills

A+ Casablanca (1942) & A In a Lonely Place (1950), July 16-17

Casablanca: You’ve either already seen the best movie to come out of Hollywood’s studio-era sausage factory, or you know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece. For more details, see Casablanca: The Accidental Masterpiece.
In a Lonely Place: Nicholas Ray critiqued masculinity in many of his films, but rarely as strongly as he does here. Early on, the movie feels like an exposé of Hollywood. Then it becomes a murder mystery. It ends up studying the worst of masculinity.

A- The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) & B+ Christmas in July (1940), July 21-22

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek: At a time when it was impossible for a Hollywood picture to criticize the American military, or suggest that a young woman could get pregnant out of wedlock, Preston Sturges made a very funny comedy about a teenage girl who goes out with some soldiers and comes back in a family way. Read my appreciation.
Christmas in July: In his second film as a director, Sturges creates a charming yet bitter comedy about the American Dream – with themes that come out of King Vidor’s much more serious masterpiece, The Crowd. Dick Powell stars as a lowly clerk who thinks he has the makings of a brilliant advertising executive.

A The Hidden Fortress (1958) & A Yojimbo (1961) August 20-21

The Hidden Fortress: In Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa used the samurai genre to examine the limits of human knowledge and objectivity. In Seven Samurai, he told an epic story of small-scale war and a feudal system in crisis. In The Hidden Fortress, he made a very fun swashbuckler. See my Blu-ray review.
Yojimbo: A masterless samurai (Toshiro Mifune) wanders into a small town torn apart by rival gangs fighting a brutal turf war. Our hero uses his wits and amazing swordsmanship to play the two sides against each other. Of all of Kurosawa’s films, this is the one that looks most like a western. Read my Kurosawa Diary entry.

A+ North by Northwest (1959) & A+ Notorious (1946)

North by Northwest: A glib advertising man (Cary Grant) becomes the victim of mistaken identity in Alfred Hitchcock’s most entertaining thriller. Foreign spies want to kill him, and the police want to arrest him for a murder he didn’t commit. Clever dialog mixes with the thrills. Read my A+ appreciation.
Notorious: A scandal-ridden Ingrid Bergman proves her patriotism by seducing and marrying Claude Rains’ Nazi industrialist. And all the while, true love Cary Grant grimly watches. Sexy, romantic, thought-provoking, and scary enough to shorten your fingernails. Read my Blu-ray Review.

Top Hat

Other worthwhile movies in the series

  • Top Hat (1935), July 9-10, with The Gay Divorcee
  • In the Heat of the Night (1967), July 23-24, with To Sir, With Love
  • Rear Window (1954), July 28-29, with To Catch a Thief
  • Beat the Devil (1953), July 30-31, with Sabrina
  • High Noon (1952), August 11-12, with Morocco
  • Safety Last (1923), September 1, with Laurel and Hardy short Two Tars, with Dennis James at the Wurlitzer organ
  • The General (1926), September 2, with Laurel and Hardy short Big Business, with Dennis James at the Wurlitzer organ
  • Ran (1985), September 15-16; this film is too long for a double bill