Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Theater on the big screen

One of my favorite podcasts, "Filmspotting," has a segment each week on the Top 5 movies about a single theme. Recently, hosts Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson picked their top five movies about the theater. If you want to listen to Adam and Matty talk about their picks, go here and scroll down to show #173. The Top 5 discussion is at the 46-minute mark.

Here are their lists:

1. All That Jazz (1979)
2. All About Eve (1950)
3. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
4. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
5. Moon Over Broadway (1997)

1. The Goodbye Girl (1977)
2. All About Eve (1950)
3. Cradle Will Rock (1999)
4. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
5. Waiting for Guffman (1996)

I've heard about or seen most of these movies, and they're great lists. The one I'm not familiar with is "Moon Over Broadway." Apparently it's a documentary by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus about the making of a Broadway comedy, "Moon Over Buffalo," starring Carol Burnett. The show played for 309 performances, opening on Sept. 13, 1995. The documentary is available on DVD, so I'll definitely be checking it out.

Husband and wife team Pennebaker and Hegedus are acclaimed filmmakers whose works have included "The War Room," about Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Pennebaker is also known for "Don't Look Back," his terrific documentary on Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of the United Kingdom.

A couple of other theater-themed films I've enjoyed are two that take place in wartime Britain: 1983's "The Dresser," about an aging actor, played by Albert Finney, who leads a touring troupe performing "King Lear" and from 2005, "Mrs. Henderson Presents," starring Dame Judi Dench, whose character revives a derelict London theater by putting on an all-nude revue. Bob Hoskins is the showman who becomes her partner. (Ok, I admit I'm an Anglophile. And if it involves a big country house, so much the better. I loved "Mrs. Miniver," too).

If you'd like more suggestions, here's a thread on the subject from The list overlaps a bit with Filmspotting, but there are some different ones. Several of them I've heard of but haven't seen, including a movie of Michael Frayn's play "Noises Off," about a traveling theater troupe, and director Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street," about actors in New York rehearsing Chekov's play.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I just viewed "All About Eve" yet again. Such a classic film with lots of backstage drama. Bette Davis was superb. Plus, it's fun seeing some of the theatres along 45th Street.

Esther said...

It's been a couple of years since I've seen "All About Eve." Now that I've been to Broadway, and stood outside so many stage doors, I should definitely watch it again! It'll have a whole new meaning for me. ;-)

I did a search on, and it's amazing the number of movies from the 1930s and 1940s that had Broadway in their title. Of course, I don't know how many of them are actually about the theater!

Something else I should have mentioned is the Canadian television series "Slings and Arrows," about a group of actors at a Shakespeare festival. It aired on the Sundance Channel and the entire series is out on DVD now. I've only seen one episode, but I might check out the rest of it someday.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Esther. I had never heard of the show before.

Last night, I was catching up on some movies from 2007 and watched the disappointing "Spiderman 3." I was surprised that a key part of the plot revolved around Broadway. Whoddathunk?!

Esther said...

I caught up with Spiderman 3 about a month ago, but I completely forgot about the Broadway connection! I agree that it was disappointing. I think with those big budget summertime action movies you really have to see them in the theater to appreciate them!

I first heard about Slings and Arrows when I listened to the Downstage Center interview with Bob Martin. He was one of the creators of the series, before he became the original Man in Chair!

jan@broadwayandme said...

Esther, what a great game! Your entry got me thinking about other stage movies I've loved and so I've joined in the fun with a list of 10 on my blog today. I hadn't thought about some of them for a while and now I want to see them all again. Thanks for getting this started.

Esther said...

Hi Jan,
Thanks for the comment! I'll definitely be checking out your list. It'll be nice to have some theater-themed movies to watch when I can't make it to Broadway.