The fall series of Movies at the Library is an eclectic selection, slightly weighted in favor of the British. One of those is a pure-bred, one is a venture of Hungary, Canada and Britain and the third is set in India from James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Of the rest, there is a classic American comedy, a brash entry from Warren Beatty and another stunning effort by Clint Eastwood but not, this time, an American story.
The series will start on Tuesday, September 29 with one of the best comedies to come out of Hollywood. “Born Yesterday” is a delicious confection based on the play by Garson Kanin, which was a Broadway hit.
The original leading actress was Jean Arthur who, taken ill, was replaced by the unknown Judy Holliday, who became an overnight star. But Hollywood being Hollywood, she wasn’t a shoo-in for the film.
Eventually she was cast to join William Holden and Broderick Crawford and she went on to win the Best Actress Oscar. She plays Billie Dawn, the slightly dim-witted fiancée of millionaire junk dealer Crawford, who hires Holden to teach her some “couth.” But she is better than he thinks and things do not turn out exactly the way he planned. George Cukor directs.
A total change of pace is the October 13 selection, “Invictus,” Clint Eastwood’s masterful depiction of the early days of the South African presidency of Nelson Mandela.
Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, knows he must unite his apartheid-torn country, divided racially and economically, and is shrewd enough to rely on its passion for rugby to do it. Matt Damon plays the coach of the national team vying to win the 1995 World Cup for a united South Africa. Freeman and Damon head a large cast of mostly South African actors.
October 27 brings yet another completely different film. It is “Bulworth,” written (with Jeremy Pikser), directed by and starring Warren Beatty. It is an audacious political satire about the re-election campaign of a suicidally disillusioned liberal California senator in 1996 who decides to tell the truth.
So out of his mouth come trenchant observations on the political process and the plight of the poor. Also in the cast are names less well-known then but who have gone on to important careers: Halle Berry, Don Cheadle, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino and Christine Baransky.
“Tunes of Glory” is undoubtedly one of the great British anti-war films. Directed by Ronald Neame, it stars John Mills and Alec Guinness in roles that might more naturally have been played by the other. It is a dark psychological drama with a script by James Kennaway based on his novel.
Set in the days following World War II in the barracks of a Scottish Highland regiment, the title refers to the bagpipe music that accompanies every major event of the regiment. Also in the cast are Gordon Jackson, Dennis Price, Kay Walsh and, making her film debut, Susannah York. It will be shown on November 10.
“Being Julia” is a delightful comedy/drama, largely due to the leading actress, Annette Benning, who shines in this Donald Harwood adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel, “Theatre,” set in 1930s London. It is a delectable performance by one of our truly great cinema actresses. She is supported by Jeremy Irons, Juliet Stevenson, Michael Gambon, Rosemary Harris and Rita Tushingham.
Even with all those credentials, this is the film that needed Hungary, Canada and Britain to join forces to produce. We’ll see it on November 24.
The fall series will close on December 8 with “Heat and Dust,” an intelligent drama from Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on her own novel. The director is her often collaborator, James Ivory. Julie Christie plays a niece who has always been fascinated by the life of her great aunt Olivia in colonial India.
Her research reveals some uncomfortable truths. The cast includes Greta Scacchi, Barry Foster, Julian Glover and Madhur Jaffrey.
Mark your calendars for this collection on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in the Community Room on the lower level of the library. And you’ll enjoy the company of Shelter Island’s movie lovers.