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‘Fluffy, frolicsome’ fare opens Island’s winter movie series

Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers star in ‘The Major and the Minor,’ playing at the library Tuesday, January 5 at 7 p.m.
Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers star in ‘The Major and the Minor,” playing at the library Tuesday, January 5 at 7 p.m.

Movies at the Library will return on Tuesday, January 5 at 7 p.m. with a memorable comedy of the 1940s.

It is “The Major and the Minor,” from the duo of Billy Wilder directing (his first) and Charles Brackett as co-author, suggested by the odd combination of an Edward Childs Carpenter play and a Saturday Evening Post story by Fannie Kilbourne.

Called “effervescent” and “deliciously risqué,” it stars Ginger Rogers, Robert Benchley and Ray Milland. Wilder recruited Milland at a traffic light. “I’m doing a picture. Would you like to be in it?” he called from his car to Milland’s. Milland said yes.

The plot twist — that Ginger Rogers disguises herself as a little girl in order to qualify for a half-fare railway ticket that will take her back to Iowa — gives Wilder and company the chance to cock a hilarious snoot at the Hays office, the semi-official body then charged with policing the morals portrayed in American movies.

One of the funniest and most moving films ever made follows on January 19.

For anyone who has not seen “Tea with Mussolini,” it is a “must.” Those who have seen it, know that repeated viewing does not diminish its charm.

Director Franco Zefferelli tells the story of his own boyhood in Florence. The movie was co-written with the wonderful John Mortimer and features a cast of film royalty. Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright hail from England. Our side of the “pond” contributes Cher and Lily Tomlin.

On February 2, we’ll screen a story of immigrants. In this case, they are Norwegians living in San Francisco. “I Remember Mama” is a beautifully realized and exquisitely detailed film based on John Van Druten’s play of the same name. George Stevens directs a marvelous cast that includes Irene Dunne, Barbara Bel Geddes and Oscar Homolka.

In recognition of Valentine’s Day, on February 16 is the British gem, “I Know Where I’m Going.” Wendy Hiller stars as a headstrong girl whose every intention is to marry for money. When she is stranded for a week in a Scottish seaside village, her plan is put to a test.

This film has very little plot but an abundance of charm and wit. Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, it also stars Roger Livesey and Pamela Brown.

Next year will be an election year and may still feature Donald Trump, so a political send-up of grand proportions will be shown on March 1. “Bulworth” is the creation of Warren Beatty, starring as a California senator running for re-election.

He solves his crisis of conscience by telling the truth and embracing the black community. It is unsettling at times — and meant to be — and is one of Beatty’s best films. He is joined by a large and terrific cast.

Last up for the winter season is an outrageous movie of a different sort. “The Commitments” is an enormously satisfying tale of an ambitious young Dubliner who assembles and manages a band of other working-class Dubliners who sing ’60s-style soul music.

Disarmingly engaging, it is filled with irresistible music and a liberal use of Irish profanity.

It was directed by Alan Parker with a largely unknown cast; Colm Meaney became the best-known. It will be shown on March 15 in honor of St. Patrick’s Day two days later.

All movies will be shown in the Community Room of the Shelter Island Library. Treats and bottled water are available and each film is preceded by a brief introduction to further illuminate the choice.

Mark your 2016 calendars and join other Island film buffs enjoying this impressive collection.