04/21/12 9:00am

Third in the spring series of Movies at the Library (at the Center firehouse) on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. is one of the all-time great classic comedies of stage and then film. On stage, it is still performed by summer stock companies all across America and the film adaptation is so good no one has dared attempt a remake. It is, of course, “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

It comes with a pedigree few can match, starting with director Frank Capra. His first movie was in 1922 and 12 years later, he hit his stride with “It Happened One Night.” He followed up with a string of unforgettable and still fabulous comedies with “Lost Horizon” sandwiched in between. He gave us “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 1946. But 1944 belongs to “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

Capra assembled a cast that is the crème de la crème, including the actress who created the role of Abby Brewster on Broadway, Josephine Hull. He also cast her fellow New York star Jean Adair as her sister, Martha. But those two were virtually unknown to movie audiences so Capra needed someone like Cary Grant, who plays the Brewster nephew, Mortimer. He is joined by Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Edward Everett Horton.

The play is by Joseph Kesselring, his most successful. Of opening night, the New York Times said, “It was so funny, none of us will ever forget it.” It ran for 1,444 performances! The film version was taken up by an unexpected duo, the Epstein Brothers who are, still today, best remembered for their “Casablanca” screenplay.

The story centers on Grant who, as he prepares to marry, discovers that his two lovable and seemingly harmless old lady aunts are more than makers of a really fine elderberry wine.

The film is in black and white, lasting 118 irresistibly delicious minutes. So we’ll see you at the movies!

02/11/12 9:00pm

Movies at the Library (now at the Center firehouse) has presented a wide variety of interesting and great movies from all over the world these past eight years, but the next one, on Tuesday, February 14, at 7 p.m., “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” is way out there in two ways. First, it’s from Australia — that’s way out there — and second, it’s a wacky, off-beat blast from start to finish. And Priscilla isn’t the leading lady, or a lady at all — it’s a bus.

And talking of ladies, well …

“Adventures” follows three cross-dressing entertainers, two drag queens and a transsexual through small-town stops in a broken-down lavender bus named Priscilla, en route to Alice Springs for a big time gig at a casino. Along the way, the friends change into outrageous costumes and lip-sync disco tunes for the outback’s befuddled locals. They hope to transform the desert.

The movie never fails to delight visually. The over-the-top costumes (the film won an Oscar for best costume design), the campy performances in the desert and the opera scenes are wonderful to watch.

This might not have been your idea of  typical Valentine’s Day entertainment, but “The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” is a combination of hilarious situations, music, visual candy and bizarre fun that highlights love, friendship and self-respect.

Don’t miss this outstanding, engaging and truly original film next Tuesday.

As always, the movie, bottled water, popcorn and laughs are free.

See you at the movies!

01/26/11 11:32pm

“The Thirty-Nine Steps” is a novel that was adapted for the movies four times in the past 75 years, but no other version comes close to the original production of 1935 that is the next offering of Movies at the Library, on Tuesday, February 1 at 7 p.m.

Alfred Hitchcock was assigned to direct what was intended to be a simple, low-budget spy chase mystery. Using the style and techniques that were to make him famous, he gained immediate audience sympathy for the plight of his central character, an innocent Canadian (Robert Donat at his best) who, while visiting England, is implicated in the theft of national secrets and murder.

The result was — and is — a big hit not to be missed.v

It has enough memorable set pieces for a dozen films, especially in the scenes with “Mr. Memory” and the pursuit scenes in the crowded theater. The film-noir aspects are balanced with witty banter between two ill-matched characters, a Hitchcock trademark.

The pace is invigorating, the plot is constantly turning up new surprises, and the performances, especially Donat and Madeleine Carroll, are just about perfect.

Hitchcock spent his career narrating tales of innocent men on the run (indeed, many consider it to be his favorite theme) and this is one of the very finest examples.

Anyone interested in Hitchcock or the cinema of the 30s simply must, must, must see “The 39 Steps” next Tuesday at the cinema on the library’s lower level. Of course, popcorn and bottled water will be offered free, along with the thrills.

See you at the movies!