The movies, dating from the 1930s to the 1960s, were selected by film critic Margaret Pomeranz and cinema operator Paul Dravet for the touring festival, which opens at Palace Nova Eastend on Thursday and continues until December 16.
“We wanted to balance the most popular titles [such as Casablanca and Gone with the Wind] with other wonderful films which have not been seen in cinemas for quite some time,” says Dravet, who runs the Cremorne Orpheum Cinema in Sydney.
“It’s been 30 years since The Best Years of Our Lives has been seen on the big screen in Australia.”
The Best Years of Our Lives, showing at Palace on Sunday, November 29, is a 1946 drama about World War II veterans returning home to small-town America. It won multiple Oscars, including Best Picture.
Dravet says other Retro Film Festival inclusions which are rarely seen on the big screen in Australia include the original movie version of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre (1943; starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine), romantic drama The Razor’s Edge (1946; Gene Tierney, Tyrone Power, Anne Baxter), haunted love story The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947; Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison), and the trial thriller 12 Angry Men (1957; Henry Fonda).
“All those films are very highly regarded internationally but they are just really hard to find [in cinemas],” says Dravet.
“Most locations play it safe with Casablanca and Gone with the Wind because there’s an expectation that if you are going to see classic cinema, you will see those films.
“But I really believe that from the interest we are getting in advance, people will take a chance on these [other] films in a film festival format.”
The Hollywood Retro Film Festival was created following the success of the Great Britain Retro Film Festival, which Dravet curated with Pomeranz’s former television sparring partner David Stratton. The British festival was presented in only three cities, bypassing Adelaide.
Pomeranz says the old Hollywood films look “terrific” in high-definition digital.
“There’s no substitute for seeing these wonderful films on the big screen with an audience,” she says.
It will be the first time digitally remastered versions of Sunset Boulevard, On the Waterfront and Spartacus have been shown in Australia.
However, judging by advance sales so far, the hottest ticket will be the 1952 musical comedy Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.
Dravet is passionate about all film, but admits he has a particular soft spot for the Hollywood classics.
“It’s a different type of filmmaking.
“It’s more cinematic – in those days, they made these films within the boundaries of studios. Casablanca was made almost entirely within the Warner Bros studios … only one scene was filmed outside.”
The Hollywood Retro Film Festival will be at Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas from November 26 to December 16.
The full line-up of films is:
12 Angry Men (1957)
All About Eve (1950)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
It Happened One Night (1934)
It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Jane Eyre (1944)
On the Waterfront (1954)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Apartment (1960)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Ghost and Mrs Muir (1947)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Razor’s Edge (1946)
The Searchers (1956)
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