Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’ at Detroit’s Redford Theatre

Back in April I posted about how awesome it was to see Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope on the big screen at Detroit’s Senate Theater. I knew that screening would be really hard to top on my list of “greatest screenings I’ve ever attended,” because the Senate is a wonderful theater operated by a bunch of incredibly lovely and dedicated people who adore classic film as much as I do. I never expected that theater experience to be trumped by the end of 2013, much less within a few months time… but it was, by another Hitchcock screening that I attended on July 27 at the Redford Theatre in Detroit.

My photos really don't do the theater justice, since they're just cell phone snaps
My photos really don’t do the theater justice, since they’re just cell phone snaps, but here you can see some of the Japanese design influence in the lobby area, as seen from the back of the balcony!

Everything about the July 27, 8 pm screening of Notorious was perfect. The theater itself is so beautifully restored (more on that in a minute!), the concessions are cheap and go toward more restoration projects for the theater, I was able to buy a t-shirt with Cary Grant’s face on it and the entire audience played a game of “clap and scream when you spot the Hitchcock cameo.”

Watching classics on the big screen is always a really fun and unique experience, because it feels great to be surrounded by people who appreciate old movies as much as I do. A classic film screening could take place in the creepy basement of an abandoned warehouse and I’d still enjoy it at the very least for the “interaction with other Old Movie Weirdos” value. To be able to interact with fellow Old Movie Weirdos in such a jaw-droppingly gorgeous setting and with so many perks (I repeat: A T-SHIRT FEATURING THE FACE OF CARY GRANT) put me totally over the moon. It was a wonderful choice for an early birthday celebration.

The Redford Theatre is, hands-down, the most wonderful theater I’ve ever stepped foot in. The theater opened in 1928 and, according to their website’s history page, “has been in continuous operation ever since” — quite a feat in a world where the movie palace has been neglected to make way for the multiplex. The theater’s original Japan-inspired design scheme, which was covered over during World War II, has since been restored. (If you’re able to visit this theater, check out the date-labeled wall panels on your way to find a seat!) The Motor City Theatre Organ Society, which officially purchased the theater in 1985 after years of working with the previous owners to revive it, has done a truly phenomenal job in their efforts to keep this little slice of Detroit history alive.

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More Japanese influence can be seen in the walls around the stage. As part of the MCTOS’ restoration efforts, the ceiling of the theater was re-painted dark blue by the same company that originally painted it in 1927 and features small lights that look like stars in the sky. (Again, crappy cell photo does not do it justice!)

As is customary at the Redford, doors for the 8:00 pm showing of the film opened at 7:00. At 7:30 an organist (whose name I unfortunately did not catch) began performing, showing off her skills with a mix of classic and modern songs for half an hour until the film began. She also performed during the intermission and though some of the song choices were comical (“Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League evoked a lot of snarky audience comments), the music was great.

After a short introduction by the wonderful souls who operate the theater, the showing kicked off with — what else? — a classic Warner cartoon. “Dough Ray Me-ow” (1948), featuring sneaky Louie the parrot and air-headed Heathcliffe the cat, had the audience in stitches. Here’s a little clip from “Dough Ray Me-ow,” for your enjoyment:

And then, the moment we were all waiting for… Notorious began. I’ve seen this film many times but this was my first time seeing it (or ANY Cary Grant film) in a theater. Every time I attend a theatrical showing of a classic film, my perception of that film changes a bit, just from seeing it how it was meant to be seen — on an enormous screen, surrounded by fellow movie-goers, with none of the distractions that come with the home-viewing territory. Notorious is no exception to that. Seeing the film split with an intermission, it became very clear how strong the second half of this film is — not to say that the opening half is weak, but things really pick up a lot after the half-way point, which is something I didn’t really make note of any time I’d seen this film before. I enjoyed the film this time around even more than I had in previous viewings as a result.

My dad, who I’m forever attempting to convert into a classic film fan, noticed the same thing. He mentioned during the intermission that he found some parts of the first half to be too slowly paced, but by the time the film was over he was completely drawn into it.

One thing I have always loved and appreciated about this film is its ending, which packs an enormous punch. It’s one of my favorite final scenes from any Hitch film. Seeing the reactions of audience members unfamiliar with the film to this scene was great. Cary Grant’s “No room, Sebastian” line got a chuckle out of everyone, but when Claude Rains turned around and made his slow return to the home to meet his fate, there was not a single pair of eyes in that theater that could be unglued from the screen.

For more information of the beautiful Redford Theatre (including a full calendar of events, for those of you who are fellow Detroiters), visit their website at redfordtheatre.com!

13 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’ at Detroit’s Redford Theatre

  1. I love the Redford so much! I saw Notorious there, too, only I was at the Saturday matinee screening. It sure was a treat to see that one on the big screen.

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    1. We missed each other by only a few hours, then! :) Are you planning on attending any of their upcoming screenings? I’m hoping to make it to The Long, Long Trailer this weekend and I’m also incredibly excited for the Vincent Price festival in October!

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      1. Oh yes, I go to just about all of the movies they show. The Long, Long Trailer should be fun and I’m really looking forward to seeing Shirley Jones when she comes for The Music Man.

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        1. I’m going to be so sad to miss that one! I would love to meet Shirley Jones. I don’t get out to the Redford nearly enough but I’ve made a resolution to see more classics on the big screen, so I hope to go at least a few more times this year.

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  2. I also had the opportunity to see Notorious at my local art house theater last month! While the theater is not as grand as the one you saw it in, it was wonderful to see this film with an audience!! It was a very different experience than watching in the comfort of my own home. If you have the chance to catch one of the classics on the big screen, I highly recommend it!!

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    1. Classic film screenings are great no matter where you catch them. My local library has them sometimes in a very small auditorium — nowhere near as grand as the Redford but just as enjoyable!

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  3. This sounds wonderful! We also had a live organ music pre-show at a screening of Modern Times I went to last week. I love that theaters like these keep these works of art alive. Television and computer screens simply can’t compete.

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  4. Cool, Lindsey! Looks and sounds like a great place to see a movie of any kind! I think you need to start traveling Michigan–upper AND lower peninsula, of course–and see movies at old-time theaters, then write articles like this one about your experiences. Funding would come from either TCM or National Geographic.

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    1. Whenever TCM sends me the first check from our award-winning “Crappy Sci-fi Comedies” program I’ll get right to that. :P In all seriousness, I am definitely going to see if there are any cool historic theatres near my campground when I venture north later this month!

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      1. Excellent! And I expect full coverage on the cinematic camping adventure upon your return!

        And as soon as my site gets up and running again, perhaps we should look into a new installment of ‘Crappy Sci-Fi Comedies’…then sit back and see if TCM sends EACH of us a check!

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