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.
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.
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!