Yesterday was my greatest Valentine’s Day ever, because I got to spend part of it at my favorite place: the Redford Theatre! Since my life is devoid of romance, I did what no other 22-year-old lady in the world would do for this holiday: I spent the day with my parents. The first half of the day was spent eating Mexican food and attending a matinee screening of Winter’s Tale with my mom. The night was spent continuing my efforts to convert my dad into a classic film fan by taking him to a screening at the Redford. For Valentine’s Day, they were offering a free screening of Casablanca. (Free screenings are also being offered today, February 15 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm.)
The place was packed for the screening, and nearly every seat was filled. The audience’s energy was very high as well. Enthusiastic clapping and shouting accompanied the announcement of upcoming events, including an in-person appearance by Rita Moreno which will be taking place in September. (Tickets to the VIP meet and greet with Moreno can be purchased at the theater’s website.)
Also discussed were film titles that are being tossed around for summer and fall screenings by the selection committee. There were some newer films in the bunch, like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Princess Bride, but I was most excited over the prospect of Imitation of Life coming to the Redford.
I wouldn’t mind seeing more “modern classics” in the Redford’s schedule, so long as pre-’65s and silents are still offered. Based on the audience’s reaction to those titles being mentioned, the crowds for modern films would likely be large, allowing the Redford the opportunity to continue restoration projects and, most importantly, to remain operational. (For the record, I feel the same way about TCM’s incorporation of more “modern classics” into their schedule — it brings new eyes to the channel, and they’re still offering us Old Movie Weirdos plenty of stuff to watch, so why complain?)
Not ones to pass up the opportunity to get a little cutesy on Valentine’s Day, the Redford staff set up an intermission which included a couple of special guests. In December, a man had proposed to his girlfriend on stage during the intermission of the White Christmas screening. Now married, the pair were visiting the Redford again for Valentine’s Day. A video of their proposal was shown, tears were shed and they pulled the winning tickets for the 50/50 raffle.
To entertain attendees before and after the film or during the intermission, there were a couple of fun things going on in the lobby. You could have a friend take your photo standing in the window of a cardboard version of Rick’s. This photo booth doubled as a kissing booth, with the other side featuring a heart-shaped cut-out with the words “Love at the Redford” around it, for couples to capture a memory of their Valentine’s date.
For sale in the lobby were t-shirts and sweatshirts featuring the Casablanca poster, and various Redford logos. (I bought a Casablanca sweatshirt and am completely in love with it.) There was also a table featuring the book Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, written by a man named Charles Novacek who joined the resistance at age 11, remained involved in it until age 20 and eventually settled in Detroit after the war.
Before the film began, there was the Redford’s traditional 30-minute organ concert, followed by an introduction to the film by the event’s host and a cartoon short. This time around, the short was from Merrie Melodies: “Bacall to Arms,” a fitting choice to screen before a film starring her great love, Humphrey Bogart. The theater was filled with laughter up until that cringe-worthy final moment of this short, which was met with a mix of nervous laughter and a few gasps.
The projectionist wasted no time getting the film going just after the short ended. The film was not being screened digitally (which, of course, made me very happy). I’m not sure where the print they were using came from — the opening titles were in Italian.
There were a couple of problems with the print. There were a few jumpy sequences where a frame or two appeared to be missing, and the sound cut out a couple of times. However, the sound didn’t cut out for very long and not in places that caused any major dialogue to be missed. Issues aside, it was still a great delight to see Casablanca screened on film. (I’d seen it on the big screen once before, but with digital projection.)
Watching a classic film with a large audience is always a special experience, and like I’ve expressed in many of my other posts of this type, I walked away from the screening with an even greater appreciation of this film. I wasn’t sure this was possible, since Casablanca was already such a beloved film to me. One of the things I love most about classic films is the way that the dialogue written, and the dialogue in this film is nowhere near short on wit, which is even more apparent when watching it with a crowd and hearing all of their laughter. Since the screening was free, not all of the attendees were regulars at the Redford, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and having a great time with the film.
In regards to my progress in converting my dad into a classic film fan, I’d say the transformation is pretty close to complete. He remembered Ingrid Bergman from the screening of Notorious that we attended last year and told me that she’s become his favorite classic actress. He also said “I must be getting old, because I really liked this movie” after our Casablanca screening ended. I sternly reminded him that you don’t have to be elderly to enjoy classic films — but more importantly, I was very happy to hear him say he liked the movie. Victory is mine!