Film lovers refer to the 1930s as the Golden Age of Cinema, particularly 1939, when both Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were released. On a local level we have that annus gloriosus to thank for the launch of one of our most venerable cinematic institutions — the Bridge Theatre, which celebrates its 65th anniversary with the vintage movie series “The Films of 1939.”
In a town that loves the old school, screenings of retro flicks aren't often newsworthy. But the Bridge's selection is a standout, running the gamut from high camp (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, technically not a 1939 picture but part of the Bridge's Joan vs. Bette weekend, is Dec. 18's “Midnight Mass” feature) to high art (actor Charles Laughton delivers the definitive Quasimodo in the heart-wrenching The Hunchback of Notre Dame on Dec. 21), plus newsreels and cartoons preceding every movie and a scrumptious variety of live events.
Most tempting of all is “Trannyshack”'s takeover of The Women on Dec. 17 and 18, with lurid slash-and-claw catfights before each evening's screening — setups perfectly in tune with the all-female flick's razor-sharp dialogue (my favorite line, courtesy of Joan Crawford's spitting bad girl, Crystal Allen: “There's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society, outside of a kennel”). Also alluring is The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle on Dec. 15, with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in an underrated biopic about the famous husband-and-wife ballroom dance team, which includes pre-show demos of period moves from Metronome Ballroom hoofers. The Art Deco Society of California hosts the Dec. 19 presentation of the Bette Davis weepie Dark Victory, with live era-appropriate music before the movie, a showing of the 1942 short The Mad Hatter (best known for a character lampooning Davis), and the usual deco enthusiasts' flaunting of '30s and '40s garb. If you ever needed an excuse to drag out your cloche or wing collar, this is it.