BLESSED EVENT & EMPLOYEES’ ENTRANCE
Friday, August 11
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Lee Tracy
(1932) The apotheosis of Lee Tracy, here machine-gunning his way through a raucous send-up of Walter Winchell, and attaining utter delirium when he talks Allen Jenkins through his own imagined electrocution. 35mm courtesy Library of Congress. Approx. 81 min.
Based on a Broadway play by Manuel Self and Forrest Wilson, Blessed Event satirizes the cut-throat world of tabloid journalism in the early 1930s and the rise of Winchell (1897-1972), an ex-vaudevillian who, through his syndicated Hearst column, pioneered a lurid brand of “keyhole journalism” that’s still practiced today. Through his column and popular radio show, Winchell became famous for “Winchellisms” like “infanticipating” (expecting a baby) and “Renovating” (getting a divorce) that were rife with innuendo.
Lee Tracy, who stars as the Winchellesque columnist Alvin Roberts, had been a sensation playing reporter Hildy Johnson in the original 1927 Broadway production of Hecht & MacArthur’s The Front Page. Though his performance in The Front Page had a huge impact on stage and screen acting, he was not cast in the 1930 movie version.
Says Goldstein, “With The Front Page, Tracy influenced future stars like James Cagney and Spencer Tracy, in much the same way as DeNiro and Pacino influenced their own generation. His high octane performance as Alvin Roberts in Blessed Event may be the closest thing we have on film to seeing his Hildy Johnson.”
Tracy’s screen career was derailed by an incident in Mexico in 1934. Filming Viva Villa for MGM, he was accused of being drunk and disorderly and urinating on some Mexican soldiers from a balcony. Tracy’s MGM contract was terminated and he was thereafter relegated to B pictures. He had a huge comeback in the early 1960s, when he was Oscar-nominated for his performance as the U.S. president in Gore Vidal’s The Front Page.
Goldstein pored over 70 pages of censorship records to find out exactly what in Blessed Event was censored in various countries and U.S. cities. “People think Hollywood’s adoption of its own Production Code put an end to individual censorship boards,” says Goldstein. “The Production Code Authority published its guidelines, but the individuals boards had their own set of rules.”
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Warren William
(1933) Relentlessly-paced shop girl’s 42nd Street, as Warren William’s department store manager Mussolini drives himself and everyone else to the limit to stay in business, en route seducing Loretta Young and using blonde playmate Alice White as Babbitt bait. 35mm courtesy Library of Congress. Approx. 75 min.
*Introduced by Bruce Goldstein, with a post-film look at censored scenes.