Friday, January 15, 2010

Week of Jan. 15 to Jan. 21 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

For its first five years (2004-2009) the Tropic was a secret spot for local film fans. Behind a little fa├žade blossomed almost 9,000 square feet of viewing pleasure. But I would sometimes hear tourists murmuring, "What's that, a porn house?" Now, with the addition of a new theater and a doubling of the frontage, the secret is out. Passersby on the 400 block of Eaton Street see a phalanx of poster boxes for seven first class films, boldly announcing that this is a place demanding your attention.

That's especially true this weekend, when they dedicate the new Peggy Dow Theater with a celebration and a Peggy Dow Film Festival. Peggy Dow was on contract at Universal Studios from 1949 to 1951. Her career started when she appeared in the long-forgotten noir thriller Undertow -- along with a bit player then named Roc Hudson. She would later go out with Hudson ("the perfect date," she acknowledges), star in movies with Dick Powell, Arthur Kennedy and James Stewart, and take over the cover of Life magazine. All within two years. She then left Hollywood, married Tulsa oilman Walter Helmerich, raise five sons, and barely looked back. She wasn't a mere star, she was a blazing meteor.

This Friday and Saturday (January 15-16) is your chance -- very likely your only chance -- to meet the still lovely Peggy. On Friday, she'll be at a benefit, meeting guests and being interviewed on stage, before a screening of her most famous film, HARVEY. (A few tickets may still be available. Call the box office at 294-5857.) And then on Saturday, it's a Peggy Film Festival all free! They'll be showing four of her best films, and she'll greet the audience and introduce each one. Saturday's festival is all in the intimate new Peggy Dow Theater.

The Saturday lineup of free films starts with the tale of the famed invisible rabbit HARVEY. Next up is YOU NEVER CAN TELL, in which Miss Peggy falls for Dick Powell, a Tulsa oilman (wink, wink). Then BRIGHT VICTORY, where her male lead and love-interest is a blinded WW II veteran. And finally, WOMAN IN HIDING, in which she's the bad girl in the path of nice Ida Lupino. See them all if you want, all free. But seats are limited.

Of course the regular movie program continues (except for Friday, when the theater closes at 4:00pm for the gala benefit). Newly opening is GARBAGE DREAMS, a documentary about a huge group of people in Cairo who make their living collecting garbage and recycling it. These Zaballeen ("garbage people" in Arabic) manage to recycle 80% of their collections, compared to the 20% rate achieved by even aggressive American systems. But the Zaballeen are being replaced by government-paid corporate contractors in an attempt to modernize the system. The movie premiered last week in a benefit at the Tropic, and was so well received, they've booked it for a regular run. The director Mai Iskander has just been nominated for the Directors Guild best film award.

Also showing are holdover screenings of INVICTUS, UP IN THE AIR, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, and THE MAID. I've already written about all these, a wide selection with something for everyone.

This week's Monday Night Classic is Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES starring Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood.

The European Opera Series also resumes this week, with a Tuesday night performance of Monteverdi's L' ORFEO from La Scala in Milan.

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