I'm so lazy. It's just an hour by train to Manhattan and a seat in the Film Forum, worse yet, I'm just five minutes from the Huntington Cinema Arts Centre which shows its share of Classics, and I never go to either. Instead Robert Osborne keeps me glued to the couch on those nights I do manage to unchain myself from my desk.
I'd like to think that if I were around in the 60's (and in this case, in London) I'd have been a little more proactive about heading out to the theatre. No TCM, no AMC of the 90's, no cable TV, just a handful of channels. But who am I kidding, I'd likely be playing with the rabbit ears trying to take the grain out of whatever was playing on the Late Late Show. But my own sloth-like tendencies don't take away from my fascination with this stack of National Film Theatre programs I pulled from one of the boxes of goods I recently unearthed.
For those of you who'd venture from their 60's London couch after a 2010 whirl back in a Tardis, here's a map of the National Theatre as well as a photo that includes a big arrow directing you to the proper entrance:
The National Film Theatre, today BFI Southbank, originally opened in 1951 moving to its present location in 1957. Strangely I could not find much of what I'd imagine is a rich history of the National Film Theatre anywhere on the British Film Institute's website, though it's entirely possible I was looking in the wrong place.
I'm going to bring you a little bit of history first hand through a detailed look at a pair of my National Film Theatre programs. Below them you'll find a Gallery containing images of all of those I found. First up, we go back to 1968 for a look at The 20s How They Roared.
That's the front cover up above featuring appropriately enough Clara Bow. Turning a couple of pages inside we find a brief introduction of the 20's festival leading off with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. The following page contains the start of the schedule with these photos on the facing page showing Louise Brooks in A Girl in Every Port and Adolphe Menjou with the cast of Are Parents People?
The National Film Theatre's featured films of the Roaring 20's, showing in June and July 1968:
Under the heading Girls, Garters & The New Morality: The Last Flight (1931), The Wild Party (1929), Manhandled (1924), A Girl in Every Port (1928), Show People (1928), Are Parents People? (1925), Male and Female (1919).
Under Booze and Bullets: Underworld (1927), The Docks of New York (1928), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), City Streets (1931).
Under Escape to Innocence: The Iron Horse (1924), The Pony Express (1925), Tumbleweeds (1925), Exit Smiling (1926).
Under Gods for a Godless World: My Best Girl (1927), The Gaucho (1927), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921).
Under Disillusion: Mantrap (1926), Lonesome (1928), The Crowd (1928).
Under Crash & Crack-Up: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933).
It's noted that all features will be supported by contemporary newsfilms and two-reel comedies from the period. The schedule was arranged in collaboration with David Robinson, then film critic of The Financial Times and author of Hollywood in the Twenties.
Below: William S. Hart in Tumbleweeds at left, Rudolph Valentino in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on right.
Moving forward to February-March 1972 the National Film Theatre focuses on D.W. Griffith:
The introduction to the 13 Griffith films mentions the coming centenary of Griffith's 1875 birth and states that "a good deal of lip service is paid to Griffith's mastery but few of these features have been shown in Britain in recent years." The complete schedule of D.W. Griffith films playing at The National Film Theatre in February 1972:
Sally of the Sawdust (1925), America (1924), Orphans of the Storm (1921), Broken Blossoms (1919), Dream Street (1921), The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance (1916), Way Down East (1920), Hearts of the World (1918), Judith of Bethulia (1914), Isn't Life Wonderful (1924), Abraham Lincoln (1930), The Struggle (1931), and various shorts.
Following is a gallery of all 15 front, and several back, covers of the National Film Theatre programs I found. I find they offer a little taste of film history in covering how many of our beloved classics were revived and enjoyed decades before any of us sank into our couches to listen to Robert Osborne, enjoy: