Our credits tell the story.

Open to the public and NFTS students alike, our programme of screenings at the BFI Southbank, London, is brought to you by the NFTS.

There's a screening most Monday evenings, and occasional Tuesday evenings and you can find out what's showing month by month by viewing the schedule below. Designed to give a continuous and comprehensive overview of every facet of cinema, from its beginnings to the present day, the programme showcases key films from the classic, mainstream and avant-garde of European, American and world cinema, mixing the familiar with the experimental and rediscovering forgotten gems. Guest speakers introduce each programme and there's often a lively discussion in the café after the film. For current ticket prices, reservations and further information, call the BFI Southbank box office on Tel 020 7928 3232 or visit the BFI website - www.bfi.org.uk. BFI Southbank: Belvedere Road, South Bank, London SE1 8XT.

Summer 2014 Programme

Hollywood Uncensored - A Parallel Universe       

This is a season of films from the four-year period from 1930 to 1934, the early talkie era, when Hollywood productions, though ostensibly controlled and censored by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America association, enjoyed a golden period of freedom of expression.  Worries about Hollywood morality, both on and off-screen, went back to the early 1920s, when ex-postmaster Will Hays was put in charge of the MPPDA. In 1930, a Production Code was drafted to control the licentiousness, but it was weakly administered and freely defied on issues both sexual and political. In 1934, things changed: moralists renewed their attack on the movies, studies set out to prove that they inspired immorality and illegality in the real world, and the Democrats’ New Deal government (ironically) threatened federal censorship. Hays appointed a censor, Joseph Breen, to become the overlord of morality on Hollywood screens for the next 20 years. In our season, we explore that singular four-year period when, as Thomas Doherty wrote in Pre-Code Hollywood, Hollywood films were “more unbridled, salacious, subversive, and just plain bizarre than what came afterwards; they look like Hollywood cinema but the moral terrain is so off-kilter they seem imported from a parallel universe”. (Part of the BFI and Sight & Sound Deep Focus season on Hollywood Babylon: Early Talkies Before the Censor).  Richard Combs
 

Passport to Cinema Schedule

April

Monday, 21 April, 2014
USA | 1932 | 92mins.| d. Mervyn LeRoy
 
Introduced by Philip Kemp. Based on the true-life case of Robert Elliot Burns, an escapee from Georgia’s brutal chain gang system, Mervyn Leroy’s no holds barred portrait of the dehumanizing sadism of the penal system was one of the most powerful of Warner Brothers’ social problem films. An uncompromising, urgent look at an institutional shame, was responsible for penal reform and for a pardon for Burns, who was still a prisoner at the time of its making. 
Duration:
1:32:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 28 April, 2014
USA | 1932 | 79mins.| d. Victor Fleming
 
Introduced by Richard Combs. Playing an undisguised prostitute, Jean Harlow exemplifies pre-Code Hollywood in this Somerset Maugham-ish tale of colonial folk undone by rampant nature on a rubber plantation in Indo-China. Harlow mainly lingers, and smoulders, on the sidelines of Clark Gable’s affair with proper Mary Astor, but she also has some choice sideline comments, as when reading a children’s bedtime story to the convalescent Gable: “A chipmunk and a rabbit – say, I wonder how this comes out?” 
Duration:
1:19:00
Screening Time:
6:10

May

Monday, 5 May, 2014

USA | 1933 | 89mins | d. Lloyd Bacon

The Wall Street crash of 1929 lurks in the background of the original and best of all backstage musicals. The ingredients may now be familiar - putting on a musical in the early days of the depression, a driven director, backstage lovers, and a chorus girl stepping in for the leading lady (“you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!”) – but its sheer invention and verve make 42nd Street unique. The film’s climax is three Busby Berkeley numbers that blend voyeurism, surrealism and spectacle.

Duration:
1:39:00
Screening Time:
6:00
Monday, 12 May, 2014
USA | 1931 | 101mins | d. Lewis Milestone
 
Introduced by Dominic Power. Based on a play by Chicago crime reporters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, The Front Page founded the movie myth of the hard-bitten reporter. Mythical but not complimentary: this first, fast and fluid adaptation delights in scabrous dialogue and a cynical view of a corrupt world. “The Front Page took the corsets off the American theatre, and made it possible for me to write my kind of play”, said Tennessee Williams.
Duration:
1:41:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 19 May, 2014

USA | 1933 | 68mins | d. Leo McCarey

Introduced by Philip Kemp. Groucho is at his most anarchic as Rufus T. Firefly, newly appointed leader of the state of Freedonia. The nearest thing that the Marx’s came to a political movie it was banned in Italy for sending up Mussolini and offended the citizens of Fredonia, New York. A flop at the time, it has emerged as one of the fastest, funniest and maybe the greatest of the Marx Brothers movies, while the famous Mirror Sequence has become one of the Brothers’ best loved gags

Duration:
1:56:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 26 May, 2014
USA | 1930 | 116mins | d. Cecil B. DeMille
 
Introduced by Philip Kemp. Cecil B. DeMille, famous for spectaculars and biblical epics, also turned his hand to sex comedies, and this is one of the more bizarre. The climax is a costume ball held in a zeppelin moored above New York, where a wronged wife (‘Madam Satan’) seeks out her errant husband. The costumes had to be made less revealing, but DeMille still gets in some spectacle when the zeppelin meets the usual fate of zeppelins. This is an MGM musical to boot.
Duration:
1:56:00
Screening Time:
5:50

June

Monday, 2 June, 2014
USA | 1929 | 80mins | d. Rouben Mamoulian
 
Introduced by Geoff Andrew. Burlesque queen Kitty Darling sacrifices all to educate her daughter, April – only to have April walk away from her wedding to perform as a burlesque dancer. Despite the risqué environment, censors found nothing to object to in the script except to a reference to call-girls being Catholics. In Rouben Mamoulian’s feature debut the humanity of the story and the complex use of sound design marks it out as an early sound masterpiece.
Duration:
1:20:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 9 June, 2014

USA | 1931 | 89mins | d. Ernst Lubitsch

Introduced by Nathalie Morris. Ernst Lubitsch and Paramount Pictures held the joint copyright on 1930s sophisticated sex comedy (the “Lubitsch touch” was so successful that he was made Paramount’s production head – briefly – in 1935). In this Ruritanian romance – sort of Erich von Stroheim with laughs and music – Claudette Colbert vies with Miriam Hopkins over Maurice Chevalier. “Jazz up your lingerie”, advises Colbert in one lyric of marital advice to Hopkins.

Duration:
1:29:00
Screening Time:
6:10
USA | 1932 | 63mins | d. Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack
 
Introduced by Dominic Power. The philosophy of Big Game hunter Bob Rainsford - "This world's divided into two kinds of people: the hunter and the hunted.” - is about to be challenged when he is shipwrecked in a tropical paradise. The island’s the deranged Prospero is Count Zaroff (Lesley Banks), who believes that the ultimate sport is the hunting of man. Made just prior to King Kong, this is a taut literate melodrama based on the sinister politics of the ubermensch.
Duration:
1:03:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 23 June, 2014
USA | 1932 | 93mins. | d. Josef von Sternberg
 
Introduced by Peter William Evans. Of the legendary six-set of movies which von Sternberg made with Marlene Dietrich at Paramount, Blonde Venus is the only one that trades in the everyday (Marlene as mother) and a Depression-era setting. But when Marlene re-enters show-biz to pay for husband Herbert Marshall’s medical cure, the dream-world of the other films is revived – a world of corrupt glamour, of trade and control based on money (enter playboy Cary Grant).
Duration:
1:33:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 30 June, 2014
USA | 1933 | 90mins. | d. Rouben Mamoulian
 
Introduced by Dominic Power. Song of Songs marks a (temporary) break in the relationship between Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg. Dietrich plays Lily Czepanek, an orphaned country girl who comes to Berlin and is caught between an artist (played by Brian Aherne) who cannot commit himself and a ruthless aristocrat (played by Lionel Atwill) bent on possessing her. Rouben Mamoulian erotic psychological melodrama provides Garbo with one of her most complex and satisfying roles. 
Duration:
1:30:00
Screening Time:
6:10

July

Monday, 7 July, 2014
USA | 1934 | 91mins | d. Howard Hawks
 
Introduced by Richard Combs. Barrymore’s egomaniacal Broadway producer Oscar Jaffe attempts regain control of his onetime leading lady (Carol Lombard) while aboard the Twentieth century train bound for New York. Barrymore’s increasingly frantic machinations make him a cross between Walter Burns and Svengali (not surprising since its authors, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur were also responsible for The Front Page.) Nothing is sacred in this, the most frenetic and cynical of all screwball comedies. 
Duration:
1:31:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 14 July, 2014
USA | 1931 | 76mins | d. Clarence Brown
 
Introduced by Kevin Brownlow. This was a mould-setting film for ‘fallen woman’ Joan Crawford, in which she is a factory girl from Pennsylvania, ambitious for better things, who goes after wealthy New York attorney Clark Gable, becomes his mistress, but then tries to sacrifice herself when their relationship threatens his political career. By the numbers: it is one of six films in which she was directed by Clarence Brown, her third of eight with Clark Gable, and her first of two called Possessed.
Duration:
1:16:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 21 July, 2014
USA | 193 | 104 mins. | d. Lloyd Bacon
 
Introduced by Philip Kemp. Footlight Parade features James Cagney as a musical comedy producer suffering from the advent of the talkies, who takes on the production of musical preludes for movie theatres. Made a year before the full implementation of censorship, it not only is refreshingly frank, but it also features a censor figure, in the form of a self-righteous patsy whose job it is to make Cagney’s musical prologues acceptable. The last half hour is a dazzling display of Busby Berkeley choreography at its most inventive. 
Duration:
1:44:00
Screening Time:
6:10
Monday, 28 July, 2014
USA | 1932 | 93mins | d. Howard Hawks
 
Introduced by Richard Combs. Screenwriter Ben Hecht freely based this account of Chicago racketeering on Al Capone, lifting everything from his nickname to such famous events as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Hecht’s fast-paced dialogue is matched by Hawks’ near-abstract direction of the action. Farce is never far behind the violence, which undercuts contemporary accusations of immorality, as does the portrayal of ‘Scarface’ as a murderously out-of-control child.
Duration:
1:33:00
Screening Time:
6:10