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Nicholas Ray's Heyday

Programmed by: Addison Wood

No one could make ‘em like Nicholas Ray. Constantly embattled with the studios, crafting melodramas infused with a captivating blend of the psychological and the poetic, Ray’s output in the 1950s proves definitively that no other American director could hold a candle to the Hollywood legend. This collection marks a director at his apex: a six year period which produced five of the finest films of their era.

We begin with Johnny Guitar, the encapsulation of Ray’s stylized melodramas — bold and theatrical, yet simmering with a subtlety that would enrapture the emerging generations of European auteurs. In a Lonely Place and Bigger Than Life shift towards Ray’s mastery of internalization. These films probe the social codes of their day and reflect a keen awareness of the death drive buried within the violent masculinity celebrated in a post-war culture.

And really, what is there to say about Rebel Without a Cause that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? A quintessential exploration of generational conflict, Rebel deftly navigated the pitfalls of the Motion Picture Code to weave a narrative teeming with unspoken desire.

And to close out this series, On Dangerous Ground, a symphony of emotion fluttering between genres yet never eschewing the theme of love’s torment. Like all the films in this short series, the burden of its psychological subtext could easily get out of hand, but with Nicholas Ray's touch, a whirlwind of feeling is rendered so powerfully and succinctly that it can become hard to imagine the story told any other way.

We hope that you will join us this summer to celebrate the golden years of this Hollywood auteur.

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Johnny Guitar (1954) still

Nicholas Ray · 110m · DCP

A Trucolor western dreamscape reviled in its day and now celebrated as an inimitable, modern work of psychology rendered as visual poetry, Johnny Guitar is a towering achievement of Ray’s career. Far and away his most fascinating genre picture, it utilizes the tale of Vienna (Crawford), a scorned saloonkeeper ordered by the trigger-itching denizens to skip town within twenty-four hours. Teaming up with the eponymous guitar playing outlaw, Vienna fights to save herself from the harsh desert backdrop of a stagnant west.

Thursday, July 11th 5:00PM · Friday, July 12th 8:00PM · Saturday, July 13th 7:00PM

In a Lonely Place (1950)

In a Lonely Place (1950) still

Nicholas Ray · 94m · 35mm

Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a down-and-out screenwriter with little left to care for. That is until he meets Laurel (Gloria Grahame), the key witness who can clear Dix’s name after he is suspected of killing a hat-check girl. What follows is a tale of jealousy, suspicion, redemption, and loss. Nicholas Ray’s darkest hour, In a Lonely Place dissects impulsive masculine rage in post-war America and offers a biting critique of Tinseltown's wayward souls.

Thursday, July 18th 5:00PM · Friday, July 19th 8:00PM · Saturday, July 20th 7:00PM

Bigger Than Life (1956)

Bigger than Life (1956) still

Nicholas Ray · 95m · 35mm

“The story of the handful of hope that became a fistful of hell!” So goes the tagline of Bigger Than Life, Nicholas Ray’s exposé of cortisone abuse and the dredges of the mid-century nuclear family. James Mason delivers a powerhouse performance as a meek school teacher warped first into a chauvinist bully then into a psychotic madman overcome by the power of a crippling pill problem. A slice of Americana’s hellscape, this picture delivers a punch like no other from its era.

Friday, July 26th 8:00PM · Saturday, July 27th 7:00PM

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Rebel Without a Cause (1955) still

Nicholas Ray · 111m · 35mm

Challengers before Challengers, Rebel Without a Cause is an iconic piece of cinema helmed by James Dean as Jim Stark, the temperamental teen heartthrob troubled by overbearing parents and driven by the peer-pressure from his delinquent cohort. Pining for Jim are both Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo), making a veritable threesome of adolescent desire coded in the social conventions of the 1950s. Brokering the juvenile delinquent film with greater empathy than any title before it, Rebel threw out the exploitation elements of the genre and added a healthy dose of Freudian psychoanalysis.

Thursday, August 1st 5:00PM · Friday, August 2nd 8:00PM · Saturday, August 3rd 7:00PM

On Dangerous Ground (1951)

On Dangerous Ground (1951) still

Nicholas Ray · 82m · 35mm

A continuation of Ray’s longstanding interest in the gulf between violence and love in every man’s heart, On Dangerous Ground leads us on detective Jim Wilson’s reassignment upstate after he brutally beats a fleeing suspect. Within this unfamiliar, snowy tundra, Wilson (Robert Ryan) encounters a blind woman, Mary (Ida Lupino), whom he quickly falls for. Chock-full of melancholic romance thanks to the score by the legendary Barnard Herrmann, On Dangerous Ground excavates the passions buried beneath an icy surface.

Thursday, Aug 8th 5:00PM · Friday, August 9th 8:00PM