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Moxie Cinema's "Essentials" Series of Classic Comedies

(poster design courtesy Moxie Cinema)

The quarterly series “The Essentials” at the Moxie Cinema, 305 S. Campbell, takes place throughout the year, showcasing the “essential” films everyone should see on the big screen, organized under themes such as directors, actors, genres, and eras or movements.  This quarter it’s “Classic Comedies”, featuring some of the most iconic comedy films of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.  Mike Stevens from the Moxie stopped by to talk about the series. 

“Better late than never,” he joked, as this quarter’s series began earlier this month and only continues through the first weekend of December.  It began with Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” (1931) and continues this weekend with showings of the raucous newspaper comedy “His Girl Friday” (1940) with Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy, directed by Howard Hawks in a genre markedly different from the John Wayne westerns he’s so well remembered for. “Super-fast dialogue—tons of fun,” as Mike Stevens describes it.  Showings are Sunday November 18 at 3:30pm and Monday the 19th at 7:00pm. 

Next up, the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving, will be a less well-known entry, 1941’s “The Lady Eve” with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda—he’s a rich guy and she’s a con artist after his fortune.  It was directed by one of the masters of the “screwball comedy” genre during Hollywood’s Golden Age, Preston Sturges.  Mike Stevens says Sturges is “on my list for a director to focus on” for a future “Essentials” series at the Moxie.  “Preston Sturges is just fantastic.”  Dates for this one are Sunday and Monday November 25th and 26th—showtimes still to be confirmed, but Stevens said they would probably play Sunday afternoon and Monday evening.

The “Essentials—Classic Comedies” series wraps up the first weekend in December with Billy Wilder’s 1955 starring vehicle for Marilyn Monroe, “The Seven Year Itch,” co-starring Tom Ewell.  “I really feel that (film) caught (Monroe) at a great time and showed her as a natural physical actor”—and comedienne.  Dates are Sunday and Monday December 2nd and 3rd, and again you can expect an afternoon showing on Sunday and an evening viewing on Monday, says Mike Stevens.

The “Classic Comedies” series coincides with the Moxie’s annual holiday membership campaign—individual annual memberships are $100, which includes free admission to the quarterly Essentials series and other perks.

Mike Stevens, being the film buff that he is, notes that we’re heading toward “that exciting time when Oscar season is looming, and we have a ton of stuff on the horizon, and actually in theaters right now.  There’s a movie that I just love, that was at the Toronto International Film Festival. And this was something that was not really on my radar.  It’s called ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me.’ Melissa McCarthy is in it; she plays a real character, Lee Israel, based on her memoir.  She’s a biographer of middling success who’s come upon hard times, and has stumbled into being a literary forger. And she just KILLS it in this role. I think she’s probably going to get (an Oscar nomination) for it.”

That’s precisely the sort of “hidden gem” that the Moxie specializes in, says Mike Stevens. “That’s our whole goal, to think about what movies would otherwise not play, or that are worthy of our attention, even if they’re playing elsewhere.  Other Oscar movies on the horizon:  we have a movie called ‘Roma,’ which is just gorgeous—a black and white film set in Mexico City in the 1970s by Alfonso Cuarón. It’s a Netflix film, so it’s going to be streaming, and a lot of other theaters won’t be playing it. But I saw it—in Toronto again—and it is so beautiful, that you need to see it on as big a screen as possible.  That’s starting December 14th, and I know that’s going to get an Oscar nomination of some sort.”

Tickets for the “Essentials” series at the Moxie are $9 for adults, $8 for students/seniors, and Moxie members get in free.  For information visit or call 429-0800.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning "Arts News." Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's "Ozzie Award" in 2006.