Girls dressed for "The Wizard of Oz" during Last Remaining Seats in 2012 at the Saban Theatre. Photo: Larry Underhill.
Before Bringing Back Broadway and a decade of new downtown residents, the only hint of revival came during the few days of screenings during Last Remaining Seats. It was an underground movement with no army. Things have changed and the series of classic films returns to lead the charge and take its place as a highlight of a downtown Los Angeles summer. As you may know, dressing up for a night on the town and hitting a show on Broadway during its early 20th Century prime was about style and being seen. Here's my 2015 list of alternative dining and dress options to help you take in the town's beloved series.
Million Dollar Theater (1917)
Wednesday, June 10 8 p.m.
This Alfred Hitchcock classic carries dark themes of victimization in stark black and white, and appears to evade anything fun. Except when you see Hitchcock use his showmanship in the movie trailer setting up the thrills you can expect. How do you make light of a heinous murder on the screen? "Let's see. Norman likes sandwiches and keeps Mom in the fruit cellar. Maybe a light picnic?," said undisclosed LA Conservancy staffer in an email, a person presumably kept hidden away in an upper room of the elaborate Spanish Colonial Revival building that's home to the Million Dollar Theater. That's the spirit!
See the movie dressed as Marion Crane by wearing an outfit that says business-fugitive-wear for a fashionable escape from Arizona by car with cash. Gentlemen can don a sensible jacket. If you are daring, wait in line with a prop "mother" covered with a blanket sitting in a wheelchair. At the theater door you can say: "Don't worry. She'll wake up in time for the credits. Mother loves Saul Bass." The dining option is nearby at Grand Central Market where you piece together dishes and some create Oedipa comfort food; a toasted cheese sandwich.
Here's a friendly warning for anyone coming to downtown for the first time. Stay on the western side of Broadway. Across from the theater and market is Ross Cutlery. There's no telling who may be inside getting their knife sharpened.
"A boy's best friend is his mother." - Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)
"City Lights" (1931)
Los Angeles Theatre (1931)
Saturday, June 13 8 p.m.
There can't be enough cinephiles to dress up like The Tramp or blind flower girls to honor this silent film that gave us romance with soulful expression. Pass on duplicating the scene where the Tramp has dinner with an intoxicated millionaire in a fancy Italian joint. Keep it lovely and simple. Dress down with your date, share a French dip at Coles or a desert at coffee house. Place a flower in a makeshift vase and set it on the table, and then pay the bill with loose change.
Note: Chaplin reportedly helped fund the completion of the Los Angeles Theatre so that it would be ready to open with the premiere of "City Lights" in January 1931. Photo at right: Ruben Fernandez as Chaplin's The Tramp and LAPD Commander Andy Smith at 2008 press conference. Photo by Ed Fuentes.
"You?" - A Blind Girl (Virginia Cherrill) Title Card
Trailer: "City Lights"
"Dios se lo pague/God Bless You" (1948)
Palace Theatre (1911)
Co-presented with Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles
Wednesday, June 17 8 p.m.
This Argentina drama is about an unskilled worker who invents a way to make him wealthy, then lead into despair when his boss steals his genius. The worker's wife is distraught and kills herself, so the worker, now living in the streets, vows revenge. Add another love triangle to complicate revenge and then you have a steamy barrio melodrama. Dress dapper for the film. Argentina considers it a cinematic landmark. Since it's a tale of deception and lies, B.S Taqueria is the right place to snack if it's open by June.
"How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953)
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1961)
Saturday, June 20 8 p.m.
The regal trappings of the Music Center for this 1953 film demands gowns befitting Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe, whose characters are three models who rent an expensive Manhattan penthouse apartment and pose as women of wealth. The goal is to snag rich husbands. A penthouse at JW Marriott Hotel at LA Live could stand in as the location for an updated version, and our three vixens hoping to attract a working millionaire can scout an NBA game or award ceremony on site. That's cynical of me. That would never happen. Flemings, Pacific Dining Car, or Morton's gives off a mid-century big-ticket urban meal experience.
"Wealthy men are never old." - Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall)
Trailer: "How To Marry A Millionaire"
"Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" (1971)
Orpheum Theatre (1933)
Wednesday, June 24 8 p.m.
It may be appealing to dress as a winner of a Golden Ticket or a painted Oompa Loompa, but the ambitious will reach for the eccentric experimental fashion of Willy Wonka. That purple velvet jacket with Victorian lines is just short of portraying the chocolate industrialist as a dandy. It also hides how dangerous he could really be. If you recreate the jacket, don't forget those wide lapels that scream 1971. And skip dinner. Get a Hershey bar and sneak into the downtown version of Wonka wonderland, the Dutch Chocolate Shop with the revealed Ernest Batchelder tiles waiting to be unwrapped.
"The suspense is terrible. I hope it'll last." - Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder)
Trailer: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
"Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)
The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Saturday, June 27
2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
If there is a curse for renaming the temples of Broadway, it hasn't angered the spirits protecting the former United Artists flagship. It's now known as The Theatre at Ace Hotel and the blockbuster about a rugged archaeology professor who chases artifacts in mysterious worlds will be screened. Dress appropriately in a fedora with a wide brim and tall crown so you can complete a striking silhouette in your leather jacket and khakis. About that bullwhip, leave it at home. The real unsung accessory is the canvas shoulder bag that would have an easy transition if you wear it entering the urban canyons of downtown. By the way, when you watch the film, listen closely for secret messages and codes. When Marcus Brody tells Indiana Jones that "The Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions," it could have also been a warning from a fictitious 1936 that Bunker Hill could be a lost artifact. As for dining, a downtowner in the mood for adventure can take a journey to the edges of the world where rituals are foreign and danger is hidden; the Westside. The Versailles Cuban restaurant on La Cienega is tropical enough, and it opened the year Raiders was released.
"I don't know, I'm makin' this up as I go." - Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford)
Trailer: "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
Last Remaining Seats runs between June 10 - 27, 2015. Tickets go on sale March 25 to L.A. Conservancy members ($16) and April 8 to the general public ($20).
Previously on LA Observed:
Ed Fuentes previews Last Remaining Seats for 2014
Dress, dine and drink advice for Last Remaining Seats