Criterion Celebrates Year 1 With April Programming

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Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world. This month, the Criterion Channel celebrates it’s launch one year ago with a journey into the dark side of the Columbia Pictures catalog.

The channel returns to the genre with an expanded lineup of classic noir deep cuts that includes the return of Columbia Noir, Gary Cooper, Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits, Jean Arthur, Douglas Sirk, and more.

While rival studios such as MGM and Paramount produced splashy musicals and prestige literary adaptations, the notoriously budget-conscious Columbia was right at home in the gritty, slightly disreputable world of film noir.

The Columbia lot was where auteurs such as Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray, and Orson Welles realized pulp-poetry perfection in masterpieces The Big Heat, In a Lonely Place, and The Lady from Shanghai. It was also where resourceful genre specialists could overcome budgetary constraints through sinister, stylized atmosphere and directorial vision in killer Bs like the gothic mystery My Name Is Julia Ross, the minimalist-cool hitman thriller Murder by Contract, and the lurid taboo-buster The Crimson Kimono.

Starring genre icons such as Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Grahame, and Glenn Ford, these shadowy gems epitomize the hard-boiled essence of noir.

On Thursday, April 23, Criterion pays tribute to “Early Douglas Sirk.” Before he became known as the king of the subversive, lavishly overwrought 1950s melodrama, German émigré director Douglas Sirk made his mark in Hollywood with a string of historical dramas, film noirs, comedies, and musicals.

Displaying his sophistication, cutting intelligence, and visual flair, these unsung 1940s works—the sparkling caper A Scandal in Paris (1946), the offbeat show-business satire Slightly French (1949), and the perversely fascinating noirs Lured (1947) and Shockproof (1949)—paint a fuller picture of one of the studio era’s most intriguing and endlessly analyzed auteurs.

On Sunday, April 26, Criterion presents “Starring Jean Arthur.” Though she came up through the silent era, Jean Arthur was truly made for talkies. With her wonderfully expressive voice, offbeat delivery, and impeccable comic timing, she quickly emerged as one of the greatest stars of the screwball genre and a particular favorite of director Frank Capra, who cast her as the plucky working-girl heroines of his classics Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It with You, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Throughout the late 1930s and early ’40s, Arthur delivered memorable performances in comedies and dramas alike for top directors like Frank Borzage (History Is Made at Night), Howard Hawks (Only Angels Have Wings), and George Stevens (The More the Merrier) before abruptly retiring in 1944, after which she made only a handful of screen appearances.

A famously private figure who shunned the spotlight throughout her career, Arthur endures as one of the most beloved and enigmatic personalities of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a singular star whose eccentric charm was the very essence of screwball.

See the Criterion website for the entire month’s lineup of films and more information about the channel.



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