The Secret Cinema is presenting HOLY MATRIMONY, a charming, offbeat comedy, and an effective showcase for the talents of its now near-forgotten stars: Monty Woolley and Gracie Fields.
Before the feature, there will be surprise short films from the Secret Cinema archive.
All Secret Cinema presentations (and select CHFG screenings) are shown using real live 16mm film projected on a giant screen (not video, not digital).
HOLY MATRIMONY (1943, Dir: John M. Stahl) – When a legendary and reclusive British artist living on a remote island (Monty Wooley) is called upon to be Knighted, he begrudgingly plans to attend the ceremony. But when his valet suddenly dies, he devises a way to find even more privacy, changing identities with the dead man. This leads to all sorts of unforeseen complications, especially when he encounters the charming, pen pal fiancée of his valet (Gracie Fields), who naturally assumes that he is the long distance lover she had never met. And that’s just about where this heartwarming yet satiric tale begins, with many amusing twists to come. The source novel by Arnold Bennett had been filmed three times already but this is the one to see. The film’s screenwriter, Nunnally Johnson (THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, recent Secret Cinema feature THANKS A MILLION and many other classics) tailored his script to the unique talents of the two leads, and won an Oscar nomination in the process (he also produced the film).
Monty Wooley lent his distinguished, dignified presence to acting late in life, after teaching English and dramatics at Harvard to students like Thornton Wilder and Steven Vincent Benèt. The impeccably groomed Wooley, nicknamed “The Beard” by Yale classmate Cole Porter, began to act on Broadway and films in mostly character parts. At age 50 he achieved unlikely stardom as THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, the title character of which was based on “Algonquin Round Table” wit Alexander Woolcott.
Gracie Fields was the 1930s’ biggest star in Britain, having had tremendous success on stage, screen, records and radio when Darryl F. Zanuck brought her to 20th Century-Fox. A former music hall performer who grew up above a Lancashire fish-and-chips shop, authors Robert Graves and Alan Hodges wrote that Fields’ “humorous, long-suffering but optimistic sentiment more truly represented contemporary England than slick Americanistic film comedies or heavily modern problem plays.” Her gentle humor shines in HOLY MATRIMONY, as do many of Hollywood’s best character actors, including Eric Blore, Franklin Pangborn, Una O’Connor, George Zucco, Laird Cregar and Billy Bevan.