Martin Scorsese Presents Republic Rediscovered: New Restorations from Paramount Pictures

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Accused of Murder. USA. Joseph Kane. 1956. Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

NEW YORK—The Museum of Modern Art announces Martin Scorsese Presents Republic Rediscovered: New Restorations from Paramount Pictures, a two-part series organized by MoMA in association with The Film Foundation and Paramount Pictures.

The 30-film program begins on February 1 at 7:00 p.m. with Alfred Santell’s seldom-seen masterwork That Brennan Girl (1946), and continues through February 15; part two of the series will begin August 9 and run through August 23. Curated by Scorsese, the program celebrates a new beginning for the Republic library, which is currently being restored and returned to wide distribution by Paramount. Republic Rediscovered is organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

“From the ’30s through the ’50s, the different studio logos at the head of every picture carried their own associations and expectations,” said Martin Scorsese. “And for me, the name Republic over the eagle on the mountain peak meant something special. Republic Pictures was what was known as a ‘poverty row’ studio, but what their pictures lacked in resources and prestige they made up for in inventiveness, surprise, and, in certain cases, true innovation. Among the many ‘B’ pictures produced at Republic in the studio’s heyday, there are so many titles that have been overlooked or forgotten; waiting for decades to be seen again. I’m truly excited that MoMA will be presenting 30 of these films, some in newly restored versions courtesy of Paramount Pictures and The Film Foundation. For two weeks this February and two weeks in August, you need to go to MoMA. I can promise you that you have some discoveries in store.”

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Angel on the Amazon. USA. Directed by John H. Auer. 1948

Jim Gianopulos, Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO, commented: “As part of our commitment to honor the art of cinema and our legacy, Paramount Pictures has preserved more than 800 Republic Pictures films. Thanks to the efforts of Martin Scorsese and The Film Foundation, audiences will see Paramount’s work to restore these films has been done with attention to every detail. The world will get to see them as they have not been seen since their original release.”

The biggest little studio in Hollywood, Republic Pictures (1935–59) is largely remembered today for its Saturday matinee serials and B Westerns, but the studio in fact produced films in a wide variety of genres and budget levels, from gritty crime films like John H. Auer’s 1953 City that Never Sleeps (February 3 and 11) to lush Technicolor romances such as Frank Borzage’s 1946 I’ve Always Loved You (February 10 and 12).

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I’ve Always Loved You. Directed by USA. Frank Borzage. 1946

In the 1940s, Republic became a haven for several leading directors—including Borzage, John Ford, and Allan Dwan—who found the small studio a congenial home for some of their most personal projects. The series includes two radiant dramas of small-town life directed by Dwan—Driftwood (1947) and The Inside Story (1948—as well as Lewis Milestone’s powerful adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony (1949).

The opening night feature, Alfred Santell’s That Brennan Girl, is one of the major finds of Republic Rediscovered—an emotionally complex, formally inventive coming-of-age story that was the final film of Santell, a Hollywood veteran whose work is just beginning to receive the attention it merits.

Republic Rediscovered also features many of the studio’s homegrown house directors, who were responsible for establishing the studio’s fast-paced, audience-pleasing style. Action specialist William Witney is represented by the rousing Saturday matinee special Trigger, Jr. (1950), featuring two of Republic’s most enduring stars, Roy Rogers and Trigger (“The Smartest Horse in the Movies”), as well as by the warm Stranger at My Door (1956), a family drama with a graceful religious theme.

The versatile Joseph Kane contributes the adult Western The Plunderers (1948) and the lurid, widescreen film noir Accused of Murder (1956), while John H. Auer brings his audacious, operatic sensibility to the dark melodrama The Flame (1947), the jungle fantasy Angel on the Amazon (1948) and the unclassifiable City that Never Sleeps, a panoramic crime story set in and narrated by (yes) the city of Chicago. And director George Sherman slips his sly wit into Storm over Lisbon (1944), a tongue-in-cheek attempt to remake Casablanca with a scruffy Republic cast: Vera Hruba Ralston, Richard Arlen, and Erich von Stroheim.

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That Brennan Girl. USA. Directed by Alfred Santell. 1946

Perhaps the most distinctive element of Republic’s house style was the studio’s use of the two-color Trucolor process, a low-cost alternative to the three-color Technicolor process that was developed by the studio’s associated film laboratory, Consolidated Film Industries. One of the great revelations of these new scans, created from the original 35mm elements by the Paramount restoration team, is the expressive quality of two-strip Trucolor’s orange-blue palette. As wistfully beautiful as a mid-century Sunday supplement rotogravure, Trucolor is particularly well suited to capturing Western skies and desert sands, as well as leaping flames—elements all on vivid display in R. G. Springsteen’s Bible-thumping 1949 Western Hellfire (screening February 2 and 13).

Andrea Kalas, Vice President of Paramount Archives, will present Republic Preserved, a lecture with film clips on the Republic library and the process of revitalizing it, before the 2:00 p.m. screening of Trigger, Jr. on February 4.

New York-based filmmaker Gina Telaroli created the series trailer (https://youtu.be/hbYInnwlfL0), along with the shorter version that is screening at MoMA and selection of image essays that will be available later this month.

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