Wheeling Film Society Opens Season Friday

WHEELING — The Wheeling Film Society is launching its seventh annual season of screening and discussions of classic Hollywood films, beginning Friday.

John Whitehead, professor of film studies at Wheeling Jesuit University and author of “Appraising The Graduate: The Mike Nichols Classic and Its Impact in Hollywood” (2011) and “Mike Nichols and the Cinema of Transformation” (2014), will serve as host for the screenings and conversations.

Free screenings of the featured films will be offered at Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Cinema, 2118 Market St. Conversations will take place during the free Lunch With Books sessions at the Ohio County Public Library, 52 16th St.

The schedule for the 2018-19 season is as follows:

“Bringing Up Baby” (Howard Hawks, 1938), 102 minutes, screening at 7:30 p.m. Friday and conversation, noon Sept. 18.

During the golden age of Hollywood cinema (1930-60), “rom-coms” were not yet a thing. What Hollywood had perfected was a formula known as the “screwball comedy,” and there were no more delightful practitioners of the art than Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Hawks.

In 1938, all three found themselves on the same RKO set to make“Bringing Up Baby,” in which daft socialite Hepburn (the screwball) saves Grant, a professor of dinosaur bones, from a dull marriage to his assistant. Along the way a crucial dinosaur bone is lost and found, and our heroes find true love with the help of a tiny dog and a very large cat. This is the 80th anniversary of some truly inspired Hollywood lunacy.

“Dr. Strangelove “(Stanley Kubrick, 1964), 95 minutes, screening at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 and conversation, noon Nov. 13.

Last season, the Wheeling Film Society watched Kubrick’s 1968 epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with its surprisingly hopeful vision of an alternative to the terminal aggression of the human species. “Dr. Strangelove” was the exceedingly black-comic film Kubrick made four years earlier: a slapstick comedy about nuclear apocalypse.

Peter Sellers plays three different roles (including the president of the United States and the mastermind of the nuclear bomb). George C. Scott nearly steal the film as a lunatic general (six years before his Oscar for “Patton”).

“The Wizard of Oz” (Victor Fleming, 1939), 102 minutes, screening at 7:30 p.m. March 8 and conversation, noon March 12.

Generations of fans of “The Wizard of Oz” grew up watching the perennially beloved film on tiny, grainy television sets, marred by cuts and commercial breaks that fractured continuity, but gave children time to catch their breath between bouts with wicked witches and flying monkeys. The film, which turns 80 this year, continues to speak to the child in all of us, as well as to avant-garde novelists like Salman Rushdie and filmmakers like David Lynch.

“Rear Window” (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954), 112 minutes, screening at 7:30 p.m. April 12 and conversation, noon April 16.

Of all the masterpieces Hitchcock made, it is difficult to imagine a riskier premise than this one: a photographer with a broken leg sits in a wheelchair and watches the wide world of his apartment courtyard. This unlikely scenario, when embodied by James Stewart (with frequent visits by Grace Kelly), has become a suspense classic celebrating its 65th anniversary, as well as Hitchcock’s most hopeful meditation on the ethics of the voyeur (of which filmmakers are a special sub-category). As Stewart and Kelly solve a murder mystery, they also contemplate the enigma of the human person — and fall in love!

All programs — screenings and conversations — are free of admission charge. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Parental guidance is recommended for all screenings and conversations.

All screenings will be preceded by catered buffet cuisine as part of a “Dinner and a Movie”series; there is a charge for the meal. Call Towngate to make a reservation.