The second Film Society screening, held on February 26, 1933, at 361 West 57th Street, featured the Harold Lloyd comedy The Lamb (now believed lost); an excerpt from Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast’s Laughter, a pre-Code romcom about a chorus girl torn between love and a life of luxury; Léger’s rapid-fire machine-age vision Ballet mécanique; the American debut of Moholy-Nagy’s Lichtspiel, a study of kinetic geometries; Lewis Jacobs’s Commercial Medley, a send-up of coming attractions; an episode of an adventure serial starring Pearl White, reigning queen of the genre; and Pierre Prévert’s It’s in the Bag, a delirious farce concerning the accidental kidnapping of a bored millionaire.
Lincoln Kirstein’s involvement with the Film Society led to a certain unease at MoMA—“knocking them all of a heap,” as Philip Johnson put it. In the summer of 1932 he had been invited by Alfred Barr to oversee a to-be-developed film department at the museum, and his position at the Film Society was understood by many as a conflict of interest, so much so that he was asked to either resign from the Film Society or fold the organization into MoMA. Indignant, Kirstein chose a different course: threatening instead to resign from MoMA, a maneuver most unexpected by his colleagues there.
Laughter. 1930. USA. Directed by Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast. Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart. With Nancy Carroll, Fredric March, Frank Morgan. 35mm. 79 min.
Ballet mécanique. 1924. France. Directed by Fernand Léger with Dudley Murphy. 35mm. 12 min.
A Lightplay: Black White Gray. 1930. Germany. Directed by László Moholy-Nagy. 35mm. 6 min.
Pearl of the Army, Episode 5: “Somewhere in Grenada”. 1916. USA. Directed by Edward José. With Pearl White, Ralph Kellard. 35mm. French intertitles; English soft-titles
Print courtesy of the Cinémathèque Française