The New Yorker Theater was known not only for the movies it showed but for the people who came to the theater to watch everything from the newest New Wave film to a forgotten Hollywood classic. Patrons to the theater included Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Susan Sontag, Andrew Sarris, and Pauline Kael, among many others. In addition to watching films these noted filmgoers also provided program notes, some of which we have now made available online.
Authors of New Yorker program notes include Jonas Mekas, who wrote on the 1939 Soviet silent film classic Shors and Jules Feiffer who discussed Gold Diggers of 1933, which included musical numbers staged by Busby Berkley. Novelist Terry Southern contributed program notes for the 1937 version of A Star is Born as well as for Lizzies of the Field, a Mack Sennet-produced silent film. Here’s what Southern had to say:
Note the fine surrealist opening (none of this sneaky obscene, “pushing out West as a young girl” crap).
The best parts of this film are superb examples of pure cinema there is nothing flat about the use of camera here. We have motion and counter-motion, motion without motion, spacial and textural compositions to compare with the good German films of the period. When a Mack Sennett car leaps with such seeming abandon through the frame in a long shot the movement is executed not simply in the frame but precisely the right part of the frame; if you were to freeze the action at any point you might have an abstract painting But why freeze it? Why not freeze Porky Pig instead? After suitably mutilating his fat snout!