Columbia Pictures Centennial to Be Celebrated With Locarno Retro


Switzerland’s Locarno Film Festival is set to celebrate the centennial of Columbia Pictures with a retrospective featuring classic titles spawned by the Hollywood studio between the dawn of sound and the late 1950s.

The Locarno retro, titled “The Lady With the Torch –– The Centenary of Columbia Pictures,” is being curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht, co-director of Italy’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, which is dedicated to cinematic treasures of the past and organized in partnership with Switzerland’s Cinémathèque Suisse. It will be officially unveiled on Thursday at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles.

During its golden age, Columbia Pictures produced some of American cinema’s most iconic films “across a panoply of varied styles and popular genres,” the Locarno fest statement notes. In 1924, the relatively small-scale motion picture company Cohn-Brandt-Cohn rebranded itself as Columbia Pictures, now owned by Sony. “This new studio would eventually feature, as its masthead and in the preamble before each film, the Lady With the Torch, the Statue of Liberty-like female figure that was, at first, draped nobly in the American flag and has become recognizable to film lovers everywhere,” the statement continues.

The Locarno retro will shine a light on lesser-known genre filmmakers like Max Nosseck, Seymour Friedman and William A. Seiter, as well as celebrate major auteurs like Howard Hawks, Frank Borzage, Fritz Lang, Frank Capra, George Stevens and John Ford.  

“‘Lady With the Torch’ is an unofficial history of Columbia Pictures that celebrates big names, Oscar winners and era-defining films but pays equal attention to the B-unit and yet to be discovered masters,” Khoshbakht said in the statement. “Think the fast-talking career women of screwball comedies or think existentialist cowboys, prophetic anti-fascist quickies or unsettling ‘problem pictures.’”

“Sony’s generosity means we will bring to Locarno new restorations of films by John Ford and Phil Karlson, among many other gems. Once upon a time there was a brilliant exchange between art and commerce, between the system and the artist, and this Retrospective will celebrate that,” Khoshbakht added.

After launching from Locarno, the “Lady With the Torch” retro will travel around the world.

Commented Locarno’s artistic director Giona A. Nazzaro: “We are proud that the centennial celebration of Columbia Pictures in Locarno will be a journey through a richly creative moment for American cinema, including masterpieces, new discoveries and classics.”

The 77th edition of the Locarno Film Festival, which is Europe’s preeminent indie cinema event, will run Aug. 7-17.



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