2024 Retrospective

The Lady with the Torch

Musicals, noir films, westerns, screwball comedies, war movies. Locarno77 celebrates 100 years of Columbia Pictures, boasting a tribute both to beloved classics and unheralded gems produced at the Hollywood studio between the dawn of sound and the late 1950s.

During its golden age, Columbia Pictures produced some of American cinema’s most iconic films across a panoply of varied styles and popular genres. In 1924, the relatively small-scale motion picture company Cohn-Brandt-Cohn rebranded itself as Columbia Pictures. This new studio would eventually feature, as its masthead, the Lady with a Torch, the Statue of Liberty-like female figure draped in the American flag that has become recognizable to film lovers everywhere.

As Columbia Pictures, the studio struck gold, producing a major string of successes and becoming, over the next decade, an integral part of the Hollywood ecosystem. Its first years of blockbuster success were dominated by the twin figures of filmmaker Frank Capra and studio president and head of production Harry Cohn, a figure known both for his canny commercial instincts and tyrannical personality. With its large, multi-faceted Retrospective, curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht, the Festival will attempt to disentangle the knotty myths that surround Columbia Pictures and present a richer and more complex portrait of a studio worth celebrating.


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.

The Locarno Retrospective presents the studio in all its glory, shining a light on lesser-known genre filmmakers like Max Nosseck, Seymour Friedman or William A. Seiter, as well as celebrating major auteurs like Howard Hawks, Frank Borzage, Dorothy Arzner, Fritz Lang, George Stevens and John Ford. Treasured stars like Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, Orson Welles, Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant, Boris Karloff, the Three Stooges, Richard Burton, and William Holden will also make an appearance. It is to this varied spectrum of artists, performers, and beloved figures of fun that the festival pays tribute.

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