Friday, January 6, the American Cinematheque celebrated its first anniversary at the Aero Theater on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica with a reception and a screening of Hell’s Angels, the legendary World War I epic that producer Howard Hughes conjured in 1930.
Although Hughes was the credited director, and masterminded the spectacular aerial dogfights, directors James Whale (Frankenstein) and Edmond Goulding (Nightmare Alley) among others, also had a hand in making the picture. Originally shot as a silent film with another female lead, Norwegian Greta Nissen, Hughes scrapped her footage and reshot it with sound and Jean Harlow in her film debut.
The choice of an airplane epic was apropos, as the Aero, one of the last neighborhood movie theaters in Los Angeles, was built by aviation pioneer Donald Douglas in 1939.
Several years ago, it was bought by James Rosenfield, who, in turn, leased it to the American Cinematheque, which also operates the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.