The Greatest Stories Ever Told

The 2010 Paramount Summer Film Classics

Almost as soon as humans started writing stories down, we started trying to crack the code on them, from Aristotle's Poetics to Joseph Campbell and Syd Field. The 19th century writer Georges Polti studied ancient Greek texts, too, claiming every story – be it girl meets boy, man makes monster, or small-town boy makes good – could be boiled down to one or more of the so-called Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations: lofty, capital-letter conditions like Mistaken Jealousy, Fatal Imprudence, and Conflict With a God. Take Polti's tersely majestic elucidation of the 20th situation, Self-Sacrifice for an Ideal: "a Hero; an Ideal; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed." I know, I know, it sounds a little snooty and academic – then again, what else but self-sacrifice for an ideal could you call a clenched-jaw Bogey chucking all to ensure the safe passage of his lover's husband out of Nazi-occupied Morocco? Casablanca kicks off the Paramount Theatre's annual summer series on Thursday, May 20; the series continues through September. The films, a handful of which we're profiling here, range from early silents to newly minted classics. Whether you've never seen them or you've seen them so many times you've lost track, we can guarantee every film will in some way feel familiar, universal, and relatable. They're the greatest stories ever told, and we never get tired of seeing them.

The 2010 Paramount Summer Film Classics series runs May 20-Sept. 12. See last week's insert for a complete schedule or visit

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Paramount Summer Film Classics, Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, Georges Polti, Casablanca, Splendor in the Grass, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Red Shoes, Ran, Black Sunday, Freaks, Batman, All That Heaven Allows, A Night at the Opera, The Last Picture Show, Brighton Rock

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