THE WAY Channel 9's John Goldsmith sees it, he was bound to be stood up sooner or later. But until last Sunday morning's live broadcast of WDVM's popular news magazine "Capital Edition," when three- time Academy Award-winner Haskell Wexler failed to appear, Goldsmith never had to interview an empty chair.

"We took a shot of the chair and then, to show what a class act we are, we went on to show a clip of the guy's movie and plugged it anyway," laughed Goldsmith the following day.

Wexler's credits include two Oscars for Best Cinematography: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966 and Bound for Glory in 1976; and one for directing the Best Documentary of 1970, Interviews With My Lai Veterans. He was scheduled to talk about his latest feature film, Latino, which he wrote and directed. (The 105-minute film opens Friday for a limited engagement at Georgetown's Key Theater).

"He had problems with a shoot he was doing in Philadelphia," said Wanda Montgomery, a local publicity spokesman for "Latino," in explaining Wexler's failure to appear.

"We were a little prepared for this eventuality. It's just bound to happen," said Goldsmith. The cameraman merely focused on Wexler's empty chair as Goldsmith read Wexler's long list of movie credits and wisecracked that he hoped the film distributor did a better job getting the reels to the Key than the film company did in delivering Wexler to "Capital Edition."

"I have a tendency to take television not too seriously," said Goldsmith, winner of four local Emmys and a Peabody Award.

Apparently Wexler feels the same way.

Caroline Ware, a faculty member of the Bryn Mawr School in 1922, will introduce a 55-minute film by Suzanne Bauman and Rita Heller, The Women of Summer, Friday at noon at the National Archives. Part of the continuing "American Lives" series, the 1985 movie tells the story of the Bryn Mawr School for Women Workers, a special educational experiment underwritten by the Duponts and the Rockefellers, among others. Special guests will include Esther Peterson, former consumer affairs adviser in the Carter administration and for Giant Food.

On Thursday at 7, the Archives screens Elia Kazan's 1954 winner of eight Academy Awards, On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger. It's also free. Call 523-3099 for a complete schedule.

Speaking of "On the Waterfront," Georgetown's Biograph Theater is double-billing it with Frank Capra's 1934 romantic comedy It Happened One Night Friday through Sunday. The latter -- starring Clarke Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Alan Hale and Ward Bond -- was the first film to capture all five of the major Academy Awards -- Picture, Actor, Actress, Director and Screenplay. A short film, Sundae in New York, is also being offered. For showtimes, call 333-2696.

Women in Film and Video member Rachel Lyon unveils her 1982 production, Tell Me a Riddle, on Sunday at 2 at the Biograph. The 90-minute story, based on Tillie Olsen's short book, stars Lila Kedrova and Brooke Adams with Melvyn Douglas in his last performance. The movie will debut on PBS' 'American Playhouse' series on March 17. Tickets for Sunday's screening are $5 for members; $6 for nonmembers, and include a reception afterward. Call 333-2696.

Entre Nous opens the Northern Virginia Community College French film series on Sunday at 7:30. The Sunday series will continue through March with A Sunday in the Country, Pauline at the Beach and The Last Metro. All screenings will be in the Reston Community Center Theater, 2310 Colts Neck Rd. in Reston. Tickets are free and can be picked up at the community center box office or from the counseling center at the Loudoun Campus, Room 216. Call 476-4500 or 450-2571.

"Videowindows," a "video art magazine" created by Washington artists, makes its debut this weekend. "Videowindows I: Childhood" presents five vignettes about the pains and pleasures of being a kid, the most accomplished of which is by Margot Kernan, executive producer of the project, which is sponsored by the Washington Project for the Arts. Kernan's "Hiding" is a familiar rite-of-passage tale told with elegant still photographs of mysterious locations. The hour-long program features electronic music by Bob Boilen and computer graphics by Garri Garripoli.

"Videowindows I: Childhood" will screen Friday at 8 and 10 p.m., Saturday at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. and March 22, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. at Washington Project for the Arts, 400 7th St. NW. Tickets are $4; $2 for WPA members. And for those who like what they see, VHS and Beta copies will be available for $29.95 at WPA. Call 338-0206.

The Biograph's almost annual "Expose Yourself" festival of films by local filmmakers hits the screen on Wednesday and Thursday with seven or eight light-hearted shorts. Each averages eight to 10 minutes. Screenings are scheduled for 7 and 9:30 each evening; seats are $2.50. Call 333-2696.

There's still time to sign up for Gene Miller's "TV Commercial Production" course at Open U. The four-part, two-hour, Thursday- evening programs begin this Thursday at 8. Cost is $45. Call 966-9606.

SHORT TAKES -- The Lower Depths, Jean Renoir's 1937 11/2-hour film based on a play by Maxim Gorki, screens Saturday at 2:30 and Sunday at 6 in the National Gallery's East Building. The program is free. Call 737-4215.

The AFI's three-week salute to director Blake Edwards this weekend finds a special triple billing of Peter Sellers films. See The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark and The Pink Panther Strikes Again Saturday and Sunday at 2. Call the recorded schedule at 785-4600 or the box office at 785-4601.

The ongoing Saul Landau series at the Institute for Policy Studies, 1901 Q Street NW, screens his 1979 Polk Award-winning documentary, Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang, Sunday at 7. Cost is $2.

The Circle Theater screens two early Woody Allen films on Tuesday and Wednesday, Play It Again, Sam (1972) and Take the Money and Run (1967). Call 331-7480 for showtimes.

The Orson Welles retrospective continues at the American History Museum's Carmichael Auditorium on Monday evening at 7:30 with his 1955 black-and-white Mr. Arkadin featuring Welles, Akim Tamiroff and Michael Redgrave. Call 357-3030 for information.

The Renwick Gallery on Thursday hosts free screenings of two shorts, The Stone Carvers and Celebrations: The World of Victor and Edith Turner. The Smithsonian's Margaret Hunt, who captured an Oscar for her part in the 30-minute "Stone Carvers," will introduce the 1985 documentary about artisans. Shows are at 11, 12:15 and 1:30.