Monday, March 2, 2015

John Wayne’s Breakout Movie Role

Seeing the movie “Stagecoach” gives the viewer a chance to see John Wayne in the role the made him a star. It also provides an excellent example of director John Ford’s style of westerns that made him one of the best. Besides the “Duke,” add eight others to the stagecoach and you have a classic.  The seven passengers plus a driver and one riding shotgun are trying to get through dangerous Apache territory.  The story has lots of twists and turns besides the rough trail. The other star is Claire Trevor, who will not disappoint viewers delivering a great performance and maybe more. Is the story about more than a thrilling ride through Geronimo country?  Will they all make it?  Will love conquer all? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. Shown by Jack Nachbar at the Edge Center in Bigfork on Thursday March 19th at 6:30 PM free of charge accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film and the film industry at the time period of the picture.  Of course there will be a cartoon of the same period to start out the fun.

In 1880, the Lordsburg stage heads east from Tonto, Arizona Territory to Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory. It has a mixed bag of passengers to be sure and their stories definitely cover the bases of the old west.  There is a crooked banker, whiskey salesman, woman of dubious background, pregnant wife, sheriff and the Ringo Kid. Lots of action and great scenery that can only be best viewed on the “big screen.” The movie had seven Oscar nominations and won two. In 1995, “Stagecoach” was selected by the National Film Registry for preservation being picked by the United States Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” In June 2008, The American Film Institute acknowledged the movie as the ninth best film in the Western genre. Orson Welles believed that this movie was a perfect textbook of film making. He said he watched it more than 40 times in preparation for the making of Citizen Kane.

Ringo Kid: "I got a ranch across the border. There's a nice place--a real nice place... trees... grass... water. There's a cabin half built. A man could live there... and a woman. Will you go?"
Dallas: "But you don't know me--you don't know who I am."
Ringo Kid: "I know all I wanna know."

That is classic John Wayne and comes from “Stagecoach.” The Duke, as he was known, was in many movies before this one, but this was his first staring role under director John Ford, and it made him a star. Wayne’s character, the Ringo kid, was not a good guy by any means, but had the compassion and sense of duty not to abandon the rest of the travelers in their time of need. You gotta love him.

Born Marion Mitchell Morrison in Iowa (1907-1979), John Wayne’s family relocated to Los Angeles when he was nine and that is where his life’s work was centered. With “Stagecoach” making him a star he ended up being the star in 142 films, became the symbol of the American hero on-screen. He won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. But the Duke’s lasting film achievement, was the persona he portrayed on-screen.  It has been copied by countless actors whether they would admit it or not. He was among the top box office draws for three decades which made him very special to studios. “An enduring American icon, he epitomized rugged masculinity and is famous for his demeanor, including his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height,” from Wiki at

Claire Trevor was nicknamed the "Queen of Film Noir" because she so often was the “bad girl” in film noir and other black and white suspense movies. By the time of “Stagecoach,” Clair was a star. Clarie Trevor (1920 –2000) was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Larchmont, New York, and according to her biography on the website of Claire Trevor School of the Arts, "Trevor's acting career spanned more than seven decades and included successes in stage, radio, television and film. . . .often played the hard-boiled blonde.” Schooled in the performing arts, by 1932 she was starring on Broadway and began appearing in Brooklyn produced Vitaphone shorts. She starred in 29 films from 1933 to 1938 and by 1939 was an established leading lady actress. Some of her most memorable movies were with John Wayne including “Stagecoach.” Clare’s final Oscar nomination was co-staring with  John Wayne in “The High and the Mighty.” She had three Oscar nominations winning one, two Prime Time Emmy nominations winning one, won a Golden Boot award and nominated for a Laurel Award. More at:

John Ford (1894 – 1973) directed “Stagecoach” and was the pioneer of location shooting and the “long shot” done against a background of roughed terrain vistas in remote areas.  Stagecoach was the first of many Westerns that Ford shot using Monument Valley on the Arizona–Utah border.  Location shooting like this meant that the stars, used to opulence of Hollywood living, had to “camp out” in tents.  This atmosphere added a touch of personal reality to the actors about the times and life styles in which their characters lived.

Ford started his directing career in 1914. He was famous for both his Westerns such as "Stagecoach," "The Searchers," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," plus adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as "The Grapes of Wrath." His four Academy Awards for Best Director (1935, 1940, 1941, 1952) are a record, and one of those films, "How Green Was My Valley," also won Best Picture.

Nearly all of the silent films he directed are lost.  They made up the majority of Ford’s 140 directed movies. Now he is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential film-makers of his generation.

In the case of “Stagecoach” Ford shot much of it in the cramped stage passenger compartment with seven passengers. This being against the grandeur of the scenery outside emphasized the tight “community” and their vulnerability. To some viewers, Ringo Kid’s decisions to stay and help out instead of escaping when he could seemed more logical because of the cramped conditions.  This is classic Ford using everything possible for effect. Above is set shot of "Stagecoach" filming. Ref

When watching “Stagecoach” you might think that it is a bit “canned” with so many western genre characters and situations in place.  You have seen much of it before.  Well, that’s because this movie created them. Remember this is back in 1939 and it was so good that it did set the stage for lots of imitations, and imitation is the best for of flattery possible. John Ford was not only one of the best directors, but this movies set the tone for generations of Westerns to come.

Come to Bigfork and find out yourself. This movie is presented free of charge and with some appropriate snacks courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday March 19th  6:30 PM. Price of admission: free.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

“…one of the all-time best musicals…”

This is a good way to describe the movie “Kiss Me Kate."  It is a 1953 MGM musical starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, and Ann Miller. The Cole Porter music itself makes this movie a classic and Ann Miller’s performance makes it a treat.  It is a film adaptation of a Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn, is loosely based on Shakespeare's “Taming of the Shrew.” A visit to Bigfork will provide a warm lighthearted break from winter’s weather. Shown by Jack Nachbar at the Edge Center in Bigfork on Thursday February 12th at 6:30PM free of charge accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film and the film industry at the time period of the picture.  Of course there will be a cartoon of the same period to start out the fun.

“Kiss Me Kate” involves the battles of two stage performers that were once married and now have a strong dislike for each other.  They have to perform opposite each other in the Sakespeare classic “Taming of the Shrew” with predictable results.  The movie is a great story that played as a stage play on Broadway for an impressive 1077 performances.  The story line is also great with lots of twists and turns. It has the battling stars, miss-sent flowers that really complicated things, gangsters who want their gambling debts paid off, and a musical score that is outstanding.  Lots of problems to be solved with Cole Porter’s music to help things along.

Kathryn Grayson

Soprano Kathryn Grayson (1922 – 2010) was an American actress who, from the age of twelve, trained as an opera singer. By the 1940s, she was under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and establishing a career primarily through musicals. She was lead in such films as “Thousands Cheer” (1943), “Anchors Aweigh” (1945) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, and with Howard Keel in “Show Boat” (1951).

With the decline of musicals, she worked in the theatre in “Camelot” (1962–1964). Kathryn also performed in operas, including "La bohème", "Madama Butterfly", "Orpheus in the Underworld", and 'La Traviata."

The dual role of Lilli Vanessi/Katharina in “Kiss Me Kate” was Kathryn’s most acclaimed role.  MGM brought out the heavy hardware for this musical being the only one produced in 3D, music by Porter, choreography by Hermes Pan, and musical direction by André Previn. With the double role Kathryn was able to show her strong acting talents. See:

Ann Miller

Johnnie Lucille Collier (1923 – 2004), was the given name of Ann Miller. She is best known for her work in musical films of the 40s and 50s. She was an accomplished dancer, singer, and actress. Her physical attributes made her a natural beauty for Hollywood singer/dancers of the period. She is best remembered for her work in the Hollywood musical films of the 1940s and 1950s. Her tap dancing ability became a PR gimmick when the studio claimed she could tap 500 times a minute…she could not.

Her career training really began early when, at five years old, her mother put her in dance classes because she thought it would help her leg strength after having rickets. At nine Johnnie and her mother moved to Los Angeles where Johnnie became Ann Miller dancing to support both of them.  See: 

Howard Keel

Harry Clifford Keel (1919 – 2004), professionally named Howard Keel might be better known to younger audiences as Clayton Farlow, from the CBS television series "Dallas." But in an earlier time, his rich-baritone voice made him a staple in MGM’s most famous musicals.

He had a tough early life and career that might make a good movie by itself. Born to a coalminer–father, they had it tough.  Once a school teacher noticed Harry brought no lunches to school, so she packed two every day so he could eat. Later she got tickets to every show Harry did close to her.

After his father died, his mom moved him to California where he eventually became an aircraft sales rep. At 30 someone told him he had a great voice and should take voice lessons, so, of course, he did and became a star.  In 1947 during a trip to London with “Oklahoma” he was acclaimed the next great star-singer and, indeed, he had a significant stage career.

Howard ended up at MGM after his work in London's West End. His career at MGM resulted in plum film roles in "Show Boat" (1951), "Kiss Me Kate" (1953), "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (1954), and "Kismet" (1955). For more about Howard see: 

Cole porter

Cole Albert Porter (1891 – 1964) was an American composer and songwriter who came from a wealthy family and defied his strong willed father’s wishes and went to work in music. He was classically trained and felt musical theatre was his calling. With success in the 20s and 30s, he became a major songwriter for Broadway productions. And, unlike most composers, he wrote the lyrics as well as the music.

A horse ridding accident in 1937 left him disabled and in constant pain. He kept working but with less successful results. “Kiss Me Kate” marked his major comeback and it won the first Tony Award for Best Musical. It is said that “Kiss Me Kate” was Porter’s response to Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Oklahoma.” “Kiss Me Kate” featured music and lyrics that were closely tied to the script and was hugely successfully. It was Porter’s only show to run more than 1000 performances. Read more at:

Come and see a fantastic film, with great music, and a cast of equally interesting actors. This movie is presented free of charge and with some appropriate snacks courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn. Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday February 12th 6:30PM. Price of admission: free.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ball of Fire “…the jerk”

If you take a group of “high-brow” college professors trying to write the definitive lexicon of American common English, mix in a sexy nightclub performer, the police, little bit of mob action, and love, you might get a good movie plot. “Ball of Fire” is that movie starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. This is a 1941 screwball comedy that will leave you laughing. Directed by Howard Hawks and originally distributed by RKO, the movie pokes fun at lots of things especially language snobs. According to one notable reviewer, it had audiences “…jumping with enjoyment…” A visit to the Edge Center in Bigfork might be worth it just to see what made 1941 audiences react that way.  Shown by Jack Nachbar at the Edge Center in Bigfork on Thursday January 8th at 6:30PM free of charge accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film and the film industry at the time period of the picture.  Of course there will be a cartoon of the same period to start out the fun.

A good way to describe this movie might be from the lady in the movie.  This quote was nominated as one of AFIs 100 years….100 best quotes list.   "I love him because he's the kind of guy who gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk, and I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. I love him because he doesn't know how to kiss…the jerk!". The movie was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Best Sound, Recording and Best Story. Stanwyck and Cooper were both voted 11th in a 1999 AFI poll of greatest film legends.

Barbara was no gentle pussycat.  When she “punched” costar Kathleen Howard (above) in this movie, there was accidental contact that left Howard with a broken Jaw. Strong lady for sure. Barbara Stanwyck was born in 1907 and died 1990. She had a 60 year career in movies and television. She was a director’s favorite with a strong presence, professional bearing and a style of her own. Directors who considered her “special” included Cecil B. DeMille, Fritz Lang and Frank Capra. Orphaned at four and raised in foster homes, she rose to become the highest paid women in the United State in 1944.

Her awards included three Emmys, a Golden Globe and several nominations for Oscars and getting an honorary Oscar in 1982. She was also the recipient of honorary lifetime awards from the American Film Institute (1987), the Film Society of Lincoln Center (1986), the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (1981) and the Screen Actors Guild (1967). Stanwyck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1941. Reference

Gary Cooper's career spanned thirty-six years, from 1925 to 1961, and included leading roles in eighty-four feature films. He was movie star from the end of the silent film era to the end of the golden age of Classical Hollywood. He was a star in so many genres he became the typical American film hero for anything a director was seeking…strong, rugged, quiet and very funny when needed. He was born in 1901 and died in 1961. Raised in Montana, it is not surprising he cut his acting teeth in Westerns as both an actor and stunt rider.

He was naturally reserved and pensive, which shown in his screen persona.  That persona appealed to both men and women while it helped him bring a believable side to the characters he portrayed. Whether playing a real life war hero, as in “Sergeant York”, real life sports hero, as Lou Gehrig, or romantic lead, he was genuine because his real personality came through. His movie achievements included five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, winning twice, for “Sergeant York” and “High Noon”, plus an Academy Honorary Award for his many memorable screen performances and contributions to the motion picture industry. For a more comprehensive list reference:

One more reference, if you need more of a push to come to Bigfork to see this film, might be part of the New York Times 1942 review by Bosley Crowther who was often very unimpressed with Hollywood efforts.

“According to legend, Samuel Goldwyn has made some beautiful lapsi linguae in his time and has done things with the King's English that stand as a monument to his name. Maybe. But still Mr. Goldwyn can't be too touchy on that score, for now he has produced a picture which deliberately kicks the language around in a manner so colorful and lively that you can almost sense his tongue stuck in his cheek. "Ball of Fire…had the customers jumping with enjoyment at the Music Hall yesterday.” Reference:

This movie is presented free of charge and with some appropriate snacks courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday January 8th 6:30PM. Price of admission: free.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Warm Place, Warm Music with Good Friends

Close Harmony of the Holiday Classics and More. Having “The Divas” back to the Edge is like seeing good friends again. And they will bring a new show and the same excitement with them. This show’s “Holiday Theme” will highlight their specialty of close harmony accompanied by an amazing array of instruments. The combination will make you appreciate every song and the talent they need to play them. They bring a versatile assortment of musical tastes, and particularly enjoy playing "their” arrangements. “Fun” is the key word to what their shows bring. There will be a mix of music and styles from the past decades to the present, which are selected to please a wide variety of audience tastes. The Edge Center Sunday December 14th at 2PM.  Price $10 adults. Children $5.

Having varied background “The Divas” bring an eclectic assortment of many musical tastes and particularly enjoy playing "their” arrangements. Rosie Gams sings lead, is originally from Embarrass, where she began singing in grade school and sang with several groups before “The Divas”. Sharon Rowbottom, a native of Virgina MN, started singing at the age of 10 and her background includes a vocal scholarship at Mesabi Community College and performing with other local bands. The third diva is Shannon Lee Gunderson is from Rawlins, WY.  She began piano lessons at age four.  She sings lead vocal and harmony, went to college on a musical scholarship, played in several groups including a show band for eight years and toured for the USO in the Mediterranean.

Here is a partial set list about which Shannon Gunderson says “we really don’t like to print it all out and give away some of the surprises, but here’s our sampling.”



Shannon continues that “The December Holiday Show with the DIVAS will be a fun and embracing experience.  We have a few musical skits and some beautiful Christmas music that we are excited and honored to share with all of the fabulous folks in BIGFORK!  Our audiences always enjoy the warmth of our three part harmonies, and the timeless humor that we enjoy bringing to them!  We look forward to coming over and spreading the holiday spirit with our faithful and attentive audience!”

We hope that this is enough of a sample to entice you to come and see “The Divas” on The Edge Center stage in Bigfork for a warm visit and good music with good friends. It will be a fun and entertaining afternoon and a chance to get out of the cold and snow. Sunday, December 14th 2PM.  Price $10 adults. Children $5

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where is Alfred?

Described as the “best movie Alfred Hitchcock never made”. “Charade" is the December CLASSIC MOVIE in Bigfork. What is the Hitchcock connection? Come to the Edge Center for the Arts to find out. “Charade” combines mistaken identity, money, the CIA, a damsel in distress, a gallant hero, and much more. Two of the most alluring film stars of the 60’s, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, teamed up to create a thrilling romantic comedy set in the French Alps and Paris Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on December 11th at 6:30PM free of charge accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film and the film industry at the time period of the picture.  Of course there will be a cartoon of the same period to lighten you up a bit at first.

Getting Hepburn and Grant in the same film was a gamble and a challenge for the Universal Pictures Studio. Other actors were willing to play their parts, but were too expensive. The age difference of 26 years between the stars was also a factor. In the end, they got the parts and made their only film together. When you see the movie, you can appreciate the great work they did together and can only wonder what might have been.

The plot twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes. The movie begins with the beautiful Hepburn character on vacation, then returning to Paris determined to get a divorce. She arrives there only to find her apartment empty, her husband murdered, and lots of money missing. This sets everything in motion for a thrilling audience-teaser show, set to the music of Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. In addition to the lead star-power, the film has a great supporting cast, including Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, and James Colburn.

“All I want for Christmas is to make another movie with Audrey Hepburn” is what Cary Grant said after making this movie. Cary, an English stage and Hollywood film actor, became an American citizen in 1942. His European accent, sophisticated persona, and good looking charm made him a Hollywood defining leading man. The American Film Institute named him the second Greatest Male Film Star of all time. Despite his accolades, he was often passed over for awards. Nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor, and five times for a Golden Globe Award, it was not until 1970 that he was presented with an Honorary Oscar. In “Charade”, he plays Brian Cruikshank (alias Peter Joshua, alias Alexander “Alex” Dyle, alias Adam Canfield) who is the love interest of Hepburn’s character, Regina Lampert. 

Audrey Hepburn’s character, Regina Lampert, had to be portrayed as a woman who was pursuing Grant’s character. He was worried about the public’s perception of the age difference as it related to his character. Hepburn plays a clueless, beautiful woman who graces us with her style. She is caught between the men who are trying to solve the murder, frame people for the murder, and find the hidden money that they know is out there. She was a stunningly naturally beautiful British actress, humanitarian, and film/fashion icon during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

She was born in Brussels and spent her childhood between Brussels, England, and the Netherlands. She took ballet lessons for years, was a chorus girl in England, and spoke several languages. Audrey was in the Broadway play “Gigi” in 1951 when she was picked as the lead role in “Roman Holiday” for which she was the first actress to win an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA for a single performance. She is ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest American female screen legend in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.

Henry Mancini composed the music and Johnny Mercer wrote the lyric. They also teamed up for other great song like “Moon River” and Days of “Wine and Roses”.  Regarding his work on the Charade theme,  Mancini commented: "Our next film together was 'Charade' in 1963. Stanley Donen directed Peter Stone's screenplay. There is a scene in the movie where Audrey returns from a happy winter holiday to her Paris flat to find it stripped of everything of value. Bare floors and the walls are all that remain. Her loutish husband had absconded with all of her worldly goods. She enters the dimly-lit apartment with her suitcase and surveys the scene. Her feelings are of sadness, loneliness and vulnerability. To me, it translated into a sad little Parisian waltz. With that image of Audrey in my mind, I went to the piano and within less than an hour 'Charade' was written. I played it for Audrey and Stanley. Both felt it was just right for the movie. Johnny Mercer added his poetry, and the song was nominated for an Oscar that year".

Henry Mancini was born in Cleveland and raised near Pittsburgh. The only son of an Italian immigrant, he was made to take piccolo lessons at eight and played the flute with his father in an Italian immigrant band. Henery also took piano lessons, attended Juilliard School of music with those studies interrupted by service in WWII. After the service he started his music career eventually as pianist and arranger for a newly constituted Glen Miller band. He was one of the industry’s most talented artists winning four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and ten Grammy Awards, plus a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Anyone who has heard “Moon River”, “The Pink Panther” or “Peter Gunn” themes has heard Mancini music.

Johnny Mercer is best known as a lyricist, but also composed music and was co-founder of Capitol Records. Over the period of his career, received 19 academy award nominations and won four. Born in Savanna Georgia, he was familiar with black music and was a Jazz music fan early in his life. His education at a prestigious university was sidetracked by family financial issues and his life took a different path. A path that was very good for American popular music. He wrote the lyrics to more than fifteen hundred songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows.

So come and enjoy romance and suspense in Paris, as Audrey Hepburn’s character is pursued by several men who want a fortune her murdered husband had stolen. Who can she trust? Cary Grant’s character? Are you sure? This movie is presented free of charge and with some appropriate snacks courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday December 11th at 6:30PM. Price of admission: free.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Music on the Amazon in Bigfork

The family movie “Rio 2” is a special holiday treat for the whole family from the Children First initiative of  the ISD 318 Community Education program . “Rio 2” is the sequel to the very successful “Rio” movie.  Both are animated features for the whole family with lot of music, color, excitement, and fun.  With top movie stars providing the voices and the scenery of a tropical paradise, it will certainly take the chill out of a December day. It is on Wednesday December 3rd from 5:30PM to 7:30PM on the big screen of the Edge Center theatre. The showing is free to anyone. Children under 12 years old will need to be accompanied by an adult. So come warm up, hear some great music, and enjoy the flowers and greenery of a tropical rain-forest for a little break from the snow and cold outside.

“Rio 2 is a 2014 American 3D computer-animated musical adventure-comedy film produced by Blue Sky Studios and directed by Carlos Saldanha. It is the sequel to the 2011 computer-animated film Rio and the studio's first film to have a sequel outside of their existing Ice Age franchise. The title refers to the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the first film was set and Rio 2 begins, though most of its plot occurs in the Amazon rainforest.”

“Featuring the returning voices of Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway,, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, and Jake T. Austin, the film was released internationally on March 20, 2014,[4] and on April 11, 2014,[4] in American theaters. Rio 2 was Don Rhymer's final film after he died on November 28, 2012. Despite receiving mixed reviews, the film was a box office success.” Below is movie poster from RIO 2 and RIO. Above from:

And keep remembering that The Children First! mission of ISD 618 says...Children First! will mobilize communities to actively educate, nuture, and care for all children in Itasca County.