Friday, January 20, 2017

“A Place in the Sun” is the February Film Classic in Bigfork

The February Classic movie, “A Place in the Sun” is a Hollywood blockbuster by any standard you wish to use.  It has major stars with Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Shelly Winters.  It was critically acclaimed and a financial success.  Plus it won six Oscars and the first ever Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama.  It also was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” To find out what 1951 movie goers and critics liked so much come to Bigfork.  “A Place in the Sun” is the February Classic Movie shown on the big screen of the Edge Theatre in Bigfork by Jack Nachbar. It will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the time period of the movie.  Date: Thursday February 9th. Time: 6:30PM. Price: free of charge.

This American drama film is based on a 1925 novel titled “An American Tragedy” and is about a working class young man entangled with two women. It has all the elements you’d expect in a real American tragedy, the basic love triangle, people caught in a web of deceit, power hungry people and more. Come and see this extraordinary film, which seems to have a very simple plot on the surface, but yet ends up being very complicated. This movie is recommended for mature audiences due to its content.

In her fainting scene for the movie, Elizabeth is said to have executed the “best” fainting scene ever in films. She was so unconcerned about her health and body that the force of her ribs and face hitting the pavement made audiences of the day wince when it happened. 

You can’t write an in-depth paragraph about this Elizabeth Taylor; you can only scratch the surface.  Starting as a child actress in the 1940s, she was the most popular in the 50s with her acting success carrying over into the 60s.  Then she remained a well-known public figure for the rest of her life. In 1999, the American Film Institute named her the seventh greatest female screen legend of all time.

Montgomery Clift prepared himself for an important scene in the film by spending a night locked in the San Quentin Penitentiary.  He so intimidated Taylor with his acting background that she felt like “…the inadequate teenage puppet that had pretty clothes and hadn’t really acted except with horses and dogs.”

Edward Montgomery Clift (1920- 1966) was one of the original “Method” actors. He often portrayed, according to the NY TIMES, “…moody, sensitive young men…” He started his career at 15 on Broadway, and by 25 was in Hollywood starring opposite John Wayne in the movie “Red River.” About Clift Taylor said, “Monty could have been the biggest star in the world if he did more movies.”  But the ones he picked were special. His role in “A Place in the Sun" is considered one of his signature method acting performances, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor.  Even with his limited roles in movies, he managed four Oscar nominations for his work and has a star in Hollywod’s Walk of Fame.

Shelley Winters had mixed feeling about her role in this movie because she was made to look so unglamorous for the part of Alice next to the stunning Elizabeth Taylor.  She developed such an inferiority complex  that it is said she drove strictly white Cadillacs for years to compensate.

Shelley Winters (born Shirley Schrift 1920-2006) appeared in dozens of films as well on stage and television.  With a career spanning over 50 years, she won two Oscars and was nominated for two others. Her appearance in “A Place in the Sun” was a departure from the sexpot image Universal was grooming her for at the time. She did very well with the part earning a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

The New York Times movie review from the period said that George Stevens, the director of this movie “…can point with pride to A Place in the Sun…(it) is a work of beauty, tenderness, power and insight…(that) emerges as a credit to both the motion picture craft and, we feel reasonably certain, the author’s major intentions.”

So come and see the great stars in a Hollywood magic film on the big screen for yourself free of charge. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn. Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday February 9th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will provide you with background about the movie and a cartoon of the period to lighten your spirits and warm you up a little bit.


Monday, January 2, 2017

“Heartland” is the January Film Classic in Bigfork

This movie, about the realities of living in the unsettled west, will give you a perspective of how tough life was on the “real frontier” with the rewards and heartbreak such a life can bring. “Heartland” is a 1979 film, starring Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrell and directed by Richard Pearce.  This was not a high budget “glitzy” production, but one that teaches what early frontier folks had to face to succeed in life. It is a true account of the people and it was shot on location in Montana.  The mix of a great true story and a wonderful location is powerful and beautiful. “Heartland” is the January Classic Movie shown on the big screen of the Edge Theatre in Bigfork by Jack Nachbar. It will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the 1910 time period of the movie.  Date: Thursday January 12th. Time: 6:30PM. Price: free of charge.

As said earlier, the story is a true one. It is about a hardy, ambitious young widow who packs up her life and daughter to move to the West and start a job as the housekeeper on a ranch. It is based on a memoir by Elinore Pruitt Stewart of her life in Wyoming. You will soon find out just how resilient and tough she is and how demanding the real west can be on the pioneers of 1910. At first it seems that communications between the widow and rancher can never happen, and it ends up being a story of endearing love for the land, the rancher and her situation.  I can’t tell you more except it is, once again, one of those film gems that can only be best appreciated on the big screen like the one at the Edge Theatre.

The movie is in the category of a “hidden gem.”  The “stars” and director have had careers primarily in Television Work.  This movie seems to have slipped in among their other work and yet is an outstanding film.  It was featured as a “Buried Treasure”, and was featured on an episode of Siskel and Ebert's “Sneak Previews" in 1980. This film treasure received little attention during its initial run.

Conchata  Ferrell (1943) was born in West Virginia and raised in Ohio. Her acting career spans four decades as a successful character actress. She was a movie newcomer for this film and is still best known for her role in it.  Her other accomplishments include an Obie and Drama Desk awards for her acting, and two nominations for Prime Time Emmy awards. With her experience in Television shows and off-Broadway productions, it is ironic that she is still best known for her acting in this movie.

The director Richard Pearce (1943) was born in San Diego and went East to attend high school and Yale University. He is also best known for his work in Television series’.  He has only directed six movies, including “Heartland”, and it is one of his most recognized works.  It won the Golden Bear Award at the 30th Berlin International Film Festival.

Rip Torn (1931) has had an interesting career. He was nominated for an Oscar for his role in “Cross Creek” and his work includes six Emmy nominations, winning one in 1996. He has an American Comedy Award, Funniest Male in a Series, Two Cable ACE Awards and a Satellite Award.  

Reviewer Richard Canby of the "New York Times" was quite enthusiastic about “Heartland” when the film came out in 1979.  “...The nicest thing about 'Heartland', a new, low-budget, uncommonly beautiful film written by Beth Ferris and directed by Richard Pearce, is that even though it celebrates the people of the American frontier, with emphasis on the women, it largely avoids sentimentality… Mrs. Stewart survived just about everything the frontier could throw at her."

So come and see the beautifully filmed story of rugged pioneers for yourself free of charge. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday January 12th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will provide you with background about the movie and a cartoon of the period will give you some laughs.

Friday, November 25, 2016

“Show Boat” Comedy Romance Drama Movie is the December Film Classic in Bigfork

If you are ready for a very warm “feel-good” movie about love and its power, this is a good film to see. It is a comedy-romance-drama film based on the Broadway musical of the same name by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.  With several of the original Broadway actors and much of the same music, here is a chance to “go to” a Broadway play of the 1930s.  Kern and Hammerstein wrote three additional songs for the film that replaced some of original music.  The movie stars Irene Dunne, Allen Jones and Charles Winninger with the fourth “star” being the great music. The movie is “Show Boat” and it is the December Classic Movie shown on the big screen of the Edge theatre by Jack Nackbar. It will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the time period of the movie.  Date Thursday December 8th. Time 6:30PM. Price free of charge.    

“According to film historian Miles Kreuger in his book Show Boat: The History of a Classic American Musical, great care was taken by director James Whale to ensure a feeling of complete authenticity in the set and costume design for the 1936 film. This included the design of the show boat itself.”  The movie really does a great job of reproducing Broadway on the screen. Ten numbers from the stage score are sung, with four others used as background music. The orchestra was used just as if this was a Broadway production. The result is that some critics have said this movie is one of the best musical films of all time.  It was a daunting task and the results speak for themselves.

Irene Dunn was almost 38 when she played the youthful Magnolia opposite her love interest Allen Jones who was eight years younger.

Irene Dunne (1898-1990) was a stage and film actress and singer of the 1930s, 40s and early 50s. Nominated four times for Oscars and given the Kennedy Center Honors Award for her services to the arts.  Interesting that she should have this part in a play about steamboats, because they were part of her childhood. Her dad was a steamboat inspector for the US government. She would later write, "No triumph of either my stage or screen career has ever rivaled the excitement of trips down the Mississippi  on the river boats with my father."

Dunne's role as Magnolia Hawks in the play “Showboat” was the result of a chance meeting with Florenz Ziegfeld on an Elevator and was discovered by Hollywood during a road trip of the play. Signed by the RKO Studios, her age was always a topic because she was already in her 30s when her film career just got started. Her tombstone possibly even has the wrong birth year on it.

The actor first selected to play Allan Jones’ part in the “Showboat” movie was Russ Columbo. He was accidentally shot and killed before productions started, and the movie was delayed from 1934 to 1936 until Allen Jones was selected.  

Allen Jones (1907-1992) was a actor and tenor on stage and in the movies of the 30s and 40s. Allen was a coal minor as a young adult and left that job to study voice at New York University.  His father and grandfather were musically inclined. "My father had a beautiful tenor voice. So did my grandfather. ... Grandfather taught violin, voice and piano when he could. My father sang every chance he could get and realized his ambition through me. Although he starred in many musicals in Hollywood in the 1930s and 40s, he is best remembered for his role in “Showboat”.

Another actor, Charles J. Winninger, whole career is remembered by playing a comedic “Cap’n Andy Hawks” first in the stage version of “Showboat” and then further cemented in this movie version.

Charles J. Winninger (1884-1969) was both a stage and film actor most often cast in comedies or musicals but was very capable of dramatic roles. He started in vaudeville but found his niche in this movie role. He was in the Broadway play version, and both the 1932 and 1936 movie versions of “Showboat”.  He could do other parts, but always best known for his “kindly, lovable, grandfatherly…and chubby” image. It was a good career with lots of work.


For a period look at how the movie was received, here is part of a May 1936 New York Times review by Frank Nugent: “We have reason to be grateful to Hollywood this morning, for it has restored to us Edna Ferber's Mississippi River classic, "Show Boat." It really was too grand a piece to suffer neglect just because the stage had wearied of it. Universal's excellent screen transcription, preserving the Jerome Kern score and accepting Oscar Hammerstein's book and lyrics, is the pleasantest kind of proof that it was not merely one of the best musical shows of the century but that it contained the gossamer stuff for one of the finest musical films we have seen. The Radio City Music Hall should be proud of its new tenant.”  You can read more at the following URL: 

Enough said about how one critic felt back then, but you need to see it to appreciate it. So come and see a movie on the big screen and see what a Broadway musical was like back in the 1930s all free of charge. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday December 8th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will give you lots of background about the movie and a cartoon of the period will give you some laughs.

Friday, November 11, 2016

World War I Christmas Truce in a Musical Theater Event at the Edge In Bigfork

Just before Christmas in 1914 there was a silence in the World War I trenches of the Western Front caused by several “unofficial” truces that started for no apparent reason.  How it happened, no one seems to know, and, more importantly, why it happened is also unknown. Earlier in the year, new Pope Benedict XV called for a truce, but it was officially rejected. But then, sure enough, in parts of front the guns went silent for Christmas.  There was were Christmas carols, exchanging gifts, some Christmas trees showing up, a chance to bury fallen comrades, and even the possibility of a soccer game. Minneapolis Theater Latte DA has an original musical theater production about that event in its tenth anniversary year. The production, “All is Calm, The Christmas Truce of 1914”, is being performed at the Edge Center in Bigfork Friday December 2 at 7PM. Prices $10 adults, $5 children.

This program is neither anti-war nor a glorification of war.  Rather it is a musical theater production about people and relationships in a time of great stress. They took a chance for a little while to escape from the reality that they lived in and that reality came back, but they always had the memory of the peace which “The Calm” gave them for just a short time. 

The Theater Latte Da production presents the Christmas Truce story beginning with, a strange “silence” and the only sound a German soldier singing “Stille Nacht”. His song was answered by an Allied soldier responding with a Christmas carol in his language. The truce is a historical event relived with some of the poetry, diary entries, official war documents and letters home presented with iconic World War I songs, patriotic tunes, and Christmas carols. And just maybe it is the real story of how it all started.

In 2014 “Time” magazine did an article on the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce.  In their research they encountered a first hand account of the event by Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment “First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.” Above image from Mansell The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. 

There were also some small Christmas trees placed on the German trenches.  One might ask why would there be Christmas trees on a battlefield. Remember that the battle was on the ground in Europe and the Germans were much better supplied with some of the comforts of home than the Allied troops. So it was felt that Christmas trees would be a great moral boosters for the troops. This was only six months into the war and the real hardships of the conflict were yet to come.

Estimates of the number of troops participating in this impromptu lull in the battle vary greatly, but most of it was in the trenches occupied by the English vs. German troops. And this was not a truce universally recognized even in the trenches. There were troops shot while trying to participate.

From the same Time article: “And of course, it was only ever a truce, not peace. Hostilities returned, in some places later that day and in others not until after New Year’s Day. While there were occasional moments of peace throughout the rest of World War I, they never again came on the scale of the Christmas truce in 1914.” Ref:

Alfred Anderson, the last known surviving Scottish veteran of the war was in the 1st/ 5th Battalion of the Black Watch and recalled vividly in 2003 that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (December 24th and 25th) 1914, when his unit was in a farmhouse away from the front line.
“I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’, even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”

This program “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914”  by Peter Rothstein with Musical Arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Takach, directed by Peter Rothstein will be the special event of the Edge Center in Bigfork, this 2016 Christmas season on December 2nd. Place: Edge Center stage. Time 7PM. Prices $10 adults and $5 children. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Jonathan Thunder Brings "The Politics of Dreams: Defying Dilettantism" to the Edge Gallery


Jonathan Thunder Brings an Unexpected look to native art. His exhibit Jonathan Thunder: The Politics of Dreams: Defying Dilettantism is in the Edge Center Gallery in Bigfork from November 3 to December 3.  Thunder’s images seem to be a mixture of Native American symbolism and popular cartoon characters, such as Bugs Bunny.The images I create,” Thunder says, “are the dreamscape representation of the seen world I cohabitate every day in my life and journey.” There is a free Opening Reception on Friday, November 4 from 5-7 pm.  There will also be a showing of his animated films on the Big Screen of the Edge Center stage at 6:00 and 6:30 that evening. The films will show what makes Thunder’s work so unexpected.

His paintings on the Gallery walls are brought to action in the films, which will also be shown in the gallery on a monitor. But bringing the paintings to life is just part of what the films do.  Thunder continues, “The characters in my paintings and films come to me as any dream would, as messengers, and pivotal roles that carry out the story. The work is spiritual by nature. Subjects wear masks of animals, animals wear masks of humans and apparitions dress up so as not to surprise us.” 

How did this look develop?   His background and heritage is Red Lake Ojibway and it appears in the design. His work is also influenced greatly by the surrealists, impressionists, art deco, and cubists. Pop imagery also appears in his work occasionally to reflect the contemporary setting in which he find himself.  His work brings traditional motifs into the present digital world. 

Jonathan Thunder is a younger generation painter, digital media artist and film maker currently residing in Duluth, Minnesota. He has attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Effects, and Motion Graphics from the Art Institutes International Minnesota. His work has been featured in many state, regional, national and international exhibitions, as well as in local and international publications. Thunder has won several awards in SWAIA’s annual Class ‘X’ Moving Images competition.

The Edge Center Gallery is sponsoring a workshop for Bigfork School students in which to participate by making an animated film under Jonathan Thunder’s directions on Friday.  The combination of Thunder’s film making and teaching experiences makes this an unmatched learning experience for the Bigfork students.

The Jonathan Thunder: The Politics of Dreams: Defying Dilettantism exhibit will be in the Edge Center Gallery until December 3rd. The opening reception is on November 4th from 5:00 to 7:00 with the showing of his animated films at 6:00 and 6:30. Plan to be there to meet the artist and experience his work.  The regular Gallery hours are from 10:00AM-4:00PM on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays.  The Edge Center is next to the Bigfork School.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” is the November Film Classic in Bigfork

One afternoon, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) meets Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) in a San Francisco pet store. She decides to follow him home with a surprise when the pet shop does not have what he wants. She brings with her the gift of the two love birds for Mitch’s sisters which he was trying to buy. Of course they strike up a romance. Soon after birds start attacking children at Mitch's sister’s birthday party, and a huge assault starts on the town by attacking birds everywhere. This seems like a plot only a master horror movie maker, like Alfred Hitchcock, could turn into an award winning film that scared movie goers in its day, and still will give you the creeps. The movie is “The Birds” and it is the November 10th classic movie in Bigfork shown on the big screen of the Edge Center by Jack Nachbar at 6:30 PM.  The is no charge and it will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture's release.

With such a seemingly simple plot, the “how” of this movie’s success must be in the story-teller’s skills.  That would be Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Once he showed up at a premiere for this movie with a bunch of birds for company.  He saw Tippi Hedren once in a commercial on TV for a soft drink and signed her as the next "Grace Kelly.” When “The Birds” was aired on NBC-TV in the U.S. on January 6th, 1968, it became the highest rated film shown on TV up to that time, and remained in the top spot until “Love Story” near the end of 1970.

The movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects beating out the big winner of that year, “Cleopatra.” A movie that certainly had some awesome special effects of its own. And the list of other awards is substantial. Including as the American Film Institute’s rating of 7th greatest thriller, and Bravo’s award in 96th spot on their 100 Scariest Movie Moments, for the bird’s attack on the town.  

More recently this film has had a rebirth in popularity with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 96% showing that the key to good story-telling is the build-up…no matter what era. It is simply a good scary movie, as State Senator Ted Gill once said, “(he)… gave up movies after seeing it. They were…just getting to weird and disturbing for an old rancher…it’s still pretty terrifying, even if you see it again and again.”  

Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was the Master of Suspense with a directing career spanning more than a half of a century. Starting out as an English film director, he had a successful career in British silent movies and “talkies”, before relocating in America and becoming an American citizen in 1955. His movies often included heroes on the run with “icy” blondes” along side them. He created new styles in movies which often made the audience feel more a part of the movie’s action. With twisted plots, lots of action, murder, anxiety, fear, empathy, and surprise endings, his movies were very special.  

He usually had cameo appearances in his movies and audiences searched for his presence. For ten years he hosted a TV program, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, which increased his persona as a master story teller.

In 1978, film critic John Russell described him as “the most universally recognizable person in the world,” and “a straightforward middle class Englishman who just happened to be an artistic genius.”

Tippi Hedren signed a seven year contract to work with Hitchcock before even meeting him thinking the work was to be a “special” in the Hitchcock TV series. 

Nathalie “Tippi” Hedren, born January1930 was a very successful fashion model in her twenties appearing on front covers of "Life" and "Glamour" among others. She was “discovered” by Hitchcock in a TV commercial for a diet drink called Sergo.  Hedren received world recognition for her acting in two Hitchcock movies, “The Birds” and “Marnie” receiving a Golden Globe award for her work in the first. She appeared in over 80 movies and TV shows winning numerous other awards and honors.

The first call was from her agent telling her “a producer” was interested in working with her. She was totally surprised when she found out it was Hitchcock and that “The Birds” was a movie not a special for his TV show. Hitchcock later said, "I was not primarily concerned with how she looked in person. Most important was her appearance on the screen, and I liked that immediately. She has a touch of that high-style, lady-like quality which was once well-represented in films by actresses like…Grace Kelly…and others but now is quite rare." Hitchcock put Hedren through an extensive color screen test that lasted two days and cost $25,000. She was a quick study and learned a huge amount about movie making working with Hitchcock. She cried when Hitchcock, during a dinner with his wife, gave her a pin with three birds on it and told her she was going to be the star of “The Birds.”

Hitchcock made her into a first class Hollywood personality and star by coaching her about wines, foods, style, costuming, being directed, and much more about the inter-working of making movies. She said she learned more in her first three years working with Hitchcock than other actresses take 15 years to learn elsewhere. She was worked mercilessly by Alfred but she absorbed and learned during all of it.

The breaking point was the week she did a bird attack scene where Alfred told her the birds were going to be fake, but instead, prop men with heavy leather gloves threw “live” birds, with their beaks clamped shut, at her while she “acted” that she was in terror. A doctor, treating her for a bird wound on her cheek ordered one week or rest and asked Hitchcock if he was trying to kill her.

Rod Taylor claimed that the seagulls in "The Birds" were “encouraged” to just walk around rather than flying by feeding them a mixture of whiskey and wheat.

 Rodney Sturt Taylor (1930–2015) was an Australian actor of stage, film and television. He had a rather unusual means of making his trip to Hollywood He won an Australian acting award which included a round trip ticket to London with a stop over in Los Angeles. When he got to Los Angeles, he simply just never got back on the plane. In Los Angeles, he launched a six decade career that included both film and TV appearances.

He never rose to the level of a top tier star, but did manage to get over 100 film credits with some in very good movies including “The Time Machine”, “The V.I.Ps.”, “Giant”, and, of course, “The Birds”. In the 2009 film “Inglorious Bastards” he appeared as Winston Churchill which was his final film appearance.

Rod almost did not get the part of Mitch Brenner in “The Birds,” because Cary Grant was considered, but Hitchcock did not want the huge expense of Grant. He also beat out several other actors. In the end, it was a good choice, and Rod turned in a very good performance.

You can see this movie free of charge courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday November 10th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going to Bigfork, because Jack will give you lots of background about the movie and a cartoon of the period will give you some laughs.