Sunday, March 19, 2017

“Sisters of Swing Musical History of the Andrew Sisters" in Bigfork


The Andrews Sisters were a WWII era musical trio that brought close harmony music to stages in the U.S. and around the world entertaining armed forces throughout the war. Their story and music is brought back to “life” by the performance of three very talented singers in a show titled  “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrews Sisters.” The original sisters were from Mound Minnesota and are considered by many as the most successful female singing groups of the first half of the 20th century. This show includes their story,  and 20 plus hit songs like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” At The Edge Center in Bigfork on Saturday April 22nd at 7PM. This musical is suitable for all audiences. Ticket prices are $10 adults and $5 children.


The “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrews Sisters” program features the Andrews Sister’s music of Laverne, Maxine, and Patty, played by Cat Brindsi, Kati Hahn and Jen Burleigh-Bentz (above). Also in the show is the very talented Jake Elders, who plays Lou Levy, Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. The show is brought to the stage by The History Theatre on Tour a St. Paul based organization that is a three time IVEY award winning theater that produces new and existing works which explore Minnesota’s past and the diverse American experience.


In conjunction with the performance there will be an opportunity for visitors to share remembrances of the WWII veterans to whom the show is so closely connected (above period photo). There will be a Wall of Heroes display in the gallery which will consist of letters, photos, and memorabilia from WWII service men and women, brought in by Edge Center patrons.


The Andrews Sisters and their close harmony music were a product of the “swing and boogie-woogie eras.  The sisters were, singing “contralto”, LaVerne Sophia (1911-1967), singing “soprano”, Maxine Angelyn (1916-1995), and, singing “mezzo-soprano”, Patricia Marie “Patty” (1918-2013).  The group throughout their career sold over 75 million records, which was the last official count by MCA Records in the mid-1970s.  Their harmonies and songs are still influential to the industry today.  The group was inducted into the female group hall of fame in 1998.  


Lead singer. Patty, was only seven when the group was formed and only 12 when they won their first prize at a talent contest at the local Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. LaVerne played piano accompaniment for silent films at the Orpheum in exchange for free dancing lessons for herself and the rest of her sisters. They went on the road entertaining to support the family after her father’s restaurant failed.


At first they made their career by imitating an earlier 1930s group called the Boswell Sisters. They sung with dance bands and toured in vaudeville with various groups. As one might expect in the 1930s, the big break for the Andrews Sisters was radio. National attention was brought to the group via a major Decca record hit, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon".  It was a Yiddish song that became popular with English lyrics but retained its Yiddish title (above).


It was songwriter Sammy Chan, who heard a performance of the song in Yiddish, had it “reworked” into a swing rhythm number, got rights to it and convinced the still unknown Andrews Sisters to perform it.  It was recorded in 1937 and became the sisters first major hit. This song has an interesting history by it self. If you want to read more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bei_Mir_Bistu_Shein


After that there was no one to compare the group with and they became huge stars. The song earned them a gold record, the first ever to a female vocal group.  It became a world wide hit.


During the war they were everywhere with Allied Forces. America, Africa, and Italy saw a lot of the trio. They worked at the Hollywood Canteen and News York’s version Side Door Canteen.  They recorded a series of Victory Discs for distribution to allied forces, often treating random service men out to dinner and were dubbed the “Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service” for their many appearances on shows such as “Command Performance”, “Mail Call” and “G.I Journal”.  For more background:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andrews_Sisters

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Blandin Foundation, and with operating support made possible from a grant through the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.



The above is just the surface of the Andrews Sisters career.  To get a singing introduction to them and their work, come to the Edge Center and get more. Edge Center in Bigfork on Saturday April 22nd at 7PM. It is the “Sisters of Swing The Story of the Andrew Sisters.” This musical is suitable for all audiences. Ticket prices are $10 adults and $5 children.

Friday, March 17, 2017

“Adam’s Rib” is the April Film Classic in Bigfork


For the fan of the Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn duo in romantic comedies in films, the April movie classic, "Adam’s Rib” (1949), is a perfect one to see on the big screen of the Edge Center in Bigfork. It was written for the two playing opposite each other and was the sixth time they teamed up in movies of that era.  It’s about two married lawyers who represent opposite sides in an attempted murder trial because the accused wife shoots and wounds her cheating husband. Hepburn's character believes the wife was justified.  “Adam’s Rib” is the April Classic Movie shown at  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 April 13th. Time: 6:30PM. Price: free of charge.


Since Tracy's character believes she did not have the right to try and kill him regardless of his infidelity the two lawyers end up opposing each other in court where we see all the sparks and action you might expect.  It’s a great movie and gives the two stars a wonderful opportunity to show their talents.   


It is not just the stars doing their regular great performances in a movie that makes this one stand out, but the story behind the concept remains current.  The “are the sexes equal?” question is taken head on by the attempted murder.  Not saying that anyone one’s mind will be changed by this film, but you certainly will be given a lot of things to think about by seeing it. That is kind of what many of the great classics have in common. Add to that, the film, written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, was inspired by a real life case.  The movie was nominated for an Oscar for best story and best screen play. In 1992, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, or aesthetically significant.  It is on AFI’s 100 years…100 Laughs list at number 22 and AFI’s top 10 best Romantic Comedy Films at number 7.


Spencer Tracy insisted on top billing for this film, and when the producer asked if he ever heard
of “ladies first”, Tracy responded, “This is a movie not a (blankiey-blank) life boat.” ,


Katharine Hepburn (1907 -2003) was known for her fierce independence and spirited personality. She was a successful leading lady in Hollywood for more than 60 years and played virtually every kind of character you can imagine. She won four Oscars for leading actress (which is a record) and in 1999 was named by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star of classic movies. Her outspoken personality and lifestyle set the norm for today's "modern" woman.  In her film career she did a total of nine films opposite Spencer Tracy and he was her companion for a quarter century until his death. During filming, Tracy and Hepburn always stayed in separate houses, as was their habit when traveling, thereby helping to keep their decades long relationship out of the press.


 Spencer Tracy (1900-1967) was a major star during Hollywood’s golden age.  Always knows for his versatility, he appeared in 75 films. He was nominated for nine Oscars and won twice. His first film with Hepburn was in “Woman of the Year” (1942), and his last film was “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”(1967), again with Hepburn which was finished just 17 days before his death. In 1999 the American Film Institute ranked Spencer as the ninth greatest male star of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

One film critic’s opinion of the movie is what Bosley Crowther of The New York "Times" who had to say about the movie on December 26th 1949 ."Our first thanks should go to the authors of the script, for they are the chief one responsible for the pleasures of ‘Adams Rib.” It is their delightful improvising on a nimble and fragile little tale of a violent courtroom rivalry between a lawyer-husband and his lawyer-wife that makes this current picture bounce and spin with thorough glee…”


Come and see this highly thought of romantic comedy at: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday April 13th 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. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.



Friday, February 17, 2017

“Seven Days In May” is the March Film Classic in Bigfork


This 1964 movie classic, "Seven Days in May," has all the suspense and mystery of the best.  Being set in relatively modern times it will bring you back to an era when nuclear war was not that far removed from the American public’s mind.  The Cuban missile crisis was only two years earlier in 1962. The book, from which the film is based, was done in 1961, and the then current president John Kennedy read it and felt a certain “connection” with its basic premise. “Seven Days In May” is the March 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 March 9th. Time: 6:30PM. Price: free of charge.



The list of stars in the movie is impressive with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredrick March and Ava Gardner doing the acting of this Rod Sterling mystery-suspense story. The movie going public certainly got the big hitters of the 60s in this one story. An out of control military with a secret plot to take over the country played well to a public that went through WWII, the Korean Conflict, and during an ongoing Vietnam struggle. It received  positive critical reviews and audience response. With two Academy awards nominations, a Danish Bodl award for directing and Rod Sterling’s nomination for a Writer’s Guild of America award, the book and movie made a serious impact on the public and industry of its period.



Kirk Douglas had originally signed to play General James Mattoon Scott, but he realized that his friend Burt Lancaster would be perfect for Scott, so Kirk took the less flashy role of Col. Martin “Jiggs” Casey when Burt joined the cast.



Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielvitch 1916 and is one of the last living actors of Hollywood’s Golden age. In his 64-year career he has appeared in more than 90 movies. Douglas was a box office star in the 1950s and 60s. known for his serious dramas, he was often seen in war movies and westerns. His first Oscar nomination was in 1949. Douglas has three nominations, an Oscar for lifetime achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also wrote ten novels and memoirs and is number 17 on the American Film Institute’s list of greatest male screen legends. He is the highest ranking person still alive on the list.  He co-stared with Burt Lancaster in seven movies. 



Burt Lancaster, born Stephen “Burt” Lancaster (1913-1994), was originally known for playing tough guys in films, but learned to play more complex characters as his career developed.  He was nominated four times for Oscars and won once for his acting in "Elmer Gantry".  He also won a Golden Globe for the same performance, and BAFTA Awards for the "Birdman of Alcatraz" along with "Atlantic City". The American Film Institute ranks Lancaster  number 19 on the list of the greatest male stars of classic Hollywood movies.  


Director and backer of this film, John Frankenheimer, almost quit when he heard Kirk Douglas’ friend Burt Lancaster was going to be in the movie because he had had a very bad experience with Burt in a previous movie, "Bird Man of Alcatraz". Burt, during an argument about where the camera should be for a particular scene, had physically picked up Frankenheimer, moved him to a different place, and set him back down telling him that IT was the spot for the camera…period.  Kirk promised to keep Burt under control, which he did.



If you need more incentive to come to Bigfork and see this powerful movie for yourself, you can read what one review of the period by Bosley Crowther published in February 12 1964 in the New York Times. Bosley wrote, “As a matter of fact, there is a great deal about the ‘Seven Day In May’ that is rousing and encouraging to a feeling of confidence and pride – and this in addition to the feelings of tension and excitement it stirs…” For the whole review go to:
 http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9C05E2D61530E033A25753C2A9649C946591D6CF

So come and see this thriller of a movie. Place: The Edge Centre for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday March 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. An appropriate snack will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn. 

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.

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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: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9b05e3df103fee3bbc4d52dfb366838d629ede 


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.