Saturday, November 30, 2013

“That’s the worst orchestra and the worst conductor I’ve ever sung with.”

That is Marie de Flor, not happy. The character Marie is a Canadian soprano in the 1936 black and white musical-film “Rose Marie” showing in Bigfork December 12th. Played by Jeanette MacDonald, the movie follows Marie’s adventures with handsome Sergeant Bruce, of the Mounties, played by baritone Nelson Eddy. The film includes great music, wonderful scenery, and an enjoyable story.  The movie is one of several based on the 1924 operetta-style Broadway musical “Rose-Marie.”  Its song “Indian Love Call” became the two stars’ professional signatures.  It was recorded by them, became hugely successful, and remains familiar to most music fans regardless of their age. Bigfork’s resident movie authority, Jack Nachbar, will show the movie as part of his Classic Movie Series along with a cartoon from the same period.  He will also provide informative commentary about the movie.  All this on December 12 at 6:30PM. Admission is free.

This movie is one of the many musical films released by Hollywood in the 1930s. Sound enabled movies to bring actual performances to movie patrons.  In 1930 alone, over 100 musical films were released. This particular movie was even done as a silent film in 1928 and in color in 1954.  All three were set in the wilderness (not necessarily shot in Canada), but this Macdonald and Eddy version sets the standard for high quality singing talent and longevity.

The plot involves the character Marie trying to save her younger fugitive brother from Sergeant Bruce. The younger brother is an early movie appearance of Jimmy Stewart.  Is there love between the singer and sergeant?  Will the brother be brought to justice? Will all end happily? Come to Bigfork and find out. Much of the Broadway play’s plot was changed, but portions of Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart’s original Broadway musical score is used in the movie.

American singer and actress Jeanette Anna MacDonald (June 18, 1903 – January 14, 1965) is best remembered for her musical films of the 1930s.  She did eight movies with Nelson Eddy including “Naughty Marietta”, “Rose-Marie”, and “Maytime.” She also costarred with Maurice Chevalier in “Love Me Tonight” and “The Merry Widow.” In total, she starred in 29 feature films in the 30’s and 40’s which were nominated for Best Picture Oscars.  She also was a very busy recording artist winning three Gold Record Awards. Later in her career she appeared in opera, concerts, radio, and television.  She was an influential force in bringing opera into the mainstream, and she also was a role model for aspiring singers of an entire generation.  She shared a long-term relationship with Nelson and was engaged to him, but the powers of MGM did not agree with the pairing, and they eventually ended the engagement. See more at:

The costar of  “Rose Marie” is talented Nelson Ackerman Eddy (June 29, 1901 – March 6, 1967).  A classically trained American baritone, he was an actor and singer who appeared in 19 musical films during the 30’s and 40’s in addition to opera, concert stage, radio, television, and nightclubs. He might be considered an early version of superstar Frank Sinatra with an opera voice.  He had shrieking young girls as well as opera devotees as fans. During his amazing career he earned three stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame (film, recording, and radio), left footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, had three Gold Record Awards, and sang at the third inauguration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941.  More at:

This movie also provides an early look at another future superstar in James Maitland Stewart (May 20, 1908 – July 2, 1997).  This was before his screen persona, for which he is most remembered, emerged.  The lanky, quiet spoken, and average American guy just trying to get by using a distinctive drawl played by Stewart in so many award-winning roles, is not in “Rose Marie.”  Instead Stewart, like many other new MGM stars, has a relatively small role.  In this movie, his character needs to be saved by his older sister. It might be interesting to see how much of the Oscar-winning Stewart aura comes through in “Rose Marie”.

Another singing talent in this movie is actor and tenor Allan Jones (October 14, 1907 – June 27, 1992).  Jones had a varied career in movies, but is probably best known as “…the romantic straight man to the Marx Brothers in their first two MGM productions: ‘A Night at the Opera’ and ‘A Day at the Races’.”  His singing in “Rose Marie” was so good Eddy objected to it.  In a biography of Louis B. Mayer,  “Merchant of Dreams,” written by Charles Higham, Mayer is claimed to say that Eddy considered Jones such a rival that Eddy asked for most of Jones's singing to be cut, “… including his rendition of the great Puccini aria E lucevan le stelle - and MGM agreed to Eddy's demand.”  Read more at:

The song "Indian Love Call" is also a “star” of this movie in its own right.  The song was first published as “The Call” and is from the 1924 musical. With Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart music and Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II lyrics, it is romantic and haunting.  Music like “Indian Love Call” helped make the show the longest running Broadway musical of the 20’s, spawned four films, and The New York Times described the song as being “…among those Rudolf Friml songs that became ‘household staples’ in their era”.  More at:

An interesting use of “Indian Love Call” came about when it was used in Yosemite Park as part of the “Firefall” down a 3000 foot cliff every night shortly after nightfall. The “Firefall” was created by burning hot embers dropped down from the top of Glacier Point.  It was impressive (above). “ Firefall” lasted from 1872 until 1968.   At some point “Indian Love Call” became part of the show that was put on by the owners of Glacier Point Hotel and was only stopped in 1968 by the National Park Service because too many visitors were attending, and it was not a natural event…spoil sports!

Here is what The New York Times reviewer Frank Nugent in 1936, had to say about the movie “Rose Marie.”  “As blithely melodious and rich in scenic beauty as any picture that has come from Hollywood, …(it) distinguished the operetta when first it played to Broadway in 1924. If the three script writers who were entrusted with its adaptation to the screen have dealt less respectfully with the original’s book, they may be pardoned on the ground that here the song—and its singers—are the thing…let Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy sing an operetta’s love song, and we care not who may write its book. In splendid voice, whether singing solo or in duet, they prove to be fully…delightful.” More at:

There are lots of reasons to see this movie and seeing it on the big screen of The Edge Center in Bigfork will make them all more impressive. So come and join the fun on Thursday, December 12 at 6:30PM.  Don’t forget you also see a cartoon from the same period.  Admission is free.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Divas Music and Smiles in Bigfork Concert

Three talented ladies singing songs from the 30’s through the present in close harmony will provide lots of fun and charm at The Edge Center with “DIVAS~~MUSIC THROUGH THE DECADES!”.  The concert includes a broad repertoire of styles and music selected to please the tastes of a varied audience.  The concert is a tribute to some of the most influential female vocalists in American popular music. Concertgoers will hear the group’s musical talents on keyboard, guitar, and a variety of rhythm instruments: all a great match for the vocals. The Edge Center in Bigfork Sunday, November 17th 2PM.  Price $10 adults. Children $5

And what would The Divas like their audiences to "take away from their performance"? They want audiences to share their love for a great sense of humor and laughter.  They want their audiences to appreciate the music, and to identify with the emotions of the songs they perform. Sharon Rowbottom, Shannon Lee Gunderson, and Rosie Gams,  have varied musical backgrounds.  They combine an eclectic assortment of musical tastes and particularly enjoy singing "their” arrangements. The Divas, from the Virginia, MN area, have been singing together for 15 years.

Like the different ways to play music through the decades, The Divas music is varied, designed for the period and is a sampling of the best. Their repertoire is one they like to refer to as "The Spectrum".  They love the close harmonies from the music of the 30's and 40's.  And their rock and roll from the 50's and 60's is always a lot of fun for their audiences. Then add some country, western, pop, folk, blues, and jazz, and you have pretty much covered the bases in the popular music they perform. Their venues include places on the beautiful lakes in Northern Minnesota, nightspots on the Iron Range, and in neighboring states.

Rosie Gams is originally from Embarrass, Minnesota where she began singing in grade school and entertaining at local PTA meetings.  In high school, she was active in the local musicals. In 1975, she started singing with Nostalgia, a 50's and 60's rock and roll band and later with Rendezvous, Cornerstone, and currently with The Divas.Rosie sings lead in the group, plays ukulele, and rhythm instruments, among the more unusual ones are the "rain stick", the "egg”, and the cabasa (made from an African gourd). She is always keeping the sound interesting and alive!

Sharon Rowbottom is a native of Virginia, Minnesota. As the youngest of four children, her three teenage siblings exposed her at an early age to different musical styles, among which were the Beatles and Latin dance music.  She sang from age 10 in various choirs and received a vocal scholarship to attend Mesabi Community College in Virginia.  A trio, LIVE BAIT, formed through friendships there still performs.   Some of her bands include: The Schwartz Brothers Band, Slim Pickens, The Electric Loons, and The Dog Soldiers. Along with The Divas she performs as a duo with her husband, Dan. Sharon sings lead vocal and harmony.  She plays the congas, guitar, and ukulele.

Shannon Lee Gunderson was born and raised in Rawlins, Wyoming.  She began piano lessons at age four, and was performing in talent shows and other venues throughout grade school.  Musical theatre was a great love, and she was active all through high school and college.  She received a scholarship and attended Hastings College, in Nebraska.  As well as performing as a soloist and with other groups (WHATT, Seattle, Shannon and Friends), Shannon played with a show band, The Bijou Revue, from Lincoln, Nebraska, for over 8 years.  That group toured all over the United States and on a USO tour in the Mediterranean. She has lived in Virginia for almost 32 years.

And this concert promises to be lots of fun. It's a group that enjoys singing and knows how to enjoy itself and its audience.  And what the audience might hear at the concert, Shannon says, “We prefer to have our audiences be WITH US on our musical journey, and not be worrying what song is coming up next.  So here is just a sampling of what might be performed: "Goody, Goody", "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", "Sincerely", "At Last", "Tumbling Tumbleweed", "Sentimental Journey", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", "Dream a Little Dream of Me", "Stop in the Name of Love", "I Can See Clearly Now", "End of the World", "Silver Wings", and "Mamma Mia", just to name a few.

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. It will be a fun and entertaining afternoon and a good chance to get out of the cold and snow.Keep in mind that this is also the start of the holiday season, and while you are at The Edge Center, check out the holiday sale that is going on in the gallery.  It is filled with a wide variety of hand made gifts.  You may find that unique gift that says "you are special". Sunday, November 17th 2PM.  Price $10 adults. Children $5

Friday, November 8, 2013

Alan Ladd in “Shane” at The Edge in Bigfork

How much more can you expect in a cowboy movie? Starting off, the gunslinger “Shane” takes the side of homesteaders against a greedy cattle baron.  Staying at the homesteader’s place, he falls for the wife, teaches the young son about guns, and finds out that the bad guy’s thugs are out to get the homesteader…then? Well, you have to see the movie to find out.  This 1953 Western film classic from Paramount won an Oscar for cinematography, is in the National Film Registry, was number 45 in the American Film Institute’s 2007 "100 year’s of movies" list and is number 3 on its top ten Western category.  Bigfork’s resident movie authority, Jack Nachbar, will show the movie along with a cartoon from the same period and provide informative commentary.  Date November 14. Time 6:30PM. Admission free and includes goodies appropriate for the movie during the intermission.

A big screen, as in The Edge Center, shows best why “Shane” got an Oscar, and why it has its high ranking over time. It was directed by George Stevens and originated from a 1949 novel by the same name. The movie version has an outstanding cast from an earlier time; Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur in her last film, Van Heflin, Branden de Wilde, Jack Palance, and Ben Johnson. The movie went over budget and the studio tried to sell it to Howard Hughes thinking it was going to be a bust.  Then they saw a rough-cut and Hughes really wanted it.  “Shane” paid its bills and made a nice profit during its initial release. More at:

Alan Ladd was not as handy with guns as other actors of the time.  Reportedly it took over 100 takes to get one gun-handling scene completed.

Jean Arthur finished a 35-year career with the movie “Shane” and had to be coaxed out of retirement to do it. She was actually 50 years old…come and see how well she does as a 30ish leading lady.

Jack Palance did not do well with horses.  To get him filmed looking as if he were jumping into the saddle, the director had to film him getting off the horse and run it backwards.

Van Heflin (above left), the homesteader, was a really “nice guy”.  And you know what can happen to a nice guy in the Old West

Branden deWilde, the little boy, did a great job in getting to Shane and making him want to help the family.

Ben Johnson (top right and bottom left going down) is a thug named Calloway who thinks he can bully Shane...not tough guy Shane, so Calloway gets what's coming to him.

The film was innovative technically.  It was shown on a flat widescreen, had a new sound track system, used early examples of really loud gun shot sounds (using a small cannon fired into a garbage can), and used wires to pull the shot actors backwards.  All of this helped to make the film’s reception such a positive one since watching “Shane” was such a better experience in a big screen theater with a professional sound system than on small screen televisions.  This was important since television was a serious detriment to the film industry at the time.

The story is fiction, but like many great movies, it has a historical base.  In this case, the disputes were created by the Homestead Act, which started in 1862.  One of these conflicts was the Johnson County war of 1892.  This is the conflict that “Shane” is set in.  The Homestead Act offered varying amounts of “free” land to people who would settle and develop the West.  The problem is that the land was not empty, but being used by “free range” cattle ranchers who did not take kindly to folks moving in, setting up homes, and running barbed wire. They objected, often violently, cheating  when buying homesteaders out, or using hired guns to chase them away.

With such challenges to the settling of the West, many gave up, and the rest needed all the encouragement possible to succeed. Without the Homestead Acts the country would certainly not have developed the way it did.  To succeed, the country needed people willing to relocate and stand-up to the harsh realities of a rough life. These homesteaders were often from other countries that did not offer opportunities like the Old West did, and they did not look, dress, or talk like the people already there.

“Shane” deals with a very narrow slice of this complicated package and considers the problems of a single family (not European or “different”) just trying to face the challenges.  It makes a good story.  The movie tells it well, and according to contemporary movie critics it was successfully done.  Here is a sample of a contemporary review by Bosley Crowther, He was a credible critic of the arts who worked for the New York Times for many years.  After attending the premiere, he called the film a "rich and dramatic mobile painting of the American frontier scene".

Here is more of Bosley’s review:  “Shane contains something more than the beauty and the grandeur of the mountains and plains, drenched by the brilliant Western sunshine and the violent, torrential, black-browed rains. It contains a tremendous comprehension of the bitterness and passion of the feuds that existed between the new homesteaders and the cattlemen on the open range. It contains a disturbing revelation of the savagery that prevailed in the hearts of the old gun-fighters, who were simply legal killers under the frontier code. And it also contains a very wonderful understanding of the spirit of a little boy amid all the tensions and excitements and adventures of a frontier home.”

Come to The Edge Center in Bigfork on November 14 at 6:30PM and see how all this fits together.  You will especially enjoy “the little boy” who not only is a “scene stealer” in the movie but also adds so much to the family nature of the movie. The use of a youngster in such a critical role in a movie plot (subtitled strip below) was also a newer concept.  As indicated earlier, admission is free and includes goodies appropriate for the movie.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Full House of Gifts for the Holidays in Bigfork

The annual holiday gift show at The Edge Center Gallery in Bigfork seems to keep getting bigger and better every year. For something handmade that says “you are special”, there are lots of choices.  The theme is “Deck the Halls”, but decorations are just part of the selections. Lots of food items, books, and "wearables" add to the mix. You might even find the perfect card to add your sentiments. The Sale begins on November 7 and continues through the performance of Grand Rapids Area Male Chorus on December 15. The Edge Center Gallery is next to the Bigfork School and is open from 10AM to 4PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and during Edge events. Don’t forget the opening reception on November 8 from 5PM to 7PM for a chance to visit with some of the talented contributors and enjoy a few snacks.

It is really difficult to explain with words all the “treasures” at this year’s sale. You can see the size of the show by the above photo…so rather than trying to name the artists, craftsmen, jewelers, seamstress', knitters, potters, chefs, or writers, and then show the items...and probably miss some, what follows will be just pictures. We hope they will interest you enough to come and see the show in person. This is a great place to find a unique present for a special person at a reasonable price. What a great combination.

That's the 2013 Edge Center Gallery holiday gift show in pictures.  If you are interested in giving a handmade gift to a special friend or relative, come and see what we have to offer in person and consider an early visit. You might want to even come to the opening reception on November 8 to get some of the first picks.