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.