Rory & Taryn in Season 3 Finale!

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This past week Hollywood Royalty came to Park Ridge–the daughters of two acting dynasties!

Thank you to the nearly 400 fans who came out on May 17, 2016, to see Captain Blood with special guests Rory Flynn (daughter of Errol Flynn) and Taryn Power-Greendeer (daughter of Tyrone Power). The ladies met with fans in the theatre lobby before and after the screening. Onstage, Rory was interviewed about her father and took a few questions from the enthusiastic audience. One of the great highlights of the evening was a beautiful letter from the legendary Olivia de Havilland, which Rory generously shared with us. (Since this letter was personal, written specifically to Rory from Olivia, we’re not going to post the contents on the Internet. However, there was a nice follow-up article online in the May 24, 2016 issue of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate about Rory’s appearance. Click Here!)

We are extremely grateful to our special guests and to all our patrons who attended. With your support this season, we averaged 466 people a show! Thank you!!!

Thank you to Nick Digilio of WGN Radio and to Turner Classic Movies for their continued support.

And thank you to our staff A-Team: Movie Hostess Allison, Shannon (our ticket taker), and Elizabeth (our photographer). Finally, our evening with Rory & Taryn would not have been possible without the generous assistance of Evelyn Delmar!

We’ll be back September 2016!

 

Rory Flynn
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Taryn Power meeting with fans…
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Taryn Power-Greendeer, program host Matthew Hoffman, and Rory Flynn
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The interview onstage…
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Congratulations, Steven, winner of our Captain Blood treasure chest!
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Lee & Dee
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Shannon, Matthew, Elizabeth, Allison
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Movie Hostess Allison & Program Host Matthew
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Thoughts on Flynn; A Fan Remembers

The following are some comments about Errol Flynn from one of our classic film supporters, Mary Dalton. We thought we’d share her thoughts with you before our screening this Tuesday night…

I thought it would be easy to write about Errol Flynn, but my knowledge of him is actually minimal, beyond the usual stories. And when one starts to read about his life, a sense of depression inevitably takes hold. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I hate Flynn’s personal reputation, at least as biographers would have it (except for Rory, of course). Once upon a time, before appalling behavior became a cultural staple in the West, Flynn’s lifestyle was a novelty — he was a celebrity in the way that Casanova was a celebrity. But Western Culture is now in its death throes, partly due to that lifestyle, and it’s hard to write about it without a sense of weariness.

Captain Blood definitely remains my favorite movie of his. I love it because I can see him as the 25-year-old he was, full of promise, before Hollywood and his own cynicism got the better of him. Flynn would spend the rest of his life subtly mocking the larger-than-life persona he’d helped create, and one wonders if his personal scandals weren’t an attempt to kill off that persona for good. I feel like crying whenever I watch him in The Sun Also Rises, because he played a late vision of himself, and he played it honestly. I really wish he could have cut himself some slack.

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Sometimes I wonder how Flynn would have seen himself had he lived into old age. This may be a stretch, but I believe that his film persona offers a brief glimpse into the “real” man. Errol Flynn wasn’t virtuous, of course, but at some level he must have believed in the idea of virtue. It didn’t exist much in Hollywood, but he must have looked for it. I don’t know how else to reconcile the mystery of him — his great charm and natural warmth set against outrageous conduct; his love for his children and his tendency to seduce young girls; his desire to serve in the war and the abuse he put his body through when he was denied by the draft board. I think he might have been happier if he could have lived his roles, rather than simply playing them. But perhaps I’m trying to psychoanalyze him too much. I don’t know any of this, of course. Maybe there is too strong a desire in me to see him as Captain Blood!

It’s possible that Errol Flynn could occasionally reconcile himself to what he’d become. There is that compelling quote of his: “I allow myself to be understood as a colorful fragment in a drab world.” This I find more interesting that any of his cryptic pronouncements on death. The way he says “I allow myself” makes me think that the reason we don’t know anything about Flynn’s inner life is because he simply chose it that way. And why not?

Who was it that spoke of Flynn as the “symbol of the unvanquished man?” I can understand why a movie like Captain Blood, and an actor like Flynn, would have such an impact on Depression-era audiences. We need stories like this now, and heroes like Peter Blood now, in our own time, but I don’t think Hollywood is capable of making them, because the industry doesn’t believe in virtue. But at least we have Flynn’s movies and can watch them whenever we need to. I’d like to think that one day the scandals and idiotic theories, like the one about his being a Nazi spy (why the hell would an iconoclast like him follow the Nazis?) will fade away and all we’ll have is Errol Flynn as he should be remembered: as Captain Blood, as Robin Hood, as the hero showing us how to prevail against the odds. It’s not the worst afterlife one can have.

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Mary Dalton is a freelance writer and former publicist for Park Ridge Classic Film.

Flynn/De Havilland Tribute with Rory Flynn at Pickwick Theatre!

WHAT: Captain Blood (1935) screening
WHEN: Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at 7:30 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHO: Special Guests: Rory Flynn, younger daughter of Errol Flynn
Taryn Power, younger daughter of actor Tyrone Power
Rory will be signing copies of her memoir, The Baron of Mulholland.
WHAT ELSE: Jay Warren performs prelude music at 7:00 PM.
We will have a raffle for a “Captain Blood” treasure chest.
HOW MUCH: $10/$7  60+ or $8/$6 (advance tickets) at theatre box office

Rory grew up in Hollywood in the 50’s with her father Errol Flynn and mother Nora. At the age of 18 Rory was discovered by the Eileen Ford Agency, she started modeling in NY, and soon after left for Europe where she worked in the fashion centers, London, Paris & Milan,

As a high fashion model, having worked with some of the best photographers, Rory picked up the camera as a hobby, later the camera became her profession, which later led her back to Hollywood, becoming a stills photographer for feature films and television.

Rory has done over 35 feature films and numerous television sitcoms and movies of the week. Then after meeting her husband on a film in Sri Lanka that he was producing. They settled into a home, very close to the house she grew up in, in the Hollywood Hills to raise their son, Rio.

Rory wrote a book about her growing up in Hollywood with her famous dad, “The Baron of Mulholland.” This book and the research Rory has done for the book, has led her to her lecturing career. Rory has lectured in universities, charity functions for Veterans and Cruise lines.

Errol Flynn was born in Hobart, Tasmania, and in 2009 Rory put together a centenary celebration for her father, a 2-week festival in Hobart, sponsored by the Heart Foundation.

Rory’s brother is the famed Vietnam War photo Journalist, lost in Cambodia 1970.

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Captain Blood (1935)

Captain Blood screens Tuesday night, May 17, at the Pickwick Theatre.

The following was originally published in the Crossed Swords blog.

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Captain Blood (1935) is one of the essentials to any movie series on swashbuckling. It was the film that not only made Errol Flynn a star but kicked off a second cycle of swashbucklers that would continue until the start of World War II. I remember seeing Captain Blood when I was a little buccaneer, and in those pre-Robert Osbourne days, we had Frazier Thomas and “Family Classics” on WGN-TV. This is where I saw all the great Errol Flynn swashbucklers. I watched Captain Blood again recently, and a few things really stood out. I was captivated by Flynn’s performance, of course, but also by the direction, and how well the story fits into the mold of the classic hero tradition.

“It was fortunate for you that I was here to save you.”
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Captain Blood was Flynn’s American debut as a leading man, but you would never know it watching him onscreen. It was certainly daring for Warner Brothers to not only cast him as the lead but also Olivia de Havilland too, who was practically an unknown herself. Both are marvelous in the film. It’s easy to see why they would be paired together seven more times. Flynn is everything we expect a hero to be and more. He is dashing, romantic, and totally convincing with a sword. Flynn is also quite sincere in the role. In later years, he was often dismissive about his costume pictures, but it’s this sincerity in his characterization that makes the film work. He made it all seem so easy, and perhaps this is why he was underrated as an actor.

One of his best scenes comes early in the film after he is arrested for giving medical attention to a rebel of King James II. After months in prison, he finally faces an English magistrate in what becomes a mockery of freedom and equality. Unlike his fellow prisoners, Dr. Peter Blood pleads not guilty to the charges he is accused of doing. We feel his anger at the injustice of the court before him. His dialogue in this scene is some of his best in the movie, and he expresses his anger with great conviction. Throughout the film, he makes several important speeches, and it’s amazing that a relative newcomer to the screen is able to pull it off as well as he does.

“Captain” Michael Curtiz
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Cinematographer Hal Mohr, Errol Flynn, and Michael Curtiz
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Flynn was reportedly very nervous when production began, but director Michael Curtiz settled him down and got the performance he needed. Curtiz’s handling of his actors produced the desired results. Equally commendable is Curtiz’s atmospheric direction which was well-suited to the genre. Captain Blood is filled with striking shots and use of shadows. A good example of the director’s staging is the aforementioned court scene in which the set is very severe and stark in appearance. Curtiz’s framing and compositions are expressionistic in design. This was certainly the European influence behind his direction. As with Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s musical score, the look and design of Curtiz’s film convey what words cannot.

Captain Blood embodies the hero tradition that audiences would see throughout the 1930s and ‘40s. It has many similarities to The Adventures of Robin Hood, made three years later by the same director. In both films, there is a rebel rallying his men against injustice. In both films, there are corrupt leaders who are ultimately replaced by good kings. But whether the hero was an English outlaw or an Irish doctor, he never sought to overthrow the government or replace the system– only those leaders who had corrupted it.

Olivia de Havilland on the set of Captain Blood. Jean Muir and Anita Louise were first considered for the role.
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Injustice was a recurring theme at Warner Brothers. Throughout the early 1930s the studio tackled social injustice in contemporary films whose source material came directly from news headlines. One might recall Paul Muni’s unfair sentencing in I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932). These themes continued in the historical genre. Social injustice is what’s behind Peter Blood’s desire for revenge. There is injustice and cruelty depicted in the authority figures—from the “unclean tyrant” King James to the magistrate that sentences Peter Blood to the Lionel Atwill character, Bishop, who runs the Port Royal plantation and tortures his slaves with a branding iron. We want to see these antagonists get what’s coming to them. With this as a background, Flynn makes us sympathize and identify with him.

Despite leading the life of a pirate– a life of stolen fortunes and unholy alliances– Peter Blood has a code, as embodied in the articles he draws up on the ship for those under his command. Women, for instance, are not to be taken hostage. And when they are, he sees to it that they are put ashore. It seems that despite his new life as a seafaring rogue, chivalry rides the high seas with him. His wanton ways of buying a woman’s attention with sacks of coins, for instance, are contradicted by his inherent decency towards Arabella Bishop (Olivia de Havilland). Peter Blood reflects life’s contradictions. However, to have gone any further into psychological complexity the film would have ceased to be a swashbuckler. One of the conventions that separates the golden age swashbuckler from the modern one is that they weren’t about social realism. The stories could have themes and conflicts that were relevant, but they always had the fundamental morality and idealism of a hero legend. Characters could be cynical at times, but the tone of the film itself could never be such in the end. Ugly realities were always vanquished by the sword.

Location shooting included Laguna Beach, California.
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Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. (Swordplay staged by Fred Cavens.)
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Crossed Swords is the mirror opposite of previous programs like Forbidden Cinema. So often I hear people talk about that pre-Code era in Hollywood (1929-1934) as though that was the only time studios made honest films—movies that featured strong female characters and subjects Hollywood would not tackle again for decades. These same viewers are often dismissive towards the Production Code and the films made under it as though they feel idealism—such as that found in the Crossed Swords series—cannot contain any truth. For this critical circle, the age of chivalry is false, a romantic notion better suited for children’s fairy tales than for adults. But there was a reason these films played on “Family Classics”; it was because they are family films. Not only did they offer a sort of moral guidance for the young and impressionable, but they satisfied a need in people of all ages to believe in what is best in human nature.

Some of Hollywood’s finest examples of storytelling were in fact made under the Production Code. The swashbucklers might not have been “realistic,” but they could still contain an emotional truth which can be more powerful than realism. In addition to this, they managed to tackle subjects that were not only relevant then– but today as well. Just last week one of our patrons came up to me after our screening of The Count of Monte Cristo and referenced the corrupt banking practices that Edmond Dantes sought to expose. (It’s a familiar issue to our modern society!) And here in Peter Blood we have a character who is a reflection of our own frustrations. How many of us have no use for our current political leaders? Yet we always seem to unite in a crisis (and war), and there is always a hope of a great unifier in some distant future. In our swashbucklers, it was always a good King who restored the peace and happiness and changed the shape of the world. For Peter Blood, his reputation is restored with the ascendancy of King William. This was the dynamic of the classic swashbuckler. It’s a testament to these films that they resonate with us so much all these years later.

~MCH

Hollywood filmmaking reaching its zenith…
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Look Out! Bond Night at the Pickwick!

Dear Matthew,

Please just say to the audience that not only I enjoyed immensely making the film but even until today, I am reminded continuously by my fans how much they loved my performance and therefore fifty years later I am still reaping the benefit of being a Bond Girl.

Bless them all for me!

Thank you and good luck!

Warmest regards.

Luciana Paluzzi

The line to get in! (photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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Over 500 patrons attended our 50th anniversary screening of Thunderball on April 21, 2016. The screening was a popular event for the community with many people in the lobby trying to get either a glimpse of the Vulcan Bomber model or meet New York Times best-selling author Raymond Benson. We also had a large amount of memorabilia from the film on display, courtesy of guest Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation.

We gave away some Bond prizes courtesy of the Ian Fleming Foundation. The grand prize was the tour of the IFF James Bond vehicle and prop facility in Kankakee, IL. There were multiple winners for this rare opportunity! The last prize was our giant “Bond Basket,” which we were raffling off.

Organist Jay Warren performed the pre-show music. His James Bond themes on the Mighty Wurlitzer sounded magnificent!

We had so much going on around the movie, but the real surprise of the night was the quality of the film itself. The color and detail of this particular DCP presentation was extraordinary– so much so that our long-time projectionist commented that it was one of the best restorations he had seen. The film looked absolutely gorgeous on the big screen.

Thank you again to everyone who came out to support the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series!

We dedicated this screening to IFF Chairman Peter Janson-Smith and Guy Hamilton, the director of Goldfinger. Both of whom had recently passed away.

Shannon & Elizabeth with the Vulcan Bomber!
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(photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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James Bond Author/Film Historian Raymond Benson
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Raymond signing copies of his novels! (photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation
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Matthew, Colin & Raymond
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Giving stuff away! (photo courtesy of Kenny Chmielewski)
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Shannon with Colin’s homemade speargun!
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Our “Bond Basket” winner, Sue!
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The Biggest Bond of All!

Thunderball screens this Thursday, April 21, at 7 PM at the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge. Doors open at 6 PM.

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When two atomic bombs are stolen and held for ransom by the organization SPECTRE, Agent 007 is called into service. His search takes him to the Bahamas where he encounters SPECTRE’s Number Two, Emilio Largo. It’s a race against time when a U.S. city is threatened with atomic terrorism. The chase leads to a spectacular underwater confrontation between James Bond and the frogmen of SPECTRE.

James Bond mania reached its zenith with the release of 1965’s Thunderball, the fourth film in the franchise. The Bond craze was everywhere by the mid-sixties, from merchandising to knock-off movie imitations. Though the series has continued to the present-day, never again would a Bond film generate as much excitement. What makes the film so well remembered fifty years after its release is that it lives up to the hype.

In anticipation of our anniversary screening at the Pickwick Theatre, we’ve met many fans who have cited Thunderball as their favorite Bond movie. This is high praise considering it followed From Russia With Love and Goldfinger! Reasons why are varied. “It has the most beautiful Bond girls,” is one of the more frequent responses. Regardless of its critical ranking in the 007 pantheon, Thunderball remains the most successful film of the franchise.

The definitive Bond, Sean Connery.
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James Bond author/historian Raymond Benson will be a guest on April 21 to discuss the film’s complicated genesis. The original story was based on an abandoned screenplay written by 007 creator Ian Fleming, along with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham. Their intent was to make Thunderball the first James Bond movie. When this plan fell through, Fleming turned the screenplay into another Bond novel in 1961. McClory immediately sued, claiming he owned the rights to the story with Fleming. The case was eventually settled out of court. In the wake of this legal issue and the incredible success of the early Bond films, Eon producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman made a deal with McClory in 1964. They would allow him a producing credit on Thunderball. This was done in order to avoid McClory making a competing Bond film, as would be the case twenty years later with Never Say Never Again (1983).

Luciana Paluzzi as villainess Fiona Volpe. She originally tested for the role of Domino (played by Claudine Auger). On Thursday night, Luciana will be sending us a special message for the Pickwick audience!
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Thunderball was directed by Terence Young, a stylish British filmmaker who had already directed the first two Bond films. He was adept at mixing elegance with adventure, giving Thunderball a high gloss. The film benefits from beautiful locations in the Bahamas, spectacular underwater footage choreographed by Ricou Browning, and memorable set designs by production designer Ken Adam. Adam, who recently passed away at the age of 95, was one of the men most responsible for the look of the James Bond movies. His sets were never bland or static, but rather sophisticated and kinetic. Something was always moving in the frame, whether it was a giant map in Goldfinger or a Spectre agent’s electrified chair in Thunderball.

The famous Bell Rocket jet pack.
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In addition, Thunderball features one of the best John Barry musical scores, a witty script by Richard Maibaum that balances the danger with the sex, and lush cinematography by Ted Moore (shot in the Widescreen Panavision format), which captures the romance of the West Indies. The film would win an Oscar for special effects by John Stears. With so many talents involved, Thunderball stands as a testament to the collaborative art of epic filmmaking.

Contact sheet with scenes from the movie.
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Thunderball: 50th anniversary at the Pickwick Theatre

WHAT: Thunderball (1965) 50th anniversary screening (on DCP)
WHEN: April 21, 2016   7:00 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHO: Special guests: James Bond author Raymond Benson & Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation
WHAT ELSE: The “Vulcan Bomber” model plane used in the film will be on display in our lobby.
Also, the first hundred patrons (with an admission ticket) will get a chance to win a tour of the IFF James Bond vehicle & prop facility in Kankakee, IL.
We will have a free prize drawing as well as a raffle for a “Bond basket” ($1/ticket, 5 for $4).
Jay Warren performs pre-show music at 6:30 PM.
ADMISSION: $10/$7 seniors 60+ ($8/$6 advance)


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The historic Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, IL, will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THUNDERBALL with a screening of the classic James Bond blockbuster film on Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 7:00pm.

Program Host Matthew C. Hoffman of the Classic Film Series welcomes as special guests, representative of the Ian Fleming Foundation Colin Clark, and 007 continuing novelist and film historian Raymond Benson, who will introduce the movie and sign books.

IFF board member Colin Clark will have on display from the Foundation the five foot model of the RAF Vulcan Bomber used in the filming of the picture, restored to its original condition.

The evening’s festivities will include discussion of Thunderball‘s history and behind-the-scenes stories, several Bond-related raffles, and photo ops with Bond movie props and theater standees.

Pickwick’s Classic Film Series presentations often draw fans in costume. Attendees are invited to dress as their favorite Bond, Bond Girl, or Bond Villain.

On Wednesday, April 20, 2:00 a.m. CST, Hoffman and Clark will appear on Chicago’s WGN AM720 morning radio show with host Nick Digilio to talk about the Pickwick’s special Thunderball celebration and all things Bond.

Counting on Comedy Teams by Leonard Maltin

The following is film historian Leonard Maltin’s “Legends of Laughter 2” introduction written specifically for Park Ridge Classic Film. LOL2 runs from March 3-May 26 only at the Park Ridge Public Library.

There is no guarantee that two or three comedians will provide double or triple the laughter of a single performer…yet comedy duos and trios were a staple of both vaudeville and movies. What’s more, the most successful teams bore no resemblance to each other.

Laurel and Hardy were overgrown children. Abbott and Costello were made up of a wiseguy and a schnook. The Three Stooges were as different from the Marx Brothers as oil and seltzer water.

In each instance, these entertainers found something that clicked when they worked together: a rhythm, a comic contrast, a balance or harmony. The stars aligned and magic was in the air. (Few of them had solid solo careers, although there were notable exceptions.)

I was lucky enough to grow up at a time when these films were ubiquitous on television. I got to watch Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy every single day, to the point where I not only memorized their films but felt as if I knew them. It might be tougher for a newcomer to embrace the duo right away, but I know that familiarity will breed the opposite of contempt: the more you see of them, the more you’ll understand and like them. That’s because they almost never broke character: there is no reason to believe that the fellows you see onscreen aren’t exactly who they seem to be.

In a similar vein, it’s impossible to think of Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and “Curly” Howard as actors playing characters: after just one short subject we are completely convinced that this is who they are. (And remember, in the 1930s and 40s, there were no talk shows to “expose” them to the public.)

On the other hand, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby gleefully broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the audience—when that audience was gathered together in a theater, long before the advent of television—and made “inside” jokes that referred to their show business personas and popular radio shows. Moviegoers loved their irreverence.

Vaudevillians like Wheeler and Woolsey and nightclub performers like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis found their own niche in movies…and, as I said before, bore no resemblance to any other duos.

This brand of show business has all but disappeared, but the enduring entertainment value of these films speaks to the timelessness of great comedy and the impact of watching inspired entertainers at work. So sit back and enjoy!
Copyright  2016 by Leonard Maltin

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Legends of Laughter 2: The Comedy Teams

They came from vaudeville and Broadway, from the silent cinema and radio, and later, the nightclubs. They are some of the most recognizable names in American screen comedy—names that are synonymous with Hollywood’s golden age. Laurel & Hardy… The Marx Brothers… Abbott & Costello…. Individual talents who, through destiny or chance, became united with partners just as talented. Legends were born, and they’ve entertained generations ever since. These are the faces of comedy. This is Legends of Laughter 2: The Comedy Teams.

This spring, the Park Ridge Public Library Classic Film Series returns for its eighth season with a series devoted to the movie comedy teams of the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. In addition to the most famous teams, the series will showcase the lesser-known comedy acts that managed to carve out a niche for themselves. Comics like Wheeler & Woolsey churned out vehicle after vehicle at RKO with their bawdy, vaudevillian sensibility and Pre-Code lunacy. And Olsen & Johnson, Universal’s other comedy act, were visually inventive, offering audiences deliriously surreal sight gags that were ahead of their time.

Wheeler & Woolsey
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If there were ever two patron saints of comedy, it was Laurel & Hardy. To this day, they are universally recognized for the good cheer they’ve brought to millions and the almost magical ease with which they accomplished this onscreen. There was Ollie, the larger man with his “tie twiddle” and his exasperated stares into the camera; and Stanley, the smaller, more child-like man who would often cry while pulling up his hair. Stan & Ollie were a team built on the law of opposites with a strong, deep abiding love and affection for one other. It is this affection that always seemed to transcend the “nice messes” each put the other through. The warmth that these two characters felt for each other, and which we feel towards them, is a quality few other comedy teams possessed.

They were from opposite worlds. Stan Laurel was born Arthur Stanley Jefferson in Ulverston, Lancashire, England. He came from the English music hall tradition, traveling with the same troupe of stage performers that produced Charlie Chaplin. In fact, Stan Laurel had been Chaplin’s understudy in the Fred Karno troupe. After touring America in vaudeville, Stan made the U.S. his home and later became a writer and director for producer Hal Roach.

Laurel & Hardy
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Oliver Hardy was born in the American South, in Harlem, Georgia. “Babe” Hardy could sing, but it was the call of the cinema that drew him to comedy. He appeared in many silent films, usually in support of other silent comics like Larry Semon. Eventually, Oliver Hardy, too, became part of Hal Roach’s stock company in the mid-1920s. In 1926, with the assistance of Hal Roach and director Leo McCarey, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy were brought together and movie history was made.

Their slapstick was rooted in visual comedy. Their films did not always have the frantic pace of other comedies; their success rested in the timing and deliberate buildup of a gag. The timing is best displayed in their “tit-for-tat” routines which contained a high degree of destruction of personal property! Over the course of nearly a quarter century, the duo would appear in dozens of films, but the most polished were those made for Hal Roach.

Laurel & Hardy came together within the medium of film, but for the Marx Brothers, it was on the stage where the spotlight first shone…

The Marx Brothers
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They remain one of the most popular teams of all-time. They poked fun at everyone– and everything. They were the Marx Brothers: Groucho, the cigar-smoking ringleader with the greasepaint mustache; Harpo, the horn-honking, girl-chasing throwback to the silent world comics; Chico, the piano playing Italian who wasn’t really Italian; and Zeppo, the romantic straight man sometimes lost in the shuffle. Whether it’s a television marathon on New Year’s Eve or a screening during Legends of Laughter, their movies will always be revived. They remain a laughing tonic against life’s troubles.

The brothers were born in the closing decades of the 19th century and were already performing by the first decade of the 20th century. The sons of Jewish immigrants who lived in a poor section of New York’s Upper East Side, the Marx brothers became a family act that grew up in vaudeville. It was here, through trial and error, where they worked out their material and formed their classic personas. By the mid-1920s, they were stars on Broadway, excelling in musical comedy. Beginning in 1929 with The Cocoanuts, the Marx Brothers became movie stars. In their best films, the brothers were known for a type of anarchistic comedy in which institutions, authority figures, and even society matrons were mocked—usually by Groucho. The lines were often absurd, the situations, surreal. Their brand of lunacy hit its creative peak with 1933’s Duck Soup. Directed by Leo McCarey, the film utilized a variety of comedic forms –from satire and song to slapstick and pantomime. Their humor was predominantly in the dialogue– in Groucho’s puns and witty observations. For a medium learning how to talk, movies never had it so good.

But the Marx Brothers weren’t the only comics who made audiences laugh with clever verbal exchanges and rapid-fire dialogue. Nearly eighty years later, fans of classic comedy are still laughing at “Who’s On First?”

Abbott & Costello
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They did not sing. They did not dance. But in their films, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello were experts at what they did, whether it was those methodical word games or the timing of their lines. Bud and Lou never worked with Hal Roach or Leo McCarey, but their appeal rested in the stage routines where it didn’t matter who the director was; they didn’t need direction to make people laugh. In their films, Bud was usually the nattily-dressed fast-talker, and Lou, his child-like patsy who was easily confused. They were the most popular comedy team in the business until post-war America embraced a more unhinged style of comedy.

They were top ten box office champions throughout most of the 1940s, but they were equally successful on radio and later, television. William “Bud” Abbott, the greatest of all the straight men, came from a show business family. He had been a burlesque performer in the days when vaudeville had passed. Lou Costello had also performed in stock burlesque after first appearing in films as an extra and stunt double. Bud and Lou appeared together for the first time in 1936. It was during these years on the stage where they performed sketches they would further develop in motion pictures. By 1940, Universal Pictures had signed them to a contract, but it would be a year later before they would become major stars with the release of Buck Privates. Throughout the forties they starred in military service comedies and later, horror spoofs that extended their careers into the 1950s.

Legends of Laughter 2 will also showcase the team that succeeded Abbott & Costello in popularity: Martin & Lewis—the biggest comedy act of the 1950s and the first to skyrocket in the television age.

Legends of Laughter 2 runs from March 3 to May 26, 2016, at the Park Ridge Public Library. The screenings are free and begin at 7PM.

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A Night at the Theatre with the Marx Bros!

WHAT: A Night at the Opera (1935) on DCP
WHEN: March 10, 2016   7:30 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge
WHAT ELSE: Organist Jay Warren performs pre-show music at 7:00 PM. Also, the Laurel & Hardy short, Thicker Than Water (1935) will be screened at 7:30 PM.
HOW MUCH: $10/$7 seniors 60+/$8/$6 (advance)

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