A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

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Park Ridge came together on March 19 for another big event at the Pickwick Theatre.  We had a crowd of 613 patrons for our Beatles Night. Everyone who came out to support us had a great time– and got their money’s worth. We had two guests, a cover band, a raffle, and a book-signing.

Thank you to Beatles author Robert Rodriguez, who not only performed the pre-show music live onstage but did a book signing after the show. Thank you to all the members of the band The Time Bandits (Mike, Dennis, Tony, and Robert) for a great performance. We’d also like to thank Chicago Tribune entertainment reporter Mark Caro. Mark introduced A Hard Day’s Night with Robert, and he also did a Q&A with the audience after the movie.

We are extremely grateful to Jared at Allegro Music Center in Park Ridge for doing the (emergency) set-up on the stage.

The Time Bandits perform before the film screening…
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Robert Rodriguez
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Mark Caro
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We also played the trailer to Yellow Submarine…
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The winner of our Beatles basket, Noreen Gallagher!
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Program Host Matthew Hoffman with Movie Hostess Allison
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With the Classic Film Series staff…
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Visit our Photo Archive for more great images from this night!

Ben-Hur (1959)

What: Ben-Hur (1959) DCP presentation
When: April 1 (Wednesday), 2015   7:00 PM
Where: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
What Else: Prelude music by organist Jay Warren at 6:30 PM
Screening as part of the Cinema of Transcendence film program.

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The Beatles Are Coming!

WHAT: A Hard Day’s Night (1964) DCP presentation
WHEN: March 19, 2015   7:30 PM
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHO: Beatles author Robert Rodriguez* will join us to introduce A Hard Day’s Night. His band, “The Time Bandits,” will perform onstage from 7:00 to 7:30 PM!
Chicago Tribune entertainment reporter Mark Caro will also join us to lead a Beatles Q&A after the movie.
WHAT ELSE: We will raffle off a Beatles-themed prize basket! (Raffle tickets are only $1/5 for $4. )

*Robert Rodriguez is the award-winning author of five books on The Beatles, including the acclaimed Revolver; How The Beatles Re-Imagined Rock ‘n’ Roll. Along with British journalist Richard Buskin, he is the co-host of the podcast, Something About The Beatles. He appears regularly at the annual Fest for Beatles Fans in Rosemont as well as fan gatherings around the country and local libraries, presenting three separate audio-visual programs on their history.

His website: revolverbook.com

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Faith in Film

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“Remember, as was once told me, ‘Life is to give, not to take.’” ~Fredric March as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (1935)

In 2015, we look beyond the veil of our existence as we take a spiritual journey through the movies. Cinema of Transcendence is an original program that explores the role of spirituality and faith in classic Hollywood. When audiences think of the image of God on film, they might recall directors like Cecil B. DeMille, who was famous for the Bible stories he brought to the screen. Others might remember composers like Miklos Rozsa, whose musical scores brought a spiritual power to many epics from the 1950s.

In a modern age that is often cynical and skeptic, Cinema of Transcendence seeks to uplift and inspire with a positive image of religion. These films reflect the exalted virtues of love, forgiveness– and the kind of courage born in Heaven. They project a translation of God’s Word through a Hollywood perspective. If these films have historical shortcomings, they nevertheless remain faithful to the spirit of the Word.

Movies inspired by the Holy Bible go back to the very early days of the silent cinema. At the turn of the 20th century, several short films depicted the passion play. The biggest commercial and artistic successes, though, were made by filmmakers like Cecil B. DeMille, whose 1927 version of The King of Kings remains one of the great triumphs of religious storytelling. DeMille also made the 1923 version of The Ten Commandments (a film he would remake in 1956.) Other directors with notable contributions to the subject include D.W. Griffith (Intolerance, 1916) and Fred Niblo (Ben-Hur, 1925). Michael Curtiz’s Noah’s Ark (1928) was a “part-talkie” disaster film produced by the Warner Bros. studio.

H.B. Warner as Jesus in the most reverent and beautiful screen version of Christ in DeMille’s The King of Kings (1927).
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Films that touched upon the Divine were evident during Hollywood’s “pre-Code” era of the early 1930s when adult subjects were treated with a frankness that shocked the general public. The moral outrage of various civic and church organizations would force Hollywood’s Production Code to be enforced in 1934. But before that time, there were many films that mixed religion with vice. The Sign of the Cross (1932) is a notorious example of Cecil B. DeMille shocking his audiences with sexual imagery. But the sin depicted was in equal parts balanced with a powerful message about faith and pure love. Other pre-Code films of the era with spiritual themes and motifs include Safe in Hell (1931) and Gabriel Over the White House (1933).

Some of the best literary translations in the mid-1930s featured strong themes about redemption and noble sacrifice (A Tale of Two Cities, 1935) as well as forgiveness and charity (Les Miserables, 1935). Dante’s Inferno (1935) tells a modern day parable with a recreation of the Hell from Dante’s famous poem, The Divine Comedy. The nightmarish imagery from this largely overlooked film is an impressive achievement in art direction.

A vision of Hell from Dante’s Inferno (1935).
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The Word of God has been told using legend (the Holy Grail in The Light in the Dark aka The Light of Faith, 1922), allegory, (The Passing of the Third Floor Back, 1935 (UK), Strange Cargo, 1940), history (Last Days of Pompeii, 1935, The Crusades, 1935, Joan of Arc, 1948), and through films dealing with visions and miracles (The Song of Bernadette, 1943).

Many films in the 1930s and 1940s offered positive images of church clergymen and priests. Spencer Tracy in Boys Town (1938) and Bing Crosby in Going My Way (1944) are just two of the many fine examples of how Hollywood defined the priesthood.

One of the most remarkable films of the 1940s is One Foot in Heaven (1941) starring Fredric March as a Methodist minister in early 20th century America. This is one of the most intelligent and uplifting family films from Hollywood’s golden age. One Foot In Heaven remains the primary source of inspiration for Cinema of Transcendence.

Fredric March in One Foot in Heaven (1941).
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Other films that have glimpsed the eternal include Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), which sought an earthly transcendence for society itself. Though not an overtly religious film, Lost Horizon is one of the most soulful films to come out of Hollywood. The Razor’s Edge (1946) presented the main character of Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) on a spiritual search for the meaning of life. These films and others have featured characters seeking a mental and spiritual transcendence. Society and the individual could reach beyond and become something far more than what we are now.

A subcategory of spirituality is a group of films that could be classified as angels and demons. Movies like The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) featured strong religious elements even though the films themselves were not directly about religion. Several fantasy films offered a more playful take on religious concepts. Actor Claude Rains managed to play an angel in Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) and a devil in Angel on My Shoulder (1946).

Spirituality onscreen permeated many genres, from horror (The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935, and The Walking Dead, 1936) to Westerns like 1950’s Stars in My Crown. Actors one might not normally associate with religion appeared in some very unusual but remarkable films including Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (The Gaucho, 1927), Boris Karloff (The Walking Dead, 1936), and even Errol Flynn in The Green Light (1937), a melodrama based on a novel by Lutheran minister Lloyd C. Douglas, author of Magnificent Obsession (1935).

But it was the 1950s that saw the greatest stories ever told on movie screens. Audiences could now witness the exodus of the Jews from Egypt and the birth of Jesus Christ not only in color– but in widescreen. In an effort to bring audiences back to theatres—and away from television—many new widescreen formats such as CinemaScope turned the movies into spectacles.

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956).
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Two of the most popular films from the 1950s are The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959). The Ten Commandments, DeMille’s final film, has become a television tradition with its perennial showing every Easter. The force of the film’s storytelling and the strength of its convictions have towered above every version made since. Ben-Hur, based on Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, was a remake of the famous silent film and contains the most spectacular horse race in film history. Ben-Hur would also become the most honored Biblical epic with 11 Oscar wins.

Other important Christian films from the 1950s and 1960s include Quo Vadis (1951), The Robe (1953), The Big Fisherman (1959), King of Kings (1961), and The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Two of which, The Robe and The Big Fisherman, were the works of author Lloyd C. Douglas.

Throughout the history of religious cinema, there have been many that have challenged our beliefs and notions of holiness. Frank Capra’s The Miracle Woman (1931) features Barbara Stanwyck as a fake evangelist milking the multitudes. It also offers a powerful indictment of the hypocrisy that can be found in any local congregation. Night of the Hunter (1955), now recognized as a masterpiece in visual storytelling, presented a murderous preacher (Robert Mitchum) whose religious fanaticism is counterbalanced by the genuinely spiritual presence of Lillian Gish. These films as well as others like Elmer Gantry (1960) present a darker vision of faith based on the wayward motivations of its practitioners.

Films with religious themes continue to be popular to this day, even against the forces of modernity. However, most of these faith-based efforts are artistic failures. What Christian cinema markets today, both theatrically and on cable, is often condescending and simplistic. In addition, modern reinterpretations of the Bible– as well as satirical religious films– have only widened the gap between the reverence of the past and the irrelevant present. Nonetheless, the values and teachings of the Judeo-Christian faith have had great success manifesting more subtly in unlikely places. Themes of temptation and redemption– and an all-powerful guiding force– have surfaced in many genres, from children’s fantasy to popular science fiction.

Cinema of Transcendence is a series about discovery, revelation and, we hope… illumination.

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Cinema of Transcendence runs from March 5 to June 4 at the Park Ridge Public Library. To learn more about the spring series and to see the complete schedule of films, please visit the official series blog: Cinema of Transcendence.

As Time Goes By: The Casablanca Screening

Once again, the line to get in stretched down the block…
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“Welcome back to the fight. This time, I know our side will win.” ~ Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) to Rick (Humphrey Bogart) in Casablanca (1942).

We had 695 patrons join us on February 10, 2015, for our screening of Casablanca at the Pickwick Theatre. This was our second-largest turnout behind Gone With the Wind, which we had screened in December. As a result of playing two of the most popular films ever made back-to-back, our last two shows have brought in 1400+ people. We are extremely grateful to all our supporters.  Everybody comes to the Pickwick Theatre… and two of our dearest regulars even brought their “letters of transit.” (Thank you, Bobbie & Jimmii.)

We had the theatre lobby decorated in honor of the film and to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Jay Warren performed the pre-show music on the theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ. He ended at 7:30 with a memorable rendition of “As Time Goes By,” the theme song from Casablanca. One of our assistants, Elizabeth, took the time to set up a “baby monitor” in the lobby so that those filing in could hear Jay performing in the auditorium.

Onstage we took a poll to see how many people had seen Casablanca before. Several dozen were seeing the film for the first time while most had seen it many times before. It was a mixture of young and old in attendance, and not one of them was disappointed. Casablanca truly is a perfect film. When the movie was over, you could hear the audience applause from where we were standing in the foyer.

For us, the highlight of our presentation was a special written introduction prepared by Monika Henreid, daughter of  actor Paul Henreid. For those unable to attend our event, we’d like to share with you Monika’s words about her father.

*            *            *


CASABLANCA was only my father’s third film in Hollywood. His stories and memories were mostly about how badly Michael Curtiz behaved toward the extras and supporting players…people my father admired and many of whom he knew from their already well established careers in Europe.

He very much enjoyed playing chess with Bogie. As a matter of fact, he and Bogie would leave the set and go to his dressing room and play during any number of Curtiz’ tirades … with Claude Rains coming along to kibitz

The beginning of many beautiful friendships, possibly no film has been more dissected, analyzed, studied and admired.

Everyone has their own relationship with CASABLANCA…and relationships have developed because of it. The romance, humor, dialog, and honor have all become a part of Classic cinema history but more importantly have become a part of our lives. The characters have become our friends.

I have introduced this film numerous times at film festivals and am always surprised and delighted by the interaction of the audience. I enjoy that they can be split half and half with fans who have seen it ‘a million times’ and those who are ‘newbies’ becoming the next generations of fans and friends. (Matthew – Please ask your audience by a show of hands, who have seen it a ‘million times’ and who are ‘newbies.’)

The film was populated by actors who were real life immigrants who had just experienced what their characters are going through. I believe this is what gives it such great authenticity… something you couldn’t find at Central Casting.

My father was one of those … although he was well into his career as a matinee idol, he left Austria because he had been blacklisted by Goebbels for refusing to sign the Nazi film union contract and because he was an outspoken anti-Nazi. Then after starting a successful stage and film career in England, he was blacklisted for assumed pro-Nazi leanings. That is, he was an Austrian and after the occupation, a German, and by extension a Nazi.

Wrong! They couldn’t have been more wrong. But it was the War and he was about to be separated from my mother and deported. So he and Victor Laszlo were not so far apart.

And even though he was blacklisted again – in Hollywood this time – during the McCarthy/HUAC era, his story does have a pretty happy ending. He did get the girl – my mother, continued acting and was able to parlay his career into directing and producing.

So please enjoy this classic of all classic films. I only wish I was there with you. If you would like to know more or engage in conversation please join me at:


Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid
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Program host Matthew Hoffman with Movie Hostess Allison.
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Allison reading Monika Henreid’s introduction…
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Shannon, Matthew, Elizabeth, and Allison…
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The Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series: where every screening becomes an event, and where every movie is celebrated.
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Casablanca (1942) at the Pickwick Theatre

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What: Casablanca (1942) film screening
Also: “Our Wife” (1931) starring Laurel & Hardy
When: February 10, 2015  7:30 PM
Where: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
Who: Jay Warren performing pre-show music at 7:00 PM
Why: A DCP (digitally restored) presentation of the classic film voted #1 screen romance by our fans.

“Casablanca has been called a perfect film, capturing the spirit of romance, patriotism, intrigue, and idealism with artistic integrity and honesty that is rarely found in film. I tend to agree.” ~ Lauren Bacall

Join us for an early Valentine’s Day treat when we present a film that is not only one of the great screen romances, but is considered to be the greatest studio film ever made. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman– along with an outstanding supporting cast– star in this World War II story of love and intrigue in Morocco.

Casablanca was a winner of three Academy Awards including Best Picture. It was honored in its day and it continues to be honored today. The film is often listed near the top of most lists devoted to the greatest films ever made. (The AFI lists it as #2 behind Citizen Kane.) The film’s screenplay also won an Academy Award. This comes as no surprise since so many of the film’s lines are instantly recognized and quoted– seventy-three years later.

Casablanca remains one of the finest examples of studio filmmaking starring some of the best actors of its time– names like Bogart, Bergman, Rains, Veidt… It was directed by one of the most proficient craftsman in Hollywood, Michael Curtiz, whose films are noted for their fluid camerawork, lighting, and story pacing. Curtiz embodied the studio system, and under it, he made dozens of classic motion pictures.

But beyond all its many fine technical merits, Casablanca is a film that reaches its audience– then and now. There is truth that viewers recognize and respond to. It is a story of redemption and sacrifice. Its images and words have become iconic, and it is part of American movie mythology.

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PRPL Classic Film Series Feedback

With our Gone With the Wind screening over– and no Pickwick Theatre show until February 10– our attention has shifted back to the upcoming film program at the Park Ridge Public Library. The Classic Film Series is set to return in the spring. For those only familiar with the theatre series, we cordially invite you to attend the library program beginning in March 2015.

The following is a very kind letter written by one of our series regulars, Karen Nagel. We are grateful to patrons like her for their continued support of our film study program.

One of our favorite programs to attend as a family was the Park Ridge Classic Film Series. Since its inception we were thrilled by the outstanding collection of films, shorts, cartoons, and lectures. Not only has the series provided us with the opportunity to see beloved films again, we were also introduced to some other movies that proved to be equally a pleasure. These classic films have depth, substance, and represent an overlooked art form. The Series provides a much-needed respite from the mundane banality of what passes for entertainment today, and we are a better community for having such a program.

For us, the best part of the Classic Film Series has been the erudite insight offered by Matthew Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman’s delightful introductions into each movie’s history are informative, and brimming with a rich imagery that leaves us wanting to know more. Through his lectures, we are offered a compelling peek into the fascinating private world of the classic films and the people who made them great. As the Library’s resident film historian, Mr. Hoffman has the ability to take complex artistic themes and present them in a way that engages and enlightens his audience. Like the elegant prose of a well-crafted preface to a literary masterpiece, his introductions offer an enticing combination of historical fact, keen analysis, and the personal stories of the people who gave life to the magic of cinema. Thus, the Park Ridge Classic Film Series is not just a collection of old movies; it is a tribute to a cultural legacy. We loved the Film Series so much we made it a tradition. It was wonderful having an activity we could enjoy on a regular basis as a family.

After my father passed away, my mother and I found it difficult to feel social as we worked through our grief. Once again, the Park Ridge Public Library helped us by offering a warm, welcoming place where we could start to participate in activities again. Our experiences at the Library have always been positive, and it seemed natural to go to a place where we had spent so many pleasant hours as a family. We associate the Library with such good memories! When we started to slowly ease back into social events, the Library was the place we chose to go. Our familiarity with the Library’s many programs and services made it seem natural for us. We started by attending the Classic Film Series again. For a few hours each week, my Mom and I were transported to another time and place so we could forget our pain. It helped. When we left the movie, we would always talk about how my father would have enjoyed that night’s selection. We found solace in these evenings at the Library, and a comfort that allowed us to start moving past our grief and enjoying life again.

Park Ridge’s Forgotten Theatre

The Ridge Theatre– Park Ridge’s first movie house.
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The Pickwick Theatre is the most identifiable landmark in Park Ridge. It’s been a source of pride for the community since 1928. Filling the theatre, however, is not always an easy task. Suburban multiplexes and the repertoire theatres in Chicago provide stiff competition for the Pickwick. Within this milieu, the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series strives to bring in good “box office.” But once upon a time, the Pickwick’s closest competitor was right here in Park Ridge. Few people today realize a second theatre once existed in town. In fact, it had been built years earlier. For those who appreciate the glorious movie theatres of yesteryear, we thought we’d post a few words about the forgotten “Ridge Theatre.”

The Ridge Theatre was located at 203 Vine Avenue (next to the building which now rents to the d’Vine beauty salon). It  was built by architect Elmer F. Behrns (1899-1980), who designed many movie theatres in Illinois, including the Egyptian in Dekalb and the Woodstock Theatre. Unlike the Pickwick’s modernistic style, the Ridge Theatre’s terra cotta facade distinctly recalled Spanish Colonial, and it was nearly identical to the York Theatre in Elmhurst. The York, which was also designed by Behrns, opened in 1924. Though we have no photos of the interior of the Ridge Theatre, we know that it, too, was patterned after the York. The interior design was done in the style of the French Renaissance and was supervised by John Paulding and the McPherson Decorating Company. The interior included a dome decorated in silver-leaf that also featured a three-color lighting scheme. The rear wall of the theatre was near the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, which may have affected the acoustics during performances. But any screening would’ve certainly been enhanced by the Gottfried pipe organ that had been installed.

The Ridge was originally part of the Chicago-based Lynch theatre holdings. “Lynch Theatres” receives top billing above Ridge Theatre on the programs; it was affiliated with and operated by Balaban & Katz.  According to a 1931 edition of the Film Daily Year Book of Motion Pictures, the Ridge seated 1200 while the Pickwick had 800 seats. This is inaccurate since the original design for the Pickwick had nearly 1600 seats. By 1941, years after the Ridge had closed, the seating capacity of the older theatre had dropped and was reduced to 800. (The Pickwick’s seating capacity, meanwhile, would eventually drop to 1400, but today it is currently around 950 with the newer seats.) Though the Ridge was a good-sized, neighborhood theatre, William H. Malone, the town’s second mayor and eventual developer of the Pickwick, thought the Ridge was simply not big enough. (Keep in mind that the population of Park Ridge in 1928 was considerably less than 10,000.)

The Ridge opened its doors just over ninety years ago on November 15, 1924– four years before the Pickwick. The theatre operated on weekdays from 7:00 to 11:00 PM; Sundays 2 to 11 PM, and there was a children’s matinee on Saturdays from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. General admission was normally “15c for children and 35c for adults.” The programs that have survived reveal a theatre operating at the height of the silent era in the late 1920s. The movie ads inside feature names like Ronald Colman (Beau Geste), Harold Lloyd (Speedy), Dorothy Gish (Madame Pompadour) Renee Adoree (Back to God’s Country), Victor McLaglen (The River Pirate), Myrna Loy (State Street Sadie), Lewis Stone (Freedom of the Press), Mary Philbin (Surrender), John Gilbert (The Big Parade), and hundreds of others. These silent films were given a voice thanks to the Gottfried organ. Programs from the era (see below), reveal that several house organists performed on it during the course of the year.

A typical evening might include a double feature program, a “Junior Fun Frolic,”  or a Chinaware Night (“Free Chinaware to the Ladies.”) Whereas today you might pay $12 to see TV commercials, back then you could also see a comedy, a newsreel, and a movie serial chapter with the feature presentation. A wonderful ad for the jungle adventure Chang (1927) lists the added attraction of a “Crazy Cat Cartoon and Paramount News.” Though the programs are simple bi-folds made up of silent movie artwork, they conjure up a strong sense of time and place. There was genuine excitement to be found with such previews as: “Coming Next Week: Lon Chaney in The Unknown.” A handful of other film stars and their films might also be listed for the following week.

The theatre was managed by R.C. McGregor, who was also part owner. In The History of Park Ridge, author Orvis Jordan writes, “The Greater Chicago Magazine  was enthusiastic over the modernity of the new show house. It had oil heat, which had only recently come to Park Ridge. It also had washed air. The entire output of United Artists, Paramount, First National, Universal and Fox was controlled, though not all of this output was used, for under McGregor no picture that would offend public taste was shown.”

A 1928 advertisement in the Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World for the Kohler Electric Plant. Note the films on the marquee: The Big City with Lon Chaney and The Crowd. The building also included retail space for a lingerie and hosiery business.
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William H. Malone eventually bought out his competitor, forcing The Ridge to go dark. It closed its doors around 1936. The Ridge made a brief comeback in the mid-1950s as an art house– renamed the Park Avenue Cinema– but it was a short-lived venture. In 1956 the theatre was converted to a Michael Kirby ice skating studio. The skating rink lasted until 1973. Then, ten years later in 1983, a condominium complex went up on the site of the theatre. No doubt most people today, making their way along Vine to City Hall and the residential area, would never guess that a theatre had once stood there. Sadly, nothing visible remains of this wonderful theatre. Even the Gottfried organ is a thing of the past. (If this instrument was relocated, it never survived to the present day.)

For more information about the Ridge and the era of American movie palaces, visit the following website: www.historictheatres.org.

The covers of two weekly programs. The Ridge Theatre operated in the heyday of the silent film era.
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The inside of two other programs…
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Another angle of the Ridge Theatre (left) with the Park Ridge News Company staff. (The news office was next to the theatre.)
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The York Theatre in Elmhurst resembled the Ridge Theatre and was designed by the same architect.
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Special thanks to Paul Adlaf of the Park Ridge Historical Society, the Reference staff of the Park Ridge Public Library, and Elizabeth Rye (who first asked me about the Ridge Theatre after seeing it listed in her copy of the Film Daily Year Book).


Record Turnout for Gone With the Wind!

The line stretched down the block even past 7 PM…
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Our 75th anniversary screening of Gone With the Wind (1939) on December 4, 2014, was a colossal success with 735 people attending! This is a new attendance record for the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series. The evening had the feeling of a re-premiere; it was a major event for the Park Ridge community. We tried to do the film justice by making the evening a big celebration–something you would not have found in a cineplex. We were honoring the film’s actual premiere, which was seventy-five years ago in Atlanta, Georgia.

Radio Host Steve Darnall of “Those Were the Days” (90.9 FM) and his wife, Meg, were in the lobby meeting fans of old-time radio. The Spring 2014 back issue of the “Nostalgia Digest” featured a cover story on the “Films of 1939″ written by program host Matthew Hoffman. The new Winter 2015 issue was also available. Radio Hall of Famer Chuck Schaden and his wife, Ellen, were in attendance as well.

From 6:30-7:00 PM organist Jay Warren performed prelude music on the theatre’s Mighty Wurlitzer. He played a medley of instantly recognizable themes. There were the Civil War-era melodies that composer Max Steiner himself incorporated into Gone With the Wind– as well as a rousing rendition of the “Tara Theme” from the movie.

Before Gone With the Wind began its Overture, Matthew Hoffman revealed some of the upcoming shows the theatre was planning to present in 2015. The audience’s excitement was clearly evident when the titles were unofficially announced onstage. Afterward, movie hostess Allison pulled the winning ticket (out of a film can, of course) for the GWTW gift basket. For an hour before the show, audiences had an opportunity to participate in the raffle. The wrapped basket had been prominently displayed in the lobby. The winner was a very nice lady named Jennifer who had purchased five tickets– and the winning number was on the second to last ticket she had.

We screened a gorgeous DCP (digital) restoration of the film that included an intermission (which audiences quickly took advantage of since the entire presentation was about 233 minutes). Gone With the Wind looked spectacular on the big screen. Audiences applauded when the four principal stars made their respective debuts. Perhaps the largest applause, however, was reserved for Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler during his first appearance at the staircase in Twelve Oaks.

A very festive atmosphere could be felt at the Pickwick Theatre. Those who came knew they were seeing something very special. Even the few patrons remaining in the library that night were wondering what was going on across the street. The line outside the box office continued to stretch down the block past 7 PM. It was a mixed crowd that included seniors (one of whom had seen the original release of the film), Baby Boomers, and younger people who made GWTW their date night. In fact, over 400 were $7 admissions (people under the age of 60). We are extremely grateful to all those who came out to support this show.

The following is a sample of some of the feedback that has been coming in since last Thursday:

I wanted to follow up with you on the presentation of GWTW on Thursday. The entrance foyer with the girls in period gowns generated an atmosphere of romantic antebellum elegance. People seemed to be truly excited that a great event was about to take place. My wife Jean and I were transfixed by the opulence of the sets and beauty of the Technicolor scenes. We waited patiently for years for the right time to see GWTW in the right kind of theatre and weren’t disappointed. You did a great job putting together the entire evening.


Ben and Jean

Program host Matthew Hoffman with movie hostess Allison…
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Elizabeth in a green velvet dress!
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Radio host Steve Darnall and his wife in the lobby…
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Elizabeth at the raffle table…
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The winner of our gift basket, Jennifer Barabas!
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Movie hostess Allison, host Matthew, raffle organizer Elizabeth, and ticket-taker Shannon…
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Gone With the Wind (1939): 75th Anniversary at the Pickwick Theatre!

WHAT: Gone With the Wind (1939): 75th anniversary film screening.
WHEN: December 4, 2014    7:00 PM (Doors will open at 6:00 PM)
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHO: Organist Jay Warren will perform prelude music between 6:30-7:00 PM.
“Those Were the Days” (90.9 FM) radio host Steve Darnall will be a special guest in the lobby before the show.
HOW MUCH: Admission is $7/$5 for seniors 60+
WHAT ELSE: We will raffle off a giant GWTW gift basket including the 75th anniversary blu-ray. (Raffle tickets are $1 each/5 for $4.)
We will also make an announcement about the second half of Season 2. We will resume in March 2015.
NOTE: There will be a 10+ minute intermission during the feature.
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Seventy-five years after its release, Gone With the Wind remains the most popular movie ever made. Although three directors worked on the production, GWTW was largely the result of one man’s vision: producer David O. Selznick. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell, this is Hollywood studio moviemaking at its zenith. Set against the epic backdrop of the American Civil War, the story follows the passions of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), a free-spirited Southern beauty captivated by two men: Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard), the gentleman she can’t have– and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), the roguish admirer whom she’ll eventually marry. When her Southern way of life begins to crumble, Scarlett fights to save her beloved Tara and forge her own destiny. A winner of eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture– as well as two honorary Oscars– GWTW is filled with images, in all their Technicolor glory, that have become indelible in popular culture. The supporting cast includes Olivia de Havilland as Melanie and Hattie McDaniel (Best Supporting Actress) as the housemaid Mammy. The instantly recognizable film score was composed by Max Steiner.

Though Gone With the Wind had a recent national release in late September, the Pickwick Theatre showing is the only one in the Chicago area that will honor the actual premiere (December 1939). Those who have patiently awaited our long-delayed screening will be rewarded when we present the film in a historic movie palace. Films like GWTW need to be seen in a theatre like the Pickwick– not in a little cineplex or, even worse, on a TV or tablet. Only the big screen can best capture scenes depicting the pageantry of the Old South– or the burning of Atlanta. If this is your first time seeing GWTW, then this is the only way to see it.

A great many view GWTW as the greatest motion picture ever made. Others see it as a 3 1/2 hour soap opera. But regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it is an undeniable must-see film. Whether it’s Vivien Leigh’s Academy Award-winning peformance or William Cameron Menzies’ unifying production design, there is something in it to be admired; the film is composed of grand elements. For these reasons, we proudly present this celebration of Gone With the Wind. We invite you to return with us to Tara for the conclusion of our “Films of 1939″ series.

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