10 Reasons To See The Searchers (at the Pickwick Theatre)

“After I had seen The Searchers a few times, it was completely fixed in my mind. The film was such a seminal and primal experience that I was absolutely convinced I had dreamed it, which was just right because that’s in keeping with the movie. It almost should be dreamed.” ~ John Milius, A Turning of the Earth: John Ford, John Wayne and The Searchers (1998)

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Instead of writing an essay on the actual making of The Searchers, I’ve organized a more personal listing of the reasons why patrons should come out and see the film for its 60th anniversary. For those fans who want to know more about the production of this great film, I highly recommend reading Glenn Frankel’s The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend or the excellent analysis in the BFI Film Classic Series: The Searchers by Edward Buscombe. Also, I’d suggest listening to the always insightful Peter Bogdanovich and his audio commentary which can be found on the dvd/blu-ray. As the series host, I’m excited about this screening because it’s the first John Ford/John Wayne film I’ve presented since I played a 16mm print of The Horse Soldiers at the old LaSalle Bank Theatre in Chicago. I couldn’t think of a better way to open our fourth season. The following points are written specifically for our screening at the Pickwick Theatre.

1) Lana Wood. We are fortunate to have with us someone who appeared in one of the greatest movies ever. Nothing is of more significant value to our film history series than to actually have a witness to–  and a first-hand account of– the making of The Searchers. In the film, Lana Wood played young Debbie Edwards, a character who is portrayed at a later point by her sister, Natalie Wood. Lana has worked with and known many stars in Hollywood; this goes well beyond the scope of the films she herself has appeared in. For our show, she will be sharing many stories with us onstage including her experience working with “The Duke.” This will be a once-in-a-lifetime event for the community, and we are extremely honored that Lana will be visiting us in Park Ridge. She will be meeting fans and signing autographs before and after the evening screening.

Lana Wood at age 9.
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2) Cinematography. Cameraman Winton C. Hoch photographed one of John Ford’s most stunning productions and helped give it a mythic scope. The film is a visual tour de force with Ford’s framing and use of natural settings. Hoch’s camera captures the grandeur of Ford’s Monument Valley, a sight even more spectacular in the VistaVision process of the 1950s. This widescreen format allowed for a greater depth of field with an exceptional clarity in the image. Few directors could match Ford’s sense of composition. By contrast, refer to a modern-day Western like The Hateful Eight, which used an outdoor, widescreen format to shoot what is essentially an indoor film. The 70mm presentation and showmanship may have been impressive, but next to John Ford, the content of the Quentin Tarantino film is more like epic horse manure. For the millenials who have grown up admiring the hip, fan boy aesthetics of certain contemporary filmmakers, they need to go back and study the true masters of the form like John Ford.

3) Big-Screen experience. Though nothing will ever compare to seeing this film in the 1950s in 35mm VistaVision, it is our understanding, based on other screenings around the country, that this digital restoration of The Searchers is one of the best you will ever see in the “DCP” format. We will take full advantage of the Pickwick’s main theatre with this presentation. This is not a film meant to be experienced on a computer or iPad. My first experience was seeing it on television as a kid, and though the story fascinated me, there was no way I could fully appreciate its pictorial majesty on television. The Searchers is rarely screened theatrically, and this will be a wonderful opportunity for people of all ages to see it the only way it should be seen.

4) John Wayne. Like the red sandstone towers depicted in the film, John Wayne himself was a monument, and only an epic canvas like VistaVision could adequately capture this Hollywood giant. The Duke gives his finest performance as Ethan Edwards, a role that shows a wide range of emotions. Hate, compassion, loneliness– it’s all there. Edwards is a complex character– not a caricature or political archetype. There is a truth and honesty in his characterization. You see it in his eyes. When we were promoting this screening at a recent car show in Park Ridge, only two people (out of 75) said they would skip the film because of John Wayne, or “Wayne’s politics.” Though some see Wayne as a fading symbol of heroism and out-of-fashion masculinity, there will always be a legion of John Wayne fans out there, myself included, no matter how much society changes. We hope they will saddle up and make the journey to Park Ridge.

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5) Jay Warren prelude music. There are fans who come to our shows just to hear Jay Warren perform pre-show music, and with good reason. Jay is one of the outstanding musical talents in the Chicagoland area. He is best-known for his musical accompaniment to silent film.  Jay returns as our guest organist to perform on the theatre’s original Mighty Wurlitzer organ. He will be playing themes from The Searchers as well as musical cues related to Lana Wood. (You want to hear what Diamonds Are Forever sounds like on an organ? Come on out!)

6) AFI 100. The inclusion of The Searchers is one instance where the American Film Institute got things right. The film’s reputation as a classic has grown over the decades. Besides its high ranking on the AFI’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies of All-Time (#12), The Searchers is also ranked #1 in the Western genre. The film has had a tremendous influence on such directors as Martin Scorsese (who named it his favorite). In other words, this is one film your need to see (in a theatre) in your lifetime. Listen to Scorsese. He won’t steer you wrong!

7) Scott Eyman contribution. John Ford/John Wayne biographer Scott Eyman was generous enough to take the time to send us a few written words of introduction. This will be included in our programs for the evening. NOTE: These programs will only be available for the evening screening– not for the 2 PM matinee.

John Ford
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8) The Story. Adapted from the novel by Alan LeMay and inspired by true events, the screenplay by Frank S. Nugent blended history and fiction into one of the most powerful Westerns of the era. The genre had evolved considerably over the years. Westerns, which had been a respected genre in the early years, had given way to the Poverty Row B-movies in the 1930s– “oaters,” as they were called. John Wayne knew this all too well as he had starred in dozens of B’s throughout the 1930s.  He might’ve remained in this open range purgatory if John Ford had not rescued him with Stagecoach in 1939. But throughout the 1940s and 1950s, with directors like Howard Hawks and Anthony Mann, the genre took on darker tones and shadings. The Searchers reflects this complexity with a protagonist who is a rabid racist. The psychological aspects of his character, however, were not immediately recognized at the time– Ethan’s mission to kill his niece who had turned “Comanch”– because ’50s audiences always thought of Wayne as the hero no matter what. Though Jeffrey Hunter is the true “hero” of the film, audiences nevertheless related to Wayne. Over the decades, critics and historians have made commentaries on the film’s impact and extrapolated upon its themes. Though racism against Native Americans is not a hot topic issue today, we can nevertheless project the film’s racist attitudes and prejudices onto our own society. That is the greatness of The Searchers, that it can resonate and speak to us now in 2016. It’s a film with a great deal of truth made by people who knew the West. The Indians in the film are not the Indians of modern Hollywood– the noble innocents of Dances With Wolves. The film shows the Comanches as brutal killers and abductors. Yet, it also depicts the horror they suffered in the wake of the Union troops. The scene of the dead Indians  in their devastated camp is brief, but by showing it Ford acknowledges the other side– the other viewpoint. Some fans have taken exception to the “side trips” in the story– the subplot involving the love triangle with Ken Curtis, Vera Miles, and Jeffrey Hunter. And some even find fault with Ford’s humor in general. (Roger Ebert wrote about the film as though apologizing for it, but then, Ebert was never a film historian.) There is certainly broad humor in the story– Ford no longer had Darryl Zanuck to rein him in as he had done at Fox– but all of this is as much a part of Ford’s universe as Monument Valley itself. Ford was all about family, tradition, and the frontier community, and his juxtaposition of humor with tragedy within this framework was not unlike scenes in Shakespeare. Like the Immortal Bard, Ford was a great storyteller, but he told his stories visually in a 20th century art form.

9) Max Steiner Score. Max Steiner, perhaps the greatest of all the studio composers, created one of his most memorable scores for The Searchers. If you appreciate film music–  and if you can find it– we highly recommend you pick up the soundtrack offered by Brigham Young University. This limited edition cd features a booklet with liner notes by James D’Arc, curator of the Max Steiner Papers at BYU. The recording is absolute gold. What you hear is the subtlety and nuance and the historical motifs of a hauntingly beautiful score.

10) October Show Announced. Unlike other venues, we don’t announce next month’s film until the day of the current show. In part, this is meant to build anticipation– to get people to come out and see what’s next. But we do it primarily because the season is always changing. If we can get a guest for such-and-such film in late spring, it would make sense to keep that month open. We’re always looking to put together the biggest and best shows we possibly can, so we don’t want to set anything in stone too early. We can say that our fourth annual “Halloween Horrorfest” will take place on October 27, 2016.

~MCH

The Searchers will be screened at 2 PM and 7 PM on September 15, 2016. Admission is $6 for the matinee (feature film only) and $10 ($8 advance) for the evening show.
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The Searchers: 60th Anniversary at the Pickwick Theatre

WHAT: The Searchers (1956) 60th anniversary screening (on DCP)
WHEN: September 15, 2016    7 PM (with a 2 PM matinee)
WHERE: Pickwick Theatre, Park Ridge, IL
WHO: Actress Lana Wood will be appearing in person at 7 PM
WHAT ELSE: Organist Jay Warren performs prelude music at 6:30 PM
We will also be passing out programs for the screening as well as announcing our October show.
(We will have a special written introduction prepared by John Ford/John Wayne biographer Scott Eyman.)
HOW MUCH: $10/$8 (advance); all seats $6 for the matinee screening (feature film only).

Join us this September as we open our fourth season of classic movies at the historic Pickwick Theatre. With us on Opening Night will be special guest Lana Wood, who played young Debbie Edwards in The Searchers. Lana is also a “Bond Girl,” having appeared as “Plenty O’Toole” in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. In addition to being a movie star, Lana has appeared in Playboy magazine and has starred on numerous television programs. She will discuss her role in The Searchers and will provide wonderful stories about John Wayne and the cast, including her sister, the legendary Natalie Wood. Lana will be signing autographs before and after the screening and will be interviewed onstage starting at 7PM. NOTE: The film itself will begin around 7:45 PM.

The Searchers is considered John Ford’s masterpiece, containing arguably John Wayne’s finest performance. The film is recognized as being one of the greatest movies of all time and is ranked #1 in the Western genre by the American Film Institute. This DCP restoration of the film is one of the most stunning you will ever find in the digital format, so we highly encourage everyone to take full advantage of this rare opportunity to see The Searchers on the big screen. Author Scott Eyman, an authority on John Ford who has written Print the Legend, will be contributing a special introduction which will be included in our programs for the evening.

September 15 marks the 35th anniversary (to the day) of the Pickwick Theatre under the current management of the Vlahakis Family. Join us as we celebrate past and present programming at the Pickwick Theatre!

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John Wayne’s Hometown

The Duke (1907-1979)
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John Wayne’s home.
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Since 2009, I’ve visited the hometowns of several Hollywood stars, including Fredric March, Irene Dunne, and Harold Lloyd. In each instance, I discovered a wonderful small town that shaped the person behind the image. In November 2015, I was able to stop in Winterset, Iowa, which is most famously known as John Wayne’s hometown.

The town of Winterset is located in Madison County, Iowa, which received a revival of interest with the publication of the 1992 novel The Bridges of Madison County.

John Wayne, who would go on to become a Western icon and the embodiment of American values, was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907. The family home is located at 224 South Second Street. When Marion was six years old, his father relocated the family to Southern California.

The following are some photos taken from that memorable visit to this all-American town.

~MCH

Entering Winterset, Iowa. The Madison County Court House.
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The front of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum.
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The bricks lining the walkway in front of the Museum.
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The birthplace is around the corner from the museum on the same block.
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A Century of Olivia

Happy Birthday to the last great star from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Miss Olivia de Havilland! Olivia turns 100 on July 1, 2016. No one in today’s Hollywood of ephemeral celebrities comes anywhere near Olivia’s class, talent, and stature. She is a living reminder of another time and place where movies were much different.

The Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series honored Olivia this past May with a screening of Captain Blood (1935). We were grateful to have Errol Flynn’s daughter, Rory Flynn, as a special guest. Rory shared with us a wonderful letter she had received from Olivia.

Olivia is best known for her roles in the Errol Flynn classics and for her two Oscar-winning performances in To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949). And, for an entire legion of fans, she will forever be remembered as Melanie in Gone With the Wind (1939).

Olivia de Havilland currently resides in Paris, France.

Vanity Fair recently published an article on Olivia which can be found here!

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As 2016 is also the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, we thought for our summer movie recommendation we’d offer A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935). This was Olivia’s screen debut– and one of the most beautiful productions to come out of Hollywood.

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Film 101: Color & Prints

With the Pickwick Theatre Classic Film Series,  I work with a large venue and large crowds, but one thing I miss about running the smaller LaSalle Theatre was working with actual film– and talking about film. Since those days of projecting 16mm and 35mm prints, most theatres in recent years have converted to digital projection. “DCP” (Digital Cinema Package) being the format that has replaced film. But it has not replaced the unique qualities of film itself. Images were not meant to be pixelated and uploaded into a computer. The properties of Technicolor, for instance, most certainly cannot be duplicated digitally. Sadly, with theatrical film exhibition receding into the past, the values and history of such terms as Technicolor have become lost on the new generation. Since I often say, “If we only had an IB Technicolor print of this title we would bring in twice as many people…” Whether that’s true now, I don’t know. But to answer some of the specific questions I’ve taken this season, I thought I’d elaborate in more detail.

Three-strip Technicolor is IB Technicolor. One and the same. “IB” stands for “Imbibition” indicating the use of dyes (cyan, magenta and yellow) on a single black strip of finished film (a matrix) from corresponding (three) camera negatives. After 1975, the word “Technicolor” was merely a copyright logo and saleable name in the industry; everything was actually processed on Eastman stock. Not that it made much difference by then. Full-blown, full-lit color photography was out; the kind of muted, shaded “noir” look was in. Everything started to look drained thereafter. All other studio systems, i.e., Metrocolor, Warnercolor, Pathe, etc., were all Eastman products. The absolute nadir was Deluxe, filled with pinks and purples over true reds and blues, and, interestingly, mostly associated with the Cinemascope process; the cost of wide-screen photography was offset by the inferior hues. Sort of pointless, really. As far as 16mm went, all those Warnercolor films of the early and mid-1950s were genuinely finished on Technicolor stock and consequently rather nice as projected.

I can’t exactly tell you how to spot a true Technicolor print; you just know it from experience. But Tech film stock is the “thickest,” naturally, due to the three layers of dyes, and the soundtrack is jet black as opposed to a bluish or purplish-ish track on an Eastman. The nice thing is, Techs were virtually vacuum-packed and, hence, fading is almost nil, even forty, fifty years later. Eastmans can literally fade to red in a matter of months. Of course, I’m talking about the “old days” before the low tolerance Japanese stocks that surfaced a few decades ago. There’s a CRI Technicolor standard stock (actually Kodak) that really captured most of the hues of the original Tech, except possibly for that unique “green” shading no one could touch. I suspect that A Matter of Life and Death was a CRI or just possibly a true Tech from England, in which case we all would relish a screening! The Biograph, pre-VCRs, used to annually run a Tech on The Adventures of Robin Hood which would knock your eyeballs for a loop; it was so sharp and rich you thought it was a 3-D print!

I can’t say for certain that some of the  Warner cartoons I played at the LaSalle Theatre were Tech. They could’ve been Kodak dupes. Generally speaking, most every major film photographed after 1935 was Technicolor, with an occasional foray into Cinecolor or Magnacolor or some similar 2-color Eastman process; up until maybe 1949 when Kodak refined a single strip process that was more feasible than the costly and mechanically-difficult Technicolor and the 3-pack camera set-up. You’ll notice a lot of films starting in the early ’50s carry a credit “Print by Technicolor” meaning they were shot in some form of Eastmancolor but processed onto a Tech release stock, and quite often the difference was almost undetectable due to improved raw celluloid. Though I’m not positive, I believe one of the last features shot in the 3 camera Tech negative way was Underwater in ’55, with Jane Russell, before they went to a ‘single-pack’ film in which the three colors were printed onto the single strip of stock in the camera via a prism.

I almost forgot about those eccentric-looking ‘Trucolor’ Westerns from Republic, a dual-color format showcasing snazzy ‘teal’ greens and ‘orange’ reds.

Another question I’ve been asked pertains to how new film prints are made or “struck” for replacement after old prints wear out. As previously mentioned, prints are no longer being struck for the commercial market, though some filmmakers still shoot on 35mm film. But generally, new prints of classic films would be made through institutions like the George Eastman House, or the Library of Congress, or the Museum of Modern Art, etc. But back in the day when all theatres projected film, the process went something like this: There were a number of avenues, which also accounts for the disparity in results. In a nutshell, we start with the original negative, that is, the camera negative. A positive “work print” is struck from the various reels. This is edited and acts as a blueprint for cutting the original negative. From there you can print all the ‘release’ positives wanted. ‘Protection’ copies of both the negative and positive can be created– duped– from these sources as safeguards. Film will naturally wear out the more times through the optical printer. Now, I’m talking the Golden Age when nitrate ruled. Decades pass. Film deteriorates. Nitrate was highly flammable and quick to decompose. Sometimes titles disappear forever in original form, negative or first positive. Protection prints, also known as ‘lavenders,’ may be the only existing source material. Enter acetate ‘safety’ film in 1949. Their biggest problem is shrinkage. Kodak introduced 16mm in 1923, mainly for amateur home movies. Hollywood product was first matched to 16mm around 1944, the popular format for rental libraries, later TV packages. Needless to say, a new ‘inner’ negative in the reduced gauge was struck from any available source, as close to the camera neg as possible. That shift in tone, light and dark, within a continuous strip is due to the lab not ‘timing’ the different edit cuts (like the same scene was broken up in two or three different photographic sessions). The reason some newer 16mms are ‘light’ struck, dupey, flat contrast, etc., is you might be working from a dupe reduction positive, or a duped 16mm from the only existing fine-grain positive. I can tell you, for example, there is no 35mm material on a Republic movie serial like Dick Tracy Vs. Crime, Inc. in existence. Lost, mis-catalogued, damaged, decomposition, whatever. Only fine-grain 16mm positives from which everything down the line is or will be struck. Obviously, the further away from the initial source, the lesser the quality. I don’t have to mention how this problem is magnified a million-fold in dealing with color stock. Improved stocks of today can yield marvelous representations of older prints, and with the advent of computer and digital technology, whole images can be erased, certainly cleaned up to near perfection. The bottom line, before digital, was how good was your best source material?

And what can you say about abnormal situations, like RKO selling off its entire library of some 755 titles, shipping the camera negs to South American labs, and forever altering the opening credits on many a classic by eliminating the tower trademark and relabeling everything a “C&C” film (with freeze frame titles) and doing the same with the endings. That was 1955 and there are still Radio pictures so disfigured. Ditto for a lot of Universals, like the Abbott & Costellos, taken over for reissue in the ’50s by Realart. Or the Columbias which emerged as “Screen Gems” product in TV packages. You’ll be unhappy to hear there is no 35 neg on Stagecoach for the most heinous reason imaginable: Wanger/UA sold the material to Masterpiece Imprints in the late ’40s and they cut up the camera neg to make new trailers! Most of your modern day print-offs were copied from the only 35mm positive around– from John Wayne’s collection– donated to USC.

~MCH

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 was a personal letter written from Olivia to Rory, 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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