Movie night, Saturday April 24th

On April 24 at 8 pm Eastern (US), film fans will once again gather for Saturday Night at the Movies employing the services of Amazon Prime’s Watch Party function.  Our last Saturday Night at the Movies joined nine of us together for the exemplary Caged starring Academy Award nominee Eleanor Parker and a cast of superb women actors including Hope Emerson as the cruel matron of a women’s prison. After we watched the movie, using the chat function to comment in real time, we convened via Zoom for a richer, “in person” discussion that lasted for almost an hour.
Susanne Hand, David Kinsey’s spouse, suggested that we move away from noir and perhaps enter into the world of Preston Sturges, one of America’s great writer-directors of comedy.  Et voila, we are! You would know of Sturges if you were a regular attendee of the Dartmouth Film Society.  Or if you were a devoted fan of great classic American film.  Sturges’s most famous movies are Sullivan’s Travels and The Lady Eve, the latter starring Henry Fonda and the greatest film actress (ever!), Barbara Stanwyck.   We will be watching Hail the Conquering Hero, starring Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, and William Demarest.  I believe it to be Sturges’s greatest.
This is a very funny film and contains all the hallmarks of Sturges sensibility.  It helps to know that Sturges was born to a Chicago banker father and a Bohemian mother who dropped little Preston in l’ecoles across Europe while mom performed the functions of an acolyte to dancer Isadora Duncan.  That mixture of American humor (Capra), European sophistication (Lubitsch), and slapstick (Keaton) marks Sturges as unique.  He started off in the entertainment business as a playwright, then moved to Hollywood and wrote a host of scripts including two for comedies that Mitch Leisen directed, Remember the Night and Easy Living.  Sturges finally got a crack at writing and directing his own films.  He started with The Great McGinty, and embarked on an amazing streak of hits including Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, (possibly the most sacrilegious film this side of Viridiana) and ending with Unfaithfully Yours.
If you want a taste of one of the most famous of Sturges’s scenes from Hail the Conquering Hero, the cacophony from multiple bands playing at the railroad station to greet the returning “hero” of the title, you may want to listen on YouTube to composer Charles Ives’s The Fourth of July, only about six minutes long.  If you like Ives, perhaps you may want to delve further and listen to his Second Symphony, also available on YouTube as conducted by Leonard Bernstein, which makes use of “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” along with “Turkey in the Straw,” “Bringing in the Sheaves,” and “Where, Oh Where, Are the Pea-Green Freshman?”  Yes, that song!
But you needn’t do any preparation to have a ball watching Hail the Conquering Hero on Saturday night, April 24, at 8 pm Eastern (US).  You do need a US Amazon Prime account, and a browser other than Safari on a desk top or lap top computer (no smart phone or tablet allowed).  You will also have to pay $3.99 to Amazon for the rental of the film.  And we will have a post-screening Zoom discussion.
Please let me know at by close of business the night before, Friday, April 23, if you want to join us.  Last time participants included Chip Elitzer, Nanalee Raphael, Sandy Rode, Allen Denison, Ben Marchello, Brian O’Connor, Tex Talmadge, Ted Adams, and yours truly.
See you all soon!
Arthur Fergenson