Outdoor movie series in the Railyard's Cube features Nebraskans in the cinema
Over the years, many Nebraskans have played prominent roles in the Hollywood film industry as well as in many other aspects of the cinema.
Showing on Wednesdays through Aug. 13, “Nebraskans in the Cinema at The Cube” is a short series of movies intended to illustrate in part just how important Nebraskans have been to the history of the cinema that should be fun for young and old alike.
Sponsored by Union Bank, and cosponsored by the Friends of The Ross and the Railyard, the series features six movies starring and produced by important ex-Nebraskans: Fred Astaire dancing in Swing Time, Henry Fonda starring in The Grapes of Wrath produced by Daryl F. Zanuck, Dorothy McGuire in Old Yeller, and Sandy Dennis in Up the Down Staircase.
These are only six out of many, many other movies and actors, etc. that could comprise such a series. We hope to present more in the future. Following are the movies with synopses, dates and times, and brief biographies of the Nebraskans involved.
“NEBRASKANS IN THE CINEMA” AT THE CUBE IN THE RAILYARD ON CANOPY STREET
Sponsored by Union Bank & Trust.
Co-sponsored by the Friends of The Ross & The Railyard.
All screenings begin at 7 p.m. Opening with Looney Tunes Cartoons. Free admission.
Wednesday, July 9
SWING TIMEstarring Fred Astaire (1936, B&W, 103 minutes, Unrated)
Showing with Looney Tunes "Duck Dodgers in the 24th Century" & "Bad Ol’ Putty Tat."
Swing Time is another winner for the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers combo. It’s smart, modern, and impressive in every respect, from its boy-loses-girl background to its tunefulness, dancipation, production quality and general high standards.—Variety.
The sixth of RKO's Fred Astaire -Ginger Rogers pairings of the 1930s, Swing Time starts off with bandleader Astaire getting cold feet on his wedding day. Astaire's bride-to-be Betty Furness will give him a second chance, providing he proves himself responsible enough to earn $25,000. Astaire naturally tries to avoid earning that amount once he falls in love with dance instructor Ginger Rogers. Numerous complications ensue, leading to the “second time's the charm” climax, with Ginger escaping her own wedding to wealthy Georges Metaxa in order to be reunited with Astaire. The film's most indelible image is that of Fred Astaire, immaculately attired in top hat and tails, hopping a freight car--a perfect encapsulation of the film's Depression-era cheekiness. The Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields score includes such standards-to-be as “Pick Yourself Up,” “A Fine Romance,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Never Gonna Dance” and “Bojangles of Harlem” The peerless supporting cast of Swing Time includes Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Eric Blore, and Landers Stevens, the actor-father of the film's director, George Stevens. —Hal Erickson, Rovi.
Wednesday, July 16
The Grapes of Wrathstarring Henry Fonda and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck
(1940, B&W, 129 minutes, Unrated)
Showing with Looney Tunes "Duck Amuck" & "For Scent-Immental Reasons."
A potent drama that is as socially important today as when it was made, The Grapes of Wrath is affecting, moving, and deservedly considered an American classic.
The adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of dirt-poor Dust Bowl migrants by 4-time Oscar-winning director John Ford starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, who opens the movie returning to his Oklahoma home after serving jail time for manslaughter. En route, Tom meets family friend Casey (John Carradine), a former preacher who warns Tom that dust storms, crop failures, and new agricultural methods have financially decimated the once prosperous Oklahoma farmland. Upon returning to his family farm, Tom is greeted by his mother (Oscar-winner Jane Darwell), who tells him that the family is packing up for the “promised land” of California. Warned that they shouldn't expect a warm welcome in California--they've already seen the caravan of dispirited farmers, heading back home after striking out at finding work--the Joads push on all the same. Their first stop is a wretched migrant camp, full of starving children and surrounded by armed guards. Further down the road, the Joads drive into an idyllic government camp, with clean lodging, indoor plumbing, and a self-governing clientele. When Tom ultimately bids goodbye to his mother, who asks him where he'll go, he delivers the film's most famous speech: “I'll be all around...Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat...Whenever there's a cop beating a guy, I'll be there...And when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build. I'll be there too.”—Hal Erickson, Rovi.
Wednesday, July 23
OLD YELLER starring Dorothy McGuire
(1957, 83 minutes, Color, Rated “G”)
Showing with Looney Tunes "Rabbit of Seville" & "One Froggy Evening."
Disney organization’s flair for taking a homely subject and building a heartwarming film is again aptly demonstrated in this moving story set in 1869 of a Texas frontier family and an old yeller dog. Based on Fred Gipson’s novel of same tag, this is a careful blending of fun, laughter, love, adventure and tragedy.—Variety.
Based on the novel by Fred Gipson, Old Yeller is set in Texas in 1869. While his father is away on a cattle drive, 15-year-old Travis Coates (Tommy Kirk) takes over management of the family farm. Adopting a “strictly business” policy, Travis is irritated when younger brother, Arliss (Kevin Corcoran), adopts a frisky stray dog. But soon Travis is as fond of the dog as everyone else in the family; moreover, Old Yeller is an excellent watchdog. But while fighting off a mad wolf, Yeller is infected with rabies. Though Yeller seems unaffected at first, he eventually behaves so viciously that the disheartened Travis has no choice but to shoot the dog. A heart-to-heart talk between Travis and his returning father (Fess Parker), coupled with the adoption of a new pup, paves the way to an emotional but reasonably happy ending. Earning eight million dollars domestically on its first release, Old Yeller convinced Walt Disney to devote more and more time to live-action films and less time to animation -- which at the time was a sagacious business move. In 1963, Disney released a lesser sequel to Old Yeller titled Savage Sam.—Hal Erickson, Rovi.
Wednesday, July 30
UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE starring Sandy Dennis
(1967, 124 minutes, Color, Unrated).
Showing with Looney Tunes "What’s Opera Doc?" & "Fast and Furryous."
Based on the novel of the same title by Bel Kaufman, 'Up the Down Staircase' concerns troubles of a beginning teacher in a tough city high school. And it is very good, almost in spite of itself.—Variety.
“We need more American films like ‘Up the Down Staircase.’ We need more films that might be concerned, even remotely, with real experiences that might once have happened to real people. And we need more actresses like Sandy Dennis, who looks as if she may be alive and not a plastic robot turned out by the little elves who constructed Doris Day and Sandra Dee. Here, at last, is a film made in America by Americans in which no one is murdered by a cigarette lighter.
“The film's setting is Calvin Coolidge High School, one of those vast blocks of stone and brick in which our cities educate 3,000 students at a shot. Coolidge High is apparently located somewhere in a low income, racially mixed New York neighborhood, and it is a "problem" school. That makes it bait for an idealistic naive new teacher who wants to “expand vistas…”.
“Here is an honest film about one aspect of life as it is lived in our large cities. The school and the students come through with unmistakable authenticity. The camera is alert but not obtrusive, allowing the classroom to emerge spontaneously and not through stagy tricks, and everything is brought together by Miss Dennis' quiet, natural, splendid performance.”—Roger Ebert, July 25, 1967, RogerEbert.com.
NEBRASKANS IN THE CINEMA AT THE CUBE BIOGRAPHIES
The son of an Austrian immigrant, born in Omaha, Nebraska, Fred Astaire entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele Astaire. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood. Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady (1933) before starting work on RKO's Flying Down to Rio (1933). In the latter film, he began his highly successful partnership with Ginger Rogers, with whom he danced in 9 RKO pictures. Astaire is usually remembered for his pairings with Ginger Rogers, who starred in several films with him, including Swing Time (1936). During these years, he was also active in recording and radio. On film, Astaire later appeared opposite a number of partners through various studios. After a temporary retirement in 1945-7, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, Astaire returned to film to star in more musicals through 1957. He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV..
Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, Henry Fonda started his acting debut with the Omaha Community Playhouse, a local amateur theater troupe directed by Dorothy Brando (Marlon’s mother). He moved to the Cape Cod University Players and later Broadway, New York to expand his theatrical career from 1926 to 1934. His first major roles in Broadway include “New Faces of America” and “The Farmer Takes a Wife.” The latter play was transferred to the screen in 1935 and became the start-up of Fonda's lifelong Hollywood career. The following year he married Frances Seymour Fonda with whom he had two children: Jane and Peter Fonda also to become screen stars. He is most remembered for his roles as Abe Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), for which he received an Academy Award Nomination, and more recently, Norman Thayer in On Golden Pond (1981), for which he received an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1982. Henry Fonda is considered one of Hollywood's old-time legends and was friend and contemporary of James Stewart, John Ford, and Joshua Logan. His movie career which spanned almost 50 years is completed by a notable presence in American theater and television.
DARRYL F. ZANUCK:
One of the kingpins of Hollywood's studio system, Zanuck was the offspring of the ill-fated marriage of the alcoholic night clerk in Wahoo, Nebraska's only hotel and the hotel owner's promiscuous daughter. Both parents had abandoned him by the time he was 13. At 15, he joined the U.S. Army, and he fought in Belgium in World War I. Mustered out, he kept himself alive with a series of desultory jobs -- steelworker, foreman in a garment factory, professional boxer -- while pursuing a career as a writer. He turned his first published story (for "Physical Culture, " a pulp magazine) into a film scenario for William Russell; his next important sale was to Irving Thalberg..
Although often described as barely literate, Zanuck turned out to have a prodigious knack for movie plots. After a well-paid apprenticeship with Mack Sennett, Syd Chaplin and Carl Laemmle, Zanuck hit his stride by devising (with Malcolm St. Clair) the Rin Tin Tin series of police-dog movies for Warner Brothers. For Warner, under his own name and three pseudonyms, he ground out as many as 19 scripts a year and became head of production at age 23. He helped forge that studio's style with such films as The Jazz Singer (1927), The Public Enemy (1931) and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)..
In 1933, after the Warners made it clear that Zanuck would never be more than an employee, he quit to form Twentieth Century Films (with backing from Louis B. Mayer and Joseph M. Schenck). In 1935, Twentieth absorbed a bankrupt giant, Fox, to become Twentieth Century Fox. Zanuck ruled the combined studio for decades. He became known as the most “hands-on” of the major studio bosses, taking particular pride in his talent for remaking movies in the cutting room. His signature productions were such sentimental, content-laden dramas as How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), and Twelve O'Clock High (1949)..
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, the only child of Thomas and Isabelle (née Trapp) McGuire, she began her acting career on the stage at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Eventually, she reached Broadway, first appearing as an understudy to Martha Scott in Our Town, and subsequently starring in the domestic comedy, Claudia.
Brought to Hollywood by producer David O. Selznick on the strength of her stage performance, McGuire starred in her first film, a movie adaptation of her Broadway success, Claudia, and portrayed the character of a child bride who almost destroys her marriage through her selfishness. Her inaugural screen performance was popular with both the public and critics alike and was the catalyst for not only a sequel, Claudia and David (both movies co-starring Robert Young), but also for numerous other film roles..
By 1945, at the age of 29, she was already playing mother roles, in such movies as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1947 for Gentleman's Agreement. Other notable films include The Enchanted Cottage, A Summer Place, Three Coins in the Fountain, Friendly Persuasion, Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs..
McGuire had a long Hollywood career. Her versatility served her well in taut melodramas, such as The Spiral Staircase and Make Haste to Live, as well as in light, frothy comedies, such as Mother Didn't Tell Me and Mister 880.
Dennis was born in Hastings, Nebraska, the daughter of Yvonne (née Hudson), a secretary, and Jack Dennis, a postal clerk. She had a brother, Frank. Dennis grew up in Kenesaw, Nebraska and Lincoln, Nebraska, graduating from Lincoln High School (Lincoln, Nebraska) in 1955. She attended Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska, appearing in the Lincoln Community Theater Group before moving to New York City at the age of 19..
Dennis made her television debut in 1956 in The Guiding Light. In 1963, she appeared in the The Fugitive, which starred David Janssen (also from Nebraska), in the episode "The Other Side of the Mountain." In 1964, she appeared in the television episode "Don't Mention My Name in Sheboygan" of Craig Stevens's CBS drama, Mr. Broadway. Her film debut was the role of Kay in Splendor in the Grass (1961). However, she was more committed to following a career in the theater. She won consecutive Tony Awards for her performances in A Thousand Clowns (1963) and Any Wednesday (1964). She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Honey, the fragile, neurotic young wife of George Segal, in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). She followed this with well-received performances in Up the Down Staircase (1967), The Fox (1967), Sweet November (1968) and The Out-of-Towners (1970)..
In 1963, she appeared in the "Naked City" episode "Carrier", as the bearer of a rare disease.
In 1974 she played Joan of Arc in the pilot of Witness to Yesterday, Canadian Patrick Watson's series of interviews with great figures out of the past.
In 1967 she was voted the 18th biggest star in the US.
A life member of The Actors Studio and an advocate of method acting, Dennis was often described as neurotic and mannered in her performances; her signature style included running words together and oddly stopping and starting sentences, suddenly going up and down octaves as she spoke, and fluttering her hands. Walter Kerr famously remarked that she treated sentences as “weak, injured things” that needed to be slowly helped “across the street”; Pauline Kael said that she “has made an acting style of postnasal drip.” Nonetheless, William Goldman, in his book The Season, referred to her as a quintessential “critics' darling” who got rave reviews no matter how unusual her acting and questionable her choice of material. During her stint in Any Wednesday, Kerr said the following: “Let me tell you about Sandy Dennis. There should be one in every home.”.
Sandy Dennis, along with Anne Bancroft, Zoe Caldwell, Viola Davis, Colleen Dewhurst, Maureen Stapleton and Irene Worth are the only women who have won Tony Awards for both Best Actress in a Play and Best Featured Actress in a Play.
Her last significant film roles were in Alan Alda's The Four Seasons (1981) and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). In 1991, she played a leading role in the film The Indian Runner, which marked Sean Penn's debut as a film director.
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