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Let's go to the movies

Silver Screen Classic Movies series enters 13th year
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Films may be the focus of the Silver Screen Classic Movies showings in Auburn, and well they should be. But it’s hard not to feel the deep-seated love of cinema at the monthly Auburn Library screenings that provides the foundation for a series that is soon to embark on its 13th year. Starting with her personal favorite “Casablanca,” Silver Screen founder Susan Rushton has provided local audiences a chance since the first full season in 1997 to discover and explore the classic artistry of filmmaking. It’s a journey of discovery for Rushton that goes back to childhood. That first magical moment etched on her memory took place with her parents and younger brother at a now-long-gone drive-in theater in south San Francisco watching Disney’s “Peter Pan.” Rushton, who serves as emcee at the Silver Screen’s monthly Saturday showings, said that love of classic cinema really grew during the times starting at age 9 or 10 when her mother would rouse her from sleep to watch the black-and-white images of a post-midnight TV screening of an old movie. Those back stories of first movie experiences are shared with others who help with the success of the series. Eileen Schuck, one of the Silver Screen volunteers, remembers the setting well for her first visit to a theater. Disney’s “Snow White,” or a movie she remembered was called “The Night Chicago Burned,” was probably on the screen. A check on the Internet showed no movie by that title but there was a 1938 film starring Don Ameche and Tyrone Power about the Chicago fire called “In Old Chicago.” “It showed the city burning and people running into Lake Michigan,” Schuck said. The setting for that initial movie moment was one of the four theaters in the upstate New York city of Courtland. Schuck and her family would make the drive from their country home 12 miles out and make the movie theater a part of a visit that also included shopping and the library. Juanita Stone, who provides the popcorn with Schuck for Silver Screen showings, had a little longer to go to get to Tulare’s ornate State Theater 30 miles away. Thet name of that first movie title is now a faded memory but Stone can still clearly see her childhood experiences during wartime as a cartoon, serial, newsreel and feature movie played out on the screen in front of her. “It was a beautiful theater,” she recalled. “When we went to the movies, she would take rationing coupons and trade ones for butter for cigarettes for my dad.” With underwriting from Placer County Library Services and strong support from Library Services Director Mark Parker, Silver Screen has switched to free admission. Rushton said that has meant a welcome uptick in the number of people attending. With the new demand for the classics, Silver Screen is moving to three shows instead of two. Starting in January, the new schedule will have showings at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Beecher Room is located at the Auburn Library, 350 Nevada St. in Auburn. Over the last couple of years, more movies have been shown in their digital format but some will continue to be the celluloid version, complete with the whir of the projector. “I’d prefer to keep movies on 16 mm but if the DVD is the only way to show the movies then we’ll screen them,” Rushton said. And while many of the movies are on DVD and can be shown, Rushton said there’s something special – “a sense of occasion” – about a room filled with people laughing and sometimes crying along with classic films that have been evoking similar emotions for generations of movie-goers. More information is available by visiting auburnsilverscreen.com or phoning (530) 878-7938. ---------- Auburn’s silver screenings The new 2009 season of Silver Screen Classic Movies offers Auburn a chance to delve into a broad range of Hollywood’s best and brightest – in terms of both filmmaking and acting: • For sheer story-telling power, it’s hard to move beyond Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece “Citizen Kane” (Dec. 5, next year). • Political messages don’t get any stronger than the powerful anti-lynching Western “The Oxbow Incident” (Oct. 3) from 1943. • Theater junkies can relish “Private Lives” (Sept. 5), a classic English drawing-room comedy penned by Noel Coward and brought to the screen in 1931. • “Stalag 17” (June 6) teams a great actor in his prime (William Holden) with a gritty World War II prisoner-of-war camp drama from 1953 and a great director in his prime, Billy Wilder. • 1940’s “I Love You Again” (July 11) gives Auburn audiences an opportunity to see the unmatched onscreen comic chemistry of William Powell and Myrna Loy. It’s one of 14 movies they made together. • Courtroom drama fans will be hard-pressed to discover anything finer than 1957’s “Witness for the Prosecution” (Aug. 1). Imagine Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich teaming up for a trial film. • Overlooked gems are a trademark of Silver Screen showings. How about Judy Garland taking a non-musical turn around New York City in 1945’s “The Clock” (May 2)? • Musicals and Broadway and the magic of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire, oh my! “The Band Wagon” (Nov. 7) will have the Beecher Room swinging to the beat as only a high-gloss 1950s musical can do. • “The Killers” (April 4) will give the shadows-and-window-blind set a 1946 film noir fix, with Burt Lancaster dealing with Ava Gardner and the mob. • Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” (March 7) is arguably his best work. From 1931, with The Little Tramp’s own original score. Nuff said. • “Dodsworth” (Feb. 7) allows moviegoers to see one of the classic novels of the 20th century adapted onscreen. The 1936 film is a dramatization of the Sinclair Lewis book. He was the first American writer to win the Nobel Prize. • Originals aplenty in Jan. 3’s “The Women.” This past year’s remake was a pale shadow of this 1939 romp. You can’t get much more original than Joan Crawford. Or Norma Shearer. Or Rosalind Russell. They’re all in on this one and much larger than life. – Gus Thomson