Summer of Westerns, Disney and Silent Movies at Historic USO Bldg.

Free movies on alternating flex Wednesday nights (Wednesday before flex Friday) have become a popular mainstay at the Historic USO Building. Each series focuses on a theme, and resident movie authority and Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert Film Program Coordinator Nick Rogers introduces them.

Expanding on past success, this summer will bring multiple series at the new earlier starting time of 7 p.m. The Western series begins on May 22, with a Disney series starting on July 17.

A third series will celebrate the 100th anniversary of California’s long relationship with movie-making and the industry’s benefits to our state. HSUMD has announced the five-part Leonard B. Stern Classic Silents Series to run every other Tuesday — July 9 and 23, Aug. 6 and 20 and Sept. 3. The series is named in memory of a trailblazing pioneer of another of Hollywood’s influential entertainment industries, television.

Most people do not realize that cinema’s earliest giants did their work on the East Coast. Not until director Cecil B. DeMille headed west looking for spectacular scenery did California move toward assuming the lead. Most historians recognize DeMille’s “The Squaw Man” as the first feature-length film shot in Hollywood. DeMille rented a barn on Vine and Selma Streets and his cameras began rolling in December 1913.

Rogers, who will conduct an audience discussion after each film, proudly admits that the “movie bug” originally bit him back in grade school

“My sister and I would watch the movie matinee’ each afternoon. Frances Farmer, a headlining actress from the 1940s, talked about the day’s picture (occasionally starring her), the stars she knew and Hollywood in general. She added her personality, expertise and enthusiasm, made a lasting impression and left me wanting to know more.”

In college, required to take an art elective, Rogers chose “The Movies” where he discovered silent and later classics and with them, “the magic off sharing them as a communal experience.”

Today he has an extensive, ever-growing library and is “glued to Turner Classic Movies whenever possible. Robert Osborne, Ben Mankiewicz, and their guest hosts continue to teach me about the art form I love so much, and inspire me to share that with others. That’s why you’ll find me at Ridgecrest’s Historic USO Building hosting our movie nights.”

Popcorn, soda and now hot dogs will be available for sale. HSUMD is prohibited by contract from advertising the names of the movies, so the public is invited to call the Historic USO Building 760-375-8456, visit www.hsumd.org, or stop by 230 W. Ridgecrest Blvd. for schedules.

Story First Published: 2013-05-22