In the Audience: Fasten your seatbelts, we get a bonus movie

In the Audience: Fasten your seatbelts, we get a bonus movieBy NICK ROGERS

Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. So, you try to do that lemon into lemonade thingy! In this case, the current Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert Classic Movie Night series, “Of Epic Proportions: Classic Hollywood Film Spectacles” was scheduled to wrap last Wednesday evening, March 8, with a new series to follow that will tie in with local author and historian Liz Babcock’s latest literary endeavor, “Tales From the Owl Saloon: Hollywood, Red Mountain, and Beyond.”

Well, unforeseen circumstances have delayed the arrival of Liz’s book. So, we are going to add a bonus feature to our “EPIC” series. Starting in April, we will be celebrating Liz’s book with three classic films that are very closely tied to the book’s subject: Lodge Cunningham. And, lucky for us, Liz Babcock will be on hand for all three films to discuss her new book and the fascinating Mr. Cunningham.

Now you may be asking: who is Lodge Cunningham? Well, I am glad you asked. It’s a likely probability that you have seen and heard his work in such classic Hollywood films as “Hell’s Angels,” “His Girl Friday,” and “From Here to Eternity,” along with beloved television shows “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Green Acres.” Lodge was a very bright Midwesterner who possessed a strong aptitude for all things technical, a handy talent that put him onto the ground floor of the burgeoning sound development of motion pictures in the mid-twenties.

After many years of applying his considerable talents to numerous motion pictures, mostly for Columbia Studios, and before his contributions to the Golden Age of Television, Lodge and his second wife, Alita, whom he met in Indonesia, eventually settled into the Red Mountain area of our valley and purchased the famous Red Owl Saloon. Now, we have to say “to be continued” until next month when the next film series, shall we call it “Sounds Great: the Genius of Film Soundman Lodge Cunningham,” premiers on Wednesday, April 5, including coverage of Cunningham’s ground-breaking work in Howard Hughes’ historic World War I airplane epic (featuring a new blond beauty starlet, Jean Harlow).

Now, fasten your seat belts for film No. 5 in the “Epic” series, a film that was originally scheduled for February 22, but mysteriously vanished from our film collection. But alas, a copy of the missing film has since turned up, courtesy of HSUMD’s Andrew Sound. So, on Wednesday, March 22, please join us for the “great Grand Daddy” of those lavish disaster films, so popular in the 1970’s. Based on Arthur Haley’s best-selling novel, Universal Studios opened up the corporate wallets for a blockbuster production of Haley’s story, featuring an “epic” cast, indeed: Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton, Lloyd Nolan, and Helen Hayes in a touching, comic role that won her a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1970.

The lavish sets, costuming, and state of the art special effects (for that time), along with a very fine script and character development, kept movie goers riveted to their seats. (No seat belts were needed!) The gigantic popularity of this film (nominated for 10 Oscars®) spurred the production of all kinds of cinematic disasters i.e. “The Poseidon Adventure” (luxury cruise ship), “The Towering Inferno” (skyscraper fire), “Earthquake” (L.A. gets it!), “Rollercoaster” (amusement park gone mad!) and several additional airplane mishaps.

You can view this “airplane-in-peril” classic in the safety of the Historic USO Building on Wednesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. The famous “terminal lounge” (The Snack Bar) will be serving a large selection of taste treats and refreshments…at very affordable prices. Admission is, as always, is a most appreciated $2 donation to keep our terminal in great shape. Please call the HSUMD at 760-375-8456 for film titles, and stop in soon for a new film schedule.

See you for one more EPIC adventure!

Story First Published: 2017-03-17