In the Audience: Just listen to this!

In the Audience: Just listen to this!By NICK ROGERS

As host to local film buffs every flex Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Historic USO Building. I love to come up with fresh, new ways to “package” films from Hollywood’s Golden Age for the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert’s Classic Movie Night series. Looking at films from various perspectives keeps them new and exciting. So, it is with great pleasure that I will be teaming up with local author and historian, Liz Babcock to present a new film series that will tie neatly and entertainingly into her latest (she has many!) literary endeavor, “Tales from the Owl Saloon—Hollywood, Red Mountain and Beyond,” and to her famous subject: Hollywood soundman and local celebrity, Lodge Cunningham.

He is an important part of our valley’s colorful history, and you are going to learn a lot more about him in my latest HSUMD film series, “Sounds Great!... the Films of Hollywood Soundman Lodge Cunningham” premiering April 5 and continuing April 19 and May 5. There’s a real good chance that you may have “heard” his work in a variety of classic films and beloved television shows. So, read on!

Lodge Cunningham was a bright Midwesterner who possessed a strong aptitude for all things technical. Despite having achieved only an eighth grade education, Lodge had a natural affinity for technology and invention. After moving to Hollywood, he pioneered the “sound on film” production, and worked as a sound mixer for short and feature-length films. He developed the technique to fade-out of a scene in a movie that overlaps seamlessly with a fade-in of a new scene.

In 1927, an eccentric millionaire chose him to add sound to his costly silent war epic, “Hell’s Angels.” The success of the film propelled Lodge into a steady career of film projects. A stand out achievement was the 1939 screwball classic “His Girl Friday.”

In 1954, a stint with the U.S. State Department gave Lodge Cunningham the chance to travel to Indonesia, where he met and fell in love with Dutch-born Alida Richter. While in that country, he managed to film home movies that showed the people, the temples, and other sites of the lush countryside. These movies would surface in the next phase of Lodge Cunningham’s life.

Returning home, the quest for new adventures took him to Red Mountain, California where he and his wife, Alida started a new life by purchasing the old Owl Saloon in 1956, renovating it and turning it into a first class Indonesian restaurant that would attract customers from all over the country. The eatery was profiled in magazines and television programs.

The HSUMD invites movie fanatics and history buffs to this very special film series. Liz Babcock will have plenty of fascinating history and entertaining anecdotes, from her book, “Tales from the Owl Saloon—Hollywood, Red Mountain and Beyond,” to share about this intriguing personality. There will be many pieces of memorabilia, provided by Lyle Gregory, for guests to view in the Historic USO Building lobby. Liz’s books will all be on sale at the Gift Shop during each of the film presentations, and I am sure she may be persuaded to autograph them!

There is no admission charge for the films, but donations are certainly welcomed. The thrifty Snack Bar will be open at 6:30 p.m. for hungry patrons, and the program begins at 7. For film titles, call 760-375-8456 or stop in for a new schedule.

Story First Published: 2017-03-31