BLACKfilm series begins

In the Audience

By NICK ROGERS, HSUMD

Happy New Year, good neighbors! It’s hard to believe that the HSUMD Classic Movie Night is entering its 11th year of the presentation of feature films in our beautiful Historic USO Building. Watching these classic films in a communal setting, on a large screen with four-channel stereo gives viewing enjoyment not equaled on home television sets. The shared vibes of the members of the audience makes film viewing so special.

And, speaking of special, we are very proud to be presenting our first Black History Month film series, “BLACKfilm,” beginning on Wednesday, Jan. 8, and running through Feb. 19. Four outstanding films commemorating the struggles and triumphs of African Americans are not to be missed!

Our premier film in the series is Director Douglas Sirk’s final masterpiece, a 1959 remake of a 1934 production that was based on a popular novel by Fannie Hurst and starred Claudette Colbert. Lana Turner is the lead in the wildly popular second version, and it couldn’t have come at a better time in her life. Having just weathered the tragic death of her mobster lover at the hands of her daughter, attempting to rescue her mother from bodily injury during a heated argument with her lover, she faced the possible end of her long film career. But producer Ross Hunter just knew this role would garner public sentiment and would ultimately become a jewel in her film crown. And was he right! She acted one of her signature roles, and the film would go on to be Universal Pictures’ biggest 1959 hit.

But, this version differs significantly form the 1934 film. In the earlier version, Claudette Colbert rises from her impoverished conditions, widowed with a young daughter, through the marketing of a pancake mix formulated by her friend, a homeless black mother of a near-white child — a little girl who found great emotional distress with her racial condition.

The updated film version has Lana Turner as an aspiring actress who befriends a homeless black woman at Coney Island. The couple eventually shares a tiny apartment and the common bond of raising daughters, both of which are intolerable. Sarah Jane, the black child who is light-skinned, matures into a teenager who passes for white in public and suffers much heartache and shame.

The drama of Annie, the black woman who is rejected by her daughter in a time when the color of people was a watershed is utterly heartbreaking. It presented audiences with the division in the American society between black and white people. Poignant and often disturbing, this was a truly riveting film for its time…and it still is.

You definitely will not want to miss our Jan. 19 presentation of one of the most beloved films in recent history. Gregory Peck won a much-deserved Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of lawyer Atticus Finch sworn to defend a young black man falsely accused of the rape of a white girl in a small southern town. Harper Lee’s famous novel was brilliantly brought to the screen in 1962 by Director Robert Mulligan and struck a nerve with film audiences. It remains a much-revered classic to this day.

The films screen on flex Wednesdays at 7 p.m., with our thrifty snack bar opening at 6:30 p.m. As always, admission is a much-appreciated donation only. For film titles, please call 760-375-8456 Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or stop by for a current film schedule.

Movies bring us together!

Story First Published: 2020-01-03