Brenda Loew, President of the New England Vintage Film Society, currently offers the following 1-hour presentations, summarized below. Contact Brenda for dates, fees, travel arrangements and availability.
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WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy’s First Film Together
Sixty-four years ago, at the height of WWII and before television, the movie “Woman of the Year” was released. As was typical in the era of radio, people in the film connect with each other through a lot of dialogue and detailed communication. And communication is how the battle of the sexes begins! Spencer Tracy (Sam) and Katherine Hepburn (Tess) are columnists for the same newspaper: he’s a sports columnist and she’s an international affairs columnist. Classic components of American life are depicted, and romance blooms in the workplace. We’ll discuss the meaning of family, romance, sexual politics, and traditional versus modern male and female roles, as inspired by this film. We’ll view a few scenes for the purposes of discussion and example, but encourage you to enjoy the whole film in advance.
BOOM TOWN: Wildcatting for oil– then and now.
Oil is essential to our economy and fuels the civilized world. In the 1860′s, before the rise of major oil companies, oil was used as a disinfectant, a vermin killer and a cure for kidney stones. Wildcat oilmen drilled for oil in unproven, unexplored locations. Until 1970, The United States produced sufficient oil to supply the nation’s own demand. By 1973, the major oil companies had lost control to Middle East countries. In 1977, the United States imported almost one-half of the oil it consumed, making our economy and the supply and price of oil dependent on an international cartel. The high price of oil together with the desire to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, has sparked renewed interest in drilling for oil in the continental United States by wildcat oilmen. We’ll discuss the meaning of wildcatting, as inspired by the 1940 film Boom Town starring Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. We’ll view a few scenes for the purposes of discussion and example, but encourage you to enjoy the whole film in advance.
THE LAST HURRAH: Let’s Play the Game of Politics
In Boston today, political tensions no longer exist between Irish Roman Catholics and Brahmin Protestants. Instead, differences of opinion flare up amongst Democrats and Republicans, liberals, conservatives, the politically-correct crowd and special interest groups. Adapted from Edwin O’Connor’s novel loosely based on the life of notorious Boston Mayor James Michael Curley, director John Ford’s 1958 classic movie, The Last Hurrah, offers a gripping view of political machinery that pitted ethnic hatred and old-time money against poor immigrant urban slum dwellers. The Last Hurrah is set against the political twilight of four-term Mayor Frank Skeffington — played by legendary, two-time Academy Award winner, Spencer Tracy — and the emerging post World War II youth culture of the 1950s when TV started to play a role in influencing election outcomes. We’ll view some scenes to examine the good and evil inherent in politics, political campaigns and the components that go into winning and/or losing an election. When The Last Hurrah had its World Premiere in Boston, James Michael Curley considered the film an invasion of privacy and attempted, unsuccessfully, to get the movie banned in Boston. The Last Hurrah was named one of the best films of 1958 by the National Board of Review Awards. We encourage you to enjoy The Last Hurrah in advance of the workshop and come prepared to talk the game of politics.
THE ACTRESS: Women and Film
Many role models, events and circumstances shape a young girl’s transition from adolescence into adulthood, including parents and friends, economic, educational and career opportunities and mentors. Set in Boston and Quincy (Wollaston), the 1953 award-winning film, The Actress, depicts the transformation of a conflicted teenager to maturity when seventeen-year old Ruth Gordon Jones becomes obsessed with acting on the stage after seeing a performance in 1913 by Hazel Dawn at the Colonial Theatre in Boston. We’ll discuss and view scenes from The Actress which stars Jean Simmons in the autobiographical role of Ruth Gordon, the Academy-award winning actress and writer best known for her roles in Inside Daisy Clover (1966), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Harold and Maude (1972) and collaborations on the screenplays for the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy films, Adam’s Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952).
On the surface, this obscure 1937 MGM melodrama tells the simple story of a young, struggling married couple in love during New York’s taxi wars of the 1930‘s. But on a deeper level, unfair city officials — looking for a scapegoat to pin an alleged gangland bombing on — plan to deport Anna, the pregnant foreign wife of independent American cabbie Joe Benton, back to Russia. Joe and his loyal taxi friends tenaciously fight back against racketeering corporate taxicab monopolists, intimidating NYC police detectives, the unfair Attorney General and corruptible Mayor. With the unexpected help of world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey and his crowd, Joe rescues Anna from being shipped back — via steerage class — to her native Russian homeland. Directed by Frank Borzage, Big City stars two back-to-back academy award winners, Spencer Tracy (Captains Courageous, 1938; Boys Town, 1939) as Joe Benton and Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld, 1936; The Good Earth, 1937) as Anna. We’ll view appropriate scenes and discuss immigration, deportation, naturalization, law enforcement and constitutional rights through the Big City lens and how these issues influence politics today.
MAN’S CASTLE: Surviving the Great Depression
Man’s Castle, directed by Frank Borzage, stars Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young, in a rare, pre-Code 1933 romantic drama that takes a hard look at the economic hardships of the Great Depression: pre-Code because the long list of moral restrictions required by Hollywood’s 1930 Motion Picture Production Code — also known as the Hays Code (named for movie censor Will Hays) — were not enforced. We witness Herbert Hoover’s America following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 but before FDR’s New Deal. Twelve million unemployed men and women are desperately poor, powerless, homeless and hungry, living in jungles of squalor. We observe a hopeless, often abusive, base form of human existence in a world turned topsy-turvy. Very little that is traditional is held sacred anymore. Through the Hollywood lens we observe how the spirituality of love and romance magically transforms the realistic hardships of a Hooverville shack lifestyle into a palace full of warmth and affection – into Man’s Castle. We’ll view scenes from the picture accompanied by commentary relative to that era as well as contemporary American society.
Free Classic Film Screenings
The Society has offered two free classic film screening programs at the local level with a focus on public access adult education and at a senior housing community.
Historical Film Memorabilia Display
Through a partnership with Newton Free Library, New England Vintage Film Society, Inc. has created exhibits incorporating a variety of memorabilia from the Golden Age of Hollywood. At the library, five display cases are in place containing numerous pieces, many of which are focused specifically on Spencer Tracy. Items on display include classic publicity stills, rare glass lantern advertising slides, autographed scripts, and more. The aesthetic and educational nature of the Society’s memorabilia displays will help to shape visitors’ understanding and admiration of America’s classic films, while also facilitating the construction of a narrative of our nation’s history.
Public Access Television Productions & New Media
New England Vintage Film Society, Inc. recognizes that in today’s technological age developing digital tools to attract, engage, and mobilize increasingly diverse publics is crucial. In an effort to communicate their message to a much more broad demographic the Society will begin to implement thirty minute educational and analytical broadcasts through public access television. Social media productions such as these are serving as the core for innovative spaces and practices that mark a new kind of public media – accessible, participatory, and inclusive. Through their planned broadcasts, combined with growing new media web technologies such as blogs, they will engage their audience to become active participants in the Society.
“They were pioneers in the most glamorous business in the world, and you only know half of their story. Playbills To Photoplays reveals colorful episodes in the lives of the stars before they became stars. Everyone saw them, but few knew where they came from. This collection of essays follows some of the most famous names in show business from Vaudeville and Broadway to Hollywood, revealing a part of their lives that movie historians have neglected – until now. I think this book is terrific. It’s a must read for any fan of the silver screen, and the days when movie stars were real stars.” – Morgan Loew, great-grandson of Adolph Zukor, founder, Paramount Pictures, and Marcus Loew, founder, Loews Theaters and MGM.
“Ms. Loew’s choice of performers to write about is amazingly diverse and fascinating, from character actors like Conrad Veidt to major stars like Katharine Hepburn. She has written a most compelling book about their transitions from stage to film… many of the stories new to me. Wonderful!” – Joan Benny, daughter of comedian, Jack Benny, one of America’s greatest entertainment icons of the 20th century, whose career included vaudeville, radio, movies and television.
Spencer Tracy, A Life in Pictures: Rare, Candid, and Original Photos of the Hollywood Legend, His Family, and Career(link: http://spencertracybiography.
com/ ) offers an intimate pictorial view into both the professional and personal life of the Hollywood screen icon from childhood through college, his early acting years on stage, in the Hollywood studio system, through the popular Katharine Hepburn period, to his later roles as a film legend.
“Spencer Tracy simply was every character he played on the silver screen. He was known as “the actor’s actor,” a master of his craft. As members of the Tracy Family, we are grateful to Brenda Loew for putting together this amazing photo book of Spencer Tracy for all the world to enjoy.” - Cyndi Tracy & the Spencer Tracy Family