Film series

March 23, 2003

Marvelous Movies and More

Slayton House Theatre, Wilde Lake village. Bernice Kish, gallery director and village manager. Information: 410-730- 3987.

Marvelous Movies and More is just what its name implies. The classic movie series at Slayton House in Columbia, in its 11th year, offers an array of classic moves from the 1920s through the 1950s.

They include comedies, drama, westerns, musicals, foreign films and silent movies. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. Each film is followed by a 30-minute audience discussion led by guest presenters. All that is topped off by a dessert buffet.

The series was founded by Bernice Kish, Wilde Lake village manager, and David Pierce, who was moderator for the discussions for nine years before moving to London, where he is curator of the National Film and Television Archive at the British Film Institute.

"He and I were sitting over dinner discussing movies and he said he was a movie buff," Kish said. "It turns out he is a lot more than he let on. I was aware he had contacts and would be able to get hold of these old movies."

Unfamiliar films are deliberately chosen - most are not available on home video or are not frequently played on television.

"David felt that by offering movies not shown on television, it provoked conversation because they were really classics and that was what he was looking for, conversations about movies that everyone watched at the same time," Kish said. "It allows the audience to explore what they have seen in the film and how it affects them. It is an interesting process and it is immediate, and that's why the audience enjoys it."

Pierce selects the program for each season, which runs from September through June. Each program features nine films and always includes silent movies, accompanied by pianist Ray Brubacher of the American Film Institute. "It's a lot of fun watching it," Kish said. "There's a lot of technical aspects in silent films that we discovered."

This season's roster included the 1927 movie The Valley of the Giants, the 1949 musical On the Town, and the 1956 film The Green Man.

Coming films include: Ruggles of Red Gap at 7:30 p.m. April 11. The 1935 western stars British actor Charles Laughton as a proper butler who finds himself in the Wild West after his boss loses him in a poker game.

The Mark of Zorro at 7:30 p.m. May 9. This 1920 silent film is the first version of the classic and stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as the masked swordsman who fights to free his fellow citizens in Spanish California from a tyrant.

Libeled Lady at 7:30 p.m. June 13. This 1936 comedy features Spencer Tracy as a newspaper editor and Jean Harlow as his fiancee.

The Great K&A Train Robbery, canceled because of weather will be rescheduled for June. The 1926 silent film stars Tom Mix posing as an outlaw to infiltrate a gang. A classic short subject will follow.

Admission is $7 per film for general admission and $6 for senior citizens and students. Series tickets are $58 for general admission and $52 for seniors and students.

Columbia Film Society

Information: Helen Ruther, treasurer: 410-730-7261.

When the Columbia Film Society was founded in 1968, it was meant to be a convenient venue for foreign-film lovers. But its popularity has grown so much that a third showing was added three years ago to its monthly presentation and organizers still have to turn people away.

"The subscription list is full," said co-founder Marcia Gorrie. "It really has turned into a bigger event than we ever dreamed of."

The society shows foreign films and documentaries at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre. "Foreign films give you a taste of what life is like in other places," said co-founder and treasurer Helen Ruther.

"The movies are inexpensive and convenient."

Tickets may be purchased only by subscription, which costs $30 for nine art films. The series runs from September through June. Showings are presented one weekend each month at 8:30 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

The society has about 1,200 subscription members. "That's as many as can fit in," Ruther said. "It's an arts theater audience. It's quite a cosmopolitan community here."

The society began to fill a void when founders wanted to see foreign films but there was no movie theater at all in Columbia. They were attending a political fund-raiser when a group of people started discussing what needs fixing in Columbia.

"I said it all seemed wonderful to us, but there were no movies," Gorrie said. "An older woman said if you want to do something in Columbia, you have to do it yourself. The next night, we got together and the film society was born."

About 200 people came for the first showing of the Japanese art film Yojimbo.

The group moved from Bryant Woods Elementary School, where the seats were too hard, to Slayton House, before it began renting space at HCC in 1980.

Before the program is selected by the society's five-member panel during the preceding summer, board member Bob Keller sorts through the films.

This year, the society is showing Amelie, Iris, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Monsoon Wedding and Baran, an Iranian film about Afghan refugees.

Next season, it will present Lantana, Italian for Beginners, Nine Queens and Late Marriage.

"So many people want different things in a film," Gorrie said.

"If the year has a lot of sad films - some will complain. But certain years, that's what is critically acclaimed. The whole point of the film society is to see valuable, quality films that you otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to see."

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