Category: Actors


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Welcome again to the Pickwick Classic Film Series. This TUESDAY (and yes, I’m stressing TUESDAY because we usually have our shows on Thursday) we’re giving you the royal treatment. Our guest is none other than Rory Flynn, daughter of Errol Flynn – the star of our show. Rory will be in the lobby before and after the show greeting all who join us before she takes the stage and gives us some of her personal memories of her father. It’s going to be another one of those special once in a lifetime events.

As if that wasn’t enough, we’ll also be celebrating Olivia de Havilland’s  centennial a few weeks ahead of her July 1st birthday.

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More surprises and treats will be found in the lobby. We’ll have a treasure chest of wonderful loot waiting for some lucky winner. As always tickets are only $1 and they go toward bringing these events to you. As you can well imagine it takes quite a bit to put on these shows and to bring in our special guests who live all over the country. We do it because YOU are worth it and we want to give you the very best we are able. So please, if you can, stop by our table and give it a try. These raffles are always events in themselves.

Oh, and did I forget to mention we have another surprise guest? Taryn Power, Tyrone Power’s daughter will also be with us. Where else can you go and see two Hollywood Princesses in the same room outside of Hollywood? Only the Pickwick Classic Film Series brings you these events. So please… join us this Tuesday for our season Finale.

Click HERE to watch the Pickwick Theater’s very own Captain Blood Trailer! Or HERE to see the original trailer.

Then click HERE to listen to Program Host Matthew C. Hoffman discuss this upcoming program on WGN’s own Nick Digilio Show.

Our Guests

Rory Flynn & Taryn Power


Born June 20, 1909 Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was destined to be the King of Swashbucklers. He had everything it took and then some. His energy and smile were infectious, put a  sword in his hand and you had a man who could take the world upon his shoulders and win every time. He wore the mantle of the past as if it were present day and we believed him. He was Errol Flynn!Errol-Flynn

All of us exhibit traits said to come from our families. We have the hair color of our father, the shape of our eyes comes from our mother and the last name of our forefathers. In young Flynn’s case he also inherited a life long love of the sea and any craft who could be set afloat. His mother Lily Mary Young known as Marelle (she had her name changed after being married) came from a sea-faring family, his father Theodore Thomson Flynn was a marine biologist. During his lifetime Flynn would own many vessels including several yachts. At times he forsook the land and lived aboard ship. It seems fitting that his first screen role was that of Fletcher Christian in the Australian film In the Wake of the Bounty. Then in Hollywood he would skyrocket to the top after only five films (mostly as a bit or small supporting roll) as Peter Blood in the Warner Brother’s blockbuster Captain Blood.

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1935 was indeed a busy year for Flynn who accomplished much. In that year he migrated to the United States, made two films and married his first wife Lili Damita. But the world of American Women were hungry for more and Flynn had what it took. In many ways his on screen persona mirrored that of his real life. Above all, Flynn was an adventurer. This trait along with his love of women and the sea would stay with him his whole life.

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As a young man before the lure of Hollywood and acting hit him Flynn had a wide variety of jobs which often led to adventures. In 1927 his adventures took him to Papua New Guinea where he’s thought to find riches but instead spent five years doing everything imaginable. By his own accounts he became a police constable, a sanitation engineer, a coconut plantation overseer, a fisherman and ship-master for hire and all because he’d hoped to be a treasure hunter.

Life in Hollywood gave him the fame and fortune he’d hoped to find in that strange land. New Guinea instead left a lasting impression in the form of vast skills acquired; many of which he would later emulate on the screen, thus giving his role more credibility. It also would give him the sickness of reoccurring bouts of malaria.

On the silver screen Flynn found his true calling. Warner Brothers found him to be everything they’d hoped for. His persona filled the screen and money continued to roll in. Flynn, they discovered was dynamite in period pieces and he fit in westerns just as well. Give him a screw-ball comedy and Flynn seemed at home. However,  the Swashbuckler would be his lasting legacy.

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Flynn seemed to embody the pirate like no other had since Douglas Fairbanks Sr. He was an outlaw that the movie going audience liked and rooted for. He also was the man to get the girl. His most frequent leading lady was none other than Olivia de Havilland who co-starred with him in his first leading role in Captain Blood. It was her first leading role too!

In the eight films the two made together it was very much apparent that the chemistry seen on the screen was real. However the timing hadn’t been right and a six year relationship stayed where it’d started, that of a deep and abiding true friendship. Each went their own way and each made a name for themselves but it is possible that these two virtually unknown stars at the time can thank their lucky stars that Warner Brothers took a chance and gave them a chance. Captain Blood turned out to be Warner Brother’s highest grossing picture of the year and the eighth highest grossing picture industry wide.


So… All that said and done, please join us this coming TUESDAY (Yes, I’m stressing TUESDAY again. I just don’t want you to miss it.) as the Pickwick Classic Film Series brings you its series finale with Captain Blood. It’s a tale of piracy on the high seas and a tale of gentile manners with great ladies and men of honor. Bring your “Mate” and be prepared to “Roll with the tide.”

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The Eight Films Flynn & de Havilland Made Together Include:

  • Captain Blood (1935)
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • Four’s a Crowd (1938)
  • Dodge City (1939)
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • Santa Fe Trail (1940)
  • They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

What:

Captain Blood (1935)

With Special Guest: Rory Flynn – Daughter of Errol Flynn

When:

May 17, 2016

Doors open at 6:30 pm

Live Organ music by Chicago’s Formost Theater Organist Jay Warren at 7:00 pm

Feature starts approx. 8:00 pm (119 Minutes)

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

 

Admission:

Regular – Day of $10 / Advanced $8

Seniors – Day of $7 / Advanced $6

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There is no greater superhero than the spy. He is real. He is daring and he risks his life for his country.

That is the premise of our Hero shall we say. We call him James Bond. 007 for short. He is licensed to kill and he does. He also does as he pleases which makes him the man we all wish were were given permission to be or to meet.

Created in 1953 Bond has graced the screen over two dozen times. Thunderball  would be the first Bond film shot in widescreen Panavision. Almost a quarter of the film was shot under water making for a very unusual Bond film.Thunderball Concept artwork james bond

This film almost didn’t become a reality as a lawsuit threatened to keep it from the screen. Settled out of court, it was resolved by letting the suing party retaining some rights and the film’s producers being titled as Executive Producers instead. Despite this hurdle, the film entered the world with a bang as it earned a total of $141.2 million worldwide, eclipsing the three previous Bond films. Adjusting for inflation, Thunderball remains the top grossing film in the series today.

So… I’m not going to give you any spoilers. I won’t tell you what the plot is, I won’t tell you how Bond succeeds as you know he must, or how many women he will have in his life. I’ll let you come to the Pickwick and experience it all yourself. I will tell you that it’s going to be terrific!

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The Cast of Thunderball

e54cb7dd1cd746aeef677bce3fc3242f         Our Hero: Sean Connery as 007: Bond, James Bond!

Our Bond Girls: Naughty and Nice

Claudine Auger as Domino       claudine-auger-domino-thunderball-hot-29

8d1bb1c97d7b17eda767bcf67c0f156e              Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona

Martine Beswick as Paula              full-martine-beswick-9fdc36f630e16c00b36f786523b47f17-large-1059937

adolfo_celi And Our Villan Adolfo Celi as No. 2: Largo

Our guests on this special occasion will be Colin Clark of the Ian Fleming Foundation who will bring with him many special props used in the actual filming of the movie. The biggest and most impressive item will be the actual Vulcan Bomber that was in the movie! This will be a once in a lifetime experience for all Bond aficionados.
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Colin will talk about the making of this 4th Bond film and give us some insight and behind the scenes stories.

Joining Colin will be author Raymond Benson who has authored over 35 books including six original 007 novels. He has also written three film novelizations and three short stories making him an expert on Bond.

If you think that’s not enough you haven’t heard the best. The first 100 patrons through the door will get a chance to win a tour of the James Bond prop facility in Kankakee, Illinois!!! Yes, that’s right!!! You could be a winner!!! You could be sitting in a real Bond car. Or, you could be me when I went and sit ON it!!!11411631_10204748585096060_2342298776180647643_o

There will also be a raffle basket chock full of Bond items. It’s valued at well over two hundred dollars and it could be yours for only the price of one raffle ticket. My advice, buy several because we’re expecting a packed house and you don’t want to miss your chance to win.

CLICK HERE to see the Trailer for the 50th Anniversary showing of Thunderball

HERE is what the Chicago Tribune had to say about our upcoming event: Classic Film Series having a ‘Thunderball’ at the Pickwick

For more information on this event please check out the official website Park Ridge Classic Film

What:

Thunderball (1965)

When:

April 21, 2016

Live Organ music by Famed Organist Jay Warren at 7pm

Feature 7:30 p.m. (125 Minutes)

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Why:

50+1 Anniversary Screening

Admission:

Regular – Day of $10 / Advanced $8

Seniors – Day of $7 / Advanced $6

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Some people are not content to leave their brainchild in the hands of another. Orson Welles was one such individual. He believed in a hands-on approach from start to finish and it can clearly be seen in what is unquestionably his greatest work, Citizen Kane. This story of a young newspaper man’s rise to fame started with an original screen play co-written by Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz. Welles chose to direct his film as well as star in it like many pioneers of motion pictures.

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Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin on May 6, 1915, he was destined for greatness. His parents were upstanding citizens of the community, his father an inventor and his mother a concert pianist. His home lacked for little. Sadly his mother passed away when he was at the tender age of 7. His father would join her eight years later leaving a 15 year-old Welles a Ward of the State. Luck continued to be with the boy despite his loses when he was taken under the care of Dr. Maurice Bernstein of Chicago. During this time he attended the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois. He began writing his own plays and putting them on at the local Opera House. He graduated from The Todd School in 1931.

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Graduating from school he decided to skip college though he was accepted by several. Instead he traveled Europe doing a variety of jobs that included a sketching tour of Ireland and be a matador in the Spanish bullring. In 1934 he was once again stateside and acting in a touring company. Not to be bored he directed his first short feature film, began acting on the radio and married. By 1937 he’d established a radio drama team known as the Mercury Theater which did many dramatizations of famous authors of the present as well as the past.

He would shock a nation on October 30, 1938 with his rendition of The War of the Worlds based on H.G. Wells’ famous novel . His broadcast was done in such a way that many listeners tuning in late thought we were actually being attached by men from Mars. H.G. Wells was not happy and Orson almost found himself thrown in jail for what was seen as a holiday stunt gone wrong.

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In 1941 Welles took his talents to the Silver Screen with his first feature. Citizen Kane. Though a box-office flop at the time it has since become widely seen as one of the best movies ever made. This from a first attempt was more than lucky, it was genius. It won many awards including the coveted Oscar for Best Writing and Original Screenplay.

Welles would go on to make many more films but none would reach the public conscious as much as the first. In 1975 he received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, an award associated with greatness as it is given to those persons who have enriched the American culture through motion pictures and television. He was the 3rd individual to receive this award.

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So why don’t you come join us. We’ll make sure you have a great time. More info and pictures can be found on our Facebook Events Page and on the official Webpage. Joining us will be film producer and Welles historian Michael Dawson. michael-dawson1For more information about Welles please check out the wonderful website Wellesnet.com and for information on how Woodstock Illinois celebrated his birthday last year look on this page.

To hear a broadcast from the Nick Digilio Show about this event please click HERE.

What:

Citizen Kane (1941)

When:

February 11, 2016

Live Organ music by Famed Organist Jay Warren at 7pm

Feature 7:30 p.m. (119 Minutes)

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Why:

75th Anniversary Screening

Admission:

Regular – Day of $10 / Advanced $8

Seniors – Day of $7 / Advanced $6

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Come join us this Thursday for our gala Centennial event as we celebrate the life of a man who gave us so much joy, Ol’ Blue Eyes will be at the Pickwick Theater on December 10, 2015. He’ll be joined on the big screen with one of his closest  friends – Gene Kelley (the man who taught Frank to dance and boy do they do a swell job), when they take the city of New York by a storm in “On the Town. Then, look at the girls they meet. How could anyone not have a good time?”

845155_origJoining us in the theater lobby will be Steve Darnall of Those Were The Days. He will be selling copies of the Winter Edition of the Nostalgia Digest.

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Frank Sinatra was prominently featured on the cover of the Autumn Edition.25bdc07864a39b4dcd0afbaca7a47cdc

Also joining us will be Chicago’s Formost Organist – Jay Warren of the Silent Film Society of Chicago. He will be playing some of our favorite Sinatra songs on the Pickwick’s Mighty Wurlitzer. Then he will be in the lobby where you can pick up your own copy of his Christmas  CD – “Organ and Chimes.”

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But we are nowhere near done. We also will be giving away a copy of the brand new documentary “All Or Nothing At All.” But in order to get this great DVD you MUST have a ticket. Pick up your FREE ticket at the table in the lobby.

What:
On the Town (1949)

When:
December 10, 2015
Feature at 7:30 p.m. (98 Minutes)

Where:
The Pickwick Theater
5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Admission:
Regular – Day of $10 / Advanced $8
Seniors – Day of $7 / Advanced $6

 

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So… who’s ready to hear the King of Rock n’ Roll and who wants to see lovely Ann-Margret? They sizzle together in Viva Las Vegas and the Pickwick Theater is proud to bring it to the big screen for your enjoyment. Made in 1964 it is considered by many to be one of the King’s best films. Though it didn’t walk away with any first place prizes it did received second place as a musical and third place for both Elvis and Ann-Margret for their musical performances in the Golden Laurel category which is not surprising when you realize that there are no fewer than 10 songs.

In a very few days this film will open on the big screen and you and your family can experience the magic of Vegas with all its pomp and ceremony. See the casino’s, the girls and experience the clubs as only two men on the search for one girl can bring you.

Please be advised that our last show was nearly 800 people in a theater that seats 950. If you want to get a good seat (and there really are no bad seats) come early and make your claim. Also, know that the line for the popcorn gets long fast as well. Advance tickets are still being sold at the box office or online. Those will stop being sold on the day of the show.

For more information please visit Park Ridge Classic Film.

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What:
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Starring Elvis Presley & Ann-Margaret
When:
November 13, 2015
Feature at 7:30 p.m. (85 Minutes)
Where:
The Pickwick Theater
5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Admission:
Regular – Day of $10 / Advanced $8
Seniors – Day of $7 / Advanced $6

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What does it take for the stars to align correctly and a box office hit to occur? The answer is one director born 1899 (Alfred Hitchcock – London England), one male lead born 1904 (Cary Grant – Bristol England) and one female lead born 1924 (Eva Marie Saint – Newark, New Jersey.) Released July 28, 1959 North By Northwest became an instant classic. With a screenplay by Ernest Lehman and a score by Bernard Herrman how could it go wrong? The answer – it couldn’t and it didn’t. And so, it has stood the test of time.

As with Hitchcock’s earlier successes there was a misunderstood man who must fight to prove who he is and in the end discovers that there’s more to himself than even he knew. It’s a classic tale of misunderstanding but with lots of monkey wrenches thrown in. when you’re in trouble shouldn’t it be a trouble worth being in trouble for?

Cary Grant’s character Roger O. Thornhill is an advertising executive who’s used to twisting the truth around to sell a product. In his world that is a normal practice but in the real world doing what he’s used to can have some very big consequences. He soon finds this out when he is misidentified as George Kaplan. Without knowing it, he is now seen as a government agent.

At first Thornhill denies being Kaplan and tries to prove his true identity. Unbelieved, the spies who’ve kidnapped him attempt to kill him. By luck he gets away and in order to get himself out of the hot-seat he sets out to prove himself and find out who exactly, ‘this cap Kaplan is.’ Caught again and escaping again he must take on the identity of Kaplan in order to survive. Soon one of the greatest adventures ever to come to the big screen ensues but I won’t tell you any more. You’ll have to come to the Pickwick and see what happens for yourself.

The only other thing I’ll tell you is there is a beautiful blond who’s not exactly who you think she is and that the chase involves some breathtakingly scenic views of our great United States.

Other Notable Film Facts:

  • Budget = $4,326,000

  • Box Office = $9.8 Million

  • 1st Film to use Kinetic Typography (Opening Credits)

Script by Ernest Lehman

Lehman had 25 screenplays to his credit in which he amassed many awards including 6 Writers Guild of America Awards, 2 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, a Golden Globe and an honorary Academy Award in 2001 for his varied and enduring works. Among these works where such classics as:

  • The King and I (1956)

  • North By Northwest (1959)

  • West Side Story (1961)

  • The Sound of Music (1965) & wrote the soundtrack

  • Hello Dolly! (1969) & produced

Score by Bernard Herrmann

Herrmann worked a great deal for two men, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Wells. Starting with radio he regularly wrote scores for the Mercury Theater On The Air and was the one man Wells trusted when it came to what would become one of both men’s outstanding legacies, the 1938 radio drama – The War of the Worlds. For film Herrmann teamed up many times with Hitchcock and amassed quite the repertoire. Later he would work on several Ray Harryhausen films and in television he’d do the score for The Twilight Zone and Have Gun Will Travel. As of 2005 this versatile composer has two of his works (Psycho #4 & Vertigo #12) in the top 25 Greatest Film Scores by the American Film Institute.

  • Citizen Kane (1941) Salary $10,000

  • The Ghost And Mrs. Muir (1947)

  • The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1953)

  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

  • Vertigo (1958)

  • The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

  • North By Northwest (1959)

  • Psycho (1960 & 1998) Salary $34,500 –1960 Version

  • Cape Fear (1962 & 1991)

  • Jason And The Argonauts (1963)

  • Taxi Driver (1976)

What:

North By Northwest (1959) Starring Cary Grant

 

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave, Park Ridge, IL 60068

 

When:

September 17th, 2015

Live Organ music by Famed Organist Jay Warren at 7 PM

North By Northwest at 7:30 PM (136 Minutes)

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In 1942 Hollywood released a hurriedly made movie meant to capitalize on another movie with a setting also taking place in South Africa. Algers had been a hit but now that Warners’ next film was ready they were no longer sure a success was possible. They knew they had a good cast but besides that they just didn’t know. The whole film’s production had been fraught with difficulties and so uncertainty hung in the air as they waited for the public’s response.

What Warners got was a huge surprise they have never stopped feeling blessed with. Casablanca was a hit with a capital H. The film’s earliest beginnings were steeped to the ceiling with doubts that it ever would be made. After all ~ it was based off a play that had never been produced. To say that Casablanca has a story to tell is a vast understatement. The making of this classic has its own lore.

What can I tell you that you don’t know? That all depends on how immersed in the movies or how much of a Casablanquiste you are.

Let’s start with the basics. It all began with a play written by Murray Burnett entitled Everyone Comes to Rick’s. The play was never produced but Warners bought it from Burnett for $20,000 in 1941. It wasn’t until May 25, 1942 that shooting began. What held it up? There was no screenplay but they were shopping for actors/actresses to play a part that they had trouble describing because there was no script and they were making the storyline up as they went along. That problem remained through the whole of shooting as no one knew the ending all the way to the final days of shooting. The big question? Who was Ilsa going to go with?

The legacy of Casablanca is very much like the earliest of Mack Sennett comedies where the cameras roll and whatever happens happens. The script was written day to day with the ink barely dry before being handed off to the actors only hours before shooting began for that day.

The norm on the set was confusion and arguments. People walked off and lines were rewritten by everyone. The characters evolved and without anyone knowing they created a masterpiece that to many film historians is #3 behind #1 Citizen Kane and #2 Gone With the Wind as the greatest film ever made.

Interesting Facts

Bogart was 43 ~ Bergman was 27

Henreid, Lorre & Veidt were all refugees of the Nazi party in real life.

The Film cost $878,000 and was 8% over budget.

Filming took 59 days and that was 11 days over schedule.

What: Early Valentines Day Showing of Casablanca
When: February 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Where: The Pickwick Theater ~ 5 S. Prospect Ave Park Ridge, Illinois
Admission: Regular $7, Seniors $5

downloadOver the years there have been many stars in Hollywood’s parade of stars. Some were fleeting and have long been forgotten. Others shone so bright that it is doubtful that their light will ever be extinguished. In the town of Potsdam, near Berlin, there was a babe born who was destined to fall between these two cosmic stars of the silver screen. Even his name is that which will cause some to shake their heads in a struggle to remember and ultimately fail. Still, there are those who will lick their lips and roll their eyes around for a second before the name clicks.

His name was Conrad Veidt and he was born January 22, 1893. It was an important year. The world’s fair opened in Chicago that year and Germany put her best foot forward to show the world that she was friendly to all people. Too bad that feeling of good will toward men didn’t last longer. But for the Veidt house this year was a joyous one.

Young Conrad grew up fast and at the age of twenty entered that long exalted line of men and women who brought dramatizations to the world. He stepped upon the stage in 1913 but he didn’t remain there long. In 1917 he took his career forward with the times and entered the German cinema. The expressionist movement was growing stronger and stronger and Veidt became a master.

German cinema at the time was morbid and strange and Veidt’s portrayals of morbid characters were always memorable. In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari he played a demented somnambulist controlled by an evil doctor. To this day it’s considered a masterpiece of German cinema. The combination of hard angle camera work and Veidt’s own performance make it a unique experience.

His star was rising with each film he did but when he played the title role in The Student of Prague he’d reached the top. He now was world famous. Hollywood wanted a piece of the action and they came calling in 1927. He did a series of films for the US before returning to Germany when sound hit the airways.

When the Nazi’s took hold of Germany Veidt left his home for the safety of England. There was no place for him in a world that despised Jews and he found himself and his family under attack. He’d done the unspeakable and married a Jewish woman.

Still in 1930 he returned to his homeland on a visit and soon found himself in trouble. They wouldn’t let him leave. Under the pretext that he was too ill to travel they hindered his leaving. With the aid of the British studio Gaumont, he was able to escape when they sent doctors to prove his blooming health. It’s no surprise that he became British citizen in 1939.

In 1940 Veidt once again went to America to make films for the country who partially liked to take credit for his notoriety. Ironically this roles now were those of a Nazi and for those who don’t remember him before he turned into a German devil once more, he will always remain one. For it was his second to last film that would keep him in the stars column. He played Major Strassaer in Casablanca. He Was the newest man we Loved to Hate! – Sorry Erich Von Stroheim. Someone had to take the reigns into the talkies.

Sadly Conrad Veidt died of a heart attack that same year and the world was deprived of learning what was next in store for it. What would he have done? Who would he have given us?

A List of His Most Memorable Rolls:

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919)
  • The Hands of Orlac (1925)
  • The Student of Prague (1926)
  • The Beloved Rogue (1927)
  • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • Dark Journey (1937)
  • The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
  • Casablanca (1943)

Who is Donnie Dunagan?

lefils  994550_10151745258122432_1051500962_n13463935_o_518cce6be087c337516da457What happens to a childhood actor once they no longer act? The first order is to grow up. And who do they grow up into? Let me tell you a true story.

The boy was affectionately called Donnie by his friends when he was five years old. Now, when the names of a little boy’s friends just happen to be Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone the wheels start to turn. Just who is Donnie Dunagan? You might well ask this question. The easy answer, there is no easy answer; he has been many things to many people. Let me begin from the beginning.

Donald Dunagan was born on August 16, 1934 to parents who didn’t have much more to give their son than love. As Donnie says, “They were dirt poor.” But Donnie’s destiny was not to remain the poor boy from the poor side of town. At the age of two and a half Donnie’s family moved from San Antonio, Texas to Memphis, Tennessee. There his father worked on a golf course as an assistant to the assistant golf instructor. He worked long hours helping men try to recapture their youth at the age of forty to fifty when they picked up and swung a club for the first time in their lives. It didn’t pay much but it kept the family afloat.

They didn’t know it but 1937 was the year things would change. At the local theater in downtown Memphis a talent contest was announced. With a top prize of $100 everyone who had talent up to the age of thirteen planned to be a contestant. Donnie had been taught to dance and the little tyke had plenty of talent as far as the family and neighbors were concerned. He was promptly entered. The Orpheum Theater was about to be surprised and so was Donnie.

Wearing hand-me-down shoes from a richer neighbor, sporting a paper hat made to look like a top hat and carrying a whittled stick that looked from a distance like that of an English walking stick, Donnie took his first few strides onto the Orpheum stage thinking he was in the wrong place. The dancer before him was so much better, how could he possibly compete. The outcome was a fairytale come true. Donnie danced and the audience lost their hearts. He won that first place prize but he won something else so much more. For seated in the audience was a Hollywood talent scout.

In mere weeks Donnie found himself on a sound stage. His first film was released in 1938. Mother Carey’s Children gave young Donnie a new look at life. Gone were the days of not having enough. He was making money and helping his family. One might think that a boy of his tender years might not understand, but Donnie did.

His next picture would cement him years later in the movie buff’s who’s who. 1939 was a magical year for Hollywood and for Donnie Dunagan. Son of Frankenstein boasted an incomparable cast for Universal. The names Karloff, Lugosi and Rathbone fairly jumped out at you. Such talent, such thrills, such horror, those thoughts hit the audience watching the trailers. Was Donnie afraid of Karloff’s monster? Did he fear Lugosi? Did he view Rathbone favorably?

Now five years old and a veteran of one movie, little Donnie understood the dynamics of an actor’s life. His mother would drop him off at the studio and a nanny took over his care. Only the nanny always disappeared. So Donnie picked out his own nanny. Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone became his friends but they probably would balk at the term nanny being applied to them. The reality was that they helped each other.

The boy had an amazing ability for memorization. Not only did he know his own lines but he memorized and coached his fellow actors on their lines. He became an integral cog. Even as lines were changed, added and taken out, little Donnie kept up. In return for Donnie’s line coaching Karloff taught him to play checkers and to his incredulity little Donnie won on is own when Karloff didn’t give the game his full attention. Rathbone read him classical poetry and attempted to teach the lad chess. That game proved too much but the memory of those tutored lessons has lasted a lifetime.

His other co-stars left lasting impressions for other reasons. His mother in Son of Frankenstein, Josephine Hutchenson left the sound stage after takes leaving her co-stars to their own devises and that is what little Donnie remembers most of her. The same can be said of Lugosi. Donnie didn’t like Lionel Atwill. In fact, Donnie stayed away from the man who played a policeman in favor of the man who played the monster.

Donnie’s memories of making pictures have remained vivid throughout the years showing a strong and perceptive mind. He would make five more films for a total of seven with Son of Frankenstein and Bambi being his most memorable.

With the latter he was hired by Walt Disney to be the facial model of the young deer but in time they discovered his remarkable memory and he became the voice of the fawn as well. With those two films his name will continue to be memorialized.

Getting back to the earlier question of what happens to childhood actors, Donnie grew up into a man the whole nation could be proud of. In December of 1952 at the age of eighteen Donnie received a message from the draft board. Answering the call he went in for his physical. Standing in line with the others he was singled out by a combat gunnery sergeant who realized in the young man’s form the build of a football player. After a thirty-five minute talk Donnie was a Marine.

He rose quickly in rank almost from the first day. Responsibility was handed to him and Donnie followed through. He was sent to boot camp in charge of thirty to forty men. While still only a private first class he was made a drill instructor, becoming the youngest in Marine history.

In the final days of the Korean War Donnie was ship bound. Before they could get there the war ended and his ship turned around. It was a hardship to be in Hawaii with all the pretty girls. While he might have averted combat then, he didn’t escape Vietnam.

Vietnam painted a tattoo across his body. His injuries were never easy or superficial. He got it in the head, the lung and the leg among other places. Consequently he over heard last rites being said over him three times and three times he was medivaced out. His head has a plate in it, he didn’t lose his leg as initially thought and at eighty he’s still breathing and walking around with enough spunk to be dangerous. After all, Donnie was the champion heavy weight boxer for nine years in the Marines. Add to that, the fact that he served as a counterintelligence agent during the Cold War and you really don’t want to mess with Peter Von Frankenstein. Like his fictional father and grandfather – Donnie Dunagan know how to take a body apart.

So who exactly is Donnie Dunagan? He is –

 

  • A childhood Hollywood actor,
  • A 25 year career Marine wounded in combat numerable times who also served as a counterintelligence agent and retired as a major,
  • A champion boxer who still coaches the sport today,
  • A mathematician,
  • Physicist and an
  • American Mensa Society member

 

This multiple Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient is quite the man. Acting gave Donnie the skills he would later need to survive as the man of action he remains.

 

To meet this fascinating man in person, Chicago area residents haven’t far to go. This month the gates of Hollywood’s golden age are opening up. On October 30, 2014 Donnie Dunagan will be at the Pickwick Theater in historic downtown Park Ridge Illinois to personally invite guests to participate in the 75th Anniversary showing of the movie that really introduced Donnie Dunagan to the world, Son of Frankenstein!

 

 

For more information please visit Park Ridge Classic Film.

 

What:

The 75th Anniversary showing of Son of Frankenstein

With special guest Donnie Dunagan

 

When:

October 30, 2014

7:30 p.m.

 

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave. Park Ridge, ILL

Admission:

Regular – $7

Seniors – $5

{Autographs $20}

 

Don’t forget to bring the kids and your cameras. There will be a costume contest for children twelve and under with prizes.

 

 

A List of His Films:

 

Source used:

Earth vs. the Sci~ Fi Filmmakers: Twenty Interviews
By Tom Weaver
© 2005
Donnie Dunagan, Pgs 86 ~113

A very good friend of mine who is just as passionate about the movies as I am will be showing the iconic 007 film. Once again we are introduced to, “Bond, James Bond.” Goldfinger celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and I can think of no better location than the lavish Pickwick Theater in historic downtown Park Ridge Illinois.

 

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When you step up to the ticket office you will be greeted by a Bond girl in gold who won’t ask for your soul or your virtue but the price of admission. Inside more dazzling beauties in gold will be on hand to help you.

 

Special treats include many props from the film and special guest Colin Clark from the Ian Fleming Foundation. There will be much to see and tell upon your return home. Please step out on the 18th of September and see Goldfinger with us.

 

To hear what was discussed in association with the showing of this film at the Pickwick, please click HERE.

 

What:

Goldfinger starring Sean Connery (1964)

 

Where:

The Pickwick Theater

5 S. Prospect Ave, Park Ridge, IL 60068

 

When:

September 18th, 2014

Live Organ music by Famed Organist Jay Warren at 7 PM

Goldfinger at 7:30 PM

Be sure to come early and bring your camera to have your picture taken with a Bond girl.

 

Why:

The 50th Anniversary

As if we needed an excuse!

 

Price:

$7 Adults

$5 Seniors

Please check back in with us to learn what other movies and surprises we have in store for you.

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