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Early ‘Little Princess,’ Popular ‘Wizard Of Oz’ To Open 1939 Film Series

There have been many versions of The Little Princess filmed, and an equal number of films called or based on L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, but only two were made in 1939. Those two films — one starring a 10-year-old Shirley Temple and the other a Best Picture nominee that features some of film history’s most well-known songs — will launch a new film series at Edmond Town Hall this weekend.

“1939: The Greatest Year In Film — A 75th Anniversary Celebration” will have its premiere on Sunday, May 25. The Little Princess will be screened that afternoon at 1 pm, and The Wizard of Oz will be offered at 4 and 7 pm.

“We encourage our audience to dress in festive attire or like a character in one of these movies,” Jen Rogers, a member of Newtown Cultural Arts Commission (NCAC) who is involved with the series, said this week.

(Note: This weekend’s 7 pm screening of The Wizard of Oz is replacing a previously announced screening of Ninotchka. Organizers are still hoping to screen it at a later time.)

The series is being coordinated by NCAC and the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers.

“Just about every major screen star you could think of were making movies at that time,” Ms Rogers said May 12. “They may not be the best film of these actors’ careers, but they’re there.” The film series will tip its hat to the diamond anniversary of the year considered by many film enthusiasts to be among the best of the industry’s history. It will also celebrate the recent upgrades and renovations to Edmond Town Hall, including its theater, which will allow moviegoers to enjoy digital projection, surround sound, and other updated technology.

“With the restorations, these are prime movies to show to a broad audience,” ETH Board of Managers member Karen C. Pierce said.

Films released in 1939 will continue to be featured through the end of the year, usually on the third or fourth Sunday of the month. Screenings are planned for June 29, July 27, August 31, September 21, October 19, November 30 and December 29.

Additional titles that have already been confirmed for “1939: The Greatest Year in Film” include Best Picture nominees Ninotchka, Dark Victory, and Goodbye Mr Chips; Best Picture winner Gone With The Wind (which of course picked up a few other awards that year); as well as Beau Geste, Gunga Din, Flying Deuces, and At The Circus. Additional titles are still begin confirmed as of this week.

While Ms Rogers and others were hoping to have screenings of Best Picture nominees Stagecoach and Of Mice and Men, they will not be allowed to publicly screen those features.

“We do hope to provide copies to the library,” she said. In addition, it turns out that the Alfred Hitchcock film Foreign Correspondent, which was being considered for an October program, was in fact made in 1940. “So we won’t be showing it this year,” she said.

Films will generally be screened at 1, 4 and 7 pm, with different films offered during each screening.

Tickets for most screenings will be $2 each, the regular price of tickets for ETH Theatre. The town hall concession stand will also be open, as usual.

While ticket prices will remain unchanged for most of the series, the length of one film, and the need to supplement it, may necessitate higher ticket prices.

Gone With The Wind is four hours long, including its intermission,” Ms Rogers pointed out earlier this month. “We will probably have special food and refreshments available during that,” Ms Rogers said. “That’s the one show we may have increased ticket prices for.”

Newtown Chamber of Commerce will be sponsoring the Gone With The Wind event on November 30. Time, ticket cost, and other event details will be announced at a later date, Ms Rogers said.

(Longtime Newtown residents may recall that in 1989, in conjunction with a special weeklong run of Gone With the Wind to celebrate the film’s 50th anniversary, the town hall’s managers arranged for an encampment of Battery B of the First Rhode Island Light Artillety on the front lawn at 45 Main Street. The brigade pitched camp on a Saturday morning and then settled in for the weekend, offering passersby and moviegoers a glimpse of life in the Army camps during the Civil War.)

Southbury Printing Centre, Ms Rogers said this week, is sponsoring the series by providing printing needs. Sponsorships are still being sought. Businesses and organizations that would like to offer financial help for the series can contact Ms Rogers at 203-364-4345.

While any of the movies that will be featured in the series can be rented or owned by the public, Ms Rogers and the Board of Directors are counting on nostalgia and the joy of seeing classics on the big screen to be part of the draw for their programs.

“We live in a stop-and-pause world,” Ms Pierce said. “Watching a film in the theater, you need to enjoy its continuity or you are going to miss something.

“We all feed off each other’s emotions when we watch movies together,” she continued.

Ms Rogers agreed.

“I saw Gravity at the town hall just a few weeks ago, and clutched at my husband a few times,” she said. “When you’re with a group, you laugh together, you gasp together. It’s a great thing to have a live audience.”

“1939: The Greatest Year In Film — A 75th Anniversary Celebration” will begin on Sunday, May 25, with a 1 pm screening of The Little Princess, and then 4 and 7 pm screenings of The Wizard of Oz, at Edmond Town Hall Theatre, 45 Main Street. Tickets are $2. All ages are welcome, and costumes are encouraged.

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