2019-01-10 / Editorial

You ought to be in pictures

Library Links
by Melanie Taylor Coombs

Melanie Taylor Coombs is adult services supervisor/librarian at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford. Melanie Taylor Coombs is adult services supervisor/librarian at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford. Last year a casual conversation about the Academy Awards led to a lengthy commitment with a fellow film buff to watch every Best Picture winner. The first Academy Awards ceremony was held in Hollywood on May 16, 1929. Tickets cost $5 and Douglas Fairbanks hosted the 15-minute long presentation. The award for Outstanding Picture was “Wings,” a silent film starring Clara Bow and Gary Cooper. The 91st Academy Awards ceremony is coming up in February and our retrospective film viewing just entered the 1940s, so obviously we still have a long way to go.

It is surprisingly difficult for two adults with jobs, dogs and family commitments to get together and quietly watch old movies. Our movie watching quest has been paused to keep up with “Stranger Things” and “Outlander.” We also returned to 1929 to watch “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans,” which won the award for Best Unique and Artistic Picture. In subsequent years, the Academy did away with the award, so it may be argued that there were two Best Pictures in 1929. And after watching the 2018 remake of “A Star is Born” at the theater, we also went back to watch the 1937 Janet Gaynor version and the 1954 Judy Garland version of the film. We plan to squeeze in the 1976 Barbra Streisand “A Star is Born” over the next few weeks.

There are great ways to stream movies and television, but when you are digging around to find films from the 1920s, you cannot beat Maine libraries. Our films have come from Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, St. Joseph’s College Library in Standish and several other libraries from around the state. It is as simple as finding the item and entering my name and card number. That’s it, so easy. When we’ve completed one film, I order the next and it usually comes directly to the library within two to three days.

Sometimes it feels a bit like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel – we often don’t like the same films. For example, the 1954 version of “A Star is Born” premiered with a running time of 182 minutes and amid screening concerns, the film was cut to 156 minutes. For years, Garland fans and film historians clamored for the movie to be restored to the uncut version, but much of the original film was gone. In the early 1980s a dedicated film preservationist scoured the vaults at Warner Bros. and in 1983 the film was re-released using some additional film and movie stills to replace deleted scenes. The restored version runs at 176 minutes, just shy of the original premier. My friend loved the restoration, the more Garland singing, the better. By intermission, I was restless and just wanted the singing to stop. To me the original editors had the right idea.

I can’t promise that you will like every DVD you borrow from the library, but you will be satisfied with the selection. Last fall, with the generous support from the Maine Public Library Fund, Maine State Library and our community partners at P&C Insurance we now have a large screen to show movies. Our next family fun feature will be on Thursday, Jan. 17. Pizza will be served just before the screening at 6 p.m. For more information about the movie, please contact the library at 284- 4181.

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