Just how important was the Western genre in the development of the motion picture art form? The 1903 oater The Great Train Robbery has long been heralded as a crucial stepping stone in cinema, as it featured one of the earliest examples of a movie as a means to tell a narrative story. And for added measure, it also stands as an early example of on-screen notoriety, as the moment when a cowboy aims his gun directly at the camera and fires freaked out many moviegoers, who, not quite comprehending this newfangled innovation, thought that they were about to get shot themselves.
The Great Train Robbery is just one of the many classic sagebrush sagas being shown as part of the Main Library's Summer Film Series, Once Upon a Time in the West: Great Hollywood* Westerns (* and one Italian). All films will be shown at 2 p.m. Sundays in the Wachovia Playhouse at ImaginOn. Admission is free. For details, call 704-416-0252.
June 8: Rio Bravo (1959). John Wayne takes on a gang of crooked cowboys with a little help from his friends and a lot of help from a topflight script featuring reams of memorable dialogue.
June 22: The Great Train Robbery (1903) and Go West (1925). Two silent classics (the latter by Buster Keaton), with Charlotte pianist Ethan Uslan providing musical accompaniment.
June 29: Johnny Guitar (1954). Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) directed this cult item rife with symbolism, with Joan Crawford as a saloon owner, Mercedes McCambridge as a spiteful landowner, and Sterling Hayden as the title gunslinger.
July 6: The Searchers (1956). This John Ford classic generally tops most critics' lists as the greatest Western ever made. It certainly contains one of John Wayne's best performances, as a bigoted cowboy searching for a niece (Natalie Wood) who's been kidnapped by Indians.
July 13: Once Upon a Time In the West (1968). Sergio Leone's masterpiece, this international production (American and European stars, Italian crew, Spanish locales) finds the harmonica-playing Charles Bronson seeking revenge against a ruthless killer (Henry Fonda, brilliantly cast against type).
July 20: Idaho (1943) and Utah (1945). A double feature of Roy Rogers, with the singing, grinning cowboy galloping through two of his typical "B" Westerns.
August 10: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Another John Ford-John Wayne gem, this one also featuring James Stewart as the civilized tenderfoot (and counterpoint to Wayne's macho gunslinger) and Lee Marvin as the villainous Liberty Valance.
August 17: Little Big Man (1970). Arthur Penn's superb revisionist Western, with the Native Americans cast in a sympathetic light, the whites coming across as sadistic or buffoonish, and Dustin Hoffman (in a great performance) in the middle as a 121-year-old survivor recounting his wild and woolly days in the Old West.
August 24: Ride the High Country (1962). A far cry from Sam Peckinpah's later films (such as The Wild Bunch), this gentle Western casts veteran genre stars Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea as a pair of cowboys agreeing to protect a gold shipment.
COCKTAILS & GLITZ, a fundraising party to benefit the 2008 Charlotte Film Festival, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at Madison's Bar and Lounge, 115 E. 15th St. The event will include food, drinks, music, prizes, a silent auction, and clips from some of the movies that will be featured in the upcoming festival, which will run Sept. 25-28. Patrons attending the fundraiser are encouraged to wear showy or gaudy clothes.
Tickets cost $20 online or $25 at the door. To order, call 800-838-3006 or go to http://charlottefilmfestival.org/2008/fundraiser.php.
THE LOCALLY MADE documentary Home Sweet Home will premiere at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at the Main Library, 310 N. Tryon St. Produced and directed by Charlotte filmmaker Catalina Echeverry, the movie centers on the idea of "home" as it applies to four Latino children living in the Queen City.
The film is a companion piece to Edwin Gil's mural project of the same name. The unveiling of the mural will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, June 6, at the Compare Foods supermarket, 818 E. Arrowood Rd.
Admission to the screening is free. For more information, call Echeverry at 704-307-4462. For further details on the mural, go to www.edwingil.com.