Classic Cinemas, Local Libraries Team Up

Film and literature can illuminate the same subjects in very different ways. That’s why Classic Cinemas is partnering with local libraries to shed light on various aspects of American life.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, York Theatre in Elmhurst will screen the 1939 classic “Gone With the Wind” on Wednesday, March 23, at 1:30 and 7 p.m., and the 1989 film “Glory” on Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m. After the screening of “Glory,” a discussion will be led by Dr. Lance Wilcox, professor of English at Elmhurst College.

Meanwhile, ELMHURST READS will feature Civil War-related programs at the Elmhurst Library, along with exhibits, activities and presentations throughout the city. ELMHURST READS aims to inspire conversation within the community about the Civil War, including politics of the time, legendary leaders, and how life changed for American citizens during this period.

One of the best-loved books of all time, Gone With the Wind captured the imagination of the late 1930s American public and quickly gained a world audience. Author Margaret Mitchell, an Atlanta native who grew up listening to her ancestors’ war memories, won a 1937 Pulitzer Prize for her epic novel.

The public closely followed the selection of an actress to play protagonist Scarlett O’Hara in the film. Nearly two years after filming had begun, the producers finally found their perfect Scarlett in Vivien Leigh, a British actress virtually unknown in the United States.

Leigh starred with Clark Gable in this epic tale of the Old South, which follows Scarlett’s life from the eve of the Civil War through Reconstruction, from easy and innocent days on a feudalistic plantation to a bloody struggle for survival in war-torn Atlanta.

The film was released in 1939 and won a record-breaking 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Vivien Leigh) and Best Supporting Actress (Olivia de Havilland).

“Glory,” starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, is based on the letters of Colonel Robert G. Shaw, a 23-year-old Union officer who volunteered to lead the first company of black soldiers during the Civil War. Shaw was forced to deal not only with the prejudice of the enemy, who had orders to kill commanding officers of blacks, but also that of his fellow officers. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Denzel Washington).

The storyline was drawn from a screenplay written by Kevin Jarre, based on the personal letters of Col. Shaw, and from a pair of novels: Lincoln Kirstein’s Lay This Laurel and Peter Burchard’s One Gallant Rush.

A screening of the 1951 classic film “A Streetcar Named Desire” will take place Wednesday, March 30 at 1:30 and 7 p.m. at the Tivoli Theatre in Downers Grove. The film was chosen to complement Zeitoun, a 2009 nonfiction book by Chicago author Dave Eggers, the selection of “The Big Read,” a cooperative project of several libraries in the western suburbs that seek to connect communities through literature.

Zeitoun tells the story of a Syrian-born businessman who lived in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. He paddled through the flooded city in a canoe offering help to his neighbors, until the day he was abruptly imprisoned as a suspected terrorist.

Also set in New Orleans, “A Street Car Named Desire,” starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando, tells the story of Blanche DuBois, a fragile and neurotic woman in a desperate search to find her place in the world. Listed as one of the top 100 American films by the American Film Institute, it was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won four, including Best Actress (Vivien Leigh), Best Supporting Actress (Kim Hunter) and Best Supporting Actor (Karl Malden). The film was adapted from the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams.

Classic Cinemas, based in Downers Grove, is a family-owned company operated by Willis, Shirley and Chris Johnson. Established in 1978, it operates 13 theatres with 99 screens in 12 communities in the northern Illinois area, including the Tivoli in Downers Grove and the York Theatre in Elmhurst. ❚