A unique atmosphere always surrounds the Redford Theatre’s last movie before Thanksgiving. It’s a fun time to look back on the rich, varied programming of the fall, and look forward to the happy burst of entertainment that always ends the year. It’s the “Friday evening” of the year, as we relax from another year of effort, and get ready to have some enjoyment before starting all over again.
It’s the ninth straight weekend of programming for the Redford. Fall is my favorite time of year at the theater, and in 2007 it included special film events like the live organ accompaniment to the 1920 silent movie The Mark of Zorro (September 22), and the 3-D presentation of the 1954 thriller Creature from the Black Lagoon (October 26-27).
Creature was part of an exciting three-week run of suspense films that also included the 1977 science fiction classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (October 19-20) and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 mystery Vertigo (November 2-3). As I watched Close Encounters from the balcony of the Redford, the deep-blue sky of the film merged with the atmospheric auditorium ceiling, with its drifting clouds and pinpoints of star lights.
Last weekend (November 9), the theater and the Redford Community War Memorial Association, Inc. held their annual Veterans Day “Salute to the Veterans,” in which Detroit Police Department chaplain Steve Kanakis talked movingly about “the heart of a soldier.” And the Redford continued its series of world-class theater organ concerts on October 13 with the dynamic Hector Olivera, who thrilled the audience with his skillfully precise melodies on two custom-made organs.
This year, the reflections of November took on an extra layer of meaning. The Redford was showing the 1950 musical Annie Get Your Gun, starring Betty Hutton, who passed away on March 11, 2007. Betty was a whirlwind of action and emotion, and left a strong impression on many viewers. Now she’s gone, and watching her on the big screen, you almost felt like you were seeing someone being literally brought back to life.
It was a thrill to see Betty explode off the screen, in a role that she seemed born to play. The big screen of the Redford brought out every detail of her dynamic performance, which ranged from tender vulnerability to humorously energetic songs and dances.
A holiday feeling animated the movie, with its memorable songs, glowing Technicolor photography, and outstanding performances. It was a breakout role for Howard Keel, who last appeared at the Redford on March 2-3, 2007 in the 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
So I left the theater, full of the spirit of Betty Hutton. I continued to enjoy the stillness of mid-November, in this peaceful time between Halloween and Thanksgiving. The bright colors of another brilliant Michigan autumn have given way to a deep, dramatic mixture of gray, bare trees, and the burnt orange and brown of the remaining leaves.
The fall season of the Redford now winds down into the year-end holiday season. The next time I walk into the Redford auditorium, I will be greeted by a brightly ornamented Christmas tree and the whistles and lights of a multi-colored model train display.
Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hollberg Smith, Jr.