Cinema under the stars returns with big-screen heroism

by Mark Burger

Taking “Heroes and Legends” as its theme this year, the Cinema Under the Stars series of outdoor film screenings at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art (2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem) returns this Friday.

The series gets off to a spectacular start with the 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn in the title role, backed by a star-studded cast including Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Patric Knowles and Alan Hale Sr. The film earned Academy Awards for Best Editing, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s rousing score, with another nomination for Best Picture. The climactic duel between Flynn and Rathbone’s Sir Guy of Gisbourne remains one of the screen’s great swordfights and, on a personal note, this ranks as my college roommate Rich Krygiel’s favorite movie ever.

Screening Aug. 10 is Steven Spielberg’s 1981 blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark, which introduced one of Harrison Ford’s most enduring characters, the fearless, fedora-clad adventurer Indiana Jones. Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott co-star, and the film won Oscars for Best Editing, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and a special award for Best Sound Effects Editing (which would soon become a regular Academy category), with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Score. For a time, this was my favorite movie of all time, and I saw it six times in the theater. (I wish I felt about a movie that way again!) Rated PG.

On Aug. 17, the series continues director Robert Mulligan’s much-beloved 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck won the Academy Award as Best Actor for his performance as the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, with Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, Brock Peters, William Windom and Robert Duvall (in his screen debut) on hand. The film also won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay (Horton Foote) and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Badham), Best Score and Best Black-and-White Cinematography. This year marks the film’s 50th birthday.

The Aug. 24 screening will be Frank Capra’s perennially prescient political drama Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which stars James Stewart (in one of his signature roles) as the title character, with Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Thomas Mitchell, Harry Carey and Guy Kibbee. The year 1939 is considered one of the golden years of Hollywood, and Academy competition was heavy. Of 11 nominations, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington won only one (Best Original Story for Lewis R Foster), with additional nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (for both Rains and Carey), Best Editing, Best Score, Best Sound Recording and Best Art Direction/ Set Decoration.

The series concludes Aug. 31 with Rob Reiner’s 1987 adaptation of The Princess Bride, starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Fred Savage and Peter Falk. Adapted from William Goldman’s bestseller by the author, this lighthearted take on traditional fairy tales was a critic’s darling and only a modest box-office hit upon its release, yet has since grown in stature as a cult favorite for all ages. This year marks the film’s 25th birthday. Rated PG.

Gates will open at 8 pm with screenings scheduled to begin at 9 pm. Visitors are encouraged to come early and bring snacks or a picnic. Wine and beer will be available for purchase only. In case of rain, films will instead be screened indoors in the Babcock Auditorium. Admission is $5 (cash only).

The series is presented by both Reynolda House and the UNCSA School of Filmmaking (which provided the screening prints), and heralds an upcoming fall exhibition at Reynolda House, “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey,” which pays tribute to the work and life of artist and North Carolina native Romare Bearden.

For more information, call 336.758.5150 or visit the official website: reynoldahouse. org.