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The Pine Tree State on the big screen – Maine in the Movies

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Maine has had a connection with the movies since, well … since there have been movies. More than 80 motion pictures have been set in Maine since the first one all the way back in 1910.

The Maine Film Center and 19 other arts and education organizations and independent cinemas have joined together to present “Maine in the Movies” from March 5-15, a statewide, 17-city festival of 35 films set in Maine. The festival serves as part of the celebration of the state’s Bicentennial

“Maine is a state of mind and imagination whose enigma and beauty have, from the very beginning, inspired writers, visual artists, and their natural descendants, filmmakers,” said Mike Perreault, MFC executive director, in a press release.

“Maine in the Movies” will showcase screenings for all ages, some accompanied by discussions with knowledgeable guests.

Over the course of the festival, audiences will see an expansive, sometimes unfamiliar, often surprising vision of Maine: fanciful and funny in some cases; down to earth and culturally revealing in others.

Among the festival’s films are those from the earliest days – movies like “Jean the Match-Maker” (1910) and “Way Down East” (1920) – to the most recent – last year’s “The Lighthouse” and “Blow the Man Down.” And the films on the program really run the gamut: there will be classic dramas, family movies, thrillers, fantasies, musicals and comedies. “Peyton Place,” “Andre,” “Dolores Claiborne,” “Aquaman,” “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel,” “How to Marry a Millionaire” – the list goes on and on.

Many of the movies here are based on literary works by such famous Maine authors as Stephen King, Richard Russo, Elizabeth Strout and E. B. White.

Maine Film Center executive director Mike Perrault was generous enough to answer a few questions regarding “Maine in the Movies” – how it came about, the process of putting it together and the unexpected richness of Maine’s Hollywood connections.

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What prompted you folks to put together a program like this for the Bicentennial?

A couple of reasons. First, we knew that there’s never been a such a robust presentation of movies set or shot in Maine like this before, so the idea of being able to celebrate the stories told in and about our state struck us as a great Bicentennial event. Second, after hosting a dozen film events through the “John Ford | 125 Years” program last year, we saw the opportunity to continue growing and supporting our statewide network of independent and local movie houses. This time, we’ve programmed 35 films at 17 theaters statewide.

“Maine in the Movies” is meant to connect local audiences to their cinemas (and ones they might never have visited), as well as to Maine’s storytellers and filmmakers. Most important, we’re eager to share films the way they’re best experienced: on the big screen with audiences that won’t all fit on your living room sofa.

How long has Maine in the Movies been in the works?

My colleague, Tom Wilhite, and I began discussing another statewide series not long after our John Ford project wrapped last February. We knew that we wanted to expand the program to engage more people, so “Maine in the Movies” has been in the works for nearly a year.

What was the process of curating the festival? How were the movies selected?

We began by creating a list of all the movies we could find that had a Maine connection, whether being shot here, based on a Maine author’s work or shot in another location but taking up Maine as its setting. We reached out to theaters across the state that would host screenings and made suggestions, pairing certain films and venues based on intriguing local connections.

“Belfast, Maine” was an obvious choice, but many people don’t know that “The Iron Giant” was also inspired by that area of the Mid-Coast. “Olive Kitteridge,” the HBO miniseries, was written by Bates College alumna Elizabeth Strout, and so we’re offering a free screening on-campus. “Blow the Man Down,” which opened the 2019 Maine International Film Festival to a packed house, will travel to Bethel’s Gem Theater and the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick. A 75th anniversary restoration of “Leave Her to Heaven,” based on the novel by Maine author Ben Ames Williams, whose archives are held in Colby College’s special collections, will open the festival at the Waterville Opera House on March 5.

What are some of the logistical challenges that come with programming so many different venues?

Each film presents its own set of logistical challenges. Distribution, print shipping, marketing and a slew of other details all affect each screening, so organization and communication are key. Plus, many of the screenings will be followed by discussions with guests and filmmakers. What I’ve discovered throughout this process is a stellar professional network of film exhibitors, who have been so creative, supportive and eager to host a lineup of robust and one-of-a-kind events.

What were some things that surprised you during the process - things you learned about the films, the filmmakers, etc.?

It was surprising to learn just how many of the films I’ve seen actually have a Maine connection —especially “Aquaman,” but also “How to Marry a Millionaire” and “It Happened to Jane,” all of which will screen throughout “Maine in the Movies.”

What movies are you most excited about? 

I’m looking forward to—mainly out of a sense of nostalgia—seeing so many films that I grew up watching at home on the big screen for the first time. Family-friendly titles like “Andre,” “Casper,” “The Iron Giant” and “Bambi,” as well as the timeless “Shawshank Redemption” are all on my list.

In Waterville, we’ll be screening the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer” and the locally-shot “Empire Falls” at Railroad Square Cinema. We also have an incredible duo of films showing back-to-back in Brunswick and Freeport on March 11: “The Strange Woman” (also based on a Ben Ames Williams novel) was produced by and stars the legendary Hedy Lamarr, followed by “A Stolen Life,” which stars and was produced by Bette Davis. Finally, there’s an incredibly rare opportunity to see a 100th anniversary screening of D.W. Griffith’s “Way Down East” with live organ accompaniment — at the Harbor Theater in Boothbay on March 7.

What are some of the more unusual screenings?

Perhaps the most unexpected is a traveling screening of Maine’s first movie, the 13-minute “Jean the Match-Maker,” which was shot in 1910. It stars Jean, an Eastport-born collie who became America’s first animal film star and went on to make more than 25 films for the Vitagraph Company with Robbinston-native Laurence Trimble. “Match-Maker” was thought to have been lost until a nitrate print was discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive, repatriated and restored by the Library of Congress. 110 years later, it returns to Maine with a newly composed score and will screen at nearly twenty “Maine in the Movies” events.

If someone were able to attend just one film, which would you recommend?

With such a range of titles, it’s hard to pick. I’d definitely recommend the opening night screening of “Leave Her to Heaven,” which will be introduced by Ben Ames Williams’ grandson in partnership with the Maine Historical Society. I’d recommend supporting your local theaters—those essential organizations that contribute to, enrich, and build your community—by attending a screening that’s close to home, and traveling to as many movies as you can!

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Maine in the Movies highlights

Festival opener features premiere of 75th Anniversary restoration

Opening the festival on March 5 at Waterville Opera House is the premiere of the Academy Film Archive / 20th Century Fox 75th anniversary restoration of 1945’s “Leave Her to Heaven,” based on the novel by Ben Ames Williams, the prolific writer who lived in Searsmont and set many of his best-known works in the state. Before the screening, Tim Williams will discuss his grandfather’s literary legacy and life in Maine.

Two Maine-set animated classics

“Few people know about all the movies set in Maine or how they’ve depicted the state's unique qualities,” Perreault said. “For example, most are surprised to learn Bambi is a Mainer.”

Two animated classics merge in a Maine meadow in a memorable scene from 1999’s “The Iron Giant” when the massive alien encounters a tiny fawn, an allusion to “Bambi” by “Giant” director Brad Bird, a devoted disciple of Disney’s legacy.

Damariscotta artist Maurice “Jake” Day worked at Disney during the film’s development and interceded with Walt Disney to transfer the Black Forest setting of Austrian writer Felix Salten’s novel to the Maine North Woods. Disney sent Day back to his home state to sketch and photograph the landscape, vegetation, and animals of Baxter State Park for reference in the film’s design. But Maine’s other connections to the film don’t end there.

In transposing “The Iron Giant” to America from the book’s original UK setting “Maine seemed perfect because (director Brad Bird) wanted an area that felt remote and wild enough for a giant robot to be able to hide,” said Allison Abbate, the film’s producer and now executive vice president of Warner Animation Group. “We also took an amazing research trip before we started production and fell in love with the wild and untamed landscapes we saw as we traveled down the coast.”

Women’s History Month screenings

To mark Women’s History Month, a double feature of Hedy Lamarr’s “The Strange Woman” – introduced by Bowdoin College Cinema Studies head Tricia Welsch - and Bette Davis’ “A Stolen Life” – introduced by author Mark Griffin - have been scheduled for March 11, in Brunswick (at 4 p.m.) and Freeport (7 p.m.), respectively. In the same year, Davis and Lamarr – persistently independent actresses who fought the male-dominated movie industry for more substantive roles – each produced their own starring vehicles set in Maine.

“A Stolen Life” was the only film Davis produced, and it was her decision to set in Maine a story previously told in a British film. Her connections to the state were numerous, including living in Cape Elizabeth during the 1950s with her husband, “All About” Eve co-star Gary Merrill, who’d attended Bowdoin. Lamarr chose as her production “The Strange Woman,” another novel by Searsmont’s Ben Ames Williams, set in the 19th century Bangor logging industry.

Vampires in Bucksport

“We know a lot about Maine movie history,” said David Weiss, executive director of Northeast Historic Film, “but until we started preparing for this event I admit we didn’t know that Bucksport is the model for Collinsport,” vampire Barnabas Collins’ home in the cult 1970s television series “Dark Shadows.” The first of several feature-film spinoffs, 1970’s “House of Dark Shadows” will screen in Bucksport on March 12.

World’s first most famous dog – from Maine

Weiss continued, “However, we did know a lot about Maine’s oldest narrative movie, “Jean the Match-Maker,” featuring the first certifiable animal movie star: Jean, the Vitagraph Dog. Before Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Toto, Eastport-born Jean was the most famous dog in the world. She and her owner, trainer, and eventual director – Robbinston native Laurence Trimble – made 25 silent films together.”

“Jean the Match-Maker” was thought lost until a print was discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive and restored by the Library of Congress. A new musical score has been commissioned from Los Angeles-based composer Mikel Hurwitz specifically to accompany the film’s 15 screenings across the festival’s schedule.

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Maine in the Movies Full Screening Schedule

Thursday, March 5

7 p.m. – “Leave Her to Heaven” – Waterville Opera House

Friday, March 6

All day - “Jean the Match-Maker” – venue TBD (Note: “Jean the Match-Maker” will play in tandem with many of the screenings over the course of the festival. Learn more at www.mainemovies200.org.)

Saturday, March 7

10 a.m. – “The Iron Giant” – Colonial Theatre, Belfast

11:30 a.m. – “Casper” – Temple Cinema, Houlton

1 p.m. – “Belfast, Maine” – Colonial Theatre, Belfast

1 p.m. – “Andre” – The Gem Theater, Bethel

1 p.m. – “Olive Kittredge” – Olin Arts Center, Bates College, Lewiston

4 p.m. – “Astraea” – The Gem Theater, Bethel

7 p.m. – “The Man Without a Face” – Colonial Theatre, Belfast

7:30 p.m. – “Tumbledown” – Waterman’s Community Center, North Haven

Sunday, March 8

2 p.m. – “Bambi” – Lincoln Theater, Damariscotta

Monday, March 9

6 p.m. – “It Happened to Jane” – Alamo Theatre, Bucksport

8 p.m. – “The Lighthouse” – Alamo Theatre, Bucksport

Tuesday, March 10

6:45 p.m. – “Aquaman” – Temple Cinema, Houlton

7 p.m. – “Carrie” – Spotlight Cinemas at the Strand, Skowhegan

Wednesday, March 11

4 p.m. – “The Strange Woman” – Evening Star Cinema, Brunswick

7 p.m. – “A Stolen Life” – Nordica Theater, Freeport

7 p.m. – “The Shawshank Redemption” – Spotlight Cinemas, Orono

7 p.m. – “How to Marry a Millionaire” – Lincoln Theater, Damariscotta

Thursday, March 12

6 p.m. – “House of Dark Shadows” – Alamo Theatre, Bucksport

7 p.m. – “Wet Hot American Summer” – Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville

Friday, March 13

2 p.m. – “The Whales of August” – Lincoln Theater, Damariscotta

7 p.m. – “Dolores Claiborne” – Stonington Opera House, Stonington

7 p.m. – “Carousel” – The Waldo Theatre, Waldoboro

Saturday, March 14

9:30 a.m. – “Charlotte’s Web” (1976) – Nordica Theater, Freeport

10 a.m. – “Blow the Man Down” – Evening Star Cinema, Brunswick

11 a.m. – “The Iron Giant” (w/ “The Story of Houlton”) – Temple Cinema, Houlton

7 p.m. – “Signs of Life” – Stonington Opera House, Stonington

7:30 p.m. – “Deep Waters” – Waterman’s Community Center, North Haven

7:30 p.m. – “In the Bedroom” – Strand Theatre, Rockland

Sunday, March 15

10 a.m. – “Way Down East” – Harbor Theater, Boothbay

1 p.m. – “Empire Falls” – Railroad Square Cinema, Waterville

1 p.m. – “Captain January” – Strand Theatre, Rockland

2 p.m. – “Charlotte’s Web” (2006) – Stonington Opera House, Stonington

3 p.m. – “Peyton Place” – Strand Theatre, Rockland

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“Maine in the Movies” is organized by Maine Film Center and co-presented with Colonial Theatre and Waterfall Arts (Belfast), The Gem Theater (Bethel), Harbor Theater (Boothbay Harbor), Alamo Theatre and Northeast Historic Film (Bucksport), Bowdoin College Cinema Studies and Eveningstar Cinema (Brunswick), Lincoln Theater (Damariscotta), Arts & Culture Alliance of Freeport and Nordica Theater (Freeport), Temple Cinema (Houlton), Bates College Rhetoric, Film & Screen Studies (Lewiston), Waterman’s Community Center (North Haven), Spotlight Cinemas (Orono), Maine Historical Society and Maine Publishers & Writers Alliance (Portland), Strand Theatre (Rockland), Spotlight Cinemas at the Strand (Skowhegan), Opera House Arts (Stonington), The Waldo Theater and Medomak Valley High School (Waldoboro), and Colby College Cinema Studies, Waterville Opera House, and Railroad Squre Cinema (Waterville).

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 February 2020 07:54

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