OSWEGO - The Oswego County Historical Society (OCHS) presents a celebration of the 80th anniversary opening of historic landmark Oswego Theatre in 1941. The annual Classic Movie Night event will be showing the 1941 John Huston classic film noir “The Maltese Falcon.” It will be featured at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 14 in the main auditorium of the Oswego Theatre at 138 W. Second St. All proceeds from this special night will support the iconic landmark Richardson-Bates House Museum in Oswego.
Motion picture history records have lauded “The Maltese Falcon” as one of greatest films ever made. It was part of a momentous time in Hollywood history, known as the very popular film noir period. This film is considered the first American film noir, with the unique style of writing, directing and filming of mystery and suspense.
The year 1941 is remembered for some of the best classic movies in cinema history. This recognition was due to the high quantity of quality films by the notable movie companies and the records of attendance. Other famed movies featured that same year include notable film directors such as Orson Welles for “Citizen Kane,” Howard Hawks for “ Sergeant York,” and Alfred Hitchcock for “Suspicion,” to name just a few.
“The Maltese Falcon” was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. This would be a memorable beginning for the already accomplished screenwriter John Huston. His legendary directorial career was launched by his first and very successful experience directing this film. He first adapted the very popular suspenseful 1930 detective novel of the same name by noted author Dashiell Hammett. The Crime Writers’ Association has ranked the novel as tenth in the Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time list. Hammett led a very interesting life, and for a period of time he worked as a private detective for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. His experiences then were what inspired his detective mystery writings.
Huston went on to lead a legendary career in acting roles, screenwriting and directing many other classic films. One of his closest friends before his official film career was upcoming actor Humphrey Bogart, who had yet to start a leading actor role. Huston wanted Bogart as the leading man for the role. He carefully chose the rest of the cast. This included experienced actress Mary Astor to play the leading femme fatale role. Astor was one of the few actresses that went from a young career start in silent films to transitioning to sound films. Bogart considered the film a masterpiece that he was very proud of, and it solidified his recognizable onscreen persona. It was a box office success, and instantly very popular with film critics and a fan favorite of movie-goers.
“We are pleased that the classic movie night will be the exact anniversary month of the premier of the film in Oswego 80 years ago,” said Justin White of the OCHS board of trustees. “We hope to have the same success with a full classic movie fans attendance.” Interesting details have been added to make this a special event including hosting it in Oswego’s historic cinema theatre. There will be special door prizes connected to the event and a souvenir program. One of the mysterious prizes is a Maltese Falcon statue that will be one of the enjoyable items that will be included. The mysterious original film prop of the Maltese Falcon has been one of the most top valuable and desired classic movie prop artifacts. It has breaking records for an auction sale price. The movie tickets have been designed by Oswego Printing to emulate a vintage movie-style one of 1941 and will be a nice souvenir, as well.
“This has been a milestone year and we continue to promote the remarkable legacy of Oswego’s history,” added White. “The Oswego County Historical Society was formed in 1896 and is celebrating its 125th anniversary. For the first fifty years it did not have a permanent headquarters. It was in 1946 that the fourth generation of the Richardson-Bates family generously gifted their Tuscan Villa residence to the historical society to be the first community museum and it is celebrating its 75th anniversary.”
Since museum officially opened, it has remained the oldest cultural and historical organization in Oswego County. It is one of the most intact 19th century house museums in New York state with the original furnishings and contents from the family. The society maintains an extensive collection of artifacts, documents and photographs that preserves the history of Oswego County. The organization relies on fundraisers to sustain general operating support. Events such as this are vital to maintain the house museum and its services.
“Year round we offer events and programs that highlight our history,” said White. “This classic movie event is quite popular and each year we work on making an interesting connection to Oswego history.” This year marks the 75th anniversary of the closure of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego during World War II. Commemorative programs have been coordinated throughout the year by the Fort Ontario State Historic Site and the Safe Haven Holocaust Museum. To highlight this remarkable history of the only refugee shelter in the United States during World War II, there will be a brief, but fascinating 1944 documentary titled “Over the Rainbow Bridge” prior to the featured film. This will be shown in the traditional spirit of the newsreels that were shown during that era as news features before the movies started. This helped educate the public before home televisions.
The movie will be shown in the original main auditorium of the historic Oswego Theatre, which was designed by prolific international theatre architect John Eberson in the Art Deco design. It opened to the public in January of 1941 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
“The historic Oswego Theatre is the special place to feature classic movies,’” said OCHS board trustee Lyn Patterson.” It is such a unique example of Art Deco architecture and is a perfect backdrop for this event.”
Tickets are a donation of $20 per person and are available at the Oswego Theatre at 138 W. Second St., Port City Copy Center at 115 W. Third St. and by pickup or delivery by calling the Richardson-Bates House Museum.
“There is nothing like seeing a timeless film on the big screen,” said White. “It is a whole different experience than seeing it on television. This will be a special opportunity to both enjoy and celebrate cinematic history and support the museum, as well.”
The OCHS is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the rich history of the county. The society maintains and operates the Richardson-Bates House Museum at 135 E. Third St. in Oswego, a historic landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1–5 p.m. and other days by appointment. For more information visit the website at www.rbhousemuseum.org or call during regular hours at 315-343-1342.