The Actress and the Hunter: two (very different) classic movies

The movie poster for All About Eve is captioned "It's All About Women... and Their Men!" and shows actors and actresses from the film walking side by side, with colorful directional arrows pointing from pair to pair, and red stylized hearts above where the heart would be on each person.

With all these brand new films coming to DVD, there’s never been a better time to pop some corn, turn the lights down, and watch some movies…from the 1950s.

Yes, ignoring all the coolest and hippest new releases, I recently watched two black and white Hollywood classics, one with a moving ensemble cast figuring out fame and love and another with an all-time terrifying performance. 

All About Eve (1950) tells a familiar story, one that could be told in any decade since its release, including our own. Bette Davis plays a stage actress, Margo, who receives the attention of a die-hard fan – the titular Eve, played by Anne Baxter. As a fan of all of Margo’s stage productions, Eve eagerly waits outside the back of the theater, hoping for a chance to meet her idol. When the two finally do cross paths, Margo finds a kindred spirit in the young fan, who quickly joins her entourage as an assistant.

But of course, Eve isn’t as simple as that – she wants to be an actress, and from their meeting until the end of the film, the lives of Margo and Eve merge, split, and change dramatically (pun intended). See, Margo is fully aware that she’s aging in a world that (unjustly) has little use for an older actress, and as Eve’s ambitions become clear, she finds herself at a crossroads of her career and life. 

Davis’ performance is really astounding: equally sharp and sad, but never veering into melodrama, never into cliché. And the depth of her performance is brought out by the ensemble cast. Her dear friend, Karen (Celeste Holm), offers sensible but snarky advice; her boyfriend (Hugh Marlowe, Davis’ real-life husband (at the time)), remains her love and her rock, amid all the chaos. Around them orbit a smattering of New York and Hollywood types, friendly and otherwise, who make this bygone era feel as wildly alive as any contemporary film.

The structure of the film is narrated by these characters, each giving their perspective as the tale is woven. Even Eve evolves through the film, from fan to friend to foe. Yet, even she is treated fairly by the film, and we understand her by the closing. That’s perhaps what is most timeless and remarkable here: All About Eve shows these characters as people, in as fair a light as any deserve. 

The movie poster for "The Night of the Hunter" shows Robert Mitchum holding a small girl clutching a rag doll, with light streaming in to illuminate the pair in a dark room.



In Night of the Hunter (1955), the light shines a bit more dimly on its cast, with a story as shockingly dark as the era might permit. This is not one for the kiddos (though there’s nothing visually or verbally explicit). 

Robert Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a depression-era traveling minister, who is quick to spin a yarn and quicker to pick a pocket. Based on a real story (as much as that means), Powell finds himself in jail for a little bit of grand theft auto and bunks with a condemned bank robber, Harper. Before his arrest and trial, Harper hid the stolen $10,000, entrusting its secret location to his young children. And Powell, being a man of opportunity, wants that money, even if Harper won’t give it up. 

After Harper’s execution and Powell’s release, the fake minister finds the dead man’s town and his widow, Willa (Shelley Winters). So far, the film has been a series of disconnected and brief scenes. But this meeting is where the film reaches its central conflict: an amoral man pretending to be decent, a downtrodden family needing a savior, and $10,000 to be found. I won’t spoil how it unfolds beyond this point, but I would say Night of the Hunter becomes as surprising, terrifying, and visually striking as any of today’s thrillers. (I mean, Powell often soliloquys with his pocket knife, as if it were Yorick’s skull, if that’s any indication.)

This rising horror is owed almost entirely to Mitchum, who plays the minister Powell in the most slimy, threatening, and unpredictable way. It’s not unlike Robin Williams’ performance in One Hour Photo, or Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, where the actor seems willing to go as far as the script allows and then further. Though this film is currently sixty-seven years old, I still had no idea what would happen, or how it would happen, and when it all did finally happen, I was a bit shaken.

So there you go – two options for a classic film night. Both of these are foundational films, inspiring dozens of movies in the coming decades, but couldn’t be more different and wonderful to watch, even a lifetime after their original release.

All About Eve and Night of the Hunter are available on DVD from HCLS. 

Khaleel has worked at the Miller Branch since 2015, though he’s been back and forth between HCLS and high school, college, and graduate school since 2003.  

All things LEGO!

The photograph depicts a jumbled, colorful pile of Lego blocks and figurines.
Image by Iris Hamelmann from Pixabay.

Did you know that there are more than 100 LEGO pieces per person on the planet? The word Lego comes from an abbreviation of the Danish words leg and godt, which mean play well. Lego was founded in 1932, and since then their “play well” philosophy continues to inspire citizens the world over. This universal building block connects generations and bridges language barriers – anyone can build Lego. Here are just a few resources from HCLS to inspire Lego fans of all ages – whether you’re an AFOL (adult fan of Lego), TFOL (teen fan of Lego), or KFOL (kid fan of Lego), here are some finds to get you in the mood to build!

A Lego Brickumentary is a fun and fact-filled foray into the fandom that is Lego. In a documentary that the whole family can watch together, animated Lego scenes are interspersed with interviews and awe-inspiring Lego builds. It explores the history and evolution of the world’s second biggest toy company and how it has become a catalyst for innovation. I was inspired through the artists, master builders, designers, architects, and therapists that have utilized this simple building brick to transform ideas and imagination into reality. This film runs 1 hour and 35 minutes, is rated G, and is available on DVD from HCLS.

Beautiful Lego is a full color portfolio of Lego artworks from 77 different contributors and a compendium of so many fantastical designs – from minimalism to monsters. This gorgeous book boasts more than 200 pages of inspiration. I loved the incredibly detailed model of an imaginary extraterrestrial city – the same one featured on the cover art. The book features unusual usage of different types of bricks in creating textures, expressions, and models of everyday objects. For fans of art, fans of Lego, and fans of both.

100 Ways to Rebuild the World is a children’s book full of ideas of how to encourage kindness, positivity, community, and responsibility. It features fun bright Lego illustrations and issues challenges to inspire kids to care about themselves, others, and the planet. My favorite challenges were “Start a chain of creativity” and “Step into their shoes.” It is a great resource for parents who are looking for ways to help their children connect with the community and the world around them.

The collage includes the Lego creations participants in the Lego Engineering Challenge class, including elephants, a dump truck, an arrow, windmills, and other vehicles.
A collage of the creative work of participants in the Lego Engineering Challenge class.

Lego Engineering Challenge is a biweekly prerecorded class produced by Ms. Julie. She issues four unique challenges in every class – encouraging children in grades K-8 to use their imagination and problem solving skills to complete fun tasks. After each session, Ms Julie compiles participants’ submissions and shares them to encourage budding engineers and artists. Pictured are just a few submissions from past classes. It is always fun to see so many creative solutions to the same challenge. Find the next class by clicking here, then register to receive a link to the next session.

Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry is an eAudiobook available on Cloud Library. It explores the business management and innovation practices of the Lego Group through anecdotes and case studies. This book was written to be an inspiration for business owners as a model of how innovation practices evolved at the Lego Group, and how the company used their 2003 brush with bankruptcy to realign, reconnect, and reemerge as a leader in the toy industry.

Inspired to create your own Lego masterpieces? Share them with the world through the Lego Ideas website. This is one of the Lego Group’s most successful innovations. A crowd-sourced idea generator, it began in 2008 as Lego Cuusoo (Cuusoo means “imagination” or “wish” in Japanese, and it still available as an archive here). On the Lego Ideas website, you can submit your own proposals for new Lego sets, vote on global submissions, and participate in activities and contests with other Lego lovers.

Kimberly J is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. She enjoys reading, photography, creating, crafting, and baking.

By Cherise T.

Do you miss browsing our library shelves? Settling into a cozy chair to explore a stack of books and deciding which to check out and take home? Filling your bag with books by new authors, DVDs for that sitcom your daughter thought you’d love, CDs by a band you’ve been hearing on the radio? If so, Howard County Library System’s Bundle Bags will bring you joy, information, and entertainment. Especially with the colder weather setting in, a bag of library materials prepared just for you will brighten the day. Think about snuggling under a blanket with a new book, immersing in a compelling period drama, laughing at a romantic comedy or dancing to energizing music. Whether you want to challenge yourself and learn to knit in time for holiday gift giving or bake a great pie using recipes from a gorgeous cookbook, there’s a Bundle Bag for you. 

Save time assisting your student with a homework assignment by requesting a Bundle Bag. Just imagine, a bag filled with books about trucks, colors, and shapes. Or maybe your child is ready to add chapter books to his reading journey. Our library staff is skilled in selecting children’s and teen books ranging from educational to inspirational, from sports to fantasy to classics. The next time a family member complains of running out of things to read or watch, be reassured that help is on the way. 

Destress throughout your daily activities with some holiday music. We’ve got a Bundle Bag for that. Always wanted to try a romance novel? We’ve got a Bundle Bag for that. Relax into an audiobook about your favorite movie star or escape with a thrilling mystery. Explore true crime accounts. Check out a British television series. With a bag filled with materials, you may just find your next favorite book or movie.  

Easily complete the form for a Bundle Bag on our website. There are five age categories ranging from infant to adult. Request books or CDs/DVDs, or both. For each category requested, a library research staff member selects six items. Choose up to five categories for a total of 30 items. After selecting the bundle contents, complete the form by entering a pickup date and time as early as the second library business day and up to two weeks from the date of form submission. Bags may be picked up at any of our six branches. With one trip to the library for contactless pickup, bring home everything from board books for your grandson to Oscar-winning films for you.  

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks. 

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