Those eyes: Although considered a sultry beauty, Lombard was famous as a screwball comedienne.
Chicago’s dining editor calls it the ‘anti-comfort zone.’
Lombard in a scene from her last movie, To Be or Not to Be (1942), directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
ADULT ED The 36-seat venue that plays host to Facets classes—six-week-long film series with facilitated discussions—is the most uncomfortable theatre ever. Some of the seats are broken. Some of the arms of some of the seats are broken. The ceiling has decades-old water stains. The room is usually too hot, although once in a while it’s too cold. The ladies’ bathroom has all sorts of warnings about slow flush and seems always on the verge of running out of paper. Even the popcorn is bad. Too soft and too salty.
Mr. Dining and I have taken a couple of classes now—one that ended in late March about the films of Carole Lombard and another this past fall about film noir—and we love the mix of students. The number varied between 20 and 4 from week to week, but, on the last night, 18 people showed up. If you want a mirror image of yourself, a group that will nod in agreement and validate your every comment, Facets will drive you crazy. If you want to mix it up with folks at different income levels, of different ages, and from different parts of the city, head on down. Here are a few of the characters from my class:
- Joan is a baker. If you’ve ever eaten at Eleven City Diner, Ina’s, Flo, Handlebar, or Papajin, chances are you have tasted Joan’s cakes, pies, or cookies. On the last night of class, she brought snickerdoodles and Mexican chocolate cookies—because you always have a party on the last night of class. Joan often disagreed with everyone but did so with intelligence and good humor. She also made good observations and asked fun, gossipy questions, such as, “Did they ever find out what caused Lombard’s plane to crash?” “No,” said Stephen Reginald, our knowledgeable and enthusiastic leader. “But Lombard was so beloved and she died coming home from a war-bond effort and the president declared her the first female victim of the war effort. The plane? Pilot error. Didn’t follow the flight path or something.”
- Susan was an editor for the American Bar Association; she’s now retired. She loved the first Lombard film we saw, Twentieth Century. She thought it was hysterically funny; I thought it dragged and had too many extraneous characters.
- Judd is unemployed. Looks to be in his forties. He studied art history and works occasionally at a slip-cover factory. “I try to take things that I’m not generally exposed to. Eclectic stuff. African Cinema. I took the films of French director, [Julien] Duvivier,” said Judd. The classes are taught either by film professors, including the Duvivier instructor, or film enthusiasts like our Steve. (Reginald’s next movie-watching event is on May 28th; the movie is Hitchcock’s Rear Window.) Added Judd: “It’s always a different experience.”
- Doug is a director of info-systems at a social-services agency. I’ve bumped into Doug at Facets before, and I think Doug has seen every movie ever made. If you come up with a movie he hasn’t seen, he wants to see it. My moment of triumph came when I told him that Jack Parr had starred in a movie called Love Nest—“with Marilyn Monroe,” Mr. Dining added. Doug didn’t know Jack Parr ever made a movie, and we clearly earned his respect.
- Anacany is a 32-year-old bilingual educator for the YWCA and her girlfriend, Mel, 29, is a film student and nanny. Mel majored in media studies at DePaul, would love to be a writer—maybe film criticism—and is thinking about opening her own daycare center. Mel was probably the youngest person in the class; on the other end, I know there was 76-year-old woman enrolled. (I know she’s 76 because she said she was eight years old when Lombard died in 1942.)
All in all, the crowd at Facets is a glorious mix of film students, film buffs, film lovers, and film geeks. At any moment, someone might say something like, “Didn’t the way so-and-so raised his eyebrow in such-and-such scene remind you of this-and-that homage to Truffaut.” Whoa. But it never sounded pretentious—just another insight from an ardent Chicago cinephile.
GO: Film school at Facets Multi-Media, 1517 W Fullerton, 773-281-4114. facets.org
Photographs: Courtesy Facets Multi-Media