Hawai'i wartime films at Kapolei
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
By Wayne Harada
Film historian Steven Fredrick goes to war when he hosts "Hawai'i During World War II: The Movies and The Music of the 1940s" at 7 p.m. Wednesday — under the stars at Kapolei Public Library.
Fredrick has tracked down rare films, some of which haven't been seen in Hawai'i since World War II.
"We're showing even short subjects, a mixture of World War II newsreels, a travelogue on Hawai'i that was the last one shot before Dec. 7 and released after the war, and other rare gems," said Fredrick.
The historical program provides reflection and enlightenment about how media envisioned the war; some materials, in the context of time, were politically incorrect, he said.
"It's a mixed plate of film comedy and historic tragedy," he said. "We will be looking at original film prints (that are) 60 to 65 years old. These films are not DVDs or video copies, but originals ... the real McCoy."
Fredrick collects vintage and historic films relating to the Islands. He said the upcoming war-theme bill, sponsored by the Hawai'i Council for the Humanities, complements the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition, "Produce for Victory: Posters on the American Home Front, 1941-1945," on view at the Kapolei Public Library through June 17. (The show moves to the Kailua Public Library June 28 to July 19).
He said the outdoor screening idea came from Kapolei Library branch manager Richard Burns, "who is creative and has the energy to do new and interesting things."
Viewers are advised to gear up for the evening. "Bring blankets, bring pillows, bring snacks," said Fredrick. "We want this to be a community, family outing."
He had one concern about sharing the rare films — their fragility. Thus, his projector will be protected by tenting; a recent dry run went smoothly, he said.
"We're using the grassy area in the back of the library, not the large park in front," he said. Chairs will be provided for seniors unable to sit on the lawn.
The program will include a travelogue made in November 1941 by Lowell Thomas (the globe-trotting writer who made T.E. Lawrence a household name). The film touts O'ahu as a peaceful destination. By the time it was released in spring 1942, the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
"This was the last theatrical newsreel shot in Hawai'i before the war and released to the public. For a while after the attack, military law went into effect, and cameras and photographers were prohibited to shoot anything in Hawai'i."
Fredrick also got hold of a Looney Tunes cartoon that was screened at the Hawai'i Theatre on Dec. 6, 1941. "It's a Porky Pig cartoon, with a South Seas-Robinson Crusoe theme, where Porky does the V-for-victory sign," said Fredrick.
A forgotten 1943 Laurel and Hardy film — the only existing color footage of the black-and-white slapstick icons — is a five-minute gem.
"It's a short they filmed during a lunch hour while doing a feature at MGM," said Fredrick.
Among the Hawaiian musical short subjects is one of Lani McIntyre and his orchestra, doing a big-band version of "Hawaiian War Chant" in November 1943. "It's typically hapa-haole, with hula girls performing in cellophane skirts."
Fredrick said that he was sensitive about some newsreel sequences of the attack on Pearl Harbor, in which the J-word is either uttered or visible in print. "While the narration may be politically incorrect, I will tell people, in my introduction, that these things will have to be taken in context."
Following the screenings, Fredrick will be joined by Warren Nishimoto, director of the Center for Oral History at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, in a discussion of the films.
Reach Wayne Harada at firstname.lastname@example.org.