Pittsburgh native and actor David Conrad selected The Third Man and will host the anniversary celebration. Conrad recalls attending films at the Hollywood, which opened on Labor Day weekend in 1926, when he was growing up in Pittsburgh in the early 80s.
“The thing about a theater that size is that you realize film is a medium meant to be seen on a 60-foot screen,” Conrad says. “It’s supposed to have that power.”
Conrad says these old theaters remind patrons of a film history and allow them to engage in a dialogue with American film art.
“These old theaters are in a way like small Pittsburgh neighborhoods,” Conrad says. “These things that people wrote off, that were of a time of the past, are now all the rage.”
Much like the Hollywood, Conrad says The Third Man has stuck with him over the years. The film follows a writer who travels to Vienna because an old friend has a job for him, but when he arrives he discovers that his friend has died and attempts to find the person responsible.
“It can be a gem and a thing you laugh about,” Conrad says. “And then it can be something you carry around the rest of your life.”
Conrad says the film delivers its message while entertaining viewers without resorting to heavy-handedness.
“You end up being amused, and charmed and romanticized,” Conrad says. “But then at the end you go, ‘Wow, that’s a massive message there.’”
He says the movie calls post-World War II American idealism into question, specifically the idea that the country knows what’s right and what’s wrong and can impose those values on other cultures.
“The whole sense of saving things, of being able to walk into a place and fix it,” Conrad says. “Right in 1949, these two guys are saying, ‘be careful.’ And if there’s been a message to us in the last 50 years it’s, ‘be careful about that.’”
Anton Karas’ zither score became popular in its own right. Conrad says its jaunty rhythms serve as a counterpoint to the darker machinations of the plot.
“It’s the genius of listening to [Pete] Townsend and Keith Moon [of The Who] playing drum and guitar in a way that aren’t complementary but that work,” Conrad says.
Conrad says the film has a Pittsburgh sense of humor, reflecting a culture where tragedy and comedy coexist. He says theaters like the Hollywood also plays an important role in Pittsburgh cultural.
“As much as we need to buy local and think local, we need to speak locally, we need to curate locally, we need to tell local stories,” Conrad says.
He says having local people select films to screen in the city rather than a producer in New York or Los Angeles helps preserve an independent local culture.
“Have a local space where you sit around and choose or sit around in your own bars and tell your own stories,” Conrad says. “If you don’t do that you lose it.”
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