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Historical Preservation Society to hold film screening tonight

Posted on March 12, 2019

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

The South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society will host a screening of the film “First Love,” starring Deanna Durbin, tonight at the Gallery of History.

“Henry Koster directed this one and he directed (Durbin’s) first picture, so he kind of brought her to the attention of everyone. And it’s a Joe Pasternak production,” said Darrin Riley, researcher for the Society.

The Society has been screening films from the collection of Michael Fitzgerald as part of their Silver Screen Series since January, when they showed the 1940 musical comedy “If I Had My Way” starring Bing Crosby and Gloria Jean.

Due to rain, the Society was unable to hold a screening in February. This evening, the community will have the opportunity to watch 1939’s “First Love,” a re-telling of the classic tale of Cinderella.

“It’s not Cinderella’s story, but it is Cinderella,” Riley said. “Down to losing the shoe on the stairs.”

The Fitzgerald collection includes over 600 original 16-and 8-millimeter films and television specials, many of which are not available to watch on television or digital platforms. Riley said many of the films in the collection are original prints, including “First Love.”

“He knew all these people, he knew all of Old Hollywood, and so a lot of these films are actually from the stars, the directors, the producers that created them,” Riley said.

Tonight’s screening will feature the first film that has been restored and digitized by the Society themselves. Riley said the process of restoring films in the collection has been tough, but worthwhile.

“We do a dual cleaning with two different solvents that are made specifically for film. Sometimes you have to actually put them in suspense and wait, depending on the amount of any kind of damage to the film and when that happens, it can be six months before you can get back to the film,” Riley said. “You have to let the chemicals do their thing. So it’s not a fast process … but we’ve been pretty lucky so far.”

So far, the Society has finished restoring 81 films and 80 television shows, Riley said. A lot of old films are typically relatively short compared to modern movies; many can last only one hour. “First Love” runs a little longer than that at 84 minutes.

“First Love” was one of Deanna Durbin’s earliest films. She went on to star in movies throughout the remainder of the 1930s and into the late 1940s. During that time, she built up a prolific career as a recording artist as well, recording over 50 songs throughout her career.

“She was huge. Deanna Durbin was massively huge,” Riley said.

“First Love” received three Oscar nominations in the categories of Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Music. Riley said the film is family friendly and admission is free.

The screening will take place at the Gallery of History, 412 E. Faulkner, tonight at 6:30 p.m. Light concessions will be available and attendees are welcome to bring their own snacks and beverages of any type.

In April, Riley said the Society hopes to screen either “Shamrock Hill” (1949) or “Take Me to Town” (1953). “Shamrock Hill” tells the story of a young girl’s own preservation project and stars Peggy Ryan, while “Take Me to Town” is a western love story starring Ann Sheridan and Sterling Hayden.

“A majority that we have worked on so far … they’re not out there. You can’t get a DVD, you can’t watch it on television; they’re not out there,” Riley said. “Our push is that a new generation, or this next generation, can see these films and television shows.”

For more information on the South Arkansas Historical Preservation Society, visit their website at

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or