Honor the Backlot theme by viewing classic films in the Skokie Public Library's Auditorium.
More than a century ago, moving pictures exploded as a new source of American entertainment. From 1907 to 1917, Chicago's Essanay Film Manufacturing Company functioned as one of the country's pre-Hollywood titans of cinema, with stars such as the legendary Charlie Chaplin, "Bronco Billy" Anderson and Gloria Swanson working for the studio.
Because the Village of Skokie (then Niles Center) – with its wood frame buildings – resembled an old prairie town, the studio frequently used Skokie's downtown streets for shooting western movies. The historic 'Niles Center,' now the Skokie Theatre, was built in 1916 and often showed pictures that had been shot just steps from their doors. More than 100 years later, on the same streets that once staged movie gunfights and bank robberies, Skokie's Backlot Bash pays homage to downtown Skokie's heritage as a silent movie backlot set, by featuring free classic films.
Prior to the enforcement of the Hayes Code in 1934, Hollywood film makers pushed the envelope of so-called decency, with films of that time taking up adult themes that are much more common in cinema today.
One of the era's most notorious Pre-Code films was 1933's "Baby Face," starring Barbara Stanwyck. The film's open depiction of sex helped bring about Hollywood's self-censorship of the movies for the next three decades. Look for a 27-year-old John Wayne playing a businessman in a supporting role.
An American romantic comedy directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore, "You Can't Take It With You" documents the clash of two families, one rich, and one freewheeling, with no concern for money.
The film received Academy Awards for Best Picture and Director. It was the highest-grossing picture of 1938.