State played major role in Normandy; D-Day: A local historian's book reminds us that many of the troops storming the beach in 1944 were from Maryland.


When Steven Spielberg's World War II drama "Saving Private Ryan" returns to theaters today, many Baltimore filmgoers will marvel at the movie's extraordinary depiction of the events of June 6, 1944, when American troops invaded the beaches of Normandy.

But what many will not know is that many of the men portrayed in the scene were from Maryland. Historian Joseph Balkoski, whose book "Beyond the Beachhead: The 29th Infantry Division in Normandy," would like to remind local audiences that a piece of Maryland history is up on screen.

"It's one of the things that was both good and bad with 'Saving Private Ryan,' " Balkoski said the other day. "The good, of course, was that it opened America's eyes to what happened on D-Day. The bad was that everybody had completely forgotten the Maryland connection." The 29th Infantry Division, which was largely raised and trained in Maryland, landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach on June 6. The boats that Spielberg shows unloading men to certain doom were mostly populated with young men from Maryland and Virginia.

Balkoski will be at the Senator Theatre tonight and Saturday to sign copies of his book and introduce the 8: 15 p.m. screening of "Saving Private Ryan."

'Blessings' premiere

This just in: Women in Film and Video of Maryland will sponsor the Maryland premiere of "Mixed Blessings," a comedy written and produced by local filmmakers Mary Hardcastle and Shelley Morhaim. Subtitled "How To Succeed Despite the Love and Support of Your Family," "Mixed Blessings" stars Timothy Bottoms ("The Last Picture Show"), Kelly Curtis ("Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"), Taylor Nichols ("Metropolitan") and Ed McMahon ("Publisher's Clearinghouse") in film about a Baltimore wife and mother who decides to resume her career, with cataclysmic results. The film's star, Kelly Curtis, as well as Hardcastle and Morhaim, will be on hand at the film's local debut.

The premiere will be held on April 14 at the Senator Theatre. Tickets are $20, and proceeds from the event will go to the Family Tree, a child-abuse prevention organization, and WIFV. Call 410-685-FILM, mailbox 4.

'Central Station'

This week, Cinema Sundays, the film lovers' club that meets for movies and conversation at the Charles Theatre, will present a preview screening of "Central Station," Walter Salles Jr.'s acclaimed film about a woman living alone in Rio de Janeiro who befriends a little boy, then takes him on a journey to find his father. A hit at last year's Sundance Film Festival, "Central Station" has been lauded for its tender story, as well as a tour de force performance by Fernanda Montenegro.

Baltimore film critic Jack Purdy will lead the discussion after the screening, which will commence at 10: 30 a.m., after bagels and coffee. (Cinema Sundays' Gabe Wardell, just back from the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals, will be on hand with lots of goodies from Park City.) Cinema Sundays memberships can still purchased for the remaining six programs for $72 (members can renew for $60). For more information, call 410-727-3464.

Hop in the 'Artmobile'

The Fells Point Creative Alliance will hold another cool cultural happening tonight at 8 p.m. at The Lodge, at 244 S. Highland Ave. Tonight is "Artmobile Night," a program of artists' slides and videos, including a video of the Great Kinetic Sculpture Race (coming soon to Baltimore). Margaret's Cafe serves a full meal for $6, and coffee and a cash bar are available. Admission is $3.

'Free of Eden' premiere

TCI Communications and Showtime will present a special premiere screening of the Showtime movie "Free of Eden," a drama about the relationship between a teacher who has forgotten his past and the young student who is searching for her future. The movie stars Sidney Poitier, Phylicia Rashad and Robert Hooks. Hooks, who recently appeared in "Fled" and was one of the founders of the Negro Ensemble Company, will be honored at the event with a Senator sidewalk block, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Heritage Shadows of the Silver Screen Museum & Cinema.

The one-night-only theatrical presentation of "Free of Eden" will be held Wednesday at the Senator Theatre. A 6: 30 p.m. VIP reception will precede the 7: 30 p.m. screening.

A limited number of tickets are available to the public. Visitors to TCI's payment center at 5801 Metro Dr. can enter their names in a drawing (names will be chosen today at 3 p.m.). WWIN (Majic 95.9 FM) will also offer tickets through an on-air promotion through Feb. 9. And the first 75 people to bring the advertisement that ran in the Jan. 29 Afro-American into the newspaper's office at 2519 N. Charles will receive a pass for two admissions. "Free of Eden" will be shown on the Showtime cable network Feb. 21.

Dandridge exhibit delayed

Because of inclement weather in the Midwest last month, the Jim Wheeler exhibition "Dorothy Dandridge: The Actress, the Myth, The Sister" will not be arriving at the Heritage Shadows of the Silver Screen Museum & Cinema this month. The collection -- which includes rare photographs of the star, original costumes from her films and other memorabilia -- will arrive in Baltimore on March 19 for a 10-day stay.

The Heritage will still hold a special one-day-only showing of "Porgy and Bess" (1959). Otto Preminger's rarely screened adaptation of the Gershwin opera, which stars Dandridge and Sidney Poitier, will unspool at the Greenspring Middle School on Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. Admission is $12, and tickets may be purchased in advance only. Proceeds from the show will benefit the building fund of the Heritage. "Porgy and Bess" has yet to be restored or reissued and is not available on video, so don't miss this rare opportunity to see a landmark in American cinema. For tickets, call 410-528-8440.

'Forbidden Planet'

The annual spring film series held by Towson University's Film & Video Society this year deals with "Robots, Androids, Cyborgs and Replicants: Artificial Life in Science Fiction Cinema." Monday's show will be the classic science-fiction version of "The Tempest," "Forbidden Planet" (1956).

Screenings are held at 7: 30 p.m. in Van Bokkelen Hall Auditorium, on the Towson University campus. A university faculty member will lead the post-screening discussion. Admission is free. For more information, call 410-830-2787.

Pub Date: 2/05/99

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