A wonderful life: Family prepares for Jimmy Stewart celebration in Indiana

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Jimmy Stewart's daughters are coming to Indiana, Pa., in May as part of a centennial celebration of the Oscar-winning actor's birth.

Also planning a visit, in June, is Karolyn Grimes, who played his flaxen-haired daughter, Zuzu, in "It's a Wonderful Life," and whose character gave rise to the oft-quoted "Zuzu's petals!" line of dialogue.

Indiana's favorite son was born on May 20, 1908, and a series of events will mark the 100th anniversary of that occasion.

Among them will be the May 24 dedication of a new entrance canopy for the museum by comedian Rich Little and his wife, Marie; broadcast veteran Nick Clooney and his wife, Nina; and Stewart's daughters, Dr. Kelly Stewart Harcourt and Judy Stewart Merrill. The canopy is a gift from the Littles.

Later that day, at a dinner at the Indiana Country Club, the Centennial Harvey Award will be given posthumously to Grace Kelly, Stewart's co-star in "Rear Window." Her nephew, John B. Kelly III of Philadelphia, is expected to accept on behalf of her family in Monaco.

A Harvey is a miniature bronze lamppost like the one where Elwood P. Dowd first encountered the 6-foot invisible white rabbit in the 1950 comedy. Past recipients have included actresses Shirley Jones, Janet Leigh and June Allyson.

Centennial Festival Week will kick off May 18 with an 11 a.m. worship service at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 695 School St. in Indiana. At 2 p.m. that day, the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana will hold an opening reception for "The Stewart Family Collections."

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 24, it will be "Festival Day on the Plaza" at 835 Philadelphia St. with an antique car show, strolling magicians and musicians, special stamp cancellation and dedication of the canopy.

Grimes will appear June 22 at 3 p.m. at the museum's theater. In the 1946 Frank Capra film, she played Zuzu, who caught a cold carrying home a prize flower from school.

On the most traumatic, dramatic night of his life, Stewart's George Bailey tucks the flower petals into his watch pocket. After George has been shown what life would have been like without him, the petals reappear, reaffirming he has his old, cherished life back.

The Academy Award-winning actor and World War II fighter pilot died July 2, 1997, at age 89. Visit www.jimmy.org for more information on the museum that celebrates his Indiana roots, wartime service, family and Hollywood success.

A sweet movie treat

If you're planning on staying or coming Downtown to celebrate Valentine's Day, Pittsburgh Filmmakers has a classic movie for you.

It will screen "Roman Holiday" next week at the Harris Theater, 809 Liberty Ave. Showtimes are Monday through Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., with a post-movie reception and discussion Wednesday. On Valentine's Day, it will be shown at 5:30 and 7:45 p.m. Admission is $6 or, for the early show on Feb. 14, $5.

The movie, about a sheltered princess who falls for a dashing American newspaperman, won Academy Awards for newcomer Audrey Hepburn, costumer Edith Head and, belatedly and posthumously, Dalton Trumbo.

Another writer's name appeared in the credits because Trumbo was blacklisted in 1953 when the movie was released. He died in 1976, and the Oscar was presented to his widow in 1993.

Sri Lankan screening

Actress Malini Fonseka, considered the "queen of Sri Lankan cinema," is in Pittsburgh for several events this week, including a reception and world premiere of her movie, "Dhoni" ("Daughter"). She stars in and produced the drama.

The reception and screening will be from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at Winchester Thurston School, 555 Morewood Ave., Shadyside. Admission is $15 and tickets can be purchased at the door. Proceeds benefit the building fund of the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center.

Fonseka, who is also meeting with students and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, started her acting career in the 1960s and has more than 100 movies to her credit. The Sri Lankan-American Association of Western Pennsylvania and Silk Screen, the Asian-American Film Festival returning to Pittsburgh in May, are presenting the event.

Pittsburgher in fest

Jeff Benson Jr., a Schenley High School graduate and former basketball star who founded his Fear No Man Productions in Pittsburgh in 2003, will have his film "She's Got It" in the TOMI Film Festival Feb. 14-16 in New Orleans.

Benson's movie is about a career-obsessed woman who finds her relentless pursuit of success threatened by a twisted mix of karma. She must decide between standing by her family or continuing her self-centered lifestyle.

"She's Got It" is the second feature-length film from writer-director Benson (who now lives in Middletown, Conn.) and producers Shontae Khaleel White and R. Daniel Lavelle. Their first, "Elevators," is set for distribution in Japan, they report.

TOMI stands for The Other Movie Industry and the event coincides with NBA All-Star weekend. It's designed to bring emerging moviemakers to the attention of distributors and other executives who can see their work while in town for the game and other festivities.

See www.fearnomanproductions.com and www.tomifilmfestival.org for more information.

Film Kitchen cooks

The next Film Kitchen, on Tuesday at the Melwood Screening Room, will present local artist Bob Labobgah with "The Oracle Trilogy," three short videos featuring his signature style.

Labobgah is known for performance and installation art incorporating sculpture, video and theater. His video trilogy stands alone but uses Eastern-influenced rituals with symbolic sculpture, landscape and performance to probe the human psyche.

The work of Michael J. Maraden and Neil Bhaerman also will be showcased. A reception starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday and the show at 8 p.m. at 477 Melwood Ave., Oakland. Admission is $4 and artists will attend the show and field questions.

Go to www.filmkitchenpgh.org for more information.

Rated I for inspiring

An unusual mix of films is competing for the Epiphany Prize for Inspiring Movie of 2007 awarded by Movieguide, a family guide to entertainment. Prizes of $50,000 each will be given to the movie and TV show that "resulted in a great increase in either man's love of God or man's understanding of God."

This year's film nominees: "Amazing Grace," "Bella," "I Am Legend," "In the Shadow of the Moon," "Spider-Man 3," "The Ten Commandments" and "The Ultimate Gift." Last year's winner was "The Nativity Story."

A separate category singles out the 10 best movies for family audiences, based on moral and spiritual principles, production values and a story that is redemptive and inspiring.

Those finalists are: "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "Bella," "Bridge to Terabithia," "Enchanted," "The Game Plan," "In the Shadow of the Moon," "Nancy Drew," "Ratatouille," "Shrek the Third" and "The Ultimate Gift."

Winners in those and other categories will be announced Feb. 12 at a gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Correction/Clarification: (Published Feb. 13, 2008) Filmmaker Jeff Benson Jr. is a graduate of Schenley High School. An incorrect school was listed in this story as originally published Feb. 7, 2008.

Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.


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