Emily Rossi-Snook stands next to a poster announcing the Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia film festival.
Schroon Lake shared the stage with Hollywood during a recent film festival in Italy.
Emily Rossi-Snook of Schroon Lake attended the Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia in Bologna recently to show family movies taken during the production of “Marjorie Morningstar.” The 1957 movie starring Natalie Wood was filmed in Schroon Lake.
Members of the Rossi family — brothers John, Steve and Charlie — owned and operated movie theaters in the Schroon Lake, Port Henry and Crown Point from 1934-1982. A movie fan, Charlie Rossi made home movies during the filming of “Marjorie Morning Star” in Schroon Lake and of “On the Waterfront” in Hoboken, N.J., in 1953.
The family’s love of film has spanned generations. When Emily Rossi-Snook’s daughter, Elena, learned of the home movies she urged her mother to act.
“My daughter, Elena Rossi-Snook, is presently a film archivist at The New York Public Library at Lincoln Center in New York City,” Emily said. “While interning at film labs in Hollywood, she encouraged me to deposit Uncle Charlie’s home movies of the filming of ‘Marjorie Morningstar’ in Schroon Lake in 1957 and ‘On the Waterfront’ in Hoboken in 1953 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood where they preserved the original 16mm film footage.”
“Lynne Kirste, curator at the Academy Film Archive, contacted me early this fall to inform me that she would like to use my footage in a home movie film festival in Bologna, Italy, in a program titled ‘Hollywood Home Movies’,” Emily continued. “She asked if I was interested in participating in the festival by introducing my films.”
The festival, “Archivio Aperto,” was a program at the Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia and was held in a Renaissance-era church in Bologna. The event had about 200 attendees.
The festival was organized to celebrate UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, an annual event that helps promote audiovisual archives and their preservation.
“I was introduced as a special guest,” Emily said, “the only speaker in attendance who owned the films being shown and could provide personal commentary on family members and community involvement. A professional translator was provided to take my commentary and offer it in Italian.
“The festival was very well received and I was told that the warmth of the commentary and the story of my family and beautiful hometown were heartwarming and memorable,” she added. “It was a wonderful trip and memorable experience.”
As an introduction to the silent films. Emily told the audience:
“My family loved their Italian heritage and they loved the movies. They would be so proud to know that their home movies are here, home in Italy.
“In 1932 my dad, John Rossi, and Uncle Charles Rossi left their home in Hoboken, N.J., to buy a movie theatre in Schroon Lake, N.Y., known as the Lake Como of America. The family worked together. My first job when I was very small was to take the cellophane wrappers off the candy boxes.
“The highlights of Uncle Charlie’s life came in 1953 and 1957 when Hollywood came to his two home towns — ‘On the Waterfront’ with Marlon Brando was shot in the winter of 1953 in Hoboken and in 1957 ‘Marjorie Morningstar’ starring Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly was shot on beautiful Schroon Lake. Both times Uncle Charlie was there as an extra in the films. Both times he had his 16 mm camera.”
The home movies include footage of several Schroon Lake residents.
“I was able to point out local residents who were extras in the film with Uncle Charlie, hamming it up with George Tobias and Marty Milner,” Emily said. “There was a striking scene of a young, beautiful Natalie Wood during a light check; the rehearsal of the bullfight scene which included locals Lil Richardson, Janet Friedman, Marie Rossi and Eleanor Drake. Gene Kelly playing ping pong with Marty MIlner and Robert Wagner, who was not in the film but who showed up on set to court Natalie Wood.
“Thanks to help from Lil Richardson, I was able to provide the information that Ed Wynn and Claire Trevor were so friendly and kind to the locals,” she continued. “Gene Kelly came into town to buy produce from the local grocery. I also relayed the family story that Grandma Rossi cooked traditional Italian pasta dinner for George Tobias at the Paramount Theater one night after the theater finished its last show of the night.”
“Marjorie Morningstar” was based on the 1955 novel of the same name. The film, released by Warner Bros. and directed by Irving Rapper, tells a fictional coming of age story about a young Jewish girl in New York City in the 1950s. The film traces Marjorie Morgenstern’s attempts to become an artist, exemplified through her relationship with the actor and playwright Noel Airman.
The central conflict in the film revolves around the traditional models of social behavior and religious behavior expected by New York Jewish families in the 1950s, and Marjorie’s desire to follow an unconventional path.
Emily Rossi-Snook concluded her remarks at the film festival by telling her Italian audience:
“I return to beautiful Schroon Lake often and consider it my home. The People of Schroon Lake, those who remember the filming of ‘Marjorie Morningstar,’ the extras who were in it, who knew the stars, remember my uncle and family and their movie theaters, say hello to you, the citizens of Bologna.”