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Alex Film Society ready to crack its 'Jaws'

The society will host the '70s thriller with production designer Joe Alves and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb at the Alex Theatre on July 28.

July 22, 2012|By Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com
  • Joe Alves, in his Woodland Hills home showing his sketches of the big shark that eventually turned into Jaws. Alves designed the shark in Jaws and will be sharing stories of the work that went into the making of the movie at the Alex Theatre on July 28.
Joe Alves, in his Woodland Hills home showing his sketches… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

On a November night in 1994, the Alex Film Society was about to screen “Gone With the Wind” when the sound system failed. The screen had only been propped up two days before, and there had been no time to test the sound before the society's first event.

“I had to go out and say, ‘We have a problem,'” recalled society founder Brian Ellis, and everyone went home early.

Theater management had already predicted that the new group wouldn't attract much of a crowd, so Ellis and society member Randy Carter personally rounded up soda and candy from a local store. But when Friday and Saturday came around, they sold 1,200 tickets.

That was the beginning of the Alex Film Society — a group of film enthusiasts who came together in 1994 to plead with the Glendale City Council for the ability to show classic 35-millimeter films at the historic Alex Theatre, where the post-renovation focus was on performing arts, not movies. The society wanted to promote the Alex by presenting classic films “as they were meant to be seen,” Ellis said.

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Today, the society has 250 families as members who come from towns stretching from Bakersfield to San Diego, from the Inland Empire to Santa Monica, and screenings have been hosted by a wide range of actors and filmmakers: Jerry Maren, who played a munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz”; Martin Landau spoke at “North by Northwest,” and Tippi Hedren was the guest of last April's screening of “The Birds.”

While at the “Ben-Hur” presentation, Charlton Heston told Ellis during intermission, “My wife has never seen this. We're going to stay for the end.”

On Saturday, July 28, the Alex Film Society will screen the 1975 summer movie classic “Jaws,” with appearances by shark designer Joe Alves and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb. Both will share stories about working with the 20-something director Steven Spielberg and a mechanical shark that worked so poorly the crew laughed at it.

The production unfolded under studio heads who had blatant misgivings over how successful a movie about a shark could be.

“The studio was not enthused about making a shark movie,” recalled Alves, who will share a video at the Alex depicting his first charcoal drawings of the shark, which he likens to the white whale Moby Dick.

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