Lectures For Seniors!

Sharon Harris

Sharon Harris

Sharon Harris

Music & Film History

Expertise:
Music & Film History

Available for in-person lectures in:
South Florida & Southern New Jersey

Available via Zoom?
Yes

To book Sharon, e-mail:
dan@hudakonhollywood.com

Sharon Harris has worked in public relations/communications and the media since the 1980s, and currently works as a freelance business and consumer journalist. She’s always had a deep interest in classic Hollywood; she launched her adult enrichment course, "Hooray for Hollywood," in October 2016 for Stockton University's Friends of Encore Learning at Stockton (FELS) program in New Jersey. She began with the invention of the motion picture in the 1890s, and recently completed her sixth season, which focused on WWII and Hollywood's participation in the war effort. She’s been giving lectures on a variety of classic Hollywood topics since 2018. Topics include: Music of the 1960s, in depth looks at Gone With The Wind, The Godfather, and Casablanca, the early studio moguls, Jewish Vaudeville and Hollywood, the film industry before, during and after WWII, and a look at the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Maxine S.

Everyone loved your Casablanca presentation. Only hearing rave reviews. Thank you for your part in making our Membership Luncheon such a huge success. 

--Maxine S., Immediate President of Cascades Hadassah, Boynton Beach

Marcia K.

I have been surveying some of my club members regarding your wonderful Hollywood Moguls presentation. You have a wealth of knowledge on the subject and they were amazed that you could recall it without looking at your notes.

--Marcia K., Ponte Vecchio West, Boynton Beach

Esther S.

I really enjoyed your class yesterday. As always, it was interesting and well presented. Many in the audience had the same opinion.

--Esther S., Co-president of Friends of Encore Learning (FELS) at Stockton, Atlantic City

Jane B.

We enjoyed your presentation, which offered surprising information, on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The audience was engrossed in your explanation and your lecture beautifully helped us understand the real history. Everyone learned much from your power point presentation of articles, photos and videos.

--Jane B., Co-VP of Adult Education Programming, Temple Sinai of Delray Beach

Jeannette

Thank you so much for your course at FELS! And especially for giving us an extra session! All of us are amazed by your wealth of knowledge about the actors, producers, and the film industry. I can’t believe that you can remember the names of so many characters and so many plots. But you also analyze the trends, the politics, and the historical significance of this art.

-Jeannette, Stockton University Adult Enrichment Program

Susan

Thank you, Sharon. Your class was wonderful. Lots of interesting and fun information. I find myself sharing some of the stories with friends and family. Who knew Hitler was infatuated with Clark Gable? Loved the room, and parking was a breeze. As always, I am so impressed with your preparation and delivery. Thanks so much for sharing your passion with us.

-Susan, Stockton University Adult Enrichment Program

Arlene
Thank you dear Sharon, for your dedication in making “Horray for Hollywood “ such a fun and informative class. See you soon.

-❤🤗. Arlene, Stockton University Adult Enrichment Program

Lectures include:

Sounds Of The ‘60s

The 1960s was a turbulent decade of life-changing cultural, political, racial and national events. The era’s music reflected America’s evolving society, as a younger generation took the reins of leadership and created a different nation. Enjoy this one-hour overview of three different genres of ‘60s music that represent the early, middle and final years of the decade. You will surely know them all and can sing along to your favorites!

Note: The topic can also be covered in three hour-long lectures that look more expansively at the early, middle and final years of ‘60s music.

Part One (1960-1964)

The first part of the 1960s mixed music about cars, the beach, dances and teen angst over young love. This one-hour lecture looks at the early days of a decade that began in “Camelot” and ended in Vietnam. Several big-name stars of that era, including The Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon and Connie Francis will be spotlighted. We’ll also look at some of the fun movies of the time, including Viva Las Vegas, which starred Elvis and Ann-Margret.

Part Two (1964-1967)

The British are coming! The British are coming! The middle years of the ‘60’s highlighted two main music genres…the British Invasion and the soulful sounds of Motown, based in Detroit. It began with The Beatles, those four lads who changed the world. They “got by with a little help from their friends.”

At the same time, mainstream American radio embraced Motown’s many male and female singers. Did The Four Tops “top” The Temptations or was it the other way around? A terrific film clip will leave you still undecided. And, who could perform soul music better than Aretha Franklin? This lecture also includes a clip of one of her best performances.

Part Three (1967-1970)

The music of the final years of the ‘60s reflected an unpopular war and changing culture. Groups came and went, but the music sent a message and endured. The three main themes were: the disillusionment among America’s youth, anti-war anthems, and songs reflecting a new era of drug use.

This lecture showcases all three elements. Relive the Simon & Garfunkel tunes that embodied Benjamin’s (Dustin Hoffman’s) malaise in The Graduate. We’ll look back on the iconic Woodstock weekend in August 1969, which defined the generation. We’ll embrace once more the music of Jefferson Airplane, plus Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as they sang Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock masterpiece. Get your tie dye on and enjoy! 

GOLDEN AGE BLONDES & BRUNETTES

The biggest female stars of the 1930s & 40s defined sexuality on screen in an era of censorship. The blonde and brunette stars were symbols of the forbidden, but remained major celebrities. They were the stuff “that dreams are made of” for Americans dealing with the Great Depression and WWII. This hour-long lecture looks at iconic figures from the time. How did they navigate their careers through difficult days while fighting the male-dominated, notorious “casting couch” era? Jean Harlow, Mae West, Jane Russell, Hedy Lamarr, and many more will be discussed, and film clips will highlight why they enjoyed immense popularity.

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR

These powerful women, all trailblazers in their respective eras, earned great fame and fortune. Mary Pickford, Bette Davis and Lucille Ball each carved out a prominent niche for their times and often bucked the system to ensure a favorable future. Decades later, their contributions to the American film and entertainment scene endure. This one-hour lecture examines their lives and contributions, with clips that demonstrate why they enjoyed their immense popularity.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Like in most family businesses, nothing is perfect. In Hollywood, some families have had greater success than others. The Barrymores' fame has spanned a century. All three Hustons (Walter, John and Anjelica) have won Oscars. Each of the Fondas (Henry, Peter and Jane) enjoyed their own celebrity. Sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine allegedly hated each other, even to the end! This hour-long lecture explores some of Hollywood's "royal" families and explains their often stormy relationships and uncomfortable dynamics.

Gone With The Wind: A David O. Selznick Masterpiece

This lecture, perfect for longer sessions, offers a complete overview of this landmark film and its famous stars and directorial controversies. How did Selznick choose the cast? Clark Gable was the public’s favorite, but what about middle-aged Englishman Leslie Howard as Ashley? One highlight is a film clip of the audition tapes featuring dozens of “hopeful” Scarlett O’Hara contenders. Many will surprise you.

The Studio Moguls Who Created Hollywood

They were often called the “dream merchants” because they brought larger-than-life stories to the new big screen. Their names remain well known more than 100 years later. These ambitious, visionary men included the Warner Brothers, MGM founders Marcus Loew, Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer, plus several others. They came from different backgrounds, and even different countries.

This hour-long lecture includes a pictorial history of these giants and describes how this group gambled on their futures by moving west to a little-known Los Angeles neighborhood called Hollywoodland. Their iconic studios, logos and namesakes have endured for more than a century and remain famous household names.

From Vaudeville To Hollywood Superstars

Was there anyone better than the Marx Brothers or Moe, Larry and Curly of the Three Stooges? What about the brilliance of George Burns and Gracie Allen, a great couple both on and offstage? Many comedy acts of the 1920s transferred their vaudeville experiences and successes onto the new sound medium during the 1930s. Learn about these comedic geniuses’ professional, and sometimes controversial, personal lives while enjoying clips from some of their big hits. Younger generations still laugh when watching these acts on cable television.

Naughty Naughty: The Risque Fun Od Pre-Code Hollywood, 1930-34

Have you ever wondered why married couples in old movies had twin beds and romantic scenes faded out? The answer is the Motion Picture Production Code, also called the Hays Code, passed in 1930 and enacted in 1934. This code introduced industry moral guidelines that were applied to most American movies through 1968.

Before 1934, films had few limits on what they include. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars appeared in movies with little or no censorship. Imagine Joan Blondell in a bathtub or Norma Shearer in very provocative poses. The most famous was Mae West, who chose jail over bail, following her arrest for lewdness.

Hollywood Confronts The Nazi Threat

The horrors of 1930s Nazi Germany seemed distant to Americans, but Hollywood’s executives reacted by helping establish the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League (HANL) in 1936. Walt Disney brought German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl to Hollywood and faced a backlash since her 1935 film Triumph of the Will had profiled Adolf Hitler’s hypnotic hold on the masses. This hour-long lecture details Hollywood’s anti-Nazi movement and includes film clips reflecting the escalating situation in Europe.

A Day In Casablanca

In 1942, the world met the cynical, tortured Rick Blaine, perfectly played by Humphrey Bogart, in Casablanca. Quickly filmed and distributed within months of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks, Warner Brothers produced one of Hollywood’s most famous, iconic films. France’s Vichy government supported the Nazis and Rick’s Café was the perfect political setting for those people seeking escape.

The major players, including Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains, all had interesting lives. One fascinating unknown story is Conrad Veidt (Major Strasser). This 60- to 90-minute program uses photos and film clips to give context to the plot and final scenes.

Wartime Propaganda And Training Films

In the early 1940s, Hollywood focused on specific film types…training/wartime propaganda or stories that portrayed the lives of average individuals and families during war time. Think of Greer Garson as Mrs. Miniver, determined to prevail despite personal family loss. Remember, in those early days, no one knew how and when the war would end.

Creating quality training for the U.S. military took skill. No one did a better job and directed as many as Frank Capra of It Happened One Night fame. Clips and photos show Capra working to build the spirits of the service men/women far away from home.

Hollywood Joins The War Effort

From training to entertainment and leisure, the stars and support staff came out in force. Many tried to serve, but age and physical issues often prevented their direct involvement. Instead, they were utilized in other productive ways like raising money for war bonds.

Thanks to the voluntary efforts of elite stars like Bette Davis and John Garfield, the Hollywood Canteen (10/42-11/45) was built in Los Angeles. The renovated warehouse provided anyone in uniform from the U.S. or Allied militaries with free entertainment, dancing and food on their way overseas.

Clips include an opening-night speech from Davis and a candid view of the stars interacting in real time with the servicemen and women.

A Changed America Changes Hollywood

It is 1945. America and the Allied Forces have triumphed over the Nazis, Japan and the Axis countries. World War II has ended, following years of sacrifice.

As the surviving troops returned home, they confronted a changed American culture and society. This hour-long lecture discusses how Hollywood reacted to the nation’s triumph and the public’s different vision for the future. Clips from films like Academy Award-winner The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) tell the realistic story of three post-war veterans and their challenges.

HUAC: DARK DAYS IN POST-WAR HOLLYWOOD

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was formed in the 1930s, but became a national force in the late 1940s. It tested the meaning and boundaries of American democracy at a time when anti-Semitism was rampant throughout the country, and Communisim was emerging as America’s greatest threat. As careers and loyalties were affected into the 1950s, many actors, actresses, directors and writers took different approaches that ultimately impacted their careers. This lecture will describe that contentious period in 20th century America, and it includes two film clips that define the era when friends turned on friends and famous stars became outcasts.

The Godfather Proves Crime Does Pay In Hollywood

It is hard to imagine that the legendary Corleone family saga is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The turmoil of the onscreen plot was matched by casting challenges and compromises. Why did Marlon Brando get the part of Vito Corleone, the original “don?” How did a relatively unknown Al Pacino secure the unforgettable role of Vito’s youngest son Michael? How did the young war hero become a cold-blooded mobster before our eyes? This plum part turned Pacino into a super star for 50 years.

The one-hour program explains fascinating backstory details through photos and ends with a terrific film clip that focuses on Michael’s downward spiral.

Are you ready to bring Hudak On Hollywood to your community?

Please e-mail dan@hudakonhollywood.com for additional information. We look forward to hearing from you!