Humankind-Harry Bannister is back
In a funny way the spirit of Harry Banister will return again to Put-in-Bay this summer. Harry spent summers here between 1926 and 1932 with his wife Ann Harding. While here he and his wife enjoyed being involved in Summer Theater to entertain the community. Put-in-Bay, Peach Point specifically, was the summer home to artists, actors, musicians and playwrights. The Murdock Brothers, Harry Bannister, Ann Harding, Mamie Henning and TB Alexander, to name a few, all enjoyed performing here during our vaudeville heyday and even during the “Great Depression”.
Vaudeville actors were the embodiment of the spirit “the show must go on”. You’ve got to like a guy who never stopped producing his next show. Harry, born in 1889 in Holland, Michigan, was a stage and screen actor, a director and producer. He was married to silver screen star Ann Harding and had one daughter. His successes included starting The American Music Hall Theater Group on Broadway where he produced or performed in 20 plus major Broadway plays between 1921 and 1954, and starred in 12 Hollywood Films. He gave literally thousands of performances in a number of successful plays, musicals, movies, and television shows during his career. He was an inspired producer who loved acting, music and drama. Even his death, in 1961, garnered a headline in the New York Times “Harry Bannister Is Dead at 72; (a true) Stage, Film and TV Performer”. He was starring in the TV Show “Life with Father” and doing guest appearances just prior to his passing. He was a true performer.
So I see his spirit of “never say die” on the island this year among the island businesses, arts and community organizations. In the midst of a skittish economy across the country, here in Put-in-Bay the community has banded together to present a solid summer of wonderful entertainment. I hear that a lot of unique performances will be springing up around the island throughout this summer.
Superintendent Blanca Stransky promises an exciting summer of interpretive ranger events, the PIBArts Council will celebrate our Founders Day (Jose DeRivera of Spain) with a performance of Flamenco music and dance at DeRivera Park (June 14th) and later in July and August the Twilight Music Series will be at 7pm on Wednesdays at the Monument. Susie Cooper promises yet another wild “historical” adventure to North Bass and The Chamber of Commerce will be bringing in the frigate Niagara twice and rascally pirates will be seen running wild through the streets the last weekend of June during Pirate Fest.
Tough times in life affect us all. When Banister was faced with divorce, in the bright spot light of his wife’s rising star in Hollywood, The LA Times reported – “Ann Harding, motion picture star, and her husband, Harry Bannister, actor, announced in a joint statement today their intention to be divorced because, they said, Mr. Bannister is becoming known as “Ann Harding’s husband.”
Never take second billing, keep plugging away. Banister realized that you never stop working towards your goal. His star still shines today. For islanders this summer it is all about providing the ingredients for fun and relaxation again, better that ever. Opening our businesses and homes to visitors and making them feel welcomed is what islanders do best.
We are creating our own wonderful drama and theatre in the eye of a swirling economic storm! Don’t miss it, the next show is about to begin! You have front row seats for a summer of great food, entertainment, music and dance. Be a supporter of the arts (www.pibarts.com) and businesses (www.put-in-bay.com) this summer, and let the season begin.