That's a wrap: Dann & Raymond's Movie Club prepares to say goodbye

  • Dann Gire, left, and Raymond Benson host Dann & Raymond's Movie Club at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in 2022.

    Dann Gire, left, and Raymond Benson host Dann & Raymond's Movie Club at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in 2022. Courtesy of Dann Gire

 
By Jeffrey Westhoff
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 5/4/2023 11:23 AM

After 16 year of entertaining audiences with their brotherly banter and cinema insights, Dann Gire and Raymond Benson have decided Dann & Raymond's Movie Club is ready to ride into the sunset.

"We're breaking up, and it's hard to do. Neil Sedaka warned us about it," said Gire, the Daily Herald's longtime film critic.

 

Since 2007, Gire and Benson -- a novelist and film historian who has taught film courses at the College of DuPage -- have brought a reliable mix of film history and good-natured joshing to libraries across the suburbs.

They found regular gigs at three libraries: Schaumburg Township District Library, Arlington Heights Memorial Library and Palatine Public Library. They have also brought their shows, especially their popular Oscar show, to libraries in Vernon Hills, Rolling Meadows, Glenview and other towns.

"At one point we were up to eight or nine libraries," Gire said.

The annual Academy Awards Show has consistently been the most popular program for Dann & Raymond's Movie Club at several suburban libraries.
The annual Academy Awards Show has consistently been the most popular program for Dann & Raymond's Movie Club at several suburban libraries. - Courtesy of Dann Gire

The duo will host their final scheduled show at the Schaumburg library at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 4. They are contracted to do shows at the Arlington Heights and Palatine libraries into the fall. Their two final programs will be on consecutive nights: Dec. 13 in Palatine and Dec. 14 in Arlington Heights.

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After that they will be willing to do one-off programs if the demand is there. "In other words, there will be reunion shows," Benson said.

Susan Gibberman, the Schaumburg library's former programming director (and current head of reader services), said Dann & Raymond's Movie Club always drew big crowds. She believes Gire and Benson's personalities and expertise made the program work.

"They're both wonderful people," she said. "They know their material. It was just always fun to see what they came up with."

Gire and Benson credit Gibberman with giving their movie club its start. Benson recalls talking to Gibberman, a friend of his, about library programming in 2007: "She knew Dann and I were friends. And she said, 'Raymond, why don't you and Dann come up with some kind of movie program?'"

Gibberman remembers it otherwise, though. In her version, it was Benson who suggested he do a movie program with Gire. "And I said, 'That's a great idea!'"

"Whichever way it happened," Gibberman said, "it all worked out for the best."

Dann Gire, left, and Raymond Benson engage a full crowd at the Schaumburg Township District Library in the first location of Dann & Raymond's Movie Club.
Dann Gire, left, and Raymond Benson engage a full crowd at the Schaumburg Township District Library in the first location of Dann & Raymond's Movie Club. - Courtesy of Dann Gire
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Rather than review the latest movies each month, Gire and Benson settled on doing a film history program. This would allow them to structure a two-hour presentation around pertinent film clips. The Schaumburg library scheduled the team's first program, about horror films from the silent era to the 1930s, in September 2007.

"We kind of fumbled through that first show," Benson said, "but it worked. The audience loved it, and Susan invited us back."

As the show continued, the presenters fine-tuned their "act," ribbing each other rather than arguing in Siskel-and-Ebert style. "It was a liberating experience once we got into a groove where we knew how far we could go with each other," Gire said. "We got it down to a really well-oiled working arrangement."

Benson added with pride that their conversations were never scripted. "Every show was improvised," he said. "We would just go cold in front of the audience, and begin."

The partners also considered film clips key to the movie club's success. They found Dave Dluger, a production engineer who specializes in multimedia presentations, to furnish the clips. "He became the third, silent partner of the Dann & Raymond movie club," Benson said.

Over the years, Gire and Benson gave many audience-pleasing presentations. Genres that kept audiences coming back included horror, science-fiction, westerns and film noir. The movies of James Bond, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick were also popular subjects.

The earliest photo of Dann & Raymond's Movie Club in 2007 at the Schaumburg Township District Library. Their last show in Schaumburg is Thursday, May 4.
The earliest photo of Dann & Raymond's Movie Club in 2007 at the Schaumburg Township District Library. Their last show in Schaumburg is Thursday, May 4. - Courtesy of Dann Gire

But starting with their 11th season, the team struggled to find enough fresh subjects to fill a nine-month season at the Schaumburg library. That problem was compounded last year when Dluger moved to Chicago to take a job at the United Center, limiting the time he could devote to new movie club clips.

"We were relying more and more on shows we'd already done," Benson said. He began to wonder how many times they could present their Alfred Hitchcock show before audiences -- or worse, library programmers -- got tired of it. "In 2021, I told Dann maybe we should think about winding it down. ... It's better to resign before you're fired."

Gire, who this year began thinking along similar lines, agreed. But not happily. "I think we're both of mixed emotions about this," he said.

"I'm sure we will cry at the last show and hug each other," Benson said.

Both pointed out that only the monthly shows are coming to an end and that Dann & Raymond's Movie Club will likely reappear in some form or another.

Still, Gire was philosophical about this phase coming to an end: "Sixteen years. I thought we could get this horse going for five or six months and go home. I didn't know we'd get another 15 years out of it. It's been a good run."

• Jeffrey Westhoff is a writer and former film critic for the Northwest Herald. His teen spy novel "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" is available online from Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

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