KINDERHOOK–The Columbia County Historical Society marked its 19th annual First Columbians gathering Saturday, June 8 by honoring internationally renowned filmmaker James Ivory on his 85th birthday.
Mr. Ivory, who has directed films on location from India to Europe and in the U.S., lives in Claverack and has, in the past trustee of the society. David Smith, the society’s president, addressed Mr. Ivory’s role in the growth of the organization, telling the honoree, “We feel we have a special claim on you.”
The First Columbians gathering is the major fundraising event of the year for the county Historical Society. This year the event drew 230 people and raised about $55,000 for the private, non-profit organization, according to Diane Shewchuk, executive director of the society.
“This means so much to us when the economy is not too cooperative and institutional money is hard to come by,” Mr. Smith told the audience gathered in a white tent set up for the occasion behind the organization’s Vanderpoel House. The tent also had space for a silent auction, another fundraiser for the society.
Making the official introduction was Chris Terrio, winner of an Oscar this year for best adapted screenplay for the movie “Argo.” He described Mr. Ivory as “a great preservationist” as well as an outstanding writer and director. He concluded his remarks by thanking Mr. Ivory, himself an Academy Award nominee three times, for mentoring him and for being generous with his help and advice to young filmmakers.
Mr. Ivory said that he and his collaborator and partner in Merchant Ivory Productions, the late Ismail Merchant, had shown many of their films at the Crandell Theatre in Chatham, including one of their best known works, “A Room with a View.” (1985)
Mr. Ivory has made 33 films to date and is working on a new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Richard II.” Selections from his collection of posters of the films he has directed were on display in the Vanderpoel House, an early 19th century Federal house on Route 9 near the center of the village.
Before the guests at the party left for dinners at the homes of historical society supporters the official ceremony concluded with two Puccini arias sung by soprano Amanda Boyd accompanied by Mr. Smith on an piano. Both pieces were part of the score for “A Room with a View.”