Author Herman Melville wrote the iconic novel “Moby-Dick” 169 years ago at his home in Pittsfield, called Arrowhead. This winter, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth, the Berkshire Historical Society at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead will host a Moby-Dick Film Festival at the Berkshire Athenaeum, a public library also in the city. The free festival, which runs from Jan. 17 to Feb. 28, will show a variety of “Moby-Dick”-inspired films.
“This year, we celebrate Melville’s 200th birthday, so we wanted to start the year with something special, hence the film festival,” said Peter Bergman, director of communications and community relations at Berkshire Historical Society at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead.
“In 1851, when’ Moby-Dick’ was published, it was a colossal flop,” Bergman said. “The fact that now it’s considered one of the great works of the 19th century and is a book on which so many contemporary writers have based their careers is phenomenal.”
Films featured at the festival will include the 1926 silent film “The Sea Beast” starring John Barrymore and Dolores Costello (Jan. 17), a 1998 made-for television miniseries called “Moby Dick” starring Patrick Stewart (part 1 on Feb. 12 and part 2 on Feb. 14), and the 2011 movie “Age of the Dragons” starring Danny Glover (Feb. 19).
You won’t, however, find the 1956 film “Moby Dick.”
“I wanted people to see that this story inspires people in so many different ways,” Bergman said. “We’re not showing the John Huston 1956 classic film because that is seen so often.”
Refreshments will be served, and festivalgoers will receive written materials that give the historical perspective of each film, Bergman said.
Visitors also can tour Arrowhead currently by appointment only and daily when it reopens in May. The 1783 home contains many items that belonged to the Melville family.