Friday, March 29, 2013

What do Tim McCoy, Charles Starrett and Roy Rogers have in common?

Bobby Copeland and his books on display.
"In my research, I found the cowboy heroes had warts and scars just like the rest of us."
-- Bobby Copeland

During the good old days when cowboys would serenade the beautiful daughter of a rancher, sidekicks were really funny and the heroes always stood up for the little man... there was always one man you could turn to... Hopalong Cassidy! No, wait. I meant Bob Baker. No, scratch that. Tom Tyler. Yeah! Tom Tyler was always there. Come to think of it, so was Johnny Mack Brown, Tim McCoy, Buck Jones, Eddie Dean, Monte Hale, Tex Ritter and any other cowboy hero.

If you love cowboy Westerns, especially the old classic ones, you'll find some of the assorted trivia of amusement.

*  Bill Elliott's middle name was Ami.
*  Ray "Crash" Corrigan still does not have a grave marker.
*  Johnny Mack Brown is in five Halls of Fame.
*  Andy Devine once weighed 348 pounds.
*  After 3 to 4 years in Hollywood, Allan "Rocky" Lane was still in good enough shape to play semi-pro football.
*  Fuzzy Knight was a cheerleader at the University of West Virginia and wrote one of the school's fight songs.
*  Despite what we were led to believe, Roy Rogers did not purchase ownership of Trigger until 1943.
*  Tex Ritter and his wife, Dorothy Fay, are buried in different states: Tex in Texas and Dorothy in Arizona.
*  Eddie Dean was the seventh son of a seventh son.
*  Monte Hale once presented Gene Autry with a walking cane made of a petrified bull's penis.

Allan "Rocky" Lane book
Okay, maybe that last trivia was a bit too much but the fact remains: reading about the cowboy heroes is sometimes more fun than watching the movies. (My favorite are the Universal Johnny Mack Brown Westerns and Hopalong Cassidy.) Many talented individuals reign supreme when it comes to researching about our favorite cowboys and a quick glance of my book shelf reveal David Godwin, Tinsley Yarborough, Boyd Magers and Gene Blottner to name a few. Perhaps the largest output comes from Bobby Copeland of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. To Bobby, Roy Rogers was more than a cowboy movie star. "To me, he was father figure, pastor, Sunday school teacher, hero -- all rolled into one," Bobby remarked. 

Bobby moved to Oak Ridge when he was 10-years-old in 1945, quickly developing a life-long interest in and love for Roy Rogers, whose movies he saw in local theaters. That interest and love never left him, as Bobby over the next 50 years read and clipped everything he could find, not only about Rogers, but about all the cowboys who rode across the silver screen, in movie theaters across America, in the 1940s and '50s.The result was a series of informative books worthy of purchasing.

Charles Starrett, a.k.a. The Durango Kid
Recalling the good old days of the Saturday matinee, when double feature cowboy Westerns included a Three Stooges film short, a cartoon and other film shorts. Armed with 10 cents, his childish imagination and his keen devotion to the film cowboys, Bobby watched Roy Rogers, Bill Elliott ("Red Ryder"), Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and others. Kids migrated to the theater in droves, starting at 11 on a Saturday morning, Bobby recalled. "The kids would start to line up at 10 for the show; there'd be long lines," Copeland reminisced. The movies cost 9 cents, which left a penny for treats. "In those days, youngsters couldn't make any money," Bobby said. "Family men cut their own grass and did their own chores.So, you had to beg for that dime to go to the movies. There were penny vending machines, and for that penny, you could get candy, gum or peanuts."

Bobby recalled that the kids would crowd to get in and get the best seats. "There was a real scramble for the front row seats," he recalled with a chuckle. "The kids had to be close to their cowboy heroes, and the front row, that's as close as you could get!"

During the early 1950s, Western heroes like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry made the transition to television with half-hour programs. The silver screen was left with Whip Wilson, The Durango Kid and Johnny Mack Brown, mostly from Columbia Pictures and Monogram Studios. Post-war America changed and by the late fifties, Westerns were all the craze on television. A weekly dose of cowboy Westerns was now a daily offering -- sometimes six times a night!
Fuzzy Knight Rides Again!
Today, more than 50 years later, Bobby Copeland can create a resume citing more than 150 published articles on cowboys and their movies, and more than a dozen books about the subject. His house is a virtual treasure trove with filing cabinets and crates filled with clippings, Xeroxes, folders of information on every film cowboy, recording the details of his life and his films, magazines, books and pictures, reference works and autographed photographs.One of the autographed photos shows Roy and his wife Dale Evans with Bobby, who had gone to see him to show him an article he'd written about the legendary cowboy. (See photo).

Of all the cowboys, Bobby loved Rogers best. Of them all, Roy was truly the king, Bobby explained. "Roy never passed up an opportunity to do good work. He visited children's hospitals whenever he could, he gave money to lots of charities; he didn't like to talk about it though, he just did these things. He was very concerned about being a good model for kids. He liked to drink a beer now and then, but he stopped doing it, because he didn't want to set a bad example to children."

Roy Rogers book
"Cowboy movies were great because they were bearers of moral tone and the cowboys always did what was right," Bobby explained. "The good guys didn't drink, they didn't smoke, they wore white hats. A kid could get a good lesson in morality every time he went to the movies. I don't mean it was a substitute for church, but it certainly complemented church."

"The B-Westerns had simplistic and repetitive plots, ad there was never a mystery about the identity of the hero or the villain. Everyone knew that there would be a rip-roaring climax, where good would triumph over evil and that the hero would ride off into the sunset ready to fight another day," Bobby romantically described. "The cowboy hero had the fastest horse, quickest draw, fanciest clothes, sang the sweetest song, and he possessed a heart of purest gold. Even on his worst day, he could beat the daylights out of the meanest bad guy and clean up the most wicked town in the West without even getting dirty."

Tim McCoy Book
So who cares how many bullets fly out of a six-shooter? Who's counting? Or the movies where Springfield Rifles are introduced a few years before the history books report? B-Westerns rule and five annual Western film festivals in the United States prove the popularity still reigns supreme. Bobby attends a few of those festivals and it's where attendees (myself included) purchase his latest books. It seems one or two new books come out every year. The latest is Allan "Rocky" Lane and Charles Starrett. (Thanks to the latter, a future blog post will list the "lost" Durango Kid movies in the hopes that a few will turn up in the future.)

Bobby's books are not expensive. You don't have to pay $75 to McFarland Publishing or $65 to Scarecrow Press. Usually the cost is $20 for a book and they are worth every dollar. For more information about his books, a list of present offerings and pricing along with ordering information, visit http://www.b-westerns.com/print.htm

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

 In 1939, Republic Pictures released a 15-chapter cliffhanger serial titled, The Lone Ranger Rides Again. Robert Livingston played the title role. Chief Thundercloud played the role of Tonto. The plot was fairly simple for a standard Western yarn. Homesteaders are moving into the valley settled many years ago by rancher Craig Dolan. Dolan wants to keep them out by legal means but his nephew Bart, with ulterior motives, brings in outlaws to drive them out. The Lone Ranger arrives and after assessing the scenario, decides to help the homesteaders battle Bart's men as he overcomes traps, ambushes, burning buildings and other obstacles in his attempt to bring peace to the valley.

For anyone wanting to know why The Lone Ranger isn't wearing the mask Clayton Moore ultimately became synonymous with, it's because radio producer George W. Trendle and script writer Fran Striker never created or sketched out how the mask should look. Trendle agreed to allow Republic to use their own creative department and a veiled mesh hung over half of The Lone Ranger's face. In a private letter to Trendle, Striker, after watching a few chapters in the local theater, told Trendle he preferred the mask worn by Livingston over conceptions promised in prior publications and promotional products.

In 1943, the publishing company of Grosset & Dunlap released their eighth Lone Ranger novel and it comes as no surprise that the novel was titled, The Lone Ranger Rides Again. The publishing company was obviously aware of the serial so it can only be assumed that G&D was attempting to cash in on the popularity of the title. The plot of the novel, however, was something altogether different from the serial.

The Lone Ranger defies the authority of Ace Cardigan, owner of the hotel and gambling hall known as the “Ace of Spades,” and the most powerful man in the town of Beacon City. Cardigan had managed to build an empire having shot and killed any ranchers who defied him, and he bought the law. The only person to stand his ground was Tom Turner, editor and owner of the local newspaper who prints an editorial against Cardigan. Soon after, Turner finds his office vandalized, his printing equipment destroyed and print shop torn apart. The Lone Ranger and Tonto plot a clever means of destroying Ace Cardigan and restoring law back to Beacon City, but in the process (Chapter 16) The Lone Ranger finds himself up against twenty-to-one odds and in an attempt to restrain twenty outlaws at their rambling building made of un-stripped logs, finds himself beaten so severe that his is almost killed. The Lone Ranger succeeded, keeping the outlaws busy long enough for Tonto and the defending ranchers to arrive and take the outlaws by surprise. Saved by the heroic efforts of local ranchers, The Lone Ranger then spends the second half of the novel recovering at Tom Turner’s residence as Tonto heals all wounds. Still dizzy while recovering, the Ranger later finds himself caught in a trap and almost burned alive in Cardigan’s warehouse. Thanks to his resourcefulness, The Lone Ranger saves the life of a trapper/hunter, breaks out of the burning building and physically apprehends Ace Cardigan and his associates, ensuring their longevity in jail -- or at the end of a noose.

Having read almost all of The Lone Ranger novels, I would like to state that this is perhaps one of the best -- if not the best of the series. While reading the novels, I also try to envision The Lone Ranger as he was depicted during the 1930s and 1940s, as illustrated throughout this article (scans from various G&D books).

Notes About The Novel
In order to combat Ace Cardigan, The Lone Ranger becomes deputized complete with swearing in the oath and wearing the badge. The present sheriff, a meek old man named Tumbleweed who did the bidding of Cardigan because three former sheriffs were shot to death after they defied Cardigan, was a familiar face to The Lone Ranger. Formerly Captain Harry Tweed of the Army, the old man discovered after he left service that his folks at home had died. He took to hard liquor and careless living. He broke all to pieces.

The Lone Ranger makes a comment that he knew Tweed years before. “He used to be a great fighter,” he remarks to Tonto. To become deputized, The Lone Ranger placed his left hand on top of the Holy Book, then raised his right hand.

“Now,” he said, “swear me in as a deputy sheriff. You probably don’t know the rule so I’ll take the oath without your help.”

In a moment, before the amazed gaze of Tom Turner and his wife Betty, who has silently entered the room, the masked man had taken the oath of office and returned the Book to the table.

“For the time being,” he said, “I’ll use your badge. Ace Cardigan likes to have things done in a legal way. I’ll now have the authority to do things as he likes them done.”

Chapter 16 is so well written that I actually went back and read it twice. The Lone Ranger’s code of ethics was explored when, having discovered the secret hideout of the Cardigan gang, must keep the men at bay long enough for re-enforcements to arrive. He estimated the length of time it had taken him to follow the trail in the darkness. Time was the all-important factor. He might, by shooting to kill, prolong the fight, might even win it single-handed, with the rock as a fort. To attack, the men would have to come into the open. They would spread out to approach from the sides. Should he -- could he shoot to kill -- shoot to save his own life? That was a question he had often asked himself. Those men against him were killers. They were a scourge, far worse than preying wolves or sneaking coyotes, more dangerous than poisonous snakes that gave a warning rattle before they struck. Life was cheap in that country and men who lived, as those outlaws did, by the gun, expected to die the same way. If he shot to kill, there would be no one to condemn him. Quite the contrary, men would cheer his deed and thank him for ridding the community of a menace.

But he knew that when the time came to align his sights upon the heart or head of a human being, he would be unable to squeeze the trigger that would send death crashing home. There was no choice. The Lone Ranger could not shoot to kill. The Ranger’s Achilles’ heel was his inability to kill a human being and thus he kept this secret hidden from his enemies. In what might be considered reverse psychology, the Ranger also employs a sense of disregard for the life of a hunter named Jim Brady on page 194. Trapped within the fur warehouse, Brady and the Ranger discover that the structure has been set ablaze and they are the intended victims. The walls are too well fortified to smash so fighting fire with fire, the Ranger uses the oil from the lamp to set the wall on fire, hoping to burn an exit route. Waving their hats to fan the fire, Brady soon gets too tired and pleads to quit and lie down.

“I don’t care about your life. Die if you want, for all of me,” snapped the masked man as he fanned. “But think of the other hunters. Think of how they’ll be swindled out of their furs.”

The Lone Ranger’s material possessions are described earlier in this novel as “a gun belt and a pair of heavy, ivory-handled pistols.” On two separate occasions, the Lone Ranger wore a sombrero and a stetson and neither description claimed to be the Ranger’s standard hat. The costume and makeup kit he carried on his person gave The Lone Ranger an opportunity to disguise himself as a cowhand with false mustache and eyebrows (bushy ones to conceal his own). His skin underwent a change with the application taught to him by Tonto’ that of a dark skin the Indian always had ready.

Chapter 16, “Twenty-to-One Odds” details the fantastic battle between the masked man and twenty outlaws and murderers. The fight reveals that The Lone Ranger is not inhuman and is beaten to near death. He is bleeding from a dozen cuts and lacerations. His muscles ached frightfully. He felt a wave of giddiness enfold him. Grinning ranchers, happy with their quick victory, were a blur before his eyes.

Perhaps the most important quality displayed in the novel was The Lone Ranger shown as a beacon of hope to the ranchers who chose to defy Ace Cardigan. It was the Ranger who convinced Tumbleweed that it was not too late to make amends and stand up for what was right. Cardigan kept the sheriff under his thumb. Tumbleweed was afraid to lift his head for fear he’d knock it down again. He hated himself for kowtowing to Cardigan like a whipped dog. “You took from him every vestige of his self-respect,” the Lone Ranger comments. But Tumbleweed defied Cardigan’s orders and therefore became a men of respect.

If you ever wanted read a Lone Ranger novel and only have time to read one, this is the one you want to buy from Amazon.com and sit out on your back porch and enjoy.


The Radio Program
Small note of interest: On the October 24, 1952 broadcast of the radio program, The Lone Ranger is shot and wounded by a stray bullet during a newly started range war. Brace Beemer, the actor who played The Lone Ranger on radio, was leaving for a two-week vacation. For this Friday afternoon broadcast, kids were shocked to discover their hero was not an invincible superhero. For the next four consecutive radio broadcasts, The Lone Ranger is never heard except for an occasional whisper (which means Beemer was not playing the role) while the Masked Man recovers from his wound at Clarabelle Hornblow's ranch. For the broadcast of November 5, The Lone Ranger's famous cry, "Hi Yo, Silver!" is heard but only via a recording. The Lone Ranger being away for a spell happened more often on the radio program than you think and seemed to have happened once every two years. Not sure if there is a connection or not, but the November 5, 1952 radio broadcast is titled, "The Lone Ranger Rides Again."  Hmmmmm....

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mel Blanc: The Man of a Thousand Voices

“Mel Blanc is without question the greatest voice-man of all time. I’m not talking about impersonations, I’m talking about voice.”
        --- Rich Little

The new Mel Blanc book.
Mel Blanc was internationally famous as the hardest-working voice in show business history. He was as prolific in old-time radio as he was in advertising, and he will never be forgotten for creating the voices of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester & Tweety, and most of Warner Brothers’ classic cartoon characters.

After ten years of research, Ben Ohmart recently completed a 700 page book documenting the career of Mel Blanc in a way that has never been done before. With first hand materials and Noel Blanc’s partial biography on his father, Ohmart was able to create one of the two best biographies published in the past year. Not only was it an enjoyable read but I really wish most people took a page from tomes like this one and apply the same format for their own projects.

If I can offer a bit of criticism: a rash of biographies have been published recently that don’t really qualify as biographies. After reading two chapters I discover that the author did nothing more than compile 200 to 400 magazine and newspaper articles, stack them in chronological order, and type the information into book form. Masquerading as a biography, these books could easily have started every paragraph with “On such and such date, the actor appeared on the stage in such and such drama…” and “On such and such date, the actor then moved on to such and such movie…” All it took was a bit of time to maneuver the words to avoid repetition. I consider these works more of a timeline than a biography and while there is always a need for those books, I really wish people would not use the word “biography” on the cover of the book.

Mel Blanc
Thankfully, Ben Ohmart did what most biographies should do. Memories, recollections and stories about Mel Blanc are told through the words of Vincent Price, Gary Owens, Noel Blanc, Stephen Cox and many others who worked with Blanc during his professional career and those close enough to call him their friend.

This book is not an animation book. As Ohmart explained in the introduction, “There are plenty of books on the history of cartoons, especially Warner Bros. animation, so I’m not going to waste space here replicating cartoon information readily available elsewhere. Read Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck and Mark Evanier for the full story on animation history.” For that reason, this book is about Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc’s earliest documented role as a radio announcer at KGW in 1927, his childhood life at school, his parents… all documented in the first chapter alone.

The book documents the true origin of Foghorn Legghorn, including Kenny Delmar’s Senator Claghorn character from The Fred Allen Show, clearing up misconceptions that have been reported incorrectly in reference guides. The famed Woody Woodpecker lawsuit is also documented. And Mel’s preference voicing cartoons, “Because I can actually see what happens later, as I watch the cartoon, and it’s a great satisfaction to me to be able to see these things that I do and then wonder when the heck did I do ‘em, you know.”

One of Mel Blanc’s favorite voice people, and the one he felt closest to in radio, was Bea Benaderet (the original Betty Rubble on The Flintstones). He called Verna Felton, with whom he worked on The Judy Canova Show, “one of the most versatile of all radio actresses.” His least favorite radio actor was the prolific Gale Gordon. Al Jolson came in a close second.

There’s an entire chapter devoted to The Mel Blanc Show, a radio program that lasted one season and provided the voice actor the spotlight to prove how talented he was. I recall the episode when Mel broke Mr. Colby’s radio and in desperation hid in the radio and played various roles as Mr. Colby continued to flip channels. Hilarious and worthy of seeking out.

I always loved this poster since it came out in 1989.
All quotes in the book came from Mel Blanc’s own mouth unless otherwise noted, generously supplied by Noel Blanc. Some of Mel’s words also came from Walt Mitchell’s extensive interviews, which were generous donated to this book. Thanks to Mary Lou Wallace, Walt’s partner-in-Blanc, the discography in the back of the book is truly extensive.

Full disclosure: I supplied a appendix for this book, but this is not the reason why I am writing this book review or praising the book. Six months ago I bought a copy of Michael Hayde and Chuck Harter’s Harry Langdon book, which I also praise as an excellent biography. Like I said, I read two superb biographies this year. Both a model of success.

Mel Blanc’s personal life is also documented from near-fatal illness to charitable contributions. Noel Blanc, who I have chatted with a few times and has a strong heart for preserving the legacy of his father, contributed much for this book and helps ensure a personal touch that you do not see in most biographies written today. Rather than a month-by-month account of Mel Blanc’s career, we get an entertaining story of a man who voiced the characters we love and if Mel Blanc was alive today… he would probably be pleased. If Mel Blanc wrote another autobiography, this might be that book -- word for word.

The first 230 pages is the biography. The remainder of the book is a massive catalog of Mel Blanc’s radio career, his LP discography, television, feature films, commercials and cartoon voice work. But when I buy a book about Mel Blanc, hoping to read a true biography, such reference lists are also welcome with open arms. Together with Blanc's autobiography, you have everything you need to know about the man of a thousand voices. Thankfully I bought the hardcover edition (available only from CoverOut.com -- paperback version is available everywhere else). The hardcover will last a lot longer because this is the kind of book I will be turning to repeatedly over the years.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cinefest Convention in Syracuse, New York

The Genesis of the Syracuse Cinephile Society itself is somewhat obscured in the mists of yore, but according to John Weber, sometime in the spring of 1967 Phil Serling was talking with Sam Goldsman, an old friend who had a passion for silent film. Sam often told anyone who would listen that as far as movies went 'My mind is a blank after 1927.' Sam didn’t care for most modern films, and was an admirer of Douglas Fairbanks, Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, and John Barrymore. He suggested to Phil that a society of like-minded individuals might prove to be a sustainable venture. Phil was intrigued, and ultimately he and Sam pooled their resources and rented a silent film and a projector from an agency. They secured the back room of the old Regent restaurant next door to the Regent Theatre on East Genesee Street. A small crowd turned up for the event, and at show time, Phil said 'Okay, Sam' and Sam said 'Okay, Phil.' Then 'All set?' 'Yep.'   'Let’s roll.' 'Okay.'  This went on for about a full minute until they both realized that neither of them knew how to either thread or run a 16mm projector! It could have been a complete and utter disaster, but one of the attendees, Herb Kantor, saved the day. After the screening, Phil always maintained that the last he saw of Sam that evening, Sam was running down Genesee Street yelling 'You’re on your own!' Such were the auspicious seeds of the Syracuse Cinephile Society.” The Syracuse Cinephile became a going concern, at first monthly, and later going weekly when both interest and attendance bloomed. Sam Goldsman, who passed away in the spring of 2009, continued to be a stalwart supporter of the Society, and an ardent advocate of Cinefest. 

As to Cinefest, it all began circa 1980 during one of the regular Monday evening Syracuse Cinephile Society screenings at the Civic Center,” John continued. Whilst the patrons were enjoying the feature presentation, a small coterie was in the lobby having an earnest discussion. The conspirators were: Phil Serling, president of Syracuse Cinephile and general mover-and-shaker in many local arts organizations; Bob Oliver, booking manager for the Civic Center; George Read, projectionist; Russ Thomas, public relations coordinator; and John Weber, general nuisance. The 'Boys (and Girls) From Syracuse' had recently successfully hosted Cinecon, the annual convention for the national Society for Cinephiles, on the 1978 Labor Day weekend. Phil wondered about the feasibility of holding a regional film convention on a regular basis. We were all amenable to the idea and all thought that if we could get about 50 to 75 attendees it could make for a most pleasant and diverting weekend. First, however, we would have to have a name. Various suggestions were floated about until Bob Oliver suggested 'Cinefest.' Certainly brief, unpretentious and to the point. Next came the all-agonizing decision about when to hold the festivities. If anyone needs to kick someone in Syracuse about gathering in March, you may direct your pedal extremities in the direction of my tail feathers. My rationale was that we shouldn’t assemble in the late spring as that would be cutting into the time frame of Cinevent in Columbus, summer would be disastrous as that is the heavy vacation season when most families are traveling, at the beach, or simply enjoying the good weather, and Labor Day weekend is the bailiwick of the Cinecon.

Cinefest 1 kicked off at 1 p.m. on Friday March 13, 1981, with a screening of John Ford’s 1935 classic Steamboat Round the Bend, starring Will Rogers. They hoped to attract around 75 attendees and to their amazement, over 200 guests turned up. That number more than doubled over time and since then, Cinefest has offered cinephiles an opportunity to sit in a dark room and watch old movies.

Colleen Moore
In the second year, cinephiles were graced with the presence of one of the great stars of the silent and early sound era, Colleen Moore. She was petite and pert, with a vigor that belied her 81 years,” John recalled. She held a superb Q&A session at the Civic Center, after a screening of her 1926 film Irene. Three more of her films were run that weekend, Twinkletoes (1926), Success at any Price (1934), and Orchids and Ermine (1927). Perhaps my most vivid memory of Miss Moore is an incident which occurred on the one-block walk from the hotel to the Civic Center. The weather was turbulent that particular weekend, and the wind was exceptionally tempestuous. One fully expected to see a small girl in a gingham dress running across the way screaming 'Auntie Em! Auntie Em!' Just as our group was about to cross the street to the Civic Center entrance, a ferocious gust wailed against us and I heard Colleen yell 'I can’t move!' Indeed, the gale force blast was so intense that she could barely keep standing. Ted Larson and Rusty Casselton quickly went on either side of her, proceeded to pick her up, and carried her across the street. It just doesn’t get any more adventurous than that (at least by Cinefest standards).
"Any film that we screen at Cinefest is considered 'rare and special,' and the rarity is our main criteria for booking film titles," explained Gerry Orlando. "Some other conventions/festivals show a combination of rare and more common titles, but Cinefest will only show rare, long-unseen titles. Many times we have plans to screen something in March, but if it shows up on TCM or on commercially-released, studio-authorized DVD before then, it's scratched off the list.... usually painfully."

The convention has seen outstanding film presentations over the years; titles that have not been seen since their original release and on occasion, they were able to secure the sole surviving prints, such as the 1933 Fox production of Face in the Sky with Spencer Tracy; prints that existed in abbreviated form but had been restored to their original length, as with the 1925 classic The Lost World; and films that actually had their American premières, such as Jean Renoir’s 1924 French classic Catherine, or A Joyless Life. Films originate from film archives such as the Library of Congress, the George Eastman House, Brigham Young University, UCLA Film & Television Archive, the American Film Institute, the British Film Institute, Cinémathèque Luxembourg, NYU Film School, the Walt Disney Organization, Turner Entertainment, the Vitaphone Project; the personal collections of such film archivists as William K. Everson, Herb Graff, James Card, Richard Gordon, Alex Gordon, Kevin Brownlow, Ted Larson, Rusty Casselton and David Shepard. John Weber also offered special acknowledgment to the late Mr. Gene Autry, who provided new prints of his films for the Saturday afternoon enjoyment for many years.

As the author of Information, Please, I found it quite pleasing to view the RKO film shorts of the same name, which were screened in 2010 and 2011. Based on the popular radio program of the same name, the quiz program remained popular to this day. The one from 1940 with Boris Karloff featured a packed house and standing-room-only.

In 2000, the long-lost Keaton/Arbuckle short, Oh, Doctor! was screened. Roscoe is a doctor who falls in love with a pretty woman whose boyfriend, in turn, falls in love with Roscoe's wife's jewelry. Fans of the recent 3-D revival might be surprised to find the 1921 Anatlyp Test of interest, since it is historically known as the first 3-D test film. Attendees were given the rare treat of viewing this bit of celluloid history on the big screen. In 2001, the 2-Strip Technicolor test of Mary Pickford from 1926 was screened, followed by Scarlet Letter (1913), an early Kinemacolor film recently restored. In 2006, the uncut version of Silver Spurs was presented for all the cowboy fans. Sadly, that movie has never been available uncut on the home viewing market and thousands of Roy Rogers fans who attend Western Film Festivals still wish the owner of that print arrange for a DVD transfer. Only attendees at Cinefest was able to watch what is considered by Western fans as one of the Holy Grails of Roy Rogers movies.


"Something that we have started over the past couple of years, and which may be of interest is having 'East Coast Premieres' of recently-restored films," remarked Orlando. "Last year we had The Story of Temple Drake (1933), and this year we'll have another big 'East Coast Premiere' of a newly-restored silent film."

As with most silent film festivals, musical accompaniment was performed live. Such talented pianists as Jon Mirsalis, Phil Carli, Gabriel Thibaudeau, Ben Model, Makia Matsumara, Jon Mirsalis and Donald Sosin have assisted.
"Then there was the year of the blackout," recalled John Weber. "During one of the evening screenings, the projector suddenly slowed down and ground to a halt. Immediate blame was directed on the electrical system of the hotel, but we quickly found out that the blackout was much more extensive than initially thought. A rather large power grid had failed, knocking out service for a wide area. Almost everyone repaired to the bar, where the bartender, Laura, more than earned her salary that night, and hopefully received some substantial tips, as she certainly provided yeoman service. Another year, I came back from dinner to find that the hotel was undergoing a fire alarm! I could see some lights in hotel rooms going on and off, and the fire department was at the ready. It was another electrical failure, and the event was over in a comparatively short time."

One of the other benefits of attending Cinefest is wandering the vendor room. There, movie posters, lobby cards, 16mm movies, photographs, books, videos and DVDs are available for sale. Serious collectors of 16mm prints examine the film (as seen in the photo on the right) before making their purchase.
In short, if you live within driving distance of Syracuse, New York, I recommend you check it out. Cinefest offers a list of movies they plan to screen, on their web-site, as soon as everything is finalized. Information about the hotel, schedule and directions for this year's March 14-17, 2013 event can all be found at www.syracusecinephile.com

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Twilight Zone: "To Serve Man"

Among the top ten episodes of The Twilight Zone is "To Serve Man," an intriguing story that works well for the episode's final punch-line, "It's a cook book!" but suffered production problems. The episode was filmed twice and then footage from both versions were combined to form the episode we see today. Footage that ended up on the cutting room floor was screened at the second annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in 2007, and has not yet been included on the DVD or BluRay release. If you were browsing the web hoping for a nice write-up about the entire production of this episode, you've come to the right place.

Production #4807 “TO SERVE MAN” (Initial telecast: March 2, 1962)
Copyright Registration: © Cayuga Productions, Inc., February 27, 1962, LP21889 (in notice: 1961)
Dates of Rehearsal: June 9 and 12, 1961
Dates of Filming: June 13, 14, 15 and 17, 1961
Script #66 dated: April 26, 1961, with revised pages dated June 12, 1961
Producer and Secretary: $1,625.00
Story and Secretary: $3,805.00
Director: $1,588.33
Cast: $7,774.27
Unit Manager and Secretary: $600.00
Production Fee: $900.00
Agents Commission: $2,500.00
Legal and Accounting: $250.00
Below the line charges (M-G-M): $41,105.47 
Below the line charges (other): $971.52
Total Production Costs: $61,119.59 

Total production costs and breakdown from production summary dated February 28, 1962.

Cast: Hardie Albright (the Secretary General); David Armstrong (guest at U.N. #1); Gene Benton (reporter #2); Lloyd Bochner (Mike Chambers); Bill Burnside (TV Cameraman #1); John Burnside (TV Cameraman #2); Susan Cummings (Pat “Penny” Brody); Jeanne Evans (woman #2); J.H. Fujiyama ( Japanese delegate); Jean Heremans (Dignitary #3); Richard Kiel (the Kanamits); Theodore Marcuse (Citizen Gregori); Adrienne Marden (woman #1); Bob McCord (Interpreter #1); Nelson Olmsted (the scientist); Ted O’Shea (Dignitary #1); Fred Rappaport (Dignitary #5); Bartlett Robinson (the baldish Colonel); Joseph Ruskin (the voice of the Kanamit); Lomax Study (M. Leveque, French delegate); Robert Tafur (Seńor Valdes, Argentine delegate); Charles Tannen (man #1); Jim Turley (TV Cameraman #3); James L. Wellman (man #2); Will J. Wilke (reporter #1); Jack Williams (Dignitary #2); and Carlton Young (Colonel #2).

Un-credited cast as Earthlings boarding the spaceship: Joan Austin, Joyce Baker, Mary Ellen Batten, Keith Britton, Ellen Brown, B. Cates, Joe Hicks, Lee Montgomery, Bob Peterson, Beau Ramstead, Jack Ramstead, Ester Silvery, Joan Weinstein, Jack Williams, and Sally Yarnell.

Stock Music Cues: Etrange #3 (by Marius Constant, :09); Milieu #1 (by Constant, :16); Counter Attack Part 1 (by Jerry Goldsmith, :42); Return to the Past (by Goldsmith, :47); The Assassination (by Goldsmith, :02); Return to the Past (by Goldsmith, :15); Counter Attack Part 2 (by Goldsmith, :26 and :36); Table Talk (by Goldsmith, :09); The Assasination (by Goldsmith, :02); Counter Attack Part 2 (by Goldsmith, :14); The Prediction (by Goldsmith, :21); Counter Attack Part 2 (by Goldsmith, 1:56); Serling III (by Robert Drasnin, :04); Etrange #3 (by Constant, :08); and Milieu #2 (by Constant, :19).

Season 3 of Bluray Release.
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens, a.s.c.
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Set Decorations: H. Web Arrowsmith
Art Directors: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Film Editor: Jason H. Bernie, a.c.e.
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Automobiles Supplied by the Ford Motor Company.
Directed by Richard L. Bare

Teleplay by Rod Serling, based on the short story of the same name by Damon Knight, originally published in the November 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.

Serling's Opening Narrative: Respectfully submitted for your perusal – a Kanamit. Height, a little over nine feet. Weight, in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin, unknown.  Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment, we’re going to ask you to shake hands . . . Figuratively . . . with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.”
Plot: This is the way nightmares begin. On a warm April afternoon, an alien race makes contact with the citizens of planet Earth, offering a hand of friendship. Their intention is to offer peace and prosperity. Within months, deserts become fields of crops, because the Kanamits show how to add a very cheap nitrate to the soil. The threat of war becomes obsolete when all nations implement an invisible force field introduced by the visitors from outer space. While the world slowly transforms into a Garden of Eden, two decoding specialists for the U.S. government, Michael Chambers and Pat Brody, spend long hours trying to decode a book accidentally left behind at the United Nations. The only thing they have been able to crack is the title on the cover – “To Serve Man.” One year later, the book still isn’t cracked, and Chambers is one of the hundreds of thousands of passengers with a round-trip ticket to tour the Kanamit’s home planet – and fails to make his escape when he is warned at the last minute by Pat that she has finally deciphered the book’s meaning – it is a cookbook.
Serling's Closing Narrative: The recollections of one Michael Chambers, with appropriate flashbacks and soliloquy. Or, more simply stated, the evolution of man. The cycle of going from dust to dessert; the metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet . . . to an ingredient in someone’s soup. It’s tonight’s bill of fare . . . on the Twilight Zone.” 

Last Week's Trailer: “Next week we burrow deep into the most inner confines of kook-land and hopefully wind up dead center of the oddest portion thereof. We’ll bring you a story called ‘To Serve Man,’ written originally by Damon Knight. If you’ve ever wondered how we’d react to the arrival of some honest-to-Pete saucers – next week’s diet should be your meat. On The Twilight Zone . . . ‘To Serve Man.’”

 
Susan Cummings and Richard Kiel
Notes of Interest
Serling was contractually obligated to turn in the first draft of this script by May 1. The episode was assigned a production number on June 5, 1961. The short story on which this episode is based was retroactively awarded the 1951 “Retro” Hugo Award for “Best Short Story” in 2001. Damon Knight (who then resided in Milford, Pennsylvania), exchanged correspondence with Serling a number of times from 1960 to 1961. Knight submitted short stories and plot proposals for The Twilight Zone, but this marked his only story to be adapted. A three-page plot outline titled “A Meeting of the Board” was submitted to Serling in June of 1961, but Serling contemplated if it was feasible for use on the series, since the story went nowhere until the very end.

The flying saucer footage featured in the beginning of the episode was borrowed from the 1951 motion picture, The Day the Earth Stood Still. The stop-motion footage of the flying saucer taking off into the atmosphere towards the end of the episode was borrowed from the 1956 motion picture, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. The stop-motion effect is credited to Ray Harryhausen in the movie, but the closing credits of this television episode never acknowledged the famed effects artist.  

The role of Lloyd Bochner was director Richard L. Bare’s choice, as was actress Jeanne Evans, who played one of the women getting ready to board the ship; she was the real-life wife of director Richard L. Bare.

Richard Kiel, a few hairs over 7-feet tall, was cast by Lynn Stalmaster in the multiple roles of the Kanamits you see throughout the entire episode. “I was still in the middle of shooting Eegah (1962) when I got a call from Herman about doing The Twilight Zone,” recalled Kiel. “Arch Hall was very nice about it, having been an actor himself, and shot around me during the week it took me to do what turned out to be one of the classic episodes, titled ‘To Serve Man.’”  

On June 12, Kiel reported to the men’s third floor wardrobe department at M-G-M Studios for makeup tests and costumes. He reported at the studio at 9 a.m., and as soon as the makeup and costumes were  completed, Kiel’s voice was recorded in Sync Room “A” at M-G-M from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. William Tuttle created the look of the Kanamits, attempting to follow Serling’s description from the script: “we are reminded of his size in his relationships to other objects like chairs, tables, ashtrays, etc.” Serling’s facial description of the alien was a bit diff erent from what turned out on film. “While humanoid in general appearance, it is almost as if someone had been sculpturing it and had left the job prematurely. It has two eyes, very wide apart, a small opening that passes for a nose and a tiny, almost imperceptible circular hole that passes for a mouth.”

Lloyd Bochner, star of "To Serve Man"
After makeup, costumes and recorded voice tracks, Kiel then reported to Stage 4 so director Bare and the crew could shoot preliminaries with Kiel in makeup and costume. All of the scenes where a Kanamit first makes his appearance at the U.N. were shot on that afternoon – but only the scenes where only Kiel is seen, not the dignitaries, delegates, interpreters and cameraman. After viewing the rough cut, Serling was displeased with the effort. “‘To Serve Man’ turned out piss-poor, a combination of horrible direction and a faithless script bit your back,” Serling told Damon Knight on October 12, 1961. “We’re re-shooting some scenes and it’s my hope that we can at least come within a few hundred yards of your great story.”

Richard L. Bare is credited as director on the screen, but he wasn’t the only one who had a hand behind the directing chair. As Serling described in a letter to Buck Houghton, “I have done this in very rough fashion, offering the suggestions perhaps without proper integration. I’m assuming that we can re-tool this so that on occasion we can go out to film clips of mobs, loudspeakers, et al.” Richard L. Bare directed the scenes as the script called for, as revealed in the M-G-M filming schedule. After a rough cut was made and Richard Kiel’s voice was synced with the soundtrack, Serling and Houghton viewed the film and both agreed a major rehaul was needed. So plans were made to add footage, rewrite the Kanamit’s dialogue, re-record the alien’s voice, incorporate stock footage and film additional scenes.

The original cut ended abruptly as Pat shouts: “To Serve Man . . . it’s a cookbook!” And for a moment, Chambers looked stunned. A zoom into a close-up of his face as the horror takes hold. Slowly a huge hand comes into the frame to touch Chamber’s cheek, pinches it lightly as if feeling for tenderness, then the hand gently – but very firmly – turns Chambers around and propels him up the stairs as they slowly close. During the process of this closing, we hear Serling’s voice in closing narration:  

“The very explicit and very specific differences in points of view. To the wee ones . . . the little folk called man . . . it’s a marvelous adventure, a voyage to another planet. An exciting sojourn in another section of the galaxy. But to the very large, granite faced inhabitants known as Kanamits . . . it’s nothing more than a cattle car, a very comfortable provisions ship bringing food from the other end of the universe. Like I say. . . it’s all in the point of view.”

 
The Kanamit Bobble Head Doll
The ending with Chambers being escorted into the spaceship was deleted. Footage of a montage sequence of the Kanamit giving gifts superimposed over the shots of the various newspaper headlines was also deleted, replaced with the delegates offering a token of thanks for the gifts that were bestowed on them. Stock footage of power plants for force fields and crops and deserts was inserted. Serling also composed two additional scenes for the opening and closing of the episode, so the film already shot in the can would become the flashback scenes.

Production Schedule at M-G-MDay 1 – Interior of Secretary General’s Office (Stage 4)
Interior of Secretary General’s Conference Room
(Stage 4)
Day 2 – Interior of Code Room (Stage 4)
Day 3 – The Lie Detector Room (Stage 4)
Spaceship Hangar (Stage 9)
Day 4 – Interior of Conference Room (Stage 10)

The interior of the spaceship with Kiel and Bochner (composing the opening and closing scenes of the episode) was filmed, as well as a revised scene where Chambers is pushed back onto the stairs as the door to the spaceship closes (which is why Brody and Chambers are not on the screen together in the closing moments). These additional scenes were filmed on Stage 9. Serling also rewrote his narrations and had them rerecorded for this episode.

Serling left for five weeks of vacation, leaving the filming of additional scenes and new cut in the capable hands of Houghton. “Just so long as you know, Buck,” Serling wrote before leaving, “how deeply appreciative I am of all your back-breaking labor, your tremendous loyalty and your contributions which consistently and constantly made me look good.”

Lloyd Bochner’s narrations for the retakes were recorded on January 11, 1962, in Sync Room “B” from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. By this time, the recordings of Kiel’s voice had been tossed aside because of the revision, which required the dialogue to be recorded again. Since Kiel wasn’t available, Joseph Ruskin, who played the role of the genie in “The Man in the Bottle,” supplied the new voice of the Kanamits. Ruskin’s name remained uncredited in the episode.

“I had been told that M-G-M and the producers had the right to use someone else to dub in my lines and that they probably would do that,” Kiel recalled in his book, Making it Big in the Movies (2002). “I remember driving in directly from Palm Springs and reporting to M-G-M for hours of make-up before beginning the long day of shooting. I was so tired from driving right from one job to another and going through hours of brutal make-up that when they gave me a chance to do the lines myself, I was not prepared and did not do a very good job when I read the lines of the ‘Kanamit.’ Ultimately, they did use someone else to dub the voice of the Kanamit, and I wasn’t surprised, just disappointed in myself.”

When he came back from his trip, Serling viewed the revised film and admitted it was much better than before. A number of former insert scenes were deleted. The scene where a group of people boarded the spacecraft (with actor Theodore Marcuse as Citizen Gregori talking about a peaceful coalition) was in editor Jason Bernie’s original rough cut, after Chambers was put into the spaceship, so the audience would realize that the Earthlings were unaware of what went on across the airfield. Serling favored switching the order of the scenes.

Among the deleted scenes were inserts of a push panel button, a salesman’s hand, gum in a woman’s hand, insert of a piano, and young children who received gifts from the Kanamit. Extras who were filmed for the scenes that ultimately got deleted: Bob McCord, Jim Turley, and Shirley Swedsen.

Collectibles including the cook book have been produced.

The flashing light above the door in Chambers’ room in the spaceship is the same featured on the chest of the two-headed Martian in “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” The television camera at the U.N. was the same lens installed on Wordsworth’s wall in “The Obsolete Man.” The private quarters featured in the opening and closing scene inside the spaceship was the same as in “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby,” with a different door frame and the addition of lights and drawers.

With the drastic re-edit of this film, an original music score was not recommended by Scott Perry, Jr., the music editor, who decided in favor of using cues from the CBS stock music library. Some of the music is easily recognizable – lifted from the compositions used in “Back There” and “The Invaders.”

The footage of New York Times Square was stock footage from 1949. The movie My Dream is Yours with Doris Day, Jack Carson and Lee Bowman is advertised at The Strand, and Champion with Kirk Douglas is advertised at another movie theater.

Television critic Leonard Hoff man of The Tucson Daily Citizen reviewed this episode referring to the story as “mediocre,” adding that “the program is saved by television’s sometimes unusual ability to reincarnate and even rejuvenate has-been tales and make them enjoyable fare.”

On March 9, Damon Knight wrote to Serling, “You have made me a big man around here, and I would hate to try to estimate what your Trendex was in Milford the night you did ‘To Serve Man.’ My kids thought there ought to have been more to the story, but I thought it was a dandy show; I loved your monster and I treasure your line, ‘dust to dessert.’ I hear the series has not been renewed, which is a great pity if true, but I trust you are busy and happy. May your tribe increase.”

Serling replied on March 13, thanking Knight for the gracious note. “I’m not at all sure we did justice to your exceptional story but the effort was there and the try was a manly one. Actually, the reactions to the show have been quite incredible. The mail pull, for our show anyway, has been quite phenomenal – and the word of mouth unusually positive and extensive. Actually, I think I piddled around with the U.N. too much and was unable to sustain this properly with legitimate production values. If we’d done this as a motion picture, and had a few more dollar bills accessible, it could have been dressed up far more handsomely. But as it is, we’ve done far worse with fewer results. Apologize to your kids for me, and explain to them what are the pitfalls of novice science fiction writers who run their ham fists all over the works of the legitimate ones. I hope we have a chance to do it again.”

Over the years, a number of spoofs have been made (this usually happens to a popular episode of The Twilight Zone). In The Simpsons’ annual “Treehouse of Horror” from October of 1990, elements of “To Serve Man” were implemented with Lisa discovering a book titled “How to Cook Humans.” The aliens, however, calm her fears when it is revealed that the book was really titled “How to Cook for Forty Humans.” On an episode of Futurama, the character of Bender wears an apron that says “To Serve Man.”

Lloyd Bochner made his only appearance on The Twilight Zone in this episode (though he was offered a lead in “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”), but the actor assisted in what has become probably one of the best spoofs of this classic episode. In the 1991 motion picture, The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, Bochner runs across the screen holding a book, screaming “it’s a cookbook!”

In the episode “Sofa So Good,” on Married... With Children, initially telecast January 16, 1994, Al screams off screen “Peg! To Serve Man! It’s a cookbook!” In the episode “Space,” on Newsradio, initially telecast on May 21, 1997, a comical look of the future involves Jimmy distributing copies of a book titled “To Serve Man.” The printing is a result of a publishing company he bought out. When someone asks about the title, Jimmy sarcastically comments, “Yeah, it’s a cookbook.” In the episode “Lessons,” on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, initially telecast September 24, 2002, a verbal reference is made about this episode. In the episode “Peace,” on Angel, initially telecast April 30, 2003, the cast discovers a creature that eats people to sustain life. One of the members, upon learning the news, comments, “It’s ‘To Serve Man’ all over again.”

The above information was excerpted from The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Reprinted with permission. Available from Amazon.com, Coverout.com and MartinGrams.com.

Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 Williamsburg Film Festival

In 1987, a small group of Western movie fans began meeting to watch old cowboy movies on the big screen. From Whip Wilson, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Johnny Mack Brown... these classic cowboy Westerns have entertained children of all ages... literally. Several of the group had attended Western-cowboy themed film festivals in Charlotte, Knoxville and Asheville over the years. Realizing the importance of preserving the glory of Hollywood celluloid six shooters, they decided to create their own festival. In 1997, the first of what became sixteen annual migrations to historic Virginia was realized with the added charm of Colonial Williamsburg. The initial trial was devoted to honor not only Hollywood's Golden era on the silver screen, but the early days of television.

David Godwin and his WHIP WILSON book.
The first festival was held at the Comfort Inn in Williamsburg in March of 1997. The facility was small and intimate and was a two day event. The hotel was a sell-out and plenty of encouragement was passed around so the group decided to do their second. For the 1998 festival, the event moved to the Holiday Inn and in 1999, the event moved to the Holiday Inn Patriot where the event has remained every year since. The hotel is perfect for the venue which provides enough house for two theaters, a large star interview room and a dealer/memorabilia room. (Full disclosure: I have been an annual attendee every year for more than a decade and find myself signing copies of books I wrote year after year.) Included among the celebrity authors this year are Jim Rosin (author of The Streets of San Francisco), Deborah Painter (author of the great Forrest J. Ackerman book) and Dave Godwin (author of The Films of Whip Wilson) are among the celebrity authors. 

Harry Daniel, screen projectionist
In 2004, the convention began honoring a fan who helped make the festival special with the "Eddie Fan Appreciation Award." 

In 2006, the first Lifetime Achievement Award honoring folks who contributed to the hobby was bestowed. Presently a committee of 16 people are dedicated to making the festival happen year after year and each and every one of those individuals should receive a pat on the back for all the hard work that makes the event run so smoothly and successfully.

For reference, here is a list of all the Hollywood celebrities who have ever attended the Williamsburg Film Festival.

1997 Williamsburg Film Festival - Comfort Inn
Dale Berry
James Best
Peter Boone
Gene Evans
Will Hutchins
Willie Phelps
Ted & Ruth Reinhart

1998 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn 1776
James Best
Peter Boone
Conrad Brooks
James Drury
Willie Phelps
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Dale Robertson
Roberta Shore
Sonny Shroyer
Johnny Western
Peggy Stewart

1999 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
James Best
Peter Boone
Peter Breck
Ben Cooper
Jan Merlin
John Mitchum
Billie Murphy
Willie Phelps
Paul Picerni
Ted & Ruth Reinhart

2000 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Rex Allen, Jr.
Dale Berry
James Best
Peter Boone
Joseph Campanella
Harry Carey, Jr.
Gary Gray
Will Hutchins
Willie Phelps
Mala Powers
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Gale Storm
Johnny Western

2001 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
James Best
Peter Boone
Jim Bowman
Jerome Courtland
Beverly Garland
Will Jordan
Ruta Lee
Lucky Bill Parrish
Willie Phelps
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Marion Shilling
William Smith
Peggy Stewart

2002 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Jane Adams
Ben Cooper
The LeGarde Twins
Jimmy Lydon
Donna Martell
Jan Merlin
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Lucky Bill Parrish
Frankie Thomas

2003 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Kathryn Adams
Joseph Campanella
Dick Jones
Ed Kemmer
Jan Merlin
Ann Rutherford
Frankie Thomas
William Schallert
Johnny Western
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Mike Culver

2004 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
John Alderson
John Calvert
Joe Canutt
Alex Cord
Kim Darby
Tommy Farrell
Robert Fuller
Kay Linaker
Steve Mitchell
Betsy Palmer
Ann Robinson
William Smith
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Lucky Bill Parrish

2005 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Kathy Garver
Ty Hardin
George Hamilton IV
Anne Jeffreys
Joan Leslie
Denny Miller
Don Stroud
Morgan Woodward
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
Lucky Bill Parrish
The Virginia Rounders 
 
2006 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
James Best
Ben Cooper
Beverly Garland
Will Hutchins
Dick Jones
James Lydon
Jan Merlin
Lucky Bill Parrish
Mala Powers
Ted & Ruth Reinhart
William Smith
Peggy Stewart
Frankie Thomas
Johnny Western

2007 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Richard Anderson
Audrey Dalton
Margia Dean
Ed Faulkner
James Hampton
David Huddleston
Heather Lowe
Andrew Prine
Neil Summers
Eli Barsi
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Sterling Riggs

2008 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Lesley Aletter
Roger Davis
Richard Devon
Richard Herd
Gene Lesser
Lee Meriwether
Don Kay Reynolds
Jacqueline Scott
Gregory Walcott
The LeGarde Twins
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Blue River Bluegrass Band 

2009 Williamsburg Film Festival -- Holiday Inn Patriot
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Joe Canutt
George Hamilton IV
Peggy Stewart
Steve Stevens
Larry Maurice
Steve Kanaly
Dick Jones
Loren Janes
Ron Harper
Jacqueline White

2010 Williamsburg Film Festival -- Holiday Inn Patriot
Lane Bradbury
Jim Byrnes
Ben Cooper
Wright King
Paul Picerni
Laurie Prange
Tom Reese
Jacqueline Scott
Eli Barsi
Richard Lyons
Ed & Bobbi Beard


2011 Williamsburg Film Festival - Holiday Inn Patriot
Ed Faulkner
Anne Jeffreys
Donna Martell
Paul Petersen
Ann Rutherford
H.M. Wynant
Johnny Western
Ed & Bobbi Beard
Blue River Blue Grass Band

Last year's (2012) celebrity guests included (Front) Marlyn Mason, Richard Erdman, Terry Moore, Peggy Stewart. (Second Row) Gary Hudson, Tommy Nolan, John Saxon, Mickey Kuhn, Monty Alexander. (Third Row) Bob Boze Bell, Sterling Riggs, Ed & Bobbi Beard, and R.W. Hampton.

There is a fantastic selection of cowboy westerns screened in the movie room all weekend long. From Johnny Mack Brown to Roy Rogers, Bob Allen and Hoot Gibson, the selections often put other Western Film Festivals to shame with their selections. And somehow there is something romantic about sitting in a dark room with a couple hundred fans of cowboy Westerns watching a movie off a 16mm Kodak print in a dark room late at night, then walking back to your hotel room in your socks after chatting with fans about some of the key scenes that made the movie so special.

Over 60 vendor tables offering movie posters, comic books, DVDs, VHS videos, vintage cowboy toys, books and other retro merchandise. At this year's event, Bobby Copeland plans to introduce a new book about Allan "Rocky" Lane. I enjoy all of his books and have bought one Bobby has ever written.

Small observation: I am not sure if the Chamber of Commerce does much to help promote the Williamsburg Film Festival... at least I haven't seen them do anything but if the city of Williamsburg knew how beneficial an event like this means to them when it involves out-of-state tourism and additional commerce for local hotels, motels and restaurants, they might do a better job. Especially since the event attracts a slew of Hollywood celebrities to the area. Oscar winning actresses, New York Times best-selling authors and national television hosts have all participated in what has become a high mark for the city. But this is not uncommon for events I have attended across the East Coast. It seems events like these are not regarded as propitious and I think the city could avoid high-profile egg on their face if the Chamber of Commerce instructed the news media to help promote the event. Come to think of it, I remember when the Starz Encore Westerns Channel attended the show a few years ago to film events for their national satellite/cable channel. Maybe the local news media (newspapers included) do not believe locals would want to meet movie stars....

William S. Hart
This year's events offer a screening of the silent Western, Hells Hinges, starring William S. Hart. Recently honored on a U.S. Postage Stamp, Hart is remembered for having "imbued all of his characters with honor and integrity," while others consider the actor as the founding father for all cowboy screen heroes to come. Author Deborah Painter will introduce the movie. This is a highlight I look forward to watching. Hell's Hinges tells the story of a minister, Rev. Bob Henley, who comes to a gunfighter-plagued town with his sister, Faith. The owner of the saloon, Silk Miller, and his accomplices sense trouble and hire gunman Blaze Tracy, the most dangerous man around, to run the minister out of town. Rev. Henley is seduced by the dance-hall girl, Dolly, and falls from grace as his sister, Faith, rehabilitates Blaze Tracey, who finds something special in her, and soon Miller and the others have Blaze to deal with. If you never saw this movie, or any William S. Hart movie, I recommend it. Especially with the experience of a dark screening room and a crowd that appreciates this type of art.

Deborah Painter proudly displays her book.
This year's event is March 6 to 9, 2013.

The convention website is www.williamsburgfilmfestival.org.