|Johnny Crawford from The Rifleman meets a fan.|
This March the Williamsburg Film Festival will celebrate 20 years. Personally, I have been attending since 2001 or 2002 so the annual event holds a special place in my heart. I was planning on posting a write-up documenting the history of the festival, and highlights from over the years, but Bill Ruehlmann wrote a nice piece and it felt better to step aside and let Bill tell you all about it. My personal recommendation is that if you have never been to the convention before, I recommend you book your hotel room and make plans to attend. This is the year to go. Martin
WILLIAMSBURG FILM FESTIVAL CELEBRATES TWO DECADES
by Bill Ruehlmann, Wrangler
The Williamsburg Film Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary , with guest stars, nonstop western movies, live musical entertainment, and a massive dealer room of multimedia memorabilia ranging from DVDS to vintage toys and comic books. The four-day event takes place at the Holiday Inn-Patriot Convention Center on 3032 Richmond Rd. in historic Williamsburg, Va. Reservations may be made at 757-565-2600 and 800-446-6001. Representing the best of the movie and TV west, the stars will be interviewed in person onstage and appear throughout the event for autographs. They include Don Collier, Audrey Dalton, Ed Faulkner, Robert Fuller, Burton Gilliam, Terry Moore, Jaqueline Scott and Roberta Shore.
“We have come a distance,” reports current festival board president Larry Floyd. “We started back in 1987 as a small group of friends and fans from all walks of life that just enjoyed getting together for screenings of the cowboy movies we collected and loved as kids. The group grew.” It did. After a decade of informal get-togethers, the expanded group decided to follow the example of full-blown organized film festivals in Charlotte, Knoxville, Memphis and Ashville. The first official Williamsburg Film Festival took place in 1997 at the Comfort Inn in Williamsburg. It featured celebrities Dale Berry, James Best, Peter Boone, Gene Evans, Will Hutchins and Willie Phelps.
The board is all-volunteer and includes retired and current professional men and women – business execs, career military, academicians and techno-wizards, all of them confirmed front-row kids. They work hard to make the Williamsburg Film Festival fun for celebrities and guests alike. There have been plenty of surprises over the years, including at least one big turnout in the midst of a snowstorm. Then there was the time famed tough-guy actor Morgan Woodward (remembered as the stone-faced prison guard in sunglasses who shoots Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke”). At the end of an onstage question-and-answer session, he was asked to sing “Danny Boy.” It turned out that he happened to be a classically trained baritone. Woodward stood up and sang the moving Irish ballad impeccably. When he was finished, there was not a dry eye in the house.
At the outset of her onstage interview, Ann Rutherford (“Gone With the Wind,” “Love Finds Andy Hardy”) was asked a question about her childhood; she proceeded to fill the entire hour from that moment forward without further interruption. Captivated along with the crowd, the interviewer placed his notes on the floor beside his chair, sat back and listened. When time ran out, the eloquent and engaging actress received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Harry Carey Jr. (“The Searchers,” “Three Godfathers”) was a smoker. The dealer room was smoke-free, but he discovered a door to the outside and, when needed, could usually be found on the other side of it, seated on some bricks, enjoying a cigarette. One evening an individual in a three-piece suit also discovered that door, to the same purpose. He lit up and, suddenly, spotted Harry.
“Are you … Harry Carey Jr.?” he asked breathlessly.
Harry looked up and smiled.
“Guilty,” he said, and blew out smoke.
“Don’t move!” cried the man in the suit, and he ran back inside. A minute later, he ran out again, pulling behind him another man, older but also resplendent in a three-piece suit.
“See, Doc?” the first man shouted. “If I had taken your advice and quit smoking, I’d never have met Harry Carey Jr.!"
So it goes at the Williamsburg Film Festival, which also welcomes annually the Solar Guard Academy, national fans of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.
Welcome to the 20th edition, .
That’s www.williamsburgfilmfestival.org or visit us on Facebook.