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Williamsburg Film Festival 2007
"Stand By For Mars!"

Con-tact: Science Fiction Convention Previews and Reports
The Williamsburg Film Festival: Friday, March 9, 2007

I returned to the Holiday Inn Patriot at 10 am on Friday. I wandered around the Dealer's Room for several minutes - having a chat with Cadet Ed and the rest of the Solar Guard members. I'd received my packet of trading cards on Thursday and on this day had to find my one missing card, that of Buzz Corry. Eventually I completed my set.

Andrew Prine had the most science fiction credits among the guest stars at the Festival - having appeared in Gemini Man and The Invaders, as well as V, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I hesitated to approach him in the Dealer's Room, however, because I wanted to be able to record his responses and thought that might disconcert the rest of his fans who'd want to approach him. So I delayed...and delayed...

Dealer's room, Saturday morning before the crush

I then went to the Guest Star Theater in order to watch Heather Lowe's production of The Avenging Angel (1995) starring Tom Berenger.

Heather Lowe
Among the many interesting anecdotes Heather shared about the film, as well as comments on the cooperation of the Mormon church with the filming, was one about Charlton Heston, who played Brigham Young in the telefilm:

"I wanted Gregory Peck for [Charlton Heston's] role, and Tom Berenger wanted Charlton Heston. And when you do these kinds of films, you deal. And so, of course he's a brilliant choice. What he did - once he received the role - he called the Mormon church and he said, "I've been offered this role and I want your blessing to play Brigham Young. Now, they knew we were going to do this film, and they thought, well, he played Moses, God, he's played Ben-Hur, so all right, yes."

At the end of the hour I asked Heather to expand a bit on a new film her company has just produced, Mega Con in Aberdeen, "The misadventures of a group of American actors headed to a ScottishSci-Fi convention."

She did not want to give away any details, as the film is scheduled to make its debut at the Cannes Film Festival this year, but she was quite pleased with it and knows science fiction fans are going to love it. So I'm looking forward to this!

The 12 pm movie was supposed to have been Audrey Dalton's The Bounty Killer. However, Audrey was having relatives coming in who weren't going to arrive til Saturday, so Margia Dean had kindly consented to switch her movie day with Audrey's.

Margia attended the film showing of Last of the Desperadoes with her second husband, opera singer Felipe Alvarez, with whom she's been married for more than 40 years.

Last of the Desperadoes was an interesting reminded me of High Noon. Sheriff Pat Garrett (James Craig) kills Billy the Kid, and then is targeted for revenge by Billy's gang...and none of the townspeople will help him, so he finds it necessary to go on the run.

Margia Dean

Margia answered a few questions from the crowd. I asked her a few questions about her production career - which she had mentioned the previous night. Margia was one of the earliest female producers, successfully producing The The Long Rope (1961) and Horror of It All (1963). However, the collapse of Twentieth Century Fox due to the massive failure of Cleopatra resulted in a general housecleaning of the current 'regime', which ended her producing career. She then went on to a successful career in private life.

Neil Summers
Neil Summers
Neil Summers has been a stunt man for practically his entire life. (He also has one of the largest collections of Western Movie memorabilia in the world) His "Movie Clips with Neil Summers" was very well attended. It began with a 15-minute series of clips of some of his appearances as a stuntman and actor, and then the floor was thrown open to questions. The audience was very interested in his career making spaghetti Westerns in Italy with such actors as Terence Hill.

Summers is still in demand. He's scheduled to work soon on a movie about Winston Churchill in World War II.

At 3 pm I attended the panel with Ed Faulkner and James Hampton, hosted by Mitch Weisberg.

Ed Faulkner had worked on 6 films with John Wayne, and so was able to share quite a few anecdotes about that American icon. He can do quite a good Wayne impersonation, as well! Faulkner also shared stories about working with Richard Boone on Have Gun, Will Travel, and his work on other classic Western TV shows.

James Hampton has had a long career in show-business, but is most well-known for his co-starring role in F-Troop with Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch. He also worked with Jimmy Stewart when he guest-starred on the TV series Hawkins, when Stewart was 66. Hampton shared a few anecdotes, including one that revealed how much class Stewart had.

Ed Faulkner, James Hampton, and Mitch Weisberg

Stewart and Hampton had just finished filming a scene featuring them both. Next were specific close-ups of Jimmy Stewart, and then would be close-ups of Hampton. The director wanted to let Stewart go, and asked Hampton if he'd mind. Hampton said of course not. However, when the director told Stewart he could go home for the night, Stewart refused. Regardless of the fact that he wouldn't be on camera, he was going to stay and provide Hampton with the appropriate dialog and facial reactions.

Both Faulkner and Hampton commented on the class of the stars they worked with in their heyday - John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, etc. They all knew their lines and arrived on the set on-time, etc., which is apparently more than could be said for some stars today.

I attended This Savage Land starring Barry Sullivan, Kathryn Hays (Gem in Star Trek, Andrew Prine, and George C. Scott. Unfortunately, Mr. Prine was not available after the film.

Robinette George

Martin Grams
Before going out to dinner, I headed back to the Dealer's Room. On the way I saw Festival-attendee Robinette George doing some knitting in one of the rooms, and went in to talk to her. She had suggested to the Festival organizers that she could hold a knitting class for any interested persons. (It's a bane at any convention or film festival that an individual's spouse may not always particularly interested in what's going on - so it's always good to have other activies for them. Of course Williamsburg is full of shops, Civil War and Revolutionary War sites, etc., but if you don't want to leave the hotel....). Mrs. George hopes to make this a feature next year as well.

After I expressed an interest in her knitting, she shared with me that she did knitting for The Shawl Ministry, which knits shawls for those people who are losing loved ones to terminal illnesses. I thought this was a good cause so I mention it here.

I then continued on to the Dealer's Room and chatted with Martin Grams, Jr., author of several books on Old Time Radio and Classic TV, including The I Love A Mystery Companion, Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills and he is currently finished a book on The Green Hornet. His TV work also includes the Have Gun, Will Travel Companion and The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion.

I tried to nudge him towards working on an X Minus One Companion, but he wasn't having any, unfortunately...he was more receptive to a Vincent Price on Radio companion...

Solar Guard Video Room
I was able to watch two episodes of Tom Corbett in the video room, before it was time to head to the David Huddleston/Richard Anderson panel. The episode was one from the tail end of the series and featured Jack Grimes as T.J. Thistle (Grimes had replaced Jan Merlin (Roger Manning) when that actor left the series - much to the dismay of his many fans. T.J. Thistle was no Roger Manning - and Grimes was no Merlin!)

Captain Strong: Ed Bryce

To the right:
Cadets Astro, T. J. Thistle, Frankie Thomas as played by Al Markim, Jack Grimes, Frankie Thomas

David Huddleston and Richard Anderson
Before the panel with Huddleston and Anderson, they showed the 10-minute film, Revielle, (2004) which starred Huddleston and James McEachin.

Set in a retirement home, Huddleston plays a Navy man who every morning raises an American flag up the flag-pole, McEachin plays a new inhabitant, an Army man,
and the two men engage in a series of one-upmanships regarding medals, etc., until its touching conclusion.

Among many anecdotes that David Huddleston shared was one about Mel Brooks and Blazing Saddles (1974) When Huddleston was originally offered the role of Olson Johnson he turned it down because he had only two lines and nothing much to do. Mel Blanc called him up and said, "You would turn down a Mel Brooks picture?" After Huddleston explained why, Brooks asked him to come to the studio to have lunch the next day. The next day they had lunch, then they back to Brooks' office, Brooks laid the script on the desk and said: "There's a good line, you want that one?" "Well, sure." He did this all the way through the script. And if you ever see the picture again, you will notice that I have all the laugh lines, all the way through. Then, about two weeks into the picture, John Hillerman (Howard Johnson) said to me, "Ya know, when I read for this part...[inaudible on my tape, but it got a big laugh] "I said, Jeez, I don't know, maybe he rewrote the thing." Another big laugh.

Both Richard Anderson also shared many anecdotes. At the end of the panel the audience was allowed to ask questions. Someone asked about Forbidden Planet and Richard explained that it had started out as 'just a job' and 50 years later for the anniversary he and the rest of the cast had been brought together in San Diego one weekend, and he'd signed 40,000 autographs. He ended by pointing out that several fine actors had gotten their start on Forbidden Planet. Ruehllman then pointed to someone near the front of the room who wanted to ask a question:

"I was very fortunate to work in Forbidden Planet. I played an extra. [At this point, laughter from those around him made him inaudible. Ruehllman then introduced him as James Best]. I had no lines and the big monster killed me. ... He [the director] didn't give me any lines or anything!"

"James, I got killed by the same guy."

"Yeah, but you talked before you died!"

Much of this interchange was obscured by appreciative laughter. The expression on Richard Anderson's face was priceless as he and James Best had their repartee going.

Actually, James was misremembering - he is clearly seen above in the penultimate shot of the movie, alive and happy - but still with no lines. (It may have been that his death scene was filmed, but then not used...) In any event, his comments made for a better story!

After the panel ended, the stars posed on stage for people to take photographs. I went forward and snapped a shot of Ed Faulkner talking with James Best, and a couple of shots of Richard Anderson and David Huddleston.

With the panel over, I again had the option to go watch more classic SF TV in the Solar Guard video room - and I had forgotten that they had a telescope and were going to do some stargazing later - but in any event I elected to go home instead.

Continue to Saturday's events.

Thursday - Friday - Saturday

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