As I prepare to write my big Kahuna of a post ~ my experience at this past April’s 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival ~ I go over my notes and pictures and memories from the festival earlier this year. People come from all over the country ( and the world ) to get their classic film fix there in Hollywood, and as I’m meeting and greeting people, it’s dawning on me that a lot of the festival~goers I’ve met come from Texas. Now though I’m a native New Yorker, I always throw out the same FYI when I meet a Texan: “My sister lives in Killeen. She used to be in the military.” Maybe that’ll give me some street cred with them. The Texans politely smile. 😉
I have States’ pride. I love being from the neon~lit, asphalt jungle of New York City. But I imagine being a Texan is a whole ‘nother animal altogether. How could it not be, when one comes from such wide open spaces. Texas, at 268,000 square miles is the largest state in the Union after Alaska ( …it has 570,665 square miles ). Texas has the Rio Grande which makes our NYC Hudson River look like a creek. Texas had cowboys and Indians and warring with Santa Anna in another country, and ranches the size of Manhattan. Okay, I confess, all I know of Texas is what I see in “Giant” “The Last Picture Show” “Urban Cowboy” tv’s “Dallas” or HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” which is filmed in Waco. It got me wondering if being from any particular region of our country…or of the world, plays any part in our liking or choosing certain classic films. I’ll make this blog post my Texas issue, and I’ll be asking five Texans a couple of questions to get an idea. It seems as there are as many differing views of Texas as there are Texans. And no doubt ( at 268,000 square miles ), Texas is big enough to hold a wide variety of views…of Texas.
Meet . . .
Wendy, Ollie, Christy, Kelly and Theresa
[ Movie titles, photos, names of places have been hot~linked for further info. ]
1. HOW TEXAS ARE YOU? ARE YOU BORN AND RAISED HERE? PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS? WHAT CITY DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE IN IN TEXAS?
I moved from northern Indiana to Texas when I was 10 years old, so not a native Texan, but not too far off. And I’ve lived here ever since, most of the time in the Ft. Worth/Dallas Metroplex area, and specifically in Grand Prairie now.
Born and raised in Austin, on the “wrong side” of a family with ranches that once covered hundreds of miles of Texas. There are family-names across various buildings, parks and streets although not in Austin itself. (Whew!)
Dad’s father was a child of the family’s civil war, splitting branches into Rich Complacents vs. Do-It-Yerself’ers that never reunited, so claims to those buildings and streets take on a Rooseveltian Oyster Bay vs. Hyde Park sneer for those of us on “the wrong side.”
I left Austin in the late ’80s for twelve years of almost constant world travel, and returned with a wonderful wife to raise a family simply because our neighborhood seemed to offer many ideals for child-raising – a park just beyond the backdoor, a constant presence of wonderful neighbors and a lot of pets.
I’m a native Houstonian, but I’ve lived in New Orleans, Tampa, Chicago, New Jersey, several parts of Texas, several states in Mexico, and currently reside near Houston. My maternal grandmother raised 18 children here in Texas; 6 of her deceased sister’s children, and 12 of her own. After her husband died, she lost the farm during the Depression and moved into town to run a boarding house for day laborers and Aggie Corpsmen. My father’s family were from Cullman, Alabama, and were jostled around quite a bit and finally ended up in Longview, Texas, around the time Bonnie and Clyde were doing a little banking business.
KELLY J. KITCHENS WICKERSHAM
I am pretty darn Texan. I’m a fourth generation Texan on my Mom’s side. I was born in Fort Worth, moved to El Paso when I was almost 10, then we moved to Houston when I was 12. Once I graduated from high school in Houston, I went to the University of North Texas in Denton, which is just north of Dallas and Fort Worth about 30 miles or so.
After college, I made the natural migration down to Dallas and have been in this area ever since. Once Mark and I married in 2006, we moved to the nearest suburb of Dallas called Richardson. We love it here.
THERESA MADERE BARRERA
I am definitely a Texan baby! Proudly! I was born and raised in Austin, though I’ve lived in four different cities in Texas so far. Recently my husband and I bought a house in Leander. My whole family lives around us. My parents reside in Burnet and my grandparents all live right outside Austin. So we have rootin’ scootin’ Texas times together.
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2. WHAT MAKES YOUR AREA UNIQUE FROM OTHER PARTS OF TEXAS?
WENDY: To me, the Metroplex is unique because it has the best of two totally different aspects of Texas. Ft. Worth has the history and heritage side of the state, with the Stockyards and cattle and the old-time small town feeling. But Dallas is the big, bustling sophisticated city side of the state. I live right in between the two, so I get the best of both worlds.
OLLIE: Downtown Austin offers a pedestrianism that is comparable to the largest cities, plus a music scene that has been fairly rabid since the mid~‘60s. It has a large public university (University of Texas) which is the heart of its free-living attitudes.
But it also has Life’s Rectum because it’s the State Capitol, full of society-hating cowards known as Republicans, most of whom claim residency far from Austin and claim to constantly hate it – but they’re always around, as indicated by their constant stream of arrests for assaults, property crimes, public lewdness, urination, prostitution, drugs and child-porn. Pretty much the standard GOP lifestyle.
Geologically, Austin has a giant fault running north-south thru it, separating flat black-soil East Austin from rocky, hilly West Austin. The fault creates scenery and recreation on the west side, and great gardens and farming on the east. And our house and park are smack-dab in the middle of that fault line.
CHRISTY: Some of the best seafood in the entire Gulf Coast area, the best Tex-Mex food, several first-class museums (with excellent film screenings), home to well-dressed jet-setting doyenne Lynn Wyatt, friend to the rich and famous. (I once met Wyatt and Lauren Bacall at the River Oaks Theatre here in Houston.) We also have the best medical center in the world. When the world’s rich get sick, the fancy hotels around the medical center area fill up, and M.D. Anderson Hospital is the mecca for oncology.
In Richardson, where we are now, is very similar to Fort Worth in climate. We are lucky here that when it rains, it usually cools off afterwards; unlike Houston, where it just gets hotter and stickier after it rains.
We’re lucky to have mature trees in our neighborhood and green grass. In El Paso, many of the yards are filled with rocks because it is hard to get grass to grow.
Richardson is also a very racially and religiously diverse area of town, and Mark and I love living in the middle of it all. We have a sweet Muslim family next door on the right, an African-American grandmother directly across the street with all of her kids and grandkids constantly visiting her, a young Hispanic couple next to her, and a Lesbian couple down the street with 4 kids (3 of whom are adopted). Asians, Mexicans, retired white people, gay couples, Muslims, Jewish, Christians – all living in great harmony. We prove it can be done!
THERESA: Leander is just outside of Austin, which is where I was raised. Austin is the capital of Texas and they say, “Keep Austin Weird” for good reason. We’re an odd bunch! This city is very artistic and simply teeming with musicians left and right. Known as the “Live Music Capital of the World”, it doesn’t let you down with concerts all over the city every night of the week.
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3. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF… WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
WENDY: I’m a legal assistant in the corporate/securities section of a law firm in downtown Ft. Worth.
OLLIE: I’ve been a performing musician since age six, graduating from high school and joining eight different performers on national tours in those first two years. Back in college, I fell in with a bad group of engineers and we developed circuitry, software and equipment to create that circuitry. I continue with both endeavors, although “wife and kids and neighbors” consumes a wonderful portion of my time.
CHRISTY: I write, teach, consult and play the piano. I work as an English professor at one of the most culturally diverse areas in the country with college students from at least 40 different languages. In the last two years, I’ve worked with many Nepalese students who were victims of the April 2015 earthquakes. Many emotional tales of woe from that tragedy came to my desk from those bereft students. I’m close to the Kemah Marina and Galveston Island, always an entertaining getaway from the rigors of the 9 to 5 doldrums. I currently am working on a biography entitled “THELMA RITTER: HOLLYWOOD’S FAVORITE NEW YORKER,” to be published in the latter portion of 2018 by the University Press of Mississippi’s Hollywood Legends Series. As author of the Sue Sue Applegate columns on the TCM Message Boards and The Silver Screen Oasis website and my blog Christy’s Inkwells I’ve had the privilege of writing about all the TCM Film Festivals since 2010.
KELLY: On April 1st, I celebrated 22 years of having my own business. I am a former journalist – editor, film critic, arts and music writer, etc. who left the arts and entertainment weekly guide I helped start – to switch to the other side to become a publicist.
I consider myself more a media-relations expert. Basically, I’m the liaison between my clients (filmmakers, film festivals, film venues like Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in DFW) and journalists (which includes traditional media: TV, radio, and print as well as bloggers, podcasters, any online outlets). All that to say, I am a film publicist working full time for 22 years in Dallas, Texas!
THERESA: I have my own little business called Lady Butterscotch Co. I carve rubber stamps and craft handmade cards in bulk for others, including small businesses, to give their clients custom thank you cards for that personal touch. I also make wedding/party invitations by the dozens. I didn’t expect so many people to like this idea, but it’s really taken off! I love it! Perfect for being able to also take care of my newborn.
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4. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS ONE MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE LONE STAR STATE THE REST OF US FORTY~NINE STATES HAS OF TEXAS?
WENDY: The perception is changing, but in the years I was growing up here, folks outside of Texas seemed to think we all were involved in the oil industry and wore cowboy boots and hats (and that all the women had really BIG hair!). For many years, whenever we traveled outside Texas or the United States, when people found out we were from the Dallas area they invariably answered, “Ah, yes! J.R. Ewing.”
OLLIE: Distance. The phrase “Everything’s bigger in Texas” is a cliché, but driving distances seems much much further because the State’s topology and geography takes 3-4 or even 8 hours to cross from one to another. Every drive can seem long, Long, LONG. And many of those drives are just as scenic in the dark – even more so! – than in the light of day. (Hint! Hint!)
Texas has five distinct geographic zones, and it takes hours to cross thru even one of them. Classic film fans that want to ‘see Texas’ are usually left dragging their tongues – “The drives are so long and soooo boring!” Yes.
CHRISTY: MYTH #1 occurs when citizens from Texas are perceived as ignorant because they have an accent with long vowel sounds different from an accent of citizens in colder climates or different regions of the country with shorter vowel sounds.
So turnabout is fair play…
MYTH#2 ~ Texans feel that citizens of colder climates or other regions of the country who have accents with short vowel sounds and speak more quickly than we do are untrustworthy.
It is obvious to me that both attitudes are misinformed. I don’t believe that judging someone on appearance or listening to someone for a short period of time can determine the worth of a human soul.
KELLY: A common misconception about Texas is that we are all conservative, rednecks who wear boots all the time. As a 4th generation Texan, I’ve never owned a pair of cowboy boots. And of the 60~plus hats I own, not one of them is a cowboy hat.
I do, quite proudly at that, embrace Texas standard vocabulary words, like:
y’all = (plural: all y’all; possessive: y’all’s),
fixin’ = (meaning: getting ready to start),
tump = (meaning: tip + dump = tump.)
Example in a sentence:
“The wind and waves are fixin’ to tump the sailboat over, and y’all will land in the water!”
THERESA: People ask me all the time if Texans really wear cowboy boots and ride horses to work. It always makes me giggle. Yes, we still live in the year 1889. Ha! 😉 There are horses all over the state, however, they are mostly outside the big cities and people drive to work in cars like normal people of this century.
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5. OUT WHERE THE WEST BEGINS, HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR LOVE OF CLASSIC FILMS? DOES BEING FROM TEXAS SHAPE YOU IN ANY WAY FOR CLASSIC FILMS OR DOESN’T THAT MATTER.
WENDY: My love for classic film started after seeing “GONE WITH THE WIND” when I was about 11 years old or so. I don’t think being from Texas really shaped that. I remember “THE ALAMO” with John Wayne being shown to us in middle school for Texas history class, but I don’t recall falling in love with it as a “classic film.”
OLLIE: Most cities under a few hundred thousand people in the ’50s and ’60s had limited TV options. When movies came onto the Single TV Station in Austin, everyone watched. Or didn’t. And everyone talked about them. Or why they didn’t watch. TV and movie reviews, book reviews – those were constant topics.
CHRISTY: My mother took me to the movies, the drive-in, and we watched films on television. I think the first film I remember seeing with her was “HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON.” I was frightened to death when the rat began crawling on Robert Mitchum when he was hiding in the supply tent. And then my mother’s fascination with Ray Milland’s sexy self and Ginger Roger’s fashions in “THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR” captured my attention.
I think one of the first films I remember seeing at the drive-in was the Burt Lancaster/Audrey Hepburn film “THE UNFORGIVEN,” before Clint got an Oscar for the newer title. Hepburn draws a line on her forehead with some makeup or mud, and the next day when I was home, I wanted to be Native American, too, and found my mother’s pancake makeup and did the same.
KELLY: I remember when I was 3 or 4 looking forward to the yearly TV showing of “THE WIZARD OF OZ” and “GONE WITH THE WIND” in the ‘70s. But it was when my Mom took me to a revival screening of “THE SOUND OF MUSIC” at a beautiful old movie palace in 1973 that I truly fell in love. I remember it so clearly as I was the same age as the youngest girl in the film, Gretl. We were both 5 years old. I remember feeling so connected to her and the film that when we got home, I discovered the soundtrack in our album collection. I played that album over and over and over again. I sang and danced playing every part.
My Dad loved John Wayne films. So it seems that there was a Western on every Saturday. I kinda grew up thinking that John Wayne equaled Texas because of my Dad.
THERESA: I began my love for classic film at the age of 2 or 3 while my grandmother baby~sat me. She has this massive library of classics in her collection. Every time I went over there, she would sit me in her living room and put on one of those many beautiful old films I now consider my favorites.
I do think growing up in Texas made an impression on which films my grandmother put in front of me. Memories of watching them, all cuddled under a fuzzy blanket with my grandmother, are some of the best that I have. Whether it was “THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS,” “GIANT,” or even the later film “SUGARLAND EXPRESS,” I just marveled at these masterpieces that showcased my beautiful state in all its glory.
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6. NAME THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE CLASSIC FILMS WHETHER RELATED TO TEXAS OR NOT…AND WHY YOU LIKE THEM.
WENDY: “GONE WITH THE WIND” is my all-time favorite movie, no question about it. There’s a reason why it’s considered the most popular movie ever made: it’s got everything! And it really started my love of classic film, so that makes it even more special to me.
My second favorite would be “WIZARD OF OZ.” I grew up on it, eagerly looking forward to its once-a-year showing on television (remember those days?) I adored Judy Garland and was just fascinated by her when I was a little girl.
I don’t have a clear favorite third film, there are too many to choose from that I love so much, in just about every genre. There are literally dozens and dozens of movies I adore.
OLLIE: Bogart’s “MALTESE FALCON” is a favorite because it has stood the entertainment test of time – “Can I stand to see it again? YES.” The finale of martial music with the elevator’s bars pasting shadows across Mary Astor’s
“THE WIZARD OF OZ” (1939) gets my vote for Most Important Film in Hollywood History because of the special effects, the cast & characters, the sets, the filming techniques and music. I can’t name any other film that has every song as a standard. Or so many lines of dialog that are clichés, all deservedly so because they’ve been used millions and billions of times. And will be. I can’t think of a more influential set of characters in any film across all walks of life. The Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, Munchkins, Toto, Kansas, Ruby Slippers, Yellow Brick Roads, the Wizard and those flaming head special effects, and of course the ultimate villain, the Wicked Witch Of The West. I won’t even mention the number of people who confess that flying monkees are a lifelong nightmare.
“SAFE IN HELL” (1931) with Dorothy MacKaill is influential because it’s about a woman’s struggles when men have forced their demands and pleasures onto her. And though she has a Good Man around sometimes, he doesn’t understand the brutality that other men inflict on women… on her. He’s busy with work. She’s busy trying to survive.
This is not a film to like. It’s a hard HARD film and it has preyed on my mind since the first time TCM showed it.
CHRISTY: “HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON” — Two actors, one beautiful location, and the misery and fear of what might happen to them because of World War II and because of their feelings for each other.
“PATTON” — I loved watching this film with my father when he was alive. It would be one of the few times he would share experiences of World War II and the European Theatre, and being part of Patton’s Third Army for a time.
One of the films I still have a childhood fondness for is “BELLS OF ROSARITA,” a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans film that features a lovely story about Dale Evans and her grandmother. Now it’s not set in Texas, but it showcases our Texas affinity for family stories about the “olden days.”
CineMaven Side Note:
- Dale Evans is an inductee in the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. She says:
“ ‘Cowgirl’ is an attitude really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head-on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands; they speak up. They defend things they hold dear.”
- And for you Roy ( “King of the Cowboys” ) Rogers fans, please see Brian Camp’s Film and Anime Blog for Rogers’ symbiotic collaborative relationship with director William Witney
KELLY: “THE WIZARD OF OZ” is my all time favorite film from when I was like 3 or 4. Why? Judy!
“A STAR IS BORN.” Why? Judy!
“MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS.” Why? Judy!
THERESA: “TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE” (1950) is the very first classic I remember seeing as a kid. I have to say, it has stayed one of my very favorites, because it never grows boring. It’s just such a cute film that makes you feel good even when you are feeling at your worst. I think some of that is also a nostalgic feeling, but I love that I still have that memory.
“RANDOM HARVEST” is also in my top three. First, I have to say that Greer Garson is my favorite actress, so that has a lot to do with this choice. I just love the intense emotion encased in this one film. It gives you feeling and makes you question. To me, that’s part of what makes a great film…not to mention, the beautiful Ronald Colman co–starring. You just can’t go wrong.
My third choice would be “FUNNY GIRL.” I mean, it’s Barbra! Do you really need another reason? I think I related to her in this film, as a kid, because of her struggle with self-image and her confident drive to live her biggest dream.
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7. IS THERE A CLASSIC ICONIC FILM FEATURING TEXANS THAT PORTRAYS THE TEXAS CULTURE ACCURATELY OR INACCURATELY?
WENDY: I think “GIANT” really captures a lot of the Texas spirit. The huge expanses of land (seriously, you can drive almost 800 miles in a straight line and never leave the state!), the feeling of being on the Western frontier in much of the state, the Texas swagger and pride in the state, and the attitude toward and treatment of minorities. Obviously, a lot has changed in the 60+ years since the movie came out, but I see a lot of Texas today in it, too.
OLLIE: I’ve never seen an accurate portrayal of a Texas lifestyle in a film, although “VIVA MAX” (1969, Peter Ustinov) has a Mexican general deciding to re-capture the Alamo in a “Mouse That Roars” concept, and at least some of the San Antonio residents cheer him on. This was, after all, the beginning of the Republican destruction of society – i.e. the first term of Nixon.
I simply don’t believe there’s a film that portrays “Texas.” There are films that portray towns well enough (a decade-younger Archer City in “THE LAST PICTURE SHOW” but just about every small town had been or would be facing all the same forces). Carthage, Texas (northeast Texas) was slightly portrayed in Richard Linklater’s 2011 film “BERNIE,” but most of the filming was 150 miles away in the BBQ Capitol Of The World: Lockhart, which is smart. If every town’s about the same, why not have the greatest selection of BBQ nearby?
CHRISTY: Well, “GIANT,” because there are so many lessons intrinsic in its development that make it iconic, and I think it showcases James Dean’s best performance. Jane Withers’ story about Dean leaving his pink shirt with her to wash for him when he returned from his trip endears me to the film. At last report, Withers’ still owns the shirt. Also, the documentary “The Children of Giant,” is an important coda to the impact of the original film.
I enjoy “CONAGHER,” although it was filmed in Arizona, but it’s a Louis L’Amour tale that rings true. People sometimes would ride off and never return. Nobody every knew what happened to them, and they would have to move on with their lives no matter what. I like “HONDO” for some of the same reasons: the characters, the scenery, and the romance. Some of the Westerns, while not set in Texas, reveal the attitudes that Texans espoused at one time. Texas is a “Maverick Nation” of many different cultures and peoples. See this link to the Institute of Texan Cultures.
For me, the best film about Texas has to be “LONESOME DOVE,” because it’s also one of the best books about Texas. Men and women with vision and persistence. Plus I have some very personal connections associated with it. ‘Nuff said.
KELLY: Most of them are over the top with Texas culture. The one that comes to mind that is pretty accurate (especially for its time) is “STATE FAIR” (1962).
In Texas, we LOVE our State Fair. It is FULL of fun and history with the livestock judging and auctions, and Mark’s Dad’s pickles have won countless food competitions at our State Fair.
THERESA: I think “GIANT” is a remarkable example of an iconic film that portrays Texans in a surprisingly accurate way. The different personalities in the film are very much a product of the historical culture in Texas. Most people I have known and met, have that tenacious drive to fight for what they believe in and what they want in life. As they say, “Everything is bigger in Texas!” Personalities included.
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8. HOW DO YOU THINK CLASSIC FILM HAS AFFECTED OTHERS’ PERCEPTION AND YOUR OWN PERCEPTION OF TEXAS. AFTER ALL, YOU LIVE HERE.
WENDY: I think classics like “GIANT” and “WRITTEN ON THE WIND” have certainly fed the perception that most people in Texas are in the oil industry (really, folks, I don’t have an oil rig in my back yard!), that we all have the Texas twang and wear cowboy boots and ride horses. I know before I moved to Texas as a child I certainly expected the boots and horses thing (no, that didn’t happen), because that’s what I saw in movies and on television.
As for my own perception of Texas, I see films like “THE ALAMO” and so many others that recount the battle there and it totally makes me understand the mindset of so many Texans. They are very proud of their history here and the sacrifices that occurred. They are fiercely independent and hate authorities who try to dictate to them. John Wayne is the biggest movie hero of all in this state, and I think much of that is due to “The Alamo,” and his role in the film, and of fighting and resisting authority and perceived injustice.
OLLIE: Classic Westerns often claim Texas as a theme but I don’t know if any of them were filmed in Texas due to its distance away from NYC or Hollywood, the very low population densities (i.e. few even untrained helpers) and remoteness. Southern California has scenery much closer, and film professionals readily available. The same could be said, to a lesser degree about skilled workers, in Arizona, and even Monument Valley and Moab, Utah (just across the borders from Grand Canyon has even more).
The Red River Valley is a pretty song, but that’s an eons-old flood valley that’s forested, pretty hilly and it must have been tough to drive cattle down a 40-mile slope to a wide or deep river, and then back up the other side for a 10-mile climb. Doing it on film would have been, well, impossibly expensive. Arizona was nice, relatively flat with enough mesas in the background to provide the American Southwest setting – that’s where “RED RIVER” was filmed.
RIO GRANDE is a great name for a film. Contrast that to its locations around Moab. If the film had been named MOAB, what’s the likely reaction? “What’s MOAB? Is this something about a whale-chasing captain’s very lost brother? I’m not interested in a Western featuring some sailor who can’t find the sea!”
CHRISTY: Well, everybody seems to like our myths about ourselves. I stopped traffic in Newark Airport in the 1980’s when I went to visit my best friend from 6th grade. She wanted me to wear my cowgirl hat, my jeans, and my boots when I arrived at the airport. (In truth, the only time I would wear that ensemble would be on ‘Go Texan Day’ at the beginning of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, or when I went out in the country to visit friends on their ranches or went line-dancing.) At the airport, one of the security guards screamed:
“Look! It’s a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader!”
I enjoyed that ‘fer sure. Then, when my friend took me around to meet her family and friends, she wanted me to tell the same joke over and over – “If they drill one more oil well on mah Daddy’s property, I’m a gonna hafta move!” They all screamed whenever I said that. Don’t ask me why. We never had any oil wells, and we weren’t rich. But you always want to keep the mineral rights to any property you purchase. ‘Memba that, honey.
KELLY: The thing I love about Texas is that it embraces others’ perceptions of it wholeheartedly! Meaning – that Fort Worth really IS where The West began, and there is a Longhorn cattle drive through the Historic Stockyards twice a day:
On the other hand, I have to totally agree with Jim Parson (“Big Bang Theory”) and his assessment of Houston in a Visit Houston campaign. I lived in Houston from the time I was 12 until 22 (when I wasn’t in college in Denton), and he phrased it perfectly:
“I saw more art in Houston than I’ve seen in NY. And I saw more horses in NY than I saw in Houston.”
It is fun to play with perceptions and to mix them in and mix them up all at the same time!
THERESA: Everyone knows the history of Texas to be all about the Alamo and cowboys, but there is so much more to the culture of this state. I definitely think classic film had a lot to do with that. There are so many films that depict the wars and battles fought on this land. I think that has made many others see Texas as only a gun-toting, no-nonsense place, and it isn’t. We are such a welcoming state, full of good southern hospitality!
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9. WHAT, IF ANY, FILM FESTIVALS HAVE YOU ATTENDED?
THE PLAZA THEATER THEN AND NOW
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the El Paso Plaza Classic Film Festival and the Kansas Silent Film Festival. And the gold standard in classic film festivals: the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood as well as the TCM Cruise.
OLLIE: Cannes 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2002 with my wife. Austin has a dozen formal film festivals but 40 and 50 weekends a year are filled with “weekend festivals” put on by friendly citizens who supply films (or at least themes) and supportive advertisers to several theaters for all kinds of classic (and not-so classic) films. There were festivals in Berlin I attended in 1992 and 1993, which was my introduction to the crowd working Cannes because they were my business clients for PA and new sound systems for their theaters. It helps to know the insiders; even better when they trade access-passes for some additional service. AND it didn’t hurt that I was helping to supply a rock band for their evening parties. Ahem…
KELLY: I have been to all eight of the TCM Classic Film Festival and the last Kansas Silent Film Festival. We hope to go more festivals that are not work-related. I’ve been working (in some capacity) some sort of film festival every year since 1993. And in many cases, I’ve worked between three to seven film festivals in a year.
By the way, my husband Mark and I MET at a film festival. That’s right ~ it was at the 2005 Deep Ellum Film Festival. They were one of my clients and Mark volunteered (which he continues to do with all the film festivals I work.) The rest, shall I say, is history.
THERESA: From 2013-2016 I went to the TCM Classic Film Festival. I’m hoping and thinking I can go to next year’s fest. I’ve also been to the Austin Film Festival and SXSW Film Festival also in Austin.
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10. WHICH FILM MADE IN TEXAS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO OTHER CLASSIC FILM LOVERS TO SEE?
WENDY: “GIANT,” of course. And while it wasn’t actually MADE in Texas, “RED RIVER” with John Wayne and Montgomery Clift is a wonderful movie with a great feel for Texas. And “HUD,” with Paul Newman has great Texas flair, too.
OLLIE: The only film I could recommend “about Texas” would be the slapstick melancholy of “THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN” (1972) that takes as many tall-tales and rolls them together. The film stars Paul Newman, a great supporting cast AND Ava Gardner. It was filmed in Arizona with a passing shot of the ‘old historic towne’ at Langtry, a very small, half-maintained tourist trap. As a 14-year old, that film impressed me for one reason: it has a couple of beauties (Victoria Principal, for one; and hardly no other actress was hotter in the 1970’s than Jacqueline Bisset). But when Ava walked onto the screen, I knew the difference between the temporary hotness and A Real Classic Woman. Accept no substitutes!
CHRISTY: Again, “LONESOME DOVE,” and films by Austin’s Richard Linklater. “BERNIE” entertains with a fascinating story, and “BOYHOOD” is transformative. (Wes Andersen is from Houston and his films are also a must like “RUSHMORE.”)
Other films include: “BONNIE and CLYDE.” (My grandfather paid a nickel to see their bullet-riddled car on display in Longview shortly after their capture.) “PLACES IN THE HEART,” filmed in Waxahachie, has some of my grandmother’s story wiggling around in the narrative. “TRUE GRIT” (1969) because it’s so iconic, but it wasn’t filmed in Texas. I also enjoyed “TRUE GRIT” (2010), and much of it was filmed here in Texas, so the scenery was familiar, and it was more faithful to the book in some ways. “THE SEARCHERS” ~ set in Texas but not filmed here ~ is also a favorite, inspired by the real-life travails of one of the saddest tales in all of Texas history, Cynthia Ann Parker. (I once worked with Parker’s nephew on a biography of her woes.) Ethan’s role in the film hearkens to how we Texans sometimes choose to be the outsider or relish our role as brooding, unconventional mavericks. We do love our eccentrics, bless their l’il hearts.
Others include: “THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA,” John Wayne’s “THE ALAMO” (because like it or not, he got some of the facts right, and it’s ‘purdy’ on the screen), the genius of Bogdanovich and McMurtry in “THE LAST PICTURE SHOW,” “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN” and I would be remiss if I didn’t include Horton Foote’s “THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL” with the fabulous Geraldine Page to my Texas recommendations. Can’t believe I ‘fergitted’ it. (Little kids say that all the time around these here parts.)
KELLY: I work on an annual fundraiser with the Dallas Producers Association called “It Came From Dallas,” and people would not believe how many films have been made in Dallas as far back as 1916. Many of those early shorts are lost to the winds of time, but there are important films that were made in Dallas that I think are very important films for Classic Film Lovers to seek out: Tyler, Texas Black Film Collection.
Spencer Williams, best known for his role as actor in “Amos & Andy” on early TV in the 1950s, was a filmmaker in Dallas. He made Race Films that played at black theaters and churches showcasing life of African Americans in the 1940s. The amazing thing about these films was that he hired an all Black cast and an all Black crew except for one: the cinematographer.
He had to have a white cinematographer in order to get film stock. And even then, they were only ever able to acquire the ends of unused reels that others would have thrown away. This made each filmed scene very precious, in that they lacked the ability to reshoot scenes multiple times. So the majority of Williams’ films are one-take films. Watching them with this in mind helps viewers of today have a bit of grace in the performances that can be a bit rough but have an authentic feel to them.
Experimental Art filmmaker, Thom Andersen, made a short film called “JUKE” which uses passages from Williams’ films that show “…the dignity of black life and the creation of dynamic culture in the segregated society in small-town north Texas.”
My runner up film that all Classic Film Lovers should see when they are in a campy mood is “MARS NEEDS WOMEN” (1967). “Mars Needs Women” was shot in Dallas at the same time as another film on the other side of the film ratings spectrum was being shot: “Bonnie and Clyde.”
“Mars Needs Women” is so much fun with a grown-up Tommy Kirk (of Disney fame in “OLD YELLER” and other Disney live-action films) playing a Martian on a mission to “transpond” Earthling women to help populate Mars! Seek this one out!! It is Mystery Science Theater 3000 fun.
THERESA: “THE SEARCHERS”!
John Wayne portrays the quintessential determined Texan with a “never-quitting” stance on life. It portrays the tension and difficulties of Native~Americans vs the new settlers so incredibly well! It’s just so beautiful, everyone should see this film!
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11. ANY PARTING COMMENTS FOR THE REST OF US NON~TEXANS?
WENDY: Yes, y’all come visit Texas some time! There is so much to do and see here, from the arts and culture scene in Ft. Worth and Dallas and Houston to the classic-film loving city of Austin and the beaches on the Gulf. And El Paso, Texas has a wonderful classic film festival for two weeks every August. It may be 100 degrees outside during the festival, but the air~conditioning works just fine in the beautiful old movie palace called The Plaza.
OLLIE: Like most places, Texas is full of city rivals. Houston hates Dallas, Dallas hates Houston, every city hates Austin – usually because it’s the center of politicians AND usually the center for civil disobediance – i.e., the center of attention-getting. But any two towns, 30 or 60 miles apart, are rivals.
Texas easily has five distinct geographical zones, and spending time in one or two clearly gives a mistaken impression of all others.
I could spend two weeks crossing Texas – even knowing it very well – and still not see half of the basic must-see spots. My first direction would always be “avoid the big cities. Fly in, and drive away on small roads.” Fly into El Paso, head east and south into the Big Bend area. Fly into San Antonio and head south to the Rio Grande Valley. Fly into Houston and drive east and north into the piney swamps.
And stop any State Trooper or County Sheriff and ask for recommendations and directions. They can be the BEST tourist guides.
CHRISTY: Have fun with the myths, embrace your friends, and share what you have with those less fortunate. Texas is the friendly state.
KELLY: Don’t judge us Texans too harshly. We know when people are trying to make us look bad (our legislators, Hollywood and “reality TV”), but most of us take it all in stride and try to have fun with the stereotypes. We love it when people are pleasantly surprised to find out Texas has events like the biggest Art Car Parade in the world.
Hands down we are welcoming and friendly. Did you know that the meaning of Texas (or Tejas) is “Friends”? Come and visit us; we will offer you a room and show you all the things that *we* love about Texas! We have a spare room just waiting for friends to fill.
THERESA: There will always be a little bit of western cliché coming out from the shadows of the Hill country. I love being a Texan and rather enjoy that everyone thinks we dress and act like cowboys, because of people like The Duke and Gary Cooper. It makes for great classic film conversation. Always!
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CineMaven ~ May I please add a note here:
My friend Sheila Schlesinger is a San Antone girl brought to the wilds of Brooklyn, New York at the age of five. I hadn’t included her because she’s been in New York most of her life. I was gently chided by her via text this morning:
GULP! Let that be a lesson to me ( and YOU! ) Another time, I’ll let Sheila tell you the story of actor Leo Carillo being her babysitter back in Texas.
I can’t tell you what a fun exercise this was for me. It certainly has been my pleasure getting to know these Texans either by hanging out with them at the festival, or reading their work, and getting this glimpse into knowing what makes them them. I learned much more about what it means to BE Texan. Seems to be a Texan is to be a myriad of different things. I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed the read as much as I have of putting this all together.
Now y’all come back to the couch real soon. Thanks again!
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