“If you have to have a job in this world, a high-priced movie star is a pretty good gig.”—Tom Hanks
A bevy of old cars has brought its share of fun over the years. Advertising props, event decorations, magazine photo shoots, transporting local celebrities in small-town parades to chauffeuring the sheriff of Bexar County in San Antonio’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, or just weekend cruising: making antique auto memories has been fun.
However, it’s a near-miss at the movies in the late 80s when a movie made in San Augustine, Texas, vanished into thin air that’s kept me wondering: Whatever happened to that movie I wasn’t in?
Hollywood came to East Texas in 1987. The cast of stars was impressive: Brian Keith, Ned Beatty, Barbara Barrie, Alexandra Paul, and others. Dates were set for local talent auditions plus a call for 1930s autos. Answering that last call, I spent a day cleaning and polishing my green 1935 Ford “Betsy” before heading down to San Augustine early the next morning.
Arriving at the location near a small church in the woods of Deep East Texas, I parked Betsy to glisten in the sunlight awaiting her opportunity at stardom on the silver screen. She made the cut and I was offered $100 for the day, the opportunity to stay and watch the filming, meet the cast and have a catered box lunch with them. Oh, and another $100 if I wanted to be an extra in a group of mourners at the graveside service scene.
“Deal,” I declared, “but I’ll pass on the part, I just want to watch.” And watch I did as crews carefully splashed mud and dirt all over my shiny old Ford. Amidst my stuttering, they explained how the cars needed to look the part of daily transportation used on 1930s red-dirt muddy roads.
The cool badge I received identifying me as “crew” took my mind off my once sparking car transformed into a muddy mess as did the mesmerizing movie magic of transforming the summer’s greenery to look like the dead of winter. Hay scattered on the ground and low-hanging leafy green tree branches replaced with leafless limbs from a brush pile changed the seasonal look of the old cemetery but did nothing for the beads of summer sweat on brows that hot morning.
The cool and glamorous image of being an actor also melted at “scene 1, take 1, action” when the cast was called to “places.” One by one, they assembled around the grave completing the wintery illusion wearing heavy black wool overcoats, scarves, hats, and gloves. At that point, $100 for a summer day in winter garb would not have been anywhere near high-priced or glamorous enough for me, especially at around “take 17” several hours later.
As the sun was sinking behind the pines, Betsy had not moved from where she was parked and “prepared” earlier. Turns out, directors got all the film footage they needed for that scene without cars. I collected $100, pointed my dirty old Ford north toward Center, and smiled at thoughts of someday seeing the only movie in which Betsy had the missed opportunity to be a tiny part.
And, 30-plus years later I’m still waiting. Time passed and I heard nothing about the movie. Supposedly, a few Center residents had small extra parts in it, but I never found anyone who saw it. Every glimpse of a Ned Beatty movie over the years reminded me of it, so finally, I decided a couple of weeks ago to research it one last time.
Ned Beatty’s filmography yielded nothing recognizable although I’m not sure what I was expecting because I didn’t know the name of the movie to begin with. Searches yielded only inquiries of others like me trying to find the film until one source reported a 1988 Tyler, Texas, premier titled, “After the Rain.” For reasons unknown however, it apparently was never released in U.S. theaters, although a 1990 VHS version was supposedly found in Japan titled, “The Passage.” The only tangible evidence of either title found online was press release photos for, “After the Rain.”
As for a high-priced movie star being a pretty good gig, I’m sure it has its cool and glamorous moments at the right price. But $100 for a day of woolly winter wear in the Texas summer sultry sun? Nah, I still think not being in the movie I’m still waiting to see was, let’s just say, still the cooler decision.
(Photo top of the page—”Betsy” the green 1935 Ford I owned in the late 1980s that almost got to be a movie star.)
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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune, the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.
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